BSG S1:E1

This is some insanely taut storytelling, and while it tries to be clear what is happening at any moment–it’s only about the jump cuts during space battles, which is probably an appropriate place to do that–it’s happy to wait until later to reveal to you the implications of what you saw. Which I regard as a good thing–not assuming your audience is stupid is still refreshing.

As an example, we see Six on the space station, seemingly destroyed, and then we’re shown the same person with Baltar, and although we get that this is a signal that she is probably not one of the good guys (not to mention the incident with the baby–which I still can’t decide whether to interpret as mercy or as the equivalent of pulling the legs off a spider1 just to see what happens), they’re happy to wait half an hour to let us know that they can upload their consciousness–and we’re still not told whether the one on Caprica is the same one as on the space station.

Even the bits that could easily have seemed like off-the-shelf parts–I’m thinking of the exchange between Apollo and Commander Adama after their photo-shoot, where the rift between them starts to become clear–still resonate because the writers hold back You understand that Lee holds his father responsible, and you think you understand what happened, but still much is left unsaid–we’re not given any sort of infodump, even though they still didn’t know if they were going to get anything more than a miniseries at this point.

And, the actors are just so damned good. The moment near the end of the first half, where Lee explains to President Roslin that “Apollo” is just his call-sign–Mary McDonnell gives him this fleeting smile before telling him she knows who he is, it’s just amazing. The entirety of Gaius Baltar’s performance is so wonderfully…slimy. And the moment when Tigh decides to sacrifice people to put out fires is chilling…the way he hesitates, but finally acts without remorse.

Interestingly, knowing in advance how it’s all going to come out, Adama’s speech at the decommissioning ceremony for the Galactica seems to point to everything that the series ends up being concerned with–the responsibility of a creator toward his creations. They take a circuitous route, and I’ll be curious how well Ronald D. Moore actually holds to it over the long term, but it might actually be that they set out their ideas here, first thing.

1 I have never done this, if only because I find spiders way too creepy to want to be that intimate with. But the replicants systematic destruction of a spider toward the end of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep has always haunted me.

The funniest line out of a movie review I’ve read in a while…

From a review of Transformers: Whatever the Subtitle Is on Bleeding Cool

The main action of the film revolves around the good guys slowly coming to understand the monstrous improbability of the villains’ plan while Bay smashes all his action figures together and makes the smaller ones say annoying Jar Jar Binks stuff.

Heh.

TV on the Radio

So, I posted about my feeling that pop music today was a retread of stuff that wasn’t even the best there was the first time around. I got some pushback on that, to the effect that I, being over 40, would have to be an exceptional specimen to appreciate music that wasn’t of my youth, and of course I thought things might sound like other stuff, but that was just a natural consequence of having listened the first time around (tell me if you think I’m mischaracterizing your argument, Chet).

(That South Park did an episode making pointed commentary about this very thing a week or three later was hilarious–and I’ll have you know I’m not just a cynical old bastard.)

Still, I will hold up as a counter-argument to the suggestion of simply rampant old-fogeyism, my growing infatuation with TV on the Radio.

I first caught them on Saturday Night Live, actually, which is funny since these days–you guessed it–I mostly complain about SNL’s music choices, because, seriously, Ke$ha? I’m not supposed to sneer at her?

Anyway, I probably ordered the CD from Amazon the next, day despite the fact that the sound on the performance wasn’t all that great. Here was a band that didn’t sound like anything I’d ever heard before.

Still it sat in the music collection until about six weeks ago when I finally got loading of my flac-encoded music collection onto my iPod working (the price of using Free Software is that sometimes you have to write the damned patch yourself), and that was among the first album I listened to, doing nothing but listening–stretched out on the floor with a pair of headphones on, in fact.

Holy Shit, it’s brilliant.

