Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Wednesday bizarre

It's Wednesday - halfway through the first working week of the year - so let's have a few bizarre pics to keep the momentum going.

I've been pottering around the school library this week, reminding myself of all the library administrivia and procedures I'll be expected to know like the back of my hand (by next week). All the while, I am aware of the hard, coal-black eyes of my fine frozen friend (left) sitting in the library, pining away for the sound of browsing patrons. He's left over from the skit my class performed at the last school assembly of 2006, but I didn't get a chance to photograph him till today.


But all good snowpeople need a companion, so here's an old shot of Jack in drag (right) - while on holiday in Sassafras in Victoria's Dandenong Ranges.

Yep, it's wacky Wednesday all right...

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

How do you Google?

Now, I'm sure that some of the recent visitors to my site were disappointed, because their wildly varied Internet search terms led them to my little blog page when they were (sometimes) seeking something else entirely, but it's fascinating nonetheless, and the meter has only been active since last Friday:

jack russell animation

Puffy Cookie Puff

therin of andor

"number 96" naked

Kooky Spooky Family + glow in the dark finger puppets

Motionless Picture


Citadel alien figures

save the penguins

Dolly peg angels

"elaine lee" opera singer

chinese big sister tattoo

"There was a cold lady who swallowed some snow"

How does the bilby travel?

I do love my new site meter, oh yes I do! And the online world map is wonderful, too, with "recent visitor" dots lighting up in Hawaii, Ireland, Vietnam, Greece - and everywhere in between.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Andorian bear... in da house!

A special thank you to my US email pal, Pete, who went to Las Vegas and prevented himself from spending his last $US 14.99 in the casinos to buy me a highly-coveted stuffed Andorian bear, from the shop at the Star Trek Experience.

Andorian Toys

When I reminded him of the problems once created by the Star Trek Experience writing "bean bear" on the green customs declaration, Pete jokingly sent me an email, "I wrote 'fabric toy filled with potentially deadly foodstuff and fruitflies' on the customs that OK??" ;)

Funnily enough, a second declaration label, from someone else's package, had attached itself to the bottom of the box: "Baby blanket and PJs"!

The bear turned up today! The postie left the box at my front door, and my fuzzy little friend (the bear, not the postie) was waiting patiently all day in the heat. Had it not been my first day back at work for 2007, he could have been set free much earlier.

It was quite a surprise unpacking him, because all of the pictures of these Andorian bears on the Internet failed to show any sense of scale. I'd assumed he was the same size as other items (see pic above), but he's soooo much bigger! He towers over UFP Beanie Bear, and Alien Bean Andorian, too. He is dwarfed only by the diaper-wearing Andorian baby (made for me by a penpal, Francine, way back in 1983).

Anyway, Andorian Bear looks great! Thanks again, Pete.

Back of UFP Bear and Ba'ku Rhyl
UFP Bear realises that the chair he saved for Andorian Bear is way too small...

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Andorians old and new - and Spider-man, too

I'm still attempting to do some housework, but I keep finding things with which to play "Show and Tell".

I recently discovered that "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" made its own curious guest appearance in a 1980 issue of Amazing Spider-Man #203. Spider-Man's alter-ego, Peter Parker, and his friends were excited about going to see the premiere of ST:TMP (itself a Marvel cross-promotion at the time, since Marvel was doing the tie-in comic based on ST:TMP). As soon as the Klingon ships began to fire torpedoes, the supervillain du jour sends an energy blast right through the movie screen...



"Amazing Spider-Man" #203, 1980

Cool, eh?

I regularly get to add new Andorians to my Star Trek Rogues' Gallery of Andorians pages, but if they are in novels, there aren't usually any new portraits to share. A few months ago, a Japanese-influenced graphic novel anthology, Star Trek: The Manga: Shinsei Shinsei (2006), included an Andorian (and other aliens), who'd been seemingly assimilated by proto Borg (below, left). The story is "Side Effects" by Chris Dows, illustrated by Makoto Nakatsuka.


An earlier comic - a parody this time by Peter David & Richard Howell and illustrated by John Heebink & Jim Mooney - is Soulsearchers and Company (1995), issue #15. I recently ordered this (previously unknown) title from the amazing online comic seller, Mile High Comics. In "To Boldly Search", David & Howell's regulars end up on a studio set of the fictitious Cosmic Convoy: Venturer, a starship very like the USS Voyager. Many of the actors resemble "Voyager" characters; the captain looks like Kate Mulgrew (as Janeway), but is called Genevieve (as in Bujold). One actress (above, right), whose hair and costume make her resemble Kes the Ocampa, is wearing Andorian antennae.

There's also a new Andorian due in IDW Publishing's Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Space Between #2 (2007). Schwin is an Andorian archeologist colleague of Captain Picard's. I can't wait to preview him here, so please watch this space...

Meanwhile, back to the housework and filing tasks...

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Great company, glorious weather and fireworks to boot

Despite the massive Australia Day crowds at the Waterfront Bar (which started an entry surcharge of $5 per head about an hour after Nate arrived there), and the throngs on the Old Pyrmont Bridge when they opened it up to let the endless flotilla of ferries go through!), we had great company, new Star Trek friends, old Star Trek friends, glorious weather, and fireworks at our front door.

Baia San Marco's food was excellent as usual. They did not hurry us, despite being so busy, and that left lots of room for chatting - and dessert. When we couldn't get free access to the Waterfront, Baia even let us have our table one hour early!

ABOVE LEFT (clockwise from left to right): Sonia, Djura, Ben, Chris, AdamJ, Iarfirithwen and Caprica_Six. (After a few merlots, and with all the dark lighting, the photos are a bit fuzzy.)

Where would we be without mobile phones? They seem to be the only way to triangulate a group of friends coming together these days:

"Where are you guys? I'm in the queue at the door."

"We're over here. Table 38. We're waving at you now."

"Hey guys, I've been trying to get across the pedestrian bridge for 70 mins. Have you started dessert yet?"

"Where did you go, mate? I thought you only stepped out to see the fireworks?

And so on.

Thanks to all thirteen members who weathered the crowds and supported the first re-energized Sydney Star Trek Meet-up at Baia restaurant, plus the extra members who caught up with us after dinner.

