Litany Against Fear

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Dune

If I was to risk my life to see a movie, this is possibly the only movie that I would cross that line for:

DUNE – FINAL TRAILER – Oct 7, 2021

Check out the ‘thopters, man. Finally someone gives me real ‘thopters. That alone will get me to go watch the movie, even in a time of plague.

Dune – Official Main Trailer – Jul 22, 2021

I just hope the movie has a story. A story that feels something like the story in the book. I’m not looking for the book as a movie, I’m looking to feel the same way about the story in the movie as I do about the story in the book. Fingers crossed.


The first movie of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune ends immediately following Jamis’ Tahaddi challenge. Given the place in the first book where the movie ends, I would say that there are at least two more movies of material left to put on the screen. That is, if we are talking about the series of movies ending where the first book ends. If we go on to Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, then we have at least a nine-film epic.

I liked his handling of the story as far as it went. He departed from the text several times, and yet the story remains intact underneath the changes. The director deftly weaves a tale that was made for the screen out of the text that Frank Herbert wrote, and he does it better than all the others who have attempted to tell the story before.

Jodorowsky’s Dune (2014)

Documents the first time someone tried to bring the book to the big screen. While the attempt was fatally flawed from the beginning, the collaborations that started with that endeavor went on to generate a dozen other works that would be sorely missed today had the attempt not been made. I’m glad the movie was never finished. There is no way the completed project could equal the grandeur of the vision that is presented in the pitches for the movie.

Dune (1984)

Unfortunately for us, David Lynch did complete his attempt to put Dune on the big screen. Luckily for us, David Lynch went on to make better movies. Don’t get me wrong, there are facets of the 1984 Dune that are grandiose almost beyond imagining unless you have seen the movie yourself. The guild steersman in the first act; in fact, all of the first third of the movie was excellent. All of the casting for the Harkonnen’s including Sting as Feyd-Rautha was excellent. Unfortunately the production couldn’t create ornithopters that looked like ornithopters. They also abandoned the Prana-Bindu training/fighting in favor of creating a gadget that they called a weirding module to make the fighters unbeatable.

The production suffered from many problems during the course of the movies’ creation and this shows in the finished product. There were long exposition sequences throughout the film, a shortcut to storytelling on film that is never a good idea. The Wife walked out of the movie back in 1984, midway through one of the sequences that featured a bloody battle scene while the voiceover track intones “…and Paul and Chani were in love.” The horror of it was too much to bear. She spent the remaining hour of the movie playing video games in the arcade attached to the theater.

I have watched the movie several times over the years. It never got better for me, which is its own condemnation of the effort in my eyes. When you know a story before seeing the movie made from it, the anxiety of what you are about to see enacted on something you know and love overshadows everything. This has proven to be true for me for every movie that I have watched after reading the book. The first viewing is almost painful to endure. If the movie is good though, the later viewings get better and more enjoyable because you already know how the movie treats the thing you are nostalgic for.

1984 Dune treated a novel that I had read more times than I had read anything else very poorly. It strayed from the meaning and intent of the story almost from the moment the characters touch down on Arrakis. I had read the first four novels seven times through before seeing the movie in 1984 and most books never get a second reading by me. Dune spoke to me in ways that other books did not. Frank Herbert understood realpolitik, and he wove his vaguely recognizable societal groups into a believable future framework that gives the reader insight on the world of power politics, and what can happen when an oppressed population is given a savior that they recognize instinctively. Almost none of this was present in the 1984 version of Dune.

Dune (2000) Miniseries

This version was superior to Lynch’s version. It was more like the story it was trying to tell than 1984 Dune. True, they still didn’t get the ornithopters right, and they didn’t have Sting as Feyd-Rautha, but they made do with what they had and at least tried to tell the story that Frank Herbert wrote. I’ve never managed to catch this series since it first aired, so I have little recollection of it now. I just remember being glad to see the story treated more like I expected it to be treated, instead of being buried behind special effects sequences that could never replace real storytelling. They even went on to make:

Children of Dune (2003) Miniseries

An adaptation of the second two books of the series. I remember even less of this series than I do the first SyFy series, although I remember watching both. This one didn’t impress me with it’s ability to bring the story to the screen. In the end the small screen can’t compare to the big screen and these stories deserve to be on a big screen.

All of this is my way of saying that I look forward to seeing Jason Momoa returning in movie number four as the Goula Hayt. I’ll be along for the ride for at least that long. Here’s hoping that Denis Villeneuve gets the green light to continue with the second movies’ creation.

The Babylon Project Reborn?

