Monday, July 31, 2006

Puppy love




I was sorting through some assorted jpegs and found this: Jack, the Jack Russell, on his first day of freedom from the pet shop (20th May 2001), aged twelve weeks old. My bargain basement doggie, the last of his litter (all of whom I'd admired for four weeks, with my nose pressed to the glass every time I went past), until finally, on an unexpected dash to the Plaza to pick up something I'd forgotten, there he was: sitting all alone under a big sign that read, "$100 off".

What a little cutie...

Captain's Log, Supplemental: Jack was part of a litter of six or seven little bundles of patchwork dynamo and, week by week, I'd notice fewer and fewer in their window at the pet shop, as certain puppies caught their prospective owner's eye. For some reason (maybe the dark, almost-bare spot on his snout?), Jack was the last one left.

I recall saying, when only three were left, "Who in their right mind would buy a puppy who'd spent four weeks in a pet shop?" (Me, of course, the very next day, when the bargain price was announced.) But he was certainly a gregarious little dog as a result, with all that attention from humans and other animals.

He answered to Jack in the shop, of course, so the name was a no-brainer - and when the salesgirls in the shop asked me to sneak him back into Penrith Plaza for a visit, they announced: "Three of his brothers are called Jack!"

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Animation could have saved the franchise?

Certainly, there were several times the idea of a "Star Trek: The Next Generation" animated series was mooted at Paramount. It has been said that a TNG animated series could have continued the action on TV between TNG feature films, especially since Brent Spiner and Patrick Stewart were so keen to move onto other projects, yet might have happily voiced a few animated lines for Data and Picard every few weeks between other stage or film work. IIRC, Susan Sackett and her TNG writing partner, Fred Bronson (who wrote "The Counter-clock Incident" for TAS as John Culver), had also suggested a Wesley-at-the-Academy spin-off animated series. Rick Berman was said to be resistant to these ideas. He was worried that animation would "milk the franchise". (And "Star Trek: Voyager" didn't?)

However, I reckon TNG animation would have brought in new younger fans. TNG was coming to the end of its amazing TV success. Everyone and his dog had been buying the Playmates action figures, but think about the later waves of "Star Trek" toys: the wonderful Art Asylum "Enterprise" and "The Original Series" figures were seemingly being designed and made for adult collectors only. What children were even watching ENT late at night, let alone asking Grandma to buy them a T'Pol or Archer action figure?


Above: Species 8472 meets Lieutenant Arex.

TAS was my first exposure to "Star Trek". As I mentioned below, a few episodes in black and white on Saturday mornings, then after colour TV came to Australia in March 1975, I distinctly remember watching weekday breakfast television repeats of TAS as a young teen: Spock replaced by an Andorian first officer in "Yesteryear"; the stark, white starfield of "The Counter-clock Incident"; tiny, yellow-haired Nurse Chapel drowning in Dr McCoy's halo fish tank in "The Terratin Incident" ("Help! Help!"); wacky new aliens of "The Jihad"; Arex and M'Ress accused as pranksters in "The Practical Joker"; red-skinned Lucien in "The Magicks of Megas-Tu"; bright pink tribbles in "More Tribbles, More Troubles" (which I saw before the original TOS episode); and orange-skinned Mr Arex in "Albatross" (with all the bridge characters turning various colours from the Auroral Plague).

I never even noticed Arex's three arms and three legs until I read Alan Dean Foster's "ST Log" adaptations! (And in one book, ADF accidentally gives Arex three eyes as well!)

Friday, July 28, 2006

Murphy's Law: Making a spectacle




Yes, "Murphy's Law" is alive and well. Two weeks ago, I finally managed to make time to report to my ophthalmic surgeon and find out if my glasses needed new lenses. I can usually tell - the closing credits at the movies go blurry, although over the years movie screens have diminished in size, so is that a fair yardstick any more? I was a little shocked to find out, when I rang to book an appointment, that I wasn't on the ophthalmic surgeon's computer system. So was the receptionist, as all files from the last ten years had been entered ages ago.

