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My Archives: September 2004

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Naughty Produce
Posted by CKL @ 10:21 AM PST
"Students at a Catholic school complained about new Haribo sweet wrappers which they claim portray fruit having sex."
-- Ananova News (follow link to see dirty pictures)

Monday, September 27, 2004

Coffee, tea, monster?
Posted by CKL @ 09:30 AM PST
Neil Gaiman loves a good story.
Bill Pilkington, son of a Wallasey police inspector, studied Medicine at Liverpool University but, two years into the course, realised that his father would never be able to afford the 2,000 then needed to start a practice. He switched to a general arts degree followed by a spell at Rada. When war was declared in 1939, he was master of ceremonies at the Argyle Theatre, Liverpool.

He joined up and was sent to France, where he drilled with a spade and in civilian clothes because that was all they had. When the Army discovered that Pilkington spoke passable Norwegian, having learned at night school, he was recruited into military intelligence and sent to what was then the Ringway Airport near Manchester for parachute training. Soon, Pilkington found himself in the Norwegian campaign with the task of testing the extent of enemy infiltration into local Norwegian society.

Killing was not what Pilkington had in mind on a spring morning in 1940 as he and a colleague, Jim Beech, walked along a country lane approaching the small town of Bodo. Both were dressed in what somebody in an office back home had said was correct Norwegian clothing. An elderly, grey-haired lady with a pleasant smile approached them. "Good morning," she said, in English. "I think that you are British, is that so?"

"Yes," Pilkington replied.

"I can always tell the British. If you will come to my house, I will give you breakfast. We are allies in this terrible thing that has happened to my country. Come with me."

The woman led them to her house in which was her son, a teenager. "Ingvald," said the nice lady in Norwegian. "These are British spies. Go out and telephone the SS that we have them here."

Ingvald began to put on his boots.

"Do you have a toilet?" said Beech.

"My boy will show you," said their hostess. Then, to Ingvald, "Show him, then get off quickly."

Beech followed the youth round to the rear of the house. There he drew his knife and, with a swift, professional thrust, stabbed Ingvald through the back and into the heart.

In the kitchen, the lady turned from the stove and Pilkington said in Norwegian: "Madam, you should have found out first whether we spoke your language." Drawing his revolver, he shot her as Beech returned wiping his knife. In later years, whenever he was asked if he had killed anyone in the war, Pilkington would reply: "Yes, I shot a nice old lady who was just going to give me breakfast."

-- Independent News obituary, 08 September 2004


Thursday, September 23, 2004

Suck my monkey! SUCK IT!
Posted by CKL @ 10:46 AM PST
"It may derive from an older phrase, to suck the monkey, to drink from a bottle, which was also used by dock workers in London for illicitly drinking brandy from a cask by inserting a straw through the bung."
-- "Pop Goes the Weasel" lyrics analysis

Monday, September 20, 2004

"E" for Effort; "S" for Suckfest
Posted by CKL @ 10:18 AM PST
I've figured it out. Intestinal distress confined me to bed this past weekend, where I finally watched last season's ending arcs of Smallville and Star Trek: Enterprise, and I've deduced the central theses of both series. Are you ready?

Enterprise says: Humans are assholes who don't know what the hell they're doing.
Smallville says: Anything is possible, because we just make shit up!

I have to admit that Enterprise has gotten better, which isn't saying much, but most of the last few Xindi episodes were not actually painful to watch. (I said most.) I appreciate the producers taking more risks with the story, even if many of the plot points were transparently manufactured (insert moral dilemma here!) and the idea of a season-long Big Bad is at least seven years old (hello, Buffy).

The defining moments, for me, came in the last two episodes. When the Xindi weapon reaches Earth, the Reptilian ship escorting it vaporizes the Yosemite 3 space station, and Archer visibly and significantly mourns the loss of the thirty or forty humans who were aboard. He steps toward the viewscreen and does that head-turning "I can't stand to watch!" thing. Very sad.

But there was an earlier moment-- well, several moments, actually-- when Enterprise and an entire fleet of friendly Xindi ships were trying to stop the weapon from reaching Earth. In particular, the Aquatic Xindi, who had only recently joined the alliance and whose giant starships formed the backbone of the offensive, lost untold hundreds in the battle. We see a spectacular and horrifying shot of one Aquatic ship being torn apart by a roiling spatial anomaly-- possibly the same ship which had been shielding the crippled Enterprise from attack.

And how much mourning do we get for those Xindi? Not a single second.

The destruction of Yosemite station, and the deaths of its crew, were tragic. Granted. But the Xindi who gave their lives, risking civil war to trust a former enemy, practically dismantling their entire religion in the process-- they were heroes. And it's morally despicable for the show to treat them like disposable redshirts, without even acknowledging their contribution. "Yeah, we couldn't have done it without you guys, but sorry, only humans allowed at the wrap party."