Back in February I wrote this article:

In it I opine about the deluge of bad Trek spinoffs, so much bad Trek that it would be easy to drown in the volume of it all. As a closing observation I tossed out a few paragraphs about the complete lack of revisits to a popular science fiction television show that I felt got short shrift back in the nineties, Babylon 5, and then proceeded to lament this fact. I said, in effect:

You, Hollywood mogul. Why don’t you leave the corpse of Star Trek alone and go mess around with the dream given form? It could use a bit more attention.

I have lamented about the sorry state of affairs that was the five-year run of Babylon 5 since the days that we waited breathlessly for each episode to drop, for each season’s contract to be picked up, for the replacement of cast characters, etcetera. It was a pins and needles affair through the entire experience.

As a wannabe storyteller, I wept when Commander Sinclair was replaced with Captain Sheridan. I knew what a hampering of the overall story arc that this replacement would represent. The compromise that was worked out that allowed Michael O’Hare to retire marked the show and altered everything that happened after it. Michael O’Hare wasn’t the first actor to be replaced from the original pilot lineup of characters. This wasn’t unexpected, but the number of actors who came and went as the story progressed was a staggering number for any series, culminating in the loss of my favorite character, Susan Ivanova played by Claudia Christian at the beginning of season five.

The syndication contract that was arranged at the beginning of the show proved to be a constant sore, with each succeeding season being marked by negotiations that threatened the show’s continued existence, much like the fictional threats to the five mile long space station that the show was about. All alone in the night. The fifth season was such an open question that series creator, J. Michael Straczynski (Joe) felt compelled to complete the majority of the storylines at the end of the fourth season instead of gambling on getting a fifth. In the end the fifth season was picked up by another network, but the snafu of getting all the contracts carried over caused the loss of Claudia Christian from the cast, which in my personal estimation marred the last season irrevocably. The fire had gone out of the show for me, and I watched with only passing interest as the series wrapped up its promised fifth season and bid us all a fond farewell.

The problems with the show didn’t end there, though. The coveted DVD copies that made or broke shows after their airtimes were finished back in the day were slow appearing, and weren’t of the quality that the hardcore fans expected. The Wife and I made the ill-advised move to invest in laserdisc copies of the show, but the run of discs was never completed and we ended up having to sell the ones that were released for a pittance. That loss left a sour taste in my mouth, and has turned me against Fox media in all its forms ever since.

My ire for Fox is well-earned. They went on from defrauding us of the promised full release of laserdiscs for Babylon 5, went on to cover up for the fact that they skimped on putting together the episodes for airing. Fox never finished the composite shots correctly for widescreen display, and they never transferred the animation sequences to high definition formats, making display of the show on high-definition television an irksome task of squinting from just the right distance to make the show look good. All of this making Joe’s work to produce a show that could be transferred to new technologies in the future a waste of effort.

Today I read in the news that far from having hard feelings about Fox’s betrayal of his interests, Joe has decided to go back into business with Fox:

twitter.com/straczynski

To be continued.

You cannot step in the same river twice, for the river has changed, and you have changed.

Heraclitus

Mirror Earth

While listening to the Rachel Maddow show tonight, I noted that she casually referenced Earth 2 as the place where Donald Trump is still president. It was an amusing bit of Science Fiction trivia to bring back to the front of mind for a few minutes while contemplating the looming destruction of democracy as we know it at the hands of the Republican’s favorite tyrant. The idea of a mirror Earth is one of the tropes that you hear repeatedly over and over again wandering around in and out of fandom. Pramila Jayapal can be forgiven for not knowing the reference later in the show. I doubt very many people do know it, or they might even be confused as to which Scifi/fantasy experience is the one being referenced.

I mean, there are multiple references that will come up if you go looking for the phrase Earth Two on Google. There was a recent television show and even a 2011 movie that run along the same vein. I had to go looking for the title of the movie that I was pretty sure Rachel was referencing myself because I hadn’t seen it since I moved out of that garish Abilene apartment that I shared with a friend back in 1984.

My roommate had one of the first VCR’s on the market, and he had compiled a pretty impressive catalog of movies including an off-air copy of Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, the film by Gerry Anderson’s production company that was released in 1969. That is where the phrase Earth 2 comes from. The uneducated rube that I was at the time made fun of the cheezie effects in the film, even though I had been a serious fan of the Thunderbirds series produced by the same company back in 1966.

