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Posts tagged as “Sith Park”

TV Dinners: Doctor Who and ‘wichcraft

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doctor who enemy of the world and a sandwich

From the Doctor Who - Lost In Time DVD Set: Enemy of the World, a bit cheesy in parts but proving that Doctor Who can handle intrigue, Patrick Troughton can indeed act like two completely different persons, and Jaime McCrimmon (pictured) can be written as sharp and resourceful rather than a complete idiot. Overall, the Lost in Time collection both shows both the creaking corners of the old Doctor Whos as well as stunning moments when the show was just "on", as sharp or sharper as anything on the air today. Hint: almost anything involving the Daleks usually has a nice, tangy metal edge.

bacon, egg and frisee sandwich on ciabatta with gorgonzola

From wichcraft restaurant's cookbook of the same name, a bacon and egg sandwich with olive oil / red wine vinegar tossed frisee on a split ciabatta roll toasted on the inside with a thin layer of gorgonzola cheese, proving that you can make a sandwich into a gourmet meal. And that I don't particularly like gorgonzola, but that's not the fault of the sandwich; it actually went quite well with the rest of it.

-the Centaur

Writers in Their Creative Spaces

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the centaur in his native habitat: a forest of books
Recently a few friends (most recently Jim Davies) have sent me pointers to the Where I Write project, which shows off the creative spaces where many science fiction and fantasy artists do their writing. Some of the writing setups are amazingly spare; others are simply amazing. Check it out!

-the Centaur
Pictured above is one of my "creative spaces", though a fully accurate picture would probably show me at my local Barnes and Noble writing group or at Borders with the laptop and a Javakula from Seattle's Best Coffee.

Three Things You Should Be Reading If You’re Not

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Note I said "you should be reading", not "you should read". That's because "you should be reading" means something special to me: I'm talking comics. A great novel or story is like a meteor: it flares too briefly to watch its passing. Even when there are ongoing series worth reading, like Harry Potter or the Inheritance Cycle, each book is still a flare. The primary written medium in which you can watch a work of fiction blaze a trail of excellence as it goes by is comics.

SO. Here are three things you should be reading if you're not:

detective comics 857
Batwoman in Detective Comics. For essentially first time in 70 years, Detective Comics is being headlined by someone other than Batman - and by a female lesbian of Jewish descent to boot! But you should be reading the book for more than its stunt value. Greg Rucka's interesting choices are highlighted by JH Williams III's solid art and spectacular layouts: for example, when Batwoman's alter ego, Kate Kane, attends a dance in a tuxedo and is asked to dance by Maggie Sawyer, a lesbian on Gotham's Major Crimes Unit, Williams draws them dancing through a sea of musical notes, and in those notes inserts tiny mini-panels showing details of the scene that let us know they're dancing comfortably close, but not yet too close for comfort. Sometimes the panels are overwhelming and on the currently running "Elegy" arc there are a few threads left loose, but the quality of the work is so high I find myself carried along.

star trek: crew #1
John Byrne's Star Trek: Crew and its sequels. Featuring Number One, Captain Pike's first officer from Star Trek's original pilot the Cage, Star Trek: Crew is what a reboot of Star Trek could have and should have been (and I'm saying that even after I warmed up to The Future Begins). Using only the original series designs, Byrne nonetheless manages to make them exciting by taking them completely seriously. The writing is great, the art is solid and the fan service is enough to stoke a fanboy's wet dreams. John Byrne has a whole set of forums on his work in Star Trek and I encourage you to check it out.

usagi yojimbo #123
Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai ... it speaks for itself.

So go check them out.
-the Centaur

Blogging from the Convention Floor

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marriot marquis at night

Ah, Dragon*Con: that magic time in September when 50,000 of my closest friends get together to transform four hotels in Atlanta into a gateway to another world.

most aliens are less cute than alf

Dragon*Con has some of the best costumes you'll see this side of an Anime convention - much better than what you'll find at the much larger San Diego Comicon. Practically everyone is dressed up and some of them are amazing.

the panels

Another real draw is the fantastic variety of panels. There are literally dozens of tracks at Dragon*Con and programming goes on until 11:30 pm or later - and there are often social events until 2 and 3 in the morning.

the costumes

After the panels it's fun to just peoplewatch; you can do it for hours.

a picture of me? but why?