From the opening moments of the weird lurching beat of “I Was a Lover” to it’s creepy falsetto-chorus lyrics and the looped horn samples that sound so incredibly mournful to me, I was hooked. It is noisy and discordant and has moments of spine-tingling beauty that hit you out of nowhere, and it’s like nothing I’ve ever heard.

I hate Cook’s Illustrated

OK, so that’s not actually the whole story.

In fact, I love the magazine Cook’s Illustrated. I learn all sorts of stuff, they have great recipes, good reviews–on all technical fronts, it’s a winner.

But there are few organizations that make me regret being their customer as much as Cook’s Illustrated does. In fact, I can’t think of any. Charitable solicitation annoys me, but I’m not their customer, so it’s sort of a different thing.

Anyway, I seem to get a lot of calls from Cook’s Illustrated, and getting telephone solicitations annoy me. I subscribe to the magazine, and I actually look at the little cover offers they include with my subscription, so the only outcome of calling me to let me know about some offer they’ve already informed me about is to waste my time.

Let me propose an Iron Law of Customer Service: if you want my money–whether you are a business or a charity or what have you–you must respect my choice, if I articulate it (as I did on the phone a few minutes ago, and again on a web form on their web site just now), that I do not wish to be solicited. If you do not offer me that choice, then you are indicating that you do not respect me as a customer, and that you feel you can patronize me as you see fit–in effect you feel that I should have no say in the quality and structure of our relationship.

I do not care to be patronized, and I will do my level best not to do business with an organization that does not respect me, and, ultimately, I always have a say in the quality and structure of our relationship–though the only choice you may give me is to have no relationship at all.

Now to see if Cook’s was being truthful when they said they wouldn’t call me again.

The God Engines

I guess you could say this was my “rebound book” after the heavy commitment of King’s Dark Tower books. As it is a novella, I suppose it really just constitutes a fling, which seems about right.

John Scalzi goes all omniscient-third-person–which is a departure from the “Old Man’s War” series, which is basically everything of his that I’ve read– on this tale of betrayal. It’s a fun, fairly light read. You can infer all sorts of Deep Thought About Religion if you so choose, but I think that might be going a little far.

And that’s the end of my current spate of library books, though I have two more waiting for me to go pick up. Perhaps this afternoon.

Finishing The Dark Tower

Well, I guess it’s technically not finishing it, since there’s now an 8th book on the way, scheduled for next year. And I may well read that when it comes out–checked out of the library, of course–but the seven books I read were obviously the main story.

I appreciate the first four books a fair amount. In part, I suppose, because they were the four that still felt…_lean_. The first two because I don’t think he’d yet gotten into the habit of writing long books. The third book starts to get a little piggy, but as I was still getting immersed in what’s going on, I didn’t find it as noticeable. By the time I hit Wizard and Glass, the text is perhaps a little more Stephen King-y (which is not necessarily a negative, in my view, but it’s a marked contrast to the first two books)–though I think even Wizard and Glass may have been reined in by the fact that he was, in many ways, working in a genre that was not his own.

Wolves of the Calla was a bit of a slog. The only part I truly found compelling was the story of Father Callahan. The rest of the books…I liked them fine. I know some people were annoyed with the (non-)ending of the story, and others were annoyed with King injecting himself into the narrative (literally, rather than figuratively), but neither thing bothered me particularly.

In fact, as I write this, I’m realizing that I’m really very rarely annoyed with books or music or movies or what not any more. They are what they are, and I may like them or not, but it seems silly for me to wish such a thing to be other than it is–annoyance, I think, being a manifestation of that wish .

Anyway, as is always the case with King, it’s the characters that make the difference. If you don’t develop some affection for them, you’re not going to make it through the text, but if you can find a way to love them even a little bit, they’ll carry you through to the end. It wasn’t like Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series, where, as I finished the last book, I pined to be able to read another and another and another. But I didn’t feel like my two weeks worth of reading had been ill-spent.

Kick-Ass

It had slipped my mind that last weekend while Anne was out of town, as part of my Festival of Dubious Movies, I also watched Kick-Ass.

