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.