The verdict: eleven years since the last appointment - and very little change - a far cry from my early teens when my eyes worsened substantially every two years or so. (The current glasses remind me of that joke about the old television set that gave excellent service, even though it had several new cases and three new picture tubes.) Eleven years ago, I was convinced to get innovative "bendy" metal frames, but when they broke it was right on the "bendy" bit, and soldering them was impossible. The lenses were hastily reground into the only selection of frames that would accept the lenses. A few years later, those frames broke, too, a few days before something important, and again soldering the metal was only a temporary option. The lenses were hastily reground again, into the only selection of frames that would accept the lenses. Deja vu.

Anyway, because there was so little difference in my vision this time, I decided to change only my old prescription sunglasses, which had an even earlier, weaker set of lenses in them. I mean, 20 year-old aviator-style sunnies are back in fashion, yes? As I was leaving, after placing my order, the OPSM staff asked why I wasn't updated the regular glasses, too. "The lenses are very scratched, the head of the adjustment screw on one side is broken off and there are so many trendier frames these days, you know..."

And so, the voodoo curse was passed over my old frames. They broke, irreparably, a few days ago - sproing! - just hours after the upgraded sunnies had arrived at the OPSM shop from the factory (or whatever you call a lense-grinding facility). I had the exciting choice of wearing either the nerdy, sticky-taped-together regular spectacles, with eleven-year-old, weaker, scratched lenses, for a week, or the dark prescription sunglasses. I shall leave it up to your imagination as to which delightfully embarrassing spectacle I made on Parent Interview Evening.

Needless to say, I ordered an emergency replacement of new (trendy) frames and (correct) lenses immediately - which arrived, as promised, this afternoon. Onya OPSM! Now I shall look very trendy for at least a few months of the next eleven years...

Beating the clock

Sometimes I hate it when I notice it's almost midnight and I've probably missed the chance to blog in time... Drat.

PS. But I was close.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Getting animated!




The final series of "Star Trek" not-yet-available-on-DVD has been announced for commercial boxed set release! Filmation's "Star Trek: The Animated Series" (aka TAS), which I used to watch in glorious black and white limited animation on Saturday mornings in the 70s, and then in colour repeats on breakast television - "The Super Flying Fun Show" with Miss Marilyn (Mayo) - was my first real introduction to "Star Trek", consolidated by a few random TOS ("the original series") episodes, again to celebrate the arrival of colour TV Down Under, and then the mesmerising "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" in 1979.

For the full details of the proposed DVD release, see here. I'm really looking forward to the text commentaries by Michael and Denise Okuda on three of the episodes, including two of my favourites ("Yesteryear" and "The Counter-Clock Incident", plus "The Eye of the Beholder") and all the other bonus features. "Yesteryear" was a story involving the Guardian of Forever time gate from the live-action "City on the Edge of Forever", and "The Counter-Clock Incident" featured the first captain of the NCC-1701 Enterprise, Robert April, and his wife, Sarah.

References to TAS in latter day Star Trek tie-ins have been annotated at my site, Toon Trek. A work in progress, I've tried to annotate the list with every element of "Star Trek: The Animated Series" that has appeared in "Star Trek" episodes, movies, novels, comics, games, etc. Another great site about TAS is here.

A frequently asked question about TAS concerns its controversial "removal from the canon" via a memo from Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek Office at Paramount during that prolonged hiatus between Seasons One and Two of "Star Trek: The Next Generation". Why de-emphasise TAS stories? Who knows, the definitive answer is buried under red tape, but keep in mind that: TAS identities, DC Fontana and David Gerrold, had begun legal proceedings in regard to their departure from the staff of TNG; Peter David was asked to discontinue using Arex and M'Ress as characters in his post-ST IV comics; Filmation was being disbanded as a company; and SF writer Larry Niven was just about to launch "The Man-Kzin Wars" books and a licensed "Ringworld" RPG, both featuring kzinti. (It would not have helped him if the TOS and TNG comics and novels started playing with "The Slaver Weapon"'s animated kzinti with, or without, Niven's input.)