ABOVE (from left to right): Ben, Chris, Therin of Andor and Paranoid Tailor.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Homer says, "Mmmmm.... Cookie puffs..."

Okay, I've found an equivalent, morish snack food that may perhaps rival the Krispy Kreme Donut.

I saw them last week in the World Square shopping arcade, which was (and still is) about two decades being built on the old Anthony Hordern's building site in the city. I resisted then, but yesterday I could not go past a second time.

And they are... delectable.

Cookie Puff

Puffy cookie puffs are seemingly an Asian delight, said to be "fresh 'n natural", and need to be refrigerated at or below 4 degrees C. If they ever get home to your fridge. Cookie puffs have a light crumbly pastry crust, sort of flaky on the bottom, craggy on the top and - even though warm from the oven - are filled with a cold, light, rather eggy custard. One can buy them singly, but why would you? Because they also come in boxes of six and twelve!

I mean, if they are "fresh 'n natural" they must be good for you, yes? For a moment, I even worried that the texture of the top of the puff might mean the presence of (ick!) coconut, but no. (Snicker, snicker. Good. Or perhaps bad.)

There were still five left in the little six-pack carrier carton when I got home yesterday. Then two more for me, two to share with a friend - and one that had to be eaten at about midnight, lest it go soggy in the fridge overnight. One just never knows when a fridge might stop being "below 4 degrees C" - and cookie puff spoilage would be such an incredible waste.

Monday: the return of Fat Free Forever. Alas, poor cookie puffs, I knew you (too) well.

Big Blue Brother is watching

Today, when I should have been doing some housework, I finally got around to adding a Site Meter to this blog.

I hadn't really felt a pressing need to do so - I used to have counters on both my "Number 96" and Geocities' "Star Trek" home pages but, as the suppliers abandoned them over time, I never replaced them. But I was still a bit (well, a lot) curious as to who was visiting this blog site (and I'd begun realising that most visitors never left actual messages or sent emails, but that didn't mean that they hadn't visited, enjoyed, or returned for more another day). I was also wondering how often people were regular readers, and/or how they found me in the first place. Other bloggers keep asking me if I know my stats, and it was kinda embarrassing (and a bit Luddite) to just shrug.

Well, it's paid off already. There's a cool world map facility and it shows from where on the globe people are reading you. Now, at this point, I knew the only reader was me, having only just uploaded the site meter seconds earlier - and there I was, a little yellow dot on Sydney, Australia - but then a little red dot lit up in the USA! Following back using the clickable tools, I discovered that there was a hot link from IDW Publishing's site, who'd found my brief review of their new "Next Generation" comic. So within only a minute of placing the site meter, I already knew that people could/would be finding "Have Phaser" that way.

So the housework can just keep piling up now, 'cos this is fun! Happy Australia Day!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

How are you spending Australia Day?

The youth of Sydney's West were out in force today, herding themselves towards Olympic Park for the Big Day Out concert. I was on a past peak-hour country train to the city this morning, and it was a slow trip, and standing room only, all the way to Lidcombe! Large crowds were also coming the opposite way when I arrived at Central. I had to smile at the many more people than normal wearing Australian flags like superhero cloaks, as they sailed through the milling throngs. This was in defiance of the organisers' supposed attempt to discourage flag waving at the event, lest it fire up more racial violence.

Australian flag

So how are you spending Australia Day?

As for me, the re-energized Sydney Star Trek Meetup Group's members shall be flocking to Cockle Bay, Darling Harbour, in the late afternoon - hoping to avoid most of the family crowds - to have dinner at Baia restaurant. Have been there once before - and it was excellent, both for food and atmosphere. Italian food on Australia Day, yeah, why not?

It's a far cry from the days of organised ST fandom in Sydney, when we could easily get 100 people to a meeting, but we actually had to cap our RSVPs at 15. So it should be intimate, with about six brand new members, several of whom are new to Australia. So Aussie Trekkers are doing their bit for immigration and multiculturalism, even if John Howard just fired his minister and renamed her portfolio!

Lush confessions

My friend The Other Andrew just blogged about his aversion to the soap and cosmetics store, Lush.

I have to admit to really liking several Lush soaps, especially the exotic, incensy Karma, and the strongly green minty one covered in a black waxy coating, Demon in the Dark - but maybe only because it's inspired by the "Star Trek" episode with the mother horta ("The Devil in the Dark")? Warning: "Demon" can really sting sensitive bits in the shower - especially after a curry - but it's excellent when recovering from a hangover.

Karma soapDemon in the Dark soap
Karma (left) and Demon in the Dark (right)

How sensible was it when an overpowering Lush opened up next to the fast food hall in the Sydney CBD's Mid City Centre? I'm sure the other shopkeepers were thrilled when the lease ran out. (I took my Mum and Aunt into that Lush once - although they'd loved the products I'd bought them as gifts the previous Christmas, they both ran from the store holding their noses when confronted with so much fragrance en masse.)

My first ever trip into a Lush: the one in the Queen Victoria Building in about 1999. The shop assistants were happily plunging highly-perfumed bath bombs into cauldons of water, and it was amazing, jockeying for position so you could watch them bubbling away furiously (the bath bombs, that is, not the shop assistants).

The assistants were really pushing the real chocolate-fragranced massage bars, that first time. The bar looked and smelt exactly like a Cadbury's Top Deck. "Madonna was in just last week and this is what she bought," they exclaimed. Well, Madonna had been in town that week; who knows if she really bought anything at Lush, though. I did buy a (now-deleted) bar for myself, but never used it. It moved house with me, sat curling at the edges, all neglected under the sink in the bathroom - until I actually found it the other day: all off-cream colour, wizened up and chunky, with bits missing around the edges.

It was my old chocolate massage bar, or what was left of it! A cockroach had thought it looked and smelt exactly like a Cadbury's block of Top Deck, too.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The longest title

Today I gave up an afternoon of my vacation to be part of committee for the Department of Education & Training's COGs (Connected Outcomes Groups) project. We are investigating the list of potential literary texts that will be included in the units of work being developed for teachers. Fascinating stuff - and a good way to prepare for, and ease into, the daily grind when school starts back next week!

