Babylon 5: “And so, it begins.”

As today is the 20th anniversary of the premier of Babylon 5: The Gathering, the pilot babylon5that marked the beginning of a six-year fascination for me, I thought I’d share some things about the show you might not know.

But first…I really loved B5.  I’m not looking to start an argument about how good a series it was, or whether it was better/worse than Star Trek: The Next Generation, or anything like that.  While those, um, “discussions” can be fun as long as things remain civil (no biting, no pinching, no throwing furniture/animals/children), I tend not to indulge in them any more for a few reasons.  One, no sci-fi show in the history of ever has been perfect, and B5 was no exception. Neither was ST:TNG.  Two, I watched and enjoyed both, for very different reasons.  And three, you love what you love.  No series of arguments, however well-reasoned, will diminish that.

Okay, on to some Babylon 5 “secrets”…

Ambassador Delenn is a man, baby! – Yep, that’s right.  The Ambassador Delenn we all came to know and love was originally going to be male, but to help give him that alien feel was going to be played by a woman.  To quote J. Michael Straczynski himself:

What we have, basically, is a female actor playing a male character. Women simply *move* differently than men do; the gestures, the tilt of the head, the smile, it’s just a shade different…

It was hoped this slight disconnect would heighten the alien feel of Delenn, and add that slight bit of tension into his interactions.  Then, when the episode “Chrysalis” came along, he would transform into a woman as well as becoming part human.  Unfortunately, technical concerns sidelined this plan.  JMS could only get the necessary voice-changing technology to work “okay”, and “okay” wasn’t good enough.  So the idea was scrapped and Delenn became very definitely female when the series began.

Watch your Step: Trapdoors at Work – Given the way JMS wanted to tell the story of B5, there was the possibility of running into a problem with the actors on the show.  While the characters in a story are at the beck and call of the writer, the actors playing those characters have lives of their own.  To combat the potential problem that actors may get other work and not be available for the run of the series, JMS gave each character a “trapdoor”; a character that could step into the role another character was to perform if necessary.  This was most easily done with the diplomatic characters, and why each diplomat (Londo, G’Kar, Delenn) had an attaché or aide ( Vir, Na-Toth and Lennier respectively).

But other characters had them as well.  A key plot point was the discovery of an ancient base for the “evil” alien race, and that planetary base was going to be discovered by the station commander’s love interest.  Jeffrey Sinclair’s love interest started out as planetary explorer Carolyn Sykes (played by Blaire Baron); when she didn’t return to the show his love interest became planetary explorer Catherine Sakai (played by Julia Nickson); when Sinclair eventually left and John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) came on board (trapdoor!), the planet was revealed to us by his long-thought-dead planetary explorer wife, Anna Sheridan (played by Bruce Boxleitner’s real-life wife, Melissa Gilbert).  Whew!  Even the location of the base was trapdoored; while briefly placed on Mars and even Earth, it eventually got it’s own planet, Za’ha’dum.

Season Five: The Season That Almost Never Was – If Babylon 5 takes flack for any particular part, it is usually season five that bears the brunt.  And I will admit, compared to the three seasons before it S5 is a bit of a kludge.  But you can’t really blame JMS for that.  Though the exact details are somewhat murky, what basically transpired was that S4 was going to be B5‘s last season.  So JMS tied up the Shadow War, brought some early closure to some characters, and filmed what was going to be the final episode of the S4 and the series, “Sleeping in Light”.  And that would have been that, fade to black.

Except then the studio decided they could have a fifth season after all.  Fade back to full, JMS films “The Deconstruction of Falling Stars” as the final episode of S4 and shelves “Sleeping in Light” for later. And then had to figure out how to fit characters back in, and what to do with them, with only a season to do it.  Plus, we apparently see Mr. Garibaldi killed in the final episode of S4, so…

So yes, the fifth season is a bit of a mess when compared to S2-4.  But there is still a lot of really good television in those 22 episodes; the telepath problem, the heart-breaking intertwined fates of Londo Malari and G’Kar, and my personal favourite episode, “Sleeping in Light”.  I cry every single time I watch that episode, the only thing that varies is when I start.

