Category: television

RACCOONS IN THE NEWS: He Sits on the Porcelain Throne

36B589C8America’s Funniest Videos spotlighted a video of a potty trained raccoon during their Christmas edition.  Wow, America’s Funniest Videos is still around?  When I was a kid, it was called America’s Funniest Home Videos and it was hosted by Bob Saget.  You know, while he was capitalizing on being a major star in the hit series, Full House.  I’m so sorry that my generation loosed that horror upon the world.  I know, the people who made the show were from a generation or two before me, but we’re the idiots who watched that drivel.  It’s a good thing television has come so far from those horrifying days of TGIF programming block.  Sometimes, when I’m all alone and there’s nothing to distract me from my darkest thoughts, I can still hear the bone chilling laugh of Steve Urkel echoing deep in the recesses of my brain.

Video Source: Potty-trained Raccoon @ YouTube

Hey, Astronomy Guy! I’m calling you out!

Internet Falls for Fake Neil deGrasse Tyson Quote @ Mashable
Internet Falls for Fake Neil deGrasse Tyson Quote    @ Mashable

Hey, Neil deGrasse Tyson. Yeah, you, the dude hosting the revitalization of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. I’ve got a bone to pick with you! You remember how a couple of years back you gave director James Cameron (he wrote and directed Aliens, hands down the most kick ass action flick ever … also a couple of billion dollar earning blockbusters) crap for not having the correct star field in the background of one of the most emotional, and pivotal moments in his film Titanic (holy crap, they’ve updated that site? At least it’s not another Space Jam.)   So tell me, Mr. Inaccuracy-Ruins-the-Experience, why is it that in the premier episode of Cosmos, which aired last night and pulled in boffo ratings (congratulations,) we’re shown a wholly inaccurate representation of the asteroid belt?

Yeah, while you’re on your spaceship of the mind (which looks kind of like Boba Fett’s Slave I mixed with the craft from Flight of the Navigator) tooling around the solar system  you (the imaginary you) go through the belt, shown in a typically (for movies) crowded fashion, forcing the blinged out craft to weave between mountain-sized rocks (more like listing lazily to the left.)  But you know as well as I do that the asteroid belt isn’t like that! It’s actually kind of empty.  The Cassini space probe didn’t need somebody at a joystick to control maneuvering rockets for a series of high speed, nail biting turns to get it navigate through the belt.  It just passed right on through.  So why is this purportedly educational production so inaccurate, huh?  I would expect better from someone who expects better from someone who was making a stupid romance movie (Aliens is so much better than Titanic.)

LIES!! LIES!!
LIES!! LIES!!

Poetry is the Strongest Encryption

I had a weird experience recently.  

I read Homer’s The Odyssey (sequel to The Iliad) as translated by Alexander Pope.  This isn’t the sort of thing one normally reads unless it’s been assigned to them for class (which never happened to me.) I felt compelled to experience this classic work of fiction because every time I’ve complained about the use (and abuse) of in media res openings in many TV shows and movies these days there would invariably be some pseudo-intellectual who would bring up the fact that the classic, The Odyssey, employed this convention.  I never understood their reason for pointing out such a fact; because they were unwilling (or unable) to expand on their argument–and it was always made in argument to my complaint–I’m forced to conclude they were insisting that because it was used in The Odyssey, a classic, all uses of it must be a classic. Or they were so eager to interject a factoid they knew that was related that they didn’t care if it actually affected the discussion.

After reading this massive poem (and I was surprised to find it was a poem; I’d always known it was described as an epic poem but I thought it was a poem along the lines of Shakespeare’s poetry which didn’t rhyme most of the time but was based on rhythm) I am forced to conclude that I have no idea what I read.  Really.  Hundred’s of pages and I couldn’t begin to tell you what happened.  The only reason I had any semblance of an understanding of the plot was because at the beginning of each section there was a paragraph synopsis of what was about to happen.  Otherwise the whole thing was just a meaningless jumble of words.  Something about the poetic structure prevented me from grasping who the characters were (barely referred to by name) or what they were doing.  The last time this happened was when I read The Shapes of Their Hearts by Melissa Scott, which ended up being so engaging that I read it quickly, but could barely remember any of the characters or cared about what they were doing.

