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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The Bonds are Back (in Town)

So, this won’t be a long blog post today as I have a lot of work to do over the next few days–reading (Sister Carrie), grading (Rhetorical Analysis papers), classes (working on an informal paper proposal for 19th Century Lit. class) and writing (Character Sketch Plot Outline for Project Skye–yes, I’ve dusted off that old chestnut of a project and am going to try to revive it just in time for NaNoWriMo).

However, I felt compelled to note that Amazon (I believe) is getting all the Bonds back together.  They are streaming quite a few James Bond movies in the month of November.  After writing the post where I listed my favorite James Bond actors, I actually had a fairly large regret of not being able to say that I’ve seen all the James Bond movies and that I had to qualify them by saying all EXCEPT for Die Another Day.  Well, this movie is one of the ones that is coming back so I am going to make a special effort to see this movie.   They have quite a few of the Bond movies from all 4 of the recent Bonds if I remember correctly looking at the list, but it isn’t a complete back catalog.

Still, for someone who is a completionist such as myself, I need to make myself watch Die Another Day–even if it is only for half an hour a day so that I can have a complete grasp of the character through all his incarnations and hey, who knows, I might be able to use Bond in some way in an academic setting or paper in some way And I just know that “Shaken, not stirred,” would make a GREAT paper title! 😉

 

Star Trek Backwards

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Star Trek Original Series Crew, Image Source: Apopka Voice

I have found that I’ve become enamored with Star Trek series again–it is probably because I can binge watch it now, rather than having to wait a week for episodes to come out.

I’ve finished watching Star Trek Enterprise, Star Trek Discovery, and I just started on Star Trek Deep Space Nine (more on that one on another post).  My plan is to finish DS9, watch Star Trek The Next Generation, and then finally the original Star Trek series.

I’m not sure what I’ll do after that (probably) buy and finish the rest of Babylon 5 as I seem to be in a sci-fi mode right now.  Anyway, I hadn’t posted in a while so I thought I should at least update everyone on what I’m watching.  Hopefully, posts should go back to a (mostly) regular schedule.  Fingers crossed!

Till next time!

No Spoilers, Please!

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Image Source: Larkable.com

Wow. Just wow (but not in a good way).  So the first part of the two part storyline for the Season Finale of Doctor Who released over the weekend and it contained three MASSIVE revelations (i.e., spoilers to the story).  Do you know that I was “spoiled” on 2 of the 3 spoilers by people on YouTube?

Now, you know me, when I “review” something on this blog, I go out of my way to give “impressions” rather than actual “specifics” in order not to ruin the experience for others.  I HATE spoilers, unless I go looking for them.  What makes the spoilers for Doctor Who so  onerous is that I didn’t want to be spoiled.  I avoided looking at the “Coming Next Week” portion of the show (this is the first season I’ve actively avoided it), just so that I would have no clue as to what was coming next.

I’m trying to figure out the reasons (rhetorical) why someone would choose to be a part of the “spoiler” culture.  I understand that there are a group of people who get enjoyment for ruining things for others–but that’s not the sense that I get from the YouTuber who put the “spoiler” in the “thumbnail” for her video.  I had no choice to get spoiled because she put a spoiler not inside her video, but on the outside wrapping (as it were) to get people to click on it and watch her video (no, I do not subscribe to this person’s videos, but YouTube so “helpfully” put her video in my “recommended” feed, not recognizing that her thumbnail gave me way more of the story than I wanted).

I don’t think there was any malice in her video, but a kind of unthinking blindness to the fact that while you may know and want to discuss the story (before it is released), others just want to watch the story and then discuss afterwards.  I don’t want to paint her as just an unthinking fan (she did put the spoiler) in the thumbnail image for the video, so there was some forethought in the matter, but I think it was more of “isn’t this so cool,” rather than “I know more than you,” type of thought.

doctor who and bill_radiotimes

Image Source: Radio Times

Either way, however, knowing ahead of time really blunted my enjoyment of this week’s episode (made worse that it wasn’t me who went looking for it).  I knew who the villain was and was able to make the deduction of what was going on about twenty seconds too early and figured out two of the three big reveals too early.  Not sure how I’m going to dodge the season finale’s spoilers, but starting next Thursday I may have to go on media blackout.  It’s pretty bad that it has come to this just to avoid knowing what’s going to happen in a story.