Okay, I hope you enjoyed my pontificating.  If you are a Babylon 5 nut like me you likely already know about these two sites, but I will recommend them anyway: The Lurker’s Guide to Babylon 5, the perfect site for all your B5 facts, fables and foibles; and JMSNews, where you can stay on top of the news in JMS’s life in his own words.

Let me hear from you.  What did you love/hate about B5?  What would you have done differently? Let me know in the comments below.

Geek & Sundry

As a geek in the Age of Geeks, every day there is some new nerdy thing offered up for my amusement.  Links, images, movies, tv shows; the dork train is pulling out of the station and everyone is trying to get on board.  A lot of it is bad, no denying.  A small portion is good, and an even smaller portion of that is excellent, obviously created by one of us, a nerd with talent.

My fellow dorks, I predict Geek & Sundry will be excellent with a bullet!

Announced officially at this past weekend’s Wondercon, Geek & Sundry is a premium YouTube channel founded and Executive Produced by Felicia Day (yes, she of The Guild and Dragon Age: Redemption).  When it launches on April 2, it will feature a variety of weekly and bi-weekly programming aimed at just about every facet of geekdom: motion comics presented by Dark Horse; Tabletop (“Think “Celebrity Poker” meets “Dinner for Five”…“*) hosted by Wil Wheaton; Written by a Kid, with sf&f/horror stories by real kids brought to the screen as shorts by talented directors and artists;  and Sword & Laser, a look at the world of sci-fi/fantasy literature and hosted by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt.  The channel will also feature season five of The Guild, as well as The Flog (“Join Geek Goddess Felicia Day in a whimsical vlog show, as she explores quirky new hobbies and shares experiences that connect her with her favorite people – her fans – in person as well as across the web.“*)  And then later in the fall will see the launch of Learning Town, a show starring the nerd-music duo of Paul & Storm.

I’m not sure I can tell you how excited I am about this.  It would be enough for me that Geek & Sundry packs a lot of what I want to watch in one neat little bundle.  As geeks, we have lived in a sort of “hunter/gatherer” phase when it comes to our internet viewing; the geek shows are definitely out there, but you had to forage for them.  I think Geek & Sundry represents the next stage, the “agricultural” stage of our geekdom.  We are cultivating our nerdiness, and we won’t have to travel as far afield to find it any more.

I also find the creation of this channel a bit of a validation for my long-held belief that the internet is the future of television viewing.  The nature of television, how it is viewed and how it is packaged and presented to us, is changing.  The portal by which many people experience small screen viewing is no longer the television receiver, but the computer.  I know people who don’t have, in the strictest sense, a television in their home; what they have is a 52″ monitor for their computer/game console.  And why not?  The computer is (legally or illegally) often the fastest way to access television content, and ease of use has played a big role in the changes to this medium.  And the major networks are slowly acknowledging this fact, if the number of television programs that can be viewed on websites is any indication.

But I never believed that the big push towards on-line programming was going to come from the networks.  I always new it was going to come from an Alpha Nerd among us.  Because on-line programming is inherently creator-friendly, in a way that the current network system can never be.  Simply put, it cuts out the middleman, allowing the creator to bring his/her creation directly to the viewers.  Thanks to the internet, if you have a camera, a website and an idea, you can put a show out.  Sometimes, as noted earlier, this results in bad (in all the many facets of that word) stuff getting in front of our eyes.  But the trade off is a wider range of shows to look at, and a greater chance that you’ll find the shows you want.

This puts some responsibility back on us, because we can’t afford to be as passive about what we support.  We have no networks to blame if a show doesn’t do well, because on-line our support (or lack of it) is direct.  If you love something on-line and want it to succeed, you need to get the word out.  You really have no excuse not to; if you dwell in the internet sea enough to watch programming here, I’d find it hard to believe you didn’t also have some form of Twitter, G+, Tumblr, Reddit, Facebook et al at your disposal.

Geek & Sundry launches its programming on April 2, 2012.  Mark that date, folks.  That date is when television changes forever.

