Monthly Archives: March 2013

Dessler Is the Bestler

The bright spot of the spring 2013 anime season is clearly Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199. Yup, it’s a straight-up remake of Starblazers! The major differences are that Dr. Sano/Sane (little old geezer doctor with a cat and a good supply of sake) is being replaced by a younger, prettier female version.

The old show, on Hulu.

Preview trailer for the new show and the TV webpage so far.

It’s the future. Earth has been united in peace — by a space invasion by the Gamilos (Gamilons, on the US version), led by the sinister Leader Dessler (Desslok). Earth is losing pretty much all their space colonies, the aliens’ bombs have dried up the oceans, and everyone left on Earth is living in gigantic bunker cities deep underground. But just when it seems we’re destined to become victims of this genocidal war, an envoy arrives from another alien race, bringing plans for a superweapon and a stardrive, and promising a way to re-terraform Earth. The only catch? We have to use that stardrive to run the Gamilos blockade… and where will Earth get a spaceship to use?

Anyway, the heroes are a good bunch. There’s the hotblooded fighter pilot/helmsman Susumu Kodai (or Derek Wildstar, as we knew him) who wants to avenge his dead brother and impress that smart, beautiful blonde officer, Yuki (aka Nova). There’s his wingman, Shima Daisuke, who does navigation and attempts to keep Kodai from nuking his career with the hotblooded stuff. And there’s the crusty old man captain who rarely goes anywhere besides the bridge and his cabin, seems to drink as much as Dr. Sano, and seems to have been the one who left Kodai’s brother to die.

The villains are also an interesting bunch. But Dessler (a really evil totalitarian aesthete megalomaniac, who nevertheless is bound by his strict sense of honor, his love of country, and his good taste in women) is the best. I hope they’ve kept all his bluefaced, Prussian-haircut, winebibbing, assassination-foiling, swordfighting glory.

So far all the major characters seem to have been brought intact to the remake. Also intact is the WWII sensibility of the show, which basically puts all cool things on the Earth good guys’ side. So you have a Japanese design for some things, but the space fighters copy from the Flying Tigers. (Having a bishie guy wear a bomber jacket over his Star Force uniform fits right in.)

Also, they kept the original orchestra/jazz score, modifying it only slightly to escape excessive Seventies-ness.

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Happy Easter!

All the best to you and yours!

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Well, This Explains a Lot about JNT.

John Nathan-Turner was always a controversial feature in Doctor Who fandom.

He was a fan himself, and it always seemed like he must be awesome for the show. However, it was noticeable that he rode the show into the ground, and that a lot of people who’d worked on the show didn’t have a good word to say for him. Not even in a fakey entertainment industry way did they speak well of him. It made one think.

Well, as the years go by, we’ve learned a lot more about JNT being a big fat jerk. But apparently he was also a jerk who hit on underage male fans. More troubling, it seems that Gary Downie (another long-time show employee) actually was known for committing sexual assault on male fans and employees of the show. So yeah, you can see where that wouldn’t lead to a happy show.

This sort of thing is very disappointing. It reminds me of some of the more sordid casting couch bits of the original Star Trek’s behind the scenes culture… but worse, because at least Roddenberry was exploiting adults.

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Iams Wolfhound Ad

Yeah, it’s been airing since Thanksgiving, but it’s still so darned good.

Apparently it didn’t set off a wolfhound puppy-buying frenzy, though. It would seem that a commercial which graphically demonstrates a wolfhound’s strength and size… creates prudence and second thoughts.

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Filker Alex Day’s New Album Defeats Justin Timberlake’s

Alex Day, aka the Nerrimon, sometime lead singer of the band Chameleon Circuit and namer of the genre Trock (Timelord Rock), brought out his new album the same day as Justin Timberlake’s, in the UK. His album outsold Timberlake’s on iTunes. At #8 on iTunes album charts, Day was outsold only by the likes of David Bowie and The Saturdays.

Yes, possibly YouTube has its uses as a promotional tool, and yes, MTV gave up on music videos way too soon.

Alex Day videos.

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So That’s Why the Name Was Zaleska

I’m pretty sure I just read a vampire story by Tanith Lee that featured this vampire. (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Angela Carter, because she’s dead.)

Except Tanith Lee had the vampire heiress fall in love with, and be vanquished by, a nice English soldier boy. And there was some very nice stuff with roses.

Of course it got very post-modern, because just telling a simple story is too un-ironic. But apparently Lee was also snarking at other segments of fandom and referencing this movie.

Anyway, that explains the name. But it’s driving me nuts that I can’t recall the story name.

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Feeling Sorry for the IRS

The IRS is getting in trouble for making a Star Trek parody video as the opening to their annual agent training conference. Apparently their videomakers usually are busy making training videos for all the new agents and continuing-education videos for the old ones, and they do all this on 4 million dollars a year. (How many training videos do they make? Probably a lot.) But they made one little teambuilding video and are now getting dinged for it.

