Babylon 5 on Amazon Prime–Woot!

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 3041 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

0.  Zero. Nada. Zilch. That’s my level of production since Tuesday of next week.  What happened?  Bad day on Wednesday and a realization that I’m still not focusing on enough on characters when I sit down to “plot” out my stories.  To be fair, school and reading for school interrupted as well as I should write after class (about 4:15), but usually end up spending the time in the sun outside watching YouTube videos instead.  

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novel, Stormlight Archive Book 3)
  • For School:
    Rhetoric in the European Tradition by Thomas Conley (A Book on the History of Rhetoric)
    Rereading the Sophists: Another book on the history of Rhetoric
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

I wanted to read Oathbringer over the summer break before classes started again, but BS said that it might be helpful to read a Novella entitled, Edgedancer, before starting on Oathbringer.  I finally found a copy at MTSU’s library and I’m reading it now.  X gives a history of Rhetoric.  Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Game Mode On (What I’m Playing); Updated Weekly (Mondays)

  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands (Ubisoft Multi-platform): Open World, Third Person Tactical Shooter–About ¾th of the way through.  Special Ops/Military combat in a fictional Bolivia taken over by a Mexican drug cartel.  Difficulty is auto-leveling to its hardest difficulty (Tier One status) and it is slowing down my progress in the game as enemies take more hits to die, but you take far fewer hits to die.  Difficulty is currently set to ADVANCED–the game’s doing, not mine.  Very irksome when all you want to do is finish the game.
  • Until Dawn (Sony PS4 Exclusive): Third Person, Horror– branching storyline game that features a variety of choices that affect the outcome of the story using a system call the “Butterfly Effect.”  As I’m writing this, I haven’t put any time into this game as of this weekend because of E3.

I’m So Excited, I Just Can’t Hide It

A few readers will know that late last year I started Season 1 of Babylon 5 even though I knew the ending series.  Like I said in that post, I only got to see the first season and the latter part of the last season.  I didn’t really get a chance to see how the characters and story got where they were at the end of the show.  As a poor student, I didn’t have a chance to get the second season (although I was planning on doing so in the fairly near future).  However, after logging into Amazon Prime last night, I discovered that ALL five seasons of Babylon 5 are on the streaming service!  Yes!  I watched Season 2, Episode 1 last night, and would watch Episode 2 tonight if not for E3 coverage of Bethesda’s Press Conference tonight.  Unfortunately, school is back in session next week, so no binging the show for me, but I will try to check out 1-2 episodes every weekend and post a Season Review at the end of each season that I see.

What Amazon Gives, It also Takes Away

So, just like any streaming service, as new titles come on the service, old titles go away.  I have quite a few shows that I had on my Watchlist that are no longer free (including another “starship show” Firefly.  I’m going to have to purchase that series it looks like, but as it is only one season and the episodes appear to be .99 at iTunes, it should be okay.  I just wish that when series are scheduled to go away (on all services), that a little countdown timer would start in the bottom right hand corner with the months/days/minutes until the series were going away.  I would prioritize my viewing to those series that I really wanted to watch before they “disappeared.”  I often experience “Media Overload” where I can’t decide what I want to watch because there are so many choices, so I end up watching nothing (or only pieces of a show because it isn’t what I really want to watch).  A timer on shows that are ending at the end of the month (or maybe as far out as up to 3 months would help me in those cases.

But I’ll Take It

Still, I’m grateful as it saves me approximately $80 (19.99 for 4 seasons).  Having already paid approximately $110 for Amazon Prime when it renewed in March (for me), I wondered if it was a sound investment considering my status as a “poor” college student these days, I find that it has almost earned back the value that I spent on it with this one series alone.  If they get another good sci-fi series to go along with this one later in the year, I will feel comfortable about the value of the service and will endeavor to “re-up” next year.

Well, that’s it for today!  Have a great one!

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

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Nitpicking the Future

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 113
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1084 (+599)
  • Project Independence Word Count: 1723 

I’ve got a nit to pick with Star Trek Enterprise

So, I’ve been rematching Star Trek Enterprise in these lazy two weeks before I have to start school related stuff again, and I noticed something.  In one of the episodes, there is an unexplained plot hole that (while not major), if one picks at it, it actually doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and undermines the story–and yet, this episode appeared on network TV, the collaborators (those who wrote the “story” and those who wrote the “teleplay”) were all presumably compensated for their work, and the episode continues to an important exploration into Captain Archer’s character (& Ensign Mayweather’s as well) despite the flaw.  In essence, no one “nitpicked” this episode to death and rejected it even though it does inspire disbelief.

