Monday, July 30, 2007

Bye bye, BB

Australia's "Big Brother" television series has just wound up for 2007, with a 21-year old, bottle-blonde, country girl, Aleisha, triu(m)phant* - but only just - over 24-year old, bottle-blond, gay guy, Zach.

Aleisha
Zach, Aleisha and host Gretel Killeen.

The decision was very close, 51% vs 49%. In fact the four last housemates (all blonds) were all deserving possible winners (if you're into trash TV). With BB's past record of making the ocker everyman the winner, I don't think many people would have guessed that a country girl and a country gay would be the last two standing (or indeed sitting, on the couch.)

Yay! Now I can actually start getting some early nights. I've become very accustomed to playing on the Internet this past few months, and listening to "Big Brother Up Late" in the background, until waaaaay to early in the mornings.

The last few days of BB 07 had lots of not-so-unpredictable surprises. The public and media may slam the show as trash TV as much as they like, but BB Australia was off to a good start way back with its very first season (2001), and the show has managed to produce some proactive social commentary on a range of issues ever since. Most of the nation watched, amazed, as young, macho, country-raised, blinkered ocker, Blair (eventually of Neighbours' fame), cried openly when gay Johnny was evicted. He then spent the next few day wearing Johnny's T-shirt.

Well done Zach and Aleisha!

* Re: triu(m)phant - poor ol' housemate Joel will never live down that forgotten "m" in a Spelling Bee.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Lighten up?

A collector friend asked, re Hallmark light-up Christmas ornaments: "Would tampering with the original wiring be destructive to the collecting value?"

Do you intend to sell them?, I wondered aloud.

Anyone buying such rewired ornaments will have their own agenda and they'll only be satisfied they've been rewired if they still work and they plan to use them exactly the same way. for some people, you rewiring them would increase the collectability because they won't need to do it.

Anyone seeking MIMP (mint in mint packaging) collectibles won't want your ornaments. They'll look elsewhere. Anyone wanting something pristine won't even be happy knowing you've hung your ornaments every Christmas for a decade before selling them, if they can find sealed, MIMP ornaments elsewhere.

Collectibles are always worth only what someone else is willing to pay for them. Selling them at a good priced depends on waiting for the right buyer with the right cash at the right time. Sometimes the planets align and you make a fortune (and then someone else will brand you a scalper!). Sometimes you're stuck with something you can't even give away. Sometimes people DO give things away, to a charity shop, and then some canny collector buys it from there, puts it on eBay and HE makes the fortune.

Luck, skill, patience, intuition, research, advertising, reputation... And hundreds of other factors.

The heading Lighten up also applies to the latest "Harry Potter" film, "The Order of the Phoenix", which I caught today. While it was a visual feast, and the tone was darker, was there any need for the cinematography to also be dark? I swear, many scenes looked like they were filmed in monochrome. I realise that this movie is based on the instalment with the biggest word count but it did feel rather disjointed. Maybe this was a case where you needed to have read the book before seeing the film? (So far I've only read Books 1, 2 and 6.) It seemed a lot of second-tier character interaction had to be swept aside.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Howling at the moon

Jack and I went for a walk around the block just before dark this evening, and I happened to notice that the moon was already up, and almost full. (According to my calendar, Monday is the day it counts as "full".) I had to smile when several dogs from a nearby yard started up the most wonderful howl-a-thon. It made me wonder if they were howling at the moon, or if their master was just late home to open a few cans of dog food.

We were almost home when we approached the house where Tyson the Rottweiler used to live (at least, up until a few months ago.) Jack still loves to anticipate that Big Bad Tyson might be there, inside his gate, waiting to bark savagely at us. Today the familiar wrought iron gates were gaping wide open, and Jack did the most hilarious cartoon-like head turns, trying to work out if Tyson was on the loose!

Doggone!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Spock + Spock

Late-breaking news at Trek Today:

Spock in Unification (TNG)whiteAbrams' Star Trek moviewhiteZachary Quinto

Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto (of "Heroes") are Spock of Vulcan
in JJ Abrams' "Star Trek", Christmas 2008!