Maybe I just didn’t care about The Odyssey? That can’t be possible: it’s a classic!

A Slave to Format

817313-lion_o_vs_he_manWhile my efforts to find a job in Denver have mostly gone unsuccessful, I’ve at least been able to keep busy far less valuable endeavors.  Like writing.

The current project I’m working on is one I began about ten years ago, as a fan fiction.  (Hangs head in shame.)  You see there was this really great action figure line out at the time called Xevoz, which was a product of Hasbro.  It was fully expected that the toy line would get the full multimedia push, there was a web-based game upon its release, in order to maximize potential sales.  So of course the fans engaged in conjecture about what the storyline for the anticipated animated television series would be.  I was among them.  I went into a bit more detail than most, though, and ended up outlining a three season story arc on whatever defunct forum we gathered on.

Alas, the toy line was not terribly successful and the show never materialized.  Still, I had grown very attached to the story I’d come up with and never stopped developing it.  The first issue was to “divorce” it from its source material; not a terribly difficult task since I had neglected to include the most iconic aspect of the toy line, dubbed “xevolving,” which allowed toys’ parts to be swapped out (via Stikfas‘s ball-and-socket joint system, which they’d licensed to Hasbro for the toy line) into my story.  Once that was discarded you basically had just a bog standard fantasy adventure series populated by colorful characters.

So I’ve been writing a bog standard adventure series populated by colorful characters.

However I felt the need to really borrow from the iconic programs in this genre that I’d grown up with.  Even though my story is not a fan fiction anymore, it still took inspiration from a toy line the same way that programs like He Man and the Masters of the Universe or Thundercats did.  It was actually interesting how, once I realized I was working from them as a template, I started trying to make things fit it properly.

Such as …

1. A Team of Heroes: It’s not just He-Man, but also and the Masters of the Universe.  There wasn’t only Lion-O, so it’s the Thundercats.  Really, I would struggle to think of any of the 80’s & 90’s kids’ adventure shows that weren’t about teams of heroes.  From The Real Ghostbusters to Sonic the Hedgehog there was always a strong emphasis on a team.  Sure, in the 90’s we also had Batman and Superman cartoons, those heroes usually work alone (Batman has his cast of allies, but they’re more guest appearances than intrinsic parts of the show), but they also predate the 80’s and 90’s by a wide margin and so already had their format set.  Heck, Sonic had a gang of side-characters made up specifically for his Saturday Morning show, since the video games were largely solitary affairs.

2. But Still a Main Character, Who is a Reluctant Hero: This one has a lot of exceptions to it.  Still, it’s present in the most well-known examples of this era. Prince Adam/He-Man didn’t set out to be a hero.  He was just some prince (with a fabulous pageboy haircut) who had the power to transform into He-Man bestowed on him by the Sorceress of Castle Grayskull, who did this because of prophecies or something.  It’s never really established whether this was a life he wanted, but he certainly took to it.  Then there’s Lion-O from Thundercats, who fans might recall ended up the buff leader of his ragtag band of survivors by accident.  A glitch in his hibernation chamber made him age to an adult form prematurely, but fortunately that was just what was needed to combat the evil of Mumm-Ra.  The heroes in Dungeons & Dragons were waylaid into the fantasy world, and their only desire is to find their way home.  These aren’t the typical RPG band of adventurers who set out in the name of wealth and glory.  In Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, the hero is just some kid who is given half a magic root and needs to use it to stop evil.

As I said, though, there are many exceptions to this.  The Real Ghostbusters is a group of grown men going into a business (although since this is based on a previous movie, and not a toyline, this may not count.)  BraveStarr is a marshall, who presumably picked the career of lawman on his own.  The Silverhawks apparently chose to be “part metal” and “part real” for the sake of fighting (interstellar) crime.   The G.I. Joe soldiers weren’t conscripted, they volunteered.