We’ve Been “Detained”

(Spoilers Ahead–if you don’t want to know the outcome of the episode, please skip down to the next section).  The episode in question is “Detained” and it Captain Archer and Ensign Mayweather are captured and held in a detention center that also houses eighty-nine Suliban (a group of aliens who are predominately shown as antagonists for the series).  These Suliban are normal people who have been rounded up because a group of extremists within their race have attack other races.  Their only crime was being part of the same race as those in the “Cabal” (the terrorist organization).  Modern day parallels notwithstanding, it is made mention that the Sultan man (Danik) and his daughter have a wife in another internment camp (who was denied the right to join her family in the episode, so that we could see how unfair all this is to these peaceful Suliban).  It is made mention that there are thousands of these peaceful Suliban in internment camps all over the planet.  Archer and Mayweather along with the crew of the Enterprise manage to free these eighty-nine Suliban, but what about all the other Suliban in the internment camps?

So, you’re going to tell me that Danik is going to just abandon his wife?  You’re going to tell me that those other Suliban aren’t going to face reprisals for the escape of the eighty-nine, you’re going to tell me that the Enterprise just flies off and doesn’t try to help the other Suliban in the other internment camps (which is what is strongly implied), you’re going to tell me that none of these eighty-nine individuals are going to become bitter and not, at least consider, joining the Cabal for retribution on their captors/freeing the others in other internment camps (which is also strongly hinted at by Archer’s final line of dialogue)?

Picking nits

I could go on.  The point I’m trying to make is that every story, no matter how well written, will have some sort of flaw to it, if you look at it hard enough.  The point the writers were trying to make is that internment camps are bad.  They bring out the worst in humanity and that we need to oppose them wherever and whenever they rear their ugly heads and that we need to look at our prejudices and preconceived notions that allow internment camps to exist in the first place–why condemn a group for the actions of a few, the episode ultimately asks?  This is an important question–and lesson–that could have been lost if the producer (or in my case, editor) just sat around nitpicking the stories that were generated, looking for reason not to publish them, rather than seeing the best qualities of the story and looking for reasons why it should be published. Now some editors might say, “nice in theory, but I’ve got a magazine/journal/fiction website to run,” my reply would be simple: “if it worked for Star Trek . . . .

Have a great weekend!

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

What’s All the Hoopla About?

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So, I’m a little late today as I got up a bit later than normal.  I would normally do the blog either during breakfast or shortly afterwards, but today (in addition to picking up my car–yay!) I needed to reset my password to Hoopla, a service that my home public library, Chattanooga Public Library subscribes to and that I have access to by being a member.

What is Hoopla?

Hoopla is a streaming service that is more than just a traditional streaming service.  It allows you to borrow (for my institution) 10 items per month.  Notice that I said, items, not movies or TV shows.  It does have movies and television, like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.  However, it also has comics/graphic novelsebooksaudiobooks, and music (!).  I’ve used it before and really liked it.  What it lacks in terms of terms of hit releases (very few major releases), it makes up with breadth–there are a lot of good genre materials embedded within each of the categories.

Summer Hoopla

So, while I’ve got a ton of work to do over the summer, in terms of getting ready for my summer classes this summer, I’m going to try to catch up on reading some of the comics/graphic novels (& books) that I’ve put off over the school year.  They have quite a few Marvel graphic novels, Star Wars, Star Trek, and other properties (again, books and graphic novels, mostly, not so much with movies/television).  Still, now that I trying to integrate Popular Culture into my scholarship as a Pop. Culture scholar, I actually need some pop. culture to go with my scholarship.

I would encourage you to check out Hoopla if your library has a subscription.  If not, then you might want to see if your library has something similar.  It is a really useful service that I plan to investigate more over this summer.

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

The Expanse: Season 1 (Mini-Review)

A “Spaceship Show” for the Grimdark set

So, The Expanse is a “Syfy” TV show that has been billed as “Game of Thrones in Space” (it isn’t really, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have similarities.  The story is supposed to be a more mature, “realistic” look at Science Fiction.  The show is based on a series novels by James S. A. Corey, which according to a quick check on GoodReads, is up to Book 8 in the “mainline” series, although based on GR, it looks like the author has several “gap” novels that fill in various parts of the story and that exist “between” the time-period of the main story.

