Sunday, December 30, 2007

Remote control

Howdy from blowy Brisbane.

With Jack being cared for by my generous and kind housemate, Steve, here I am coming to you live from Brisvegas, which has been transformed into the Windy City today by some rather gusty breezes that are blowing all the surfers off their boards over on the coast.

I flew up here last Sunday - hurray for Virgin Blue's print-it-yourself boarding passes - and wisely choosing to travel lightly (no phasers; only carry-on luggage, Christmas gifts, a few Star Trek novels to read, and a box of those deadly Krispy Kreme donut bribes for my hosts). Thus, it was a very pleasant trip, with no queues whatsoever, and only a slight flight delay.

Christmas Day was spent with friends, Maria and Peter and little Ben, with lunch at Maria's Aunty Patti's, and dinner with Peter's parents and Aunt Ngaire. An extended family to stand in for when one's own family members are scattered to the winds (and ironic typing that line today, that's for sure). I was very grateful for the hospitality - and nothing beats watching a thirteen-month old kid in a red Christmas elf suit ripping wrapping paper off his presents, and helping everyone else with their own as well!

Yesterday was a reaquaintance with the wonderful Eumundi Markets, travelling there with my now Brisbane-dwelling friend, Stephen, who was seeing them or the first time. I managed to spend only $12, which I thought was quite amazing: a $2 battery-operated led light "tunnel" pendant for the next K-2 school disco, and a very cool stainless steel pinkie ring with two lizards carved out of it ($10). I did see a few other bargains, but I'd rather not buy a new piece of luggage and have to queue to get home again. A previous trip to a shopping mall saw me return with only a snowman ornament for $1.50, and a trip to the CBD netted me only a batch of spare Star Trek Minimates, so I'm doing rather well. So far.

Last night, a group of us (Star Trek buddies from many ConQuest conventions of the past) went to see the new Coen Brothers' movie, "No Country for Old Men". Certainly not my usual movie fare - I was expecting something more black comedy-wise, such as "Fargo" or "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" - but this was more of a dark crime thriller. Lots of brooding, soul-searching, drama. Beautifully shot, but that may be a poor choice of words, considering the "drugs 'n' cash 'n' retribution" storyline.

However, we all agreed we'd had a more fulfilling experience with "No Country..." than our choice of film for Boxing Day: the tediously overblown, snowbound, epic trilogy wannabe, "The Golden Compass". Considering its theme, we still can't believe that Nicole kidman chose to celebrate her latest film with a bevy of sick and disadvantaged Aussie children with a red carpet gala a few weeks ago. Despite many fascinating ideas in Phillip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" novels, a kids' film this isn't. Ick!

Sunday's magic number: 91.2 - Not too shabby, eh?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Frantic times, ho ho ho *

I was worried I hadn't posted this week but since everyone else is probably frantically doing last-minute Christmas things, too, I'll assume no one's looking for new blogs.

In case I don't get back to this until the New Year, Merry Christmas everyone!

I just finished reading the new "Star Trek: The Next Generation" novel, "Before Dishonor" by Peter David. It's a sequel to "Vendetta", which was written many years ago, and allows the author to flex his authorial muscle over the Borg and some key characters from "Star Trek: Voyager", a show Peter David was often very critical about.

I really enjoyed the fast pace of this book; it was only my busy end-of-year work commitments that kept me reading it in more isolated, one-hour chunks - otherwise this was easily the kind of ST novel to which I used to lose an entire weekend. (I recall, with great affection, "The Entropy Effect", "Final Frontier", "Metamorphosis", "Vendetta", "Sarek" and "Stone and Anvil"!)

I've also been updating my web page which celebrates the recent IDW "Alien Spotlight" comic, "Andorians: The Old Ways".

Sunday's magic number: 90.1 - not too bad, especially considering all the yummy party foods on offer this week. Wish me luck with Tuesday's pork crackling.

* Who cares if it's supposedly politically incorrect!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Pavlova magic

Well, I promised myself that if, after eating all manner of naughty stuff on Friday to celebrate my birthday, my mass was still under 89 kg this morning, I would celebrate further with a huge piece of Friday's leftover pavlova.

Guess what I just ate?

Sunday's magic number: 88.9 (Slurp, gulp!)

Santa's Aussie Boomers

Just put all the decorations on the Christmas trees - inside and out. Not too many sleeps now.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Happy Junk Food Day to me

Yesterday had to be declared an emergency Junk Food Day due to the timing of the staff Christmas luncheon at school - yummo - and my birthday dinner at Victoria's BYO restaurant in Warrimoo in the lower Blue Mountains last night.

At school we do a Good Taste/Bad Taste Kris Kringle gift exchange - two raffle tickets at the door upon entry. I did rather well: a package of body massage creme and other pampering goodies for my Good Taste gift, and a "music of the 70s" Karaoke DVD for Bad Taste. A colleague had no need for her Bad Taste gift of pooper scooper and doggy poo bags, so Jack scored well too.

I've been to Victoria's twice before for staff dinners: once when it was sub-leased as a French restaurant, for a short while and again when it reverted to Italian with the return of the original owners. They run a birthday scheme at Victoria's, whereby on your birthday you're invited to take $25 off your meal. A deal too good to ignore, I reckon. Last night was a cosy group of four friends celebrating my last year in the fourth decade. I had the chicken pancake and the veal, with some BYO Pieroth red. Superb! (I understand they do weekend breakfasts in the summer months. I'm very tempted.)

I hope too much damage hasn't been done to my waistline. I shall know tomorrow. That's when I'm also planning to devour the huge piece of leftover pavlova I was bequeathed from the Christmas luncheon. 'Tis the season to be greedy.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Birthday on the horizon

Friday is my birthday. Thanks Mum and Dad for the parcel which arrived by overnight mail from Perth yesterday. It felt a bit like a shirt through the packet, so I opened it early (to save choosing an old one to wear today).

Yes, it is a shirt, but one with thin horizontal stripes! (My Mum saw me last October and I guess she's had faith that the weight would continue sliding off.) It's been ages since I could get away with that particular pattern (ie. vertical stripes having a wonderful "optical illusion" slimming effect). Being able to pick up compliments all day was a great ego-boost, especially knowing my belt has run out of belt holes, too.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The last notch

Last Australia Day, while heading into the CBD for dinner in a restaurant, I discovered that I'd picked up grease all over my trousers. Luckily, there was a nice menswear store still open in Darling Harbour and I found a good deal on a pair of casual pants and a very cool orange and green leather Mambo belt.

The belt has become a favourite, although I slowly ended up using all of the holes for the buckle, at various times of the year, as my waistline grew larger.

Today, I'm happy to report, I've used up the last hole instead! Now there's a huge flappy bit I keep hitting with my arm as I walk - and if I lose any more on this diet I'll be pulling out the old carving fork, and punching a new hole in the belt. Haven't done that in a loooong time.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Christmas meme

My friend The Other Andrew did this meme over on his blog today and his answers were hilarious. I don't think I can promise the same level of humour but I was suitably inspired to have a go at it:

Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Wrapping paper, usually on the roll from the supermarket, but I've been known to re-gift those gift bags in an emergency, especially if I'm required to bring nibblies to a party.

Real tree or Artificial?
Artificial cypress pine, IIRC. It's about twelve years old and not too tall, but is a fairly good facsimile for its day, and withstands a good hosing in the yard to rid it of any dust. I saw some very impressive, ceiling-height, realistic artificials the other day in Myer. Sigh. I've also been known to inhale deeply if passing the real pine trees in the supermarket. I wish they could bottle that fragrance. Magnificent!

When do you put up the tree?
About now. Or Christmas Eve if the spring cleaning hasn't been done. School used to break up around the 14th (my birthday) when I was younger...

When do you take the tree down?
The 12th day of Christmas. Epiphany. January 6th. Especially if it falls on a weekend. (If Epiphany falls on a weekend, that is, not the tree.)

Do you like eggnog?

Favorite gift received as a child?
A hand-knitted red and yellow gonk - in 1965. My friend Jean had a sewn one, made of red, white and black satin fabric, and I pestered my Mum and paternal grandmother - for months! - for a gonk of my own. My brother received one in reverse colours to mine, and our younger brother received a similar hand-knitted Humpty Dumpty. I think it must have been in the same pattern book. My grandmother knitted my gonk in secret (and sent it to Santa to bring back on Christmas night).

Gonk and Andorians at Christmas

Do you have a nativity scene?
A miniature plastic one from my childhood, and I inherited one of the two larger sets once owned and displayed by my grandmother. But I don't usually have room to display it. It looks bizarre next to a Muppet Show "Pigs in Space" playset of the starship Swinetrek.

Hardest person to buy for?
Me. I buy everything I collect (books, DVDs, action figures) the moment it gets released. Just give gift vouchers for Galaxy Bookshop, people!

Easiest person to buy for?
Um... Buy?

Probably my parents. Whatever I find has to be light enough to mail to Perth, but also throw in chocolate Clinkers or honeycomb for Mum and black jelly beans for Dad. It's a tradition.

