Storm in Austin

Originally uploaded by xadrian.
It wasn't a big storm, but there was golf ball sized hail up in P-ville before I got home. I left a rained out basketball game to drive up 360 as the front was passing over. I commented to someone that it wasn't just a storm, it was like driving in the Nothing from The Neverending Story.

If you're from Austin and you read this, did you get any photos of clouds or hail?


Review: Star Wars the Clone Wars 1.21 - "Hostage Crisis"

Cad Bane, Cad Bane, Cad Bane. You couldn't go five minutes on Cartoon Network without hearing about Cad Bane. It was reminiscent of 1998-99 when there were posters and t-shirts and Taco Bell cups and merchandise galore of Darth Maul. We must love our Star Wars baddies.

I will admit, Cad Bane is pretty cool, but this is his first showing having only previously appeared in a web comic that leads up to "Hostage Crisis." He has a way to go before he's Boba Fett cool, or even Jango Fett cool.

He and his palls arrive at the Senate building on Coruscant. The Senate Guard approach them and demand some identification, which they provide with blasters and fists. (Of note, one of Bane's palls is Aurra Sing, first seen in one of those "don't blink" moments of the podrace in Phantom Menace.) Her sniper rifle brings down the bulk of the guards and Bane's palls do the rest. The group is comprised of Bane, Sing, a Weequay, a small fish like creature, a few IG series assassin droids and a couple Separatist commando droids. After they take down the platform guards, the commandos fake a guard voice and radio back that it was protesters and they've been taken care of.

In Senator Amedala's office, Padme and Anakin are discussing getting away for a couple weeks. Well, he is and she's saying she can't because she's trying to get a bill passed through the Senate. He reminds her that they are married and never see each other, and starts asking what's more important, her Republic ideals or their love. He reads her the riot act (as much as you can in a short cartoon) and then goes into the construction of his lightsaber. He recalls when Obi-wan said it was his life. Then to prove his love for Padme, he gives the lightsaber to her, saying it's his life. She says it's heavier than she thought. They kiss.


Anakin and later Luke's lightsabers are made from photography equipment called flashguns. The construction of these props is insanely simple. So simple that to make one, all you have to do is take the parabolic mirror off the flash gun. Some additional bits like calculator buttons and clipped windshield wiper blades can be added for good effect, but the main hilt remains nearly as is. When they were designed in the mid 70's, Lucas and his crew didn't have access to the time, money and equipment needed to create the all the props for the film so they had to get creative. Now, even though antiques fetch understandably higher prices, vintage photo flashguns that normally cost between $30-50 are now running in the hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars because you can make a lightsaber out of them.


Anakin and Padme's scene really got under my skin, but I don't blame this episode for it, I blame the overall chemistry these two have (or don't.) Let's be honest, Padme is a smart, hot, powerful woman. She has fought battles against droids and beasts, knows how to fire a blaster and fly a ship. Anakin, for all his Jedi powers, is a whiny bitch and always has been. Especially when he's around Padme. He's petulant and selfish and never ever grew out of his childhood fear of the universe being out to get him. I was hoping that Revenge of the Sith would have shown a darker, more steadfast and resolved Anakin, even if he was evil. But it was more of the same, and The Clone Wars didn't help that at all. In fact, every time these two interact, I wonder what they see in each other, especially was she sees in him. Sadly it comes across as an abusive relationship, as though she'd leave him if she wasn't so worried about him getting angry.

Regardless, they love each other.

Back to the story, Cad Bane and his group take out more guards as they move farther into the Senate building. I know animation can be time consuming and expensive, but I was just in the state capitol building here in Austin and it was jammed with people. You could even get in to watch the actual Senate during sessions. To say that the only people around are guards and bounty hunters is simplistic and sterile.

Anyway, they take out these guards and a couple droids. The leave the fish guy in the control room of the Senate building. Anakin and Padme's kiss is interrupted by Senator Bail Organa and Threepio coming into her office to tell her that a Senator has scheduled an emergency meeting in the lobby before they go vote on the Invasion of Privacy bill, which is funny to Padme. Anakin is hiding under her desk and she had to pick his lightsaber up and hide it in her sleeves. Bail Organa urges her to follow.