But it doesn't matter to us, the fans, any more if TAS is canonical or not. Paula Block, of Viacom (now CBS) Licensing, started letting back in references to TAS in the books within weeks of Roddenberry's death (and Richard Arnold's departure from the STO) in 1991. The novelization of TNG's Spock episodes, "Unification" by Jeri Taylor, briefly references the Phylosians, of "The Infinite Vulcan" and "The Time Trap" fame. Arex and M'Ress have since time jumped into Peter David's "New Frontier" novels (from "Gateways: Cold Wars" onwards) and a member of Em/3/Green's species - P8Blue the Nasat - has turned up in the "Starfleet Corps of Engineers" (SCE) eBooks.

By the way, the above Bill Redfern pic is not actually a still from TAS. Caitians and Andorians used to feature in the online parody, "Haul Trek: Misadventures of M'Iskiti" by the late Paul S Gibbs (who once started up an email correspondence with me, and long held a hope that his Admiral M'Ress fan stories might have had a chance to transform into professional, licensed Star Trek novels). After putting a lot of energy into his TAS-homage "M'Iskiti" strips, he decided to strip out all the "Star Trek" references, changed M'Iskiti's name, and concentrated on crafting a more original humorous science fiction pastiche in panelled cartoon form, presumably again hoping for a commercial sale. Andorian captain, Aydestinguis Thesspiahn, (above) of the freighter Pharsicle was turned into a non-ST green humanoid for the revamped "Freighter Tails". That's the real M'Ress below, between a kzin and Lieutenant Arex.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Hail Grigor

Wow, some great trivia - and an unexpected brush with fame - last week. The primary school at which I work has just developed a little history museum of local and school memorabilia, to celebrate the official opening of our new assembly hall - and I got to research a few pieces for the display, including a fascinating old epidiascope exactly like this one! It's amazing what relics are hiding away in school storerooms, gathering dust.

Way back in 1881, my research discovered, the teachers at our school applied for funding to buy some innovative teaching machines, including an "Aphengescope". (I discovered that this obscure, patented term from 1843 refers to a device that was, essentially, a 'pair of lanterns' for projecting small opaque objects.) The headmaster of the day hoped such a machine would make science lessons "more interesting". His funding application was unsuccessful.

Some time early in the 20th century, the school was able to purchase a Ross epidiascope (epi-dia-scope) instead, which served a similar purpose. A forerunner of today's overhead projector, this bulky machine enabled still pictures to be enlarged and projected onto a wall. There are probably not many of these devices still in existence.

The epidiascope gets its name from combining EPIscope, a device for projecting opaque objects, and DIAscope, which projects transparent images in the same way as a slide projector. A knob moves an internal pointer for directing an audience's attention to parts of the projected image.

The two lens mountings represent the two methods of projecting still pictures. The lower has a standard glass slide carrier, fitted to the rear, which would be operated in the normal way. The upper lens mount was for projecting photographs, newspaper cuttings, other printed matter, and even small, flattish 3D objects, such as coins, plant specimens, or a working pocket watch. This was accomplished by the use of the separate projection platform below the body, on which objects could be placed, then raised mechanically until it made contact with a glass plate under the body.

Lit by the epidiascope's powerful lamp, and through various prisms, the image was projected by the upper lens. The lower lens is a F1.3 500mm and the upper lens is F1.3 250mm.

The other discovery was an unexpected showbiz connection. Old school magazines from 1974 mentioned an event whereby Australian actor Grigor Taylor, then of "Silent Number" and "Matlock Police" fame, had visited the school to pin prefects' badges on elected students - because he'd been School Captain himself at our school way back in 195x. (Digit deleted in case Mr Taylor hides his age.) The old honour board is located not far from my classroom and I've scanned it many times, but never noticed Grigor's gilded name emblazoned on it, until now.

One of our other teachers who, as a student, attended the same local high school as Grigor Taylor, recalled her excitement that Taylor's hand-scrawled name had appeared in one of her school text books, although he'd long been graduated. "He was quite a hunk in the 70s," she recalled.