The movie was named Doppelgänger in Europe. Americans had to have a more explanatory title. Mystery isn’t a thing that the mundane American viewer can appreciate, I guess. here’s the trailer:

Journey to the far side of the Sun – Trailer (USA)

This is where the idea of a mirror Earth came from. While Star Trek’s Mirror, Mirror episode aired earlier than this movie it wasn’t in production before Doppelgänger was and doesn’t feature a mirror Earth suspended in space in the same universe as our own.

The fascination with evil twins predates this film, true. That goes back to the beginning of recorded history; and if you wanted to, you could say that Earth 2 is a reference to the duality of existence that has been a part of philosophy for a very long time. I don’t know how that could be seen as anything other than a hasty generalization, though. Give credit where credit is due, Doppelgänger is where the idea of a mirror Earth comes from today, no matter how widely spread the fear of the evil twin is in the media we consume.

I can’t find the movie anywhere that I can watch it without paying for it at the moment. I’ll have to keep looking because I really would like to sit down and watch it all the way through at least once without mocking it again. It’s the least I can do.


I have a lot of nostalgia for those old marionette shows, and not just the Thunderbirds series. I doubt that I would still find them edge-of-the-seat suspenseful like I did as a six year old child. There have been multiple attempts to restart Thunderbirds with modern digital effects and new stories:

Thunderbirds Are GoOfficial Global Trailer – Mar 13, 2015

…and I have resisted the urge to watch any of it as an adult, even the old shows themselves. They were so cool back in the sixties when they came on right after school. I would run home just to watch them with Major Astro and they were probably why I wanted to watch Star Trek when it debuted. I can’t imagine how they could be anything other than embarrassing to watch as an adult. Like the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift, the adult experience can’t hold a candle to the memories of a child.

Postscript

The featured image is a screenshot I took of a pivotal scene in the movie. I discovered a version of it streaming online and watched it through for completions’ sake. It was much better than I remembered it being, and yet just as flawed as I thought it would be on watching it again. It was both memorable and flawed in fundamental ways. If you can find it to watch somewhere, you should give it a chance and let me know what you think.

The Wife

“Doesn’t she have a name?”

Yes she does. Thanks for asking.

She doesn’t want to see her name used on the blog, or when I happen to reference her in other online forums. She probably doesn’t want her name associated with my writing in much the same way that Margaret has been associated over time with an amazing ability to argue about anything. She has never understood why I use my own name on my own work.

“That is what a nom de plume is for.”

I am who I am. Like Popeye. Or Descartes. There is no hiding who I am behind another name. It will eventually come back to me as it does to other authors who continue to work at their writing. All I have to do is keep writing long enough and someone will notice it is me writing whether I want them to or not. But I don’t have to use her name or the children’s names. I can do that favor for them, so I will.

I started calling her the wife because it annoyed a co-worker to hear me refer to her that way. This was back when I worked for Tom Hatch, a lifetime and more ago. So, being the considerate person that I am, I’ve used no other reference for her since that time and the appellation just naturally migrated to the blog because of this. The wife has always referred to me as her significant other, which I find clever and cute at the same time. This is probably the reason we are still together after all these years.

Peter Gabriel – In Your Eyesspotifyamazon

At some point in the fourteen years since I first crafted a narrative for explaining the significance of the wife the proverbial “I can’t remember when we weren’t together” moment has occurred. I know that those moments existed, and that they mattered to me before she was a part of my life. They mattered until they didn’t matter anymore. My life is now defined by the beautiful woman I’ve been married to for over a quarter century. Defined by the two children we’ve raised together, both of them adults now.

Does this mean that I’m old?  Never. The children keep me young. They keep me young, while reminding me just how old I really am. Reality is a bitch like that. We both agreed we wanted children, way back in the pre-marriage days. If we were to get married, we would have children. We would be for each other and nobody else, until death do us part. Straying from each other would mean death showed up just a little bit earlier than death had planned.

I moved to Austin alone at the end of 1988, the beginning of 1989. Moved in with friends who were renting from a homeowner. In between the time I moved to Austin and the time I went back to get married and bring the wife to Austin with me, the housing market had collapsed in Texas and our friends were squatting in the house they had been renting, a house that ended up being owned by the Resolution Trust Corporation. The precursor tremors of this collapse is what made me relocate from San Angelo to Austin in the first place. Architecture work had dried up and so had a lot of the other work that easy access to Savings and Loan money had made possible. The tightening financial situation had everyone at each other’s throats and it felt like it was time for a change.

When I moved to Austin I also wanted to confirm, in my heart, that I couldn’t live without the wife-to-be. I suspected this was the case, but I had been utterly wrong on that score before, many times. There is nothing quite like temporary separation to prove where one’s heart lies. It took scant months for me to realize I was completely out of my depth in Austin without my trusty wingman. I had to have her back at my side. I would make an honest woman of her or die trying. I made a special trip back to San Angelo just to propose to her.