Weirdly, the reporters on this story are making it sound like no private company ever does this. Which is untrue, of course. Making the odd video or doing skits is normal and beneficial: particularly ones where the top brass allow themselves to look silly, and particularly ones which use injokes to tell the normal staff that the bosses are aware of their frustrations. I don’t know whether this video managed to work effectively, but then, I don’t work for the most hated agency in the country or have crazy hours during tax time.

Now, did the IRS brass spend too much money on sets and CGI? That’s another question. It’s not a really “ritzy” video, but it’s clear that the videomakers either made or glommed onto a significant amount of Trek-related stuff. (And if they actually paid for the sounds and music, I bet that’s where the budget went. Crikey!)

OTOH, the training videos and computer training at my workplace (which is a very big corporation) amount to hundreds of videos and computer tests a year, including ones made every week to update managers. (They’re supposed to update us too, but in reality, this doesn’t happen much. If there’s time for a team meeting and time to watch a video, we get updated.) They have to be spending a huge chunk of moolah.

I’m a bit disturbed by the IRS’ sf ideas, but that’s pretty standard for workplace videos too. People come up with some really creepy comedy ideas, which is why short videos work better than long ones. This one goes long, probably to include all their major department heads. But the flying IRS building is funny.

So is it really a boondoggle, or is the IRS just being scapegoated for legislators’ convenience?

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What If They Held a War, and No One Reported It?

FPB is a historian by trade, and he sees some scary, scary history in the making — a regional campaign to conquer several African countries.

But nobody is reporting it as such.


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Opposed to Gratuitous Violins

St. Francis with something to offer up.

Fun fact: This painting is by one of FPB’s distant relations.

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The Oddest Catholic SF/F Writer You’ve Never Heard of

Peter J. Floriani, known to the American Chesterton Society as “Dr. Thursday,” is one of the most quirky sf/f writers there is.

He wrote, blogged, and illustrated a philosophical romance adventure about a guy who worked in a local cable company’s control room (Joe the Control Room Guy, soon to be re-released in paper format), and a good number of associated stories.

He wrote a nonfiction treatise called Subsidiarity, detailing the usefulness of subsidiarity theory both in life and in computer programming.
He also wrote a history of his fraternity, Beta Theta Pi.

And he has written a vast, complicated, funny, beautiful urban fantasy saga about the re-foundation of a Catholic order of knights in modern America, mostly taking place among high school and college kids. De Bellis Stellarum (Concerning the Wars of the Stars… yes, you got it) is now up to Book 11. I have ordered it, and I await it eagerly. His organizing principle in these books appears to be a determination to include Every Cool Thing, from spy stories and space travel to wizards and warriors, and from organ music to organic chem. (Although there’s actually a lot of deep structure that organizes this series quite tightly, as far as I can tell; it’s just that the reader doesn’t have to notice this.) They are the kind of books I would have adored as a kid, and I like ’em just as much today.

I’m not sure how to praise this gentleman’s works adequately, because he’s his own genre. His skill as a writer and storyteller keeps improving as he goes along, but he maintains the happy amateur spirit of someone writing independently, for love. In some ways, he is unconcerned to impress, not worried about standing silly jokes and puns next to moments of high philosophical speculation. In other ways, he is determinedly countercultural, as when he doesn’t make the books available for Kindle or ebook use despite having written some of them online. (Though I hope there will be ebooks someday.) But he also spreads a high and holy sense of wonder, the kind that makes science fiction and fantasy – and even mundane worlds – sing like the first stars before the first morning. There is something of refreshment of the spirit, and something that is unafraid to be geeky. In short, I recommend the experience of reading his books; they have a good heart and head.

You can buy his books on Amazon and on CreateSpace. I suggest you do.


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David Drake Can Be Mellow

Dude. On Sunday at Millennicon, he sat on the floor and signed books for my little brother and I. ‘Twas awesome. He was all smiley and cheerful and happy and relaxed and stuff. Also, Mrs. Drake is very awesome and nice also. I wish we could have spent more time with them.

Also, I bought a giclee print of Baba Yaga’s hut by Lubov. Sadly, my dad disagrees with me on the question of its awesomeness. But then, he’s not a real fan of the dark side of Russian fairy tales….

I also discovered that big Indian grocery stores have pre-packaged milk tea (little packets of flavored tea mixed with milk powder), including a very strong ginger tea.

My neighbor with the red car apparently takes it to a demolition derby a’nights. It keeps showing up with more and more dents every time it comes back to the parking lot.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

From the lady who used to do the St. Brigid blog, Under the Oak, there’s a blog dedicated to the three patron saints of Ireland: Trias Thaumaturga (The Three Wonderworkers).

And she has a dog story about St. Patrick! Here’s some of the doggy parts:

“Crom Dubh was one of the worst men that could be found, but as he was a chieftain over the people of that country he had everything his own way; and that was the bad way, for he was an evil-intentioned… obstinate man, with desire to be avenged on everyone who did not please him. He had two sons, Téideach and Clonnach… Crom Dubh’s two sons were worse than himself, and that leaves them bad enough!

