Tuesday Newsday for 3/10/15

News

Last week was a rough week for science fiction fans as we lost the legendary Leonard Nimoy and ALMOST lost Harrison Ford a few days later. I don’t think I’m the only one that breathed a huge sigh of relief on that one. I don’t have much to say to start out this column that isn’t somewhat off-topic, so I’ll just go for it.

Go See Chappie!

I know the critics hated it, and want the movie to bomb (One wonders if it’s because Neil Blomkamp is going to work on an Alien Sequel and critics are using this film to “prove” he’s a failure and not worthy?), but we (my wife and I) walked out with smiles on our faces. If you were a fan of Blomkamp’s other films (District 9 or Elysium), you’ll enjoy it. The general disdain for the film seems to follow these three rules:

1) “It’s too bloody, I thought it was a kid’s movie” which is an incredibly stupid reason to give a movie a bad review. It reminds me of when Pan’s Labyrinth came out.

2) “Die Antwoord play horrible people” – that’s one of the main points of the movie – Chappie’s parents are horrible, but he overcomes their influence to become a hero.

3) “it has a political message” where did all of these people come from that forgot that sci-fi used to be all about political messages? Do they think everything is going to be Star Wars? Did they forget about things like Day the Earth Stood Still, Twilight Zone etc…I honestly think that some folks were mad because this movie is largely about transhumanism and that’s a no-no for religious types. This happened with Elysium, a movie Fox news even tried to sabotage.

Note these are the same folks that are hailing American Sniper as the greatest film ever made for reasons that definitely are not related to politics or anything….sigh

It wasn’t perfect, but I have to wonder if we saw the same film the critics did. Blomkamp is like the new Ridley Scott – a genius when it comes to ideas and visuals, that the critics all loathe for some reason. If you want me to rant more about people not understanding Neil Blomkamp’s films check out my defense of Elysium.

anyway, here’s your headlines for the week!

Doctor-Who-7.13-the-name-of-the-doctor-first-doctor

Doctor Who‘ class notes: Free, open lecture at Palace Theater draws 200 students

“For the first time this semester, Anthony Rotolo opened up his ‘Doctor Who’ in the Digital Age class to the public Monday night. Anyone could come out to the Palace Theater and join the class for free.

About 200 people came out and Rotolo estimated about half the crowd consisted of registered students, while the other half was new.”

READ MORE >

Sylvester McCoy doctor who derp

Official Doctor Who Umbrellas on Sale

“Our best-selling Fourth Doctor Scarf keeps the winds at bay. Our Fifth Doctor Jumper will make sure you’re toasty. And now, our new Doctor Who umbrellas will keep you dry whether you’re on Marinus, sheltering from the siege of Trenzalore, or under the Earth’s overcast skies. All of time and space; everywhere and anywhere; every star that ever was… Where do you want to start?”

READ MORE >

Doctor Who (series 8) Ep6

‘Doctor Who’ participating in Red Nose Day 2015

“Red Nose Day comes along every two years and combines two very British things: having a laugh and helping others. Specifically, the event looks to raise money for in need in the U.K. and in Africa. As part of Red Nose Day, a program called Comic Relief begins its marathon broadcast on BBC1 next Friday March 13, starting at 7:00 p.m. GMT. The Doctor Who team has done a sketch or made an appearance on the show since 2009.”

READ MORE >

Asylum-of-the-Daleks-oswin-jenna-louise-coleman

Jenna Coleman DID plan to leave Doctor Who, Steven Moffat confirms

“Series eight closing episode, Death In Heaven, had been due to be the 28-year-old’s last episode as companion Clara to current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, however, here’s what happened in Moffat’s words.”

READ MORE>

Scottish_sci_fi_drama_Outlander_finally_makes_it_to_the_UK

Scottish sci-fi drama Outlander finally makes it to the UK

“The award-winning period fantasy series, starring Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Tobias Menzies and Simon Callow, will launch on Amazon Prime Instant Video next month”

READ MORE>

blade-runner

Blade Runner: Harrison Ford to reprise replicant hunter role in sci-fi sequel

“The new story takes place several decades after the conclusion of the 1982 film, which was based on the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?

British director Ridley Scott, who was behind the camera for the 1982 dystopian neo-noir movie, will serve as an executive producer on the sequel.”

READ MORE >

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Battle For The Net

If you woke up tomorrow, and your internet looked like this, what would you do? Imagine all your favorite websites taking forever to load, while you get annoying notifications from your ISP suggesting you switch to one of their approved “Fast Lane” sites.Think about what we would lose: all the weird, alternative, interesting, and enlightening stuff that makes the Internet so much cooler than mainstream Cable TV. What if the only news sites you could reliably connect to were the ones that had deals with companies like Comcast and Verizon?