(It should be noted that Chris Hardwick also announced the launch of his geek-centric YouTube channel, The Nerdist Channel, also launching on April 2nd.  I’ll write about them next week, but since I heard about Geek & Sundry first they got first billing.)

Opinions?  Thoughts?  Amusing tribble anecdotes?  Comments are just below…

*From the official press release on the Geek & Sundry site.

What I’m Watching: Update

Previously, I wrote about some of the nerdy stuff I was excited to be watching in this new television season.  Now that we are several weeks in, I thought I’d touch on some of those shows, and talk about others that have popped up since.

Alphas – Okay, the first season is actually over, and I really enjoyed this show.  The ongoing story is compelling and complex enough to hold my interest, and there is some great character work from these actors (especially once Ryan Cartwright toned down the rainman schtick with Gary).  I’m curious to see where the Red Flag story-line takes us, and if the hints dropped about the team going rogue ever pan out.  And I still think this show is as reasonable a representation of how the government would react to and make use of the presence of “alphas”.  Definitely waiting on Season 2!

Eureka/Warehouse 13 – Both of these have wrapped their season finales as well.  I won’t go into much detail on either one, because, wow spoilers!  Both shows continue to deliver a delicious mix of comedy and drama, delivered in a crunchy sci-fi coating.  And both shows finished really strong this season; I can’t wait to see the new episodes and find out how some of these bombshells get defused (or how big the blast will be).  Do yourself a favour: if you don’t watch these shows, start.  If you do, watch them again!

Torchwood – I really like Torchwood.  The ideas and concepts behind the show, the characters, they all really appeal to me.  Which is what makes this season such a disappointment for me.  I want to describe it with words like “exciting” and “provocative”, but the best I can muster is “weak” and “meh”.  It feels like they took an entire season to wrap up what could have been done in 3-4 episodes.  Then, the season finale “twist” that seemed like a series-serving stunt, could have actually been explored a bit this season.  As it is, I am left feeling blah about the whole thing, a state which I seem to share with many viewers; there is some talk that Torchwood may not come back for another season.  A season ago I would have considered that a shame.

Outcasts – In the end, this show just didn’t do it for me.  I can’t put my finger on any one thing, I just don’t feel invested enough in the story or characters to care what happens next.  Which is weird, because a series featuring a sci-fi dystopian utopia would seem to be firmly in my wheelhouse, if not the very building blocks of said wheelhouse.  But sadly, I don’t think I’m giving Series 2 a try.  I have too much other good sci-fi to watch, I’m afraid.

Okay, so you probably noticed that everything I touched on last time is down for the season.  So do I just go into TV-less hibernation and wait for the coming episode spring?  Heck no!  Have faith in the TV my fellow geeks, and it will always keep you and preserve you.  Here are three I’m watching and loving right now:

Bedlam – One of my favourite new series, Bedlam is a moody, creepy supernatural drama focused around the tenants of Bedlam Heights ( a condo complex converted from the old Bedlam Asylum).  One episode in, and this promises to be a good old-fashioned bump-in-the-night ghost story, told in that special way the British have.  Need an excuse to snuggle closer with your SO? Bedlam is the show you’ve been waiting for.  Extra geek cred if you watch it with the lights off (and yes, you can hold your lightsaber, I certainly had mine).

Supernatural – The seventh season started two episodes ago and let me just say, I don’t think I will ever stop wanting to watch this series.  I am so invested in the characters at this point, I spend each episode dreading the next horrible thing that is going to happen, because you know there is always a next horrible thing.  If you aren’t caught up on the first two episodes I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say: nice fake-out at the end of the premiere, making us think it was all over and really just setting up the plot for the rest of the season.  I went from, “glad he’s okay now but disappointed it was so easy” to “Oh God! It’s never easy! When will I learn, your twisted bastards!” in about ten seconds.

Sanctuary – Okay, this technically hasn’t started yet; Season Four premieres on Space this Friday.  But I am really excited for it to start again for a number of reasons.  One, the acting on the show is top-notch, and I’ve been missing these characters. Two, Helen Magnus is stuck back in time chasing a psychopath, and that is just cool! (Yes, yes, I know. I hate time-travel in Star Trek and love it in other shows. I’m a complex guy. Bite me.)  And three, this season seems to focus on something I think has been building throughout the series: what happens when the world finds out about abnormals, and more than that, that they have been hidden from them?  This promises to be a delicious, meaty season, and I intend to eat my fill!