I almost sorta met Grigor Taylor when he was playing school teacher Greg Walker in the school-based TV drama "Glenview High", opposite Elaine Lee and Rebecca Gilling, both of "Number 96" fame. I was at Channel Seven's Epping studios one day in 1978, feeling totally starstuck, to interview Elaine for a teachers' college media assignment, and the rugged Mr Taylor sauntered past with a wink and a smile. How many degrees of Kevin Bacon is that?


The day I almost got introduced to Grigor: young, impressionable, trainee teacher Ian McLean
(right, wearing Giovanni's deli jacket from "Number 96"), interviews Elaine Lee,
who was playing Principal Margaret Gibson in TV's "Glenview High" at the time.
A far cry from Vera Collins, eh?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Broadbandwagon

Yay! I did it. A little concerned how the phoneline will cope, since it does get crackly in the wet weather, so the rain tonight will be a good test, but I just connected up the broadband modem and it all seems to be working. So far, so fast.

Monday, July 17, 2006

When providers go down

I had so much to say yesterday - I'd rehearsed it while walking the dog - and then my dial-up refused to connect. Ozemail's server went down in the afternoon and was still offline until just before midnight. I had a terrible sinking feeling I had missed some final last chance to switch over to broadband - someone had left me an urgent phone message a few weeks ago, following up an earlier quasi urgent letter, that Ozemail really needed to convert all its old customers from their now very ancient dial-up facilities. But, because I detest hanging on the phone (like usual), listening to recorded announcements that I could solve most problems by simply getting online and downloading something called "Toolbox" (if I could get online, sure, I'd download anything, but I'd also then be able to upload this and wouldn't need to get the helpdesk's attention, dammit), so I kept putting it off.

I did eventually try the help line, and had to wait about thirty minutes for attention. The friendly but slightly stressed female voice assured me it was just a temporary New South Wales server meltdown, but we did all the prep work to get broadband while I had her on the line... In about a week my problems shall be no more. (Mmmmm, I wonder. The phoneline still crackles terribly during rain and Telstra always denies it's their fault. Sometimes we should be grateful for droughts?)

Anyway, it's all back up again, and I'm assured I have lots more web space that I previously believed, so I can uploaded lots more old pics to the website to utilize here. So cool.

So what was I originally going to say? Oh yeah, I devoted some time yesterday to listening to the official audio commentary to the movie on the "Number 96" DVD. It was very, very cool, although I ended up feeling rather depressed listening to it all by myself. I wanted to be there in that room, getting all nostalgic about the movie, hobnobbing with Elaine and David and Andrew, or at least to be watching and listening with a roomful of friends. ("Number 96" is an excellent movie to watch with a roomful of pals and a bottle of Muskrat.) Blog entry continues after the graphic - I've taken out attempts to allign it more artfully beside the text because my three iMac-compatible browsers seem to hate Blogger parameters - and view these pages so inconsistently from visit to visit. Keep scrolling.



Yeah, so how come it's always just me and the dog lately watching all my DVDs...? Where is everyone on Sunday afternoons? Somehow, every time I buy a new DVD, I imagine myself in a room, kicking back with friends and popcorn, enjoying the movie and all the bonus features. The pile of as-yet-unwatched DVDs gets taller and I still end up seeing them by myself. Now that's pathetic...

Ooooh! I got a credit on the new (second) "Number 96" documentary! Excellent! Now someone pass the popcorn. Anyone..? Hello...?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Fat free forever - again



"Number 96's Jeff Kevin (Arnold Feather) and Elaine Lee (Vera Collins) with Ian McLean and Steve Vizard on a reunion episode of "Tonight Live".

Okay, today's retro photograph (from 1993) celebrates two things. First, I thank myself for finding the "Number 96" DVD today - the very last one in stock was sitting on the "New Releases" shelf at HMV in the city. Stupid Myer/Virgin and Sanity elected not even to order in copies from Umbrella Entertainment for their shops (???), causing me lots of heartache yesterday, and innumerable angry and/or puzzled emails from vistors to my website this week.