"Director and executive producer JJ Abrams has announced that Zachary Quinto - one of the stars of 'Heroes' - will play Spock in his upcoming eleventh 'Star Trek' film, and confirmed that Leonard Nimoy will play the older Spock as well.

From Comic-Con in San Diego, Abrams "introduced Quinto as the new Spock and confirmed William Shatner's statements that Leonard Nimoy would appear in the film as Spock in later years. The writers still want Shatner to appear as well as the original Kirk, but have not yet worked out a way for to bring in the character as an older man."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Are you Sirius?: the novels of "V"

To celebrate the forthcoming hardcover novel sequel to "V", here's a complete booklist of what has come before:

V by AC Crispin (Pinnacle, May 1984).
The novelization of "V" and "V: The Final Battle".

East Coast Crisis by Howard Weinstein & AC Crispin (Pinnacle, Sep 84).
A parallel novel to "V" and "V: The Final Battle", set mainly in New York.

The Pursuit of Diana by Allen Wold (Pinnacle, Dec 84).
An original novel prelude to "V: The Series", a year before the episode "Liberation Day".

The Chicago Conversion by Geo. W Proctor (Pinnacle, Jan 85).
After the events of "V", the Chicago resistance struggles to rebuild.

The Florida Project by Tim Sullivan (Pinnacle, Feb 85).
Experiments with human/reptilian hybrids in the Everglades.

Prisoners and Pawns by Howard Weinstein (Pinnacle, Mar 85).
Diana and Lydia ("V: The Series") clash in Los Angeles.

The Alien Swordmaster by Somtow Sucharitkul (Pinnacle, Apr 85).
Set in Tokyo, Japan.

The Crivit Experiment by Allen Wold (Pinnacle, May 85).
Alien sand creatures called crivits (from "V: The Series" episode, "Breakout") threaten North Carolina.

The New England Resistance by Tim Sullivan (Pinnacle, Jun 85).
The friendly Visitor, Willie, aids humans in New England.

Death Tide by AC Crispin & Deborah A Marshall (Pinnacle, Jul 85).
On the West Coast of USA, Diana tries to resolve her homeworld's water crisis.

The Texas Run by Geo. W Proctor (Pinnacle, Sep 85).
The Dallas-Fort Worth resistance struggles to free Texans from the Visitors' cold storage.

V Annual 1986 (World International Publishing, 1985; copyright date 1984).
Includes the short stories, "The Day the Rains Didn't Come", "The Hero", "A Time to Fight", "The Three Brave Men", "Divided We Fall", "The Law in Prospect" and "Switch on to Fear", and the comic, "Nightmare".

V Storybook (World International Publishing, no date; copyright date 1984).
Includes the short stories, "Deadly Harvest", "Together We Stand", "Morning Glory", "Night of the Monster" and "Children of the War".

Path to Conquest by Howard Weinstein (Tor, Sep 87).
Surviving the axing of "V: The Series" and the original novels moving to Tor, Diana and Lydia attempt to change Earth's weather patterns.

To Conquer the Throne by Tim Sullivan (Tor, Nov 87).
The Great Britain resistance attempts to thwart the Visitors' latest plot.

The Oregon Invasion by Jayne Tannehill (Tor, Jan 88).
The Pacific Northwest of USA is the next area threatened by the Visitors.

Below the Threshold by Allen Wold (Tor, Mar 88).
The Northampton and Freeport areas are under threat.

Symphony of Terror by Somtow Sucharitkul (Tor, May 88).
A Ninja lends assistance to American resistance cells.

V: The Second Generation by Kenneth Johnson (Tor, Feb 2008).
The creator's long-awaited sequel! Follows up the events and characters of the original television mini-series, twenty years on, but ignores everything else.

V: The Original Miniseries by Kenneth Johnson & AC Crispin (Tor, Nov 2008).
A re-presentation of Crispin's novelization of "V", with an all-new epilogue by Johnson, which ignores "V: The Final Battle" and sets up new characters and events for "V: The Second Generation".

List last updated:
December 2008.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Just visiting


V2

I just found out that Kenneth Johnson's long-mooted revival of "V" (the two television mini-series and its subsequent short-lived TV series) is imminent, firstly as a hardcover novel called "V: The Second Generation". It's due for release on October 2, 2007. Yay! It's been too long between novels, too.

