Thursday, February 28, 2013

Star Trek: The Star Trek (2009) movie review

It's not exactly my review, but I do have a few additional comments.
Besides the fact these reviews are wonderfully smart AND entertaining.

Warning: Adult language and themes. (short and metaphorical) (full and lengthy)

Plinkett says wisely: "Now this is the most thing to remember when watching this movie. Star Trek is esentially a remake of the 1960s T.V. series. It's a film that specifically exploits the iconic images and phrases of the old T.V. show for mass audience appeal. It's really no different [in concept] than the 1998 remake of Lost in Space.... strictly for nostalgia exploitation. ... When you accept this fact, you can learn to enjoy the film more for what it is: a fun, action-packed nod to the old T.V. show...nothing more."

I was violently unhappy with Star Trek: The Star Trek until I realized I could pretend it said "inspired by Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry"

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Having Fun: watching great YouTube movie reviews

RedLetterMedia has put some excellent scifi movie reviews on YouTube. Last week, I went through most of their Star Trek movie reviews (spot on, even if I didn't always agree) and today watched one on Avatar and another of Star Wars 3: Revenge of the Sith.

I myself liked the Avatar movie, but even those loyal fans could see (and laugh at) the obvious story "borrows" from other films, like the animated Fern Gully or as RedLetter says, Dances with Wolves in Space.

His critisms are fair and many. The emotional components of the movie didn't bother me like they did him, but I loved his "disection" of the movie components. I just wish he had compared Jar Jar Binks's people with the Na'vi.

Generally, the worst things he could say is that the movie was light on story and character depth and heavy on digital effects and spoon-feeding (which I might call effective marketing, sadly enough).

It was really brilliant to compare the Avatar movie experience to a theme park ride.

The Sith criticisms were far less flattering, although just as fair. And many of them are unavoidably clear to all but the diehard fans. I personally mostly just had my own thoughts confirmed, although he did make quite a few points I had not considered. Like how a boy Han Solo was not in the movie, when every other Star Wars icon seems to have been sodomized for all it was worth. And RedLetter made comparions to the action in the Star Trek (new actors) movie which were very Trek. I had not thought about what I took for granted in that movie.

His one omission that comes to mind: he failed to note that Jar Jar Binks (in the Senate) was instrument of the downfall of the whole Jedi society. Everyone seems to miss that fact, which I thought delicious irony.

Now, Star Wars is a "safe" subject for me, because it's not dear to my heart. His Star Trek: First Contact review was more challanging, personall, but not by much. In truth, his criticisms only pointed out things worth mentioning. It was fun to watch. So even when potentially insulting, RedLetter seems to deliver.

It reminds me of watching the Daily Show.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Varan idol figurine

It is hard to explain why I find this so amazingly cool. It's an obscure reference to an obscure monster in an obscure monster movie, beautifully rendered. It's listed as Price: 12,500 Yen, whatever that comes out to in dollars. I am doubtful that it is still available, however.

It's exceedingly ironic that an idol is the source of my fascination. Smacks of idolatry?

The website it's from,, is interesting in and of itself.

Also, check out Varan Unleashed

Listen to this: (images) (theme music from Godzilla: Unleashed video game) (maybe film reviews) (German military music? WHy?)


X-Plus 12" internet variant Varan monster Godzilla Marmit Bandai M1 Paradise

Here is a spikey 12" vinyl X-Plus prepainted figure of Varan, the orphan kaiju of Toho who was given a decidedly unspectacular production for his first and essentially final film appearance (unless you count his ragged costume being shown for a few seconds in Destroy All Monsters). But don't think that Toho's one-shot wonder is not pursued by collectors, partially due to his elusive nature and partially because he is one classic-looking reptilian monster, with a tough scaly hide and those distinguishing (and distinguished) spikes. X-Plus adds the requisite touch of making the spikes out of translucent vinyl, and this internet exclusive includes a 4" plus stone-textured version of the idol from Varan's island, making this the definitive Varan piece for that hole in your kaiju collection (unless you have the Paradise Varan, then you're in pretty good shape). Comes in the box unused as pictured.

