Monday, March 24, 2014

Udpdate: Gene Roddenberry - Questor Tapes

I've been curious about the television movie, The Questor Tapes, by Gene Roddenberry, and found it in several parts on Youtube.  You can find the other parts there as well or you can also order a disc off Amazon.

Well, last night I watched The Questor Tapes made in 1974 (hard to believe it's that old), after I watched The Antique Roadshow, which is my mainstay program for Mondays nights.  I didn't know a lot about it other than it was from Gene Roddenberry, and didn't want  read much about it to avoid spoilers.  I watched the first part, which was just about a ten minute segment, and then while looking for part two, noticed that Youtube has the whole movie up in one complete showing, plus it was better quality.  So if you're curious about the film that's definitely the better way to go. 

It was a lot of fun.  I could see how Questor, the android, was a seminal idea for Data on Star Trek: Next Gen.  He even had that twitch to his head that Data had from time to time, when he was thinking or perplexed about the human condition or solving some problem.  I liked how it ended as well, sort of cerebral the way the opening to the mountain opened up, and they went inside to find the original scientist who had made Questor.

A friend of mine sent me a link to the upcoming R. E. Howard Days in Cross Plains, Tx.  It's a two day event that they've held annually to celebrate the writing of Robert E. Howard, best known for his sword and sorcery hero, Conan.  I've never been, and could kick myself for not trying to attend (but was too busy anyway) last year as one of the guest they had was Tim Truman, who is writing the King Conan comic series for Dark Horse publishing.  But who has also written many other comics, like GrimJack and Scout, that I greatly admire.  If I can somehow make it this year, and if the guest are worthwhile, I'll try to attend.  It's a small affair, but I'd have to guess it's attended by diehard pulp fans.

I've also tentatively got plans to attend The Antiques Roadshow, which is being held in June as well, I think at the first part of the month.  But with that event, you have to put your name into a pot, and they draw names to see who can come to the event.  They do it that way for crowd management, otherwise I'm pretty sure the crowds would be totally unmanageable, and they are also trying to film too, which they'll air later.  I've also got my sister and nephew into the drawing as well, so maybe one of us can score tickets.  I haven't been to Austin in so long, and summers are hot down there (but they're hot all over in Texas), but if we can get tickets, I'd surely go.

Today is now Tuesday, and I plan to watch the SyFy Channel's FaceOff.  It the reality show about makeup and creating creature designs.  I like it a lot and have watched every season.  They are narrowing down contestants and the competition grows harder.  After that is a new show about Jim Henson's puppetry.  I haven't read all the details about the show, but plan on watching the first episode. 


Sunday, March 23, 2014

But Are You Experienced, Phillip K. Dick?

I first ran across this Robert Crumb comic in his anthology comic magazine, Weirdo.  Weirdo was a mixed bag of alternative and underground comics and creators.  It came at a pretty healthy time when underground comics had pretty much died off and the alternative scene like Love and Rockets, Hate, Yummy Fur, Eightball, American Splendor, and others were springing up on the newsstands.  At the same time there was a pretty healthy zine culture.  Most of the zine culture has been taken over by the internet by way of blogs, but there are still alternative comics out there, though they usually have smaller print runs due to their popularity when compared to the mainstream stuff like Superman or Batman.  

This story about Phillip K. Dick was one of Weirdo's more memorable strips done by Crumb himself.  It appeared in Weirdo #17.  I remember loaning my copy to a friend, who upon looking at the cover, was a loss for words, sort of going, "Gee, that's going to look nice sitting on my coffee table."   We continued to joke off and on about the poor taste of the cover  throughout that day as we ran around town.  At any rate, the story though has a lot of impact, you can find it here.  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Jaw Pain

Woke up this morning with some pretty painful jaw pain.  It was coming from the place where I've had a tooth extraction and soon will have a tooth implant done, so I don't know what's going on there, other than to say, it was painful to eat breakfast.  I popped a couple of Advils, and I hope that that helps.

I ran across this website called Crawford List Of  Fantasist Literature that I thought I would share, as I wanted someway to remember it as well.  He listed many works from the SF, horror, and fantasy world of books.