And the pic also reminds me that all of the clothes I'm wearing in that scene actually fit me again, and some have even come back into fashion (I hope).

I started my writing life in 1993, and received an invitation to join Selwa Anthony's literary agency not long after. "Succeed Some More in '94", held in the November of '93, was my first event. Although I'm yet to have earned Selwa any commission yet, being a part of such a stimulating group of new and experienced authors is an incredible honour. One doesn't just learn more about writing and publishing at Selwa's annual seminar. Because each Aussie speaker has written (or published) in one or more of a huge range of genres, the attendees have their horizons widened too. I probably wouldn't have had a job as an editor for four and a half years without the self-esteem building and the skills awareness and the motivation that have spun-off from Selwa's seminars. Now I just have to finish writing something. (Or something good, anyway. Or at least something commercial.)

In November 1995, at "Succeed and Mix in '96", Dianne Barker previewed her diet and body shaping book, "Fat Free Forever", which she'd written with her then-husband, TV's "Commando" (Geoff Barker) of "Gladiators" fame. I was so inspired - and feeling Very Pudgy at 90 kg - I started the diet plan the very next day. Before Dianne's book had even been published, the notes I'd made of the diet plan's bare essentials meant that I had managed to lose 10 kg before Easter, and a few weeks later had reached 75 kg, ultimately levelling out and maintaining 77 kg. "Fat Free Forever" even permits a weekly Junk Food Day - and it really felt great when both my brain and my body started craving "healthy" junk food instead of the naughtier stuff. A sensible "sweat free diet" like this suited me well; I do walk a lot, not having a car, but I loathe most other sports and exercise.

However, as with many diets, people do tend to become complacent and fall off the wagon after a while, and they usually put back more than they lost. I barely noticed that, over the next twelve years, I sloooooooowly put back that fifteen lost kilograms - plus another fourteen for good measure! I began to think that I could have written a sequel (or a correction) to Dianne's book. I would have called it "Fat Free for Five Years".

Last September, once again feeling Very Bloated, I had to go to a day surgery to have a tiny carcinoma removed from the tip of one ear. The procedure required twilight anaesthesia and I suddenly realised that, when the nurse asked me to stand on a set of scales, she was going to announce the reading out loudly to the whole waiting room. Sure enough, "101!" she exclaimed, oh so gleefully. My only joy probably came from noticing that my surgeon obviously enjoyed his food more than I. He reminded me somewhat of Dr Frank Campion on TV's "All Saints"...

My (in hindsight, dubious) solution was to go on vacation with some friends who love their junk food, and I returned to work two weeks later weighing in at 104 kg.

Anyway, I resolved to dig out "Fat Free Forever" again - it's been lent out to numerous friends over the years, usually with excellent results - and I'm thrilled to report Repeat Success. It's been much slower going this time. One friend who chose the "Weight Watchers" way instead has spent over $450 to lose her weight. Thanks to FFF, I've now lost 18 kg so far and (according to the more generous 21st century version of the "Weight Watchers" height/weight chart I was given), I only really need to lose four more kilograms to reach a sensible, maintainable goal.

That's more than two Jack Russell terriers' worth of ugly fat I've managed to lose so far. And, to celebrate the fact that FFF has saved me well over $400, I raced out and bought myself a new leather jacket. Honestly, the scent of this jacket is so luxurious, I swear I can smell it from here. (And it's in the bedroom wardrobe at the moment; I'm not actually wearing it.)

My point is, in my typical roundabout way, I can now most definitely fit into the outfit that I bought in 1993 to emulate a TV historian on "Tonight Live". Those cool microfibre slacks once again fit my cool micro waist. Only four kilograms to go and I'm "Fat Free Forever" again. For at least five years.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The nostalgia continues...

What a weird week. On Monday I spent the day with my aunt - the one mentioned below. Up until this year we'd never gone more than a few months without catching up but, due to a comedy of errors and busyness (is that a word?) on both of our behalves, this reunion celebrated our first actual communication for 2006! Thank goodness blood is thicker than water, and all those cliches.