On September 10th, just a few days before the FCC’s comment deadline, public interest organizations are issuing an open, international call for websites and internet users to unite for an “Internet Slowdown” to show the world what the web would be like if Team Cable gets their way and trashes net neutrality. Net neutrality is hard to explain, so our hope is that this action will help SHOW the world what’s really at stake if we lose the open Internet.

If you’ve got a website, blog or tumblr, get the code to join the #InternetSlowdown here:

Everyone else, here’s a quick list of things you can do to help spread the word about the slowdown.

Get creative! Don’t let us tell you what to do. See you on the net September 10th!

via Battle For The Net.

What Would Doctor Who Look Like as a 1970’s/80’s Japanese Action Show?

How to Create an Audio Podcast for Almost Nothing

podcast_1

One of the things I’ve really become immersed in the past few years is the new “podcast” revolution that is slowly taking terrestrial radio to the path of obsolescence. I work a job that requires me to do constant repetitive tasks for close to ten hours a day, and that isn’t made any better with the sounds of hushed talking and rustling paper  in the background. After getting tired of listening to music for a few months, I took the plunge with podcasts, and haven’t looked back. When I started this website, I toyed around with doing a podcast about British science fiction, and although I haven’t “pulled the trigger” quite yet, I have something planned.

Last year, I became an infrequent collaborator on one of my buddy’s podcasts, The *Nixed Report, and it blew me away how easy it was to create a decent podcast for basically nothing. One look around online overwhelms a person with tons of “tips articles” and recommendation lists that seem disingenuous. Sure, I could throw down hundreds of dollars all at once, but why? Could it be that this article is a referral link? Are you trying to prey on my ignorance? Stuff like this puts a prospective podcast hobbyist in a land of overpriced microphones and software designed for radio studios and music production. Making a podcast with these tools would work, but it would be like driving a Bugati Veyron to work.

I recently began a new podcast for another group of friends called Triangle Face Podcast, and right now I’m going to walk you through how to make a similar amateur podcast. This the real cheap way to do this, not a sales pitch like so many others!

Here’s the Software you will need:

Here’s the hardware you will need:

  • Some sort of computer, I use a crappy outdated laptop.
  • Microphones, I bought three of these and a splitter, I bet cheaper mics would suffice, but these had a great Amazon rating.

And finally, These websites need your attention:

I opted for this set-up because it’s FREE, One could simplify this guide considerably by signing up for something like Podbean or Libsyn, but I couldn’t justify the cost. Let’s face it, most of us aren’t going to be the next WTF with Marc Marron, so anything spent on hosting is money wasted. This way you can try to find an audience, and who knows, you can move your set-up to a better system if it takes off!

Step one – record your podcast with Audacity. This is usually the hardest part. For Triangle Face Podcast, we just yammer away for around an hour and post it as is, but others go for a “slicker” presentation and edit the audio drastically. I’d look at some Youtube tutorials for the basics, but Audacity is pretty deep if you want to utilize it more. If you know what your doing, (we don’t…LOL) you can make yourself talk like a robot in an opera house if you so desire. I spent some time messing with a podcast intro including audio snippets and a robot voice generator I found online. I fade this intro and an outro onto each episode and it basically sounds faux professional almost immediately.

Step Two – Export your audio to a .Wav format. then “balance the noise” with Levelator. We will do a lot of re-saving this file, so make sure you save your original file just in case something goes wrong! The reason we are saving a .Wav file and not an immediate MP3 is because Levelator only plays nice with uncompressed audio. what Levelator basically does, is it takes the audio and makes any peaks and valleys sound the same. That way places where you start yelling or talking quietly don’t sound bad or deafen your audience. This should create a file clone called “whateveryoucalledit.output” which is your new file to mess with.

Step Three – Take your output file and load that back into Audacity. Once you “Levelate” the sound, take this file and open it within a new instance of Audacity. From here, export this file as an MP3, you should notice your file size will drop considerably. ours go from 700 mb in .Wav format to something like 50 mb .Mp3s! be sure to fill out those meta tags!

Step Four – Upload this file to Archive.org. Be sure to fill out all of your meta tags once again and let it rip. Once you have your file in there go to the area that I have highlighted in red and click. This is the URL you will be using next.

arhive-org-screen

Step Five – WordPress stuff. What you need to do is create a simple WordPress page, what I can recommend is laying the skeleton down, then making it look pretty later. Your main concern is tagging each episode with something like “podcast archive” that you can pull up later. I try to follow a simple format for each post utilizing a picture, a description, and a link. The link has the same text as my title, but you can’t see that from this image.

wordpress
In order to get your link to work click the little icon that looks like a chain link on your WordPress text editor. Once you are able to past your URL, paste the link from your Archive.org page from Step Four, but remove the “s” from the “https://blah” THIS IS IMPORTANT, if you don’t remove this the feed WILL NOT work.