(Dis)Honourable MentionsCastle is still a lot of fun this year, with some tension and drama stirred in nicely.  Ringer is a miss, which is sad because I really wanted to see Sarah Michelle Gellar on screen again. But even two of her can’t save these scripts.  Unforgettable is a meh-level police procedural, with an as-yet-to-be-rendered-interesting special ability thrown into the mix; watch Prime Suspect for a better police procedural with more character/plot complexity (though not much more, so far).

Okay, that’s my time!  You folks have been great, and don’t forget to fill out the Comments below if you agree/disagree with anything I’ve said.  Discuss, people, discuss!

Odds and Sods

I have a few things that have caught me eye recently, that I find interesting but don’t really warrant a post all their own.  So today I offer you a bowl of my brain candies!

…that didn’t sound nearly as creepy in my head, I swear…

** So @Kiala wrote a piece over at Nerd Puddle about the Gamewave parody video that I thought was spot on (except that I disagree with her stance on the Geek and Gamer Girl video, but that is okay, we are allowed to disagree).  I don’t really find the video in question offensive in any way.  My best description of it would be “tired”;  Oh. I get it. Nerds don’t get to touch ladyparts. Ha. Ahaha. Next!  The real problem that I see is that it allows for only two possible reactions, really: either you ignore it because it is a tired trope that needs to be put down like an ailing pet, or you let the nerd denial fly (“Squirrel, please!  Man, I get so much tail you don’t even know!  I’m going over to see my girl, and we’re playing “co-op”, you feel me!?“)  And the internet has never really been a place where people ignore the things that bother them, so there has been the usual trollstorm.  All I want to say about it is this: it isn’t funny, because it lacks truth.  With the exception of nerds that have honest-to-god social anxiety issues, most geeks do just fine with the opposite sex.  So stop being lazy, and find something actually funny to parody.

** Science continues to blow my %$#@ing mind!  Especially when scientists are doing things like this and this.  When I was a strippling geek I would have punched you in the taint for a liar if you told me about cell phones and teh internets.  And now we are close to making gasoline out of garbage and recharging batteries with rock and roll!? (Okay, I might be stretching the scope of those articles a bit, but as Shakespeare always said, “Suck it!”)  And if that whole FTL hullabaloo wasn’t a measuring error and actually pans out, my Heavy Metal inspired dreams of flying through space in a garbage-powered starship blasting classic rock tunes may just come true! And really, isn’t that what science is for?

** I’m largely enjoying the new TV offerings this season, as well as the return of old favourites.  My favs so far are Unforgettable, 2 Broke Girls and Prime Suspect, but talk to me again in six episodes and those might change.  Easily discarded was Ringer, which is a shame because I wanted to like it.  I enjoy Sarah Michelle Gellar as an actor, but the writing and some technical issues have turned me off.  I don’t care about anyone and I don’t believe the situations, and those two things will kill a show for me.  Of the returning shows, Castle is like a charming old friend, and NCIS (sorry, Devon) is like the curmudgeonly grandpa that tells good stories.

**  This (below) has become my new Life Rule:

** Since I hung out my shingle as a freelance editor, a few people have asked me why I won’t do some free jobs for them, just to gain experience/exposure.  And I have a few good answers for that.  First, I’m already doing some volunteer editing for experience, with a publication I love and respect.  So I’m getting enough on-the-job training, thanks.  As for exposure…that will come.  If I work for free now, the exposure I’ll get will be, “Hey, here is a guy who will work for free.” And since I’d like to make some sort of living from this, that exposure would be counter-productive.

But here’s my big reason for charging: because I think it engenders respect.  As an editor, I am essentially giving you (the writer) my opinion.  I can’t force you to accept my edits; it’s your work, you can ignore everything I tell you.  If I’m working for free, you can just say to yourself, “Well what does he know?” and dismiss me.  But if you are paying me, you are forced to at least consider what I am saying.  And if you are my client, I am giving your work the attention it deserves because that is my job.  You will get my best work because that is part of our client/employee relationship.