Bane and his crew sneak through the hallways and use a thermal detonator to take out a squad of guards during a change in shift. Aurra even blasts a survivor at point blank range, reminding me of Megatron blasting Ironhide through the deck plates. Such heroic nonsense. The Senators meet in the lobby followed by a roof blasting Bane and his crew. One of the Senators says he will not be treated this way and makes to leave. Bane shoots him in the back, then suggests they all sit tight. Senator Orn Free Taa tells the Chancellor he needs to see something and turns on a holocommunication with Bane. He tells Palpetine he's taken hostages and control of the east wing and they want Ziro the Hutt released. Palpetine says they don't deal with terrorists (not really, just easier to say) and they'll be met with force. Just then the fish man in the control room starts pressing buttons and pulling levers and all the lights go weird and all the doors close. Bane says he's in control.

Palpatine tries to radio outside but can't. Bane starts collecting weapons and Padme tells Bail Organa she can't be searched. Bane approaches her and starts in with the smooth scoundrel talk then catches her eyes looking past him to where Anakin is hiding in the hallways on an upper level. Bane turns around and starts blasting and immediately calls out "Skywalker?" and then orders his henchmen to go after him. I barely got a good look at Anakin, how Bane knew he was there or was able to recognize him in the shadows was not explained.

The Weequay and IG droid go after Anakin through the Senate building. In one of the oddest moments of the series, the Weequay shines a light into a darkened room where he startles a buxom female droid that looks more like she/it belongs in Futurama than Star Wars. She's alone and in the dark...and they're in the Senate building. Take from that what you will, but to me it was both out of place and a little naughty. May be just me but I have no other explanation for it.

The cat and mouse continues, but Anakin has no weapon. He finds a communication station, busts his little communicator open and hot-wires them together to get a message to the Chancellor. Then he uses a Jedi mind trick to distract the bounty hunters and the two split up to search the other floors. Anakin goes after the droid. Why you'd go after a machine first is beyond me. I'd go after the weaker, softer guy first. The Weequay sees the downed droid and reports back to Bane that the Jedi doesn't have his lightsaber, so Bane sends Sing along (heh) to hunt him down. Anakin sees the fish guy coming out of the control room and tries to get to him before the door closes. The Weequay and Sing find him first and Anakin Force yanks the blaster from the Weequay but gets it shot out of his hand by Sing. While he's occupied, the fish man jumps him from behind and jabs him in the neck with a taser.

Orn Free Taa takes a pardon disk from Palpetine to the jail where Ziro is being held. The bounty hunters drag Anakin back to the lobby. He's out cold and handcuffed and they dump him with the Senators. An IG droid and Orn Free Taa go to the prison where a squad of clones oversee the exchange for the colorful and stupidly offensive Ziro. Bane secures the Senators in the lobby with the help of laser rigged explosives. If anyone tries to leave, they blow up. If anyone tries a rescue, Bane will detonate them. The droid and the Hutt pull up on the air car and the rest of bounty hunters jump in and take off. Anakin wakes up, gets his lightsaber from Padme and cuts a Tom and Jerry hole in the floor. Bane tries to cheer Ziro up by blowing up the Senators just as the floor circle gives way and they all crash safely onto the level below.

Bane and Ziro race off into the distance.

Lucasfilm is really trying to set up season two with a arc-spanning villain and who better to fill that ignoble position than a bounty hunter. I'm not sure of the point of this move, though. The Republic is already waging a war against the Separatists and that group is already chock full of bad guys and droids. Were people getting bored of never seeing Count Dooku wield a lightsaber? Were we yawning through all two of Asajj Ventress's scenes? Did this show need ANOTHER bad guy? The list just gets longer and longer and the Republic is running out of time. We're down to mere months, even weeks before the events in Revenge of the Sith and I'd like to see a little more movement by the Chancellor and less gimmicky alien bad guys. Lucasfilm has made it clear that this show is canon, so let's see some story telling.

Cad Bane is a great character. Whoever designed him and whoever does the sound work over Cory Burton's already impressive voice does a bang up job. Cad Bane is purposeful and his no nonsense methods are almost likable. He doesn't waste time, he doesn't monologue, he gets in and gets the job done. Plus he's got that awesome hat.