Step Six – Add to Feedburner. When you post  your blog entry on WordPress, be sure to arrow down and take a look at your tags below the post. You should see the one we discussed earlier, I chose “podcast archive”:
wordpress2
Click on this and copy the URL. When you set up your feed on Feedburner, this will be the feed you are submitting. This way, each time you make a new post and label it “podcast archive” it gets added to the list. Feedburner is pretty straight forward, but make sure you fill everything out and add an appropriate picture. This way when you do the next step, it’ll look nice! Make sure to look at your feed by clicking this button to see if it’s “pulling” from your WordPress account:

feedburner

Step Seven – Submit this feed to iTunes. We’re almost there! open iTunes on your computer and look for the “iTunes store”. Click on the “podcast” header at the top, and look for a section on the right labled “submit a podcast”.
itunes

By all means, iTunes is not the only service for Podcasts, but it is the most widely used. you can try to get these on other services like Soundcloud if you so like, but we ultimately went with iTunes. The submission to iTunes is a bit finicky, and you’ll know if something is wrong pretty fast. This is where I discovered the “https” thing and had to work-around that whole ordeal, thankfully if you follow my guide you won’t have to! It takes a few weeks for a podcast to get approved, but once it does it will be easily searchable on iTunes, and the iTunes website – thus making you look like somebody important!

itunes-search

If you have any questions, or even any suggestions to make this how-to better – feel feel to drop me a comment! I am by no means an authority on this topic, but figured out a way to make a podcast with my friends for nearly nothing! Ignore those guys trying to sell you the moon and follow my guide for the real deal.

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BBC News – Skin-Tight Spacesuits to Help Astronauts’ Spines in Space – Perhaps Another thing Star Trek Got Right

Image,

I’ve seen many criticize skin tight uniforms in many science fiction shows as being pure titillation and not much else, but it seems there may be some sound science to back it up. It seems that once again Star Trek has predicted the future!

LINK: BBC News – Skin-tight spacesuits to help astronauts’ spines in space.

“Space scientists at King’s College London have fashioned a skin-tight spacesuit that they hope will help prevent astronauts’ spines from expanding while on missions away from Earth. As astronauts float in space, without the force of gravity pushing down on their bodies, their spines begin to lengthen. Some astronauts have been known to grow as much as 7cm (2.76 inches) during spaceflights.”

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Who is Karen Gillan Playing in The Guardians of the Galaxy?

Karen_Gillan_as_Nebula_2

Fans that saw the recently released trailer for Marvel’s new sci-fi/superhero epic, The Guardians of the Galaxy, may or may not have noticed a familiar face. Yup, Doctor Who fans may have noticed an appearance by Amy Pond herself in tons of blue makeup! People unfamiliar with somewhat obscure Marvel Comics characters may have no clue as to who Karen Gillan is actually playing, the significance of said character, and whether she is good or bad. My goal today is to be a little help! Well, she’s definitely a bad guy, perhaps really bad depending on how the script lays her character out!

Before we get rolling, here’s that trailer, just in case anybody has been under a rock all week:

This character is named Nebula, and she is a feared space pirate that has destroyed entire planets in her various battles throughout many of the more  “space-themed” comics Marvel has churned out over the years. At various points, she has claimed to be none other than the very granddaughter of Thanos. Wait, Thanos? Who’s that?

thanos

Remember that guy at the end of the Avengers that smiled at the camera? That’s Thanos. One thing many non-comic fans may be missing is that all of these Marvel Cinematic Universe films are leading up to what I can only assume is a film depicting the famous comic story The Infinity Gauntlet, where big ol’ Mr. T. up there manages to collect a series of gems that give him unlimited power. As of the end of Thor: The Dark World, Thanos has access, through his various minions, to TWO of these six gems. One can only assume that Nebula has been sent to secure the third.

Nebula-marvel-comics

I have no idea if they plan on hyping up the possible granddaughter-grandfather relationship between the two, but it would be an interesting way to sneak more info to casual fans about “who that purple dude was”.  Seeing as Benicio Del Toro (The Collector) also appears in TGotG, she may just be a random assassin type character working for him.

I tried to find a video of some sort to show what Nebula has been like in other media, and sadly all I could find was an episode of this mid-90’s Silver Surfer cartoon that coincidentally also stars Drax The Destroyer, a character that also features in TGotG. You can skip to around 3 minutes in to see her.

So there we have it! Nebula could be a VERY big role for Karen Gillan, as playing someone that could feature in more movies might make her a big Hollywood action star. Then again they could kill her off in mere seconds for all I know. That’s what makes speculation fun!

Karen_Gillan_as_Nebula

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My Experience With WordPress’s Word Ads Service

English: The logo of the blogging software Wor...

I signed up for WordPress.com‘s relatively new advertising service, Word Ads, quite a while ago and it has finally paid off. When I checked my Paypal balance today, I had over $100 waiting for me, paid out by WordPress themselves. This made me punch the air in happiness, as I’m a one guy operation, and have a full-time job, so it’s not like this blog is something I can devote my life to. For those that do not know, Word Ads only pays after you hit a threshold of over $100, so this was for one year of having these ads sponsored by them. One would assume it’s not worth your time, if it took me that long, but that’s not really the case. The truth is that it was my fault that I wasn’t getting great payouts at first. 

