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2009.05.11 Star Trek the New Old Generation:

I loved the new Star Trek. Let's just get that out of the way at the beginning, then continue.

I am a huge Trek fan, from way back (not WAY way back, like the 60's way back, but way back, like from the 80's). I used to watch Original Series reruns on TV as a kid (in the 70's), I went to see the first Star Trek movie in the theater (not that I really remember it, but my parents have reminded me), then stopped watching Star Trek altogether when Wrath of Khan came out because the little brain-worm-things scared the shit out of me. I got back into it when Next Gen started, and just went nuts over it. You ask me how dilithium crystals work in a warp drive, and I can probably give you an explanation without doing any research.

There are tons of reasons why I enjoyed the original series (and Next Gen, and DS9, and occasionally Enterprise), and I'd love to tell you that it was because of the hopeful and optimistic vision of the future, and the way it portrayed humanity as having overcome greed and prejudice and having dedicated themselves as a race to bettering themselves and fighting the just and righteous fight for freedom and cooperation. But really, I loved it because of the characters. The sometimes quirky, sometimes absurd, sometimes hyper-real, sometimes bizarrely unrealistic characters and relationships that populated the show. I loved it because of the stories, and the campy humor, and the glorious over-acting. And, I loved it because it sometimes asked deep philosophical questions, and other times it paraded around in front of you wearing a Nazi uniform. I don't think I really grasped the historical, philosophical, and sociological ramifications of the Trek universe until later.

But, we're here to talk about the new Star Trek movie, aren't we?

Taken on its own merits, I think this is a phenomenal movie. There are issues of science and issues of execution of course, but overall it is exciting, and fun, and touching, and very Star Trek in lots of the right ways.

I think Chris Pine made a great Kirk. All the characters were written (and directed, I assume) somewhat… over-the-top, and very earnest. I felt that, though Pine also suffered this, he had a presence and subtlety that really befitted the character, and that I can see serving him very well in subsequent outings. There was at least one scene (and I've been trying to remember exactly where it occurred, but nevertheless) where I remember thinking to myself… "There's Kirk. That's Kirk. That was right on." And I think it was just a single word, or very short line, delivered with a certain mixture of joy and self-awareness that I think captured the spirit of "The Kirk," and channeled a bit of the old Shatner magic. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed this new Kirk.

There were certain Kirk moments from a story/plot perspective and from a characterization perspective that I didn't like, but those would be difficult to elucidate without spoilage.

Quinto's Spock also had a lot to offer. Maybe he played it a little too close to the chest at times, and maybe he played it a little too "smirky" at times, but neither of those are entirely un-Spock-like qualities. I thought the father/son and the mother/son things were well written and well played, but I did feel that this Spock, somewhat interestingly, was representative of the Spock we came to understand over the last ~40 years, rather than the Spock we met in the first Original Series episode. Our Spock started out (well, after Where No Man Has Gone Before, anyway) as an emotionless, purely logical, and imperceptibly conflicted character who had very much chosen his Vulcan side over his Human one. That was not the Spock we got in this movie. In and of itself, that's not a bad thing, and I did really enjoy this Spock, but I also felt that this new Spock didn't represent where our Spock would have been at this point in his life. It didn't kill my enjoyment of the character, but it stood out to me as a point of unnecessary disunity.

Ultimately though, I thought Quinto's Spock was fantastic. He enabled you to become invested in the character very quickly, and he brought you along for the… yes, emotional ride through the rest of the movie.

The supporting cast was also varying degrees of good.

Karl Urban's doctor was good, but I felt that he was trying too hard to imitate the wonderful DeForest Kelley. I also felt that the writers did him a disservice by restricting his dialogue almost exclusively (I felt) to classic "Bones" catch-phrases. Dixon over at Shelfbound considered that this may simply be the way McCoy talks, which is an interesting thought, but one I don't necessarily agree with. McCoy (the "real" McCoy, you might say buh-doom-tsh!) had plenty of aphorisms and metaphors to go around, but his dialogue was never so heavy with catch-phrases. Ultimately, it's forgivable, but it was irksome.

As an aside, I absolutely adored the way they introduced McCoy's nickname. It was a bit awkward, perhaps, but I loved it.