Mail or email Christmas cards?
I used to be very good sending out gossipy news and personalised cards I'd made on the computer, usually me posed outside Number 96, or in some wacky Star Trek costume with a Christmassy theme. But the last five years or so it's tended to be a bulk cc-ed email to everyone on my guest book. Sigh. Guilty! This year it might end up being the mobile phone.

Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
Mmmmmm. Dunno. Maybe an el cheapo tie with matching coffee mug? I have a huge neck and I can never find shirts that permit me to wear a tie comfortably. Biggest blown surprise: my grandmother was going to give me JRR Tolkien's "The Hobbit" for my birthday one year, but ended up wrapping Book 1 of "The Lord of the Rings" instead, meaning I correctly assumed that Books 2 and 3 (and "The Hobbit") were in the Santa sack waiting for Christmas Day.

Favorite Christmas Movie?
Mmmmm. "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York"? I watched it being filmed on the streets of New York, January 1992, over several night shoots, and it was then released for Christmas the next year. It was fun looking for "my" scenes.

When do you start shopping for Christmas?
About now. The last two years, I've been on the fundraising shopping bus trip (organised through the school) to the factory outlet stores, so: late November. Any food bought then is already eaten, though. Guaranteed.

Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Our school Kris Kringle is traditionally both good taste & bad taste - and it's traditional to recycle the worst of the really bad ones!

Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Mmmmm. Glace fruit. Dark fruit cake. Roast pork crackling.

Clear lights or colored on the tree?
Coloured, but no flasher bulb because I have a Star Trek shuttlecraft that has a Spock audio message, and the flasher would wreck it. However, the shuttlecraft's memory chip stopped talking three years ago and then the light string blew last year! (I just found a working string in the tossed-out ragged old Christmas tree, across the road, when the neighbours moved out on a moonlight flit.)

Favorite Christmas song?
Definitely The Chimney Song, as sung by Lorna List. Track #2 of "Twisted Christmas" (1987) by the Bob Rivers Comedy Corp. Took me many years to track it down. The old 2UW radio station used to say it was by little Personality Plus, the fictitious sister of the breakfast announcers' resident mascot, Peter Plus.

Travel at Christmas or stay home?
Every second year it's Christmas at my Aunty Pat's in Malabar Heights, Sydney. Every other year I either entertain at home or go away on a break somewhere.

Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?
Yep. And his seven dwarfs, too.

Angel on the tree top or a star?
Well, don't say you didn't ask for it:

Spock angel

Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
Morning. Unless I'm not seeing certain people on "the day".

Most annoying thing about this time of year?
The school year goes right up to Christmas Week most years now. I used to have a whole week up my sleeve for spring cleaning.

Favorite ornament theme or color?
I buy two rather eclectic ornaments for the tree per year: one quite expensive and one el cheapo but very cute. Been doing so since 1983, so have over 50 ornaments now. Makes the tree look tinier every year.

Favorite for Christmas dinner?
Traditional English roast dinner, even on the scorcher days!

What do you want for Christmas this year?
Dunno. Already bought Star Trek Season One boxed set on combo DVD/HD, Season Three of "Lost", and all the Star Trek novels and action figures for the year. Typical.

Please feel free to chime in with your comments, or let me know if you do your own. Thanks for the tip, Andrew!

A novel argument

Over at TrekBBS, the old chestnut of stand-alone versus serialized Star Trek novels has again arisen.

Some fans seem to yearn for simpler times, when they never feel tempted to read beyond one tie-in product to truly get the gist of one particular adventure. They don't want any sharing of original characters, which essentially puts an end to any continuing characters past the credited headlining stars of a series. Some have speculated that Pocket Books is no longer soliciting manuscripts that tell self-contained Star Trek stories.

Of course they do! Happens often enough. There's no ban on stand-alone adventures at all. I take it some are not enjoying some of the so-called "relaunches" and serialized stories, even though the authors seem (to me) to tell a complete story within their instalment. A great recent example is the "Crucible" trilogy by David R George III. The first one, "McCoy", is totally stand-alone, even to its trilogy mates, if one so chooses.

First-time authors following Pocket's official ST submission policy must submit a stand-alone novel that makes no reference to existing novels. (Mind you, that's to prove that they can write in the genre, and can follow guidelines.) But even in the supposedly "good old days" of the 1980s, a stand-alone novel could become so successful that it spawned a sequel. So one might say that today's readers would be hesitant to pick up AC Crispin's "Time for Yesterday" if they hadn't already read "Yesterday's Son" - but neither the editor nor author knew that the first adventure would extend beyond one book. The first ST novel I ever read was Bantam's "The Fate of the Phoenix", a sequel to "The Price of the Phoenix"!

I say, trust the authors to make every ST novel as stand-alone as possible - which they do! There are very few novels, except perhaps a few early duologies and trilogies that were designed as duologies or trilogies, that can't stand alone.

Many readers also don't want any novels to ever conflict with another. And that becomes harder and harder to achieve every month. I recently chatted with a high school student who has to write a science fiction short story for an assignment, and he wants to imply that it is part of an arc of stories that might eventually lead to a novel. It's essential, for the assignment, that the short story actually also be self-contained.

You know, I've met many Star Trek fans over the years who seem to be always looking for a chance to opt out of something, ie. so they have an excuse not to read/see it. "Oh, this novel requires a knowledge of the one ST film I hate so I won't be reading that one." "I heard that book had too many unexplained in-jokes." "The books aren't canonical, so I refuse to read them." "I only read novels written by people who have direct connections to canonical ST". Etc.

If readers truly want stand-alone ST stories, then they are going to conflict with all the others. We also end up with hundreds - thousands! - of interesting guest crew characters who never get to grow beyond one story. A volume of "The Best of Trek" had an article where somebody tried to do a definitive list of original Enterprise crewmembers who had appeared in the novels. Initally I was excited as I remembered there'd been a small amount of character sharing and sequeling in the Bantam and early Pocket novels (Dr Ruth Rigel, Ingrit Thomson, Mahase the Eseriot, Naraht the Horta, Harb Tanzer, Lia Burke, etc), but the resulting list seemed totally useless and pointless, since most other characters received one appearance only - and often it was for a redshirt whose entire contribution to the plot was "Please sign this" or "Aaaargghhh!".

And whenever an author decided to make use of minor TOS guest crew, such as Freeman ("The Trouble With Tribbles"), they'd give him a different first name anyway. I can't see why some readers say they lack of character-building across novels something to celebrate? If an author tried to give every character in his/her ST novel equal time to get a story arc happening for them, and each arc completed in the one novel, most of it would be described by most readers as "wasted filler". The arcs they complete in a single novel ultimately contribute to the plot of that novel. Also, the authors would eventually exhaust the 420 or so TOS crew, or the 1000 or so TNG crew in just a few years of novels, because some readers say they don't want any minor characters ever being shared between books.

Minor characters don't have to have a story arc at all, of course - that's why they are minor characters - but if a new author can add a dimension to a few of them in some future novel, that's good. But you still don't have to read every instalment to get resolution of the major arcs of the first novel. It's an Easter egg for those who notice it.


For example, we learn a tiny bit more about hortas each time Naraht (above left) appears in a novel. (I guess you don't want to know that he's also popped up in a computer game and a few comics, and each time we learned more about the oddities of silicon-based life.)

Referring to JJ Abrams' upcoming TOS movie, they say, "An ambitious and risk taking studio would be making a new space opera, instead of remaking Trek."

Sorry, I don't want "a new space opera". I want more Star Trek, and the thought of a new TOS adventure, where the characters are all young and virile again, is very exciting.

I was also asked, "Have you ever invested in something, be it books, music, movies, TV, whatever, that you collected eagerly as it was being released, experienced it once at the time of purchase, then never looked at it again? Did that collection wind up in a yard/car boot sale twelve months later?"

Nope, not really. But even if I did only see/read/hold it the once (and a lot of my books await unread), it was the buying of it that had some exhilaration, and was probably worth the price of purchase. A bit like seeing a live stage show. I usually buy the souvenir program, but the memories of going to and seeing the actual performance is what I paid the initial ticket price for. I could live without the program, I guess, but it's handy for later reference.

If they do all end up in a car boot sale or eBay someday when I'm 90, so be it. I've had a lifetime of memories from the initial outlays of money. But I agree, any collection you choose to stop adding to eventually risks falling from grace, and the collector must go in search of new thrills. Human nature. Enjoy it!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

How does your garden grow?

It's a little bizarre that the grass is growing so wonderfully in the middle of a drought, but we've been getting a combination of frequent storms, that can dump a month's rainfall in ten minutes over parts of Sydney, followed by days of gorgeous sunshine. You can practically watch the blades of grass growing!

I'm particularly thrilled about my gardenia bushes, which are blooming extremely well this year. Gardenias were my paternal grandmother's much-treasured flowers, due to her daughter Elaine's fondness for them (Aunty Elaine died at age 17, although she has ben an influence over several generations who never met her). I once bought my grandmother a potted gardenia for her balcony as a gift and it was an annual celebration whenever that first fragrant bud burst open. When I bought my own flat in 1984, a gardenia for the balcony was one of my first purchases.


