Sunday, February 26, 2017

Busy Week

Last week along with the weekend got busy, and next week may get that way too, but I guess that's life.  On Thursday I had a tree fall on the electric line running into my house.  It's also has other lines that run parallel that have the cable and phone lines, so I need those lines up and running.  Thankfully it didn't break the lines or cause the pole to fall over.  Such is the life living in the country.  When my dad had this house built he probably didn't foresee such problems or that one of his kids would be living here years later.   The other thing that came up is that my truck needs a new battery.  I took it to AutoZone yesterday, but the guy helping me saw where one of the battery cables had some corrosion on it, and he said they weren't allowed to mess with them in that condition as, I guess, they could break the connection--company policy type thing.  So, I came home, cleaned off the cable, and thought I'd look around on the computer first for auto battery deals.  Looks like Walmart might be my best bet, and I'll get an oil change too.

Tuesday, I've got an electrician coming over to give me a bid on laying the electric cable underground.  I don't know all the ramifications of that.  I know they do that in larger cities and urban neighborhoods, but that's about it.  I don't know how much it'll cost, but I thought I better look into it, as there are many tall trees behind the house.  It's either that, or clear the land of more trees, or move.  At least I'll get more knowledge from the electric contractor, and go from there.

I ran into a podcast today on the Japanese anime, Neon Genesis Evangelion.  Some may be familiar with this series, so I thought they might be interested in listening to the podcast.  I listened to the introductory podcast where the poster talks about growing up living in Chicago and first watching anime.  His voice was pleasant enough and he seemed seemed knowledgeable enough to offer some good insight.  I went over to his Facebook page and left a comment on how I enjoyed listening to his podcast.  If you've never seen the animation of Evangelion, you can probably still find episodes on Youtube, and if not there just do a Google.  I'm sure they're still around.  It's an anime that's about these young people that suit-up in these giant robot armor to combat super large aliens known as Angels.  Over the run of the anime, the characters change and grow, and it's all done rather well.  Here's a link to that podcast if you would like to hear them. 

The guy that does the Evangelion podcast also recommended a Godzilla podcast as well.  That one I haven't heard yet, but bookmarked it for a future listen.   If kaiju and the Big G is more your thing, you can listen to those here.

Last night while waiting on the Dr. Who episode to air on our PBS network, I was watching a few things off Roku.  On the Crackle channel I saw where they had some anime of a couple of Marvel characters.  They didn't have the full runs, just the initial first episodes, which is a shame, but at least I could watch those.  The best one of the bunch for me was Blade.
You're probably already familiar with Blade from the Westley Snipes pictures from some years back.  He plays a half human, half vampire that is a vampire hunter.  I enjoyed those well enough, but there were aspects of the overall feel of them at the same time that were a bit of a turnoff for me.  I think most of that came from the bloated "I'm a badass" feel of the show.  It was too much of an archetype for my taste, but for what it was they were okay.   At any rate, I still think it's a pretty good story just not handled as well as it could have been.  The anime Blade though seemed well made or struck me as being better and well suited for the anime experience, granted I've only watched the first episode.  Marvel - Japan made four of these type animes:  Blade, X-Men, Wolverine, and Iron Man.  If interested you can find clips and some of the episodes on Youtube.  I'm sure you can find them online as well with a little searching.
 



Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Expanse, Lynch, and Star Wars

Yesterday I got out and finally, finally made it to the gym.  It always feels pretty good afterwards, both mentally and physically.  I wish I could be more habitual about it, and it's something I've been striving to do for no other reason than just to feel good.  But if I can lose a few pounds that's a plus.  When I got home I made supper, and waited for The Expanse to show later.  I'll never understand the Syfy Channel.  The people running it aren't very insightful  most of the time.  I'm not sure when there was this turnaround, but they had a good thing going when they first started up back in the 80s, and it's like they got new CEOs or managers and their forward thinking went out the window.

They pretty much have a hit show going with The Expanse, and I think I like this season better than the first season.  Some of that might be due to I already know most of the main characters this season, the main premise of the show,  so now they just have to do is build stories around them.  This season they've discovered *SPOILERS* something called a protomolecule--I started to say protoculture (Robotech).   I don't think I'm giving away too much just by mentioning that.  I won't spoil it any further.    At any rate, I think they should mimic what AMC does with their hit show, The Walking Dead, and repeat it on the same night as well.  That's not that big a deal, but they could re-boadcast it more than what they do.