For like six months, I was stubborn and did not optimize my blog with a theme that really utilized the service. In fact, this led to me getting measly $2.00 per month payouts. I’d occasionally check my ad placement, and discovered a terrible ad that was like “get your Missouri Driver’s license” was my main sponsor. After I spent a “crapload” of time making my site look better and switched themes, I got better ads and as a result have been getting around $20 a month for the last few months. I’ve seen big stuff like World of Warcraft and even Walmart pop up. If I can maintain this trajectory, I might be able to really make some cash for my blog. I’m not expecting anything huge, but if I can make my bills less of an issue and make overtime a non-issue at work, I’d be so happy. And me being happy = more blog posts!

I’m writing this because a quick Google search for “tips for Word Ads” results in many cranky users that expected to become overnight millionaires with the service. So far, persistence has paid off for me, and I’m enjoying the ride. This is an unsolicited Word Ads minor success story, if you have any questions, or concerns feel free to consult WordPress.com’s Word Ads page here, or drop me comment, my experience might be helpful I suppose.

How To Watch British Television in America

An easy guide on how to watch all this stuff I keep yammering on about!

We live in a very interesting time for entertainment consumers. Gone are the days of only having a small selection of television channels to watch on any given day. First, the home video and DVD markets opened the floodgates on older and far more obscure programming to watch. This was followed by internet streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and those dreaded Peer to Peer and bittorrent clients. No longer is the consumer shackled to the whims of a TV executive or commercial entity. For the most part, barriers are falling and e can watch what we want, when we want,how we want.

This blog covers one particular type of media – UK science fiction and other “genre” programming. A lot of the stuff I cover is readily available to Americans on pay services or home video releases, but what I want to do is give a general overview on how I watch all this stuff. Don’t fret if you are a reader that doesn’t live in the U.S., most of these tips can help you out as well no matter what country you live in.

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Look for one of these on the back of your DVDs

Region Codes, and how to bypass them.

As many science fiction fans may have noticed – shows licensed from UK companies such as Doctor Who cost about twice or even three times more than most U.S. television shows. This can be particularly bad if you are on a budget and don’t want to break the bank. Yes, a few of these shows are available on Netflix (e.g.Red Dwarf, Doctor Who, and Day of the Triffids) but some shows that I plan on eventually getting such as the Tripods or Blakes 7 will probably never come out here or be released on a streaming device. You can obviously download things and burn them, or watch programs on your computer, but if you are like me, this choice is never as good as watching a good quality image whilst sitting in a comfy chair. This is where region-free DVD players some in.

stupid
this is what happens when you try to play a disk on the wrong player (Photo credit: williac)

So what are DVD regions? They are an archaic policy adopted by home media companies decades ago to promote policies such as price discrimination, disallow reverse importation, and control costs with staggered release dates. For example, in America a company can get away with selling a seven year old season of Doctor Who for around $79.99 due to the niche market and limited exposure. In the United Kingdom this would be ludicrous, and as such, it is much cheaper. Anyone in their right mind, when confronted with such a price difference, would just order these DVDs from England. This is what they are trying to stop. America is called “region 1” and the UK is “region 2” so neither can easily watch each others home media very easily. If you pop a foreign DVD into your personal DVD player it will have an error message, this is the same with personal computers,game systems and just about everything else that would make you happy. Here are maps of the DVD regions and Blu-Ray regions. 

DVD-Regions-map
DVD Regions
Blu-Ray Regions
Blu-Ray Regions

My recommendation to anyone that may decide to watch some harder to find UK shows is to do one of the following two things:

Region-Free DVD Players
Region-Free DVD Players are big business in some countries(Photo credit: Hikosaemon)

1) Cheap Method: It’s a little known secret that most, if not all cheap Chinese-made DVD players are actually region-free, and have their region locks installed via software within the factory. In the past I used to get DVD players from Digix or Coby for around 20-30 dollars. These players were pretty crappy for the most part, and honestly aren’t worth it unless you can’t swing what I will post on option 2. I remember having this one particular model of Coby DVD player that would work fine until around the six month mark, *boom* – broken. The trick to using one of these is to do a little research. Websites like DVD Help have listings of DVD players and whether they can be region hacked or not. Most of these are simple to hack, as a numerical code on the DVD remote usually does the trick.

2) Best Method – depending on how much one wants to spend, visiting a site like Region Free DVD is the best option. Tired of dealing with cheap players, I plunked down 100 dollars for a Toshiba regionless HDMI up-scaling DVD player, and will never look back. Not only is the picture better in just about every way, but the player itself is tailored for wide screen TVs and widescreen media, like most UK TV.