People always talk about the advantages of social media, but they never mention the disadvantages.  I remember when social media (or The Web 2.0 as pundits called back in 2010) was supposed to revolutionize the web.  Well, if this is the revolution, then I want to revolt against the revolution.

A Few Thoughts on Time Travel (in general) and the Star Trek Universe (in specific)

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Image Source: Topgentlemen.com

Time Travel is a favorite concept of Sci-Fi writers as it allows us to explore the possibilities of “What If . . .” and to mull about changes in the time line that did not occur vs. the reality that we see around us.  Popular culture is replete with television shows, movies, and other media that delve into the notion of what might happen if you could go back and change time (in effect, mulligan a decision or choice) to see what effect it would have on the timeline (if any).

I guess the reason that I’m thinking about this is two-fold: 1) Star Trek Enterprise has quite a few instances of Time Travel (in fact, most of the show’s 3rd Season is built around the idea) and 2) as a PhD student, I’m supposed to pick two areas of concentration.  As Creative Writing was off the table, I chose Composition and Rhetoric and Popular Culture.  There was a Call For Papers (CFPs) on the topic of Time Travel and how it affects/manifests itself in popular culture.  I didn’t get a chance to write a paper for it during the last semester (too busy trying to stay afloat!), but now I’d like to write at least a rough draft of some of the things that I’ve noticed in recent Sci-Fi shows/movies/media that I’ve watched recently (Doctor Who, Star Trek Enterprise, Dark Matter, and Mass Effect Andromeda to name a few) about how time travel is used (what effects does it have on the characters’ lives), and what pop. culture currently thinks about it.

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Image Source: Cellcli.com

One thing that I’ve notice that popular culture seems to use time travel for is the idea of Erasure, or righting a wrong and then resetting the timeline (so as to start again–from scratch as it were).  Now, the movie Back to the Future used a “literal” erasure from the timeline itself–and that’s not what I’m talking about.  This erasure is more of a “mulligan,” a do-over, a way to say hey, no that’s not the outcome I desired, let’s start again and try for a better outcome.

I think writers like this technique because it allows them to go into some wildly divergent territory with characters, but it doesn’t mean that they have to commit to changes to the characters (as the characters can be “reset” back to their pre-time travel/time incursion selves or entities).  It means that writers (and actors and directors) can stretch themselves creatively without destroying the likability of the characters.  In other words, characters can act and grow in ways contrary to their original characterization and then be reset.  I think audiences don’t find the this element of time travel as appealing because many times it seems like a “cheat” (much like the “and it was all a dream” cliche’).  Audiences want to characters change and interact in new and novel ways to conflict, but they (we) are fickle . . . change too much and we might lose what we like about a character.

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Image Source: Den of Geek

Star Trek (in general) and Star Trek Enterprise (in specific) seems to be a perfect test-bed for the idea of erasure.  While many of the elements and changes to the characters have “stuck,” most have not and most of the characterizations that have not stuck, or been “erased” through time travel are more radical characterizations/plot lines.  While I won’t know for sure until I finish STE, I’ve noticed that, unlike Doctor Who, for instance where there are often “cusp” events that are fixed and where time is more malleable (“Timey-Whimey, Wibbly-Wobbly”), events in ST’s universe, specifically STE tends to be more recursive (circular, or fractal–like the beginning image above.)

While this is a deeper dive than I normally do in a blog post, I wanted to just get a few thoughts down on the nature of time travel (esp. recent developments in media) down on paper.  I’ve done another post on time travel, Where You End is Not Where You Begin: Time Travel in Movies, and I will probably combine these two posts before the summer is over and develop this idea into a longer academic paper over next school year.  I don’t think that I can use this as my dissertation (I think that has to be Rhetoric or Composition based), but it is an interesting paper idea–and more importantly, seems to be something that I can be VERY LONG-WINDED about! 🙂

Stranger Things: Mini-Review (No Spoilers!)