Since moving to the house in 2000, I've made a point of picking up a new greenhouse-reared, ready-to-bloom gardenia plant each year, mainly because they have had more promise of many blooms than the ones here, which have traditionally granted only about ten blooms each per season. The last few years, despite careful spraying for pests, some little caterpillar has been tunnelling through the tiny unopened gardenia buds and this either mutates each bud as it grows to full size, or causes it to not open at all.

This year, anticipating disaster again, I bought a new, ready-to-bloom gardenia plant - which has started performing well - but all of the other plants are covered with buds and flowers, too! Mind you, there've been some black caterpillars threatening to start munching but so far so good. (I squished one in the centre of his body the other day - and his brains shot right out of his head. If that's where a caterpillar keeps his brains.)

I'm also enjoying the development of this year's agapanthus blooms (but so far no action from my two Black Panthas), the gorgeous self-seeding portulacas, and the amazingly hardy pigfaces (first time this year) in their numerous colours.

Black pantha agapanthus
Fingers crossed for a black pantha!

Sunday's magic number: 88.6 I'm so excited! It was a difficult week, watching a friend tuck into Krispy Kreme donuts when I had a skinny milkshake, and I even refused to partake of free Christmas cake at work. Sigh... I guess it's been worth it.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

St Andrew is cross

St Andrew's Cross spider

I watched this St Andrew's Cross spider construct his web on my front veranda over several days last week. Check out the amazing markings on his abdomen! The finishing touch was the set of zigzagging, white, diagonal lines which - when he was centred in his web - appeared to make his spreadeagled legs look even longer. The day I decided to take a photo, he'd moved up slightly from his usual location; I noticed he was busy wrapping a hapless, trembling insect with spider silk - for later use... as lunch.

It was only a few days after the arrival of the new lounge suite that I suddenly realised: the large pot plant the spider had used to anchor the web had been quickly slid out of the way of the front door in the dark, to make room for the removal of the two old lounges and the delivery of the big new one.

Wherever St Andrew the spider is now, I'll bet he's very cross!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Showing restraint

When I first moved here in 2000, I made myself a promise that the lounge room would be a "Star Trek-free" room, since I had a spare room to gussy up as a Star Trek Shrine, and a family room (with no family to put in it) for the overflow. But it didn't take long for the Star Trek videocassettes and CDs, and then DVD boxed sets, and even my wonderful "Piiiiiigs iiiiiin Spaaaaaaace" playset (with First Mate Miss Piggy, Captain Link Hogthrob and Dr Strangepork of "The Muppet Show"), to creep into the lounge room and help to clutter it up.

Well, now that the new lounge suite is here: the dust has been eradicated, for the time being, at least; the two caged birds have been banished to another part of the house; the walls, ceiling and skirting boards are all freshly painted; and I've shown great restraint by bringing out only the Trek CDs, DVDs, and just a few VHS tapes. And the antennaed blue mannequin dressed in his authentic "It's a Wrap!" Andorian outfit from "Star Trek: Enterprise", of course. Only the essentials...

Andorian plus Tellarite jacket

Thursday, December 06, 2007

"Allow me to be the best judge of that!"

Thelma Scott

At tonight's L'Oreal Paris 2007 AFI Awards (for the Australian Film Institute), the late Thelma Scott will be honoured in a montage of recent passings. The Australian actress and radio star was also beloved by "Number 96" fans as "Mrs Claire Houghton of Point Piper" and the screen mother of Bev (portrayed by Abigail, below left, and later by Victoria Raymond), during the 70s. The b/w picture of Thelma (above) being used in the montage was supplied by yours truly.

I was fortunate to meet Miss Scott several times. The word "formidable" always comes to mind, but only in the nicest ways. She was also a delight to talk to, and very articulate on a range of issues. I know she is missed by her many friends and fans.

Thelma Scott with cast

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Lounging around again

Well, the new lounge suite arrived tonight. It looks very comfortable. Perhaps too comfortable; recliners send me straight to sleep and this corner suite has two of them. And its such a pretty medium blue.

The delivery truck was due at 6pm, but a thunderstorm held them up and they didn't arrive till after 8.30 or so. I ate dinner sitting on the floor in front of the TV, the only furniture left in the front room.

The room has been freshly painted (making the rest of the house look shabby by comparison). And no sooner were the modules slotted together than Jack was up on one, and settled in for the evening. Looks like I'm testing out the suite's resilience to dog hairs much earlier than expected.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Shatner's collision course

Poor ol' Bill Shatner is having a hard time of it. JJ Abrams hasn't asked him to be in the upcoming Star Trek movie, and now the reviews for his hardcover ST novel, "Academy: Collision Course" have been harsh - and for the first time in ten hardcovers, there's been no simultaneous audio release.

Someone had better call in Denny Crane!

Collision Course
Shatner: "Where's my audio book royalty this year?"

Shatner's main complaint seems to be in answer to a fan question of "So where is the audio book?"

Simon & Schuster Audioworks - not Pocket Books itself - seems to have abandoned the abridged Star Trek audiotape novels. Shatner's own "Captain's Glory" was its last one, and that audio title was delayed because the book itself was delayed for over two years. That's also been the only one to come out as a CD-only release, magnetic cassette tapes seeming to have finally fallen out of favour.

S&S got burned on quite a few ST titles, due to poor sales, and eventually concentrated mainly on hardcovers - but even some of those were lacklustre (eg. "DS9: Warped"). I saw the writing on the wall for the simultaneous releases when even highly-anticipated, non-Shatner ST hardcovers, such as "DS9: Unity", "New Frontier: After the Fall" and "NF: Missing in Action", failed to get an abridged audio production.

Maybe Josepha Sherman & Susan Shwartz's "Vulcan's Soul, Book 1: Exodus" failed to do well (in audio) for Simon & Schuster Audioworks, too, because it's been left to a company called Recorded Books to do (expensive) unabridged versions of the three volumes in that series. Interestingly, Amazon offers these as audio downloads, and has recently slashed the Recorded Books' prices from around $46 each to $12-$25. But you have to download (and burn them to CD?) yourself.

So Shatner's complaint is reflecting a drop in interest/sales in abridged Star Trek audios altogether. He needs to talk to Recorded Books. "Vulcan's Soul, Book 3" has supposedly only recently come out as an unabridged title, so there's still time.

Captains Log: Supplemental. Shatner is still crying!

Judy & Garfield Reeves-Stevens incorporated the plot and ramifications of "Nemesis" into the Shatner "Totality" hardcover trilogy ("Captain's Peril/Blood/Glory"). Sherman & Shwartz did a similar thing with their "Vulcan's Soul" trilogy - and they did it after their instalment was already out. Surely it makes sense for Shatner and Pocket to wait for the Abrams movie to come out, then incorporate whatever ideas Shatner and the Reeves-Stevenses have for "Academy" Books 2 and 3 into novels that will gel with the storyline of that ST movie.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Breaking through


I had to move the scales around the bathroom floor a bit this morning, because I was getting some very erroneous readings - the scales were insisting I was heavier than the previous night, and I hadn't eaten anything! However, finally, to my joy there was the magic 89.9 glinting up at me. Now, that's more like it!

It had become very important to me to get past that dreaded 90 kg mark. I just checked back through the old Sunday postings and reminded myself that this diet started on Sunday, August 05, 2007. It really feels longer - much longer - than that, but I'd actually forgotten that, on that day, I was 99 kg. (I'd been telling myself it was 98, so it's actually been nine kilograms lost in four months. The last few weeks I've been quite strict about grazing on wicked things.) Slow progress, but at least it's progress. My body is simply used to all the walking I do, and I really don't want to start doing any other form of exercise. So I guess I'm stuck with slow progress.

The first time I did this diet, way back before "Fat Free Forever" was actually even published (the authors had promoted it at one of Selwa's seminars), I was losing a very comfortable one kilo per week. Wonderfully predictable, highly motivating... and I achieved my goal mass in (seemingly) no time at all! I started at 90.2 kg, at about this time of year, sailed through Christmas 1995 without too much anguish and, by Easter 2006, I was 75 kg and grinning like a Cheshire cat (with just a little bit of chocolate on its lips). I even bought one of those slimline, expensive white T-shirts to celebrate.

I wonder whatever happened to that shirt? I think it became a dust rag, because I only fitted into it as an actual T-Shirt for a few months. Sigh.

Then in late 2005, I needed to try again. This time, I was a hefty 104 kg - I still can't believe I was ever that big - but I managed to shed eighteen kilograms. As soon as I boasted about it online, I ran out of puff and returned to my old eating patterns (and avoided looking at the scales for about a year). Thirteen kilos went straight back on, seemingly in no time at all. It's extremely easy to add a kilogram per month. I know; I've proved it several times now. I can do it standing on my head. (Actually, doing that might stop me from opening chocolate wrappers.)