The reason I recommend getting one of these players is pretty self explanatory with the numbers. Here are the prices and availability of one show Life on Mars, and its spin-off/sequel Ashes to Ashes.

Amazon.com

LOM Season 1: $49.99-$79.00

LOM Season 2: $49.99-$79.00

A2A S1: Not released

A2A S2: Not released

A2A S3:Nor released

Total $100.00+ for 2 seasons, Ashes to Ashes not even announced for release as far as I know.

Ashes to Ashes (TV series)
Ashes to Ashes (TV series) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Amazon.co.uk

(as of today’s exchange rates)

LOM Season 1: $15.00

LOM Season 2: $15.00

A2A S1: $15.00

A2A S2: $15.00

A2A S3: $20.00

Total $80.00 for 5 seasons, all episodes complete, there are also combo packs of all three Ashes to Ashes seasons, and both Life on Mars seasons that could bring the price down even more. 

And now you can see why I do this, and shipping isn’t bad either – maybe 8 bucks for most DVD orders to reach the U.S. If you don’t care to get a new DVD or Blu-Ray player, there are also computer programs that disable region codes on PCs. Technically you can watch foreign DVDs on there as it does allow for a VERY limited amount of region swaps, but be careful. If you keep switching regions, it will eventually permanently lock into one. Most computers can be toggled around six times before this happens. 

But lets say you don’t care about actually owning these shows, is there a way to watch these on TV or on your computer? Why yes there is!

Cable TV Alternatives

Image representing Netflix as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

There are three major streaming services in the U.S.: Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. These three companies have become my lifeline lately, as I decided to “cut the cord” a few years back, and drop my cable subscription. Needless extra channels and ever-increasing prices were getting to be a headache,and I’m glad there was an alternative to cable and satellite. While there is a bit of cross-over, all three companies have their strengths and weaknesses in price and availability. In a general sense, Netflix is better for movies, Hulu is better for TV, and Amazon Prime is like a weird cousin of both – having VERY popular TV shows and movies, but less of them.

Hulu
Hulu (Photo credit: Evan Hamilton)

Netflix gets big props for having licenses for some of the bigger shows like Doctor Who and Top gear. With the latter, they even have all of the 20+ seasons (minus the first) all ready to marathon. Hulu has been bringing quite a few UK comedies and dramas over as “Hulu Exclusives” such as Rev. and Whites as of late. Other shows like Moone Boy, Misfits, and Pramface have been getting quite a bit of traction on there as well, bringing what could be considered “more obscure” shows to a new audience. Amazon Prime is the oddity here. They have some huge shows like Downton Abbey and things like Sarah Jane Adventures as well as next day purchase options for the NEW episodes of big shows. This year, I spent 2 bucks a pop for Doctor Who series 7, something that I could have pirated, but chose not to.

amazon-prime

Considering that my monthly cable bill used to run some $120, these companies are awesome. Hulu is $7.99 per month, as is Netflix, and Amazon Prime is $79.99 yearly. There are other perks for the Amazon subscription including free two day shipping on everything, so if you are a heavy Amazon user, I don’t know why you wouldn’t use this service.

Public Broadcasting Service
Public Broadcasting Service (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kickin’ it Oldschool

For our penultimate section I decided to bring up regular old TV, whether it be network, cable, or satellite. This is not my preferred method of watching UK TV, but it will definitely do in a pinch. For years, the Public Broadcasting Service has helped many an Anglophile get their fix. I grew up watching comedies like Keeping Up Appearances, Mr. Bean, and Monty Python just to name a few. My local PBS station still runs a Saturday block of UK TV all sponsored by some very passionate fans. Some of the videotapes they use look pretty bad now, but if you haven’t seen the show digitally remastered you will be none-the-wiser. Some PBS stations even run shows like Doctor Who and Red Dwarf, so keep an eye on the schedule. Outside of that, cable providers have a decent amount of UK TV, especially if you have BBC America on your cable plan. The problem with “regular TV” is that most US TV execs love to remake everything that is popular rather than airing the original.

bittorrent

“By other means”

I won’t lie, I sometimes obtain TV episodes from the internet. Whether it be a bit-torrent client or YouTube,if one is internet savvy enough pretty much anything is obtainable online. For older shows that are out of print on DVD and impossible to legally obtain over here, I have ventured onto torrent sites quite often. be warned, this is NOT legal at worst and kind of a  gray area at best, and could land you in trouble. I would never download a Hollywood film or adult film using these sorts of programs, as shady litigation “honey pots” are out there to tempt people into breaking the law. Another option is using proxy servers or streaming sites to access UK-only TV providers. I haven’t really dabbled with this, and have no real opinion on the use of these programs or the results.

So there you go fellow anglophiles, I hope this helps you navigate the wondrous world of British television much easier, and gives you some new stuff to watch. If you have any questions on show availability, or tips on how to watch something, please feel free to ask, as I may be able to help.