At least that’s how I look at it.  So no, beyond work I have already agreed to do I won’t work for free.  But I can and will work for “negotiable”, so drop me a line and we’ll talk.

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Okay, that’s all the brain candy I have for today.  Want to share some candy below?

Why SyFy Needs a Eureka Moment

If you are a geek, the news that SyFy cancelled Eureka probably isn’t news anymore (If it is, well, better we ripped that band-aid off before you kept reading).  And you likely know that the PTBs have “graciously” granted the show an extra episode in it’s sixth season to wrap everything up.  Which, quite frankly, is the least they could do, considering they waited to announce this decision at the end of shooting for Season 6.

The cast and crew of Eureka have publicly been very positive about the whole thing, despite some of them finding out about the cancellation via Twitter (sorry, Erica Cerra).  And really I would expect nothing less from the people that have entertained me so well over the seasons.  They are consummate professionals, wishing to leave the series with their heads held high and not mired in acrimony.  Being neither professional nor answerable to SyFy, I don’t have that problem.  So speaking only for myself, but likely echoing a number of Eureka fans, I just have to ask:

What the @%$# is your problem, SyFy?

Eureka is one of their most popular shows, with (if the reaction to cancellation is an indicator) a varied, enthusiastic and loyal following.  Even SyFy acknowledges that, claiming the only area in which Eureka under-performs is cost.

Okay, valid point.  No matter how popular the show, if it costs too much to make then SyFy has to drop it.  Sure, I can buy that.  It isn’t as if there were other projects that could be down-sized or even scrapped in order to free up funds for a more popular show.  After all, how could we expect them to put aside quality movies like Meteor or Stonehenge Apocolypse in order to properly fund a series watched as more than drinking-game fodder?  Why, that kind of thinking would have deprived us of Killer Mountain, premiering this Saturday.  And obviously they should cancel Eureka before losing any of the three Ghost Hunter shows they carry.  God bless SyFy for keeping us safe from the phantom menace (though not from The Phantom Menace, sadly).

Or could it be that Eureka got cancelled because it was so popular?  It doesn’t take a GD scientist (pun intended) to see that Sci Fi…sorry, SyFy, has been re-branding themselves.  Bad enough they shame-changed their name. (SyFy? Really?  That’s like that annoying kid in your high school named Steven who spends one summer break in Europe, and insists his name is now pronounced “SteFAWN”.)  But the addition of shows like WWE Smackdown and a kludge of paranormal/urban legend “reality” programming shows that SyFy’s heart just isn’t in science fiction anymore.  And if it continued to carry a great sci-fi show like Eureka, they might be in the awkward position of supporting something they don’t really care about anymore. Heck, we geeks might even insist they make more great sci-fi, and then they’d really be in trouble.

So for me, it comes down to one of two possibilities. Either the people in charge at SyFy are making a tremendously stupid business decision, or they are following their re-branding strategy.  I could be completely wrong on both counts, and there could be a third or fourth possibility I don’t see from my position outside looking in.  But for right now all I see is a station cancelling a hit television series based on their bad economics.  Whether that’s from stupidity or malevolence, doesn’t matter much to me.

But SyFy, I think you need to take a second and consider your future.  There are already many stations carrying the reality-porridge you are so eager to add to your line-up.  And there will always be people ready, willing and able to make bad sci-fi, disaster and monster movies (cthulhu bless them!).  But there is no one out there doing what you used to do, back when you went by Sci Fi; you wowed people with your Dune mini-series, for instance.  You have a chance to create truly unique programming, about subjects and in ways that both entertain and make people think.  If you were truly focused on your job, we’d be watching Walking Dead and Game on Thrones on you, or some other equally amazing series we hadn’t heard of yet.  Maybe you need to take some time to think about that.

Maybe you just need to take your own slogan to heart, and imagine greater.

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Comments? Counterpoints? I’d love to hear them!

What I’m Watching, in Brief

For some mysterious reason our internet connection was severed yesterday and came back just as mysteriously this morning.  So I apologize for my blog-silence yesterday; I trust that you all somehow soldiered on without me.