“If you have any question, please ask me.

I’m looking forward to your contact!!

Happy Bidding” You gotta see this!

JWH: I hate writing my life story over and over

Job Hunt Woes Everytime I apply for job, I'm left with this drained, sick feeling. I end up in a very bad mood. I can understand why companies want to know so much about their applicats, but something should be done about the length of these things. Even with easy access to the internet to look up old employer's addresses, etc, this last application took THREE HOURS, and it wasn't even especially sadistic. No idiotic "Have you ever stolen" questions. But this line got me. Right before you can sign and submit, it says: "I have read and understand the above and have had the opportunity to ask questions, which, if asked, were satisfactorily answered." What idiocy! There was no asking! There was no opportunity to be had!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Varan means "lizard" or something

I just discovered by accident today that varan is actually a word in some foreign languages, and means various things, but is especially associated with monitor lizards. Also, in science-speak, monitor lizards are sometimes known as varanoid lizards. That's pretty cool, considering the source of my interest.

It's also apparently a boy's name used in Asia:

NPR: Free MIT Biology Course Online

Here and Now is exactly appropriate for this topic. It addresses the most up-to-date state of biology and genetics, although from one man's perspective. This stuff gets me excited. If you do a bit of searching, I'm sure there is a way to listen to the interview given today (2/20/2013) with guest Eric Lander, professor of biology at MIT and science advisor to the president.

The FREE course, presented by, is March 5th, 2013. Following the link may not work unless you search the main website)

I have never yet used edX, but this looks exciting. 6 to 8 hours a week isn't too hard to committ to, and I am releived, because I was imaging a "live" streaming lecture that I would have to be available for. Also, I worried I might have to buy an expensive textbook.

The materials for study, along with the class, seem to be all freely online, including the main "supplemental" textbook, Molecular Biology of the Cell, 4th edition. also seems to have courses available in quantum mechanics, greek history, justice, and environmental science. I can't find information on how many "students" can take the class. It appears I might receive a "Certificate of Completion" if I pass the class, but I can't find information whether the certificate is free or not.

Monday, February 18, 2013

sci-fi backstage

RedLetterMedia has made some EXCELLENT reviews of Star Trek movies (and Star Wars, and Avatar, and many others). These have been uploaded onto YouTube fairly recently (2012) Star Trek Generations Star Trek: First Contact As much as I liked First Contact generally, I found his wit and critism to be severe but fair. And sometimes painfully spot-on. Star Trek: Insurrection I was impressed by factors I had not considered before, especially the comparison with the DMZ native Americans. Star Trek: Nemesis I liked the Nemeis review best, perhaps because I respected Nemesis the least of all the films. Yes, worse than I and V. His criticisms were spot-on. I was impressed.

I have been reading a bit about the history of the sci-fi genre and it's corresponding media ghetto.
I suggest some (in)famous essays: (the link seems to have wandered around) The Squandered Promise of Science Fiction (Why Can't We All Just Live TOgether?), by Jonathan Lethem Things Are Tough All Over, by Ray Davis.
A concurrent e-mail exchange between Davis and Lethem is also a worthwhile read.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

goodies from your friendly neighborhood uber-goober

I had not heard of 'Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal' comics until today. This one is about the revolution debate. If you watch the Star Trek movies, the series by this author are really good. Again, if you watch Star Trek. It seems I was wrong. Commercials sometimes are really catchy. Who knew taxes could be such fun?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

