Saturday, May 31, 2008

Fireball XL5

I just ordered the complete DVD set of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's 1962 creation, Fireball XL5.

It is a lot of fun!

Yes, the Supermarionation is not on a par with later efforts - the wires are visible at all times, and kids might not like the fact that it's in black and white, - but the plots are interesting, as are the gadgets - quite a bit of foreshadowing of future SF shows and even a bit of reality.

I'm going to quote the copyright free Wikipedia:

Set between the years 2062/2063, the series features the missions of spaceship Fireball XL5, commanded by Colonel Steve Zodiac of the World Space Patrol. Also aboard as part of the crew are the glamorous Doctor Venus, middle-aged navigator and engineer Professor Matthew Matic, and Zodiac's co-pilot Robert the Robot, notable for being transparent. Robert was the only character in an Anderson series that was actually voiced by Gerry Anderson himself.

Fireball XL5 is based at Space City, located on an unnamed island in the South Pacific, headquarters of the World Space Patrol headed by Commander Zero. Zero is assisted by Lieutenant Ninety. The patrol rocket Fireball XL5 takes off utilising a mile-long launch rail which culminates in a 40 degree incline, or sky ramp, which Anderson explains was inspired by an old Soviet design, a concept also used in the film When Worlds Collide.

There is a fleet of at least 30 'Fireball XL' ships (an XL30 is referred to in The Firefighters episode), of which XL5 is the most famous.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Alexander Courage - composer, Star Trek theme

Alexander Courage, composer of the Star Trek theme (for the original and best series) died on May 15. I've only just heard.

From the copyright free Wikipedia
Alexander Courage (December 10, 1919 – May 15, 2008) was a 20th century American orchestrator, arranger and composer of music, primarily for television and motion pictures.

Courage, most famous to SCI FI fans for his work on Star Trek, became alienated from Star Trek's creator Gene Roddenberry over the latter's demand for half his music royalties. (Gene Roddenberry wrote words for Courage's Star Trek theme, and even though those words were never sung - on the show or anywhere, Roddenberry was still able to claim acknowledgement as the co-writer, and was paid half of the royalties from the song.)

During World War II, Courage began composing for radio. His credits in this medium include Broadway Is My Beat, Hollywood Soundstage, and Romance.

Motion picture work
Courage began as an orchestrator/arranger at MGM studios, which included work in such films as Show Boat ("Life Upon the Wicked Stage" number), The Band Wagon ("I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan") and Gigi (the can-can for the entrance of patrons at Maxim's), and the barn-raising dance from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

He frequently served as orchestrator for Andre Previn (My Fair Lady, the "The Circus is a Wacky World" and "You're Gonna Hear from Me" production numbers for Inside Daisy Clover), Adolph Deutsch (Funny Face, Some Like it Hot), John Williams (Superman, The Poseidon Adventure, Jurassic Park, and the Academy Award-nominated musical films Tom Sawyer, and Fiddler on the Roof), and Jerry Goldsmith (The Mummy, Mulan, Rudy, et al.).

Apart from his work as a highly respected orchestrator, Courage also contributed original dramatic scores to films, including two important 1950s westerns, Arthur Penn's Left Handed Gun and Andre de Toth's Day of the Outlaw. He continued writing music for films throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, including the score for Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (which incorporated 3 new musical themes by John Williams, in addition to Courage's adapted and original cues for the film). Courage's score for Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was finally released in early 2008 by Film Music Monthly as part of their boxset, Superman - The Music.

Television work
He is probably best known for writing the theme music to the original Star Trek television series, but also worked as composer on such shows as Lost in Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Judd, for the Defense, and Daniel Boone.

Jerry Goldsmith and Courage teamed on the long-running TV show The Waltons, in which Goldsmith composed the theme and Courage scored the Aaron Copland-influenced incidental music.

Courage had been in declining health before he died on May 15, 2008 at the Sunrise assisted-living facility in Pacific Palisades, California

Monday, May 26, 2008

What happened at Piedmont?

I actually missed the first hour and a half of The Andromeda Strain miniseries on TV today... too caught up in the final episode of the Law & Order Marathon on TNT.

The Andromeda Strain is one of my favorite books, indeed when I was a kid and first read this book I wanted to create a Project Wildfire myself!

The movie made in 1971 was as close to the movie as you'd expect, but from the plot synopsis that I just read on Wikipedia, this miniseries is a bunch of garbage!

I won't give away the new plot - just be aware that it's verrrrry loosely based on the novel, and you can check it out at Wikipedia, or watch the thing yourself.

The one fun thing about it is the clever marketing, a fictional blog called What Happened at Piedmont?

I've toyed with fictional blogs myself - for my TechnoOcean Academy books that I've yet to actually I thought I'd share this.

I don't mind them making a miniseries with the plot that they've got in The Andromeda Strain ---- but don't call it the Andromeda Strain, cuz this ain't it!!!!!!!

Way to spoil the movie, TNT! (Spoiler for Prince Caspian)

I've been watching the Law & Order marathon on TNT for most of the day... it's 5.04 pm and they've just shown a commercial for Prince Caspian.

