Friday, May 29, 2009

An Offer I Couldn't Refuse

A while ago one of my internet friends from the Simply Syndicated forums, a young lad named Kumar, informed me that he had never seen any Star Trek. After I got over my shock and dismay that such a brilliant and insightful lad could make it to fifteen without boldly going where no one had gone before, I decided that this situation could not stand. So I, along with a few others, began to apply the peer pressure. Finally he reached a breaking point and issued a challenge to yours truly. He promised to watch one season of The Original Series if I would watch The Godfather. Now some of you may be thinking 'no big deal', but I had never seen The Godfather, nor did I ever intend to see it. It's just not my kind of film. But when I made it clear last year that I had never seen the 'greatest movie ever made' there was a great hue and cry. Numerous people tried to convince me to watch it, but it took a chance to bring a new person into the Federation to finally make it happen. Kumar devoured The Original Series, and the six movies, so I, reluctantly, rented and watched The Godfather today.


I can see why people like it so much. It is a very well done, and for the most part well acted film. And who knew Abe Vigoda was ever sort of young? I can see why regular folks enjoy watching powerful people who do as they please with little or no fear of the laws and rules of society. It's much the same way I react to vampires or superheroes. I guess we all dream of being above the law. But ultimately these are despicable people doing unconscionable things in a reprehensible way. About 2/3rds of the way through the film I thought what a shame that the only 'good' person in the family, Michael, is corrupted and pulled into the business. But then I realized that his life outside the family was the sham. He wasn't a good man driven bad by circumstance. He was a bad man trying to play good and failing. And there wasn't a single killing in the movie that inspired even the tiniest shred of sympathy. On the contrary, I rather enjoyed watching the bottom feeders feed on each other.

And then there's Brando. Call it blasphemy, call it heresy, but I've never been that impressed with Brando, and least of all with his performance as Don Corleone. So he stuffed cotton in his cheeks and mumbled a lot. Lon Chaney did a hell of a lot more with less recognition. His performance was one note and bored the crap out of me. And the voice he affected, that monotonous whine drove me crazy. I was quite glad when he was in the hospital since he didn't talk for 15 minutes. Actually the stand out performance, in my opinion, was Lenny Montana as Luca Brasi. His portrayal of the hulking Corleone torpedo as he nervously rehearsed his thank you for being invited to the wedding at the beginning of the picture was a heart breaking counterpoint to the rest of his compatriots. He was the only person to not ask the Don for a favor. He just wanted to say thank you. It was the only touching moment in this hard, cold blooded film.

I don't know if this is an accurate depiction of mob life, and I really don't care. It was a good movie, and I'm glad I've seen it if for no other reason than to get everyone off my back about seeing it, but I doubt I'll ever watch it again...and don't even think about trying to get me to watch The Godfather II.

Ciao, bella.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lemming, Lemming, Lemming of the BDA...

This little meme is raging through the blogosphere like swine flu through a news room, so who am I to buck the trend:

1. What author do you own the most books by?
I'd have to say either Arthur C. Clarke or Issac Asimov.

2. What book do you own the most copies of?
I can't think of any multiple copies off hand.

3. Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?
What did you ask me that for?

4. What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Robert Heinlein's Friday.

5. What book have you read the most times in your life?

6. What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
The Runaway Robot by Lester Del Rey. I still have a copy. It was the first non-Star Trek Sci Fi I ever read.

7. What is the worst book you’ve read?
How Much for Just the Planet. It's a Star Trek novel and is simply horrible.

8. What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?
Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko.

9. If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
Good Omens by Neil Gaimon and Terry Pratchett. Only this pair could make Armageddon so funny.

10. Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for literature?
I am woefully unqualified to answer that.

11. What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
I have recently come to the conclusion that it is impossible for anyone other than Peter Jackson to make a satisfying book-to-movie translation, therefore I humbly request that no more books be made into movies.

12. What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
See above.

13. Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
If I have had such a dream I don't remember it.