Visitors
Break out the mousies and celebrate!

Captain's Log: Supplemental
Drat. It's delayed until January 2008.

A new era in fanzines

I received a great email the other day from Jim Caswell: he and his collective of Star Trek fans are writing and producing their own audio presentations used my Efrosian essay as research for one of their ongoing characters' backgrounds, and wrote to thank me.

Star Trek Eras
Star Trek Eras: The Audio Series

The episode in question (about an Efrosian character by the name of Ra-tevnarem, a communications officer on the USS Potemkin) is going to be for their second season. Currently they are working on editing the third episode in their first season, so it's going to be a while before this episode is actually recorded and made available.

"It wasn't until after we had created the character that we realized that there was a bit of confusion about the race," says Jim - coincidentally yet another fellow Star Trekking librarian. "Using your article as a base, I've come up with some strong ideas that should go a long way toward... a comprehensive answer. I just wanted to say thanks and let you know that your work is proving to be quite valuable."

In the meantime, there are other episodes already available for download. The "new era" of Star Trek fanzines is online.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Return of the bird

Yesterday, I mentioned the bird that entered the school library, seeking the spider I'd caught during my lesson. Today the bird was back! I glanced at the clock and it was exactly 24 hours since his previous visit. Good timing!

I was going to suggest that he came in to hear the next chapter of the book I was reading but, last week, my story sent one of the students into a sound sleep, so maybe I'm reading way too much into these events!

Meanwhile, I'm really enjoying seeing vacant floorspace in the living areas of the house. Last January, I pulled lots of stuff out of one room, intending to rearrange and consolidate all the stuff and store it more efficiently. Admittedly, I did end up shoving things back into the other room as visitors were imminent on Saturday for Midwinter Christmas, but still the cosmetic effect is great!

Snowperson

The event was successful. There were nine of us, a good number for catering purposes. Just for fun, we had a cupcake decoration contest, a full-sized artificial snowman, and enjoyed watching one friend's well-edited DVD of a vacation in Japan, and another friend's professionally edited DVD of her son's Malaysian wedding. Bluey was on display for the evening; the guests reckoned than only I would be so determined to have the world's biggest Star Trek action figure in my dining room!

Andorian mannequin torso

Monday, July 23, 2007

Eight legs, no prizes

Last week, on "Big Brother", the housemates had a task whereby they had to enter a "spider chamber" and collect a specified number of huntsman spiders.

Today, in the middle of a library lesson with a class of six- and seven-year olds, a large, huntsman wandered into the library, closely followed by a very cheeky bird. just what you need to through classroom management skills into disarray.

Taking my lead from the housemates, I calmly walked over, shooed the bird out the door, and placed a plastic container over the spider so the lesson could continue.

After the students had returned to their classroom, I was able to remove the spider to the garden. Okay, Big Brother, do I get a few nights in the Rewards Room now?

Redefining a collection

Over at The Star Trek Prop, Costume & Auction Blog, Alec Peters discusses his ever-expanding Star Trek collection of costumes and props from Paramount Studios, as sold by It's A Wrap!, and attempts to redefine his hobby.

While my collection of screen-used props is minute by comparison, Alec's analysis was well-timed. I've just spent about three weeks trying to re-hide the most bizarrely random piles of collectibles that literally exploded out of my so-called "Star Trek Shrine", a room dedicated to housing my Star Trek collection but usually also the room into which my aforementioned bizarrely random piles of collectibles get shoved, unceremoniously, as the dinner guests start arriving.

Collecting is an addiction, for sure. It comes with all the same intense highs, intense lows, withdrawal symptoms, and a chronic habit for diverting funds needed to buy food or household bills into buying more stuff, as an addiction to other substances! There is also the overwhelming challenge to "own everything", seek out "first editions" or "lowest numbers" of "limited editions", display it well, and the conundrum of whether to keep things in "mint in mint packaging" condition or just open and play with the items.

Alec says that there are "a few good questions you should ask yourself as you continue to build your collection".

What is your theme or themes?
Do you have one? Do you just buy random stuff you like, or do you have specific collecting interests?


