Month: April 2013

RACCOONS NOT IN THE NEWS: Screwbuntu!

One of the more popular distributions of Linux, Ubuntu, released its latest version this week.  They’ve had a unique naming scheme as they’ve progressed over the years, which was to alliterate [Adjective] [Animal], advancing through the alphabet with each version.  This has given us such memorable names as Feisty Fawn, Natty Narwhal, and now that we’ve gotten to the letter “r” it’s … Raring Ringtail?  Well, the ringtail is at least a part of the raccoon family (despite often being called a “cat”) but it is disappointingly not a raccoon proper.  I guess I’ll take what I can get.  Personally, I would have preferred an operating system with the code name of “Randy Raccoon.”

Also, woohoo to me for reaching my 200th post!

Sci Fi and Subwoofers

And then the Federation’s most fearsome enemy was made sexy.

Last night I went to the Fathom Events screening of the classic Star Trek: The Next Generation two-parter, The Best of Both Worlds.  You know, $12.50 seems like an awful lot to spend to watch a couple of 13 year old TV episodes, but I went with a couple of friends and it’s more about the intangible camaraderie of being among fellow fans of science fiction.  One can say, definitively, that this would be the most intelligent Star Trek related thing to be seen on the big screen since … Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country?  Unlike the big-budget encounter with the Borg in Star Trek First Contact this movie had a climax that didn’t depend on action movie cliche dialogue and inexplicable action to overcome the enemy.  This movie was slower, more methodical, and the solution relied on some ingenuity and even presented moral dilemmas for the heroes. At least they padded the night’s viewing with a somewhat informative documentary, which included an appearance by Seth MacFarlane, giving the fan’s perspective on the shows.  It was kind odd to realize that the man is only six years older than me, and so was in his teens when this show first aired (whereas I was only ten.)

There was a special, nostalgic thrill for me to watch these episodes on the big screen.  My family has fond, silly memories of watching Star Trek: The Next Generation in our old home, where my father had taken special pride in installing a surround sound system (my parents were always somewhat forward thinking in terms of home theaters, having a laserdisc player way back when).  However, the only thing that ever really seemed to take advantage of such a setup was Star Trek, where the ever present sound of the Enterprise’s engines would rumble out of the back speakers throughout any scene that took place on the ship.  For some reason, this background track has seemed somewhat subdued whenever I’ve watched the show on repeats.  It was great to hear that familiar rumble while at the theater last night.

I saw Oblivion today.  I thought it was good. Really good. I don’t get critics’ general dislike for the film, and it seems to mostly stem from the fact that one can pick apart the story and see antecedents in previous films, the most common reference being to 2009’s Moon. I’ve never quite understand critics’ (and fans’) need to dismiss a movie solely because they can identify something with similarities that came before.  I saw this behavior a lot in discussions of 2011’s Drive, where people basically said that it couldn’t be good because 1981’s Thief, starring James Caan, existed (and the even snobbier ones referred back to 1978’s The Driver.)    So how come Quentin Tarantino or Christopher Nolan can wear their influences on their sleeves and be lauded for doing so, whereas movies that may or may not be cribbing from other works–and don’t try to distract their audiences which drawn-out homages–are criticized?  Is “something similar existed beforehand” a valid criticism?  Should only wholly original works be allowed to be considered “good?”

Although one borrowed element I could live without is the presence of the Inception trailer’s iconic deep booming noise, which showed up in Oblivion as well.

Additional Material

Terrible Tragedy Strikes at Boston

It’s not that I’m making light of what happened during the Boston Marathon a couple of days ago.  However I’ve taken issue with most of the media’s coverage of the event, namely in the superlative way they’ve described the work of the terrorist who performed this act.  It’s been touted as “well planned” or that it was designed to cause “maximum damage” to people.  If either was true, then it speaks to general incompetence that this “orchestrated” attack couldn’t kill more people than the completely accidental Boston Molasses Disaster of 1919, which in its final count killed 21 people.  Also, peoples’ claims that the dual explosions were timed so that people would flee from one into the other are giving the bomber far too much credit; the twelve-second time difference wasn’t long enough to allow for the crowd to get from one blast zone to the next, and in a street they effectively have two places to go, so only have one secondary explosion instead of one on either side of the initial bomb runs counter to that plan.

This incident has also done a great job of displaying the general idiocy and racism of people.  From tackling a victim and turning him over to the FBI for the crime of not being white, claiming that photos of a man with torn clothes running away from an explosion is suspicious, or reporters questioning who would have placed a mailbox along the street (seriously, Erin Burnett did this last night and her dumbfounded guest responded “the Post Office, I would guess.”)

RACCOONS IN THE NEWS: Staking Out Territory For a Heist

“Raccoon Fishing” by Joneko

Due to their pattern of fur on their faces resembling masks raccoons are often characterized as bandits.  Maybe all the talk about “stealing” bases prompted a little animal baseball fan (and they do eat fish!) to want to go to a recent Miami Marlins game. Of course, he had to be snuck by his apparent owner (note that it’s legal to have a pet raccoon in Florida.)  Although if he was tempted by the Marlins, he may want to check out the minor leagues.

Spec Ops: The Line … RUN!

I recently played through Spec Ops: The Line, which was recently made “free” thanks to PS+.  I have to say, the game was pretty good; worthy of all the praise lavished on it last year.  True, it played like a bog-standed cover-based 3rd person shooter (which was a surprise to me; I expected it to be a wholly COD-esque experience and be a FPS.)  However, it excelled at presentation (similar to how BrΓΌtal Legend was a fairly unimpressive game but a memorable experience).  Not just the story, which becomes unusually trippy (for a game of this genre) in its narrative, but also its brazeness at lambasting itself.   After one of the major events (sadly, all of the shocks had been spoiled for me shortly after the game was released, as I’d convinced myself I had no interest in playing something I expected to be COD-like) the game makes sure to make sure a particularly horrid display is shown to the player.  Even the title and loading screens play a role in the narrative of portraying to decreasing mental state of the protagonist (and maybe even the player.)

I played the game on “Suicide Mission” difficulty (the hardest available the first time through) because I’m an experienced game player.  I died … a lot … at certain points but with every iteration I got just a little better (only to be screwed over by the generally inept AI partners who eagerly ran into enemy fire, got shot up, and forced me to expose myself to try reviving them, usually resulting in my own death.)  It’s been a while since I’ve put up with that sort of punishment from a game, mostly because I felt like my failures were my own fault as opposed to shoddy game design (see my issues with Killzone 3.) The experience reminded me of a short story I’d recently heard titled “Run,” Bakri Says, wherein a time machine allows a girl to relive a dangerous mission over and over until she can complete it (without dying.)  The people she murders aren’t aware of how many times she failed; they only know that the final time she runs the mission is because she’s endured it so many times that she knows the situation inside and out and is finally an unstoppable goddess of death.  Actually, Tom Cruise will have a similarly themed movie coming out next year.

Of course, maybe you want to relive life not to better kill things but just to live it the best way possible?  I recently read Ken Grimwood’s Replay.  It was one of those books I picked up back when Borders was going out of business, and thanks to shelves being mostly empty (and prices being nonexistent) I noticed books I probably wouldn’t have otherwise noticed or bought.  I thought this was a really fantastic novel.  Like a lot of great science fiction (and time travel stories especially) the sci-fi aspect is secondary to real story.  There were some very touching characterizations and moments.  But I wouldn’t dare call it revelatory.