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HORROR FOR A NON-HORROR FAN

I just finished watching Season 1 of Stranger Things (ST) and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  I was afraid that the series wasn’t going to live up to the hype set up by online fans of the show.  However, after watching all eight episodes, I have to say that I really did come to enjoy it.  It started a bit slowly for me (Episodes 1-3), but the middle episodes (4-6) really ratcheted up the tension and while the resolution was good (7-8), they weren’t nearly as impactful as the middle episodes in my opinion.  This, I think, is why I didn’t rate it higher.  When it is good, it is excellent, but the slow beginning and the not as impactful ending really made the show seem not as suspenseful as it could have been.  Now, I didn’t “binge” watch it, but rather watched it one episode at a time on Saturdays (as a reward to myself for getting through a “hard” week), so perhaps that had something to do with it, but in my mind, a really good series should be able to be watched either one episode at a time or “binged” watched without it making a difference.

The one thing that the show really gets right (and makes the bulk of the middle episodes) is the idea of mystery and suspense.  These episodes drip feed the story to the viewer in just the right amount of atmosphere, suspense, mystery, character development, and plot progression.  We discover more about the characters, the world, the mystery of what is going on, and how all of this came to be in the middle episodes and that is what makes this show so great.  While there are horrific elements, the goal is less on trying to scare the viewers and more on creating tense and suspenseful encounters to place the characters and I really appreciated that as a viewer.

STEPHEN KING “LITE”

Okay, so I’m not really a “Horror” fan.  When I say that, I mean that while I have read some horror novels and seen some horror movies, they do not make up a major component of my genre experience (unlike Fantasy and Science Fiction).  I read authors such as Dan Simmons (in his “Horror” phase) and British author James Herbert (who would now be considered Dark Fantasy instead of Horror).  I’ve also seen movies such as Alien and others like it, but in general I prefer the feeling of wonder and excitement to that of dread and horror.

I used to read Stephen King (his 80’s and 90’s work) and ST gives me a Stephen King “Lite” vibe.  It has a construction of a less intense and less horrific version of Stephen King’s It.  I think that it is the focus on suspense rather than horror that really helped me to become invested in the series.

GOOD RESOLUTION (FOR THE MOST PART)

I liked the ending, although I have to confess, that I wanted the “love” subplot to go differently than it turned out.  The resolution of that subplot seemed forced and cliche and relied on a character change that wouldn’t have happened in real life based on the way the original boyfriend acted in the earlier episodes.  The character does a complete 180 change in behavior that was hard for me to accept based on his earlier behavior.  Also, the creators set up the early episodes giving the “new” love interest a lot of pathos by showing his backstory, his motivations, etc., but because of the old boyfriend’s abrupt change in behavior, this doesn’t go anywhere.

The ending of the main plot, however, seemed to end well and left itself open for a sequel, as shown by the Super Bowl Ad.  It definitely seems that while things resolved, it doesn’t seem like the sequel will be forced or unnecessary.   I’m actually looking forward to it.  I think it will take the show into some very interesting places.

RATING: Season 1 Grade: B+ (Above Average)

If you like suspense and mystery and don’t mind a few chills and scares, then this is a great show to watch.  Even though the cast includes a mix of child and adult actors, they all do a great job and are completely invested in the world that the show runners created.  I look forward to Season 2 later this year.

IMPLICATIONS FOR MY WRITING

I learned that putting characters that I like into dangerous situations helps to create suspense because you’re invested in that character and you don’t want to see anything bad happen to that character.  This tension is what creates suspense and why I think that the middle episodes (4-6) are so good.