This episode was suppose to run before Ryloth story arc, but I have a feeling that given the final Battlestar Galactica was on the same night, they decided to shuffle it. It's a shame really because "Liberty on Ryloth" was a perfect way to end the series. It was a three episode story, it built up and it paid off. This doesn't leave me wanting more; it was self contained and frankly if we never see Bane again I'd be ok with that. He was good for this and doesn't have to come back time and again. Having bounty hunters get their way seemed to be a downer of a finale even if we enjoy it when bad guys win.

Three green lightsabers.

Review: Dollhouse 1.6 - "Man on the Street"

I'd been hearing all week about how Joss himself said that if you'd stuck it out through the first five episodes, that this would be the payoff.

He wasn't fooling around.

I'm stuck in this self induced cycle of figuring out if the "Man on the Street" was actually that good or if the first episodes were just that bad. To be fair, they weren't all bad and to be fairer still, there have been only five episodes. But, all things considered, and comparing Dollhouse to no other shows on TV right now, this episode was amazing.

Yup. I said it.

But there's a danger in why it was so good tonight, and we'll get to that later. First let's go through the events that happened, because happen they did in spades packed in kung-fu grip action.

The episode starts off a little slow and stereotypically TV. A news reporter is asking people on the street if they've heard of the Dollhouse and if not, what they'd think of a place that can program human beings to do whatever you want. It's the responses you'd expect and it was the worst part of the show. There have been very few movies or TV shows that ever do the man-on-the-street bit with any credibility; it smacks of production and the average folk come across like bad actors and not real people. In fact, I find it hilarious that a TV show doesn't know how to make something look like a fake TV show. In the end, despite the title tie in, that wasn't as important as it was probably meant to be. The idea was that the Dollhouse was being close to being in the public eye and linking it to average citizens' vernacular tried to accomplish that.

When we left the Dolls, Victor was crushing on Sierra and Echo was remembering bits of each engagement but not enough to build a big picture; not yet. We also know that Agent Ballard is dangerously close to finding the Dollhouse, having seen the missing Caroline on the news and being just hours behind her in Arizona.

Ballard gets some information about some financial movements on one Mayflower group. He has his FBI friend Loomis do some legwork and they find that there are in fact large transactions going back and forth but one specifically happens every year on the same day and the next day is immanent. He also has a run in with Agent Tanaka about this being a dead case. The transaction comes from a dot com success Joel Mynor played by Patton Oswalt. He waits at a modest house while his private security sweep the area. Then Echo shows up. Agent Ballard sneaks in and busts Mynor and Echo in the midst of an odd domestic dream sequence of buying a home. Ballard hesitates and it's enough for the security guards to step in. It also allows Boyd Langdon to come in and get Echo out of there. Ballard dispatches the security and then has a lengthy talk with Mynor about his fantasy. Mynor relays a story about how after years of sticking with him through rough financial times, he bought a house to surprise his wife but she was killed while en route to see it. Every year he recreates the event with Echo. It's a sweet story and yet another scenario in which a Doll could be used.

Ballard can't do anything to Mynor because he basically broke in without a warrant so he has to leave him. Back at his place, his neighbor Mellie is hearing about the story and helping Ballard ice his yet again shirtless muscles. (Seriously, this guy loves taking his shirt off.) And, whoa! They kiss. She says don't kiss her and think of Caroline and they try to go back to being neighborly. Quick shot of Mrs. DeWitt's office and they have a surveillance camera in Ballard's home.

And speaking of surveillance, the Dollhouse has an internal problem for which they're checking the security tapes. Sierra has had sex, and not on an engagement, but recently and while at the Dollhouse. Victor is the prime suspect but Dr. Saunders and Boyd don't really buy it. At one point Sierra screamed and recoiled at Victor's touch. The Doc says there's a difference between liking someone and having sex with them. Too right, Doc. Boyd wanders around looking for holes in the security camera coverage, calls Laurence Dominic and has Victor's temporary handler and Victor taken away in front of everyone. Hearn (Sierra's handler) tells Boyd good work.