Sting – If I Ever Lose My Faith In Youspotifyamazon

We were married thirty-two years ago today. Well, actually, that’s not the half of it. She graduated college on Friday, we got married on Saturday, and we moved to Austin on Sunday. It was a weird weekend. Her parents were in town for the graduation and helped us pack up the house the day after the wedding. They stayed to haul all our worldly possessions to Austin and brought the big horse trailer along with them from Oklahoma to do the job.

The wedding was planned by several mutual friends. Colors selected, dresses made, location reserved. Judge in attendance, annoyed at the lateness of the ceremony, but happy to be there for us all the same. It was a beautifully scripted event right up to the point where it ended. The happy, barely conscious couple kisses and then realizes no one has choreographed how to exit the arbor the wedding was held in. We all look blankly at each other.

The wife says, “Weddings over, see you at the reception.” and I laugh.

Did you notice the arbor reference? Yes, we were outside. It rained. It didn’t rain much, we were dry before the ceremony was over. It’s the principle of the thing. Mother nature rained on our outdoor wedding, whatever that means. That wasn’t all. There was also a tornado after the reception and the trees across most of San Angelo were stripped bare of leaves when we emerged from the hotel we spent our wedding night in.

Late ceremony? My best man and my brother the bridegroom went out for donuts right before the ceremony. They went to Dunkin’ Donuts in their tuxedos on the way to the wedding. Of course there was a delay getting the donuts so they were late. The soon-to-be-wife paid the final gas bill in her wedding gown while waiting for them (moving next day) At the reception, opening the champagne for toasts, I was instructed to “aim for his head!” My brother or the best man? Both at the same time? I missed everyone with the cork. This was probably the smart move.

Supertramp – Give a Little Bitspotifyamazon

When my brother was married a few years later, we wrapped their wedding present in donut boxes. Bright pink and orange Dunkin’ Donuts to go boxes taped together in an unholy hodge-podge of a wrapping accident. I don’t think either one of them appreciated the joke. The wife and I laughed for weeks.  Joy is in the ears that hear, or maybe revenge is a dish best served cold. Best served cold, like donuts are before you dip them in coffee.

What’s that smell?

Is that all? Not really. The batteries on the stereo gave out before the wedding march ended. It was the drunken wedding march before the player crapped out completely. The wife-to-be’s garter fell off more than once and had to be retrieved so that it could then be removed again properly at the reception. The Superman and Lois Lane outfits we discovered secreted away in our hotel room on our wedding night. The tornado damage the next day as we are driving out of town, heading for Austin.

Tom Cochrane – Life is a Highwayspotifyamazon

Driving, not much unlike how we met the first time. We met at work, four years prior to that day. We both drove test cars. Not vroom-vroom racing, and not on a track. Tire testing on regular highways in stripped-down cars:

The too long; didn’t read version of the story is this; eight hours a day trapped in a car, driving what was known in popular parlance as the double-nickel. Boring fifty-five dead-level miles an hour for four hundred miles per shift. The cars drove two shifts a day even if the drivers didn’t and since the vehicles traveled 800 miles a day 7 days a week, they tended to break down unexpectedly. If you were the lucky one whose car broke down, you were stranded with that broken down vehicle until the tow truck could come and get you and your car.

Blue Öyster Cult – Don’t Fear the Reaperspotifyamazon

Some of us were a little edgy about the wait for the tow truck for up to three hours situation and would carry weapons with us on the off chance that we might need them while trapped sitting on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t want to hassle with a gun so I carried a decent sized butterfly knife which I barely knew how to use.

I did nothing during my driving shift aside from chew up my guts worrying about everything that I wasn’t doing because I was trapped in a car. No phones, not even radio stations for most of the drive. Just a CB radio and whatever portable music you brought with you. I hated the job. It was the destruction of my one avenue of solace at the time, driving for pleasure. The only time I had to think was when I was driving, and driving eight hours a day every day was killing me with over-thinking my far too simple life.

This was where I was mentally on that fateful day when I was introduced to the person that I would come to affectionately refer to as the wife. Strung out on too much caffeine, like all drivers are. Mentally frazzled from eight hours of self-flagellation at all the mistakes I had made in life up to that point, including the screw-ups in timing and spacing that I was supposed to keep track of as the tail driver over the last eight hour shift. Bored with my music. Bored with my life. I was anxious to go home, smoke a joint and just mellow out.