As the meeting wasn't going to take up the whole day, I was able to organise morning tea and lunch with my wonderful colleagues still working at SCIS/Scan. It was rather nostalgic heading off for a peak hour train (in the rain, but who's complaining?), with a Star Trek novel to read on the long commute to Ryde. Just like old times...

I took the SCIS cataloguers something a bit unique; a children's anthology of short stories I found at Galaxy Bookshop a few months ago, with surely one of the longest titles ever:

Noisy outlaws, unfriendly blobs, and some other things that aren't scary, maybe, depending on how you feel about lost lands, stray cellphones, creatures from the sky, parents who disappear in Peru, a man named Lars Farf, and one other story we couldn't quite finish, so maybe you could help us out, edited by Ted Thompson with Eli Horowitz, with an introduction & almost half a story by Lemony Snicket (McSweeney's, 2005).

Sadly, it was already on the SCIS database. Beaten by New Zealand. Drat. (I hadn't actually noticed that it was a 2005 book, and the writing contest printed on the inside of the bizarre dustjacket had already expired.) Oh well, it was a fun thought.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

"Political Correctness is Intellectual Facism"

Sounds a bit heavy for this particular blogpage, I know, but an incident today certainly clarified several of my random thoughts into one big... well, I dunno. Mmmm, did I say "clarified"? I guess I'm still working through it.

Firstly, it's the now well-worn chestnut of people seemingly choosing to misinterpret the motives of innocent posts on the Internet. I'm quite up-front that there's an awful lot of "ego-boo" (to use a very 70s fannish term) when I share my seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of Star Trek trivia. I do get a buzz out of it. And if I didn't share it, I'd have no excuse for saving all those issues of "Starlog", "Star Trek Communicator", "Cinefex" and "Cinfantastique".

Secondly, the Australian sense of humour (and, indeed, our unique brand of, umm, sarcasm) does not translate well on the Internet. If it wasn't for those little winking icons, I'd be totally sunk. ;) Sometimes it doesn't matter how carefully I prune a post, I'll wind up being accused of being deliberately: pompous; a know-it-all; egotistical (okay, I know I'm that, I just admitted as much); demeaning; abrasive... And so on.

Thirdly, I do know that the blame for ineffective communication falls upon the sender, not the receiver. But gee, scrutinizing every post for every possible permutation of misinterpretation does take away the spontaneity of posting to a Star Trek mailing list while eating breakfast.

Finally, I go back to two comments from last week's meeting of the Sydney Weblogger Meetup Group: the aforementioned quote by Steve Noble ("If you want to be noted by a particular audience... be noteworthy"), and another PR person's comment, when quoting a speaker at a conference about using new technologies, that if a blog entry wasn't confrontational to someone, then it wasn't really a blog, it was just a home page.

Yesterday, on a e-mailing list to which I belong, a question was asked about amateur Star Trek fan films. It seems that a recent, well-regarded fan film actually kills off a major character, whom fans know already survives into the Star Trek feature film series. So, my e-pal asked innocently enough, why weren't the fan films constrained to follow the official "Star Trek" canon?

As someone who's written many a fanzine story, and as an actor in an episode of Starship Exeter (not the fan film series in question, though), I answered thusly:

"Umm, because it's a work of fiction, based on TOS, but not the movies?

"Umm, because it wasn't produced by the copyright holder, so it's not a canonical episode.

"Umm, because no one dies in science fiction?

"Umm, because it's an alternative universe story?

"Just four of hundreds of possible answers."

That's written exactly as I thought it - no malice intended - but, in hindsight, it seems it was not the wisest way to write it. (Unless, perhaps, if I'm trying 'to be noted by a particular audience', some may suggest?) The person my answer was directed at took no offense to my comments - and, indeed, we'd had numerous very funny back-and-forth emails about several topics, fan films included, following that original first post.

But, this morning, all Hell broke loose (again). I read this comment, from Chris, another poster to the e-list:

"I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that said 'Political Correctness is Intellectual Facism'. I happen to agree with that statement. The world is waaaaaay too over-sensitive about everything these days.

"I didn't read Ian's post as demeaning at all. I actually appreciated the sarcasm and saw it for what it was. It was witty and at the same time it made me think about why it [the fan film] would or would not be canonical.

"It would have been a very different thing if his response had been: 'You're an idiot. Duh!' Now THAT'S demeaning. But it wasn't.

"If we have arrived at the day in which sarcasm is no longer an acceptable vehicle for human expression, then I, for one, am extremely saddened.

"To Ian: you on keep writing, I'll keep reading."

(Permission to quote requested and received; thanks Chris.)

How cool is that? Until Chris mentioned the issue, I had no idea my previous post had been the subject of a dissection - and branded as "demeaning". I told the complainer, who'd leapt to the original posters's defence, "Please reread my post with a laconic Aussie accent and you'll see I was being my usual, bouncy, positive, gregarious (but obviously not humorous at all) self. Think maybe Mel Gibson without the alcohol. And the good looks. And the fortune in Californian real estate. And all those kids."

But hey, maybe I'm not "demeaning", "pompous", "a know-it-all" or "egotistical" at all - just "noteworthy"!?

I know I've complained about a lack of comments to my entries here before, and I don't - as yet - have a monitoring tool on the page to check out who's looking and how they found me, but - as a measure of reassurance - I received two really great emails today, from distant "Star Trek" colleagues who say they read this blog with interest "every day"! Way cool. Or k3wl even.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Crossovers are cool!

The Sensational She-Hulk #12

I've been cleaning out the Star Trek Shrine and finally found a She-Hulk/Star Trek crossover parody I've been dying to share. The Hulk's cousin, "The Sensational She-Hulk" (issue #12, Feb 1990) is making a feature film at Major Motion Pictures. Crashing through a soundstage wall, she interrupts William Shatner, Patrick Stewart and Wil Wheaton making a crossover Star Trek movie, long before "Star Trek Generations" was ever conceived. The comic was written for Marvel Comics by Peter David, of course, a prolific "Star Trek" novelist and comics writer.

Less explicable is this frame of 1986's "Elftrek" #1 (below), which contains an obscure Number 96 reference - to the 1973 novelization Bev & Bruce & Maggie & Don - in an American parody comic, "Elftrek", which sends up both "Star Trek" and "ElfQuest". (The arrow and question mark are mine.) I guess artist Martin Poe at Dimension Graphics has an Australian connection?