There has been a fair-to-moderate amount of hullabaloo surrounding television lately; new shows, new seasons of old shows, cancelled shows and so on.  The latter topic, and specifically Eureka, is a subject in an upcoming post.  But I thought I’d take a moment to give you a run-down of what I’m watching and enjoying/not enjoying these days.  And because it’s Friday and we both want to get on with the ensuing awesome, I’m going to keep my summaries to 5 sentences or less.

Eureka – This is one of the rare shows I didn’t have to be coaxed into watching.  I have loved Eureka from the first episode.  The show’s writers do a fantastic job of blending comedy, science and bucketfuls of the ever-elusive “heart”.  Colin Ferguson as Sherriff Jack Carter has been a delight to watch, and I can’t wait to see what he works on next.  Because in an effort to destroy all that I love, SyFy (seriously, what the fuck is up with that name!?) has cancelled the show.

Alphas – I had my doubts, because we all know how well modern super-hero-type shows have turned out (I’m looking at you, Heroes!).  But a handful of episodes in and I’m actually becoming attached to these (mostly) loveable mutated misfits.  I think what I like the most is that the show isn’t “slick”.  It paints a fairly realistic picture of how the presence of “alphas” (people genetically predisposed to having extraordinary abilities) might be handled.  Add that to characters which are finally stepping away from caricature status, and I’m going to stick with this show for a while.

Warehouse 13 – When I first heard the concept for this show, I assumed it was going to be quirky cheese-fest city!  And I was okay with that, but the reality has turned out to be way better.  The show has a formula and a cast that really work, and they’ve found a tone that is equal parts cheese, darkness and suspense.  If I had to choose a favourite show off my list it would be Eureka, but Warehouse 13 is the one I have the most hands-down fun watching!  Plus, stellar acting from Saul Rubineck, Joanne Kelly, Eddie McClintock and Allison Scagliotti.

Outcasts – I really wanted to like this show, because lets face it; the British have pretty much owned television sci-fi lately (with a few notable exceptions).  But this story of the last humans from Earth colonizing a new world and dealing with prejudice and religion and strange goings-on started…so…slow.  I had actually erased it from the PVR, that is how sure I was it wasn’t worth my time.  Then I saw a particularly cryptic and enticing commercial for the next episode, and I decided to give it another chance.  So far I’m still on the fence, but I’ll keep you posted.

Torchwood – I was really excited to see what they did with the new season, in light of the previous season’s goings on.  And while I do not believe the show has been ruined by its transplant to America, I do believe it doesn’t have that special “feel” that Torchwood always had.  Right now it just seems like an SF thriller featuring characters from Torchwood.  And while that is fun to watch it just isn’t the same.  Also, Captain Jack needs to step up and lead, dammit!

So that is a little taste of what I’m watching these days.  Add to that shows like Game of Thrones, Burn Notice, Falling Skies, The Walking Dead and Doctor Who…and I have a busy viewing schedule.  Lucky for me these shows don’t all air over the same time period, or I would never leave the house.  Which I’m sure would be bad in some way I haven’t figured out yet.

So what are you watching?  What do you think of the shows I’m watching? Let me know in the comments below!

Geek Nuggets for July 28

I don’t really have a nice, cohesive post for today.  So instead, I’m popping back in here throughout the day to add ideas, observations and amusing anecdotes as they occur to me.  Some might call that lazy blogging…and yeah, they’re probably right.  But feel free to throw your own geeky observations and snippets in the comments below.  Or ask me a question, yeah that’s perfect, then I don’t have to look for things to write about on my own!  Definitely that question thing.  Okay, here goes…

*9:29am – Watched the final two episodes of Fanboy Confessional (I talk about it in a previous post), on furries and LARPing respectively.

The Furry episode: I will admit that my view of furries was tainted by that biased CSI episode of yesteryear.  So I’m really happy to get a more honest look at that aspect of fandom.  Still no interest in it, but I am also no longer afraid of being forcibly yiffed at a con.