But it was a setup. A group of Dolls including Sierra walk down a hallway and into the gap in security cameras. Sierra goes into a room where Hearn is waiting. He tells her he's ready to play, she says she doesn't like it but knows to keep quiet and he starts to take his clothes off, and that's when Boyd punches him through the glass door. He saved the day but is put on probation, with a bonus, for doing a good job, but being so violent about it. Topher later is creating the ultimate badass imprint for Echo but lies to Boyd about her assignment.

Mellie and Ballard are recovering from a bout of love making (that was fast) and Paul asks her to help him with his case, she agrees. She's adorable and their banter is FINALLY some Whedon-esque material. He goes for Chinese food. Mrs. DeWitt has Hearn in her office with his wrists zip-tied. He's shouting about them not thinking that marching all these super hot zombies around would lead to this kind of abuse. She offers him a choice; be sent to The Attic or go kill someone who's getting to close to the Dollhouse, this person being Millie.

Ballard is at a Chinese food place when he catches a reflection of Echo in the kitchen, he goes in and she begins kicking his butt. They fight for a LONG time, throwing pans at each other, moving into the alley and fighting all over a parked car. Finally Echo gets the upper hand and starts relaying her message. He's getting close to the Dollhouse, but he has to stop trying and let them back off. They have someone on the inside, someone who corrupted the imprint on Echo while the programmer wasn't looking. There are 20 Dollhouses and they have ties to everything. Fantasy is their product but it's not their goal. They need Ballard to find out what that goal is, but first he has to back off and let them win. Then she tells him people he knows could be in danger.

Mellie answers the door and it's Hearn in a mask and he begins beating her up while the sound is drowned by orchestral music and everything is in slow motion. Just when I'm ready to say, "I told you so" and chalk up another character killing to to Whedon, the phone rings. We see Agent Ballard trying to call while running back, but it's not his voice on the answering machine, it's Miss DeWitt. She says, "There are three flowers in a vase, the third one is green." Hearn hears this and hesitates but Mellie's eyes light up and she begins kicking Hearn's butt all over the apartment. When she's dispatched him, Mrs. DeWitt says, "...the third flower is yellow." Mellie returns to her previous self and freaks out. DeWitt watches it all on the security camera.

Laurence congratulates Adelle on her playing a good hand and all the loose ends are tied up. Victor is back, Sierra is not screaming, and Echo is painting a house. Adelle talks to her and Echo says the painting isn't finished, but we get the idea she doesn't mean the painting. The painting is a recap of the scene in front of the house with Joel Mynor. Paul Ballard is suspended from active duty, turns in his gun and badge, much to Agent Tanaka's delight.

Before we go any further, there's a character I've neglected to mention from this and the previous episode. Her name is Ivy. She's an assistant to Topher and so far has been relegated to bringing him food when he's hungry, organizing the lab and making clever one liners. I didn't think she was that important. I should be ashamed for thinking that, knowing how shows like this work. I knew Mellie was important - actually I thought she'd be killed, I didn't see this coming. But Ivy now has a unique opportunity to be the mole on the inside.

Because who else could it be? No one has the programming ability to alter what Topher does. They all know generally how the set up works, but not the technical aspects. He has the keys to that kingdom, and as we say in the network administrator world, he's a single point of failure. So is Ivy the mole? I'm not sure. Reason being is not because she's unassuming, but something in the way she acts (not character wise, I mean the actor) just doesn't seem like she could command the camera to be in that large of a role. That may not be fair, but it's a gut feeling.

Also, we're assuming Echo's message was compromised and wasn't a big ploy by DeWitt and Topher to through Ballard off. They could keep using Echo to delay and distract Ballard as long as they want. They used Victor for the same reason, this is just another way to get to him. Having the girl he's been tracking for so long confirm everything he's been after and then say to wait until he's contacted again is a brilliant move. It was my first thought, in fact, that it was all a ruse to get him to back off.

Only time will tell.

But time won't tell us that this was a great episode. As I alluded to earlier, it's a dangerously good episode because Dushku was not the main character; Agent Ballard was. There were three distinct stories this time and Echo was only involved at a cursory level. She played her femme fatale role at the end quite well, but if I were Joss, I'd be worried that the bit players on the show are more interesting than the main character. But she's not really a character, is she?

