Saturday, April 29, 2006

So Say We Al-riiiiiiight!

A long time ago... Richard Hatch campaigned long and hard to resurrect Battlestar Galactica. He didn’t quite pull it off, but in 2004 the SciFi Channel did... and I can assure you, the gamble paid off. If you haven't seen Battlestar Galactica, you're just really a sad little person, aren't you? Rent the DVDs, and watch the third season this October... but be warned: this isn't your father's Battlestar, kids... it's much, much more.

I loved the original series. It was juvenile and tacky, and it couldn't have been better if Lee Majors had played Adama. The fearsome Cylons were clearly men in costumes (I never understood their little miniskirts), and the men in suits behind the scenes went mano a mano with George Lucas, who sued Glen A. Larson and Universal, claiming that the series ripped off his mighty Star Wars. It was gaudy, under-funded, beleagured crap... but damned if I wasn't there every Sunday night to watch it.

This new edition, though... holy shit. It's the stuff of geek boy dreams. For those of you tuning in late, the basic premise remains. A manmade “race” of cybernetic machines -the Cylons- rebelled decades ago. An uneasy truce existed for years between the humans and the Cylons until in one devastating, coordinated attack, humankind is nearly destroyed. The survivors, about fifty thousand from the billions that lived among the twelve colonies, flee. The only surviving battlestar, a class of vast interstellar warship, is the Galactica. It was about to be decommissioned. Its systems intentionally retro to avoid the cybernetic viruses that could infect the complex network of computers found on the more contemporary battlestars, it was deemed beyond obsolete. Ironically, its technological regression is pivotal in its survival. With the Galactica leading a ragtag fleet of interstellar vessels of all kinds, humankind makes a run for it, the Cylons a perpetual threat. Their destination is the legendary thirteenth colony, Earth. Vague scripture holds the keys to the planet’s possible location. This series, like it's predecessor, is all about faith.

The Galactica is commanded by William Adama (the ever-fomenting Edward James Olmos); the surviving ranking officer, he becomes the ostensive head of what's left of the military. Secretary of Education Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell, not playing a Native American or a worn-out hooker this time) is the only surviving cabinet officer and so assumes the role of President. They will not always agree on a course of action, but they will find a common ground (if only metaphorically).

The new series creators got a lot of flack for taking some risks, recasting two notably male roles with -gasp!- women: Lt. Kara “Starbuck” Thrace (Katee Sackhoff) and Lt. Sharon “Boomer” Valerii (Grace Park). Capt. Lee “Apollo” Adama (Jamie Bamber) remains the ranking combat pilot, so the fans wouldn't get their panties too twisted. The series creators make some other interesting choices, as well. The Galactica Executive Officer, Col. Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan), is an alcoholic, fighting demons that include a harpy wife and a profound lack of testoserone. And Dr. Gaius Baltar (James Callis) is not the overt, bathrobe-wearing traitor found in the original series, but a narcissistic egocentric who betrays mankind for sex. Ah, sex ... yes, here’s where we find our most interesting new development.

The Cylons had not been idle during all those decades of isolation. They excelled at bioengineering, creating biological entities that are virtually indistinguishable from humans. And the loveliest and most seductive model, Number 6 (Tricia Helfer), has taken such complete control of Baltar, that he’s become delusional, having encounters with Number 6 that only he can experience. So as he flees with the rest of humankind, he has company: the illusion of Number 6.

What really sets this series apart from both its genesis and almost every other science fiction series produced for television is that this is not a science fiction story inhabited by humans and aliens. Instead, this is high drama with complex characters stressed to their limits, facing annihilation, battling a superior foe, and struggling to survive, all set within a dirty, futuristic background. Science fiction is ever-present, but the humanity and conflicts take precedence. The characters react to stress believably. Political conflict internal to the fleet is no less a threat than the Cylons. And there is the unrelenting risk that undetected Cylons are among the humans. Like the 9/11 terrorists who hid in plain sight, these sleeper Cylons strike without warning and inflict great harm.