Also, I learned that I shouldn’t change a character’s behavior mid-way through without a good reason (perhaps externally).  The show runners obviously wanted to show that the “old” boyfriend had a change of heart, but his change wasn’t earned well enough/strong enough (in my mind) to result in the change that occurred.  I need to remember to make any change in the character that deviates radically absolutely explicit to the reader to make the reader believe that the character could change realistically in the way I show by clearly showing the internal/external struggle that forces that change.

Cutting the Cord

cutting the cord

HAPPY NEW YEAR!  Welcome to the first post of the blog for 2016!  Huzzah!  My goal (not Resolution, but goal) is to post on a weekly schedule.  I did so during the last of November and most of December, even with the craziness of grading and deadlines, so it seems doable.

This post was supposed to be the last post of 2015, but it took longer to put into put into place than I anticipated.  This post is all about cutting the cord (or moving from a cable-based future to a streaming one).

Yesterday, I finally turned in my cable boxes and remotes and I’m completely based on streaming content (for TV/Movies) or pulling content from over-the-air (local & live sports).  Yes, I know that with a few tech options I could eliminate the over the air part and do it all digitally, but it works better for my workflow to have at least 1 TV dedicated to local programming (news) and live sports.

APPLE TV

AppleTV

My main source of streamed content is via the new AppleTV.  I have an Apple ecosystem and having the new AppleTV gives me the most flexibility.  I can buy shows and movies through iTunes, download digital copies from iTunes from the Blu-Rays that I purchase, and I can AirPlay apps and games that I purchase on my phone and iPad to the TV if I so choose.

The key is to set a budget and stick to it.  There are so many things out there and available that it is easy to overspend if you overdo it.  I’ve found that if I focus on one or two series at a time and finish them before buying anything else, I can stay within budget.  I don’t have a lot of time to watch TV anyway, so focusing only on shows and movies that truly interest me seems to be a more cost effective and efficient way of consuming content.

ITUNES, NETFLIX AND AMAZON PRIME

With Netflix and Amazon Prime, I get many of the shows that I’m interested in (of course, Science Fiction/Fantasy) like Star Trek (the various spinoffs), Dark Matter (new 2015 show), Stargate (older shows like SG-1), and Farscape.  These are just the few that I’ve investigated.  I’m sure there are others.  I also get access to a few movies, though not as many as I’d like (again, genre-based).  For the movies, this is where I use iTunes to supplement Netflix/Amazon.

Here, though, is a drawback of streaming only.  The movie industry saw the lowering of prices of music and fought that vigorously arguing that lower prices devalue their product.  Yes, the link is a bit old, but it is only to illustrate a point.  Movies are artificially higher in price than they are truly worth.  You can’t tell me that Jack the Giant Slayer (a 2013 release with below average ratings) is worth $14.99 which is the same price that The Martian (a 2015 release which will contend for the Oscars more than likely).  Jack the Giant Slayer should be in the 7.99-9.99 range by now.  It is the problem with many digital pricing structures–prices do not seem to go down over time, while the physical prices do because retailers need to clear shelf space for the next new thing.  You never have to run out of the digital item so retailers don’t lower the prices over time.

The easiest way I can think of not to spend a ton of money on movies is to set a budget that roughly equals 1 movie ($14-$20) per period on viewing media per pay period and not go over that.  Include Season Passes for shows that I want to watch that aren’t on Netflix & Amazon Prime and I’ll need to limit myself and make a choice–1 big purchase of a movie or 1 Season Pass which will last several weeks (or less if I binge watch the show).

Still, even this is preferable to paying a premium every month for TV & movies that I never will watch.

THE FUTURE

So, this will be an interesting experiment.  Can I watch the shows that I want to watch and the movies while not breaking the bank so to speak?

I think I can as I just watched the entire Series 9 of Dr. Who (Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman), in addition to the Christmas Specials of Dr. Who and Sherlock via iTunes, and I’m watching/rewatching the entire series run of Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Netflix before turning my attention to Star Wars Rebels via iTunes.

I’ll keep you all posted periodically on my successes and struggles as I try to embrace a (nearly) streaming only household.