This post is too long.

Dexter 10/1/2006 – 12/13/2009 R.I.P.

I know what you’re thinking “what do you mean 2009? Didn’t Dexter just have its series finale last Sunday?”  Yes, it did, but any fan of the series will admit that ever since the season 4 finale, the end date I’ve noted, the show really hasn’t been worth watching.  Even then, season three–which featured Jimmy Smits–wasn’t all that good.

It wouldn’t be hard to find the fans’ ire over the series finale we received, but it was little more than the culmination of several years worth of increasingly disappointing television given the strong start the series had. 

There’s spoilers below.  But who cares at this point? 

Curiously, many of the failings were things that are sometimes lauded by audiences.  For instance:

  1. A Change in Format: Many people complain if a show seems to fall into a formula.  They complain about it being the same thing week in and week out.  A big hit to the quality of the program came from trying to trying to find this variety, whether or not straying from the norm was intentional.  In the first few seasons, the audience could expect some consistency in that about every week Dexter would find some random serial killer he’d need to identify, hunt, and then kill and there was a villain who would be recurring throughout the season, although they wouldn’t necessarily be identifiable as the villain at the start (such as season 2’s Lila West or 3’s Miguel Prado.)  In season five, we were introduced to a collection of main villains (creatively known as “The Group,”) lead by Jordan Chase, who made up almost all of Dexter’s targets for the season.  This became a problem as it meant we no longer had an interplay between the overarching season plot and the weekly kills but rather a unification of them.  It resulted in things feeling very dragged out.  In fact, there’s an almost season-long subplot involving the character Cira Manzon–who never appeared again, regrettably, because the actress was pretty hot–which had an exceptionally tenuous connection to Dexter’s plot.  Which kind of sums up the role of Dexter’s coworkers in Miami metro for the rest of the series; because the show felt the need to begin tying most of his kills to the season-long plot, which necessarily revolved around Dexter (being the title character and all), and he needed to keep his shenanigans somewhat separate from his job, it meant their roles were mostly superfluous.  Which leads us to the second major problem.
  2. Side Characters:  When they were just amusing asides to Dexter’s work (killing) in the first couple of seasons, Dexter’s host of side characters (basically anyone besides his sister or wife) were tolerable.  After a while, though, they became insufferable diversions.  What was worse was that the writers didn’t even care enough to bother trying to convince the audience that they should care! Throughout seasons five and six the audience endured the courtship and break up of María LaGuerta and Angel Batista, but since it had almost no impact on Dexter we were left wondering why we should care.  During this time we see how LaGuerta caused Deputy Chief Thomas Matthews to resign from the force in disgrace … yet at the start of season eight he was back in charge of Miami Metro without explanation.  In season eight there was an inane subplot involving Vince Masuka and his daughter that had nothing to do with the main plot.  And then there was basically anything that ever had to do with Joey Quinn.  When the show stopped focusing on Dexter learning about potential victims through his work with the police force, the police force became superfluous!
  3. Character Arc: There’s the famous dichotomy of a plot-based vs. character-based story.  Dexter always had an internal struggle in regards to his “cover” life (his affection Rita in the first couple of seasons) and whether he wanted it to be his real life or just the facade.  This whole storyline came to a head in season four when Dexter dealt with Arthur Mitchel, the Trinity Killer (amazingly well played by John Lithgow), who appeared to be successfully live both lives (but that achievement fell apart under examination, as Dexter learned.)  If Dexter was going to reach an epiphany about leading a dual life, it should have occurred in this season.  And it might have, however the death of his wife in the finale probably cast that choice into doubt.  Unfortunately, this meant that for the following four seasons the audience had to put up with the continuing back and forth of Dexter trying to choose between being a serial or giving it up.  It wasn’t character development, it was just a stalled character and that monotony tainted the rest of the series.

So yeah, it really can’t come as a surprise that the series finale was terrible.  It was just the culmination of a program that lasted four seasons too long.