14. What is the most lowbrow book you’ve read as an adult?
I don't consider any book to be 'lowbrow'. The act of reading is, in and of itself, highbrow.

15. What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
Anne Rice's 'Mayfair Witches' books. God, what a slog!

16. What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you’ve seen?
The Compleat Works of Wilm. Shkspr., abridged by The Reduced Shakespeare Company.

17. Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
I don't know anyone from either country.

18. Roth or Updike?
I am not programmed to respond in this area.

19. David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?
I've seen Sedaris on TV.

20. Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?'s actually easier to read

21. Austen or Eliot?
I have enjoyed the movies based on Jane Austin books I've seen, but I've not read either.

22. What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
I have read what I have wanted to read since I left school, I feel no shame over what I have or haven't read.

23. What is your favorite novel?
Friday by Robert Henilein.

24. Play?
Sure, what shall we play? But seriously, folks, my favorite play of all time is The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde.

25. Poem?
There once was a man from Nantucket... Just kidding. This is my favorite poem:
Abou Ben Adhem
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An Angel writing in a book of gold:

Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said,
"What writest thou?" The Vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord
Answered, "The names of those who love the Lord."

"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the Angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still; and said, "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one who loves his fellow men."

The Angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And, lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest!

26. Essay?
Uhhhh, can I buy a vowel?

27. Short story?
The Star by Arthur C. Clarke

28. Work of non-fiction?
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

29. Who is your favorite writer?
Some of my faves are Clarke, Asimov, Dan Simmons, and Roger Zelazny.

30. Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
Once I've read them all I'll let you know.

31. What is your desert island book?

32. And … what are you reading right now?
Ilium by Dan Simmons and Dawn of Destiny by Lee Stephen.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


And you can get it here.

Nerdvana is but a mouse click away. :-)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Pretty Kitties

It's so hot today that Starbuck melted:

But Artemis, ever the coolest frood in the house, merely demanded her close-up:

Saturday, May 16, 2009

And So...

Well, it has been a while, my malchiks. Gather ye round so that I might try to make it up to you.

Firstly it has been the end of the semester, which brings with it much craziness and activity frenetic. We have had some really cool stuff happen at work. A local theatre, American Stage, is moving into a new facility soon, and they are selling off as much of their stuff as possible to make the move easier. One of the most aggravating problems in our theatre is the thirty-year-old seating. It is squeaky, ugly, and the most uncomfortable seats you will find this side of Old Sparky, but since we are the red-headed step-child of the college we cannot get any funding for renovations. Well, American Stage made us an offer to sell us their seats at about a fifth of what it would cost to buy new ones, and at the same time we managed to convince the powers that be that we needed new carpeting as well. The negotiations dragged on, and finally we got permission to make the purchase...with our own money. Well, that part sucked, but at least we are replacing a large percentage of our seats(American Stage's auditorium was less than half the size of ours) with attractive, quiet, and above all comfortable seating. And we're getting new carpet in the deal. Next we are getting the hideously brown walls painted. Yay! Now if we can just come up with the $200K I need to upgrade the medieval lighting system. ;-)

And now on to much more important matters. Star Trek.

It's back, baby!

Now let me give you a few caveats here. Star Trek XI is not a flawless movie; not by a long shot. There are plot holes you can drive a truck through, and the science is probably the worst of all the movies, and I cannot refute anyone who claims they hated this film. If your first introduction to Trek was The Next Generation or later, you probably will not enjoy this one. If, however, you cut your SciFi teeth on the original five year mission this movie is a very satisfying trip back to your childhood.