Still, four and a half creepy doll heads. There are times I want to slap Topher and his abbreviated words, and Dr. Saunder's scars are hanging on just a little too long. Next week looks fairly entertaining as well.



Dear Cigarettes,

I know ours has been an on again/off again relationship. You've been there for me when I thought the world was trying to eat me alive. Through all your new looks and styles, you've always been the thing I needed, the fallback, the prop, the calming assurance.

But I think it's time we were just friends.

I know I should do this with a phone call, but you're an inanimate object that I'm anthropomorphizing with this "Dear John" letter so I can have a witty way to write about quitting this habit. You'll just have to accept, now, that I'm breaking both a forth wall and our relationship.

I just want you to know that it's been really good. You've given me so many reasons to get outside and break up my monotonous days. You've introduced me to new people. And even though I want you bad right now, I can't fall victim to that. You can't be habitual any more. You've become high maintenance and it's only going to get worse. I spent over $1000 last year on you alone, and that's money I'll never see again - it's not like I'm investing. You just don't give back.

The good news is, I still want to be a friend. I'd like it if we hung out every couple weeks, maybe over a few beers or a long night of drinking at a friend's house. Yes I know I'll hurt the next day, but better to hurt a little in the morning than for the rest of your life.

I don't know what will happen to you, honestly. You've got lots of other options, but you're pricing yourself out of a lot of peoples' comfort range. I'm worried for your future, but I just can't be part of it any more. I really hope you understand.

So, I'll see you around. I know we've done this before, but I have to look out for my future now. I have kids and special people in my life that I want to be around for a long time. You aren't helping with that. But I wish you luck with whoever you end up with.


PS You can keep the tee-shirts.


Steampunk Cylon Contest

Steampunk Cylon
Originally uploaded by xadrian.
I wish there was a way to vote for this, I could drum up the tens of people who read this to cast their lot with my little design.

Alas, I'll leave it to the fine folk at DVICE to decide whose Steampunk Cylon is the best.

Thanks to Mrs. A for taking a couple of nice shots. I can now take him all apart and start building something new.

Spring break is winding down, my dad and step mom came for a visit and we went to SeaWorld and out to eat a lot and to the capitol building. They're heading back today but the week's not close to over.

Ms. A is completely enamored with SXSW and will likely spend a good part of the weekend finding free shows and drinking free beer. She got a migraine from some edamame so that plan may be in question. However, SXSW is just tying up all of Austin whether you go or not.

I've got a wristband for some free shows but I'm not even sure when I'm going to go, or even if I want to. I'm not a fan of festivals and Ms. A and I came to the conclusion that this event is primarily a trust baby or music industry pleb scene. Even music fans who try to go to this event will not be able to see everything they want, even if they could afford to get into the official shows.

I don't want to down play this too much. It's good for musicians trying to get some fans and it's decent for the Austin economy to have this influx of people. I know not everyone is a fan of this event, seeing it as a big shadow over the city. There's a lot to Austin and this event makes everyone in the country think that all there is to our city is music festivals. Yes, Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World, but it's also the capital city of Texas, a very liberal oasis in a normally conservative state, a great place for arts in general and a good place for those who like being outdoors. I actually can't wait for it to be over.

But that's just me. I watch TV and play with markers and Lego.

Carry on.


Here are a couple reviews to look forward to over at Television Zombies.

Dollhouse 1.5 "True Believer"

"True Believer" might have me being a believer in this show.

The Dollhouse has a major client in a US Senator. He needs help getting inside a Yearning for Zion like religious cult compound. He enlists the help of Miss DeWitt and her organization to insert a sleeper agent into the community; and agent with a very special ability: Her sight is transmitted to federal agents.

The problem is, it renders her blind.

A group of singing, smiling cultist arrive by white bus to pick up some supplies from the local five and dime and a mechanic tries to pick a fight with one of them. They keep smiling and eventually the sheriff comes in to restore the peace. However, the store keeps looks at the back of the shopping list they gave him and on the back is written "save me."

