Wednesday, September 27, 2017

This Is Not Star Trek (and Other TV Notes)

I think I might like Star Trek: Discovery if they didn't call it Star Trek. It just doesn't look or feel like Star Trek. It's supposedly set just a few years earlier than the original series. Of course I don't expect the clunky 1960's version of the future but they could at least make it look like it belongs in the same universe. Visually, everything is too dark and too busy. And they appear to have changed the Klingons yet again. Those scenes were too dark to clearly see what they look like but it's apparent that they don't look quite like the Klingons in The Next Generation and the movies.

Possibly even more wrong than the visual appearance of the show is the... I don't know what to call it other than the feel. The feel is all wrong. Everything is so deadly serious. There's no friendly banter, no chemistry between the crew members, and so far little in the way of real personality. I have only watched the first episode so far so maybe it just needs time to develop but I don't hold out much hope that this will ever be really Star Trek

* * * * *

I have been interested in the Big Bang Theory spin-off, Young Sheldon. After one episode, I think I like it. It's a difficult thing to do, to cast younger versions of established characters but I think they did as well as can be expected. The actors are all good. The writing? We'll see. In some ways 9-year-old Sheldon seems almost more mature than adult Sheldon and the dad so far is a more sympathetic character than was hinted at in The Big Bang Theory. Jim Parsons narrates, establishing the connection between the two shows.

Speaking of The Big Bang Theory, I watched the season premiere of that. No spoilers. It's starting to feel like this show might be winding down - like this (or maybe the next) might be the last season. It has developed so far from what it started out as. I think that's a good thing, actually. The fact that the characters were allowed to grow is part of what has kept the show going for so many years. I like the The Big Bang Theory a lot; I don't want it to end but everything has to end sometime and I think it would be appropriate to end with all four of the guys happily married and that seems to be the direction the show is going. There's no one for Raj yet but the writers could make it happen and I really hope they do eventually. It would be too sad if he got left out.

I haven't seen very many new shows and season premieres yet. The season is just getting started. I've watched the season premiere of Scorpion. The less said about this show the better. A nice set of characters with some really really bad writing. Gotham is back and is still one of my favorite shows.

In the non-fiction department, this past summer I got hooked on Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, a half hour political stand up comedy show. If you like Donald Trump and Fox News don't watch it; you'll hate it.

I have seen some promos for several new shows that I might be interested in. I'll probably do another TV post in a few weeks when/if I've had a chance to see some of these. I have a somewhat limited amount of time to watch TV series though so I don't know how many new shows I'll be able to get into.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Random Linkage

Books in Books - 12 novels that mention lots of other books. I think I want to read Among Others just based on its hidden reading list.

Subway to Nowhere - If this was in the U.S. within a couple of months there would be a 7-11 and half a dozen fast food places nearby. In America if you build it they will come.

Ingo and Friends - Gorgeous photos of a German shepherd and his owl friend. Seriously, I can't tell you how much I LOVE these.

Pizza Forward

Museum Twins

Love and Skeletons - Oh those prudish Victorians! NSFW

And finally, the solution to all problems:

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Books, History, and a Bit of Politics

I recently finished reading Foundation: The History of England From Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors after reading it off and on for over a year. It took me so long not because it wasn't interesting but because I was trying to read it while reading other books at the same time and that never works for me. It really is a fascinating book. I have always wanted to know more about early England and this was the perfect book to get a good overview.

The second book in the series, The Tudors begins with the reign of Henry VIII and I couldn't resist immediately downloading that one too. I have been reading it for several days and got through the section on Henry VIII. All most of us know about him is that he had six wives, two of whom he had beheaded, and that he established the Church of England, with himself as its head, because the Pope wouldn't let him divorce his first wife. The details, of course, are a lot more complicated and more horrifying.

As I was reading this book a thought occurred to me. A lot of people like to compare presidents they don't like to Hitler but if our current president has any historical parallel it's Henry VIII. (Now if this blog was popular enough to attract trolls someone would surely point out that the Donald has never ordered anyone beheaded, to which I would respond, "That's because it's illegal now days, dumba**.") Of course you can't really compare two people who lived over 400 years apart. The differences in culture are too great. No one can say what a modern U.S. president would do if he had the same powers as ancient Kings. But the similarities in personality traits are striking: egomania, paranoia, greed, demands absolute loyalty, can't stand criticism, overall kind of gross and disgusting.

Anyway, I just thought I'd throw that out there. Someone else can take it and run with it or tear it to shreds if they are so inclined. As for the books, I highly recommend both of them but maybe not The Tudors if you are prone to nightmares.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Silly Sci-Fi

Science fiction TV shows are sort of like cookies. Even if you know they're not going to be good they're still irresistible. At least that's the way it is with me. As they say, your mileage may vary. It's like, someone leaves an opened package of store brand sandwich cookies on the counter. I know those things are usually kind of awful but I will grab a couple and eat them anyway and, if they're not too terrible, later a couple more.

So that's why I watched The Orville. It is definitely "store brand" sci-fi and the name of the store is Fox. That said, I have to confess, a bit sheepishly, I did sort of enjoy it. If you've seen the commercials you already know that visually it's very much like Star Trek:TNG. The ship's exterior is sleek and white; the interior bright, clean, minimalist, and full of wasted space and the crew is a mix of humans and aliens but otherwise it is pure Seth McFarlane - casual, irreverent, and lowbrow.

I was expecting that it might be nothing but gags but it did actually have a plot and some action. The style of humor is not really to my taste but at the same time nothing offended me enough that I immediately wanted to stop watching it. There were a number of familiar faces. I was pleasantly surprised to see Penny Johnson Gerald as the ship's doctor and Brian George (of Big Bang Theory fame) in a guest starring role.

So I'll keep watching for a few more episodes, at least, to see how it develops.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Random Linkage

Precontinent - Jacques Cousteau's underwater habitat. I don't remember if I've ever heard of this before. I used to watch the Jacques Cousteau TV specials when I was a kid so I probably saw something about it once and just forgot.

NASA's Retro Space Travel Posters - I'm sure you've seen some of these before. They've been around for a little while and they seem to be popular but I wanted to put a link here mainly so I can find them again myself.

Retro sci-fi covers featuring impractical female attire

Hairy Selfie Nails - OMG! I can't even!

Yann Souetre - Science fiction art. Fascinating images.

Fungus Arrangements - Photography. Colorful arrangements of mushrooms.

Star Wars Galaxy Necklace - The planets and spaceships from Star Wars, including the Death Star, on a necklace

Quarter Trick - Useful tip

Pink Floyd Household Object Project - I haven't listened to these videos yet.

Woodland GIFs - These make me feel peaceful.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Friday, September 1, 2017

Great Space Opera

Oh! Wow! Space opera fans, you have to read this: Kit by Val Kubera. It's part crime drama, part political drama, part horror story, part romance, and 100% space opera.

The title character is a Tentari, who are hermaphrodite humanoids. Kit and a younger sibling are the only survivors from a starship that was destroyed under suspicious circumstances. They survive as best they can on a large space station inhabited by all manner of unsavory characters. He (I'll address the matter of pronouns in a minute.) has some memory chips given to him by his parent that contain information that everybody wants. He is taken in by a merchant ship captain who was close friends with his parent and thus the wild ride begins.

The author uses male pronouns when referring to the Tentari which is grammatically correct, I suppose, but it feels wrong in a number of ways. One, it reinforces our human tendency of binary thinking - every creature must be either male or female. I found it nearly impossible to think of Kit and other Tentari characters as anything but male. It also at times felt awkward and ridiculous since the author remained consistent in using the male pronoun even when referring to a character nursing an infant. I think it would have been preferable to use made up pronouns, such as Mary Gentle did in The Golden Witchbreed with the neuter pronoun ke.

Anyway, very minor quibble. Overall it was a fantastic, exciting, edge-of-your-seat, unputdownable book. A few scenes are not for the squeamish and there are a couple of fairly explicit sex scenes but nothing that a reasonable person could call "gratuitous," in my opinion.