During tonight episode there were a few things I was curious about and I thought, this show could really use something else like The Walking Dead, and that's the Talking Dead that follows afterwards.  They could call it The Talking Expanse (or something similar), and use it to talk about some of the things that went on during that episode that may escape the fan's knowledge about the nuts and bolts of the show.  They could even have SF authors, scientist or whoever on to talk about different aspects of the show, etc.  It would really appeal to fans of the show.  Something like that should be very inexpensive to produce I would think and help promote it as well.  It's basically a talk show, and people are sitting around on a sofa talking.

While on the topic I don't know what they don't bring back SciFi Buzz.  That used to be a showcase for up and coming things in the world of SF, horror, and fantasy.  They talked about new conventions  happening around the country, new SF books and authors, gaming, artwork and props used on different shows, etc.  It was kind of set up like a format similar to the old Starlog magazines.  I always looked forward to those little thirty minute programs.  Surely those can't be that expensive to produce either.  Sure would beat Sharknado. 

Tonight's episode of The Expanse, Home, showed the crew of the Rocinante  going into something like a hyper drive to catch a large asteroid (Eros), and before they go full throttle, they were injected with some form of fluid to (I'm guessing) aid against the thrust of gravity against their bodies as they shot thru space.  That was just one of the things that didn't make sense to me.  At any rate Home was a pretty good episode.

So The Expanse has been pretty good this season.  I hope they can continue the show.  Also today, I ran across an interview with David Lynch over on the Film Threat site.  They have a new Twin Peaks series, and to be honest I've not heard much about it.  I assume it's on another paid network, so I won't be able to watch it until it's on DVD anyway.  At any rate, here's that interview.  

I ran across a couple of really cool Star Wars documentaries yesterday as well.  They play out like the regular movies do, but they inject dialogue over them, and insert special effect into the movie as well, so you get a real feel for how some of the scenes were created.  Jamie Benning has created the ultimate documentaries for the original Star Wars Movies.  Unfortunately most people have never seen these films.  Each documentary follows the action and running time of each film.

Rather than post the movies here, I'll just provide a link (which is easier for me).   If you're a Star Wars fan you ought to give them a go.  Perhaps they've been around for a while, but I didn't know anything about them.

Star Wars (1977) Documentary (2:19:13)
Star Wars Begins (2011)  https://vimeo.com/32442801

The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Documentary (2:16:49)
Building Empire (2006)  https://vimeo.com/36158111

Return of the Jedi (1983) Documentary (2:28:11)
Returning to Jedi (2007) https://vimeo.com/36474256



Sunday, February 12, 2017

Mental Bias

Apple CEO Tim Cook is concerned about the advent of fake news recently and has called for a campaign to deal with it.  Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is on board too.  I'm not sure how one would address this topic.  From my experience people gonna believe what they want to believe.  I'm not sure why this part of the human condition is so prevalent, but we are all biased.  It's really hard to see thing with an open mind at times.  Part of it I blame on the media.  I don't think they question authority the way they used to.  I don't know if they are intimidated, which really just plays into a lot politician's desires, ahem, Trump.  But I like it when I feel that things in politics are more transparent, and less muddied. 

For an example,  I don't understand this whole banning of Muslim immigrants from foreign countries by Trump.  I understand the basis of it, which is safety for Americans.  But the 7 countries that he's banning didn't have anything to do with 9/11.  Two countries, Saudi Arabia, from what US intelligence gathered  was one of those countries who hijacked airliners to attack New York and Washington DC on 9/11, the deadliest terrorist episode in history.  The other being Egypt.   I don't understand why reporters don't inquire on that until a satisfactory answer is given.   Could it have something to do with money?   I'd have to guess, perhaps it does.  (Doesn't it always?)  Granted I'm sure all the terrorist move around, but it seems like those two countries would be first on the list and some of the others secondary.

I have quibbles with the Democratic Party as well, just not as many.  Back in 2008 when we had the second depression and our economy was about to tank with the banks and "too big to fail".  Obama made mention of it, and said he was going to do something about it, but launched right into the ACA, health care thing.  It seems to me that our economy would have been first priority rather than health care.  But what do I know?  (Again I assume big money/lobbyist plays into that equation.)  

I digress.  At any rate, mental bias.  I ran across an article in the New Yorker on Why Smart People Are Stupid.  It addresses mental bias, and hey, if smart people are biased, the rest of us are as well.  Perhaps it's just hardwired into us from the dawn of time.

The Expanse started up a couple of weeks ago on the Syfy Channel.  The third episode comes out this week.  For me, it's not a perfect show, but I enjoy it on some level.  It has several characters, and at times it's hard to keep up with them all, but I just watching it and if I don't glean everything from the series, so be it.   It's at least smartly done, and the visual are nice to look at.  