On Tuesday, out of the blue, two old Star Trek friends I haven't seen in ages (one about 18 months, but the other about 13 years) contacted me by email, wanting to restablish contact. Very cool! Ironically, it was all the publicity about "Number 96" coming out on DVD that sparked in them a reason to seek me out, and my websites led to them to me. Onya Google! And hello Susan and Adam. I've missed you both.

And now, after 13 years, am I game enough to ask Adam if he still has that videotape I once lent him? Look what happened in our mutual absences: a whole new method for recording video events was invented! (I don't even have my VCR plugged into the TV any more, 'cos it was making my new DVDs strobe.)


1980: The Andorian finds ST:TMP, and a life in fandom awaits...

In more examples of nostalgia, I played around with the facility for adding favourite links to this page... and three more old Star Trek friends (all fellow bloggers of more experience than this little blue duck) from the 80s have been added. Hi Andrew, De and Randy. So cool to find you all online.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The return of Number 96!




In a few hours time, Australian DVD retailers will begin unpacking cartons of Umbrella Entertainment's salute to "Number 96", Australia's cult TV soap opera hit, that ran from 1972 until 1977.

In 1993, I seriously began work on a book about "Number 96". It was to have been a social history of the groundbreaking show. The writers' workshops always tell you to write about what you know - and US TV shows, such as "Batman" and "Star Trek" were (and are) well served by a plethora of fiction and non fiction based on those phenomena. Although my "Number 96 Memories" proposal and sample chapters were well received by a big publisher in 1995, when push came to shove the marketing department was against the concept proceeding to contract. If any publishers are still game, I still have all my interview tapes of the cast and crew. Sigh...

Umbrella is presenting "Number 96" as a two-disc collectors' edition. It will feature a brand new 16:9 transfer of "Number 96: The Movie" - yes, in 1974 Australian audiences were able to see their favourite black & white TV characters, uncut and uncensored on the big silver screen, in full colour! While the movie is not the best example of what made the TV series so great, the movie's advantage is that at least it has an ending. Had Umbrella released selected TV episodes instead, new viewers would have been left hanging by the, um, cliffhangers. That's the problem with soap operas on DVD.

The movie will have an audio commentary with my wonderful friend, Elaine Lee, who played Vera Collins; the show's creator/screenwriter David Sale, who generously shared so many amazing anecdotes about the show with me while I was writing my book (and beyond); and TV soaps expert Andrew Mercado. Andrew and I saw "Number 96" as youngsters in our respective home states and we found out about each other's passion for the show only after I did an appearance on "Tonight Live With Steve Vizard", a special 1993 reunion episode about the soapie. I'm so jealous that it was Andrew who got the gig to put together this DVD set - but that's showbiz, of course, and he's worked really hard to see his own dreams become reality. I can't wait to hear the commentary; it's gonna be as hilarious as the movie's reflection of Aussie life in the 70s. (Wait till you see some of the costumes and hairstyles. What were we all thinking in the 70s?)

The other disk will contain a classic documentary on the TV series, restored with all three introductions (one almost lost from the archives forever, but now restored to its rightful place), plus rare Logie footage of the annual "Spirit of 96" train journey, and a newly prepared featurette. And David Sale and Johnny Whyte's original draft screenplay of the film in DVD ROM format.

You might even recognise the villainous Tracey Wilson (Chantal Contouri) in the DVD's archive footage of the Pantyhose Strangler storyline. That's also Tracey/Chantal in the picture above, disposing of the pesky "Number 96" Historian once and for all...

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Deja vu all over again




Cheers, everyone! Here I was scratching my head trying to think of something inspirational for the blog and I quickly reached Writer's Block - only three days into it and already I hit a wall? So I cleaned out my wallet, as you do. (You know, all those ATM receipts and scraps of paper with phone numbers, and half remembered names of people you should remember because you once bothered putting their phone number on a piece of paper...)