The CW Channel last week had a premier of a new SF show called, The 100.  I enjoyed it somewhat, but like a lot of the programming on the CW Channel I'm rather indifferent to their shows, although they have a lot of genre shows based on horror, SF, and so forth.  I haven't been following Green Arrow, which may be their biggest audience draw.  I've tried to get interested in it, and enjoyed the comic for a while (when Mike Grell was creator anyway).   I could tolerate The 100  for the full episode, and plan on tuning in next week to follow a few more episodes just too see where they are going with it. If you missed the initial episode you can watch it online at the link provided above.

My main problems with the CW's programs is that I find them somewhat annoying on some level.  Most of their shows suffers from multiple low budget things: either bad writing, bad acting, bad directing, too soap operatic or melodramatic, or a combination of those elements.  Granted to each their own.  I feel like the CW tries too hard to capture the Buffy the Vampire crowd, trying  to find a cult/smash "hit".  Another annoyance I have is that not many of their actors are very old, they seem to be in the 30's or younger range.  It's like Youngworld, or Logan's Run, after 30 years of age, they kill off the old farts.  Certainly they aren't the only TV show or movie to do this, but I wish Hollywood would allow older actors to be involved in such projects if they want their shows to seem realistic.  

One of my main criticisms with the pilot episode concerns the 100 teens or young adults who were sent to Earth.  There's a corrupt leader on the space station that orbits  Earth and in some cases has falsely accused them as criminals.  (It's just the first episode so it's hard to tell yet just who might be a criminal and who are falsely accused.)  Earth has had a nuclear exchange many years ago and feared to be still be contaminated.  So these 100 are sent down to test the waters, so to speak.  What I found unbelievable (poor writing), they gave all the 100 teens wrist bands to track them on Earth, yet the wrist bands aren't equipped with a radio or communication device, no cell phone, nothing?  Yet they are sophisticated enough to have built this giant space station in the sky....

That type plot hole writing grates on me after a while.  I think it's the sort writing that Hollywood or  TVland executives think, well, the shows for dumb teens, they won't know the difference (which they may be right, but I'd like to think better).   Of  the 100 teens sent to Earth, most of them seem easily manipulated, rebel against the system, and automatically follow this cult-like leader.  Which leads me to believe maybe some of them are criminals (as some seem to have formed gang mentalities), yet are too clueless to actually think things through. Sad.  They would fit in well with the folks in the Idiocracy movie.   Minor gripes aside, it was tolerable, and had a few interesting things going for it.  I'll probably give it a chance and see if it will develop into something worth watching.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thursday here already?

 "Sometimes I Feel So Uninspired"  is a song by the British band Traffic, and it is a rather melancholy tune, but I can feel that way at times.  Let's face it, life isn't a bowl of cherries, even if  you are Donald Trump or Bill Gates, although their worries are small and insignificant compared to most blue collar working people on a daily scale, I'm sure even they have worries and fears.  Long gone are my brash days of youth, where all is well with the world, and I feel like I could live forever (that's also the folly of youth:  young, dumb, and full of cum--that's how we'd joke about it at work).  I guess that fades with age, and as you get older and hopefully smarter, you change, and become less idealistic, and more realistic; and the older/wiser you get, the less you know.  Granted you know more that you knew back when you were younger, you are more at ease with yourself in some ways, but you also realize that the world is about what it's going to be, you really can't change it, and that can be fine too.  Don't get me wrong, this isn't suppose to be a depressing rant.  I'm generally not a depressing person, generally I try to remain positive.  I also don't deal with depression too much.  Granted I've had my bouts with it, and still do, I guess that's normal in life.  Happiness can be fleeting, and to tell you the truth I don't have a lot of wants.  Sure, I have wants, and a lot of them are just that "wants".   But peel away that layer, and most of my necessities are either doable or sate.  Yet, as I've aged I still feel inadequate at times, insecure, and I guess that's just a part of life or maybe just a part of my personality.  Granted I,  just like everyone else, get too wrapped up in life to dwell on these matters for too long, as there's always something I need to do that supersedes all this self-absorption and I have to jump right back into being involved and get busy with life.

At any rate, I think everyone struggles with life from time to time, and life is what you make of it.  So might as well jump right in and make the most of it.   Lately I watched the movie, The Conjuring.  It wasn't real, real scary, but that's okay, as if they'd had any jump out scares in it, I might have soiled myself.  For me it was just about right.