ElfTrek #1

Of course, the actual "Number 96" paperback's title was a parody of the movie "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice", and that's part of the above panel, too. ("Troublets" is a reference to the "Star Trek" episode, "The Trouble with Tribbles".) If anyone knows Martin Poe, please let him know I'd love an answer as to how the "96" reference came about. I feel like the only reader of "Elftrek" who ever got the joke!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Space Between: Trek returns to comics

Star Trek fans' reactions to comic art always surprise me. Or, perhaps I'm not surprised; there have been some very strange reactions this week to the artwork of the very latest licenced Star Trek comic: a TNG mini-series from IDW called "The Space Between". Issue #1 has just arrived on comic shelves.

"The Space Between" #1, "History Lesson" by David Tischman & Casey Maloney, IDW 2007

I guess a lot has to do with the fact that ST comic books are often being read by people who rarely read comic books. If an artist does photorealistic portraits (and starships) from highly-recognizable colour publicity shots of the actors, some fans will scream that they've somehow been cheated, and they "may as well be reading a Fotonovel". On the other hand, if the artwork has an an unusual stylistic approach - even when totally in keeping with the themes/moods of the story - other fans will complain that "even my pre-schooler can do better".

I've very rarely been disappointed by a ST comic's artwork. It's the way it combines with the story that indicates its success to me, and any ST comic book (like TAS) is at its best when it aims to do things a live-action ST adventure can't afford to do.

I've certainly seen many mistakes over the years. A few ST comic books over the years have featured long sequences with "talking heads", or panels overly-filled with word balloons. And I recall the almost-overwhelming rejection of the rather unique style of Toby Cypress in WildStorm's DS9 comic mini-series, "n-Vector", a few years ago.

Interestingly, I picked up an old "Batman/Nightwing" crossover one-shot ("Bloodborne") in a "cheap bin" last week. I originally rejected buying it years ago because of the artwork but, last week, it suddenly dawned on me: "Bloodborne" was a Toby Cypress comic! There was my favourite superhero, Nightwing, rendered in the inimitable Cypress style. And I liked it! The artwork really suits that story.

Tiris Jast by Toby Cypress; Nightwing by by Toby Cypress.

I've found the new TNG comic to have a very attractive artwork style. This issue is supposed to say: "First Season!", and it does that very well. The inked outlines are bolder than usual, but the characters' faces are always expressive, the colours appropriate and often vibrant, the SPFX blurring of a panel (to indicate motion) is extremely effective, and the alien landscapes are nicely... alien.

What else am I hoping to see from IDW? I guess I'm anticipating exciting, thoughtful stories that complement the themes and characters within whichever Star Trek era they happen to be set. As I said, I really enjoy comic tales that take full advantage of the comics medium, showing us things that a science fiction television or motion picture budget simply can't afford. Plus some cool appearances by representatives of the wonderful array of United Federation of Planets alien races, would be much appreciated: especially Andorians, of course, plus some Tellarites, Hortas - and those we so rarely see, such as from "Star Trek: The Motion Picture", "ST IV: The Voyage Home" and Filmation's animated episodes of the 70s.

Roll on issue #2. And the TOS Klingon story which is supposedly to follow the TNG mini-series.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

What the market will bear

A colleague from the Playtrek action figure collectors' mail group recently announced he would be visiting the Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton, and was there anything anyone wanted?

While browsing on Flickr a few months ago, I'd found this picture but the product item has never turned up on the STE web shopping page. As an Andorian from way back, I simply must have one - and I heard today that my friend's mission has been successful!

It will be my third Star Trek beanie character from the Star Trek Experience. When the idea factory released a batch of "alien bean" toys (what some places were calling "Meanie Beanies"), I collected the whole set of the idea factory's Vulcan, Andorian, Mugato, Gorn, Ferengi and the Klingon targ beanies locally - plus the separately-available idea factory(trilling) tribble, which contains a microchip that causes the tribble to scream as if it has been exposed to a Klingon (as in "The Trouble with Tribbles"). But... my favourite beanie would have to be their tie-in to the movie "Star Trek: Insurrection": the cute little Ba'ku rhyl, exclusively available from the STE. The rhyl, or palm pet as it was referred to in the film, resembles a cross between a fuzzy brown caterpillar and a baby seal - and fits, as you might expect, in the palm of one's hand. As before, a colleague from the Playtrek action figure collectors' mail group helped me out, and the toys turned out to be very hard to find elsewhere.

About a year ago, the Experience's online store was having a sale and I noticed a new ST beanie had become available: a facsimile Beanie Bear in white fabric, embossed with tiny sparkly stars, and a large blue United Federation of Planets insignia embroidered on his back. He was marked down to only a few dollars - quite a bargain! I did order several other large items with the bear but when a huge box arrived from the US by airmail, I literally dove into a sea of foam peanuts, searching for my beanie in every corner, to no avail. A quick email to STE saw a replacement bear winging its way but, instead of that box arriving, I received a card from Australian Customs. If I was prepared to pay many, many dollars (about $AU 60, IIRC), I could have my little white bear.

Why had my UFP bear earned the ire of Australian Customs? Because the Customs Declaration Sticker stated that the package contained: "One beanie bear". Someone assumed he contained food - as in real beans - and new changes to Customs law meant that the demand for payment was applied to the importer: moi! Thankfully, another email and a few phone calls resolved the situation, but the amount of money that the STE spent delivering me that replacement bear turned out to be quite significant!

But UFP Bear is lonely; he's separated from all the other Trek beans - and sits forlornly on one of two miniature metal chairs (actual set miniatures from the hit Australian film, "Moulin Rouge!"), but he will soon be joined by a blue, antennaed Andorian beanie bear dressed like Shran (from "Star Trek: Enterprise") in kinky leathers! I hope my Playmates colleague is careful filling out the declaration for Customs.

Back of UFP Bear and Ba'ku RhylBeanie Bear and Ba'ku Rhyl
UFP Bear lets the Ba'ku rhyl mind a seat for a currently-immigrating Andorian bear.