Simon Pegg as Scotty was a real treat. The character was fun, and lively, and seemed to come off as both brilliant and moronic at the same time. I like Pegg, he's fun. Unfortunately, I never believed he was Scotty. Doohan's Scotty was brilliant but subdued, earthy but not offensive, and excitable but responsible. Pegg's Scotty was mystified, frenetic, and frequently out-of-his-depth. Also unfortunately, Scotty didn't get enough good screen-time to further establish the character. Perhaps there's more to him than this situation allowed to come through.

Uhura was good. Her character had strength, conviction, self-confidence, and power. It is a testament to the actress (and the writers as well) that they were able to establish this, because she was woefully lacking many really meaty scenes.

Sulu was also good, and I felt he fared a bit better than Uhura, scene-wise. He didn't try (unlike Urban) to mimic his predecessor, but inhabited the character he was given. I don't think that I ever really felt he was Sulu, but rather that he was some entirely separate character.

The Christopher Pike character was really great. I felt he got shortchanged in the leadership department in a few spots, but that ties into some movie-wide problems and more potential spoilage. Still, I really liked this character.

Finally, we get to Checkov. What to say… I did really enjoy his introductory moments in the movie, but ultimately I found his character to be very annoying. I also felt that this character was the farthest from the original source material. I won't go so far as to say I didn't like the new Checkov—because he was entertaining, to a point—but he's just not Checkov. However, maybe he is just another casualty of the way the characters were generally over-played. If he'd been more subdued, perhaps he would have fit perfectly. Who knows?

Well, I said "finally, we get to Checkov," but really, the Enterprise is the last (or first?) major character in the Original Series, and we should talk about her as well.

I really liked the new Starfleet ship exteriors, and felt they were true enough to the original. The bridge, on the other hand, was a different story. The old bridge was spacious, and austere but powerful, and it felt comfortable and open. This new bridge was bright, flashy, and claustrophobic. So much of the old Star Trek took place on the bridge—perhaps this is an indicator that the bridge will no longer be the central story-telling vantage point. It will be interesting to see how it plays out in future movies.

At last, we get to the story itself. As I mentioned, it was enjoyable and exciting. Unfortunately, I felt it was also, like most of the rest of the movie, a bit over-blown. It was as if they tried to make every single moment just as tense and dramatic as possible—tried to give the story as much weight as it could possibly carry. The good thing is that it delivered. The question is, is that a good thing? Personally, I prefer my Star Trek a little more cerebral, and a little less "wagon train." Maybe that's the Next Gen era initiate in me, I dunno. I just think there's a line between sci-fi action/thriller and sci-fi action/drama that this movie played too often on the wrong side of.

At this point, I'm not sure how much more i can say without really getting into specifics of plot. I definitely have more thoughts on specific aspects of the movie, and also generally about what it means that we now have this New old generation of characters.

As I've mentioned in other venues, to other people, I loved it, but I also hated it.

- 02:30 am - PL :: 2 Comments
categories ::  Cool Links - Family - Friends - Happy/Love - Movies - Nostalgia - Pop Culture - TV - Upset/Dislike

 

2009.04.24 hold on there:

A couple buddies of mine recently launched their awesome new website—Shelfbound—where they're currently talking mostly about comics (but eventually about books, music, and movies as well, I believe). On Friday of their first week, they posted a discussion about their personal histories relating to comics, which I felt compelled to comment on.

That post, coupled with the call I received from the comic shop I (used to) frequent—asking if I was actually going to come pick up my (7 months worth of) holds, or if he should put them back and delete my holds list— got me started thinking about my own comics history, such as it is.

At some point in the not too distant past, I was an absolute nut with an active holds list of more than 20 titles, and an average of over 33 books purchased per month. I thought it might be entertaining to air out the dirty laundry of my former addiction, by way of some lists comparing then versus now.

Going through my collection (at least, those books that actually made it up to comicbookdb.com before I stopped entering them), I came up with the following list of titles that, at one time or another, was a regular purchase. Mind you, these were not ALL on my list at the same time, but a LOT of them were.

The "long-time" list consists of books that I purchased (usually consecutively) for more than a year.
The "short-time" list consists of long-running titles that I picked up and dropped, or bought off-and-on, or which were longer-running mini-series.