People That Whine About Science Fiction Being Too Political Are Media Puppets

Today I have decided to sidestep my narrow focus on British science fiction to discuss something that caught my attention relating to the genre of science fiction in general. My wife and I saw Neill Blomkamp‘s sophomore film, the visceral and gritty Elysium today. We both came away enjoying the film quite a bit; not in the Avengers sort of way where you want to high-five everyone after the movie and punch the air in happiness, but the more sombre “holy crap that was good, but also depressing” sort of way. This was what happened when we watched District 9 a few years ago, a film that lead to us discussing apartheid south Africa, something that really would not have happened had the film not taken our emotions hostage for two hours. When I got home, I decided to check the box office gross Elysium had, as well at critic reviews to gauge whether it is doing well or not. It did top the box office, and gained generally positive reviews, but the negative reviews the movie was getting are quite puzzling. People that don’t enjoy the film aren’t hating it because of the gore, the foul language, or the shaky-cam action scenes, but because it challenges their political beliefs in some way.

Take, for example a few of these little gems taken from a popular critic aggregation site, Rotten Tomatoes:

elysium-reviews

And here we have some choice quotes from some online reviews:

“Particularly towards the end, the political messages are just so overt, I don’t know how you can watch it without thinking of current events and connecting the dots that the director obviously intended to connect,” – Big Hollywood’s Christian Toto.

“It’s not just hypocritical to say this movie isn’t political, it’s hilarious,” – Dan Gainor, VP of Business and Culture at the Media Research Center.

 Elysium advances one of the more openly socialist political agendas of any Hollywood movie in memory.” – Variety Magazine review.

Those that have yet to see this film, might be wondering what all the hubub is about. Elysium tells the story of a future Earth that is so overpopulated and crime-ridden that the well-to-do upper class citizens have fled the planet Entirely. They all have decided to live in a space colony well away from the stench of the poor surface dwellers; the ultimate gated community, if you will. The citizens of Elysium have jumped so far technologically (in a sharp contrast to Earth’s urban decay) that they can afford to have no illnesses whatsoever due to the creation of a machine that can heal everything. This has caused black market operations to spring up promising illegal trips to Elysium, usually taken up by ill people trying to cure terminal illnesses. Since the majority of the plot has a vague notion of how everyone should have access to medical care, and that policies on illegal immigration are too tough, TV pundits and conservative bloggers alike have pulled out their pitchforks in protest. 

matt-damon-elysium

The thing that really bothers me about this mindset is that science fiction has ALWAYS been about taking social issues to their breaking point to illustrate the ills of our society as a cautionary tale. It’s not like Neill Blomkamp woke up a few years ago, and realized that nobody has ever talked about politics in film. These media-types have an ulterior motive here, as nobody can be so stupid than to think that science fiction has never been like this. One of the earliest modern science fiction epics, The Time Machine was essentially H.G. Wells‘ commentary on British social classes and social Darwinism. That was only the beginning, authors like Robert Heinlein promoted either fascism or communism depending on the story, George Orwell warned of the road to totalitarianism, and Ayn Rand promoted Objectivism. All very different political strains, all either championed or demonized depending on what the authors intent was.

To me, something like Elysium is only ruffling these conservative feathers because of the ridiculous political climate we live in and the 24 hour news cycle. When you have media stunts such as a left and right leaning media conglomerates claiming outrage at every turn, these people would love if we just watched paint dry all day, as to not put “bad ideas” in our heads or offend someone. I always find it ironic when commentators claim a subversive piece of literature or film is damaging society as is usually their viewpoint that the film is directly satirizing.

In Closing I leave you with a quote from Philip K. Dick on the media: 

“Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups… So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.”

 

CW’s Arrow is filled with Doctor-y Goodness

One television show that I expected to hate turned out to be one of my favorite things to watch this year- CW’s Arrow. I’m a big comic book fan, and a fan of the original DC comics Green Arrow despite the fact that he’s nothing more than Robin Hood crossed with Batman. You may be asking: “Why would you have possibly hated it?” To be honest, I was not a fan of the show Smallville, and I initially assumed that this was going to be just like it. You may be also getting ready to ask “since when is Arrow a UK sci-fi show?” Well it isn’t, but there are three reasons that anglophiles might be interested in it:

It stars a ton of Doctor Who alumni in substantial roles! I initially assumed that this was going to be just like it.

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John Barrowman –

That’s right! everyone’s favorite Time Agent portrays none other than Malcolm Merlyn. Long time DC comic fans may recognize that name as one of the Green Arrow’s main antagonists from his rogue’s gallery. It’s cool to see John playing a villain for once because I think I have only ever seen him as the “good guy”. Even when he had his hair dyed blonde and sang “Spring Time for Hitler” in The Producers, he seemed nice, like he was the good Nazi. Merlyn brings a bit of the darkness we saw Captain Jack wallowing in towards the end of his tenure on Torchwood and redirects it to someone that is even more emotionally unstable.