There was my aunt's mobile phone number! One that I hadn't transferred into the mobile's handy dandy phone book. I typed in her name and number, and quickly and proudly sent her a perfectly typed text message, "This is ian's mobile!" OK, so I haven't quite got the hang of CAPS yet. Just as fast, the reply turned up: "I think u have wrong number." (Hmm, maybe it wasn't her number after all? Or she changed numbers at some point? Would my aunt be tech savvy enough to text "u" when she means "you"?)

After dinner I rang her on the regular phone - and it had been her. She'd figured it wasn't me because... "Ian doesn't have a mobile."

Dammit. I've had the rotten thing for two weeks now and I've sent messages to everyone I know with a mobile - but no one is replying because they don't realize it's really me, or it might be a junk call, or they might get a virus, or somesuch. Someone, please ring me! Otherwise how else do I test if my ringtones work, dammit?

Anyway, while my aunt and I were on the (real?) phone, we shared several old and new instances of deja vu. One involved a friend of mine who'd once asked me to duck out and post some business envelopes containing bills for the customers of his florist shop. I recognised one of the addresses as being a house directly opposite my place of work, but a good two suburbs away from his shop, which is why he was posting it.

"Don't put a stamp on that one," I said. "Leave it with me and I'll put it in their letterbox on my way home from work tomorrow."

"No," he replied. "Just post it with the others."

(Did he not trust me to remember? Highly likely. And I'd probably have forgotten it in the depths of my backpack, knowing me...) I decided it wasn't worth arguing, so I posted it.

The next day, as I was walking home from work, I found that still-sealed envelope, now with its stamp cancelled by Australia Post, lying in the street! So I had to pick it up and deliver it to their letterbox myself... "Spooky!", as Dame Edna would say.

Which brings me to the wacky deja vu anecdote that I was going to use for this blog entry! And, typically, I've waffled on far too long, so maybe now I'll just save up the story of the freaky-little-old-man-with-Coke-bottle-glasses for another time...?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Star Trek: The Not So Motionless Picture

A 'net friend from TrekBBS has the pleasure of providing introductions for the first four Star Trek movies at the Dryden Theatre, George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, this month. It is a series called "Star Trek: 40 Years into the Future" and they are showing 35mm prints for all four films, including a crisp new version of ST II that was prepared for the DVD release.


"Star Trek: The Motion Picture" aliens discuss their cameo appearances in "Ex Machina", a recent novel sequel to the movie by Christopher L. Bennett

It was the pre-publicity for "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" (aka TMP) that made me into an avid ST fan, way back in December 1979. The nightly newspaper here in Sydney carried a week of facinating updates from the set by Aussie journalist, James Oram, who did interviews and observations during filming. It made me recall the animated Star Trek series (TAS), which played in colour reruns on "The Super Flying Fun Show" breakfast television, with Miss Marilyn! I hadn't really seen much of the original live-action series (TOS). The clincher was an intriguing review made by a school friend at my 21st birthday party. He'd just been to the Australian gala premiere of TMP - the old marble and art deco Paramount cinema had been populated by wacky fans in costume, who applauded all the opening credits and each actor's first scene - and it all really intrigued me.

Within a few weeks, I'd found the monthly screenings of TOS episodes on the big screen at ANZAC House, and the existence of the Sydney-based Star Trek Fan Club (the now defunct Astrex). By 1983 I was Astrex's president - and a lifetime of fannish activities has followed.

My contribution to Jared's speech, being delivered tonight, I understand, says that "... if you enjoy the film, the novelization is an excellent source of additional scenes that were originally envisioned as being part of the script. Indeed, the novelization was written by Gene Roddenberry himself, based on the script by Harold Livingston..."

Additionally, "Nichelle Nichols, who plays Uhura, assumed that she would have her character's customary earpiece as a prop for the film, but the propmasters had not anticipated that and had not created a new one for her to use. On Nichols' first day of filming, the propmasters ended up going through the boxes of props from the series and actually found one of the earpieces..." Thus, it was the only prop used on both the TV series and the film. By ST II, the prop guys had made a new one for her to use.

How amazing that we are still watching and discussing TMP in 2006. Break a leg, Jared! Wish I could be there.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

It figures...