Richard Hatch, one of the stars of Battlestar Galactica that played Captain Apollo died the other day.  I was a latecomer to Battlestar, but the fans of the early show were so diehard, I just had to look into it further.  Then the Syfy show did a reboot of the series, and gathered a bunch more fans.  Call me sentimental, but I prefer the earlier version.  They might be silly fantasy that more closely resembles Star Wars, but I prefer it better, though I have the first season to the reboot as well. 

I ran into a podcast that consist of SF book reviews.  Some of the books are classic, while others I've never heard of.  I thought I'd listen to a few of them as you never know what you'll uncover.  The guys doing the show though can be a little uneven.   You have some that are silly and light, and one of them appears more solemn and serious.   I know stuff like that requires a certain amount of levity, but I prefer the serious guy's outlook. 

The other day I also ran across this link for online sf stories from a bunch of different authors. Lots of links to award winners and other high-quality SF. http://freesfonline.de 

There's also a site called Rocket Stack Rank, which I didn't know about, which takes one to a free source for reading a story, if it's available.
I ran into an odd fantasy movie I was unaware of the other day title, Mio in the Lands of Faraway.  It stars a young Christian Bale (Jum Jum) as the friend of the main character played by Nick Packard as Mio or Bosse.  A young boy named Bosse lives in misery with his cruel old aunt and uncle, until one night, he is whisked away to the magical land of Faraway. He finds that his real father is the king, and he is Prince Mio. Along with his friend Jum Jum, he sets out to defeat the evil knight Kato, and free the children that Kato has enslaved.   I like this sort of thing ever so often it takes me back to childhood and my younger days.  It's not a classic like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or The Neverending Story or Harry Potter, or some of the others, but its worth a watch if you're in the mood.



  

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Cantina


I started thinking the other day about a thought I'd had before and it's about the music in Star Wars: A New Hope.   You know the scene, which is popularly known as the Cantina scene, where Hans Solo is on the pirate planet of Mos Eisley at a table and eventually SPOILERS shoots Greedo.  There are a group of aliens up on stage playing a type of ragtime, jazz music.  It sort of reminds me of the speakeasy's here on Earth back in the 20s or whatever.   John Williams has said that it's to evoke the jazz scene of the 40s, sounding both alien, but also familiar.  I think the scene is very effective the way the scene opens going into the bar, then we get the music, which sort of provides a bit of levity, and the camera pans around the bar and we see all the aliens, some menacing looking and then dashes of levity as well.  It's smoky and dimly lit with this air of something that might happen.  It's hard to argue with Lucas and Williams in the handling of that scene.  Even now as I write that I get nostalgic for the movie, and feel like re-watching the movie.

My thought though is a less specifically about that scene, but more about what would people be listening to that far into the future?  I heard someone mention The Resident's album, Not Available, the other day as sounding alien and from another galaxy, and it does at least through parts of it.  But once they start singing lyrics, it becomes campy for me.  I like The Residents somewhat, and at the same time I don't listen to them very much.  I think I can appreciate their outlook or concepts more than their actual music.
One of the musicians that comes to mind for me was Vangelis.  Of course Vangelis has done many soundtracks like the music for Bladerunner and Chariot of Fire.  I like many of his albums, and he did a lot of them in the 70s and 80s that brings that atmosphere to mind like Invisible Connections, Heaven and Hell, Albedo 0 39, Spiral, Beauborg, and many others.
A German musician that came to mind that's in the same mold as Vangelis and one that I've really enjoyed listening to lately is Klaus Schultz.  His music is moody and atmospheric.  Although to my knowledge he has never made a soundtrack ( I lied, I just remembered he did, Body Love for a porn film which is actually a good album.  Check it out on YT). But he certainly makes music for the mind that conjures up all sort of images.  Timewind by him is a synthesizer classic as are many of his other albums.
Another electronic composer that comes to mind is Richard Baumann.   He played in one of the earlier line-ups of one of the classic electronic bands, Tangerine Dream.  With his solo output, he did not put out very many albums, but one in particular is fairly classic, Romance 76.
At any rate there are hundreds of electronic composers that I could probably list here, and I enjoy listening to that type music.  Way back in the mid to late 70s I bought an Arp Odyssey.  I didn't know anything at all about synthesizers, but was already listening to Tangerine Dream, and felt that that was the next frontier of music.  I don't think it was fully embrace by the public, particularly some of the more cerebral efforts like I've mentioned above, but today it has scores of fans.  The 80s was a decade that started to really use synthesizers in pop or new wave music.   They took it into a new direction, some I liked and others not as much.  But it was around that time frame I feel that synthesizer finally got firm footing as a musical instrument, and it's still very much with us today.