The LARPing episode:  I’m familiar with LARPing; I used to participate in vampire LARPs, and tried to get involved with the local Alliance LARP, but schedule and time conspired against me.  Loved the episode overall, and again, they did a great job of giving us equal parts newb and veteran experience, as well as behind-the-scenes peeks.  One thing with which I will take umbrage: At the very beginning of the episode the narrator says, “…role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons and Bloodbowl…”

What!? *adjusts retainer* *pushes up nerd glasses* \begin nerd rant\ Bloodbowl is not an RPG, sir!  It is a table-top miniatures game.  And while it has elements similar to an RPG, such as character advancement, no REAL role-player would ever consider it a role-playing game! \end nerd rant\ (Note: you need to imagine the retainer lisp for the full effect.)

But with the exception of that little bobble (Bloodbowl an RPG, please!) I have really enjoyed Fanboy Confessional.  I hope they get green-lit for more episodes, because there is a lot more fandom for them to cover!

*11:32am – Can I just say how much I am enjoying Master of Devils, by Dave Gross?  Good, ‘cuz I’m gonna because I am!  Having officially received the first copy in Canada (the author said it so it is true. Science!) for my birthday, I began reading it the next day after I recovered from said birthday.  I am ten chapters in and loving it!  I will post a longer review when I finish, but if you have the chance go buy a copy right now!

It is also a much different reading experience for me when I know the author personally.  Sometimes that can be a bad thing.  But in this case, having known Dave for even the short period that we’ve been hanging out, I find it has enhanced my enjoyment of the book a great deal.  I’ll talk more about that in the extended review as well.

*12:36pm – A funny thing just happened on my walk to Starbucks.  And I mean funny in a “wow people are ignorant” kind of way…

As I’m making my way to my local coffeetorium, I happen to pass an otherwise attractive young woman on the sidewalk, who was just lighting up a cigarette.  I must have allowed some form of disapproval to show on my face (though I’m fairly certain I didn’t), because she felt compelled to defend herself with a witty, “What are you looking at, fatstuff?”.

Normally I would walk on by, because I’m not twelve, I don’t have anything to prove and there was nothing to win by engaging.  But something in me decided today was a Training Day for the ignoratti, because engage I did.  I stopped, smiled, and in a friendly conversational tone replied, “Right now I’m looking at someone who is probably 20 years younger than me who will be dead 20 years sooner than me from lung disease.  And FYI, I used to weigh close to 600 lbs, now I weigh a little over 300lbs.  And I am working to lose the last 100, sometimes failing but succeeding more often every day.  So when you go home tonight and are wheezing because you walked up a flight of stairs to your cigarette-stained apartment, maybe you should ask yourself what you are doing to lose your ignorance.”  And then I turned and walked into Starbucks.

And that girl ended up being the barrista that made my drink.  But my soul felt clean as I drank what I’m fairly certain was a skinny latte with “extra foam”…

*2:21pm – I’ve been catching up on the most recent seasons of Burn Notice, and I have to say I am still loving the show.  It is pretty formulaic, but the writing is clever and the characters are enjoyable, especially the weekly guest stars.  The one stand-out for me is Bruce Campbell’s character Sam Axe.  It has been a treat to watch him play the same character for 4-1/2 seasons, watch him develop and grow the part.  And I’ll admit it, I have a bit of a man-crush on Bruce Campbell.  Heck, Sam Axe is part of the reason I’m leaning towards acquiring some Hawaiian shirts…

*5:34pm – I may be in the minority, but I think it was a mistake to end Stargate Atlantis in favour of Stargate Universe.  I only watched a handful of episodes, but my impression of SGU was that someone really missed Lost and Battlestar Galactica, so they combined it with the SG universe to create a Frankenshow.  In the process, they cut off what was a really great series with excellent characters and stories.  Which was stupid; there was no reason it had to be one show or another.  Given that SGU only made it two seasons, hemorrhaging viewers the entire time, I think SGA could have been left in place.  After all, it worked between SG1 and SGA, right?  That’s my Stargate rant…

*6:28pm – Okay, I think this is the last nugget today.  Are you ready for another funny/scary movie set in England?  Me too! I therefore present to you, Attack the Block.  I can’t wait!