Friday, January 19, 2007

To be noted, be noteworthy

Last night I attended a meeting of the Sydney Weblogger Meetup Group, hosted by Sara, aka The Bargain Queen. The venue was Paddy Maguire's Pub in the city.

I enjoyed meeting everyone and it was great to see the conversations flow so easily, despite the amazing variations in our blog content and scope. Several of the "professional bloggers" work in public relations, and it was enlightening to hear how savvy PR people so quickly embraced blog technology when it came along.

At my count there were eleven attendees, although more might have turned up after I raced for my train. I know a few of the bloggers had met before, some only by email but others face-to-face, but this newbie was made to feel quite at home in no time at all. I am looking forward to exploring the blogs of other attendees over the next few days/weeks, and to seeing everyone at the next meeting. Thanks for organising the event, Sara.

The tip of the evening came from Steven Noble, who writes a blog called Elbow Grease: Getting Results in PR & Digital Communication. Steve told us, "If you want to be noted by a particular audience, the first step is to ask how you, in their eyes, can be noteworthy."

Mmmmm. Interesting...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Sweet Williams: surviving the drought and the heat

I wanted to share this photo of my very healthy-looking Sweet Williams display. I took this shot last week on the back balcony, but they are thriving still, despite some scorching days out here in Penrith, on Sydney's western outskirts.


The unique planter is an Orbital Herb Planta from Go Home Lifestyle Products. I first saw these pots at the Powerhouse Museum when I was there for the Premier's Reading Challenge presentation ceremony, but it was a letter from the Museum's shop just before Christmas, granting me a 20% discount off any purchase, that made me go racing back into the city. I mean, I liked the planter at 40 odd dollars - 20% off made it a bargain! (They'd had a huge stack in the November - and were down to just four left in Christmas week, so it's selling well.)

To plant it out, I literally bought two rectangular punnets of Sweet Williams from Bunnings, broke off clumps and shoved them into each section. No extra soil would fit. The little inner pots stay moist for days because they sit in any extra water without getting sodden. The perfume from the flowers is quite amazing for such small blooms, and the flowers keep replenishing themselves.

Gee, I do have a green thumb, after all.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Getting animated, at last!

Yesterday, Star Trek: The Animated Series finally reached Region 4 (Australasia) DVD, and I must say, even though I'm a biased TAS supporter of long ago, the remastered images on my TV screen today were magnificent.

I've owned scratchy old TAS audiotapes from the 70s, shabby, flickery old crosstapes of illegal crosstapes (of TAS episodes shown on Perth TV in the 80s and snatched by fans with old, boxy Beta and VHS videorecorders), a few UK-imported sell-through tapes (marked "Not for retail sale in Australia or New Zealand"), and some half-hearted home recordings, with parts of ads left in (damn new pause button) from TAS's last Saturday morning run Down Under in the early 90s.

But now, I have pristine copies - and they are glorious.

The box and enclosed pamphlet fail to describe the bonus features, but inside you'll find:

Season 1 (1973-1974)
101 "Beyond the Farthest Star"
102 "Yesteryear" (text commentary from Mike & Denise Okuda)
103 "One of Our Planets is Missing"
104 "The Lorelei Signal"
105 "More Tribbles, More Troubles" (audio commentary from David Gerrold)
106 "The Survivor"
107 "The Infinite Vulcan" (with Filmation storyboards)
108 "The Magicks of Megas-tu"
109 "Once Upon a Planet"
110 "Mudd's Passion"
111 "The Terratin Incident"
112 "The Time Trap"
113 "The Ambergris Element"
114 "The Slaver Weapon"
115 "The Eye of the Beholder" (text commentary from Mike & Denise Okuda)
116 "The Jihad".

Season 2 (1974)
201 "The Pirates of Orion"
202 "Bem" (audio commentary from David Gerrold)
203 "The Practical Joker"
204 "Albatross"
205 "How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth" (audio commentary from David Wise)
206 "The Counter-Clock Incident" (text commentary from Mike & Denise Okuda).

There is also an excellent new documentary, "Drawn to the Final Frontier: The Making of 'Star Trek: The Animated Series'", which interviews DC Fontana and many others, plus "What's the 'Star Trek' Connection?", which references TAS concepts that have turned up in the latter-day Trek series.

Arex and M'Ress
My customised M'Ress and Arex action figures.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Delays, delays...

Over on the bulletin boards where "Star Trek" fiction is discussed, everyone is stressing because a couple of forthcoming titles have been announced as having shifted their publication dates. Usually by just one or two months, but I buy them all - and I have such a backlog that I certainly won't notice minor delays.

I remember well the early 80s when it was often a full eight months between Pocket ST novels. As stressful as it might be that a modern ST book might be delayed by - what? - all of four weeks, it really only matters to those who devour just one or two ST highly-anticipated titles per year, doesn't it?

My To Read stack hardly seems to have gotten any shorter since the world went wacky in 2002. (I changed jobs, and suddenly instead of having three and a half hours or more of travel time, I was walking distance to work!) And Pocket was churning out at least two or three new ST titles every month! To think that, until the very chunky four-part DS9 "Mission: Gamma" mini-series, I was actually caught up!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Alphabetise this!

I've been putting it off, and putting it off, but today was the day to re-alphabetise my DVD and CD collections. Ick. It's probably been about six months since the last time I did it, and all of my recent purchases had been building up into some very precarious stacks.

And I say precarious, because nothing stacks so precariously as CDs in their transparent "jewel cases". Not only do I miss the large artwork covers of my old LP record collection, I've certainly damaged my fair share of "jewel cases". Clatter, crash, bang - and the dog takes off to the bedroom!

The DVD and CD wall units and stands I've bought over the years were excellent... until they began to fill up. Now, when I want to add a new purchase (I really must stop buying titles that start with A, B or C, I reckon) - there is a lot of shunting to be done. The other option is not to alphabetise, I suppose, but surely that way madness lies. At least alphabetised I have a chance of finding the title I want, or of remembering that I already have a certain title when I end up buying it all over again because it was on special "for such a reasonable price", or "it was less than the price of a movie ticket".

Sadly, I've bought a lot of DVDs that I simply couldn't live without, and then never found the time to watch them, let alone watching them again with their commentary track(s) activated - and let alone actually checking the disks in the DVD player to make sure that they work.