I’ve not read the novels, but the show is fairly standard.  It weaves three main stories together: a sci-fi noir detective story about a cop trying to find a missing young woman, a political thriller between a potential war between Earth, Mars and “Belters” (those who live & work in the Asteroid Belt), and a “spaceship show” about the survivors of The Canterbury (aka The Cant) who later become the crew of a new ship: The Rocinante (The Roci).  Each of these tales gets woven with the others, although it doesn’t happen until the later episodes (season 1 is 10 episodes long).

Too Dark, Literally & Figuratively.

Is the show any good.  Not really, not unless you like poorly explained character motivations, trite dialogue that is supposed to be edgy, and character deaths just for the sake of “shock” value (the whole “no one is safe–anyone can die at any time” motif).  The problem is that is a fairly conventional TV show masquerading as edgy.  While a few characters do die, it is nothing like what I’ve heard happens on shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, and the few deaths that occur, like most in the genre of “Grimdark,” seem mean-spirited and in poor taste.

Also, in order to go for that grimy, noir vibe, they made the filter really dark.  No, I mean really dark–the color pallet is so desaturated that, after 2-3 episodes, you’ll be reaching for your brightness controls to turn them up just to see the action.  It’s a stylistic choice, sure, but a poor one–they do it to emphasize the deficit that Belters and Mars citizens feel that they have to Earth with its open skies and open water, but it just makes the show seem really bland to me–Bladerunner (the original) did the whole “dystopian” vibe better and with more vibrancy and that was 30-40 years ago.

Oh, and as was suggested by an online review on Amazon Prime where I watched it, be sure to turn on Captions.  Not only is some of the dialogue hard to hear/understand, but the “Belters” speak (sometimes) in their own made-up dialect.  Sometimes this dialect sounds like creole and can be understood and sometimes it is completely alien words that are more like a foreign language.  Good idea in theory, but again, in practice, a poor choice.

Good actors, Poor Story

About the only things that I liked in this first season was the “spaceship scenes” and the female characters.  Anytime anyone was in a spaceship, the show was at least watchable.  Somehow, the producers, directors, and writers seem to “get” the whole spaceship, crew interactions, and space drama of the show (except for the intro “sex” scene not 5 mins into the first episode which turned me off initially–again their attempt to be “edgy,” but it just made it feel sophomoric–especially since this follows the noir section which itself seems like a pastiche of other, better dystopias).  All the other times, the show seems forced, pretentious, and decidedly not fun to watch.

really liked the female characters, however, on the show.  For some reason, these seemed like the only real characters on the show.  All of them, from the political diplomat on Earth, to the “Captain” of The Rocinante, to the “former” girlfriend/lover/partner to the noir detective, even down to the “mother” of one of the main characters (who is only in one episode for a few minutes) feel fully realized where the men seem like caricatures is many instances (for the most part–of course, there are exceptions).

Overall Score: C (73-77)

The only reason I didn’t score it lower was because I really like the female characters in the story and the acting overall by the cast.  Had I been grading just the actual material (writing, dialogue, style, plot, etc.), then it would have earned a D (63-67).

Look, I don’t like “Grimdark.”  So any story that features grimdark elements has an uphill battle for me to enjoy it, no matter its success in the mainstream.  It just isn’t what I like–not to read, not to watch, not to consume in any medium.  Will I watch Season 2 which is available on Prime right now?  Yes, probably.  Will I watch it immediately?  No, I’m good for now.  I might pick it back up later this summer, but I think I’ll move on to another “spaceship show” if I can find one.   Will I read the books?  Most assuredly not.  Like Game of Thrones, this one is for a different audience than me–and that’s okay.

As a writer myself, however, I just wished it worked the other way around.  Fair’s fair, after all.

 

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

Potpourri May 2018

potpourri_wikihow

So this (short) post is just a little bit about everything that I’m currently doing right now.