Meanwhile, over on Smallville, nobody has any idea what's going on. I'll be honest: I hate prophecies as a narrative gimmick. One episode it's ironclad truth, the next episode it's open to interpretation. Why do people need to believe that their actions are inconsequential, anyway? The only good thing that came out of this quagmire was Lex's reading of the Kawatche mumbo-jumbo: that maybe the supposed villain of the story is actually the hero. Well, that would be interesting, wouldn't it? And I'm sure that will happen in one upcoming episode, and then everyone will magically forget about it. Whee.

Also, what's with ditching half the cast for next season? Pete's moving away, Lana's gone to Paris, Chloe's dead, and according to reliable sources, Lois Lane's going to show up. Plus Clark and Lex are no longer best friends. Far be it for me to prejudge, but this just seems like the producers admitting that they don't really know how to write a Superboy show and deciding to just throw in the towel and move to Superman, which is what everyone prefers anyway.

Finally, speaking of giving up: isn't it nice that Enterprise's sexy Vulcan, T'Pol, has emotions now? I mean, the producers never knew what to do with the Vulcans anyway, and it must be a relief for them to not have to worry about actually writing anything other than trivially nonhuman characters now.


At least there's still Stargate for halfway decent televised science fiction.


Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Station Reconfiguration
Posted by CKL @ 07:03 PM PST
Call me old-fashioned, but I think the fall TV season shouldn't start until mid- or late-September, one season should be a full 26 episodes, and "reality" television is the unholy spawn of lamebrained, no-intelligence-required game shows and daytime talk show circuses. I want good stories told by good storytellers, and so do you. So does everyone.

Just want the facts, ma'am? Here's a handy schedule grid and list of premiere dates.


Jack & Bobby
Posted by CKL @ 10:13 AM PST
I watched the pilot for Jack & Bobby last night, and while it didn't suck, there were some obvious misdirections and heavy reliance on the central gimmick of the show's premise: that the present-day story is interspersed with (and, to some degree, narrated by) flash-forwards to 50 years later, after one of the brothers has served two terms as President of the United States.

I was glad that J&B's creators didn't try to extend that manufactured mystery past the pilot-- you learn at the end of the hour which brother, Jack or Bobby, is the one to reach the White House. But the writers have plenty of opportunities to paint themselves into corners. Unless they have the entire run of the series outlined (as JMS did for Babylon 5), it's going to be a lot of bookkeeping to maintain continuity between the present and future story lines. I mean, JMS still ran into problems due to the fluid nature of TV production, and J&B doesn't even have Smallville's advantage of being able to foreshadow what everyone already knows-- it's essentially telling two stories at once, and has to make us care about both of them.

The most obvious pitfall as the show progresses will be the temptation to pander. If it's successful, the producers will want to play up the most gimmicky parts of the show (cf. 24), creating secrets and strife for promotional value instead of character development; if it's not doing so well, they'll be pressured to make it more like a mainstream, "normal" show (cf. Malcolm in the Middle), without the temporal shifts which might confuse less sophisticated viewers. The New York Times review has already nicknamed it "Gilmore Boys."

One of J&B's creators, Brad Meltzer, is also the writer of DC Comics' latest mega special crossover Event(TM), Identity Crisis. The basic story so far is dark and real, with a film noir edge to it. But it's also pretty gimmicky, using sex and violence for shock value. I'll reserve final judgment until the series is complete (issue 4 of 7 hits stores this week), but I like the fact that it's a grounded, human story-- unlike that other Crisis-- and it actually addresses Green Arrow as a character, not just a MacGuffin as the recent Elseworlds mini Another Nail did.

Anyway... I've also been thinking about doing more writing, myself, but aside from a dearth of free time and wanting to spend what little of it I have with family and friends, am not sure what stories I have to tell. Maybe I'll just have to wait for inspiration. Yes, I know every working writer says that's a bad idea. I accept that I may just be a dilettante on a breadth-first search through life. Or a computer geek who comes up with really bad metaphors.


Monday, September 13, 2004

Bipolar News
Posted by CKL @ 05:18 PM PST
"Batman" ends Buckingham Palace protest

Not so much:
US Missile Kills Journalist


Thursday, September 9, 2004

Old News
Posted by CKL @ 02:04 PM PST
The billboard in question actually went up in early July, but only now is the Sydney Morning Herald running a story about it. Even worse, they attribute the New York Times as their source. Wow. Is news really that slow and scarce down under?

UPDATE 9/10: My mistake-- it looks like this campaign has been recently deployed to other parts of the country, including Boston, where the "10-digit prime" puzzle appears on banners hanging in the Harvard Square subway station. Cool.


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