This was fun, I’ll have to try it again some time.  Back to regular blogging tomorrow.

Fanboy Confessional

I’ll be honest, when I first saw Fanboy Confessional commercials pop up on Space, I rolled my eyes.  It looked like yet another show lampooning the more extreme members of our fandom.  But however badly conceived and executed, shows about geeks don’t come around very often.  So I locked it in to the PVR, and expected the worst.

I will admit without reservation that I was wrong.

Having watched four episodes so far (Space airs two half-hour episodes back-to-back) I admit to being truly impressed, both with the respect given to the topics and the obvious enthusiasm towards the subject material.  Narrated by Aaron Ashmore (yes, Jimmy Olsen from Smallville) and directed by Michael McNamara (no stranger to documentaries; you may have heard of 100 Films and a Funeral), each episode focuses on one genre in the greater fan continuum.  In the four episodes I have watched so far, the show has examined cosplay (focused mostly on anime/manga cosplay, but touching on other kinds as well), steampunk, horror fandom and super-heroes/real-life super-heroes.

Each episode follows two or three people or groups, as they go about their geeky lives enjoying whichever fandom is the topic for that episode.  In the case of the cosplay episode, for instance, we are introduced to a group of four friends who are relatively new to anime cosplay as they plan and prepare to attend Anime North; at the same time we meet a few more experienced cosplayers, as well as staff from Anime North responsible for the cosplay contest at the con.  That, in fact, is one of the things that has kept the episodes interesting for me, that range of experience inside each of the genres.  As someone who has been inside fandom for a while, it is good to be reminded that there are always new fans coming up behind you, as well as elder fans cutting the path ahead of you.

But what I love the most about the show is the thing I was wrong about.  None of the episodes I have watched have lampooned or derided anyone.  Obviously it would be very, very easy to grab some footage of “that guy/gal” (and every aspect of fandom has one) and use that to represent all the rest of us. Instead, each episode gives us a broader spectrum of fans, presenting a much more complete picture of the people rocking that genre.  More than that, each episode is skillfully shot to show all the enthusiasm of the fans without making them look like, well, nuts.  And I’m not saying fans are nuts (we are, but I’m not saying that) but you and I know how easy it is for us to appear nuts when shown out of context.  Fanboy Confessional keeps the context clear, and so the fan joy shines through.

I was most surprised by was the Real Life Super Hero episode.  I had heard, of course, about extreme comic book nerds taking to the streets in costume and extracting vigilante justice.  You know, the idiots that at best make comic book nerds look bad, and at worst get themselves/others hurt, or get arrested because they are breaking the law.  Here is a tip, and I know this will come as a shock: you don’t get to break the law just because you are wearing a costume. Sorry.

But the FC episode didn’t talk about those guys, except for one person who mentioned them in order to distance their group from them.  Instead, we were shown a group called “The Skiffytown League of Heroes”, a group of real-life super heroes that perform public services in cities and towns all across the States.  Then the episode focuses in on two members: DC’s Guardian (the city, not the comic company) and Thanatos (A Vancouver-based RLSH ).

Both of these gentlemen work in public, in costume, trying to spread a very positive message.  DC’s Guardian spends his time talking to people about citizenship, making sure people are involved in their government, that they’re voting and generally working to get people involved in their country in a positive way.  Thanatos is equally public-spirited, volunteering his time in one of the poorest, crime-ridden areas of Vancouver.  But instead of doling out vigilante justice, he brings water and energy bars to prostitutes and street people on hot days, and comes back in the evening to bring care-packages to the homeless.  Both of these gentlemen are just open and earnest about connecting with and helping people.  Not only was I impressed with the episode itself, I was blown away by these two heroes and thrilled to know that people like this exist.

If you are a geek I cannot recommend Fanboy Confessional enough.  It is a funny, engaging and reverent look at our collective fandom, and it is well worth your time and mine.  You can catch it Wednesdays on Space, 8pm and 8:30pm (MST).  Or if you can’t wait until next Wednesday you can get a little taste on the Space website.

My name is Brent, and I am a Fanboy.