  • Watching The Expanse: I’m not really feeling the show all that much, but I need a “spaceship” show at the moment to get me through Final Exam week and help me as I get my car repaired.  Will probably do a mini-review of it after I watch all the seasons (there are 3 total, but only seasons 1 & 2 are currently “free” on Streaming via Amazon Prime.
  • Project Poet (Rough Draft): Two-Thirds (⅔) way complete.  Not really happy with the way it is turning out, but then again, I guess that’s what rough drafts are for.  There’s no magic in this one, so it doesn’t really seem like a Fantasy story, but it is one that I really like the idea for.  I may have to find a way to add in a “magic system,” however, because it seems really slow and boring otherwise.
  • Recently Watched Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets: I’m putting this one on the list to remind myself that I need to do a mini-review of this movie as I saw it about 2 weeks ago.  I didn’t much care for The Fifth Element (never actually managed to ever get through the whole movie), but I thought this might actually win me over.  Spoilers for the mini-review: it didn’t. 🙂
  • The trailer for Ant-Man and the Wasp has just been released.  Now this is a Marvel movie that I think I can get behind this summer.  It looks really fun!  And best of all, NO SPOILERS ANYWHERE IN SIGHT!  🙂  🙂

 

  • Finished the OUTLINES for two (2) new Projects: Project Paradise and Project Independence:  I finished the plot outlines for two new stories.  Both are science-fiction stories that I’m really excited about writing over the summer.  More on these projects as when I finish the Rough Drafts for them.

Well, that’s all I have for right now as I need to work on finishing several small school-related projects.  Talk to you later!

Sidney




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I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

Mini-Review: Netflix’s Lost in Space

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Image of Netflix’s Lost in Space, Robot and Will Robinson, Penny and Judy Robinson.  Image Source: Film Daily

A Great Start

So, last week I finished watching Season 1 of Netflix’s Lost in Space, a 10 Episode Science Fiction show reboot of the original 1960s show and the 1990s movie version and I have to say that I really enjoyed it!  I watched it a 2nd time over this weekend in lieu of Avengers Infinity War in order to help take my mind off the car trouble that I had over the weekend and it held up over a 2nd viewing.  It is classic science fiction, but unlike most modern shows (this includes pretty all genres), the science is fairly crucial to the story.  While not overblown or overbearing, the fact that the new show portrays the Robinsons as mostly a family of scientists and doctors (the father is now a marine vet. who is better at combat than at pure science–but even he has his moments), they actually use the skills and knowledge that they are supposed to have in much the same way the detectives and lawyers on Law and Order use their skills find the perpetrator of the crime and use the law to get a conviction.  This makes the show feel grounded and more realistic than other recent sci-fi shows that I like and watch.

Danger, Will Robinson

I won’t go into spoilers, but a certain robot with a certain “catch-phrase” is back and the origin is pretty unique.  The robot is central to the plot, however, so if you’re not a robot person, then you’re not going to like the show because the robot is as much the main character in the show as is Will Robinson.  Sometimes the robot is CGI and sometimes the robot is some sort of “suit.”  While the robot didn’t bother me particularly, I know from at least one YouTube review of the show that one reviewer said that when it was the “suit,” it brought her out of the experience.  I didn’t really notice it myself, so I’ll just say Your Mileage May Vary depending on your tolerance for special effects.  I know it makes a difference as, while I wasn’t born yet when the original show came on, I could never go back and watch reruns of the original show because of the dated nature of the special effects after having seen the special effects in the Star Wars and Star Trek movies.  I really liked all of the characters in the Robinson family–each was made wildly different from one another and it was easy to differentiate between them, but their skill set and knowledge-base complemented each other.  Well done to the writers on clear and effective characterization.

Dr. Smith, I Presume

So, the chief antagonist is Dr. Smith, played by Parker Posey.  Now her character is polarizing: one reviewer loves the character while another reviewer called her character a major problem for the show.  I personally liked the way she played the character.  The way the character was written and the way the story unfolded, I felt like I understood her every motivation.  Again, no spoilers, but they update Dr. Smith’s character into a “modern day” conception of a bad guy.  If there’s a problem with the character, this is where I think it lies.  I’ve said time and again that being the anti-hero doesn’t really work because at some point, the anti-hero/villain is only out for number one and will work against you when their purposes no longer align with yours, and Dr. Smith is the epitome of this philosophy.  What I think is happening is that the dislike/distaste that people feel toward the Dr. Smith character is actually their distaste for the notion that someone would be selfish enough to work against the group for their own ends so ruthlessly (which is what a villain actually does) and their transposing that distaste onto the character/actor.  Again, Your Mileage May Vary, but the “flashbacks” that show Dr. Smith’s earlier actions before crashing with the Robinson’s sufficiently explained why she acted the way she did and I always felt that I understood her motivations even if I didn’t agree with them.

