Friday, 30 January 2009

Space Opera Galore

I'm a sci-fi nerd. Only a few people who have spent any amount of time with me (or read my blogs) are unaware of this fact.

So, naturally, when I stumbled upon a very, very sweet deal on Babylon 5 DVD Box Sets (all five seasons of them), I stopped, blinked, drooled and promptly hoisted my debit card.
I remembered watching the show on TV and liking it, and I was aware of its acclaim for complexity, depth, good dialogue, and also - indirectly - saving DS9 from total irrelevance ^^

Surprisingly, the show holds up not only to the cult status, but also to my own fond memories.
If anything, I love it more than I did before, although I admit this might be because I'm no longer 12 years old. (Also, the sheer number of gratuitous roundhouse kicks adds a hitherto underappreciated level of awesome.)

For the Region 2 DVDs I own, the images have been digitally remastered, which has improved the quality (although it still pales in comparison to HDTV and serves only to demonstrate just how dated the CGI really is by today's standards), which is great and follows the convention of changing something (no matter how small) for the DVD release to make it new and exciting.
Unfortunately, everybody got soooo excited about enhancing the image and animating a really crappy DVD menu, no attention was paid to the sound. And trust me, they should have done something. Anything. The relative volumes of dialogue and effects/music are so different, it's impossible for me to let the remote out of myhand for even a moment. I have to turn up the volume to get what people are saying, but then a jumpgate opens, or something explodes, or somebody wins in the casino, or a fucking tree falls over in a fucking forest, and the sound is so loud it's almost painful, so I turn the volume back down. But then they cut back to people talking, ... *sigh* Especially the battle sequences are no fun at all that way, and I haven't even started on Season 3, where the real fun "the Great War comes upon us all".

But even without their screeching sound effect at a volume that makes my ears ring, those Shadow ships are still right up there among the creepiest things ever seen in television sci-fi.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

On a roll...

I was raised a Catholic.
Having been born in one of the most important sites of Catholic pilgrimage in Europe, there never seemed to be much of a question about that. It is the way things are. The way it is done. Alternatives were (and still are), at most, something purely theoretical that happened to other people.

The issues I have with my faith as a whole and the institution of the church in particular don't belong here. Suffice to say that I'm not happy, and I haven't been happy for a long time.

But lately, the church has really been on a roll.
Let's recap:

- Homosexuals are as big a threat to civilisation as global warming (and they go to hell).
- Women who take the pill make men impotent (and they go to hell).
- Women who don't dress the way Bishops would like them to are basically asking to be raped and mistreated (and they probably go to hell).
- Women who marry Muslims are in for a pile of trouble (and probably go to hell).
- Men who wear condoms, because they want to be safe are just being stupid (and probably go to hell).
- The President who repealed the Global Gag Rule is "arrogant" and aiding and abetting the "slaughter of innocents" (he's SO going to hell).

But there's no reason to worry, because denying the Holocaust is perfectly alright.
Great move, Ratzi!
Stay classy.

Seriously...if I weren't absolutely sure that it would break my grandmother's heart, I'd be out of this club in an instant. (And if they go on like that, I might just chance it anyway.)

Note: I should probably have added links to this post, but it's the middle of the night and I can't be arsed, so I'll just refer you to our Google overlords.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

No pressure...

Today, I came across "President Obama - The Book" in a bookshop.

Of course, the Inauguratathon was awesome, and the First Couple's stamina was admirable. (Did they really visit ALL the banquets?)
Killing all those pieces of Bush legislation that were still in the pipeline was great, and suspending the military tribunals in Gitmo was even better (I'll go back to worrying with the Human Rights lawyers sometime next week, when the giddy glow wears off).

But a book? After less than 24 hours??

(And yes, I *know* it was written even earlier than that, which makes the whole thing even more surreal.)

Monday, 12 January 2009

Richard Falk on Gaza

Richard Falk, Superhero of International Law and UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian territories, is on Al Jazeera's "Riz Khan" today.
He is the go-to guy for nuanced analysis from a perspective of peace and peace studies.
Some of the stuff he wrote on the assault on Gaza can be found here.

I developed a major academic crush on the man when he became the first person to explain Int Law to me in terms I actually understood.

Monday, 5 January 2009


This list of the "20 Most Annoying Liberals of 2008" gives an honorable mention to Christopher Hitchens, and an actual place on the list to Chris Matthews.

There are only two ways to explain this:

1. The list came from a parallel universe and came to us through a distortion in space-time. Or

2. The definition of the word "liberal" has been changed to "any person/media outlet with the audacity to say shit I, Selfrighteous Rightwing Judgmental Fuckface, don't agree with" while I wasn't looking.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Switching off...

I watch and read lot of international news. What that means is that while I get live coverage of war, famine, pestilence, and all the lesser known Horsemen of the Apocalypse, I miss the uplifting stuff that makes it bearable. No surfing dogs or miraculous quintuplets or images of the Virgin Mary appearing on slices of toast.

So, every once in a while, my brain will just take the decision out of my hand and switch me off out of sheer self preservation.
Today, that meant that instead of watching this, I spent my afternoon playing a hidden object game that didn't require any higher brain function.

I don't normally do that. I'm not a serious gamer anyway, but once I get hooked, I will stay hooked. And if, after five hours straight of riddle-solving and finding 25 white quills in the white snow outside the white window, I do not want to reach a screen that says "Congratulations, you have solved every riddle and freed the soul of the Headless Horseman. The curse of eternal torment has now fallen onto you. Har har har." Yeah...great. Way to lighten up my day.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Starting 2009

For many people, the new year started at midnight last night.
My personal reckoning works a little differently.
For me, the new year doesn't really start until I've heard the last few notes of the Radetzky Marsch. (I may or may not be one of those people who clap along at home - I'm not admitting to anything.)Justify Full

I'm talking about the Vienna New Year's Concert, played every year by the Vienna Philharmonic.
It's broadcast live on TV (to over 40 countries, apparently), and watching it is probably the only unshakeable new year's tradition we have in our house. We don't really get into the spirit of the night, normally. We don't do the lead-pouring-thing, we don't waltz into the new year, and we don't always eat pork on New Year's Day. But every year, without fail, we watch the New Year's Concert, and I love it. (Here's a taste.)

What I don't really know is why I love it.
The thing is, while I don't hate classical music, I won't actively seek it out, either. I know some of the most famous stuff, and there are a few pieces I absolutely love, but the times when I actually dig up those CDs or watch a concert on TV are few and far between. I know what I like, even if I can't articulate why. For some strange reason, my basic argument of "It sounds nice" is dismissed by people who take their music seriously ^_^"

I guess there's just something incredibly reassuring about starting the new year with a set of melodies that are both timeless and completely familiar. And while I'm philistine enough to not hear whether a polka is conducted by Muti or Barenboim, I recognize Strauss music when I hear it, and it never fails to put a smile on my face.