Over my shoulder I hear “Hey, Tony, this is that girl I wanted you to meet.” Oh, right. The one with a knife like mine. She said she would show me how to use it. I turn around and I notice her grin first. This was a setup. I should have known. “I hear you want to meet my baby.” she says. “This is my baby.” She draws out a blade that is a good two inches longer than the butterfly knife that I carried and casually flips it back and forth without even checking to see that she is holding it right.

spotify & amazon playlists

I don’t know if I’m going to see blood or some other kind of demonstration next. Then I notice her eyes. They were grey-green. I’d never seen anything like them before. Not anywhere. Those witches eyes, framed by strawberry-blonde hair, and that impish grin on her pixie face. I was simultaneously in love with her and terrified of her all at the same time, in that very first instant. Casual authority. The way she just flipped that knife around, in exactly the kind of way that I didn’t do unless I wanted to be bandaging a cut in the next moment. That was freaking me out the most.

I think I said “Oh, is that how it works.” Then I showed her my tiny blade, which she laughed at. She proceeded to show me which end of the handle to hold and how to flip it around without cutting myself. Then she demonstrated how to stealth drop one side of the two-part butterfly handle so that she could gut someone in a single motion from draw to finishing stroke. A stroke that stopped mere fractions of an inch from my gut. Yep. I was terrified. She was my dream and my nightmare all in one woman. I had to get out of there or I was going to faint. I made my excuses and fled home to the apartment I shared with a roommate, a roommate who was rhythmically banging his date of the week on the other side of my bedroom wall.

Supertramp – Logical Songspotifyamazon

I was out at a Circle K down the street from my shared apartment, meeting another friend a few days later. I was there to pick up a box of comic books, the third one that this particular friend had sold to me. I’m pretty sure he was trying to seduce me with this contraband. Why do I think that? He had tried taking me to gay bars for several weeks at this point in time. Gay bars that he pretended weren’t actually gay bars and then feigned surprise when I noticed that there were no girls and that the guys around us were sitting just a little bit too close. Since that tactic hadn’t worked, he had decided he might have more success appealing to my love of heroic fiction and calling me back to a time before inhibition had closed off the kinds of drives he wanted to exploit with me.

As I was standing there going through the box of books, haggling over a price, I notice a familiar face drive up next to us. It’s that knife-girl. My knees got weak. She was there to get her Dr. Pepper, her lifeblood. She had bailed out of the little lakehouse that she and her estranged husband still shared on inertia alone and drove into town to get a change of scenery and to drop some quarters in the video game arcade down the street from where I was haggling over comics with my friend.

She saw the box of comics and her eyes lit up. “Is there any Superman?” she asked. I knew I had to get to know her better, right then and there. I completely forgot about the friend who had been trying so desperately to get me to open up to him for weeks and I don’t even remember his name now. She and I thanked him for the trade and we piled into our separate cars, then she followed me back to my apartment.

As we went through my most recent acquisitions on my bedroom floor, as well as dragging out the two previous boxes of books that I had acquired so she could see what treasures were hidden there, we discussed the other things that we had in common. Not only was she into comic books and a video game fanatic like me, she was also into Star Trek and speculative fiction too. This was too much for the both of us to ignore.

I had been looking all my life for another castaway from my home planet. Another refugee in this backwater chock full of mundanes, someone who understood what Science Fiction was and why it was the modern day equivalent to mana from heaven. We looked deep into each others nerdy eyes, and then kissed like it was the first time for both of us. We made love for the first time right there on top of that pile of comic books.

Dr Hook – “Sharing The Night Together” (1978)spotifyamazon

So the way into my heart that my friend had tried to exploit worked perfectly, it just didn’t work perfectly for him. I used those comics to seduce The wife instead, and then I married her. Thanks, man. I wish I could remember your name.

32 Years Ago Today Babe. Happy Anniversary

We lived together for just shy of four years before we tied the knot, got married, made the relationship official. We pretended that we weren’t living together for all of those years so that her parents wouldn’t know she was living in sin. They were from a different time, a completely different world than ours; and they’re both gone now. No harm in letting that cat out of the bag. We were shagging it for years before we told you mom and dad. Hope you didn’t mind.

In 2006 I started marking anniversaries by writing a piece with this title, adding to the first one rather than subtracting from it when I could, Just like our love for each other evolves and becomes more complex over time. May it continue on in this fashion forever. It is an interesting dream to contemplate.