Right dab smack in the middle of the commerical is a shot of the White Witch, Tilda Swinton, (who had ostensibly died in the first movie). Swinton is uncredited in this movie, and I'm 100% sure that her appearance in this movie was meant to be a surprise.

And yet here in this commercial - there she is.

Okay, it's not TNT's fault. It's the fault of the movie company that put together the trailer... but it's only bloody common sense that you don't put the star of a previous movie - who died - in the trailer for the new movie!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Prince Caspian

I went to see Prince Caspian today, and for the most part I enjoyed it more than The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. (Although the final fight between Tilda Swinton's White Witch and Peter kicked butt and made the whole thing worth sitting through.)

As all the critics are saying, this is a "darker" Narnia... it begins with a woman giving birth to a male child. Her husband sees this as his cue to kill his nephew, Prince Caspian, so he can ascend to the throne of Narnia. However, Caspian is warned by his tutor, and flees into the forest where no soldiers will go. (Well, they will go, but reluctantly.) His tutor has given Caspian a horn, which he is to blow if he needs help. Caspian is almost captured by pursuing soldiers..and blows the horn.

In England, back in London, apparently, the Pevensie children are going to school. It's a year later. Peter resents not being treated as the king he once was, and he and Edward are bickering. Lucy and Susan are much the same, however. While they sit on a bench, a train comes...and when the train passes the Pevensie children are back in Narnia...and near the ruins of Cair Paravel, their former castle.

What happened to Narnia? The Telmarines invaded...and the great lion Aslan left the Narnians to their fate - to be butchered and/or driven deep into the forest. Now that the four sons of Adam have returned, they must save Narnia from the Telmarines who intend to invade their forest refuge and kill them all.

There is a clash, of course, between Peter Pevensie who still regards himself as King, and Prince Caspian who is older than he and had expected someone else... Peter also refuses to wait for Aslan to come and help them, as Lucy suggests. He no longer believes in Aslan.

In the end, Peter accepts that he can't do it on his own, and sends Lucy into the forest to ask Aslan to help them. Once Lucy arrives, and asks for that help, Aslan obliges...and the battle, in which hundreds had died on both sides, is soon over...

(Do you detect a tinge of contempt for Aslan here?)

All of the Chronicles of Narnia books are Christian allegories, and I have no problem with that. It's just very interesting what those allegories actually show about the Christian religion... (or any religion, for that matter!)

It's interesting to read the message boards on the IMDB about this movie. There are several threads up in arms about the "shameless Christian propaganda," so much so that you've got to laugh. Where were they when Catholics were up in arms about The Da Vinci Code and its "insult" to the Catholic religon? I suppose anytime a movie has a priest as a hero instead of a hypocritical villain, that'd be shameless propaganda, too.

(Don't get me wrong, like I said, I'm an atheist, I just find it interesting how some of my fellow atheists get all up in arms when a movie apparently showing Christianity in a positive light is "shamelesss." (I use the word apparently advisedly, of course, as I hardly see Aslan's passive behavior throughout the film "uplifting.)

But, of course, as many Christian pundits will say, and which is perfectly true, Christianity is the only religion that can be portrayed as hypocrital or ridiculous in movies. Hindus are up in arms about Mike Meyers The Love Guru, for example, and of course if you make any movie critical of the religion of Islam you can expect fatwas and the murders of all involved toot sweet.)

But, of course, just as the first movie was criticized, so is this one. "WHere's all the blacks?"

Well, I gotta tell you. Before the "sons of Adam" arrived, the only beings living in Narnia were dwarves, fauns, talking animals, centaurs, minotaurs, et al. When the sons of Adam arrived...well, there were only a handful, and they came from 1950s England...

But what about the Telmarines, in Prince Caspian? In the movie at least, they all speak with accents that sound Spanish, and it turns out that they came from "our world" and were pirates, and somehow found a portal into Narnia where they proceeded to kill all the Narnians and drive any survivors deep into the forest.

Sounds like the Spanish arrival in the new world to me... but if you look at the threads at the IMDB, they're being cast as Muslims invading the Christian the Crusades, Muslim against Christian, rather than Spaniards against innocent native Americans. (And of course, the people who have that view of the movie are critical of the movie because of it. Just more propaganda against Muslims...)


The movie ends with Prince Caspian promising everyone that Narnians and Telmarines will live together in harmony. But, if there are any of those who dont' want to remain, Aslan will take them back to their original world... this is actually how the book ends as well...and I know there's someting allegorical about that as well.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Small Gods: Disappointed!

As I said four weeks ago, I was very disappointed in the adaption of Small Gods - my favorite Terry Pratchett book. (A very powerful book about the ridiculousness of religion (any religion), among other things.)

It has just completed this Saturday. (The episode will be available at BBC Radio 7 for the next 7 days.

I just listened - or rather tried to listen - to the last five or so minutes of it. In the book, it's a great scene, Om zooms up to Dunmanifestin, has a fight with the other gods who are using the humans as playthings, and convinces them to appear in front of their followers, and bring peace. They say, "This is not a game. Here and now, you are alive."