Mmmm. Well, there are the collectible, nostalgic items from my childhood - things that were not considered to be collectibles when they were bought as gifts - such as my game of "Green Ghost", an original "Mousetrap" game, a model of the Dastardly & Muttley's Mean Machine from "Wacky Races", a hand-knitted gonk (the coveted Christmas gift of 1965!) and a glow-in-the-dark "Kooky Spooky", the current eBay prices of which always shock me.

There are also the items I remember allowing to slip from my grasp, in particular my full set of "Batman" gum cards, based on the 60s feature film of the TV series. Sigh.

And the ones that nearly got away: how well I remember the lone radio advertisement... "'Number 96' paperbacks just ten cents each" at a huge Grace Bros. book sale in 1978!

Thus, my "Number 96" memorabilia consists of eight very trashy novelisations, the original novel I had no idea even existed until the night of the "Tonight Live" reunion show in 1993 (when they had it on display, sending me off on the ultimate challenge to find it), several copies of the "'Number 96' Cookbook", with the bound-in iron-on logo still intact, a script in the book "Zoom In", several actual scripts from the set, and my recent purchase of Abigail's 1973 autobiography. I also own Giovanni Lenzi's green deli jacket, bought from the 1977 auction at Channel Ten.

Not long after that, I found myself collecting "View-Master" stereo picture reels, and this interest in 3D led to buying a Nimslo 3D camera, which accompanied me on my 1983/84 US trip.

And, of course, there are my Star Trek collections: (first edition) novels, novelisations, cards, model kits (some never assembled), LP soundtracks (most now duplicated as CDs), action figures (almost all are set free from their packaging) and customised action figures.

And my Star Trek comics led me to an appreciation of other comic titles: "Teen Titans"/"New Titans", "Fantastic Four", "Crisis on Infinite Earths" and "Dreadstar" to name a few.

What is your collecting philosophy?

Probably it has to do with collecting what you like. So many people collect as an investment, but that is so hit and miss. The most unlikely things end up being worth the most.

I'd also maintain that if you stop collecting, you'll definitely lose interest. I'm heard of so many people draw a line in the sand to stop themselves splurging, and they always end up selling, or simply giving away, all that wonderful stuff.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Love me like the world is ending

The power of television - and Youtube!

Aussie singer Ben Lee appeared on the "Rove in New York" special a few minutes ago, mentioning an incident concerning three naked skateboarders, which ended up getting his permit to shoot a music video in the Big Apple revoked! The premise for the clip was: if the world was about to end, what risky behaviour would people try? Ben Lee announced that the clip for the new song, "Love Me Like the World is Ending", was now available on Youtube, so I figured I'd see just how many people had raced to their computers. It sounded like the kind of stunt that would appeal to the "Rove" demographic.



By the time the site had finished loading, the clip had been viewed an amazing number of times (the counter seems stuck on 222), and had 50 comments, all made within the previous minute (and most mentioning that poor ol' Ben only seems to have traveled to the USA with one set of clothes! Perhaps that's why the skateboarders were nude?) A few seconds later, there were 81 comments and, by the time I'd saved the code for the clip, there were over 250. (Update: I've just finished editing this entry and it's up to 266.)

I guess "Rove" is rating well enough...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Hanging out for Year Four!


Red alert!

Arex and M'Ress (of Filmation's "Star Trek: The Animated Series") really do cameo, as promised, in IDW Publishing's upcoming "Star Trek: Year Four" comic mini-series!

Check out the review at TrekMovie.com, which has links to online preview pages from IDW. It's actually quite a positive review, apart from the mention of the (same) writer's now familiar, sparse style.

I quite enjoyed "The Next Generation: The Space Between". (I guess it was only David Tischman's seeming reluctance to draw the threads together in the final TNG issue that left me cold.)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Avoidance behaviour

What am I doing online? I have a Midwinter Christmas here in a few hours, and still some last-minute boxes of junk to put out of sight.

I think I fear that if I do seal up the huge plastic tubs and stack them away, they'll join the ones I hid a few years ago - and never get looked in again.

Sigh. What can I say? I'm a hoarder.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A dream Star Trek collectible

Today, the action figure collecting listserv to which I belong, Playtrek, was asked to describe our dream Star Trek collectible.