She will not appreciate the song list I’m adding to the versions that occur after 2019. Those are not her kinds of songs. This is her kind of song:

TohoMojo -Godzilla Blue Oyster Cult Music Video HD – Aug 12, 2017spotifyamazon

It’s also her kind of movie. Giant monsters stomping on buildings. Explosions. I love drama, romance and intrigue. Explosions are nice, but they don’t keep me interested for long unless there are some decent characters on screen as well. These are my songs for her, and the lyrics of these songs still speak to me even if I can’t hear the music anymore:

Love
I don’t like to see so much pain
So much wasted
and this moment keeps slipping away
I get so tired
working so hard for our survival
I look to the time with you
to keep me awake and alive

And all my instincts, they return
And the grand façade, so soon will burn
Without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside

In Your Eyes

…the resolution of all the fruitless searching. That is what she represents for me. May everyone find that harbor for themselves. Even you, wife.

Jimmy Buffett – One Particular Harborspotifyamazon

Informational Segregation

Discover the incredible true story of Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols and the US space program. Stream the documentary, Woman In Motion, exclusively on Paramount+ in the US on June 3.

Paramount+ on Facebook
Woman in Motion (2021)
Paramount PlusWoman In Motion – Apr 5, 2021

I love that this documentary exists. I need to say that first. I love the fact that one of my favorite actors had such a prominent role in diversifying NASA. Nichelle Nichols was the daughter’s idol as a child. She has a version of every Uhura doll that has been released since they first started making Star Trek toys back in 1974. The vendor who sold her that doll cried when she ripped it out of the package and started playing with it right there in front of him back in 1996. She is a fan and the daughter of true fans of Star Trek, the only series.

Got that? Good. I love the fact that this documentary exists, but I won’t be subscribing to Paramount+ just to see it. This documentary should be available streaming everywhere. Why won’t I subscribe to Paramount+ just to see it?

I won’t subscribe because we are forgetting the very lesson that Nichelle Nichols is promoting in the documentary.

Where are my people?

They aren’t visible because they were denied information. They were not just denied access, but they were denied even the information that would allow them to do jobs at NASA. This was done as part of the pursuit of insuring that the majority of the benefits created by technology landed in white men’s hands. They weren’t told that this was something they could do, and so consequently there were few who even asked if they might do it.

Hidden Figures (2016)
20th Century Studios UKHidden Figures | Official HD International Trailer – Sep 20, 2016

You would never have seen this movie made by a Hollywood studio at any point prior to 2016. Barack Obama’s election made Hidden Figures possible, because the popularity of Obama made movie investors sit up and take notice, be willing to hazard real money on a movie about the black women who were the pioneers of diversity in American government.

These women had to overcome obstacles that the average person has no way to understand. Not only the fact that they were women and they were black in the United States of the 60’s, but that the information that they needed to be who they were was reserved for people who could pay to access that information.

Information is for everybody who wants it, everyone who needs it, not just the people who can afford it. Information is not just for the people who subscribe to the correct entertainment channels and pay the right amounts to the right people. Information is for everybody, and we are allowing profit motives to re-segregate us into smaller and smaller groups. We are allowing copyright to Trump the best interests of our nation and our world.

This has to stop. We have to stop allowing copyright holders to refuse access to their products unless you are willing to pay them for it. This is the basis for the creation of libraries, the understanding that information should be available to everyone. The library should be a thing that you can access by computer or cellphone. You shouldn’t have to get in a car and go find a building somewhere in your city in order to borrow something from your library.

I look forward to seeing Woman in Motion and Hidden Figures played to children in schools, to adults who don’t think women and blacks should be allowed to do the same things as white men. They are the people who need this experience, and it should be made available to them, not just to the people willing to pay Paramount or Disney or any other copyright holder directly for their jealously hoarded intellectual property.

Train Tanker Crush; or, The Power of Vacuum

Someone posted a GIF captured from this video, claiming it was a telekinetic experiment or whatever:

Railroad tank car vacuum implosion – Sep 29, 2008

It took me mere moments to find the video the image came from, so I’m not sure if they were fools or trolls trying to fool others. It really doesn’t matter. The image itself was removed from the Facebook group it was posted in. The only reason this article makes it to the blog is because of the search I had to conduct just trying to find the Mythbusters episode that I knew demonstrated what this video doesn’t explain.

The video itself could have been of a crush test (it is not an implosion) The crowd in attendance suggests that it is a demonstration. The crowd is a little too close for comfort. The steel deformed in a way that suggests it wasn’t the same thickness as the Mythbusters tanker, but the Mythbusters definitely demonstrated what is going on in the video.