Ah well, 89.9 is better than 99, just as 99 is much better than 104. It's still a bit disheartening that I'm back at the same mass I was the first time I attempted "Fat Free Forever". That "forever" is the sticking point, you know. Because Junk Food (and its advertisers) cry out for it to be eaten every day! Somehow society is going to have to come up with a solution for that.

I don't think I'll ever be 75 kg again somehow, but even 85 kg is looking pretty great from here. So wish me luck for the next stage of this game/chore/necessity.

Sunday's magic number: 89.9 - Yay!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Brissy birthday boy, Ben

Happy birthday to little Ben, whose first birthday party is about to begin in Brisbane. I was invited, but I'm not able to get back to Brisbane till later in December. But no matter, Ben and his parents are due in Sydney this week, for a flying visit, so I can catch up then.

"It's 2.30am on a Saturday morning, and I must lick your face!"

You know, by cleverly judging the time between heavy rain showers, Jack (my Jack Russell terrier) was taken for a one hour walk last night. There's no way he should have been awake enough to demand to go outside to post an urgent wee-mail at 2.30am this morning.

But he did.


Welcome to summer. No wonder it's raining.

(I cheated and peeked at the scales a day early; if I walk heaps today I can be under the magic 90 kg again tomorrow. Whew! I thought I'd been really tough on myself this week, but there hasn't been a lot of change at all. Last week, i knew there'd been a sudden two kilogram drop. i could just tell that i felt lighter, and skinnier. There are mornings when I get dressed and feel amazed at all the extra room in the waistband of my pants, and how they'd fall down without a belt holding them up. There are other morning when i catch myself side on in the mirror and am horrified that the tummy ain't never gonna look better without some exercise beyond walking. (My thighs always look muscular, but that's because a life time of walking builds 'em up. Such is the life of a pedestrian.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Nostalgia encaged

Tonight was the one-night-only presentation of the HD, new CGI FX version of "Star Trek: The Menagerie" (TOS) on the big screen, at the glorious Hayden Orpheum Cinema in Cremorne.

Not only was it a great advertisement for the upcoming boxed sets on DVD HD, it will whet appetites for the Spock/Pike/Kirk story being filmed by JJ Abrams for his new Star Trek motion picture, currently filming. I was very satisfied by the (highly criticised on the Internet) new SPFX, now in glorious CGI.

It was a great night of wonderful nostalgia, catching up with: Karen S. and her mother Mavis, veterans of the early days of Astrex; Djura's friends Tanya and Atha (who were handing out fliers on behalf of Paramount Home Video); plus other members of the Star Trek Meetup Group. So out of over 200 attendees at the first session, I recognised at least ten people. (Actually, I thought I might have spotted a few more.) We assume the second screening had a similar number.

Cartoon by Brett Bower, (c) 1987

The night made me flashback to the time when Network Seven secured the rights to run the full series of Star Trek - in colour for the first time - in the early 80s, when Paramount was just starting to drop some hints about the then-forthcoming "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan". They gave away free passes to see "The Menagerie" on the big screen, although the original flier had promised "City on the Edge of Forever" and "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield", neither of which I'd seen at the time. Frustratingly, I'd bought a Beta copy of "The Menagerie" only a week before the free screening, and with so many episodes still eluding me, it was a little frustrating to sit through the double episode again so soon.

Thinking about "The Menagerie", tonight may have been my first time watching it since that big night over two decades ago. I've seen "The Cage", the first pilot, in various editions, many times in the intervening years, but have rarely been inspired to watch the whole of "The Menagerie" again. It held up extremely well, especially with so much in new, sharp contrast, fabulous new backgrounds, Enterprise and shuttlecraft flybys and amazingly detailed starfields.

Seven's freebie night had managed to fill the main level of Sydney's State Theatre without even trying, interrupting the theatrical first-run release of "Clash of the Titans". The event was lampooned, ever so gently, by Seven's late night news, and Therin of Andor made his TV debut that night. Almost everyone in the theatre was in costume that night. However, at the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace, I spotted only three costumes (Tanya, Atha and yours truly - I wore my ST:TMP shirt from Epsilon 9), and a couple of TOS-themed silk ties. Sigh.

The Season One DVD HD sets of TOS come out next week, according to the "making of" documentary that introduced the double episode.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Taronga bound!

Taronga Park ZooDuncan Ball

When you leave the house at 6.00am (and not required to be at Taronga Park Zoo until 10.00am), it's very hard to guess what to wear. I took a chance that it was going to be hot, so I chose shorts (but good ones, because I was to be in the presence of the New South Wales Premier, Morris Iemma), a shirt with a collar and my leather bush hat, but made sure to take my umbrella. It was just as likely to have been torrential rain all day. I did feel a little silly heading off in a hat, shorts and comfortable shoes at 6.00am, but it did turn out to be a glorious hat day: a trip on a ferry, and then overlooking Sydney Harbour from the Free-Flight Bird Show open-air amphitheatre at the Zoo.

The occasion was the annual Premier's Reading Challenge presentation ceremony. I was invited as a member of the booklist review committee, but my Very Important Task today (pic, above right) was to chaperone children's author Duncan Ball (ie. a close friend of Selby, the talking dog). In fact, during the sit-down proceedings I got to be right near artist Kim Gamble (who drew an amazing picture from the forthcoming "Tashi and the Phoenix" in pastels which they raffled off to one of the invited school groups) and authors and/or illustrators such as Anna Fienberg, Emily Rodda (aka Jennifer Rowe), Tohby Riddle, Ursula Dubosarsky and Libby Gleeson, to name just a few. Several of the teachers exclaimed that Gordon Winch, also present, had been their lecturer at university but for me, it was Barbara Poston-Anderson, also present and who'd arrived with Gordon, who had been my lecturer of teacher-librarianship.

Every person who spoke at the formal part of the ceremony did it with such enthusiasm, it was easy to be swept away by the positiveness of this celebration of literary achievements. Because of the PRC, over eight million books have been read by NSW students (that otherwise may not have been).

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Back on track with Sassy

Ian and Selwa

Yesterday Selwa Anthony, Australian literary agent extraordinaire, held her annual all-day seminar and gala dinner for her ever-growing network of amazing authors. Once again at the Novatel Hotel in Brighton-le-Sands, Succeed, It's Great in 2008 was as stimulating as the first one I attended (way back in November 1993, Succeed Some More in '94.) The seminars take their title from a little self-help book, "Succeed With Me", which Selwa once wrote with Jimmy Thomson - and it's now available in audio by Bolinda Audio; we received a freebie in our goodie bag upon arrival!

Despite the fact that, so far, I haven't earned Selwa any percentages, she keeps inviting me back. These seminars have certainly directed me into numerous opportunities over the years but so far nothing commercial enough that would earn Selwa her percentage. Yet. Selwa continues to have faith in me, but i always feel quite humble in the talented company of Selwa's network.

The first speaker yesterday was a no-show. The poor person ended up booking a flight and heading to Brighton in Melbourne instead of Brighton-le-Sands, Sydney. So compere, Mark Macleod, brought on stage Selwa's young assistant, Selina, for an insight into a day in the life of being Selwa's assistant. It was a great impromptu session, and it also meant that Mark could offer up what he called "one-minute spots", over the course of the day, to anyone wanting to share something special to the rest of the network.

A few people availed themselves of the opportunity and, in the morning tea break, I was boasting to author/journalist Sue Williams about my Kindergarten students' recent work writing fables on the World Wide Web via a wiki. Sue's eyes lit up and she said, "Go and tell Mark you'll do a one minute spot! If anything, you'll also get to show off that fabulous jacket" *

The next thing I knew, I was sharing my young students' work - from memory! - with the likes of Tara Moss, Kim Wilkins (now also writing as Kimberley Freeman), Ian Irvine and so many other Australian literary luminaries. It was a highly energizing experience, and it made sooooooo twitchy to get to the keyboard. Maybe there'll be a chance for a much longer session at the next seminar?

And now, back to the drawing board.

* Oh - I must mention my new jacket, as seen in the picture of me with Selwa (above). I bought it on my recent trip to Perth (not usually a place where one thinks of buying a jacket, but I couldn't leave it in that shop in Northbridge. It was way too cool!). As well as the upraised silver "Superman" logo on the front, it has a larger one on the back. It picked up compliments all day and night, including a most enthusiastic accolade from first-night red carpet denizen/veteran, Susie Elleman. Someone came up to me later and whispered, "Wow! Susie likes your jacket! That's great, getting compliments from celebrities." But then we wondered... Poor Susie is annually castigated by the media for her poor clothing choices every Logies Award night, and her outfits and hairstyles are the stuff of Logies legend! So is it, in fact, good to get a high rating for my dress sense from her? ;)

Last night's Sassy presenter was the very sassy Dinah Lee. As I always say, it was a great day and night, and a highlight of my year every November. Maybe by next November I'll have a book of my own on the way.

Sunday's magic number: 90.3 - much better! A two kilo drop at last. You know, after the last few weeks' disappointment, I could actually feel the weight disappearing this week, as I cut out almost everything yummy I hold dear (the late night snacking especially). It is gratifying that I was able to eat my way through two gigantic meals yesterday at the seminar (and the Sassy Awards' banquet) and still wake up two kilos lighter than last Sunday, to smile about it this morning. Yay me!