TV series Heroes

I said I was going to post more on natural history and ecology, and I had entirely intended to, but life intervenes. (Although on an ecology note, I heard on NPR this morning that the guest was estimating a 80%-90% chance Obama will succumb to the Keystone pipeline bill during his second term, despite his political base. Say it isn't so!) Well, my pre-wife bought me the box-set DVD collection of Heroes Season One. I finished it last night, and it was quite the thrill ride, but I am glad it is over. It was fun, but I am glad. Why? It was not a series that was convenient. It was not kind to it's audience (or at least the part represented by me). Here's why: there were very few story frameworks. It was not appropriately episodic. There were very few reliable endings. Now, cliffhangers during a two-parter are acceptable. Unresolved endings are acceptable. Hints that "the villian lived and will come back for revenge later" or somesuch are acceptable. Heroes was a continuous flow of story lines that felt like a 26-parter (I forget how many episodes the season had.) It was not until the season ended that I felt a little relief in the form of something resembling an ending. A TV series needs to be episodic, I think. It felt more like a made-for-tv movie. I guess that is a matter of taste, but I think I have precedent on my side. A talented creative team can form a wonderfully rich story taken as a whole, but with each installment being readable or watchable in and of itself. This may be been a matter of taste, and certainly makes good business sense for the TV series, but I wa unhappy with it. Storywise, I was especially disappointed that the whole series did not diverge much from the X-Men archetype. Wrapped up with that, I was also disappointed the eclipse (despite the series logo and pilot) wasn't much of a factor in the plot. Perpahs the solar eclipse was explained and incorporated later, but it was such promise as an alternative to the tired old mutation concept. Like the X-Men movies, heroes even featured a mutant conspiracy and government-sponsered genocide. And the concept of a villian-stealing-super-powers was one of their biggest innovations, but even that was taken from LXG (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). Can you please point me to any example of innovation? I generally applaud the series, but I am very glad I caught it on DVD rather than immersed in the broadcast episodes. One of my largest applauds most go to the casting of Malcolm McDowell as a great, multi-faceted villian. I have caught his performances on other occasions, and this was one of the best roles. A role befitting him. I am still annoyed that Star Trek Generations so wasted his potential. Although the same happened with F. Murray Abraham in Star Trek: Insurrection, so I guess it's a sad habit of the franchise. Speaking of Trek, seeing the reboot Spock (Quinto) as Sylar was interesting, and very good casting also. George Takei had a good "peice of the action." Oh, and do you recognize this guy? I knew he looked familiar! Erick Avari was Daniel's Abados father-in-law on Stargate, plus a million other things, including bit roles in Star Trek: Enterprise, Babylon 5, Independace Day, and Lois and Clark, among others. And he was in The 13th Warrior, too! Speaking on Insurrection earlier, I did a quick search on YouTube, and although it says little to nothing about Abraham, it's well done:

Thursday, February 7, 2013

NPR Broadcast: "Hidden Life of Wolves"

I am going to try to make more posts about natural history and ecology. I have been very, very remiss, and the last post I recall that was truly natural history may have been another NPR radio broadcast about Pre-Columbian ecology. Anyway, I heard this this morning on the Diane Rehm Show It wasn't anything unusually amazing, just good and compelling, although limited in scope to (more or less) one species. The comments made of the down-grade from national Endangered Species List to state-by-state regulated hunting, and the swift decimation of formerly protected wolves, and especially that the wolves may have to return to Endangered status in short order because of this, is worthy of note. It's important to keep this situation in mind when other animal populations recover from a vulnerable status. Perhaps a Limited-Recovery-with-Ongoing-Monitoring status should be created, and I see no reason hunting licences couldn't be "taxed" to pay for this monitoring. Another factor that suprised me a bit was how very little respect these guests had for the wild dangerous character of their charges. I consider it careless and overconfident. I suppose I applaud their bravery in the search for scientific advance, but I wouldn't have done it. The lady guest spoke how she crawled into the tight, narrow den of a savagely protective mother wolf to examine her pups. True, the mother wolf DID apparently seem to be okay with this, but I myself wouldn't feel too confident with knowing the intentions of a wild animal when in such a literally tight spot. Also, I was uncomfortable with the authors' anthropamorphised treatment of the wolves, despite all their assurances to the contrary. Their use of pet names bothered me, but that is a matter of taste if abandoned in the feild. I'm not convined the pet sentimentality did not carry over into their study. While it is very true that wild animals can have personality and even "friendships" in a sense, the humans' level of trust and familiarity was a decidedly unnatural situation. Which brings us to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, again I'm afraid.