Supposedly it was based on some true account, although if that's true, and it might well be, as I have read that the Warrens, who the tale is about, at least are real people, however, whether or not everything they believe or subscribe to might be iffy, a canard, or done for self gain.  Who knows?  I remain a skeptic, but at least the movie was enjoyable, creepy, and fairly entertaining.

The Conjuring, directed by James Won, who also directed Insidious and the Saw franchise, did pretty well with this haunted house type movie.  It seemed to be a throwback to some of the earlier horror films of the 70's or 80's like The Changeling or The Amityville Horror that didn't rely on a lot of gore to shock viewers, profanity just to boost its ratings (or be hip), and several of the other cliched devices of horror that, quite frankly, don't work for me.  I prefer atmosphere, suspense, and a good story. 

As I said it's based on the paranormal investigations of the Warrens, the husband is a teacher of sorts, and his wife, a clairvoyant.  Their part of the story sort of reminded me of the X-Files a bit, so if that's your thing, you might enjoy it as well.  They are called upon to investigate a farm house up in Rhode Island where a family is having some unusually spooky and crazy occurrences in their newly bought, older home.  They've spent most of their life savings on the place, and their five daughters are being scared silly, and need some help to figure out what is going on, and help cleanse it, if possible.  It's a slow burn, which  drew me into the story.  I liked how it concerned these crazy objects, like the scary doll above, which were vessels for demons that affixed themselves to the objects.  Rather than say much more, if you enjoy a haunted house tale, you might want to check it out.  I had fun with it.

Also picked up the fourth season of Star Trek: Next Generation on eBay.  I got it at a  pretty good price so I was happy for the winning bid.  I have a lot of other rat killing to do today, so better end here, and get busy.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Cosmos Revisited

Just thought I'd give a heads up alert for those that are interested in science to the new Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey with Neil deGrasse Tyson, which starts this coming Sunday on Fox and some other networks.  Check your local listings in your area if interested.  For some reason a while back I got on a jag about watching the old Cosmos series with Carl Sagan.  I watched that and found many other clips of him on Youtube.  I'd forgotten how great that series was, and had never seen the remastered version of it, which is well worth checking out.  If it ever comes to blu ray disc, I'd like to pick up a copy, and I'm hoping that if the newer Cosmos series attracts enough interest perhaps they'll re-release the older series as well. 

I read a statistic the other day from the Scientific American that said, "The evidence is clear: American students are technologically illiterate, possessing few if any of the mathematics and science skills needed to function successfully in the world today or as it will be in future decades."    Pretty alarming. 

I guess many young people believe that science lacks any relevance to their lives. Yet nothing could be further from the truth; one only needs to look at the changes such scientific inventions as the printing press, radio, television, computers, and modern medicine have brought to our lives.  An understanding of basic scientific principles is crucial to our understanding of the world around us. 

When I was watching the original series of Cosmos back in the 80's, one of the first couple of episodes dealt with evolution.  I had a boss that assessing my work the next day and I mentioned the series, thinking he might be interested in tuning in to catch some of it in casual conversation.  He quickly waved his hand cutting me off mid-sentence dismissing the topic adding, he didn't believe in evolution.  That sort of floored me.  On one hand, it took me aback that he didn't believe in evolution of any kind, shape, or form, and two, that he could be so freakin' close minded as to shut the conversation down immediately, and stop any sort of discussion right then and there.  But he was my boss, so I shut up.

One of the things I dislike about our current culture is that we don't communicate that much.  That opposite ideas are not welcome, we are a polarized society, and a lot of us cannot tolerate a civil discussion, without getting all  pissed, start raising our voices, start cussing or having some mocking tone to disapprove of another person's opinion.  I blame some or most of this on our political climate.  Hell, in most circles, you can't even discuss  politics or religion, without someone stamping their foot, or literally walking away from you with some smug or hard feelings.  I've not found anyone that would want to sit down and discuss in an earnest manner such things--I've generally get gotten the wave off like my boss did. 

Well, I don't guess I have a tidy conclusion here.  As far as science and evolution goes, I believe in them and scientific study and fact.  I think a lot of people don't want to accept evolution as it won't fit into their perspective of religion.  I have no solution for them, yet can't understand how they view the world either.  The nay-sayers believe in science when it comes to medicine, air travel, going to the moon, and any of our creature comforts, but when it challenges their belief structure, be it evolution, global warming, or  some other topic they oppose, it's always, oh, those crazy old atheist scientist and the wave off.