Overall Score: A- (91-92)

Look, I’m not going to lie, I really liked this story.  I like that there’s a lot of science and science-based concepts in it while also retaining quite a few “science fiction” tropes that really make it interesting.  I really like that it isn’t “grim dark” and is more of a family show that kids and adults can enjoy.  I like the characters and felt that all of them (even Dr. Smith) had interesting and sufficient characterization for me to understand why they were doing what they were doing.  The only reason that I didn’t give it a solid was the fact that it did slow down in a couple of places where they were establishing the robot as a “friend” to Will and Will’s decision not to tell his father (originally) about the robot.  Not telling his father was something that seemed like the writers needing it for the plot and not organically from Will’s character because it sets up a situation later on that could have been avoided had Will told his father about it sooner.  Other than that, however, I found the story to be a fun, and interesting ride.  I’m looking forward to Season 2 (fingers crossed as I haven’t heard if it will get another season yet).

Sidney




Amazon Associate Disclaimer:
I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

A Culture of Spoilers

Apologies for not posting yesterday (my first missed post of the month–boo!), but I simply ran out of time.  I wanted to make sure that I finished my project (which I was able to do–yay!), but in order to do it well, I just couldn’t do it and the normal blog post as well.  However, today I’m back–so on with the regularly scheduled blog post.

Spoilers

In the past couple of weeks, I have seen tons of spoilers online.  It as if there has been an uptick in the amount spoilers out there.  No, I take that back, actually spoilers have always been online every since it became a thing, but now, it seems that people either going out of their way to spoil things or they have become less inclined to guard themselves from spoiling something.

What’s Worse than Game of Thrones for me?  Spoilers, that’s What.

A case in point–I’m not a huge fan of Game of Thrones (you might even say that I’m an anti-fan of it, wishing there was a Lord of the Rings equivalent without all the exploitative sex & violence featured on the show).  However, I keep myself from spoilers from the show (and others like it that I dislike, like say The Walking Dead) in the off-chance that I ever want to see the series in their entirety for school (I am a Rhetoric & Composition/Popular Culture student after all), or for some other reason.   I want to able to watch them without knowing/being able to guess major plot points based on clues and hints which weren’t in the major narrative.

Yet, in the past couple of weeks, I had a major plot point spoiled and know the name of a major character who will die on the show.  Now, here’s the important bit: how did I learn about this?  Was I cruising GoT fan forums? No.  Was I looking a Reaction Videos from the show?  No. Was I on Wikipedia, IMDB, or a site where someone mentioned it in the comments section? No.  No, I was watching a Let’s Play for a video game called The Last of Us on YouTube when the Youtuber dropped the spoiler at the end of the gameplay loop while discussing a surprising development in the game.  There was no warning–I guessed the spoiler was coming a sentence before it was uttered, but I couldn’t get to my phone’s volume controls in time and I had a major character’s death spoiled–including when it occurs in the show’s timeline, so there’s absolutely no suspense left at all regarding that character.

The Quest for Views/Hits/Clicks/Whatever

A similar thing has been happening on YouTube for a while where YouTubers are often posting “spoilery” things in their “Thumbnail” images that go out to promote their videos.  There is a video game called Nier Automata that I really want to get and play later in the year when I’ve cleared some of my backlog of games.  It is supposed to have multiple endings with a mind-blowing reveal.  However, somebody thought it would be “fun” to post that ending in his/her thumbnail in the form of Hey what did you think about  [this incredibly important topic that happens at the END OF THE GAME]?

Really?

The YouTuber knows full well that the video is not going out to just subscribers to his/her channel, but to anyone who YouTube’s algorithms think in a good match (that’s how these videos get so many views–not from subscribers but those who are tangentially/incidentally targeted because YouTube thinks the content is similar to what you’ve already watched).  This is pervasive in the Web arena as well–clicks/likes = revenue, so being all spoilery some is a legitimate tactic (in their minds) to enhance traffic and to bring people in, but it has the opposite affect on me.

To quote a famous queen–“I do not approve.”  To all those would be spoilers out there: if you want to spoil something–great, but please, give those of us who would rather enjoy the story on our terms the time (& ability) to leave your content before you do so.

Sidney