And I should point out that I first met my "Fat Free Forever" dieting gurus, Dianne Barker Wilson and former "Gladiator" Geoff Barker, via the "Succeed With Me" seminars.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Going postal

Ah! The queues.

It's polling day for Australia, electing a new Prime Minister - 'cos most of us have gotten very tired of the old one. I'm off to my literary agent's annual seminar today so I had to think far enough ahead of time to organise my postal vote.

So I don't have to queue. Nor will I see the riveting (ho hum) television election coverage, 'cos I'll be partying with Australia's (popular) literati. We'll be more worried about who wins a Sassy Award than who wins the election, I reckon. It may be all over and decided because I get back home.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Spotlight on the old ways

IDW Publishing's "Alien Spotlight: Andorians: The Old Ways" comic is out! It is indeed a TNG era story this time. Placed in TNG's seventh year, writer Paul D Storrie presents Ortees Sharad, an Andorian Starfleet officer hitching a ride to Andoria for extended leave. We see him with Troi but, once the Enterprise-D gets him to Andor's moon, it's an all-Andorian blue fest!

Now, anyone who knows me will say I'm biased - or maybe they'll see it as a sign that IDW has done well with the "Alien Spotlights" so far - but I found "Andorians: The Old Ways" to be thoroughly entertaining. The story is strong, the characters have more visual differences than a typical ENT Andorian episode, and I loved some of the background layouts, esp. those using visuals from "The Aenar".

I didn't get the feeling that the story was rushed, and it certainly doesn't stomp over fans' memories of TNG, ENT or Heather Jarman's "Andor: Paradigm" (the Andorian novel in "Worlds of DS9, Book 1"). The lead character is strong and likeable. Fans worried about which approach to the four-partnered-marriage aspect would be taken should be well-pleased, too.

Ortees Sharad

I said on my blog a few months ago that I've probably been waiting for a comic about Andorians since December 1979 (TMP), or perhaps even earlier than that: "Yesteryear" (TAS) on one Saturday morning in the 70s.

Thanks IDW!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Wonderful wikis

Today I bit the bullet and leaped into the next era of ICT (information communications technology) and taught a dozen Kindergarten students (and myself, slightly one step ahead) how to design a wiki.

Now, I've dabbled in adding and editing an existing wiki (eg. Wikipedia, Memory Alpha, Memory Beta, etc), but this time I had to work out how to design one, and how to help the students to build up a narrative (in fable form, complete with a motto) - and post it to the wiki.

Within a few moments of launch, our fledgling wiki web pages were being looked at by two different Internet surfers in California, USA. Amazing! Young students are simply not scared to (literally) push that newest button in modern technology.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The art of staying positive

I'm trying to be very positive today, but probably failing miserably.

On Friday, I attended the local/regional teacher-librarians' professional learning seminar. We forfeited our usual half-day meeting last term to enable us to take a full day in Term Four, and it was a great idea. Term Three is always busy with Book Week and related activities. (Shades of TV's "The Librarians", who are having their's now, according to the ABC.)

Anyway, several people were recognising me from my author picture in the latest "Scan" journal - an article about Circle Time in our school library - but, as some colleagues and I were gravitating towards the morning tea urn, one woman introduced herself and said, "Oh, I know your name! You're the one who writes all those posts to the teacher-librarians' listservs."

I sort of froze for a moment. "All those posts..."??? If I counted up "all" my posts for this, my first year back in a school library for a decade, there have probably only been only ten. Some teacher-librarians post ten or more comments per week. Some would post several times every day. (Kind of like me with my posts to the "Star Trek" and action figures listservs and online bulletin boards.)

"There haven't been that many, have there?" I asked, a bit bewildered.

"Well, not really, but they are always so positive. When I read them, I always think to myself, now there is a person with a positive attitude."

Wow. Okay. Yep, that'd me. Wow!

Hopefully, such ego-boo will get me through the next week, after today's big disappointment. I started a new Meetup group, you see, for people interesting in pursuing an improvement in their skills in life drawing and painting, plus an eclectic range of other art projects (such as building on my work with theatrical makeup, plaster casting, mould-making and sculpture, latex appliance work and, I suppose, photography, too). In just six weeks or so the group had grown to twelve people, and today was looking very promising: six people had RSVPed to meet for coffee, but the only one who turned up was the guy I'd already been chatting to by telephone. He seemed very enthusiastic, which is great, but we'd both really been looking forward to meeting all the other artists, models and potential models.

Gee, he and I had kept today free of other appointments for over six weeks, turning down various invitations to do other things so we'd be there for the inaugural meeting today. Now we're at exactly the same point we were six weeks ago, with no one else's input. Or, at least, it seems that way.

So how come no one else kept today free? I fear for this new mobile phone era; more and more I notice people becoming more spontaneous about their leisure time. They often seem to prioritise differently now that their phones bring them new, more interesting distractions. (So why couldn't they just ring us re their new plans? Yeah, us - the two guys taking up a huge table for eight at the coffee shop.)

I guess some of them were suddenly shy. I hope they hadn't gone walking past the coffee shop, checking us out to see if we seemed safe/cool enough to be seen with?

Let's stay positive, though, shall we? At least, even with a group of two, one of us is an artist and the other is the prospective model.

Sunday's magic number: 92.3 - slightly better than last week, thank goodness, but it's looking like I'm going to have to do something drastic. I'm getting in well over an hour of brisk walking every day, and my nightly meals are miniscule. I can't remember the taste of my last Big Mac; yesterday was the annual McHappy Day and it was a case of "Not happy, Ronald!", listening to all those radio ads about supporting the McDonald's charities simply by buying a Big Mac burger. Friday was a catered lunch, prepaid via my attendance at the conference, so those yummy pastries etc had to become the contents of my one Junk Food Day meal for the week.

Walking the dog on weekend early evenings is a killer, of recent times: everyone is in their yards BBQing, and both of us are driven crazy by the delectable smells. I really don't want to have to take out gym membership; I'm really non-sporty and walking is my only sporting pleasure. But obviously the diet is not enough when you've reached stalemate. Sigh. I know, I know; I must burn off more kilojoules than I'm consuming. But I'm really not eating that much. (Let's stay positive: I'm positive that the sneaky midnight candy-snacking has to be next to go, eh?)

Viva the fan film

In the 2000s, science fiction media fandom has (mostly) moved to the World Wide Web. Many SF fans tend to be tech and gadgetry savvy, anyway, so the thought of using Amazon to buy books, eBay to buy and sell tie-in merchandise, iPods and PDAs to download podcasts (such as bonus audio commentaries for DVDs) and eBooks, and web pages to publish newsletters, fan stories, fan art and zines, wasn't particularly wild. And the new tech has saved fans much in monthly meeting fees and printing costs.

And we also now have the online fan film phenomenon, with the likes of Youtube taking off beyond anyone's predictions. But there were Star Trek and other science fiction media fan films in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

The first Australian Super 8 fan film I saw was from the Melbourne Star Trek Club, Austrek, called "City on the Edge of the Yarra" (as in Yarra River) and it had some rather bizarre "Rocky Horror Picture Show" influences when Kirk and Spock stumble across a science fiction convention. There was also a film made - but never finished? - by Sydney fan John Parks. It featured some "Star Wars" parodies, such as robots C-Me-P.O.Q. and RU-One-Two, and a life-size Dalek race, if I recall correctly. I did eventually see snippets of the raw footage, and it was fun recognising the early work of several fan colleagues, performed years before I'd met all these people (and discovered active fandom) in 1980.

My local Star Trek fan club, Astrex, in Sydney, had one group of enthusiastic members who made some fan films with me in the 80s. I mentioned several of them over on my web site. Mostly, our fan films were videoed parodies of then-contemporary television game shows, as performed live at fan gatherings. These were then edited, given opening credits, and sometimes reshoots added. Some of our efforts were made as proper short films, though, and had scripted dialogue and even storyboards, etc.

As the time rolls on, I'll keep editing in details, such as release dates, but our fan films included:

* The Australian Science Fiction Media Award-winning "Sale of the 23rd Century" (1985), hosted by Therin and Tharrah the Andorians, and Tackee the green Orion slave girl. (This was many years before Senator Therin Sr cameoed in "Starship Exeter: The Savage Empire".)

Sale of the 23rd Century
Tackee zaps herself with a Klingon agonizer
on "Sale of the 23rd Century" at Con Amore.

* "Starfleet Blankety Blanks" (1985), hosted by Grol the Tellarite and Tackee.

Blankety Blanks

* "Timewarped" (1986) - Doug and Tony of "The Time Tunnel" arrive in Sydney, Australia, just in time for a science fiction media convention. Ann twiddles some knobs but is unable to assist them.