Okay..unless you've read the book -- (and it appears in several of Pratchett's works) -- you might not recognize the phrase, "Here and now, you are alive," but Pratchett revisits this concept again and again throughout his work - about the preciousness of an individual's life, of the "here and now," and the different paths that can be taken...and the different futures that will result. really needs a bit of expansion for a radio episode and - the adaptor has no problem rewriting Pratchett's text throughout this adaption - but he can't expand on those two sentences here at the end??

The voicework of Barlow at this point also is, I'm sorry to say, disappointing.'s not how I heard Om speaking in my own head while reading the scene, anyway! Also, they mess around with his voice...putting it in an echo chamber. That's not necessary - Barlow could have, and should have, done it all with his own voice.

At the very end of the book. ..... SPOILERS

One hundred years have passed, and as soon as Brutha is reminded of this -- and Brutha never forgets everythingm but he had forgotten this -- he dies, as Om had foretold.

"I forgot," he says in the book. He laughs, and says again "I forgot."

But the voice actor in Small Gods doesn't laugh. He's not amused that he forgot, he's surprised. That's not the way Brutha would react.

And then...the BBC version goes silent. There's got to be at least two more minutes of the program, where Brutha meets Death, walks into the desert, and finds Vorbis, who died a hundred years ago, but has not had the courage to walk across the desert. Brutha holds out his hand, Vorbis takes it, and they begin the journey.

It's not that the radio version cut this out... it just isn't there! Something happened to the tape or something, and all we get is silence! (It also happens in a 15-minute episode of something called Brian Appleton's History of Rock and Roll, on friday, so it's got to be somethign going on with the BBC7 website...)

Anyway...I've recorded all four episodes, but I doubt if I'll ever listen to them. Small Gods deserves a much better adaption than this.

Jon Pertwee Speaks!

On the anniversary of Jon Pertwee's death on May 20, 1996, today and for the next seven days you'll be able to hear Jon Pertwee speak about his acting career, at BBC Radio 7.

It's called An Hour With Jon Pertwee.

Time Lord. Scarecrow. Naval officer. Is there nothing Jon Pertwee couldn't do? Jon himself enthralls us with tales of his life

The show is an hour long - he talks about Doctor Who for the last 15 minutes - but the whole thing was fun.

A bit serendipitous, as I just saw today for the first time the 10th Doctor episode, School Reunion, in which the 10th Doctor meets Sarah Jane Smith. Who fans will know that Sarah Jane started out with the Third Doctor, Pertwee, and ended with Tom Baker.

Elisabeth Sladen has an unoffcial webiste:

There's sparks between Rose (the current companion) and Sarah Jane, and Sarah Jane has a zinger for the Doctor (can't remember the exact quote but something like, "I can tell you're getting older. You're assistants are getting younger.")

And Anthony Head does a masterful job as the villain... definitely alien acting, and his delivery of the line "Forget the shooty dog thing," is fantastic. Now, if I'd actually purchased a TV a few days ago with a built in DVD-recorder, I would have taped it and watched it again. Unfortunately, I'd misread the box and all I've got is a tv with a player that plays DVD-Rs as well as DVDs... very annoying.

I didn't know that Anthony Head was the brother of Murray Head (Chess), although now that I do know I can see the resemblance. I'd liked him in his coffee commercials that made him famous decades ago... but never watched him in anything. I knokw he was in Buffy the Vampire Slayer but I don't like horror shows (except Darren McGavin's one and only Night Stalker!) so I never watched it... but perhaps I might revisit it.... ; )

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Any coin collectors here?

I recently read a book on US gold coins, which re-ignited my interest in coin collecting that had lain dormant for several years.

And of course when anything ignites my interest I usually do a website about it.

So, here's a website called The Coin Chronicles.

It's still under construction, and always will be because there's such a vast amount of info out there, but it will feature a biographical and chronological history of US coin collecting, as well as articles on the hobby itself.

And I've got a blog attached to it called Only Gold, which discusses collecting gold coins and investing in gold bullion:

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Murder in Myanmar

Well, apparently over 10,000 people are dead in Myanmar because of the typhoon that hit a week or so ago. And the junta that rules the country isn't letting in humanitarian aid at all, let alone on a timely basis. I wonder if this same disregard for people would be evidenced if the country was still Burma?

Of course, in one sense the US has little room for criticism. How much red tape did international help have to go through after the catastrophe of Katrina? Indeed, there is NO excuse for the lack of effort after Katrina - either for the local, state and federal governments, OR for many (not all, just many) of the people who just sat back and waited for aid rather than taking matters into their own hands.

And there is NO excuse for what's happening in Myanmar, and you sure as hell can't blame the people for it. Well... I suppose you can. Instead of throwing all the dead into the river (which I kind of sort of think will pollute that water supply for decades to come), they should carry their dead to the capitol city where this military junta rules, and pile them on the steps of that capitol.

Okay...I don't really know the solution. But something needs to be done to help the people of Myanmar, and if that means getting rid of that junta.... ?