And maybe more than any other science fiction series produced for television, there seems to be a genuine effort to portray a realistic environment. Ships need repair and maintenance. Fuel is an issue. People need water and sleep. This is a gritty environment that smacks of authenticity. Check out the cinematography. It's intentionally rough, with many handheld shots that evoke a feeling of documentary. Even the style of the CGI special effects add to the realism. Watch the Vipers maneuver with reaction jets, precisely how they would have to in the vacuum of space, and tell me you're not watching a live newsfeed of the battle as it rages on....

I expected nothing from Battlestar Galactica. What I got was quite simply the best show on TV... and now? Now I'm expecting nothing but the same from this:


Unprecedented Commitment to Original Programming With Top Tier Creative Talent Including Jesse Alexander, Freddie Prinze Jr., Eric McCormack

NEW YORK SCI FI Channel's Mark Stern, EVP, Original Programming, announced today an aggressive slate of original scripted dramas, miniseries, alternative reality and late night series for the Channel. Already established as an industry leader with highly acclaimed and award-winning shows such as 'Battlestar Galactica,' SCI FI Channel's latest slate of high profile projects showcases top industry luminaries and offers imaginative, broad appeal entertainment.

Scripted Series


From executive producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick ('Battlestar Galactica'), writer Remi Aubuchon ('24') and NBC Universal Television Studio, this new series is set over a half a century before the events that play out in 'Battlestar Galactica.' The people of the Twelve Colonies are at peace and living in a society not unlike our own, but where high-technology has changed the lives of virtually everyone for the better. But a startling breakthrough in robotics is about to occur, one that will bring to life the age-old dream of marrying artificial intelligence with a mechanical body to create the first living robot - a Cylon. Following the lives of two families, the Graystones and the Adamas (the family of William Adama, who will one day become the commander of the 'Battlestar Galactica') 'Caprica' weaves corporate intrigue, techno-action and sexual politics into television's first science fiction family saga.

So say we all.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Obi Wan never told you what happened to your uncle....

I know, fake "Spidey in the black suit" pics are a dime a dozen these days... but this still looks pretty friggin' cool. Want more Spider-Man 3 tidbits? Click here. Or here. Then go outside... seriously, you could use some sun.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Monday, April 24, 2006

Sometimes You've Gotta' Say...

I'm still reeling from this, but here goes:

It seems that Tom Cruise isn't the linguistic expert he claims to be.

Despite telling everybody Suri means "princess" in Hebrew, Hebrew linguists have confirmed that it doesn't.

Suri has only two meanings - one is a person from Syria and the other "go away" when addressed to a female. Hebrew expert Jonathan Went says, "I think it's fair to say they have made a mistake here. There are variations of the way the Hebrew name for princess is spelt but I have never seen it this way." Suri can also be translated into a Hindi boy's name, and it also means "pointy nose" in some Indian dialects and "pickpocket" in Japanese.

The crazy bastard named his daughter "pointy nosed pickpocket." I take back whatever I said about Tom Cruise, because only a genius of maniacal proportions could come up with that. I just wonder how he's gonna top it. He's gonna have to name his next kid "degenerate puppy killer" or something. Oh, like you think he won't.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

"His Gun Is Deadly? Mine's In A Cookie Jar."

James Garner is the man.

He's been called our finest television actor; he's been compared more than once to Cary Grant, but also deemed "dependably folksy." He patented the persona of the reluctant hero as his own early in his career, but also exhibited an understated flair for drama that has only deepened with age. He was a TV star, a movie star, and was never, ever married to Mariette Hartley.

Sure, he was
Maverick, and the Man of the People... and of course he was Jim-Fuckin'-Rockford... but in the late-70's? James Garner was my hero.

The Great Escape, Grand Prix and The Rockford Files, he showed me there are all sorts of heroes... and they don't all wear cool -if ill-advised- capes. Some of 'em are caustic, and cautious, and would do anything to avoid a fight... some of them are Raymond Chandler characters, I guess is what I learned... but I learned that from James -"You can never wear your pants too high"- Garner, not some pasty-faced grade school teacher, tell you what.

See, he really is a man of the people. He's that everyguy we all hope to be (guys, anyway... I can only speak for my gender, and then only when we're not talking about baseball or strip clubs. I just can't figure that crap out): smart, resourceful, and always there when you need him. He may not be able to fly, but if it'll get some thug to drop the gun and let her go? You better believe he'll convince anyone within earshot that not only can he fly, but that it bores him.