Star Wars: The Clone Wars 1.21 "Liberty on Ryloth"

The penultimate episode and the final installment of the three part Ryloth arc gave us a lot to digest. The Ryloth story could have been told as a 90-120 minute film of its own, it's the perfect Star Wars type of story and it mirrors Return of the Jedi very closely. An evil group has taken up residence on an otherwise unassuming world and are using it for a military purpose. The good guys, in league with the local inhabitants, rise up and defeat the occupiers.

The difference here is the Rylothian Twi'leks are not cuddly teddy bears. They aren't exactly warriors, but they are able to hold their own against the droids. Mace Windu is leading an attack against the capitol city which is being held by Wat Tambor of the Techno Guild and his tactical droid second in command. Tambor's arrogance will not permit him to evacuate despite the droid's calculations and Count Dooku's insistence.

(make sure to stay tuned to TVZ for the full reviews)


Star Wars Live Action

Unless you're a geek who has been living under a particularly large rock, you'll likely have heard the reports over the last few years of the impending doom-er...live action Star Wars television show. Well it's now official and casting is underway.

I honestly don't know where I stand on this. I mean, there are parts of the Star Wars universe I like and parts I don't. It's natural with something as awesome in scope as Star Wars that there are going to be times when you just don't like what's produced. To some extent Star Trek is the same way. And it's not specific episodes or films I like more or less, it's aspects of the whole. The analogy would be that you enjoy the taste of tomatoes and cheese but you don't like club sandwiches.

I like space battles, not gonna lie. Way back when the PC game X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter was out, I was cultivating a sincere love of vehicles flying around in space shooting at each other. The bigger variety of ships, the wider the range of sizes and capabilities the better. I LOVE Star Wars spacecraft. I love it. A Twitter account was recently set up to ask a daily question and yesterday posed, "What did you want to be when you grew up?" I answered a test/fighter pilot, but only because I wanted to be Luke Skywalker or Wedge Antilles. Han was cool and all and the ladies loved him, but I knew I wasn't that cool. I wanted to be the starfighter pilot with an enviable and nuanced command of a laser blasting bird of prey.

And thus comes my problem with a live action Star Wars show. I'm trying to think of a franchise that started as a movie and then became a TV show. And I don't mean a TV movie or mini series, I mean a full blown Hollywood film. At first I had a hard time thinking of a good example, so using my wiki-fu I was able to find a decent list of movies that had been made into serial TV shows. I was surprised how much I'd forgotten. I also noticed Smallville isn't on that list and that was the one example I was going to use. I guess the Superman story was first a comic, then a TV show, THEN a couple movies, then a few more TV shows.

So if you look at that list, it's not a great track record. There are some exceptions where the show was as good as the movie; M*A*S*H, The Odd Couple, maybe Highlander, but for the most part the TV shows were either animated adaptations or hollow money grabs to further the property. And in even rarer instances (Buffy) the show was better than the movie.

How does this impact a live action Star Wars show? We've seen that sci-fi/fantasy can be done on the small screen with varying success (Doctor Who, Battlestar: Galactica, Hercules/Xena, Smallville, Stargate SG-1, Lost, Supernatural) but where the show ends up being broadcast may determine its success. Genre shows on broadcast networks, with a couple mega-exceptions, don't do well. Critically they are panned and they tend to be short lived and usually run out of money. They do better on smaller channels and cable, however, because their ratings don't have to compete with hyper-reality TV. Even better, if they lived on a subscription channel, they could have total control and tell the story they want. So where would Star Wars live? Knowing Lucas, he'd make his own channel, but I'm going to guess if it doesn't go on Sci-Fi, then it's going to ABC.

Why ABC? Well, ABC is tied to Disney and Lucas has kids. He's going to make a show that's for young adults, by young adults, starring young adults. It's going to be The Rebel Alliance 90210. If the slapstick antics of Episode 1, the horrible love story in Episode II and the hormone filled rage of Episode III are any indication, don't expect there to be any Jedi, droids, starship fights, lightsaber battles or much political intrigue. A live action Star Wars is going to be about Princess Leia fighting with her adopted dad, Bail Organa, and how he doesn't understand her. She doesn't want to be a Senator. She loves Gareth, the starship mechanic from the wrong side of Aldera and their love will end this war Daddy!