My primary concerns were how would I deal with other actors portraying Kirk and company, but let me say that these guys did a fantastic job. Chris Pine pulled off the unthinkably difficult task of channeling Jim Kirk without channeling Bill Shatner. His subtle Kirkisms are almost subliminal and with one exception almost require multiple viewings to catch. Karl Urban's Dr. McCoy bugged me at first, but on my second viewing I warmed to him. Zoe Saldana was amazing as Uhura, which was a good thing since she is one of the central drivers of the plot. Simon Pegg's Scotty was a joy to watch, and John Cho's Sulu is part sub driver, part swashbuckler. Anton Yelchin's Chekhov bothered me a bit at first as well, but as I got used to his accent I warmed to the character. And I saved the best for last. Zach Quinto's Spock is flawless. I have seen a bit of Heroes, and was not impressed with Quinto, but he nailed Spock. Although this Spock is more open to things our Spock would never have been. But I say too much. ;-)

The supporting cast is excellent with two real standouts. Faran Tahir as Capt. Robau of the USS Kelvin is only on screen for five or six minutes, but he is awesome. And Ben Cross as Sarek totally owns the part while still honoring the late Mark Leonard. The only person who is somewhat forgettable, and this isn't his fault as an actor, is Eric Bana as Nero. There is a back story to Nero that gives his character much greater depth and motivation, but most of it is either in the comic series Star Trek: Countdown or ended up on the cutting room floor. This is a shame because Bana plays a great baddie, but he was shackled with the fact of being secondary to the actual story of getting the crew onto the Enterprise.


And what is that story? In a nutshell a Romulan mining vessel, the Narada, is accidentally sent back in time after a disaster on Romulus. They encounter the USS Kelvin, a starship who's crew includes George Kirk and his pregnant wife. The Romulan Captain, Nero, kills the Kelvin's captain and destroys the ship, but not before first officer Kirk evacuates the ship and then sacrifices himself so the crew, and his newly born son James, can escape. This creates a new timeline where Jim Kirk never knew his father, and seemed destined to never join Starfleet. What follows is the tale of how the crew we sort of know get together and save the day. And this is where the film excels. The Original Series was not big on the science, or the technobabble, or even the hardware as much as later series were, but the relationships between the actors were the heart and soul of Star Trek. This movie captures those relationships beautifully. Even the cliche of Kirk and Spock hating each other at first was made to work smoothly and believably. And even though this is an alternate universe, with an uglier Enterprise(in my opinion), JJ Abrams bends over backwards to throw us die-hard fans bones left and right. From Scotty's 'I'm givin' her all she's got!' to McCoy's 'I'm a doctor, not a ____' to a cleverly placed tribble Abrams does his level best to make his own movie without alienating us. And the irony is that despite the annoying 'This is not your father's Star Trek' ad campaign, it is exactly your father's...meaning my generation...Star Trek. Dodgy science, sketchy plot devices, tangential monster fights, and big flashy can't get much more TOS.

By all rights I should have hated this movie, and there is a scene in the middle that has so many coincidences that I very nearly lost my enjoyment of the film, but again the way the actors so perfectly portrayed the characters I just maintained my willing suspension of disbelief, finding rationalizations for what was happening rather than decrying it. And the music that plays over the closing credits brought tears to my eyes.

The bottom line is that I love this movie, warts and all, not because it's the best of the series, but because it let me be ten years old again. Both times I've seen it I left the theater with a big grin on my face, and when I see it again with my wife I expect that grin to be even bigger.

Live long and prosper, my friends.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Episode 16.5: The New Movie

Wanna hear what I thought about the new Star Trek movie before you can read it? Go to to find out. :-)

One More Placeholder...

I promise to do a real, honest-to-goodness blog this weekend, including a thorough discussion of my love for the new Star Trek movie, but here's something silly to tide you over. (fellow bloggers, I won't tag anyone with this, but should you feel it might be amusing, and since I stole it from another blog...) ;-)

Tired of all of those surveys made up by high school kids? Have you ever kissed someone? Missed someone? Told someone you loved them? Drunk alcohol? (Seriously?) Here you have 40 questions for the people who are a little older...