Now, if it is to be an action figure, then let's be practical. That is how I came up with the "Captain Kathryn Janeway as seen in 'Flashback'" ("Voyager") figure all those years ago (1999), when a mail order firm, NewForce, commissioned an exclusive Playmates figure.

Flashback Janeway
"Flashback" Janeway

An exclusive collectible action figure needs to make use of some existing Star Trek figure parts, where possible, to be cost-effective, or be so highly-coveted by a group way beyond the usual core of action figure collectibles. The Official Star Trek Fan Club 4.5" Captain Mackenzie Calhoun was the star of the Peter David "New Frontier" original novels, at the time (and still?) Pocket Books' biggest-selling ST author and series. The Official Star Trek Fan Club 12" Romulan Kirk figure was a bigger risk, with its all-new head sculpt and tailored cloth clothing, but a very impressive Kirk figure. Janeway was a captain and very difficult to find at retail and, while all other TV captain had multiple figures, there'd only been one previous 5" Janeway - so a "Flashback" Janeway using TOS movie body parts (indeed the female ST II-style uniform, which had only ever been used on the hard-to-find Saavik) was sufficiently collectible.

When Art Asylum took over the license, the New Force Charles "Trip" Tucker in Starfleet uniform figure was also a no-brainer headswap for a popular character that extended the "Star Trek: Enterprise" range. However, the dismal ratings of "Star Trek: Enterprise" - and Travis Mayweather's dismal, tiny part in the series, would see the rejection of a planned Mayweather w/ console following a lack of retailer support.

The upcoming buzz is that the next Star Trek movie is a Kirk & Spock movie. Spock/Nimoy would be THE most popular character to the wider ST community. ST fans who weren't into collecting ALL ST figures might buy a single Spock figure if it's sufficiently cool.

So... assuming a current-style Art Asylum-created action figure, and using an existing head sculpt, what about barefooted Genesis-resurrected Spock in cloth burial robe, as seen in "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock", or add optional black trousers and boots and you have Spock in meditation robes from "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan", or or add grey, pleated trousers and boots and you have Spock in traveling robes from "Star Trek: The Motion Picture"? Or give him a cloth white hooded robe and headband you have resurrected Spock from "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home". Anyway, that'd be my pick.

Speaking of resurrections: The Official Star Trek Fan Club's biggest resurrection hurdle won't be an exclusive for members to be tempted into buying, it'll be winning back the confidence of a lot of its members after Decipher's mishandling of the magazine "The Star Trek Communicator", and the lengthy delay that's allowed Titan's "Star Trek Magazine" to fill the void.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Big Blank

On the way home this afternoon, I had a wonderful thought about a funny, heartwarming topic for a blog entry. I couldn't wait to get started...

Right now? I have no idea what that story may have been. Let's retrace my steps... I went to the post office, continued on down the main street to Penrith Plaza; picked up the eagerly-awaited (by me), just-released DVD of "Hollywoodland", the story of the death of George Reeves, the television "Superman" of the 1950s; bought dinner; and trudged home.

Mmmmmmmmmm.

Ah! Now I know!

The post office had a new stamp series on display - and even stamped, collectible postcards - dedicated to Australia's bizarre "Big Things" tourist attractions. The recently-renovated Big Banana, the recently-moved Big Merino of Goulburn, the recently cash-strapped Big Pineapple of Nambour, plus the Big Golden Guitar of Tamworth and the Big Lobster of Kingston South East, were all represented!

Of course, I just noticed that the anecdote I was planning to tell was already my topic on Sunday, May 27, 2007. Maybe this is like a non-ratings period and I can start repeating the best of my earlier stories? Big deal, eh?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Meet Xanthi


Xanthi


Xanthi was my favourite character in the "Who is Donna Troy?" mini-series in the "New Titans" comics from DC (#51; US winter of 1988). Wonder Girl (soon to be known as Troia), plus Xanthi and ten other aliens were brought to New Chronus in order to be trained along as replacements for the waning Titans of Myth.

Some friends of mine were deeply entrenched making teddy bears at the time. I happened to mention how much one, unfinished, ear-less, bear resembled Xanthi - and... they made the above stuffed Xanthi as a surprise gift.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Bluey gets dressed

Finally, I'd done enough housework this weekend to waste a little time dressing "Bluey" the mannequin in his Andorian ambassadorial robes.