You know, I feel like watching a DVD now, but the wall units look so neat, I'm not game to pull one out. And actually, sometimes the boxes are crammed in so tight they're actually not so easy to take out. And the wall unit only looks neat and not-as-crowded because I've moved all my boxed sets to an enclosed plastic crate. (Please, don't anyone tell me that those crates contain poly-ethyl-something vapours in the plastic that will damage the DVDs I haven't even watched once yet.)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

T-shirts on parade

Okay, I'm puzzled.

I was in the city today and a tall young man walked past me wearing a T-shirt with the following legend printed across the entire front, in large friendly letters:


I'm guessing it has nothing to do with intelligent Andorians, but if you have any insights, please let me know.

I mean, I can understand most T-shirt messages. I liked the one I saw the other day, which had miniscule writing in the centre of the chest area that said, "If you can read this you're standing too bloody close." My only complaint with that one was that they expected people to pay just as much for it as others that used much more screenprinting ink.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Again, wallowing in the crucible

Late last night, I completed reading the new "Star Trek" novel, "Crucible: Spock: The Fire and the Rose". It's Part Two of a trilogy, and looking almost as chunky as its giant predecessor, ("Crucible: McCoy"). Although a "mere" 390 pages, this was another thoroughly enjoyable read.

Cover art by John Picacio

This time, the events stretch from the second "Star Trek" pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before", and spends quite a bit of time delving into new scenes to complement several crucial time travel episodes: the death of Kirk's love, Edith Keeler, in "The City on the Edge of Forever"; the story of young Spock's practice-run of his kahs-wan ordeal in the animated episode, "Yesteryear"; and the retrieval of humpback whales in ST IV. All three were highly popular adventures in their day, the events of which took their toll on poor ol' emotion-suppressing Spock.

We learn in this volume that Spock carries a deep and secret pain. While he saved his mother's and his own lives in "Yesteryear", via time travel, and saved the whole Earth in ST IV, again via time travel, Spock had previously chosen not to lend a hand to his best friend, Kirk, when they discovered that Edith had to die to enable them to rebuild the timeline. Although it's not spelled out, you do find yourself wondering if Edith could have been brought through time, as marine biologist Gillian Taylor (ST IV) had been, if only Spock's logic was not clouded by emotion. (Or vice versa.)

The book takes Spock beyond ST VI, through his new career as a diplomat, a new love affair - and the tragic "death" of Kirk in "Generations". Spock also makes a second attempt to eradicate his emotions with the Kolinahr discipline, which he first tried - and failed - to do in ST:TMP... until Vejur, a gigantic sentient machine, made mental contact with him from deep space.

Many times I found myself deliberately reading slower, as if I was trying to make the book last longer. David George also has a knack of having his characters mull over certain facts at irregular intervals, sometimes making different observations each time, and I found it a very realistic exploration of people with deep problems. Problems that have no easy resolution. I was also often quite aware of how the story had been constructed - but I don't say this as a criticism. Mr George was retreading old ground with this book - ST stories we knew so well, and also he was essentially retelling aspects of the recent "McCoy" volume - so it was fascinating - to steal a Spock term - to predict what elements of the ST tapestry were about to be woven into the mystery.

Again, the "Crucible" trilogy purposely works within its own continuity, as regarding other ST novels, but it still leaves some wriggle room - and sets up parameters - for events that won't occur until later: the novels featuring the courtship and marriage of Spock and Saavik; and Spock's attempts to reunify Vulcan and Romulus in "Unification (TNG).

And, once again, Filmation's animated ST series of the 70s (TAS) is well represented in some great references: Paul Bates is back, but this time so is Loom Aleek-Om the Aurelian, Jan Grey the historian, Thelin the Andorian, Erikson, Arex, Dawson Walking Bear, Carver, Gabler, the Terratins (and Verdanis and Cepheus), a Pandronian artist, Governor Bob Wesley (and Mantilles), I-Chaya the sehlat, the le-matya, life-support belts, Lunaport, Shi'Kahr, Vulcan's Forge and the L-Langon Mountains, young Spock's Cousin Selek and his Tasmeen visit, and even a rare mention of the kzinti Treaty of Sirius. (Late additions: Questar M17, Rigel II and Amanda's surname of Grayson.) Wow, thanks David George!

Crucible: triptych cover
Art by John Picacio

I spent most of today updating my Toon Trek pages and my Lower Decks novel pages again to include all the new "Crucible" TAS references.

Now I can't wait for the upcoming "Kirk" instalment...

Friday, January 12, 2007

Feeling uninspired...


... so here's a red elephant. You don't have to go far in the Australian countryside before you drive past something bizarre or completely incongruous. (I took it with my mobile phone on the way to Toowoomba, in Queensland, last year.)

This blog isn't a white elephant yet, but sometimes it feels a bit that way.

Over recent weeks I've discovered a number of blogs by friends of mine. Mostly, they are abandoned blogs, where the blogger leapt in with gusto, posted several times every day for a few weeks/months, got little or no feedback from loved ones... and their blog just gets locked into limbo.

Oh well...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Outsiders Down Under

The former Boy Wonder, Robin (Dick Grayson), Batman's ex-sidekick now known as Nightwing, and his superhero team called the Outsiders, have been in Sydney:

Outsiders #44, 2007

Funny, I don't remember a thing. Do you? Hmmm, I guess they're right...

Outsiders #42, 2007

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Pussy patrol


These things work, you know.

When I lived in a flat in Lakemba, I had terrible trouble discouraging pigeons from nesting on my balcony. If you went on holidays for any longer than a few weeks, you'd come home to a pair of eggs sitting in a pot plant. (The woman next door even let a few hatch on her balcony, and the subsequent baby pigeons continued to "home" for many years.)

I read somewhere that all I needed was a cat silhouette, and the pigeons would go elsewhere. but I never got around to making one. (Of course, for the first six years or so, I had my own pet cat on guard.) Rubber snakes were also supposed to be effective, but I made do with totally ineffective wire coathangers, that were supposed to jangle in the breeze and scare off the birds.