So no, I don't have any faith that a new show will be any better than the Clone Wars animated show (which isn't bad, but not great), any of the prequel movies or, and I shudder to even type it, the Holiday Special. But it's Lucas, so whatever channel he picks, whatever time slot, you can be guaranteed that it will run as long as he wants it to.


Bump for Science

Yesterday, President Obama reversed the Bush administration's stance on stem cell research. The short of it is, the federal government will now fund research outside of the limited lines of stem cells than previously funded. It doesn't seem like much and it won't return results tomorrow. What struck me was his remarks about science as a whole.

Here's an excerpt.

This Order is an important step in advancing the cause of science in America. But let’s be clear: promoting science isn’t just about providing resources – it is also about protecting free and open inquiry. It is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it’s inconvenient – especially when it’s inconvenient. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda – and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.

You can read the full transcript of his address here.

There be reviews here!

Just a regular update to let everyone know there are reviews up over at Television Zombies for the most recent episodes of Dollhouse and The Clone Wars episode 19. Also, #75 of TVZ is a listener call in show, check it out.

Also, I'm going to start posting my reviews here as well. No reason not to. I hope to drive some traffic to TVZ and I get content as well. Win/win.

To that end, here's a treat, review of episode 20 of The Clone Wars as not yet seen on TVZ. (Tantalizing!)

Review: Clone Wars 1.20 - "Innocents of Ryloth"

In "Storm Over Ryloth" we learn the Separatists have taken the twi'lek homeworld, starving the inhabitants and using them as human shields. The Separatists are using Ryloth as a droid reclamation outpost and the operation is run by Wat Tambor, a Techno Union Foreman and lead strategist. He directed Mar Tuuk's blockade as well as a tactical droid's hostage taking in a small twi'lek city.

The blockade broken by Anakin and Ahsoka, General Kenobi and Master Mace Windu begin their surface attack. However, the droid army, led by a rather egotistical tactical droid, have some major artillery in an outlying city, preventing the main Republic force from landing. The canons are surrounded by twi'lek hostages, making them impossible targets of Republic bombing. Kenobi and a few gunships full of clones set down outside the range of the canons and approach on foot. Some lead scouts find a small girl, Numa, who's been left behind. Her involvement is very reminiscent of both the first time Princess Liea met Wicket and the help Newt gave to Ridley in navigating the facility air ducts. Numa is able to lead the clones underneath the city and avoiding most of the droids. Obi-wan sneaks in and uses one of the canons to blast the others. The hostages then rise up and pull the head off the tactical droid. The Republic can now land safely and plan their assault on the Rylothian capital city.

Obi-wan even withheld offering his trademark smirking one liners. In fact, the General showed some impressive Force control during an attack by a few dozen giant, heavy shelled tick-like beasties. "The Force can have a strong impact on the weak minded," was a line he later used talking to Luke about getting past Stormtroopers, but subtle nudges in disposition are nothing compared to drawing a dozen elephant sized, heavily armored and hungry creatures into a dead end and having your clone troopers collapse the walls behind them.

In fact, "subtle" was clearly avoided in "Innocents." As with most of the show, things exist in heavy contrast to each other, likely to appeal to younger audiences. It's never in doubt who the bad guys are, but smaller things like the twi'leks being such bright ranges of colors, but their city being a drab uniform brown; the clones being so cool and calculating but inherently human versus the slapstick buffoonery of the metal and circuit droids; little Numa who weeps at the loss of her home but is unafraid of rushing head long into unknown, possibly droid infested areas.

"Innocents" has the ignoble position of being the second of three installments and as far as confrontations go, it was not as impressive as "Storm Over Ryloth." The numbers were smaller, the battles were more intimate and yet it still conveyed a sense of urgency. What's little known of the twi'lek race is that their chief export is slaves. This makes the Republic's fight on Ryloth a little deeper than what's seen on the surface. Most viewers will understand the Republic's desire to remove the Separatists from their position at the end of the famed Corellian run and return Ryloth to a Republic friendly status, but they're also freeing a people whose main purpose in the galaxy is to be slaves. It's perhaps the one subtlety this episode provided and it would have shown and even deeper understanding from the writers had they mentioned this fact.