Long-Time Collections
Amazing Spider-Girl
Amazing Spider-Man
Batman
Batman Confidential
Batman: Gotham Knights
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight
Batman (various mini-series)
Captain America
Captain Marvel
Catwoman
Daredevil
Detective Comics
Harley Quinn
Incredible Hulk
JLA
Marvel Knights Spider-Man
New X-Men (Morrison run + a few)
Peter Parker: Spider-Man
Powers
The Punisher
The Spectre
Spider-Girl
Spider-Man
Spider-Man (various mini-series)
Superman/Batman
Transmetropolitan
Ultimate Fantastic Four
Ultimate Spider-Man
Ultimate X-Men
The Ultimates (2002 & 2005)
Webspinners: Tales of Spider-Man
Wonder Woman
X-Statix (X-Force)
Short-Time collections
All-Star Batman & Robin
All-Star Superman
Army of Darkness
Dark Tower
Elektra
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man
Green Arrow (kevin smith run + a few)
Marvel Knights
The Pulse
Sensational Spider-Man
Spectacular Spider-Man
Spider-Woman
Superman (off and on)
U.S. War Machine

And finally, after a few years of increasingly sporadic trips to the comic shop, and the cancellation (Spider-Girl) or ruination (Spider-Man) of some favorite titles, I've whittled down my holds list to the following:

Current holds list
Batman
Daredevil
Detective Comics
Powers
Superman/Batman
Ultimate Spider-Man

So, from 30+ titles every month I'm down to 6 (well, five plus Powers, which is apparently not even close to monthly anymore). Depending on the quality of the last 7 months, I may yet drop Superman/Batman, and I was considering dropping Daredevil (though the guy in the store said it'd been pretty good of late, so i dunno… i may just selectively pick up arcs, if they look good).

Of course, I just saw on Diamond's site that Dynamite Ent. is coming out with a new Buck Rogers comic, which I have to at least get the first issue of; and the guy at the store told me there's a rumor my girl (Spider-Girl, that is) may be re-launched. So, I may be back up to 8 titles in the near future… but for now, at least, it's a little more reasonable.

- 11:54 pm - PL :: 4 Comments
categories ::  Comics - Cool Links - Friends - Happy/Love - Pop Culture

 

2009.04.10 identity crisis*:

* "Crisis" is definitely overstating it a bit, but nevertheless…

Earlier tonight, I told an old friend that "I couldn't be happier with where my life has led," and, of course, that is true. What i've been struggling with the last few years has been the "where."

In high school, i wanted nothing more than to start my own business, be my own boss, stay in the hick town where I grew up and be a "computer consultant" (whatever the hell that means.) I knew that I would a) be awesome at it, and b) be totally happy with my life. Instead—when i realized my father's brain would melt and my mother's heart would flop right out of her chest if I didn't—i went to college.

In college, i met some awesome creative people, broke out of my mold, and made sweeping plans for taking over the world with the most profound art, music, and literature the world had ever seen, together with this band of misfit geniuses in whom I'd found a family.

Then the 'net happened and I found another niche. I was going to carry this empire of sight, sound, and word into the year 2000, and become the best damned webmaster this side of the Mississippi. I was going to shift paradigms, set trends, and lead the denizens of the 'net to the next level. Not that I could see what that next level was yet, but that was my plan.

Luckily, I landed a job that let me do the only thing that I'd really want to sit still long enough to get paid for. Unfortunately, i discovered that it wasn't always possible to innovate on a deadline, for the kind of clients a high priced web firm dealt with. That, and I didn't have the base skills to really push the envelope. I was, after all, entirely self-taught.

As technology progressed, I collected plans and hoarded them for "when I had time." My work, psycho ex-girlfriends, the internet, and my plans themselves sapped my energy to the point where little got done. Occasionally, I'd have a burst of activity, and accomplish something neat, or push a pet project a little farther up the hill. Then I'd go back to the news feeds, or the game of Dune, or whatever.

I was going to be a first-rate poet, the next Kerouac, a top notch photographer, a musician, a publisher, a record producer, a freelance web guru, a gallery owner, a coffee shop owner… the list goes on.

It's taken me a few years, but slowly, I've realized that I can't do it all. And those grandiose plans I made years ago—the empire I built on dreams—depended on that family of friends as a static, unchanging unit with infinite reserves of energy and patience. To meet my dreams, my friends would have had to stay just as they were.

What I've come to realize is not that I can't count on my friends (because I know they'll support me in whatever I choose to do), but just that my friends have their own lives, and plans, and dreams. I can't package them up into mine, any more than they can package me up into theirs.

So I have been converging on this point, where I have to figure out two things: what I want to do, and what I can do. With all these grandiose plans I've made, which are the feasible, workable notions, and which are the pipe dreams?