Time Tunnel opening ceremony at TimeWarped Convention

* The Australian Science Fiction Media Award-winning "Perfect Botch" (1986), hosted by Reed, Sue and Johnny of "The Fantastic Four", complete with an inserted segment about Spock and T'Pring's romantic date, which they'd supposedly won in the (phantom) previous episode. Segment had Therin and Tharrah as chaperones. Live "mystery guest" contestants were Tackee and The Thing.

Fantastic Four at TimeWarped Convention

* "Cometcon Blankety Blanks" (1986), hosted by Strop the Visitor and Tackee.

* "Free Maltz" (1987), the post-"Star Trek III" story of Maltz's escape from a Vulcan prison cell. A standalone short, but also used as introduction to:

* "The Nearly-Wed Game" (1987), hosted by Maltz and guest-starring pro actor Brian Croucher of "Blake's Seven" as Travis!

1: Maltz behind barsThe Nearly-Wed Game

* "Star Trek 5.5" (1990) - the making of the film they were never game to let William Shatner actually direct, and on a shoestring budget even less than "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier".

* "The Naked Never" (1990) - a Season One TNG skit videoed on a full-size TNG bridge (mocked up in one weekend out of huge sheets of corrugated cardboard).

I'm not sure if the parody game shows "It's in the Beg" (performed live in New Zealand, 1988, hosted by The Flash) or the previous "Tribble Lotto" (at TimeWarped, 1986, below) which involved Walter Koenig and his wife, Judy Levitt, were actually preserved for posterity, beyond a few snapshots.

Tribble Lotto at TimeWarped Convention

Our production team was known as Harpic Productions. Yep, flushed with success, our films made us blue in the face. (And had some toilet humour.)

I also once participated, as script contributor and makeup artist, on a great film short made by a group of Macquarie University film students in the 90s. It was called "Lost in Fantasy" and is perhaps closer to a docu-drama than a true fan film.

Therin and Tharrah: "Perfect Botch" chaperones.
(Note the phaser!)

Remember to come back often, as I'm sure to update this page fairly regularly, and will post links to more pics. Meanwhile, here's my cameo in "Starship Exeter: The Savage Empire"...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

There's something in the woodheap...

Today is a very good day to go to the movies, I think. Anything to avoid a day of letting Jack in and out of the back door.

My Jack Russell terrier, Jack, has spent the last few days patrolling the backyard, and under both side gates, with his nose glued to ground level, relentlessly following the unseen path of some invisible creature, which has obviously been passing through with some regularity.

In the past, we've suspected a possum, cats and/or small garden skinks, and it often has been the latter. I have also spotted blue tongue lizards (Jack's cornered two of these in the past, flipping one over on its back), and there was the famous ferret sighting - not to mention large water skinks at Zena's and my red-bellied black snake encounter down at Penrith railway station. Nor will I mention the near-tragedy of the baby blue tongue lizard at my aunt's last year.

Who knows what monster is lurking under the woodheap (the remains of the old balcony decking boards)? But Jack did finally see it under there twice this morning. "Bark, bark, bark" etc.

"Where is it? Where is it?"

On the topic of monsters, I've recently had a curiosity about the fate of Peter Jackson's "Son of Kong" movie, which he'd promoted in the bonus DVD features of his "King Kong" remake (2005). I haven't heard a thing about the sequel, which was going to star an albino progeny of "Kong", in ages; in fact, not since seeing the bonus features of the DVD, now that i think of it. Today it was time for that Google and IMDB (Internet Movie Database) search, and thus I discovered this comment in a review of the Jackson "King Kong" DVD:

For those that fell victim to the joke (I did) about "Son of Kong", there won't be a "Son of Kong". That was an April Fools joke.

Really? Now I feel silly.

I must admit, watching the DVD bonus features, I thought it was a weird move for Jackson to do such a sequel when "King Kong" itself had had a less-then-impressive performance at the box office, but I was equally surprised when the recent media seemed to be totally ignoring the progress of the (seemingly elaborate) sequel. The bit about Kong's son growing up to fight Nazis should have been the give away. Gosh, I'm slow.

You know, Peter, it was a great joke, but I'm still not looking under my woodheap.

Friday, November 16, 2007

There was a librarian who swallowed a fly... II

I don't know why I swallowed another fly,
Perhaps I'll die (again).

Ugh, it was just as gross. This is promising to be one wild spring, and a worse summer. My second Louie this season. Reminds me a bit of the old fairy story where the guy boasts, "I killed seven with one blow!", and then people find out he meant flies, not giants.

Louie the Fly
2007: 50th anniversary of
Mortein's "Louie the Fly"
(voice of Ross Higgins).

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I am the 421st noisiest in the blogosphere

According to the blog site BuggerAll(Blog), I am ranked 421st noisiest out of 1299 current Australian blogs, with 718 "backlinks" on Yahoo, for the winter of 2007. (Yahoo is said more liberal in counting links; Google is "a bit of a scrooge that way".)

My friend The Other Andrew was ranked 144th, with 5230 Yahoo backlinks!

Hey TOA, I can hear you from here! Keep the noise down; I'm trying to blog!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Gabriel and the Blue Planet


On Monday night, I was able to use two free double passes to take three friends to see the preview of "Gabriel", a new independently-produced Australian movie which officially premieres on Thursday.

I'd seen a trailer for it a few months ago, but had no idea at the time that "Gabriel" was an Australian film. It certainly looks interesting, but the story failed to keep me enthralled. The storyline didn't seem all that innovative. Fallen arch angels battling Lucifer's minions on the level playing field of Purgatory has been done before, and better, by many other films.

Too often, I found myself analysing the filming techniques, the actors (it was a little distracting that one near-death arch angel is currently an alcoholic doctor in "All Saints", and the woman trying to heal him is a doctor in "Home and Away"), the script and the special effects. It reminded me a bit of a moody, almost monochromatic, long music video, although thankfully the music was used sparingly, and was actually quite good.

We recognised several cast and crew in the cinema, and there were some very funny moments as guffaws, from various darkened locations, floated through the air whenever certain two-line extras mumbled dialogue at each other.

The executive producer had congratulated us all on winning a contest to get the tickets - hey, I just picked up mine from a bookshop counter! - but my guests commented wryly that they were glad I didn't have to buy the tickets, or do anything too strenuous to "win' them.

Blue Planet

Tonight, it was back into the CBD once more: for the 40th anniversary of IMAX cinemas. There was champagne - and wonderful canapes (oh my diet!) - in an effort to bring more teachers and their excursion groups into Darling Harbour. The screening was a revamped version of "Blue Planet", with stunning NASA photography from various shuttle missions, Earthbound footage of glaciers, hurricanes African animals, and amazing CGI effects.

I sometimes "bliss out" watching IMAX documentaries, but this one was riveting. I have no need of travelling in the space shuttle now. I feel like I've already been there.

I have seen the Big Blue Marble with my own eyes.

The goodie bag was fun too: miniature squeegees, for one's computer monitor screens, a pen, lots of pamphlets, and a strip of real IMAX footage. Not bad for a free night's entertainment.

Captain's Log: Supplemental. The ABC's "The Movie Show" did an interesting pair of reviews on "Gabriel" this week. David hated it, and gave it 1.5 stars, saying it was tedious and unoriginal; Margaret loved it and gave it 3.5 stars. I think I'm still somewhere in between.

Monday, November 12, 2007

One night only: The Menagerie

Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace

Star Trek: The Menagerie

On the 27th November, the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace at Cremorne, in Sydney, is screening "The Menagerie", the two-part "Star Trek" episode about Spock trying to save the life of previous captain, Christopher Pike - in High Definition - and with newly-added revised CGI SPFX. There will also be a new "making of" featurette shown, and an introduction (on video?) by Eugene "Rod" Roddenberry Jr.

I'll be at the 6.45pm session, but there's a second screening at 9.30pm if you prefer. Be careful; these one-night-only screenings do book out quickly!

Captain's Log: Supplemental. The reviews are coming in from the US screenings. A few cinema audiences got left in the dark after the show. I think maybe the house lights in the automated cinemas are programmed into the regular projector/computer these days, so if the projectionist isn't actually on duty using the HD machine, the house lights get forgotten.

The TrekBBS reviews are here.

There's also been a lot of debate about the forthcoming DVD-HD Star Trek prices. I recently answered some complaints thusly:

If fans really feel the corporation, writers and CGI FX artists do not deserve to make new profits from their most successful franchise, then they should simply not buy them. ie. If you're happy with your regular DVD sets, then wait a few years or so for HD prices to come down. But CBS is not a charity and they should be allowed to make a profit from something that they have chosen to invest heavily into. Profits are returned for risk, and it's been a risky task to replace old 60s FX with CGI, but they're trying to ensure that TOS stays in popular syndication, and that it won't fall away into the either like b/w TV shows of the 50s.The CBS/Paramount shareholders would expect nothing less.

So-called "early adopters" of new technology always tend to pay premium prices. It's a rule of supply and demand economics. If the product was dirt cheap, they'd never be able to keep up with demand, so they set at least three tiers of marketing targets, and let the early adopters (with lots of disposable income) go first.