Still, a solid episode. Well worth the four and a half green light sabers.


100 Artists Plug

Along with everything else going on, I have to remind people (and myself) that the 100 Artist Project is still going on. In fact it's seen a resurgence in the last couple weeks now that I've got some administrative help.

I'm sure all 12 of you are up and coming artists or persons of importance in the art world, so I'm going to ask you to please spread the word about the project and help get more eyes on it and hopefully more artists involved. It was a surprising success the first time around, but only because I brow beat people and was likely put on hundreds of spam lists. I'd like to get another round going and see if it can carry its momentum into future projects.



ABC Cancels "Life on Mars"

What is it with TV lately?

If you haven't been listening to the Television Zombies podcast, you'd be missing out on some quality debate over the life spans of, what are considered, "cult" TV shows.

Television is undergoing a weird transition where viewers are becoming more liberal with where they view programs and yet the money structure that supports these shows still relies on the numbers of eyes in front of the television when the show airs. What this means is a lot of good programming is being axed because viewers weren't watching it at 8pm on the nose.

That's an oversimplification, obviously. TV ratings have declined since the strike of '07-'08. Shows that were media darlings slipped disastrously and to fill the void networks produced the cheaper and human drama heavy reality shows - even variety and game shows made somewhat of a come back.

But what does this mean for good old fashion hour long dramas? What about sitcoms? Now that we have more choice as to what to watch, networks are being very picky about what they put up and if it doesn't get ridiculously high ratings, the show disappears in a single season, if that. Even shows with big names and major hype aren't safe. My Own Worst Enemy with Christian Slater didn't last 5 episodes. NBC's big expensive Crusoe didn't make it a full series. ABC's Pushing Daisies, arguably one of the most creative shows in the last 10 years, was canceled after two seasons, its last three episodes left unaired. And now Life On Mars is falling victim to the ratings crunch. Oddly enough, it will be allowed to finish its season and wrap up its fledgling storyline, but it's another casualty of an antiquated system.

And why is it antiquated? Digital recording has allowed viewers to tape shows and watch them at will. Network web sites have offered full episodes of shows that just aired. Online movie rentals allow you to stream entire seasons of TV shows. Yet the numbers the networks base the popularity of these shows don't factor these advances in because they aren't as ad revenue based and thus make no money for the network. This is starting to change, but we've lost a lot of good shows and will likely lose more before it's all said and done.

And what replaces these shows? When Life On Mars leaves, something will fill its spot. They'll shuffle the line ups and schedules and I'm sure there will be another Dancing With The Stars to keep us all entertained. We'll have another shallow show about rich people finding love from gold diggers or how a group of people can't find their ass on a map or live together in a disgustingly awesome house. It's pervasive, you can't avoid it and it's truly horrifying to think that the majority of people in the States watch it. People I admire for their taste in literature or film watch American Idol. People who wouldn't be caught dead listening to popular radio watch Survivor.

And why is that? What makes these rubbernecking trainwrecks of shows so popular? Because they are trainwrecks and we can't help watching them. (Well, you can't, I'm prefectedly capable of avoiding them.) But let's make something clear; the shows you see on Discovery Channel, TLC, History Channel, etc. I would not consider Reality TV. I would consider them documentaries or science programming. In fact, those shows SHOULD be called reality TV because they contain information, historical fact, useful scientific principles. An impossibly good looking blonde eating a bug or jumping off a cliff isn't real, it's hyper reality. The only real part of those shows are the people in them an that's debateable.

But the only way we'll get past this is to embrace scripted programming, even if it's one with a laugh track. The only way to tell the networks we're not idiots is to stop watching these shows. If no one tunes in, they can't possibly keep making them. Help me help America's IQ and turn off these shows that celebrate mediocrity and ineptitude. Challenge your mind to follow along with complex stories. And if all else fails, turn it off altogether and find something to read.

Carry on.


Destination Imagination - Behind the Scenes of The Seven Seahorses

First of all, Seven Seahorses is an awesome name. It evokes a certain Kirosawa quality.


Destination Imagination

So here's what LMA and Ms. A have been working on for the past couple months.