Discovery wants you to buy their videos, therefore Mythbusters isn’t available from them on YouTube. You can get them by subscribing to Discovery+ on Amazon.com or on their website, but you can’t watch full episodes on YouTube for any price. Discovery has a playlist for all the Mythbusters classic highlights, but not complete episodes. I watched all ten seasons of Mythbusters on Discovery, another must-see series whose ending marked the ending of my time paying for cable TV.

Now, to illustrate a scientific fact that I know to have been demonstrated before, I have to subscribe for a monthly fee just to be able to reference a specific episode of the show, and the person I want to show it to also has to subscribe in order to see that one show. This situation is beyond ridiculous. We should be able to just watch that one show if that is what we want to see. Not that I would pick that one episode of Mythbusters to watch. As impressive as the demonstration is, that is not the best episode of the show. What is the best episode? I’d have a hard time saying.

If you are talking to Discovery, tell them how frustrating the unavailability of this show is, please. I just wanted to be able to reference it for informational purposes. I shouldn’t have to pay them a fee just to be able to reference the show that already exists in their archives.

I did find another account that published the full Tanker Crush show. I created a playlist from their videos. I doubt that they will stay up long. There were other videos claiming to be that Mythbusters episode on YouTube and other video websites, but none of them that I looked at were complete.

Justice League SNAFU?

I was blindsided at about six in the morning with a reference to the Snyder Cut on some Reddit thread somewhere, and I had to go look up what the fuck a Snyder cut was so I could understand what it was people were arguing about. Ah. the Justice League movie that a bunch of digital people seem to think would have been better the way Zack Snyder shot it. Before Joss Whedon got his accused sexual harasser fingers all over it. That movie came out when?

Justice League (2017)

2017? Why are we still talking about this? Oh, right. The Wonder Woman movie I didn’t see this year. I’ll watch it when it gets to a streaming service I already pay for. The first one was good, we’ll see what that one is like eventually. When I see it. As far as Justice League goes, I’d be willing to bet that either version will end up feeling about the same in the end, and Snyder’s version would have been far too long to be successful in theaters.

I wandered over to Facebook this afternoon, and they are bitching about Justice League there too. Now I’m thinking what the actual fuck is going on? Because this smacks of some serious evidence that we have too much time on our hands these days. It’s either than or an orchestrated campaign to get people to talk up the Snyder cut of Justice League right before the revised version of the movie drops.

You like a film you like a film…you don’t you don’t. Seriously, so what? Life is a lot less stressful saying ”so what?”

I think we have forgotten how to say “I don’t know” which is far more important than just ignoring the things that piss us off. You don’t have to say “so what” to just keep scrolling on.

For most people it is safe to say “Don’t like it? Don’t watch it and don’t dwell on it.” I myself will frequently queue a movie I like when some other movie I’ve just watched for the first time leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Bad images behind my eyes. But if you aspire to be a storyteller yourself, it is important to understand how the story doesn’t work and how it might be fixed. There is also a use for criticism when you are trying to describe to others what the film was about and why it did or didn’t work for you.

Criticism is at the same time all too easy and way harder than most people give it credit for being. How to talk about a thing without spoiling it? How to offer pointers that are constructive for the next person to pick up that script? I mean, if all you have to say is “it sucked” you probably shouldn’t bother to say anything. Scroll on. If you have more to say than that, then sharpen your pencils and get to work on it. Don’t expect to be thanked for your efforts, though.

As far as Justice League goes, I didn’t talk about it on the blog when it aired and I watched it, and I didn’t talk about it because it made no real impression on me. I’d rate the movie with a solid three stars. It was popcorn and it was enjoyable while it was on. I was never emotionally moved by DC characters in comic books, although Batman was a comic I would occasionally read. His movies have been hit and miss over the years, more misses than hits.

I never cared for Superman because there is no real story to be told when you have an invulnerable protagonist, which is why the writers had to invent so much Kryptonite to affect him that there is enough kryptonite in the DC universe to make a neutron star out of the stuff. Maybe that explains his strength? I watched his movies because they were on, and I liked the first two largely because I had a thing for Christopher Reeve whether I cared for the character of Superman or not. I’ve seen the later movies as well, and as someone who was not emotionally invested in the character, I have to say I liked the extended version of Batman vs. Superman. It had just the right amount of grim reality to it to make the story interesting to me. Aside from which, the ending sets us all up for the beginning of the Justice League movie. If you haven’t seen the extended version of Batman vs. Superman you won’t understand why there is no Superman at the beginning of Justice League, and that is going to throw anyone off the story right from the start.