1. What bill do you hate paying the most?
Rent. It's most of my paycheck.

2. Where was the last place you had a romantic dinner?
An Indian restaurant not too far from here who's name eludes me.

3. What do you really want to be doing right now?
Searching for antiquities in the Amazon.

4. How many colleges did you attend?

5. Why did you choose the shirt that you have on right now?
It was on top of the stack.

6. What are your thoughts on gas prices?
I often meditate upon the vagaries of the petroleum industry and its arcane and unfathomable pricing methods. Then I usually puke.

7. First thought when the alarm went off this morning?
Hey, Starbuck let me sleep all the way til 4:50 this morning.

8. Last thought before going to sleep last night?
Is it really possible to eliminate the need for dark matter in gravitational calculations by simply reworking Newton's second law, or are such concepts bantha poodoo?

9. Do you miss being a child?
No, and you can't make me, NYAH!!!!!!

10. What errand/chore do you despise?
Disposing of the bodies.

11. Get up early or sleep in?
I'd love to sleep in, but between cats, the kid, and insomnia it rarely happens.

12. Have you found real love yet?
Sure, it rolled under the couch.

13. Favorite lunch meat?

14. What do you get every time you go into Target?

15. Beach or lake? night.

16. Do you think marriage is an outdated ritual?
I need to check with my wife on this. Can I get back to you?

17. Sopranos or Desperate Housewives?
The former sing too high, and the latter piss me off in Target.

18. What famous person would you like to have dinner with?
Jeffrey Dahmer(I may not like roller coasters, but I do enjoy a good thrill ride).

19. Have you ever crashed your vehicle?

20. Ever had to use a fire extinguisher for its intended purpose?
You mean beating someone who answered their cell phone in a movie senseless with it isn't a fire extinguisher's intended purpose?

21. Ring tone?
Psycho Killer by The Talking Heads.

22. Strangest place you have ever brushed your teeth?
Uh, the woods?(that's a weird question)

23. Somewhere in California you've never been and would like to go?
Pretty much any part of California.

24. Do you go to church?
Not if I can avoid it.

25. At this point in your life would you rather start a new career or a new relationship?
Again, I'd need to check with the wife.

26. How old are you?
Siiiiiiiigh, 45

27. Do you have a go-to person?
I am the go-to person.

28. Are you where you want to be in life?
Almost. Once we get our own house I'll be happy.

29. Growing up, what were your favorite cartoons?
The Adventures of Superman, Johnny Quest, Bugs Bunny, Star Trek TAS, Samson and Goliath, and later Tiny Toons and the Animaniacs.

30. What about you do you think has changed the most?
My waistline.

31. Looking back at high school, were they the best years of your life?
No, not at all, but I wish I now only had to worry about my crush on Kathi, or cleaning my room, or could I scrape up enough gas money for the weekend.

32. Are there times you still feel like a kid?
Give me a new phaser to play with, and I become 12 again.

33. Did you ever own troll dolls?
Um, no.

34. Did you have a pager?
I had several.

35. Where was the hang out spot when you were a teenager?
Bryant Park in Lake Worth. We'd hang out in the tree, or 'hit the road', or go over the bridge to Lake Worth beach(at least until the old farts got it to close at 9pm).

36. Were you the type of kid you would want your children to hang out with?
Nah, I was too up tight and straight laced.

37. Who do you think impacted your life the most?
I'd have to say it's a three way tie between my dad, mom, and step-dad. All three taught me things, both positive and negative, that I use every day.

38. Was there a teacher or authority figure that stood out for you?
Yeah, my former boss Norm. I have tried to pattern myself after him in the way I deal with students and colleagues.

39. Do you tell stories that start with “when I was your age”?
Oh, god, yes I have actually uttered, and typed, those words. Kill me.

40. Is it better to love and lose it or never to love at all?
Better? No. Inevitable? Yes.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Behold the Fleet

And lo, the Duke caused the fleet to pass from his place to my place, thus unleashing the uber-nerd, and so it came to pass: