Web Search nikon coolpix digital cameras The Miserable Annals of the Earth: Giving thanks

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Giving thanks

What do I give thanks for today? Well, I give thanks for SuperFiancee, as always, but this time, especially, for helping me untangle the obstacles my own asinine idiocy erected against my utilization of YouTube this morning, allowing me to... ah, but we'll get to that.

I'm also grateful for YouTube, although, y'know, they could make it a little bit easier for idiots like me to consume their mind numbing wares. They could. They really could.

And I'm grateful for friends like "Miraclo" Mike Norton, for putting together a YouTube 'mix tape' on his blog that requires response from any thinking being, or, barring that, from me, at the very least.

I mean, bad enough he's profaning the sublime by mixing Ben Fold's Five and Stevie Wonder in with Badfinger and Squeeze, Elvis Costello and Queen, Talking Heads and REM and They Might Be Giants, and, for the love of jebus, there's no Blue Oyster Cult anywhere to be found, and it's enough to make even a strong man weep.

But his haughty refusal to link to a certain Fountains of Wayne song/video -- it shall not stand. Not one second longer.

Such libidinous loin candy as this may be beneath the gaze of the ever intellectually elite Emperor Norton (long may he reign) but I shall link to it... like the dog that I am.

Grab your joystick, rocket men, and prepare for BLAST OFF -- !

Not enough for you? Then let me rectify another of the Emperor's grievous failings, and whisk you all to the Four Wind's Barn, for --

Hey, I could do this YouTube stuff all day long, but SuperFiancee needs some help in the kitchen preparing our sumptious Thanksgiving feast. Let me take a few seconds to note a few more things I'm grateful for on the fly:

I'm grateful for the TV show HEROES. But it's hard to remember that, after the way they jerked their entire audience around in the last episode. They know all we want to see is Hiro going back in time to save the perky redhaired waitress, and what do we get instead? 44 minutes of blah blah fucking BLAH and thirty fucking seconds of the sub plot we all tuned in to see, right at the end of the episode -- and to just heap salt in that wound, next ep is a flashback, so it's at least two weeks, maybe more, before we get what we fucking WANT.

Hey, I know the rule of good serial fiction -- make your audience really want something, and then don't give it to them. But they're pissing me off.

I'm also grateful for friends who boot me off the cliff. See, I'd been hesitant to jump into BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. The last thing I need is yet another series where I'll like all the characters and get really into the whole thing, yet be continually frustrated by stupid plotting and moronically inconsistent background science. This burned me bad on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (although there, it was the moronically inconsistent fantasy elements) and it kept me from watching more than one episode of Whedon's goddam dimwitted Western in space, whatever the fuck it was called.

And judging from what I'd seen on various chat threads, this pretty much sums up BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, too... excellent premise, great characters, fabulous actors, terrific dialogue, and science that only works when the plot requires it to work, and never any better or any more consistently or in any way that might interfere with the plot, either.

Stuff like that drives me insane, and I wasn't going to jump into it, but then Tony Collett gave me the pilot on DVD for my birthday, and now, here I am, yearning for Season 1, while resolutely refusing to ask myself questions like "okay, how in the name of God can these people have artificial gravity when they don't even have focused energy weapons? In fact, how can they build faster than light drive, and the sentient humanoid robots, and gigantic working artificial environments in space that can support thousands of human life forms, and yet, they don't have focused energy weapons or any kind of advanced medical technology or anything?"

And it also makes me sad, because it bodes very poorly for laser bolos, and laser bolos were probably the single coolest element I remember from the first show.

Well, I liked the jackets the pilots wore in the first show, too. In fact, I always wanted one of those jackets.

Anyway, okay, I'll watch BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, but jesus christ, I would like just once to see someone try to do a science fiction show where they pay some attention to actual science, and still manage to have good writing, interesting characters, and entertaining storylines.

And I also give thanks for the SuperKids, and all my other friends, and a fabulous birthday this year (which isn't over yet, but the last round of gifts won't be for a while yet) and the chance to watch the Bucs getting walloped on national television later on today (hey, may as well be grimly realistic) and an X-Box that plays my favorite tunes randomly all day long, and, oh, yeah, the wonderful smells coming out of the kitchen. I better go see what I can do to help.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


At 3:12 PM , Blogger MJ Norton said...

Once again this year I couldn't get myself to make public thanks for things because it feels too much like drawing a target on the good in my life and inviting the rude whims of higher beings with lower impulses.

Looking at the list I'm still not sure which ones are supposed to be profaning which, but that's the "mix" in Mix Tape, I suppose. The toughest thing (aside from finding either studio versions of songs or live versions that still sound enough like the song to bother with) was not hitting some of the same artists for three, five or more songs each. With meal prep requiring little checks and touches here and there and me in full holiday/vacation mode I was up all night, so fiddling around with You Tube, often looking for things that weren't there, was a fun distraction.

"Stacy's Mom" isn't a bad song, and it's an entertaining video even, but anyone even flipping through You Tube can see that - as with radio play - it's terribly over-exposed. Knowing that it's also far from their best work played a part, too. It's one of those irritating things like a large, mainstream audience who might only know Elvis Costello via "Veronica" (the only one of his songs, I believe, to chart high on pop stations), or believe B.O.C. only ever produced "Don't Fear the Reaper" before disappearing forever -- the latter being pretty much my own perspective for many years because B.O.C. simply wasn't part of my life's soundtrack.

I didn't get to any Bowie, Dire Straits, careful selections from Genesis, Pink Floyd, Rush, The Who, Yes, etc., etc. not to mention oh so many more from Ben Folds (with and without the "Five"), Fountains of Wayne, Peter Gabriel, Squueze and of course Elvis Costello either, which only means I'll likely be doing that again from time to time.

The only thing all of my selections had in common was that a) I could find acceptable versions uploaded and b) they all appealed to me in the wee hours of Thanksgiving 2006.

I'd say "Have a fine, happy and filling Thanksgiving" but I know you're in excellent company and barring a meteor strike that's all but assured.

At 8:03 PM , Anonymous Always Esteemed Scott said...

Happy Thanksgiving to all.
In fact, how can they build faster than light drive, and the sentient humanoid robots, and gigantic working artificial environments in space that can support thousands of human life forms, and yet, they don't have focused energy weapons or any kind of advanced medical technology or anything?"

Sigh. If you stick with Galactica (and I highly recommend that you do) you are going to continually be frustrated by those questions - it's the most annoying part of an otherwise stellar show.

And the Fountains of Wayne video was highly entertaining, although I liked Phoebe Cates better in the original.

At 8:29 PM , Blogger AaA said...

Be thankful that the sins in BSG's writing are ones of ommission, not commission. Adding too much crapola and then not being able to get rid of it is far worse than leaving something out that you can try to find a way to add in later.

Yes, human bioscience in BSG is strangely lacking, as is the lack of lasers when they still have an FTL drive system. But it's not like they can't stumble across (or more realistically, some guy in the cabinet steps forward with a sealed document file containing information on) a remotely sited research base with a few hundred prototypes of a laser cannon or somesuch, or a nanomedbot to cure what ails the president. See, they can find a way to put that shit in, and even make it plausible. But if they had a bunch of stupid shit in there, taking it out would be horribly artifical and lame, and all sorts of continuity breach, and it would just suck to death.

So count your blessings.

At 10:32 AM , Blogger Highlander said...


The list was meant to be taken respectively, although I foolishly neglected to put in that word. Thus, the first two listed 'musicians' were meant to be the profanity, while the list that followed was meant to be sublime.

My brother Paul used to go on and on about how the Ben Fold Five had mastered the art of imperfection and reveled in their own musical inadequacies and made flawed production an art form and, well, Paul's a big Kevin Smith fan so this sounded very familiar to me. He used to play the crap at me at every opportunity, and I never heard anything that didn't give me a headache.

As to Stevie Wonder -- "Superstition" and "Part Time Lover" I can deal with. The rest of his considerable output makes me reach for a Tylenol bottle as fast as Ben's stuff does. It doubtless reflects poorly on my taste.

Tammy and I both share similar tastes for zippy pop-rock with lots of obvious hooks, and "Stacy's Mom" is a big hit here, along with other auditory trash like "1985" and "Accidentally in Love" and "Our Lips Are Sealed" and "Manic Monday".

I like Elvis Costello fine, but probably my favorite tracks of his are from different eras in his career than your favorites come from. I like "Oliver's Army" and "Red Shoes" and "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace Love and Understanding" and "Alison" and even "Watching The Detectives", while you seem to mostly like his later stuff. From that era, I like a few things, but "New Amsterdam" is a track I tend to skip. And while I'm sure I've heard "Veronica", I can't put a mental hand to the tune at the moment; I don't think it's one that's on my EC collection.

Songs by Bowie, Dire Straits, Genesis (early Gabriel era), Pink Floyd, Rush, The Who, and Yes would probably all make it onto a vast favorites compilation of my own, were I to assemble one. But probably the song you had in your mix tape that I liked the most was "Daydream Believer". Which doubtless aptly sums up the dichotomy in our musical tastes.

And, yeah, it's wonderful sharing a holiday, or any time at all, with Tammy. She is, by her very nature, a walking, talking antidote to Murphy's Law. Anything that can go right, generally will, around her... not by happy accident or coincidence, but simply because she's so competent and industrious that she tends to fool proof her life, and those lucky enough to be sharing it, as she goes. I make what humble, inadequate contributions I can, but mostly I'm just along for the ride.


I'm sorry, I don't get your Phoebe Cates reference, unless you're saying that the video is just a short version of FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, where it struck me as being a short version of AMERICAN PIE... but either way, it's such a slyly subversive rendition of what must be a very common boyhood erotic fantasy, which is, at the same time, on a subject so generally forbidden and reviled by our cultural consciousness, that I had to admire the band just for getting it out there.

As to BSG, I'll direct this next comment to you and Nate both:

I understand a possible counter argument to my pissy insistence on consistency with known physical law in a space based SF artifact on the movies or TV could well be: "Well, we can't simulate free fall conditions on our budget; do you just want us to not make futuristic space operas at all until a time comes when we have a way to accurately portray different gravity fields? You'll be a long time without SF in the movies and on TV then, buddy!"

I get that, I do. But I'd like some acknowledgement of it, however weak. I'd never hold STAR TREK up as an example of good anything, much less SF, but at least their technology is generally advanced enough that when they say "we have artificial gravity compensators, even on our shuttlecrafts", well, it's bullshit, but they have so much other incredibly advanced tech, you can roll your eyes and move along... and if STAR TREK actually had interesting characters, good dialogue, and intelligent plotting, it would work a great deal better for me.

But I'd still bitch about STAR TREK, because with all that advanced technology, the humanity they represent has not changed culturally in more than cosmetic ways over the next several centuries.

And this is insane. If you had all this stuff -- especially, but not limited to, the transporter technology -- your culture, and general standards of human behavior, would change enormously.

But TV and movie producers don't want to do that, because they don't want their target audience to be alienated. They want us to be able to find characters we can identify and empathize with, and they aren't good enough writers to present the kernel of essentially similar humanity in a radically different cultural presentation.

Most SF writers working in TV and the movies now realize this problem, so they do the opposite -- they keep the technology on their shows as close to ours as possible, or make it a little bit backwards except for very specific and essential plot devices, like, in BSG's case, that which makes space travel possible.

This way, they can keep the characters and their cultural surroundings, including behavior, very similar to our own, as well.

Thus, Adama and his son, Starbuck, the President, various other characters we've seen, all behave in ways that are recognizable to us.
Their relationships are all heterosexual monogamies. They have the same general attitudes towards good and evil as we do. Their culture punishes and rewards the same actions as ours does. They have the same modesty taboos and wear clothing much the same as ours.

They are not only human, but apparently, they represent 12 different human populated planets in distant space who only know of Earth as a legendary myth, who still all largely behave like 21st Century white Americans.

I understand the necessity for it, but one thing that has really been painfully obvious to me in what BSG I've watched so far (the pilot) is the complete and utter lack of anything like original thinking as far as wardrobe or set detail. Adama has what looks to be a samurai sword on the wall of his quarters. Their computer consoles look like something Earth humans would invent and use. They wear what are obviously business suits and military uniforms with minor changes to fashion detail.

Every single thing, every detail, every tool, every weapon, every item of clothing, every artifact of any sort, is all immediately obvious as to its utility and/or purpose to us, the audience. We think to ourselves "Oh, cool, Adama has a samurai sword", and probably most of us don't notice either (a) this is rather like Kirk's collection of antique pistols in STAR TREK II and (b) Adama isn't from Earth and his culture shouldn't necessarily have either samurai or swords in its history.

I would love, once in a while, to spot something truly weird in the backdrop of a show like BSG. A sword is a pretty specific kind of artifact. It is, in point of fact, a solution to certain engineering problems. But an entirely different human culture could, possibly, have created and implemented on a widespread basis a different answer to the same questions, namely, how can you kill another human being relatively quickly in hand to hand combat? A sword is one way to do it, sure, and a sword has a very significant emotional impact to us here in the audience -- but I wouldn't have minded if, say, we'd seen some kind of weird looking staff on the wall instead, and gotten thirty seconds of dialogue between Adama and Lee, or maybe his XO, on how much they miss the old days when men settled their differences with venom-thorns instead of blasters, or something. ANYthing, that would underscore for us that yeah, these people aren't from Earth.

And don't even get me started on how much I'd like to see modern make up technology brought to bear on creating a few obviously human, but just as obviously unEarthly, subraces among the general population. How about some short, tan skinned folk with epicanthic folds? How about a tall, generally thin albino race? Maybe we could have... no, never mind. Sorry. Didn't mean to get started.

But here's the thing -- no one aspect of technology ever exists in isolation; not in a growing, vibrant, healthy cultural matrix. We ourselves have benefited enormously from technological offshoots of the Mercury and Apollo programs; materials and devices that were created specifically to perform the tasks of space flight have also made possible various different advances here on Earth that we mostly take completely for granted, but which have changed our lifestyles, and thus, our behavior, in enormous, if largely unnoticed, ways.

If the Colonials have the staggeringly advanced technological capacity to dwell in space indefinitely with relatively large population bases, this should impact their lifestyles, and thus, their behaviors, enormously. How do they all manage to live together in such tightly limited environments without going insane?

Their military culture, at the very least, must be either far far more savagely conformist, or far, far more tolerant of individual variances in behavior, than our own. Yet it's neither; it seems to be much the same as our own.

I could go on and on, but the essential point that I'm harping on is, technological advances in one area inevitably lead to technological advances across the board, and advances in technology always, always, always alter the way that its users live. Usually for the better, because advancing technology allows increasing population density, and increasing population density forces humans to evolve social mechanisms to deal with it -- usually, but not always, leading to more liberal, tolerant, and permissive cultural behaviors.

Which brings me to my next rueful observation: in the original TV program, the Lords of Kobol (as I recall) was a pantheistic religion. And Colonial culture was different enough from ours back then that it had legalized prostitution, as represented by Cassiopiea, the 'socialator' who was Athena's chief rival for Starbuck's attentions.

Say what you will about the late 70s, or the lack of overall quality of the first BSG, but, still, back then the general culture was one that was willing to tolerate differences from the norm in even the blandest, most mass medium speculative fiction.

In the contemporary BSG, the central religion has transmuted into a very familiar seeming monotheism, and the only sexuality I've seen so far is in the deeply unhealthy relationship between the evil inhuman Cylon bitch and her Quisling partner/victim. As with the apparently unkillable LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT, the message is pretty clear -- "only bad people have sex".

None of this will keep me from watching BSG, but it will keep me from thinking of it as good science fiction. It seems to be an entertaining space opera, but, in many ways, it's just as poorly executed, sloppy, lazy, and subservient to conservative intolerance as STAR TREK ever was. And that makes me sad.

At 12:03 PM , Anonymous Always Esteemed Scott said...

I'm sorry, I don't get your Phoebe Cates reference, unless you're saying that the video is just a short version of FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, where it struck me as being a short version of AMERICAN PIE...

Yeah. The last 30 seconds or so of the video (Stacy's mom coming out of the swimming pool in the red bikini,surrounded by spray, smiling wickedly as she reaches behind her back to undo her top..all of which is a fantasy our hero is concocting while whacking off in the bathroom) is pretty much a direct steal (or homage, if you prefer) from FAST TIMES, except that in the movie, Phoebe actually removes said top.
I've not seen American Pie, so it's possible that the same (or similar) scene is in there. If it is, then FAST TIMES still got there first.

I'll comment on the BG stuff in that post, rather than here. Have a great weekend.


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