Hey, I love a bargain, too, but I do choose to pay full price for my ST novels, too, as I could always wait a few years for the books to get remaindered. Or for hardcovers to be reprinted in MMPB. Or for mini-series to get reprinted as omnibuses. Meanwhile, though, the writers go hungry and receive no royalty at all. It's a price I pay as an early adopter.

I tend to get yelled at for having this view, but CBS has done its market research - and the recommended retail price for the HD DVD sets is what surveyed respondents have named as a fair price. Hardly any retailer will refuse to offer discounts. But if you don't wish to be an early adopter, then refuse to spend with them. What's the other choice? Tiered marketing says that low prices for Tier 1 is just not viable: warehouse space and shop space-wise, especially.

Or they could choose to never release TOS in any other new format - and to let TOS die like any old U-matic or Betamax videotape. Imagine the complaints if CBS said, "We know Blu-Ray and HD DVD are coming, but we are not going to release TOS in those formats because we reckon everyone should hang onto their old VHS tapes instead."

I hope no one takes offence. Just my observations/opinions.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Down Under Trekkers

Eric BanaChris Hemsworth

Aussie actors Eric Bana (left) and Chris Hemsworth (right) have scored roles in JJ Abrams' "Star Trek" feature film, which commenced filming last week in Hollywood. Eric's casting was announced last month, and will be playing a villain called Nero. Rumoured to be a Romulan? (Maybe it's just as well he gave up the chance to reprise "The Hulk" in the sequel to the Marvel comic spin-off?)

Chris Hemsworth was announced as a cast member of "Star Trek" only yesterday. He's an unknown in the USA, so far, but is highly recognisable in Australia (and the UK) for his long-running role in "Home and Away". While initial rumours claimed he was the new Sarek, father of Spock (ie. opposite Winona Ryder's Amanda), he's actually cast as George Samuel Kirk Sr, the father of future captain, James T. Kirk (Chris Pine).

Onya guys!

IDW Publishing's first two "Spotlight on..." alien one-shot comics are out: a Gorn issue, set during a Terrell & Chekov Reliant landing party, and a Vulcan issue, set during Pike, Spock, Tyler and Number One's time on the Enterprise. I've read both comics and really enjoyed them. They did seem very short stories, though, especially when followed by numerous glossy pages of advertising and hype for upcoming non-ST IDW comics. ;)

While the Gorn were drawn as a nice mix of TOS- and "Enterprise"- style sentient lizard-men, the second issue featured pre-"The Cage" crew reactions to serving with Spock. It showed that early 23rd century crews did have trouble working together. We saw that several times in ENT, and in "Balance of Terror" (TOS). This IDW issue shows how one crew came to accept a Vulcan in their midst.

I thought ENT did xenophobia well. There is often no "actual reason" behind prejudices, once an individual is put on the spot. Thus Phlox was accepted quite readily by the crew, but T'Pol less so, at first. The comments about human scent didn't help her. Then we had Trip getting along extremely well with a Xyrillian ("Unexpected"), but everyone finding the Andorians difficult to understand ("The Andorian Incident").

As for subplots in the IDW mini-series so far, "TNG: The Space Between" and "Klingons: Blood Will Tell" have both been mini-series where the individual issues still tell complete stories, yet they make a more complete story when read consecutively. "TOS: Year Four" has followed a similar format. And hey, you can't get more subtle than "The Space Between" and a certain admiral's "special delivery" canapés! (When a Trek trivia hound like me has to research on Memory Alpha just to understand the ending of a mini-series, that's subtle!)

IDW's marketing research has obviously told them that casual Star Trek readers will only pick up a recent ST comic if they can be assured of getting a complete story within its covers. I also like that the trade omnibus collections are scheduled to arrive just after the single issues complete their run, which must help some fans cope with the spottier release of smaller-press comics, such as IDW, than when ST was licensed out to Marvel, DC, Malibu, Marvel/Paramount or WildStorm.

Next month comes the Andorian issue! Yay!

Sunday's magic number: 92.5 - slightly up on last week, sigh. But there was yesterday's wine tasting, of course. That did some damage...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The only way to buy

Although the radio news predicted rainy weather for the whole weekend, and not returning to spring days until next week, it was a pleasant surprise to have a glorious day for our latest Pieroth wine tasting harbour cruise. And how nice that the trains were actually running into the CBD this time, and not off for track maintenance.

Pieroth wines

After getting back to the King Street Wharf, Darling Harbour, we ventured into the newish Lindt Chocolat Cafe on Cockle Bay, to sample their iced mochas! Wow. (I wonder, why do they need sugar sachets on the tables?)

Talk about "death by chocolate"... What a way to go!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Super LA memories

My series of 2D representations of my 3D photograph collection, taken with a Nimslo 3D camera, continues:

When I arrived in Los Angeles, in January 1984, I contacted Bjo Trimble, often better known as "the woman who saved Star Trek", and organised to catch up with her for several days of shared Star Trek geekiness with her family.

I had several people trying to organise, on my behalf, an "executive tour" through the (empty) sets of "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" at Paramount. The movie had not long finished filming, and was then in post-production. But it wasn't looking good; Susan Sackett, Gene Roddenberry's assistant, was on a rare one-week vacation out of town.

Bjo suggested I make a point of going to the more commercially-oriented Universal Studios tour, just in case the Paramount tour failed to materialise (which is what happened, sigh), but also: the La Brea Tar Pits (I was shocked that I didn't need to take a left turn at Albuquerque!); and the (now defunct) Movieland Wax Museum, only a block from Knott's Berry Farm at Buena Park.

I was pleasantly surprised by the thoughtful layout of this wax museum. While some of the likenesses failed to emulate the superior figures of London's Madam Tussauds', Movieland Wax Museum excelled in its presentation of each exhibit. I loved the way visitors were tantalised into guessing each upcoming exhibit as they wandered around its maze of corridors. A path gradually changed to yellow pavers... and, around a corner, there were the characters of "The Wizard off Oz"! The trail gradually turned to gravel, and there were the brothers and Dad from "Bonanza"! Distant cheers from a huge crowd led to the just-ended chariot race from "Ben-Hur". Electronic beeps and a droning female computer voice led one right onto the bridge of the USS Enterprise with the "Star Trek" crew.

And an unexpected chilled breeze led to...

3D Superman

Superman's Fortress of Solitude! Wow! That was a moment where the hairs rose on my neck. There, in one corner, the imposing figure of the Man of Steel himself, looking oh so very Christopher Reeve, and even wearing an authentic costume from "Superman: The Movie". It was quite breath-taking.

I even braved "The Black Box", which was a relatively new section dedicated to horror movies, such as "Friday the 13th", "Alien" and "Halloween". I didn't realise, until buying the View-Master reel sets for the museum in their gift shop, that there had once been an accompanying "Palace of Living Art" exhibit (which lives on at San Francisco's wax museum). "The Black Box" at Movieland was part of a major renovation.

It was an amazing day - thanks for the tip, Bjo! I ran out of time to revisit the museum in 1992 - and I was saddened to hear that the museum finally had to close its doors in 2005. They auctioned off most of its figures, sets, and props. According to a fan web page, the "Star Trek" main cast went to a fan for $34,000 in the auction. The Elizabeth Taylor-as-"Cleopatra" figure brought in $25,000. The Christopher Reeve-as-"Superman" figure sold for $16,000 (coincidentally, just days after the death of the late Reeve's widow), and "Elvis" went for $14,000.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The road to Adelaide, 1985

Continuing my series of 2D representations of my 3D photograph collection, taken with a Nimslo 3D camera, here's the first photo taken on my December 1985 holiday to Adelaide. First stop, for breakfast, was Goulburn, home of the Big Merino, and also this wonderful King Kong display on a (now long gone) video rental store in the main shopping strip. It was a case of, "Wow! That'll be a great 3D shot! Stop the car!" That's (now-housemate) Steve in the pic; the less hairy one on the far left. ;)

3D King Kong

What intrigued me was the possibilty of how 3D would be the reflection of traffic behind me, as viewed in the shop window section of the "TV screen". Although Kong himself was very two-dimensional - even in the 3D image, as I expected - the road and cars turned out to be extremely three-dimensional in the actual Nimslo print when it was processed.

Any time we've passed through Goulburn since, we've tried to identify which shop used to be the Kong shop.

3D Dog on the Tuckerbox

Moving on to Gundagai, here's the famous "dog on the tuckerbox" statue. In the 3D image, the writing on the roof of the souvenir shop is actual quite legible, but the dog looks great in either version. Today, he has a bigger monument built around him.

I'm really liking these pics, and the way they scan.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Th'frosty the Aenar thnowman

3D Snowman

Yesterday's exciting find of photographs, lost since 1992, sent me into a nostalgia spin, determined to track down some other interesting pics I've always wanted to share.

Here is my Andorian snowman - in 3D! (Note that he won't actually appear in 3D on this monitor screen; it's just a normal 2D scan, although the background ends up with an interesting blurred effect.) Created in Ann Arbor, Michigan, December 1983, with my penpal Olivia, this cute alien snowperson has a phaser and Starfleet insignia (from her Star Trek collection). He's wearing a "Go Blue!" pin, the coincidentally perfect catch cry of the local Michigan University.