Moving to Penrith and a house with a garden, the pigeons were no longer a problem, although magpies and other birds often sheltered on the back decking. The problem was particularly noticeable when I bought new outdoor furniture. You'd come outside with your breakfast - and every chair would be covered in bird poo.

The garden also attracted birds rooting around looking for grubs. Now, attracting birds to a garden is supposed to be a good idea, but they do create a terrible mess, tossing all the bark chips into the pool in their enthusiasm The rubber snakes trick actually works, I've discovered - although they can give humans a nasty shock as well, particularly when you hear of real brown snakes caught in your street. Not to mention the huge red-bellied black snake I met near Penrith Railway Station one spring.

Then I found the cat silhouettes. They look really cool and they really freak out the birds. The cats do work themselves loose from the fishing line every once in a while, and they were rather ineffective just propped against the fences. But I put them all up again the other day and, just a few minutes later, it began to rain. Sure enough, a young magpie winged into the verandah, seeking shelter... straight into the path of a cat silhouette. He took fright, made another pass, meet a second hanging cat, squawked an annoyed comment - and flew off to perch on next door's balcony. And crapped on it. ;-)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Make mine Mego

I came across this old ad again today and it made me remember how cool were the action figures for "Star Trek: The Motion Picture". I almost bought a set from "Heroes World", you know, having written to them by snail mail in 1980. They only had aliens left - and no Betelgeusian - so I didn't proceed with the sale - but, go figure - the aliens were the ones that have increased the most in value over the years. I eventually picked them all up separately on eBay in 1999s. Oh, my aching wallet...

MegoTMP action figures ad
(From Marvel ST comic, #2, 1980)

Note that the figure labelled "Rigellian" is actually the TMP Saurian. Also note the spelling of "Illia" (sic), "extraterrestial" (sic) and "... Star Treckie Fan" (sic).

More information at my web page, Customising 3.75" Mego Star Trek action figures.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

One kayaker, one Jack Russell, one portulaca

Today I took Jack for a looooooong walk at the Sydney International Regatta Centre on Penrith Lakes. "Set on 196 hectares of native and landscaped parkland", the Centre hosted all the rowing and sprint kayak events during the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. "It has now been re-invented to become a popular sporting, corporate and social venue", and is said to receive an average of 50 000 visitors a month.

Jack undertook the challenge of two x 1.5 kms (to the starting line and back to the car park) with great gusto, always trying - and succeeding, if his Extend-a-lead permitted - to stay just ahead of any walker on the path. He'd only been there a few minutes, but you'd be convinced that he knew the place intimately, and owned the path, the river, the water, every tree and blade of grass, and all of Penrith District. Typical Jack Russell. Jack was quite interested in the ripples of tide against the pebbled edges of the water course. Not to mention the groups of ducks and other waterbirds. But what really caught his attention was the sole rower on the water. Suddenly, as he or she passed by, Jack decided that that person had no right to be paddling a kayak on a Sunday afternoon and Jack began to bark enthusiastically.

He's incredible sleepy tonight, of course, and just looked at me with big cow eyes, indicating that it was time for the toy tiger to come out of its cupboard, so that Jack could retire to his sheepskin mat beside my bed. Mind you, it's only 10.30 pm as I type this, and he's normally content to wait until I'm ready for bed myself.

From lone kayaker to lone portulaca! Several of last year's glorious (self-seeded) portulaca display, here at home in the backyard, have themselves self-seeded - and they really do look fantastic, spilling casually over the rock walls of the elevated garden alongside the pool as if they had been artfully placed there on purpose. Today, a single stem of portuca plant, which had grown up, unnoticed, from a thin crack in the concrete surrounds of the pool, bloomed with a glorious red flower. Amazing!



The single portulaca joins the lone Black Pantha agapanthus (below) that has graced us with its presence this year. Although they are more of a deep purple colour, last year both of my Black Pantha specimens took a rain check on putting out flower stems. Very annoying when they cost so much more than the average blue or white agapanthus (many of which were no-cost hand-me-downs from elderly relatives and friends), and which grow like the introduced noxious weeds they were recently labelled as by the Blue Mountains Council.

Black pantha agapanthus

Saturday, January 06, 2007


Today's the traditional day for taking Christmas decorations down. I was in the local supermarket yesterday - and, of course, the shops are already putting out stocks of chocolate Easter eggs!

As you've dutifully followed my virtual Christmas decorating ritual for these past twelve days, you've now earned the right to see my tree topper:

Spock angel

A US penfriend once sold me his collection of "Star Trek" character Christmas ornaments, originally from the "Star Trek Experience" in Las Vegas and - as I already had a Spock and a Picard from the annual Hallmark range - this new Spock, complete with Vulcan lyrette, ended up at the top of my Christmas tree as the angel. All he needed were some golden wings from Spotlight and a copper wire halo. This year I finally got around to customising the blue uniform shirt to make it reflect the uniform that Spock wore in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan", the film in which Spock did end up singin' with the angels. (At least until the next sequel.)

Ahwahnee Hotel

The next batch (below) includes some ornaments I couldn't help but purchase from the beautiful Ahwahnee Hotel, at Yosemite National Park in California. It was the morning of 27th December 1983, if I recall correctly and, after a sumptuous buffet breakfast, we discovered that the hotel was selling off its stock of Christmas ornaments. Okay, so I weakened. So much for "just one ornament per year", my original intention.

Ahwahnee Ornaments

Clockwise: Stuffed fabric unicorn handmade by US penpal, Francine; Ahwahnee Hotel bargain bin cloth partridge (without the pear tree); Ahwahnee wooden unicorn/Pegasus; Ahwahnee wooden ballerina; felt Australian Christmas bells (wildflowers), a leftover souvenir/gift of Australia that somehow never found a new owner; and Super Pickle, a cool superhero clip-on I found somewhere in the States! (Every sandwich in USA comes with a pickle on the side, it seems.)

Rodney Reindeer

Clockwise: The "Rodney Reindeer" stuffed toy was very popular in that same San Francisco department store that sold the clowns (see previous blog entry); and some items found in my stocking at Rhonda's parents' house on Christmas morning, 1983. These all get put onto the tree each year: a Santa Claus pen; a little toy truck (Rhonda got girly stuff); a miniature picture book called, "Christmas Around the World"; and an aluminium Steadfast Tin Soldier, which was originally filled with unshelled peanuts. (Yep, five grown adults in a room, generating as much Christmas morning present-opening as possible.) The kazoo was sold by Farrell's Ice Creamery somewhere near Martinez, California, where I celebrated a birthday. The staff traditionally sing you "Happy Birthday", accompanied by kazoos.