Why are people bitching about Justice League anway? They should try watching Super Friends like I did with my sibs back in the 70’s. That show will stop anyone from ever taking those characters too seriously. I’ll happily watch the Snyder cut if it ever shows up somewhere I can watch it without having to expend too much effort, but I’m not so interested in seeing it that I’d start talking about it on social media everywhere, all the time. That smacks of obsession. If you are the one doing that, turn the screen off and go outside to breath for a few hours. Try some meditation. Come back when you’ve found your equilibrium again.

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Time is the Fire in Which We Burn

Each minute bursts in the burning room,   
The great globe reels in the solar fire,   
Spinning the trivial and unique away.
(How all things flash! How all things flare!)   
What am I now that I was then?   
May memory restore again and again   
The smallest color of the smallest day:   
Time is the school in which we learn,   
Time is the fire in which we burn.

From: Calmly We Walk through This April’s Day
by Delmore Schwartz

Featured image: Screencap from Star Trek: Generations

Still Alive Old Friend

Still, old friend. You’ve managed to kill just about everyone else, but like a poor marksman, you keep missing the target.

Kirk to Khan. Me to 2020

This thought occurred to me when Chadwick Boseman (November 29, 1976 – August 28, 2020) (Wikipedia) died from complications of cancer back in August. The man was so amazing on screen. Now imagine being that amazing while all the time knowing what was eating you alive from inside. The treatments. The pain.

…And still. Some of the best performances ever recorded on film by anyone. I am in awe of him and so many other people out there who strive and achieve against such great odds. It inspires me to keep going. To not give up.

Kirk to Spock. It’s two hours. Are you ready?

Wrath of Khan (the real movie)

Roxanne Longstreet-Conrad 1962-2020

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It was the iguana you noticed first. That much I can say for sure. The bright green iguana named Miss Iggy, who would one day go on to be an invited guest at conventions, a star attraction herself, before age crept up on her too and stole her away. It was the iguana I noticed first. I have always had a fascination for lizards. They simultaneously repulse and attract me with their odd movements and strange eyes. The next thing you might notice would be the smooth mane of raven-black hair. Then it would be the impish grin that seemed always to threaten to spread across her face. Above that expressive mouth were the sparkling eyes full of mischief. That was Roxanne, when we first met.

It was at an Armadillocon. I don’t remember the number or the year, but I know we were there as part of our Star Trek club, and I’m reasonably certain that the only reason I met Rox there was because the Wife was having one of her usual gabfests with her, and I needed the Wife’s attention for something else at the time. So here I was studying the iguana and the face while Rox and the Wife discussed the mutual experiences the two of them had growing up, and the various kinds of fandom the two of them were interested in. They both had a lot in common in those days, still do for the most part, but back then the trials that they both had faced resonated between the two of them.

It is a queer coincidence that Rox died this weekend, a day after Sean Connery. That is one of the things that I remember about her, the fascination we both shared for the movie Highlander, which is the role that I most strongly remember Sean Connery for. When Cat and Rox invited me to stay with them while I took my architectural exam, I remember that she and Cat, her husband, and I sat and watched an episode or two of the series. I can’t say I shared her fascination for the show, but we did both enjoy the narratives that could be constructed around the character of an immortal figure striding unknown through history. The ability to have a single persona witness the rise and fall of civilizations, virtually unchanged.

I had a real appreciation for the easy way that she could write narratives. I have always admired those great storytellers that can weave a good yarn out of almost anything, even if I don’t appreciate the actual stories themselves. The ability to just take a random object and craft a backstory for it is a true talent. The ability to make you see the thing in a new light, even without ever seeing the object at all, but describing it through words alone to the point where you swear that you know exactly what that object looks like. As I said, it is a true talent, and she had that talent in spades.

I wish I could say that I had read all her books and loved them, but I haven’t. I tend more towards an appreciation of a good biography or tome of history than I do almost any work of fantasy. The Wife and Daughter have read most of her books, and they recommend them highly to anyone who will listen to them. For myself, I was more interested in the person, rather than the stories she told. When Rox was at the table with you at dinner, the conversations were always light and lively. She was always quick to laugh and a joy to be around. All of us here in the Steele household are missing her greatly right now. I am so crushed by the news, even a full day later, that I can barely string these few words together as a tribute. I’m sure I will have more to say in the coming days. As the immediate grief lessons, the words will come back to me. They always do.

She was the one who encouraged me to start writing, if what I wanted to do was write. She was the one who suggested starting a blog and just putting my thoughts down in it a few at a time, as the ideas formed in my head. Just write it down, she said. So I did, and so I have. So I will again.

There has been too much death this year. 2020 is indeed a beastly year, and it can’t be over soon enough to suit me.