Not only am I a "Star Trek" action figure collector - one who actually opens up the packages and sets the occupants free from their little plastic sarcophaguses, even the rare ones - I also customize them. I fix up painting errors, add little details the creators failed to include and even cut up my purposely-bought duplicate figures to make authentic-looking characters that never made it to commercial action figure status. Even better if the actor has already appeared as a different "Star Trek" character, because then the face I carve from one head with my Stanley knife, and glue to another head, ends up looking uncannily like the new character. It does makes me sound like Dr Frankenstein, though...

I did a lot of action figure customizing in the 90s and that hobby gave me some great, unique images to add to my then-fledgling Star Trek web site when I launched it. Haven't done many custom jobs lately, but for years now I've had a spare Playmates 5" action figure of Captain-Kirk-in-dress-uniform sitting around, forlornly awaiting a really cool, mature head to finish off my planned figure of Commodore Robert April of the old 70s animated episode, "The Counter-clock Incident".

Well, I just found the new boxed set of "The Family El": a twin pack of "Superman Returns" figures of Kal-El/Superman (in a silver repaint of his space travel outfit) and his real Dad, Jor-El. Both figures are additionally garbed in fabric silver robes. They seem to be in similar scale to the old Playmates line of "Star Trek" action figures. With a slight adjustment of the famous El family kiss curl, I think good ol' Marlon Brando (who so miraculously returned from beyond to appear in "Superman Returns") is going to make quite a decent elderly Robert April! It's been worth the wait. I bought two sets, and I think the spare silver robes might look good on some customized Lal and Thann figures, the bumpy-headed Vians from "The Empath" episode of "Star Trek", the original series.

In other news, a Sydney Electronics Boutique store was having a massive sale and they had two rare Art Asylum "Shran the Andorian" figures (and two spacesuited T'Pols) on the bargain table! One Shran was in a very crushed box, but both were half price. Shran was the so-called "shortpack" of that wave of "Enterprise" action figures quite a few years ago, and this supply of the old wave must have been forgotten in a EB warehouse somewhere. So hard to track down when first released, I'm now the envy of US collectors who refuse to pay high eBay prices to own a Shran. I did find another half-price Shran in a Melbourne "Electronics Boutique" last Easter. I'm makin' me an Andorian army!


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Have Phaser, Will Travel

It's been a very nostalgic couple of weeks:

* My nephew, Brian Jr, turned 21 - and I took my friend Leonie, but it only seemed like a few years ago that Leonie and I were at the 21st birthday party of my brother, also Brian, who was born in 1964 and is Brian Jr's Dad! Where did that time go?

* "Superman Returns" opened in cinemas (it filmed here in Sydney and I had watched a scene being lensed in Martin Place last year) and in so many ways the director achieved his aim of connecting with "Superman: The Movie" and "Superman II", wonderful films I saw in my teachers college days in the 70s;



* I've been helping out the producers of the upcoming DVD edition of the 70s Aussie soap opera phenomenon, "Number 96" (coming to Australian DVD outlets on 10th July from Umbrella Entertainment);

* and I've been adding names, phone numbers, addresses, URLs, emails and birthdays of all my friends and family to my brand new, first mobile phone - and realizing that it's been so long since I've made contact with a few of them that their details are probably incorrect. I seem to spend more time chatting with new (online) friends - and complete strangers - than the people I used to spend such a lot of time with in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Since I spend so much time online anyway, usually hanging around "Star Trek" bulletin boards, or adding little details to my "Number 96" and "Star Trek" websites - when I should be writing substantial slabs of first draft for my various (skeletal) book projects - I thought that finally signing myself up to a blog would be a way to make myself write more often - or at least waste more time more constructively.

You can expect that this blog will frequently wax lyrical about: my adventures in science fiction media fandom over the years; perhaps some funny school stories (I'm a primary school teacher and teacher-librarian); my efforts to get some halfbaked story ideas turned into books; and anecdotes about Andorians, superheroes, "Star Trek" toys and Jack Russell terriers.

So, please enjoy!

This has been Therin of Andor. Or is that Loquacious of Borg?