Andorian mannequin torsowhiteAndorian mannequin closeupwhiteAndorian mannequin full length

The mannequin - I kid you not, he was already blue! - came from the supplier complete with a spray can of touch-up paint, in "Aqua" of course, so I gave the amazingly-realistic hands a light sanding, a layer of white primer, and then a new coat of aqua paint. I also decided to give my old Captain Therin antennae a matching coat of paint. (Since 1980, the transparent matt varnish over the blue paint had darkened them somewhat, so repainting them today with the lighter aqua colour made them match the rest of the mannequin perfectly.) I don't know what's in the paint, but the hands were completely dry within about twenty minutes. I gave it a few hours before attaching the hands - and it was Photo Time!

It's fairly imposing to suddenly have a life-sized Andorian standing to attention in the corner of the dining room, but I'm sure I'll get used to it. I can't leave him in this position for too long, since he's directly beneath a skylight, but it's winter so he can stay there - at least until Midwinter Christmas next weekend, when he might have a Santa hat poised over one antenna. Ho ho ho.

Hailing frequencies open: Christmas (ornaments) in July

Here in Australia, as I clean up the house in preparation for my annual Midwinter Christmas celebration, my penpals in the USA are scrabbling to find an exclusive Lieutenant Uhura (from Star Trek, of course) Hallmark Christmas ornament! Yesterday, the Hallmark stores were officially allowed to start selling the items in their 2007 Christmas catalogue.

Uhura

Down Under, our Hallmark ornaments are stocked by Target Australia, but not until about September. Target is not permitted to import the light-up starship ornaments due to the different wiring, but when I got a Spock/Nimoy "holiday greeting" Galileo shuttlecraft via a comic shop, I tried changing the bulb plug on a locally-available light string (ie. unbend the metal leads in the ornament, remove the plastic base, pull a bulb from the Christmas light set and do the same thing; then take the base from the light set and thread it onto the metal leads from the Trek ornament; bend the leads back up and "Let there be light!" And sound, sometimes!).

It worked fine for about ten years. Sadly, a few years ago, the voice chip stopped working, but the ship still lights. These days, the Hallmark light-ups are independent of a light string. Alas, no Star Trek stuff, though.

I did make a point of getting the figural Star Trek ornaments for my collection, and they are in a glass cabinet, on permanent display, alongside similar-sized Trek character ornaments that were sold by "Star Trek: The Experience" in Las Vegas. However, after the great Hallmark Janeway figure - and coinciding with a move towards less-elaborate Star Trek ornaments - Target Australia stopped ordering in any new Star Trek figurals (maybe Janeway didn't sell?), so I've had to rely on US penpals to find me each new annual Trek ornament ever since.

This year the Uhura figural ornament is sculpted seated, and at her console, which is great to see, but she's extremely limited and I've been reading reports from several penpals on the misadventures they had yesterday trying to get more than one Uhura figure out of various shops. (Some places only received two figures in the first place. Other had about fifteen, but all pre-sold. One store insisted that an Uhura was only available with each $50 purchase of other Hallmark merchandise!) It looks like I do have one, but should it be such a chore?

PS. eBay prices for Uhura are going through the roof!

'Tis the season to be greedy.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The ring and the Circle

Something happened this weekend that sent me reeling back in time - in a scene reminiscent, if you've ever seen the movie "Somewhere in Time", of when Christopher Reeve finds a modern-day coin in the pocket of his hired period costume he'd used to astral project himself into a bygone era, and is sent hurtling back from whence he'd come.

I was removing my signet ring to place it on the nightstand and, in the dark, I heard a SNAP!. The band on the ring had severed, and I guess I'm up for a hefty amount to get the ring re-soldered, although maybe they can also re-seat and re-polish the bloodstone that is set into it at the same time?