Thursday, March 06, 2014


The other night, on Sunday,  to be specific we had an ice storm that came through our area.  It began with cold rain, and I noticed after a while out the window that it had turned to a slushy ice mixture.  The above photo is the next day looking out to the west on the highway I live on (I live outside the city limits).  The photo below that is looking up my driveway.  I took it after I got out on Monday to retrieve the mail. 

I really didn't think too much about it at the time.  I was inside as snug as a bug in a rug, watching the Oscars, and then later switched channels to catch the next episode to The Walking Dead.  I'd made some chili that morning so all was fine with me and I was set for the night.

Later that morning, however, I was still in bed, still about  halfway asleep.  I remember I heard this weird swooshing sound, and who knows, maybe a kerplunk as well.  But I was still drowsy, and paid  no attention to it, rolled over,  and went back to sleep a bit more.    Whenever I finally did get up, and went into the kitchen to start the day and make my morning coffee, which is my routine,  I looked out the kitchen window, and saw the downed pine tree.  Like my father was apt to say a lot in his older years, "Always something."

Our weather here has been on this seesaw effect.  It will get warm for a day or two and then plummet to around freezing again, and that will last for about three or four days.  I guess it could be worse.  I don't know how people further up north, like in Chicago or Minnesota deal with such frigid conditions.  At any rate, last Friday, when we had nice weather, I had to get out and take some paperwork downtown, so while I was down there stepped into the library.  I found a copy of Jeff Smith's graphic novel, RASL.

RASL is a fifteen issue comic series now collected into a nice hardback book that deals with a dimension hopping art thief by that goes by the name of Rasl.  Previous to this Jeff Smith had done the all ages book called Bone that was a charming mixture of fantasy and a bit of romance that was in the tradition of Walt Kelly's Pogo, Charles Schulz a little bit, and a bit like Carl Barks' duck tales for Disney.   It has brilliant artwork, and a cool storyline too.  Jeff Smith's art is very sequential, and expressive, which has a naturalistic flow to it that makes it easy to follow and enjoyable.  He began his career in animation, and  you can tell that influence on his art.

Sometime back I'd read a review about RASL and although it sounded a bit appealing I didn't think much about pursuing it.  However, when I saw it sitting on the New Reads shelf at the library, picked it up, and carried it over to a comfortable chair for closer inspection, was won over pretty quickly.  The story, as I said, is about a time traveling art thief, and that's the set up.  But we quickly get a flashback of Rasl's former life as a physicist name Robert.  While he and two other scientist were experimenting in a secret program, they discovered that time travel might be feasible.  On the sly, Robert test the jump suit that they had been inventing and discovers that it does indeed work.  There are many tie-ins with the series, part of it is about the famed scientist, Nikola Tesla, there's a small part about the Bermuda Triangle and The Philadelphia Experiment.  Also we find out shortly in the story, that there's an odd shaped man following Rasl.  He sort of has a rat-like face, and at first I didn't know if Smith was just exaggerating his face not to confuse the reader or maybe there's more to it that that (I haven't quite gotten that far into the series yet--I'm about halfway through it).

But we see where Rasl, can jump through these different layers of  time.  It's sort of like the layers of an onion or a layered cake.  In each zone, things are a little bit different from his real world.  So far I've seen him jump into three different dimensions. In one world, he notices a Bob Dylan album cover, however, in that world Dylan doesn't change his name, on the album he has kept his real name, Robert Zimmerman.  That's another thing.  When Rasl does these time jumps, it's stressful and leaves him weak and a bit confused.  So whenever this rat face guy  shows up, he's vulnerable unless he has rested.  Also oddly, he can recharge his energy, through sex.

So Robert or Rasl has abandoned his life's work, and is selling artwork for profit, and now hiding out and running through other dimensions pursued by a hit man.  That's really about all you need to know to get started.  There's also a little ghost girl that he keeps bumping into in each dimension as well, but what her story is to the overall story, I haven't gotten to yet.  If this all sounds too complex to you, it's not.  Jeff Smith's storytelling is clear and concise, and he continually draws you in the further it goes.  Click here and scroll down,  for an excerpt of the story, it's the opening storyline to the title.