I know, I know... you have to separate the artist from the art. But come on... the art didn't fall all that far from the tree here, kids. I mean, just look at him:
like many of Hollywood's greatest actors, he tends to play an extension of himself... like, oh... Jimmy Stewart, Spencer Tracy, Cary Grant, and his mentor, Henry Fonda. Like them, we love him because of his ability to exploit his own personality in creating a part.

Jean Vallely once did an article on him for Esquire. He wrote that other "great" actors can't really touch James Garner. He said that Robert DeNiro, for instance, is probably unsuited to television stardom... honestly, do you want that guy in your living room? "On the other hand," Vallely wrote, "you love having Garner around. He becomes part of the fabric of the family. You really care about him." Where Bobby DeNiro impresses us with his skill, James Garner welcomes us with his humanity.

Someone once asked him how he wanted to be remembered. He cooly replied, "With a smile." Well, like a fistfight every episode, or a short con no one sees coming, I think it's safe to say he can count on that.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"Alright, without going into too much detail, here's the situation:
I am TFing in my boxers, and sitting on a chair that has slightly spaced out planks. Suffice to say that part of me is now lodged, and any attempt to move just pinches the crap out of me.
Can't move, need advice, soonish.

Oh god it hurts."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I Remain Speechless

The Story of an Eyewitness
By Jack London, Collier's Special Correspondent
(First published in Collier's, May 5, 1906)

Upon receipt of the first news of the earthquake, Collier's telegraphed to Mr. Jack London-who lives only forty miles from San Francisco-requesting him to go to the scene of the disaster and write the story of what he saw. Mr. London started at once, and he sent the following dramatic description of the tragic events he witnessed in the burning city.

THE earthquake shook down in San Francisco hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of walls and chimneys. But the conflagration that followed burned up hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of property There is no estimating within hundreds of millions the actual damage wrought. Not in history has a modern imperial city been so completely destroyed. San Francisco is gone. Nothing remains of it but memories and a fringe of dwelling-houses on its outskirts. Its industrial section is wiped out. Its business section is wiped out. Its social and residential section is wiped out. The factories and warehouses, the great stores and newspaper buildings, the hotels and the palaces of the nabobs, are all gone. Remains only the fringe of dwelling houses on the outskirts of what was once San Francisco.

Within an hour after the earthquake shock the smoke of San Francisco's burning was a lurid tower visible a hundred miles away. And for three days and nights this lurid tower swayed in the sky, reddening the sun, darkening the day, and filling the land with smoke.

On Wednesday morning at a quarter past five came the earthquake. A minute later the flames were leaping upward In a dozen different quarters south of Market Street, in the working-class ghetto, and in the factories, fires started. There was no opposing the flames. There was no organization, no communication. All the cunning adjustments of a twentieth century city had been smashed by the earthquake. The streets were humped into ridges and depressions, and piled with the debris of fallen walls. The steel rails were twisted into perpendicular and horizontal angles. The telephone and telegraph systems were disrupted. And the great water-mains had burst. All the shrewd contrivances and safeguards of man had been thrown out of gear by thirty seconds' twitching of the earth-crust.

The Fire Made its Own Draft

By Wednesday afternoon, inside of twelve hours, half the heart of the city was gone. At that time I watched the vast conflagration from out on the bay. It was dead calm. Not a flicker of wind stirred. Yet from every side wind was pouring in upon the city. East, west, north, and south, strong winds were blowing upon the doomed city. The heated air rising made an enormous suck. Thus did the fire of itself build its own colossal chimney through the atmosphere. Day and night this dead calm continued, and yet, near to the flames, the wind was often half a gale, so mighty was the suck.

Wednesday night saw the destruction of the very heart of the city. Dynamite was lavishly used, and many of San Francisco proudest structures were crumbled by man himself into ruins, but there was no withstanding the onrush of the flames. Time and again successful stands were made by the fire-fighters, and every time the flames flanked around on either side or came up from the rear, and turned to defeat the hard-won victory.

An enumeration of the buildings destroyed would be a directory of San Francisco. An enumeration of the buildings undestroyed would be a line and several addresses. An enumeration of the deeds of heroism would stock a library and bankrupt the Carnegie medal fund. An enumeration of the dead-will never be made. All vestiges of them were destroyed by the flames. The number of the victims of the earthquake will never be known. South of Market Street, where the loss of life was particularly heavy, was the first to catch fire.