Thanks for joining me on this virtual tour of my 2006 Christmas tree. Now I have to go pack it all away...

Friday, January 05, 2007

On the twelfth day of Christmas

Nearly there. Today's Christmas ornaments are:


Above left: For 1984, the bone china unicorn was originally part of a boxed set - of "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass" character ornaments. I'd actually admired them in various shops for several Christmas seasons in a row. They were manufactured in Taiwan in 1974 from A Company Of Friends. I wasn't enough of an "Alice" fan in those days to want the whole set, but several individual pieces were really appealing. When it became obvious (in 1985 and 1986, when people kept giving me extra ornaments) that I'd be needing two ornaments per year, not just one, I decided to buy the now-sold-loose, and bargain-priced, unicorn - and then date it retroactively. I felt quite justified in doing so; I'd wanted him for years, and would have bought him in 1984 if he'd been available as a separate item. The ceramic teddy bear is very heavy, and quite posable, as the arm and leg joints are on elastic bands. I stood in the shop for ages trying to work out which was the most expensive, single ornament that I really, really liked. And the teddy won out (but I think he was responsible for breaking several branches on my first plastic Christmas tree). Both of these ornaments came from Grace Bros. at Roselands, bought two years apart.

Above right: For 1983, the wooden donkey was my first Christmas ornament. (I'd yet to move out of home, but was saving to buy a flat.) The donkey is handmade, from two and a half dolly pegs, felt scraps, wool and wiggly craft eyes, by an elderly Californian neighbour of an American exchange teacher colleague, Rhonda, with whom I spent Christmas of 1983. Rhonda had taught with me in my first year of full-time teaching in 1982. She took me into Elta's house in Martinez to see "a traditional American Christmas tree" - and it was hung with hand-threaded strings of real popcorn (preserved since the tragic death of her daughter many years earlier), gorgeous, old, blown-glass baubles, and hand-crafted dolly peg animals. Elta asked, "Which animal is your favourite?" - and this was presented to me, duly signed and dated by Elta. She'd also made camels, reindeer, moose, horses, and many others, from different combinations of the wooden pegs. Truly charming! The cute fabric clown was "the" special decoration of the year at a large San Francisco department store, famous for its Christmas displays - one entire floor was strewn with fake snow - and a huge toy department. They had several large Christmas trees on display that were exclusively decorated only with tinsel and these little clowns, every one of them of different colours and patterns of fabric. For several years, my clown played "tree angel" and was perched at the top of my tree each Christmas, until he got demoted by a certain Vulcan.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

On the eleventh day of Christmas


There has been considerable discussion on "the boards" (TrekBBS) lately, to debate Vulcan's controversial twin/sister/planetoid. We first saw the orange Vulcan sky during "Amok Time" in the 60s, but it was in the first episode aired, "The Man Trap", that Mr Spock revealed that "Vulcan has no moon, Miss Uhura." Uhura is "not surprised".

However, the Filmation background artists on "Star Trek: The Animated Series" (TAS in the 70s) did not notice a handwritten comment, "Remove moon", by DC Fontana on her sign-off of preliminary artwork for "Yesteryear" (above left, image from the View-master reels packet of the episode). Thus, Vulcan did get an orbitting planetoid - or perhaps, a sister/twin planet. When "Star Trek: The Motion Picture (TMP, (above right) was hurried into release in 1979, with the film barely dry enough to show on premiere night, the planetoid survived. (Only to be removed for a different interpretation of Vulcan's sky for TMP's "Director's Edition" DVD.)

Filmation's TAS wasn't removed from the official "Star Trek canon" until 1989, when the tie-in licences were renewed under tighter restrictions, and the licensees of the "Star Trek" novels, comics and roleplaying games (RPGs) were asked to refrain from referencing TAS. (That memo, of course, has slowly ceased to have influence since Roddenberry's death in 1991. See the many TAS references in other "Star Trek" tie-ins my webpage Toon Trek.)

"Spock's World", a hardcover ST novel by Diane Duane, came out with much publicity and critical acclaim in 1988. The planetoid was spelt T'Khut in "Spock's World", and also in "Voyager: Pathways" by Jeri Taylor, "The Worlds of the Federation" by Shane Johnson and "New Worlds, New Civilizations" by Michael Jan Friedman. The planetoid's name was given as T'Rukh in the hardcover novel, "Sarek", with an explanation from the author, AC Crispin, that the name changes are seasonal. (Like the names for the phases of Earth's moon, I guess.)

But - before all that - the planetoid had already appeared in another Pocket novel set on Vulcan, entitled "The Vulcan Academy Murders" (1984). Here it was called T'Kuht, and the author Jean Lorrah acknowledges fanfic identity Gordon Carleton for coining the planetoid's name, and his effort to explain its appearance in "Yesteryear" and TMP, and thus reconciling the old (canonical) TOS quote from "The Man Trap". Because, according to that old memo, if it's live action and its onscreen then its canonical.

Hope that clears it all up. Yes, it's four days into the New Year and I'm still mooning you.

Today's Christmas ornaments are:


Above left: For 1986, the wooden Santa Claus is riding in a hot-air balloon. A cool way to deliver presents to hard-to-visit places? This ornament was a gift from my mother, who, over the years, has been determined to undermine my "only two items per year" policy, and often tucks crafty ornaments into my Christmas gifts. The carolling penguins caught my eye while wandering through the now-defunct Waltons department store adjacent to Bankstown Square.

Above right: For 1985, the three white ceramic geese were quite expensive and came from Grace Bros., Roselands. Obviously these geese are half of the famous "Six geese a-laying..." from the song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas"? The wooden Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was a gift from my friends Karen and Tim; a souvenir from their trip to Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains, the week of the premiere of "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock". Karen and another friend, Eric, took Tim (a Star Trek club member visiting from Perth) to do some touristy things when I was stuck at work.