The ring carries lots of sentimental value, and quite a bit of quirky McLean history to it. The ring used to belong to my paternal grandmother, Jessie and she bequeathed me the ring because as a kid I'd always impressed upon her that it was my favourite. We used to love looking at the dark green stone in strong sunlight together, as then you could discern the bloodspots within it. And yet, in normal light, or at first glance, the stone appeared to be a black onyx. Many years before even making a Will, my grandmother presented the ring to me one Christmas when I was in my late teens or early 20s, as she wanted to see me enjoying it. The ring has survived my skinny early 20s (with a size-reduction band clipped inside it) and my fattest periods when I feared it would become stuck fast, which is the main reason I made a point of removing it every night.

This ring is actually not the original. Nanny's first bloodstone ring was too big for her finger, especially on cold days, and one fateful town visit she hung it on a hook in the restrooms of David Jones in the city, lest it tumble into the toilet bowl. Of course, she then went home, taking her coat but leaving the ring still on the hook. Phoning the store's "Lost and Found" department that afternoon did no good; she'd have to travel back into the CBD, in person, to make an identification. When she told the staff she was seeking the return of her bloodstone ring, they said, "We're sorry, we have no red-stoned rings at all."

"No," said Nan. "It's a green stone with red bloodspots."

"We're sorry, we don't have any green-stoned rings either."

Of course, if it was in the tray in the back room, they probably thought it was a black onyx.

When my grandmother went to Proud's to order herself an identical replacement, they had to remodel a man's signet ring to achieve the appearance of the original. Ironic that the thinness of the remodeled ring is probably what caused it to snap on me this weekend. (I've been much tubbier, so I'm not blaming the thickness of my fingers this week.)

So I guess I'll soon be off to Prouds in the CBD to get a quote on a repair job.

But, as I said, the ring snapping sent me deep into the nostalgic recesses of my TV trivia-filled mind. Visions of my grandmother, sitting in her chair knitting or crocheting - usually for "her ladies" at the Coles store in Rockdale (another complicated story) - while my two brothers and I presented our absolute best behaviour to be allowed to watch our favourite television shows in glorious black and white: "The Magic Circle Club", as mentioned here a few days ago, "The Flying Nun", "The Dick Van Dyke Show", "Please Don't Eat the Daisies", "Batman", "Disneyland", "Captain Nice" and "Mr Terrific". Ah, the 60s!

Magic Circle Club cast pics
Max and Nancy with the "Magic Circle Club" cast; and a three-shot of Mother Hubbard, Fee Fee and Fredd Bear

In my case, today I resolved to search out an Internet contact for Max Bartlett, my idol and role model from the early 60s (before he was inevitably replaced by "Batman and Robin" - I mean, they had gum cards to collect!) And so I sent Mr Bartlett the fan letter I should have sent him in 1965. I'd never sent in any MCC fan mail for Nancy Cato or Liz Harris to read to Fredd Bear on the toadstool, so I thought I'd make up for it today and say, "Thanks for the memories".

Undoubtedly, Max was my favourite MCC character, and I recall the day I told my parents that "Max" was my middle name, since they hadn't given me one. As a teacher and teacher-librarian in 2007, I know only too well how influential television is on young lives. Luckily for me, I had "Magic Circle Club" to watch, but it's hard to convey to today's kids that there was ever anything better on TV of similar importance to "The Simpsons". I think of "The Magic Circle Club" often as I break up kids choking each other, Bart & Homer-style, in the playground.

As I write this, I have a sudden recollection of the episode where Max got tied up to one of the big papier-mache trees and had to be rescued. We all played MCC in the playground at school. Again, until "Batman" took precedence. You know, at Christmas, my grandmother used to take my brothers and I to visit Santa each year, in a magical grotto of papier-mache trees at Grace Bros' old Broadway store in Sydney - and we were convinced that we'd somehow found our way into the Enchanted Forest of "The Magic Circle Club" because of all those giant papier-mache trees. I could almost hear Fee Fee Bear (John-Michael Howson), and "her" high-pitched voice, screeching from within.

As a young adult, at teachers' college, I ended up spending three years (1977-79) in a building right behind the Grace Bros buildings - and was often there in GBs for lunch. One day, I actually ended up taking a wrong stairwell... and seeing a vast storage room, still filled with those papier mache trees from the early 60s!

Magic Circle Club dance routine
Magic Circle Club - in colour, as we never saw it on our b/w television monitors!

Bring on the papier-mache trees! And to Max, Nancy, John-Michael - and Jessie: "Thanks for the memories".