Remarkable as it may seem, Wednesday night while the whole city crashed and roared into ruin, was a quiet night. There were no crowds. There was no shouting and yelling. There was no hysteria, no disorder. I passed Wednesday night in the path of the advancing flames, and in all those terrible hours I saw not one woman who wept, not one man who was excited, not one person who was in the slightest degree panic stricken.

Before the flames, throughout the night, fled tens of thousands of homeless ones. Some were wrapped in blankets. Others carried bundles of bedding and dear household treasures. Sometimes a whole family was harnessed to a carriage or delivery wagon that was weighted down with their possessions. Baby buggies, toy wagons, and go-carts were used as trucks, while every other person was dragging a trunk. Yet everybody was gracious. The most perfect courtesy obtained. Never in all San Francisco's history, were her people so kind and courteous as on this night of terror.

A Caravan of Trunks

All night these tens of thousands fled before the flames. Many of them, the poor people from the labor ghetto, had fled all day as well. They had left their homes burdened with possessions. Now and again they lightened up, flinging out upon the street clothing and treasures they had dragged for miles.

They held on longest to their trunks, and over these trunks many a strong man broke his heart that night. The hills of San Francisco are steep, and up these hills, mile after mile, were the trunks dragged. Everywhere were trunks with across them lying their exhausted owners, men and women. Before the march of the flames were flung picket lines of soldiers. And a block at a time, as the flames advanced, these pickets retreated. One of their tasks was to keep the trunk-pullers moving. The exhausted creatures, stirred on by the menace of bayonets, would arise and struggle up the steep pavements, pausing from weakness every five or ten feet.

Often, after surmounting a heart-breaking hill. they would find another wall of flame advancing upon them at right angles and be compelled to change anew the line of their retreat. In the end, completely played out, after toiling for a dozen hours like giants, thousands of them were compelled to abandon their trunks. Here the shopkeepers and soft members of the middle class were at a disadvantage. But the working-men dug holes in vacant lots and backyards and buried their trunks.

The Doomed City

At nine o'clock Wednesday evening I walked down through the very heart of the city. I walked through miles and miles of magnificent buildings and towering skyscrapers. Here was no fire. All was in perfect order. The police patrolled the streets. Every building had its watchman at the door. And yet it was doomed, all of it. There was no water. The dynamite was giving out. And at right angles two different conflagrations were sweeping down upon it.

At one o'clock in the morning I walked down through the same section Everything still stood intact. There was no fire. And yet there was a change. A rain of ashes was falling. The watchmen at the doors were gone. The police had been withdrawn. There were no firemen, no fire-engines, no men fighting with dynamite. The district had been absolutely abandoned. I stood at the corner of Kearney and Market, in the very innermost heart of San Francisco. Kearny Street was deserted. Half a dozen blocks away it was burning on both sides. The street was a wall of flame. And against this wall of flame, silhouetted sharply, were two United States cavalrymen sitting their horses, calming watching. That was all. Not another person was in sight. In the intact heart of the city two troopers sat their horses and watched.

Spread of the Conflagration

Surrender was complete. There was no water. The sewers had long since been pumped dry. There was no dynamite. Another fire had broken out further uptown, and now from three sides conflagrations were sweeping down. The fourth side had been burned earlier in the day. In that direction stood the tottering walls of the Examiner building, the burned-out Call building, the smoldering ruins of the Grand Hotel, and the gutted, devastated, dynamited Palace Hotel

The following will illustrate the sweep of the flames and the inability of men to calculate their spread. At eight o'clock Wednesday evening I passed through Union Square. It was packed with refugees. Thousands of them had gone to bed on the grass. Government tents had been set up, supper was being cooked, and the refugees were lining up for free meals

At half past one in the morning three sides of Union Square were in flames. The fourth side, where stood the great St. Francis Hotel was still holding out. An hour later, ignited from top and sides the St. Francis was flaming heavenward. Union Square, heaped high with mountains of trunks, was deserted. Troops, refugees, and all had retreated.

A Fortune for a Horse!