Year's En

Colin Salmon

Colin Salmon is one of those guys that seem to be showing up in everything on both sides of the Atlantic. He has played recurring roles in big-budget Hollywood films like the James Bond 007 films, and a handful of big roles in TV shows. Whovians might recognize him as “Doctor Moon” from the Steven Moffat-penned two-parter Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead. In Arrow he plays Oliver Queen’s new stepfather and head of Oliver’s family business. He’s one of those characters that you really can’t trust although he seems like a harmless red herring.

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Alex Kingston

Another person that made their Doctor Who debut in Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead was River Song herself, Alex Kingston. So far Alex hasn’t had the biggest role in Arrow, but she plays a fairly big role if her comics equivalent is utilized. She portrays Dinah Lance, the estranged mother of Laurel Lance, the main love interest in the show. In the comics, both characters were dubbed “The Black Canary” and fought crime in their respective crime fighting generations. So far they haven’t hinted at this in the show, but I think it’s always a possibility.

It’s no surprise that this is happening as the show-runners of Arrow happen to be huge fans of The Doctor. Here is a quote from Andrew Kreisberg about it:

“Especially with shows like Buffy and Doctor Who, there’s a big bad and an overall story that feels like it comes to a completion, and we’ve definitely set that up. We have ways for that story to come to an end, and yet leave you feeling like there are a lot of unanswered questions, and that it’s going to take you into the next season. All of these kinds of genre shows, if they don’t feel like complete seasons, there’s something not quite right. You want to feel like you saw Chapter 1.”

My question is whether or not this casting trend will continue. With Catherine Tate and other prominent UK actors/actresses flirting with American audiences, could we see more Doctor Who Alumni in the mix?

 

The Best of Red Dwarf Derp Faces

cat-red-dwarf-danny-john-jules-backwards-derp kryten-red-dwarf-derp kryten-red-dwarf-funny-face-smeg-up-derp red-dwarf-derp-rimmer-face-beachball-eyes red-dwarf-holly-derp red-dwarf-trojan-kryten-funny-derp-tired-face red-dwarf-trojan-stirmistress-derp red-dwarf-x-lemons-smeg-derp-funny-face rimmer-red-dwarf-funny-face-derp

Space Nazis – The Trope That Needs to Die

A few days ago I decided to watch a purposely bad B-Grade Nazi exploitation film called Iron Sky. In the movie, modern astronauts go to the moon to mine hydrogen 3, only to find a fully built factory of the same purpose already there. The astronauts soon discover that they weren’t supposed to find this facility, and are taken down by a group of jack-booted and gas mask wearing S.S. troops. It seems that a handful of fully operational Nazi soldiers fled to the moon during the death throes World War II, and set up shop where nobody would find them.

Iron Sky is a fun movie based on the fact that it is so over the top, in bad taste, and well….bad that it has that same vibe one gets from something like Snakes on a Plane. It also stands as a parody of all the SERIOUS works of science fiction and alternate history that revolve around the discovery of a fully formed group of Nazi remnants in full operational capacity (and ready for blood) in a cartoonish fashion. This really got me thinking – should Nazis really be the “be all and end all” bad guys from here on out? Or are they just lazy writing in all fiction – simply designed to shock and bring back a sense of patriotism that hasn’t been there for seventy years? What about “space Nazis”? That’s even worse…

The PlayStation game series, Killzone, does a great job of disguising the space Nazi trope.
The PlayStation game series, Killzone, does a great job of disguising the space Nazi trope.

I can handle a hypothetical situation where a crew of sci-fi guys travel to a planet and a totalitarian regime is in place that may or may not be similar to the Nazis. They can have flags, even red flags, skull based insignia, and even labor camps for that added shock value. The Daleks in Doctor Who might as well be space Nazis, but they are nicely changed in many ways as to be more inconspicuous in that regard. But when you have honest to god, born in Berlin, but somehow ended up in space, Nazis I want to kill people. The worst offender is Star Trek, a show that has dabbled in the Space Nazi theme so many times that every series seems to have a contractual clause to include at least one episode based on it. Here is the plot from a classic episode:

“When the Enterprise approaches the inner planet Ekos to investigate the cessation of communication with researcher John Gill, it is attacked with a rocket carrying a nuclear weapon. This is puzzling as well as dangerous, since neither the outer planet Zeon nor the inner planet Ekos is technologically advanced enough to possess rockets or nuclear warheads. The Enterprise retreats to maximum orbital distance and Kirk and Spock beam down (after having position-broadcasting transponders surgically implanted in case of mishaps).

Kirk and Spock discover that a Nazi movement has swept the planet, complete with genocide of the “Zeon pigs” residing on Ekos. They view a public newscast in which the Iron Cross second class is presented to Daras, hero of the Fatherland. Kirk and Spock are also shocked to learn that Gill appears to be the leader of the planet’s Nazi movement.”