These were the thoughts that, late last year, and early this year, brought me to re-dedicate myself to my writing. I still have lots of plans, little things I'd like to do, but, when push comes to shove, my writing comes first. Someday, perhaps I'll be able to expand my arena again, but right now, I have to seize my opportunities and focus on a smaller set of goals.

To a certain extent, the old Coffeemonk Design Flaws empire is seeing a sunset. The name "Coffeemonk Design Flaws" was always Bob's thing anyway, and without his participation, it has long felt hollow.

I'm still working out the details in my head, but very likely, coffeemonk.com will become my writing oriented blog, and Savant-Garde Press will finally emerge from it's long stasis to stand on it's own. I'm also planning to launch a personal blog at matt.rasnake.info (eventually), and will continue to maintain bipolar as well.

This, then, is not as much an identity crisis, as it is an identity acknowledgement. This is the happiness to which my life has led me…

2009.01.15 3 rules of bourbon:

Codified by my buddy ben:

three rules of bourbon:

  1. bourbon is only served in a glass. a glass glass.
  2. only two things are mixed with bourbon, and both of them are water
  3. bourbon only goes in your mouth.

Inspired by the horrifying "How to Irrigate Your Nasal Passages."

- 03:05 pm - PL ::
categories ::  Drinking - Friends - Upset/Dislike

 

2007.04.04 slow news day:

don't have a lot to talk about today, so it seems like a great time to work in a mention of the puffin's latest blogging co-venture (now with his lovely wife, Allison), wherein he waxes poetic about the latest inspiring (and uninspiring) works in the comic book industry, she waxes poetic about high-falutin' sciency stuff, and they both entreat you with their occasional musings on the music scene and their own interesting undertakings.

appropriately enough, they've called it nerd [heart] geek.

oh, and in other news, i've just switched over from bloglines to our benevolent information overlords' "Reader" thingy. thanks to a conversation i was having with neil this afternoon where i was telling him about the two online feed readers, and where i convinced myself to go ahead and make the google plunge.

like my buddy Charlie has said… i wouldn't bow to our great and glorious overlords, except that they make such darned useful, usable stuff!

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- 11:39 pm - PL ::
categories ::  Computers/Tech - Cool Links - Friends - Local/Louisville - Pleased/Like - Pop Culture

 

2007.03.31 a gathering of old men and their ladies:

last night, after a two year absence from the stage, saw the re-emergence of Louisville's own Old Man. It was a great show, with some old classics and new hot ones from the album that's in the offing.

The Rud was much the same as I remember (my band also hasn't had a show in quite some time, and we haven't played the Rud for quite some time besides), but now they've settled on the "back stage," which i think is a major improvement from the "mid" stage. The sound is still mushy as ever. I think the Rud's sound system (or sound guys, i'm not sure which) is better suited for simpler acts, like… well, mainly vocalists, poets, plays, etc. I think you throw some guitars and drums in the mix, and the system has to work beyond it's limits to get the sound out there. Which is not to say that it's bad, just that there's some color to it. I still think the Rud is a great place to play, and a great place to see a show.

so Old Man rocked it out, did a superb job, and i enjoyed it thoroughly. oh, and there was a song with neil on the harmonica, putting the folk into "punk/folk." very cool.

following Old Man was an actual old man, alone on stage with his acoustic, strapless guitar, and his haunting voice and often nonsensical lyrics. i think everyone was pretty much alternately astounded and confounded by the performance. some of the lyrics i couldn't make out, and the ones that i could, well, some didn't seem to make any sense at all, as if they were just words stuck together for no particular reason, others made complete sense, but perhaps the most interesting part was that there was a deepness of emotion behind every lyric. in the end, the only pronouncement i could make was, "it wasn't good, but it was awesome." oh, and i told neil somebody should do a study on the guy, see how his brain works.

most of the rest of the evening was spent hanging out with friends, some of whom i haven't seen in several months. it was good to catch up, hell, it was good just to be around them again. it also gave the prick an opportunity to talk about finally making use of the practice space we've had for a month now. hopefully this week, we'll at least be able to get our stuff moved in, which will act as a catalyst towards getting us to the practice space at least once a week to *use* that stuff. i'm looking forward to it. i'm excited by the idea of a "new beginning" for the band, and have been itching to strum the strings for a while. (i'm a terrible guitar player, if i'm not at practice, i hardly ever touch the thing, except to move it from one spot to another.) if all goes well, perhaps we'll be ready for our resurgence party in 6 months or so.