In its comic-book form, this was the title that finally made me realize that I mostly don’t like Mark Millar’s writing. It’s not sarcasm-over-a-layer-of-caring like Warren Ellis (_Transmetropolitan_). It’s not dark and compelling like Frank Miller in his heyday (_Elektra: Assassin_, The Dark Knight Returns). It’s not dense like Alan Moore (_The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen_), or deep and beautiful like Neil Gaiman (_Sandman_). It’s not convoluted and mystical and self-referential like Grant Morrison (_The Invisibles_, Doom Patrol). It’s not clever (even if it never quite delivers) like Brian K. Vaughan (_Y: The Last Man_, Ex Machina). It’s really just middle-of-the-road superhero comic stuff–the sort of thing that Geoff Johns (_Green Lantern_) or Brian Bendis (_Avengers_) do, and do pretty well–but with a big old helping of super-violence.

Mark Millar is the comic book world’s answer to Alex from A Clockwork Orange. I don’t even bother to look at anything he does anymore.

Anyway, I did watch the movie, and actually kind of enjoyed it. Yes, it was absurdly violent, but some of the details they changed from the original gave it more humanity, more empathy, than the comic book ever displayed.

I wouldn’t want to spoil things for anyone, but the comic book chooses to make Big Daddy’s death a result of pointless bad choices on his part. At a certain age, I probably would have thought that much more impressive than I do now, but now it just seems cruel, and all it brings to the story is a sheen of nihilism that I find banal and unattractive.

Have I mentioned that I don’t find Mark Millar worth reading?

It’s still not a movie I would care to see again, or really recommend, but it’s not actively bad. And Nicholas Cage finally found the part he was born to play: a knock-off Adam West portraying a knock-off Batman. It’s at least as weird as his performance in Vampire’s Kiss.

I just don’t understand

Insane Clown Posse would be just another act that I didn’t care for–in a world littered with them–except for the Gathering of the Juggalos. Just watch the apparently legitimate “informercial” for the 2011 Gathering of the Juggalos:

(Incidentally, life must be rough for Vanilla Ice).

And then compare to the Saturday Night Live Kickspit Underground Rock Festival

“Everybody gets pitchforks!”

Ah, humanity.

Who is more foolish…

the fool who makes the bad movies, or the fool who watches them?

While Anne was gone, I spent my Saturday afternoon doing the thing I always seem to do while she’s away: watching bad movies. And boy were some of them bad.

First up, Resident Evil: Afterlife. Remember: if the Director is married to the Lead Actress, the movie is going to be horrible. Yeah, sure, you can come up with a couple of possible exceptions–Much Ado About Nothing, perhaps (though it still had Keanu Reeves in it), maybe others–but in general, you’re in for bad news. In fact, this fourth installment in the already-three-movies-too-many Resident Evil franchise amazes me in that it even got made. That there’s a fifth on the way leads me to despair.

Second, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, which fascinated me in its utter badness. I expected to watch the first five minutes, snigger a bit, and then move on to something at least watchable, but the level of spectacular trashiness this displayed fascinated me. And with actors who should know better: Dennis Quaid? Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Jonathan Pryce? I mean, is there any way this could have read well on the page? No. I just can’t imagine a paycheck big enough. Maybe I need a drug habit to understand, or something.

Finally, Salt, which wasn’t actually bad for what it was, though I saw the twist coming from pretty much the moment Liev Schreiber showed up. I’m fairly certain I didn’t remember it from his slip on The Daily Show, but you never know, sometimes my brain files away things in odd places.

I sometimes wonder at the pathology of my addiction to bad movies. Is it that I find so few of even the movies people consider “good” to be of interest, I figure it’s better not to get your hopes up, just watch things you know are going to be bad? Is it the sort of car-wreck fascination of trying to understand why anyone would watch this movie and enjoy it? I dunno, but I should probably see a doctor.