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The originator of offense

I could just chalk it up to goofy 1960’s TV, and the fact that WWII had just ended less than twenty years prior, but this still goes on today. It was fresh When Edgar Rice Burroughs created the concept of Space Nazis way back in 1938, but it’s 2013. Don’t we have any modern socio-political issues that can be satirized in this way? Are we so worried as a society that we might offend someone that we can’t have space North Korea, Space Al Qaeda, or Space class warfare?

Victory_of_the_Daleks
Victory of the Daleks was creepy because the Daleks are basically space Nazis by virtue of action and ideology, no need for swastika flags and goosestepping!

If you have any ideas for what can take the place of space Nazis, please sound off!

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 36,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 8 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Random Doctor Who References in American TV Shows

Rugrats: The 1990’s Nickelodeon classic needed something – genocidal killer mutants!

Family Guy – As far as I know there have been at least three references in Family Guy of something related to Doctor Who, the first was when Brian mentions that since marijuana has been legalized in Quahog, “Doctor Who ratings are through the roof”. Another brief reference involves Peter naming an owl “Doctor Hoo”. The best example of this is in the very first Star Wars special that they did. As the crew jumps into hyperspace, one can see the fourth Doctor theme through the window to which Peter suggests that “Hyperspace is weird!”

Simpsons – Matt Groening is a big fan of Tom Baker Era Doctor Who, so it’s really no surprise that The Doctor Shows up constantly!

Futurama – And the tradition carries over in his other show as well.

South Park – Fairly recently, South Park did an episode featuring a German Comedy Robot named “Funnybot”. Of course Funnybot is in fact a parody of a Dalek!

Star Trek – One could write a book about Doctor Who references in Star Trek and even vice versa. One of the oddest took place in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode entitled “The Neutral Zone”. In the episode, the crew comes face to face with survivors from an ancient cryoship. One of the thawed folks, Clare Raymond, is scanned so that her lineage can be seen. It seems she is descended from William Hartnell, Tom Baker, Colin Baker, and Even Kermit T. Frog!

Saturday Night Live –The season 30 episode starring Paris Hilton had a treat for all the Doctor Who fans out there. Sadly Paris Hilton, of all people, donned a Tom Baker-esque scarf and contributed to a new phone sex line for nerds including Star Trek, Harry Potter, and World of Warcraft ladies. To be honest, even with a Doctor Who scarf, Ms. Hilton is just about as sexy as a brick to me.

 

Speaking of Tardises in DC Comics Cartoons…

…or is that Tardii? I’m not sure what the plural is 😛

Yesterday, I posted about the cameo of a red Tardis-like police box in an episode of New Teen Titans, but it doesn’t end there. Someone pointed out that the Justice League uses a blue police box to gain access to their secret hideout in Young Justice as well! It seems that somebody at Cartoon Network must be a fan!

Check out this Vague Doctor Who Reference in New Teen Titans

Cartoon Network has recently started a “DC Nation” block  on Saturday mornings consisting of Young Justice and a Green Lantern Animated Series cartoon. Between the shows, they usually show a handful of “shorts” including a new series based on the Teen Titans show of nearly ten years ago. Earlier today, Doctor Who fans were treated to this short featuring a villain called Mad Mod using something we might recognize:

Enjoy!:

Note: That isn’t the whole short sadly.

 

Update: DC likes Police Boxes!

Trust Me, I’m The Doctor’s Tattoo…

Found this on the Cheezburger Network:

Catherine Tate on the U.S. Office Recap

This week’s episode of the Office was notable for sci-fi fans as it contained the return of Catherine Tate’s Nellie Bertram character. We last saw Nellie as one of the many possible replacements for Steve Carell’s Michael Scott alongside James Spader, Jim Carey, and Ray Romano. In Nellie’s interview she proposed many “wonderful” ideas such as an office system where there is no boss, and everything is run in a socialistic way, then an alternative system in which everybody exists as someone else’s boss. The character was pretty funny, and for someone that doesn’t care a whole lot for a lot of Tate’s comedy roles such as her skit show, that’s high praise.

Word around TV land is that the character will be showing up throughout the second half of this current season in a story arc where half of the Dunder Mifflin staff travels to Florida to kickstart a retail arm of parent company Sabre. Once arriving, it becomes apparent that Nellie called up a favor from her friend Jo, former CEO of Sabre (Kathy Bates), and became the head of this new venture. For folks wanting a bit of old school Office awkwardness ala the Michael Scott era, look no further – Nellie is basically a female version with even worse sense when it comes to working in the real world. While Michael was a good-natured attention hog, Bertram is the type of person that has failed upwards and uses buzzwords and jargon to seem like they know what they are doing, when they are in fact clueless.

So yeah, in short, Doctor Who fans should catch The Office for the next few weeks!