Knowing what we know now about Andorians (via the TV series, "Enterprise"), this is no doubt a rare Aenar snowperson.

Nimslo 3D cameras were hot stuff in the early 1980s, and took four half-size negatives of each subject, and these images were sent off by mail order and combined under rippled plastic to create a 3D picture. I was curious as to how the combined image would scan because the negatives are filed away - oh so carefully - somewhere!

The half-sized negatives can be printed like normal negatives, and I'm thinking that (when I find them), the extreme left and right images could probably be set up side by side onscreen to permit a true 3D viewing, right here in this blog, via the "drift" (ie. crossed eyes) method. But it actually scanned in 2D fairly well as it is!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Ian in Wonderland

AIW Alice

Here's a flashback to January 1992: a photo of me at the "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" statue of the Mad Tea Party, in Central Park, New York, USA. Why am I posting it (and the ones below) today?

Well, this is one of my holy grail photos, so it's a long story:

I was first in Central Park in January 1984 and managed to miss this amazing statue, having no idea to even look for it. Then, I happened to pick up the book "Apple of My Eye", by one of my favourite authors, Helene Hanff, in which she and her friend, (the aptly-named) Patsy, travelled around their native New York pretending to be tourists in their own city, so that Ms Hanff could write accurate and pithy captions for a book of photographs about New York. She happened to mention this statue, as sculpted by José de Creeft in 1959 (and based on Tenniel's Victorian era illustrations), plus several other literary landmarks I'd overlooked in Central Park, in one of her entries - and I was determined to check it out. Somehow.

My penpal Carolyn, who lived in the East Village of NYC in the 80s, promised to photograph the statue for me... then managed to leave her camera in the glove box of a friend's car. When she finally got the camera back, almost a year later, and had the film developed, it had become weather-affected and the image was not printable.

I finally got back to Central Park myself in 1992, and had these photos taken. That should have been the end of the story. But... then my now-housemate, Steve, managed to lose the prints and the negatives - and he's been searching for them ever since. It has been so long since the photos were taken, we'd both began to doubt ever having seen them. If I had had possession of these photos for even a day, I'd probably have had them enlarged and framed, which was always my initial intention. (As a teacher-librarian, they'll look great in my school library.)

Well, the pics finally turned up today, in our flurry of cleaning up in preparation for having the carpets steam cleaned. (In the interests of good planning, Jack threw up on the carpet today; what's the bet he does it again after the steam cleaners depart?)

Anyway, here's the long-awaited "Alice in Wonderland" statue photos, including closeups of the March Hare, the Mad Hatter and the Dormouse, and the Cheshire Cat! [Photos by Steven Simpson (c) 1992; book by Lewis Carroll, 1865.]

AIW march hareAIW hatter

AIW cheshirecat

Mmmm. I only just noticed: the Mad March Hare, host of the book's Tea Party, could be easily mistaken for the White Rabbit character here, as he's depicted with a large pocket watch.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Guilt trips

Yesterday, I was out of the house for a full twelve hours: my second annual school fundraising shopping trip. Like last year, I was saved by being the token male by the presence of one other male shopper, and the bus driver. It was the second trip for me - and just as much fun as last year - but the 15th or so annual trip for the staff organisers!

What did I buy? A few Christmas gifts, two pair of shoes, some low-priced baking trays, a new doona cover, and lots of Christmas edible goodies (which I must now try not to eat before Christmas).

And how's NaNoWriMo, ie (Inter)National Novel Writing Month, going? Mmmmm. Bad question. I was so tired on Thursday night, after a day's work and the Star Trek Meetup, but desperately tried to meet my daily word count. I then tried to record my day's word count on the official website, but the site was running so slowly I gave up. Friday came and went, Saturday I was shopping all day, and today the burden of not achieving my totals for Thursday, friday and Saturday weighed heavily.

What a disaster. Can I salvage my dignity and get some writing done? At this point, it's not looking good. And while on a frustrating roll...

Sunday's magic number: 92.0 - slightly down on last week, which is good. I guess. This is where the diet gets really frustrating; I've cut down my food intake by such a lot, my clothes are fitting much better, I don't get breathless tying my shoelaces anymore, and I walk everywhere - and yet my body is content to stay stable at this mass. I've heard all the advice on the radio: I should be alternating my brisk daily walks with swimming (ick), or using a rowing machine (yuk). I'm resisting such drastic action, and hoping that the kgs will slooooowly keep coming off. But I still thought it would be faster progress for all the things I've given up.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Making mentoring meaningful

Well, that was funny! Tonight was episode #1 of "The Librarians", a new Australian TV series on the ABC, in the timeslot recently held by the hilarious and pithy "Summer Heights High".

I happened to say to a few friends that I expected the series to be successful and funny, and probably rather close to the bone re my experiences in school libraries, studying with teacher-librarians at university, working at SCIS/Scan for the Department of Education & Training's State Office, and my connections with ALIA (the Australian Library & Information Association).

Yesterday and today, I was relieved at school (by another teacher-librarian) so I could act as mentor for a fellow teacher-librarian undergoing her training. Well, as if I'd read the script ahead of time, the plot of the first episode of "The Librarians" saw the main female character, frustrated Frances (Robyn Butler) dealing with Book Week, and being a mentor for the main hunky male character (played by Josh Lawson). When she should have had eyes for how he was coping with his librarian duties, she couldn't keep her eyes off his butt.

I'm rather glad the episode didn't air a day or two earlier - and probably the female colleague I was mentoring thinks so, too!

And hey! Not one "Trick or treater" knocked at my door this Halloween night. Drat. Now I have to eat all this candy all by myself.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Comparisons #7: ST Magazine UK/Aust vs ST Magazine US

Continuing my series of comparisons between the UK/Australasian and US editions of "Star Trek" magazine.

The latest issue (the "Q" issue) turned up Down Under a few weeks ago and, now that there has been agreement to publish essentially-identical versions in all markets, I wasn't going to bother buying a copy of the local edition, since the US air-freighted version turns up at least a month earlier, and the only differences are the local advertisements of each market. However, I noticed last week that the UK/Aust. version of US #7 - #92 NOV/DEC 2007 (#134 UK) - forgoes a double-page spread of "Lost and Found" candid set photos from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" for a double-page spread of very cool upcoming Star Trek merchandise soon to be available via UK's "Forbidden Planet" mail order store.

Minimates 2

The second wave of original series (TOS) MiniMates (above) are due soon, and the photograph of the (shortpacked?) Ezri Dax DS9 action figure (below) shows her walking softly and carrying a very big gun. And wearing a Dominion sighting device over one eye.

Ezri Dax

The next issue (#8) is already available in the US, again essentially standardized, and differing only in advertising content. It features an interview with TNG's Jonathan Frakes. The issue after that (#9) has a captains' focus and an interview with Kate Mulgrew, of "Star Trek: Voyager".

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Chance meeting: a good sign?

Today was our school choir's annual pilgrimage into Sydney Town Hall to participate in the Celebration Concert, raising money for children's charities. Basically, I help escort the (very well-behaved) students into the CBD on a bus, fill in time shopping while they rehearse with the rest of a 1000-voice choir, then take them to their dinner break, and back to enjoy the concert. Not a terribly difficult set of tasks.

As we were getting off the bus, there was my good friend, Jean Prouvaire, on his way to the annual Sydney kick-off meeting of 2007's NaNoWriMo, the (Inter)National Novel Writing Month at Books Kinokuniya.

Was I on my way to the meeting?, he wondered aloud.

How fortuitous! I'd received an official email about NaNoWriMo, but I hadn't made a note of the date; last year these two annual events didn't clash. I had a few hours to kill while the students rehearsed, so I was able to meet up with him at the coffee shop (which had no coffee; their machine was broken. Sigh.) Also at the meeting were my Star Trek Meet-up buddies, the_real_adamj (who went to the kick-off with us last year) and KillRaven (whom we didn't actually know as a fellow Trek fan in 2006), plus about 40 others. KillRaven deserves extra kudos: he finished his novel last November!

Once again, we are supposed to produce about four typed pages daily to achieve the goal of a whole novel manuscript completed during November 2007. Wish me more luck than I had last year; at least this time I have no report cards to write in November!

Of the 400 or so Sydneysiders who attempted NaNoWriMo last year, about 40 supposedly achieved their goal. Not bad odds, I guess, although that may also mean that statistics say that only an average of four people at today's meeting will achieve their word count. (Or maybe all 40 were at today's meeting? Nah; wishful thinking.)

The concert was great, too, by the way. The finale was a medley of Peter Allen songs. "Tenterfield Saddler" gets me in the tear ducts every time! It really is one of those special Australian songs. If I could only capture some of that nostalgic emotion for my NaNoWriMo manuscript...

Sunday's magic number: 92.2 - back up again. I thought I was doing well, too. Damned fund-raising cake days. (What's that point about muscles having a heavier mass than fat?)