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2007.03.27 of old friends, avail:

wherein your humble narrator again laments the inevitability of social distance

the wife and i had the pleasure this evening of hanging out with a few old friends, one of whom has recently embarked on a new life adventure in LA la land. again i was reminded of why it is i've chosen these people as close friends, and again i've had some nostalgic pangs for the times when i could just walk into the next room to enjoy wit, share an anecdote, or request advice. i realize, of course, that i've traded up—for someone with whom i can share many of the same things (along with many other things besides–not all of them "dirty", you cretins)

now all my closest friends but one are married (and he's probably not far off), and that has a way of cramping the social style, especially when you get doctors, near-doctors, students, and parents in the mix. schedules are hard enough to work around when you're just you. when there're two of you to consider, well, it quickly spirals out of control. work time, me time, us time, we time… we time nearly always gets the shaft in that arrangement.

i know that there's not a lot that any of us can do about it, so until we're able to be more proactive about it, i'm just planning on enjoying the infrequent times i get with my friends, and looking forward to the times that i can be reminded why i liked them so much in the first place.

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- 10:51 pm - PL ::
categories ::  Family - Friends - Happy/Love - Local/Louisville - Nostalgia - Society - Wife

 

2006.12.08 lazy day in old st. lou:

so, i'm up here with my lovely wife, doing her res. interview at WashU. i'm just chillin in the hotel room, shooting at my co-workers with the 2006 Power Treecam—a brilliant idea by yours truly, brilliantly embellished and executed by our boy ben.

i've run over to the St. Louis Bread Co., where I got the skinny on the fact that the national chain Panera Bread (as known to most of us) was actually originally the aforementioned St. Louis Bread Co. I picked up my breakfast there (croissant, cinnamon roll, and coffee) and they gave me a soufflé for free.

I've spent most of the morning upgrading our WordPress installation to 2.0.5, and just installed the wordpressReports plugin, so we can see just how many people aren't coming to visit the site to enjoy the dearth of updates.

and now, i'm going to watch the Special Edition DVD of Star Trek III, which my buddy nate so thoughtfully gave to me on my most recent birthday. thanks again, nate!

2006.08.17 cinema noche:

I spent a few minutes today working on the "invitation only" alterations to the movie night site, so I can now officially link to it in a public sphere. Currently, the only thing non-registered users can do is view the listed movies, and some stats for them. Feel free to drop by movie night and see our movie list. If I know you, feel free to drop me an email if you'd be interested in joining us for a movie night sometime. Casual is the rule of the day, as I can't really get more than 15 or so people (at an absolute max) in my living room to watch movies.

For the rest of you, some of the movies have a "Why Should I Watch This" blurb from the person who added the movie, so there's more than just pictures, links, and stats. In the future, i might make the comments on movies (and the as-yet-secret feature) available for viewing by non-registered users.

2006.08.16 like a steam engine, running low on coal:

well, brian's hopped back in the saddle, while i've been slacking. i suppose that's about right.

my buddy paul finally got himself hitched to his wonderful lady and our former roommate allison. It was a very nice, simple ceremony, followed by a pretty kickin' reception. they had a live jazz band that was just superb, and paul and neil got up and serenaded the new bride in patented old man style. my wife and i managed to get several good shots, which i've put up in the gallery.

our summer of weddings is now over (a brief reprieve), and we've two more friends' weddings left this year (that I can remember), but i think they both fall on the same day, so we'll unfortunately most likely have to miss the one that sara's not a bridesmaid in.

the remaining major news is that i whipped together a site for my friends that i'm particularly proud of, for organizing a monthly movie night. i'd link to it, but it's really by invitation only, and there are currently no safeguards to prevent uninvited users from signing up. (scribbles on todo list) so, suffice to say, it's really cool, and i'll post a link to it in the future when i've got it somewhat protected.

oh, and my 1 year anniversary at work has just come and gone, and i'm still thrilled to be where i am. i only hope that sara gets a residency in town (or within reasonable commuting distance) so i don't have to test the loyalty of my company in a long-distance employment situation. i'm fairly certain we can work something out (the company and i), but i'd certainly prefer not to risk it.

- 05:03 pm - PL ::
categories ::  Computers/Tech - Family - Friends - Happy/Love - Personal Projects - Photography - Wife - Work

 


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