It was at Union Square that I saw a man offering a thousand dollars for a team of horses. He was in charge of a truck piled high with trunks from some hotel. It had been hauled here into what was considered safety, and the horses had been taken out. The flames were on three sides of the Square and there were no horses.

Also, at this time, standing beside the truck, I urged a man to seek safety in flight. He was all but hemmed in by several conflagrations. He was an old man and he Was on crutches. Said he: "Today is my birthday. Last night I was worth thirty thousand dollars. I bought five bottles of wine, some delicate fish and other things for my birthday dinner. I have had no dinner, and all I own are these crutches."

I convinced him of his danger and started him limping on his way. An hour later, from a distance, I saw the truck-load of trunks burning merrily in the middle of the street.

On Thursday morning at a quarter past five, just twenty-four hours after the earthquake, I sat on the steps of a small residence on Nob Hill. With me sat Japanese, Italians, Chinese, and negroes--a bit of the cosmopolitan flotsam of the wreck of the city. All about were the palaces of the nabob pioneers of Forty-nine. To the east and south at right angles, were advancing two mighty walls of flame

I went inside with the owner of the house on the steps of which I sat. He was cool and cheerful and hospitable. "Yesterday morning," he said, "I was worth six hundred thousand dollars. This morning this house is all I have left. It will go in fifteen minutes. He pointed to a large cabinet. "That is my wife's collection of china. This rug upon which we stand is a present. It cost fifteen hundred dollars. Try that piano. Listen to its tone. There are few like it. There are no horses. The flames will be here in fifteen minutes.''

Outside the old Mark Hopkins residence a palace was just catching fire. The troops were falling back and driving the refugees before them. From every side came the roaring of flames, the crashing of walls, and the detonations of dynamite

The Dawn of the Second Day

I passed out of the house. Day was trying to dawn through the smoke-pall. A sickly light was creeping over the face of things. Once only the sun broke through the smoke-pall, blood-red, and showing quarter its usual size. The smoke-pall itself, viewed from beneath, was a rose color that pulsed and fluttered with lavender shades Then it turned to mauve and yellow and dun. There was no sun. And so dawned the second day on stricken San Francisco.

An hour later I was creeping past the shattered dome of the City Hall. Than it there was no better exhibit of the destructive force of the earthquake. Most of the stone had been shaken from the great dome, leaving standing the naked framework of steel. Market Street was piled high with the wreckage, and across the wreckage lay the overthrown pillars of the City Hall shattered into short crosswise sections.

This section of the city with the exception of the Mint and the Post-Office, was already a waste of smoking ruins. Here and there through the smoke, creeping warily under the shadows of tottering walls, emerged occasional men and women. It was like the meeting of the handful of survivors after the day of the end of the world.

Beeves Slaughtered and Roasted

On Mission Street lay a dozen steers, in a neat row stretching across the street just as they had been struck down by the flying ruins of the earthquake. The fire had passed through afterward and roasted them. The human dead had been carried away before the fire came. At another place on Mission Street I saw a milk wagon. A steel telegraph pole had smashed down sheer through the driver's seat and crushed the front wheels. The milk cans lay scattered around.

All day Thursday and all Thursday night, all day Friday and Friday night, the flames still raged on.

Friday night saw the flames finally conquered. through not until Russian Hill and Telegraph Hill had been swept and three-quarters of a mile of wharves and docks had been licked up.

The Last Stand

The great stand of the fire-fighters was made Thursday night on Van Ness Avenue. Had they failed here, the comparatively few remaining houses of the city would have been swept. Here were the magnificent residences of the second generation of San Francisco nabobs, and these, in a solid zone, were dynamited down across the path of the fire. Here and there the flames leaped the zone, but these fires were beaten out, principally by the use of wet blankets and rugs.

San Francisco, at the present time, is like the crater of a volcano, around which are camped tens of thousands of refugees At the Presidio alone are at least twenty thousand. All the surrounding cities and towns are jammed with the homeless ones, where they are being cared for by the relief committees. The refugees were carried free by the railroads to any point they wished to go, and it is estimated that over one hundred thousand people have left the peninsula on which San Francisco stood. The Government has the situation in hand, and, thanks to the immediate relief given by the whole United States, there is not the slightest possibility of a famine. The bankers and business men hare already set about making preparations to rebuild San Francisco.