Women dressed up get quite a bit of attention - though sometimes, as in this case, they seem more surprised to have people taking their picture than you'd expect for all the effort they've put into their costumes.

cylons are less impressive without helmets

Another piece of the fun is the sheer variety of fans. You see of course people pulling off Cylons ... somewhat less impressive with the helmets off...

omg it's dakota frost

You see costumes that mean something only to the viewer, as in this Dakota Frost lookalike...

force push

The ubiquitous Jedi, in this case posing for a photo taken by a Sith ...

a heartwrenching tale

... and then finally sheer randomness by simply creative people.

even sith love slave leia

Fans love taking pictures of fans - it was quite interesting sitting with a Sith shutterbug, watching him take pictures of passing Poison Ivys and Slave Leias.

jedis gone wild

But then some people wanted to take pictures of him ... and then, bizarrely, two women wanted to have their pictures taken fellating his lightsabers. Utterly weird, and a great source of amusement to us and the other people at our table.

derrick and doublebladed sabers

But ultimately that's the fun of Dragon*Con: not just seeing Jedi taking pictures of Sith, but running into old friends dressed as Jedi taking pictures of old friends dressed as Sith. Because in the end its the friendships that make Dragon*Con more than just a fan playground or a party: it's a family.

centaur blogging from the convention floor

From the Dragon*Con Convention floor(1), this is your Centaur reporting. Good night, and good luck.

-the Centaur

(1) Technically, sent from my hotel room because connectivity on the con floor was too poor.

Not being very nice …

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... even to myself:

tell me about your blog

But sometimes it is necessary.
-the Centaur

At San Diego Comic Con 2009

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My current excuse for not posting (other than feverishly trying to finish Blood Rock) is attending San Diego Comic Con 2009, the largest comic convention in the world. Here I'm seeing talks, meeting friends, working on Blood Rock, leaving flyers for Dakota Frost: Frost Moon, and enjoying the fantabulous nightlife in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter:

Comicon and the Gaslight District

You cannot explain how large Comicon is; you must see it yourself. I could show you the mammoth Exhibit Hall / Show's Floor / Noah's Ark of a Dealer's Room, but it is hard from a single picture to get the scale:

Comicon Dealer's Room

I could show you the external architecture, the huge steps and rounded escalator leading out of the upper levels (actually, the round escalator had just moved out of the picture at this point), but it is still hard to get the scale:

Convention Center Architecture

Perhaps only by showing the huge tide of people leaving after the Dealer's Room had closed can you truly see how large the San Diego Comic Con is:

Comicon Human Tide

It can take up to thirty minutes to reach your car in the parking lot, as we unfortunately found out today when we joined for lunch some friends who had driven. Halfway to the parking lot, you can see the length of the Convention Center, and can see why it takes up a significant part of the city on Google Maps:

Comicon Megastructure

Comicon has been held 40 times over the last 39 years, making it a cultural event only slightly younger than I am. This year is also Green Lantern's 50th anniversary, and the Con and its attendees are celebrating with special T-shirts, movie premieres, and of course, fan costumes:

Comicon at 40, GL at 50

It's all sold out this year, officially 126,000 but rumored to be as many as 140,000 strong ... but if you have even a passing interest in comics, movies or other popular arts, you should make at least one pilgrimage to check it out.

More later. Must crash.
-the Centaur

The Ogre Mark … 0.1?

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Ogre T-Shirt

As a teenager I used to play OGRE and GEV, the quintessential microgames produced by Steve Jackson featuring cybernetic tanks called OGREs facing off with a variety of lesser tanks. For those that don't remember those "microgames", they were sold in small plastic bags or boxes, which contained a rulebook, map, and a set of perforated cardboard pieces used to play the game. After playing a lot, we extended OGRE by creating our own units and pieces from cut up paper; the lead miniature you see in the pictures came much later, and was not part of the original game.

Ogre Game

In OGRE's purest form, however, one OGRE, a mammoth cybernetic vehicle, faced off with a dozen or so more other tanks firing tactical nuclear weapons ... and thanks to incredible firepower and meters of lightweight BCP armor, it would just about be an even fight. Below you see a GEV (Ground Effect Vehicle) about to have a very bad day.

Ogre vs GEV

OGREs were based (in part) on the intelligent tanks from Keith Laumer's Bolo series, but there was also an OGRE timeline that detailed the development of the armament and weapons that made tank battles make sense in the 21st century. So there was a special thrill playing OGRE: I got to relive my favorite Keith Laumer story, in which one decommissioned, radioactive OGRE is accidentally reawakened and digs its way out of its concrete tomb to continue the fight. (The touching redemption scene in which the tank is convinced not to lay waste to the countryside by its former commander were, sadly, left out of the game mechanics of Steve Jackson's initial design).

Ogre Miniature

But how realistic are tales of cybernetic tanks? AI is famous for overpromising and underdelivering: it's well nigh on 2010, and we don't have HAL 9000, much less the Terminator. But OGRE, being a boardgame, did not need to satisfy the desires of filmmakers to present a near-future people could relate to; so it did not compress the timeline to the point of unbelievability. According to the Steve Jackson OGRE chronology the OGRE Mark I was supposed to come out in 2060. And from what I can see, that date is a little pessimistic. Take a look at this video from General Dynamics:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCAiQyuWfOk]

It even has the distinctive OGRE high turret in the form of an automated XM307 machine gun. Scary! Admittedly, the XUV is a remote controlled vehicle and not a completely automated battle tank capable of deciding our fate in a millisecond. But that's not far in coming... General Dynamics is working on autonomous vehicle navigation, and they're not alone. Take a look at Stanley driving itself to the win of the Darpa Grand Challenge:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZ3bbHTsOL4]

Now, that's more like it! Soon, I will be able to relive the boardgames my youth in real life ... running from an automated tank ... hell-bent on destroying the entire countryside ...