“Crom Dubh had two hounds of dogs and their names were Coinn Iothair [hound of fury] and Saidhthe Suaraighe [bitch of wickedness], and if ever there were mastiffs these two dogs were they. He had them tied to the two jaws of the door, in order to loose them and set them to attack people according as they might come that way; and, to go further, he had a big fire kindled on the brink of the cliff so that any one who might escape from the hounds he might throw into the fire; and to make a long story short, the fame of Crom Dubh and his two sons, and his two mastiffs, went far and wide, for their evil-doing; and the people were so terrified at his name, not to speak of himself, that they used to hide their faces in their bosoms when they used to hear it mentioned in their ears, and the people were so much afraid of him that if they heard the bark of a dog they would go hiding in the dwellings that they had underground, to take refuge in, to defend themselves from Crom Dubh and his mastiffs.

“… Crom Dubh and Téideach his son were trying a bout of wrestling with one another, while Saidhthe Suaraighe was stretched out on the ground from ear to tail. With the squeezing they were giving one another they never observed St. Patrick making for them until Saidhthe Suaraighe put a howling bark out of her, and with that the pair looked behind them and they saw St. Patrick and his defensive company with him, making for them, and in the twinkling of an eye the two rushed forward, clapping their hands and setting Saidhthe Suaraighe at them and encouraging her. With that Téideach put his fore finger into his mouth and let a whistle calling for Coinn Iotair, for she was at that same time hunting with Clonnach on the top of Glen Lasaire, and Glen Lasaire is nearly two miles from Dun Phadraig, but she was not as long as while you’d be saying De’raisias [Deo Gratias] coming from Glen Lasaire when she heard the sound of the whistle. They urged the two bitches against St. Patrick…

“The two bitches made for him and coals of fire out of their mouths, and a blue venomous light burning in their eyes, with the dint of venom and wickedness, but just as they were going to seize St. Patrick he cut a ring round about him with the crozier which he had in his hand, and before the dogs reached the verge of the ring St. Patrick spoke as follows :

“A lock on thy claws, a lock on thy tooth,
A lock on Coinn Iothair of the fury.
A lock on the son and on the daughter of Saidhthe Suaraighe.
A lock quickly, quickly on you.”

“Before St. Patrick began to utter these words there was a froth of foam round their mouths, and their hair was standing up as strong as harrow-pins with their fury, but after this as they came nearer to St. Patrick they began to lay down their ears and wag their tails. And when Crom Dubh saw that, he had like to faint, because he knew when they laid down their ears that they would not do any hurt to him they were attacking. The moment they reached St. Patrick they began jumping up upon him and making friendly with him. They licked both his feet from the top of the space between his toes to the butt of his ankle, and that affection is amongst dogs from that day to this. St. Patrick began to stroke them with his hand and he went on making towards Crom Dubh, with the dogs walking at his heels….”

You can read the rest on her blog, along with all sorts of other blog entries on St. Patrick. She has another blog dedicated to Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae (All the Saints of Ireland).

Continuing the Irish theme, I also found an informative old travel book by Margaret Stokes (sister of Whitley Stokes). It’s called Three Months in the Forests of France: A Pilgrimage in Search of Vestiges of the Irish Saints in France. Tons of Romanesque fun! It’s a followup to Six Months in the Apennines, where she checked out Irish saints up in the mountains.


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Poor Anchoress!

The reason we haven’t heard from Lizzie Scalia is that she’s been sick. In Rome, and in the hospital — that kind of sick.

Some will recall that I was busy being alternately sick and sleeping when Pope B16 got elected, so I can relate. But at least I wasn’t in a foreign country missing it all!

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The STEM Pope

UPDATE: No, I’m wrong! The Pope doesn’t have a master’s in chemistry! He has a titulo, a certificate, and it’s something like a community college degree. He also worked as a chemist before entering the seminary.

Nobody’s really mentioning that Pope Francis is a chemical guy (the info says Técnico Quimico – is that a “chemical technician” or some kind of engineer?)  from his degree back in the 1950’s (I think a master’s from some kind of science/industry tech college, probably English-style where you get the master’s right after your B.A.) before entering the seminary at age 21, and taught chemistry as well as literature and other soft subjects. A Jesuit STEM guy, in fact. He’s probably the first STEM pope since the great nerd pope of the Middle Ages, Pope Sylvester II.*

I guess that might mess with the narrative about how the Catholic Church is somehow anti-science. (The Curt Jester was all over this yesterday.)

But of course, you don’t usually see Dawkins’ crowd washing and kissing the feet of sick people, either.

Here’s a nice smile picture. There’s also a pic of Bergoglio drinking yerba mate in a bad neighborhood. (I know, it looks like an oilcan, but I swear it’s a yerba mate bombillo.)

The Piedmont is the area of Italy where the Pope’s parents are from.

* Probably the first lit teacher in a while, too, but I don’t think the academic world will love him better for it.

UPDATE: Actually, Pope John XXII (that’s the one in the 1300’s) was an alchemy researcher before he became Pope. He’s best known today as an anti-chemistry pope, because he forbade alchemists to run scams or to counterfeit coins with his law Spondent pariter. Here’s my post about it.


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