Hm.

Somehow, that doesn't sound so appealing. I have an idea! Instead of building killer death-bots, why don't we try building some of these instead (full disclosure: I've worked in robotic pet research):

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKAeihiy5Ck]

Oh, wait. The AIBO program was canceled ... as was the XM307. Stupid economics. It's supposed to be John Connor saving us from the robot apocalypse, not Paul Krugman and Greg Mankiw.

-the Centaur

Pictured: Various shots of OGRE T-shirt, book, rules, pieces, and miniatures, along with the re-released version of the OGRE and GEV games. Videos courtesy Youtube.

The Layman’s Guide to the Fanboy View of Star Trek

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There's been some confusion recently about the "fanboy reception" of the new Star Trek movie - some people going so far as to say "fanboys will hate it because they changed everything". Well, speaking as a fanboy who recently was seriously arguing with my high school friends about whether J.J. Abrams shitted or pissed on our childhoods (and no, I'm not joking, those literal words were used), I beg to differ: my problems with the movie are with the movie as a movie, and particularly with its plot logic, not with its degree of Trekkiness.

I'll deal with the problems the movie has as a movie later (e.g., Nero is mad at Spock because ... Spock tried to save Romulus? WTF?!), since the movie is so good on an acting/directing level I don't want to give it too much bad press. (No, really, if good acting is your bag, run to the theater, baby; similarly if you like humor, excitement, action or adventure you won't be disappointed. If you care about a movie making sense ... eh.) Right now I want to show that it is indeed a good Trek movie. To see why, let's go through the Fanboy's Official Star Trek Movie Checklist and see how J.J. Abrams fares.

Oh, wait. One thing. SPOILERS AHEAD. Ok, moving on...

First off, the big three that we need in any Star Trek movie:

  • Kirk makes bold command decisions. Taking a shipful of cadets toe-to-toe with a Romulan war machine that's already wiped out Klingon and Federation fleets? Check.
  • Spock is conflicted about logic and emotion. Face it: this is is Spock's movie, and we get this quintessential Trekkiness in two flavors, old Spock and young Spock:
    • Old Spock: "Trust me, I'm emotionally compromised." Check.
    • Young Spock: Oh, where to begin, there are so many - I'll take the Vulcan Science Academy and his neat little speech where his voice says "The only emotion I wish to express is gratitude" and his face says "you stuck up racist prigs." Check.
  • McCoy gets Kirk and Spock working together: Well, this one doesn't happen, but it is a prequel, and he does act as a counselor to both of them. We can see where this is going, but still ... Miss. But a near miss.

So we're two for three, but if we give them two points for Spock they're batting 1000. Now let's look at the fan service angle:

  • Kirk bangs a hot alien chick. And she's green. Check.
  • Spock does something brilliant. See "Stupid Transporter Tricks" below. Check.
  • McCoy says "I'm a doctor not a..." Check.
  • Sulu buckles some swash: Check.
  • People make fun of Chekov's fake Russian accent: Check.
  • Uhura contacts an alien life form: You know who I mean. Check.
  • Scotty saves the day with some engineering fu: "If we eject the core..." Check!
  • They pull a Stupid Transporter Trick: We get this not one, not two but THREE times:
    • Chekov: Beams up someone falling. Check.
    • Scotty: Beams three people on two ships to one platform. Check.
    • Spock: Gets the grand prize for beaming two people onto a ship in warp, using only what looks like the transporter system on Scotty's dilapidated mobile home. Check.

Now, what about the other things, the fanboy nonsense? The phasers and transporters are off, and we see starships with odd numbers of warp nacelles, but those are nits - the special effects get redone in every movie and every show, and if Enterprise can believably portray a Vulcan ship with a donut-shaped warp nacelle then J.J. Abrams can have the one-warp-engine Kelvin.

Now, I admit I think some of the changes J.J. Abrams made undermined himself - for example, I think the change of the phasers both made them harder to see visually as well as disconnecting them from Star Trek's heritage. But those are minor nits. Get over it - I did, and I'm probably a bigger fan than almost all of you.


On the broad scope, Star Trek was Star Trek. No two ways about it.

-the Centaur

Pictured: the first pic is my desk at the Search Engine that Starts With a G, including a model of the original Enterprise from TOS. The second is my bookcase, including a model of an original hand phaser and a model of the U.S.S. Prometheus from Star Trek: Voyager. The blue box USB hub and the salt shaker with the plunger and ray gun are both from Doctor Who. For those who are confused by the horse without a head, it's a centaur from Narnia.