Friday, July 13, 2007

The space between... my ears?

I just read the final issue (#6) of IDW Publishing's "Star Trek: The Next Generation" comic mini-series, "The Space Between". Admittedly, I was on the train home coming home from the city, but I was really lost.

This issue made me feel as if I hadn't ever read issue #5, and I know I did - twice! - because that's the one with the Wesley Crusher photo cover and my comic shop can't seem to get any art cover versions from the distributors, dammit.

Issue #6 has me puzzled. Were they saying the main villain was a return of the insect-like "Conspiracy" aliens? Admiral Nechayev under alien control? The Tellarite hiding in the bushes at Starfleet Academy? Or some blond-bearded caterer whom Picard once knew? (I mean, who sent the damned complimentary Bularan canapes at the end, otherwise?)

I've been a big supporter of IDW doing Trek comics - and I'm loving "Klingons: Blood Will Tell", but this particular conclusion leaves me... underwhelmed!

I have to read it all again. But should I have to????

CAPTAIN'S LOG: SUPPLEMENTAL.
Okay, checking back through #5, the bearded guy in #6 is undoubtedly an older Hommun, from the agricultural planet, hence the canapes in #6 (I'd been joking about him being a caterer, but I wasn't that far off). In issue #5 he was lying to hide a mystery about chroniton particles, but was grateful that Picard took more interest in farming than Hommun's own children...

Mmmm. But the links aren't there in issue #6. At all.

How do you Google? Part III

Time to share some new wacky search terms on Google that have led poor deluded Internet surfers to my blog! According to my site meter, it's:

andorian fanfic

adam-12 books dead on arrival

old transformers toys purple phaser

entomology ebook blogspot.com

Star Trek Voyager Full episodes WMA

(WMA?)

trek TAS script aurelian

"taste of brazil" pyrmont

(actually, that's a popular one, and it finds them some good, brief information about that restaurant)

"cookie puffs"
(who can blame them?)

youtube phaser

squeaker squeak shoes

"Richard Arnold" + "Peter David"

(I'd recommend "But I Digress..." omnibus of articles by Peter David)

Raccoons in Christmas Costumes
(Awwww, cute! for Midwinter Christmas, perhaps?)

When I first put the site meter onto the blog, at the end of January, the blog was getting about 50 page views a day. That increased to almost 100 per day, until I went on vacation, which is how the readship fell to about 30 visitors per day. When I bought my screen-used Andorian robes on eBay, my hit rate reached almost 150 daily visitors, but this has settled back to about 60 per day.

People definitely stay on the site longer per visit, and read other pages while they're here. I do remain flummoxed about what people search for on the Internet: essentially, every topic - and combination of topics - you could ever imagine. Human beings are fascinating animals. (And 'm glad to be one. When I'm not an Andorian, that is.)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Feeding/kicking the habit

After spending a fruitless two weeks trying to clean up the house in time for Midwinter Christmas - my collection backed up in January, you see, and POW! all over the house! - which has seen me moving piles of stuff from one room to another, one pile to another, desperately trying to squeeze stuff into overstuffed shelves, while continuing to dust it all and pretend to try and make it look orderly. It's driving me crazy.

I spent fifteen years in a two bedroom home unit (aka flat), and it took fifteen years of collecting to fill it. Then I moved to a three-bedroom house with a big family room (and no family!) and a double garage, but it's taken me only seven years to reach critical mass. Just trying to bring a sense of order to it all, every few months, sees me back on the Internet doing random Google searching just to ignore the impossible task.

I almost promised myself I'd stop collecting. (Dusting and sorting will do that to you.) I love what I have, and I love having it all displayed to look great, but it's soooo hard. And getting harder.

Tonight, I was in J&B Hi-Fi and they had a "buy two get one free" offer on boxed DVD sets of full-seasons of many TV shows. The four "fan collective" Star Trek sets were there ("Borg", "Q", "Klingons" and "Time Travel") for reduced price of $39 each, and I really don't need these, as I have all the regular season sets, but the offer seemed a great way to get the new text and audio commentaries, etc, that were created just for these boxed sets. If only I could find two more boxed season sets of something I needed, but alas, I think I already have everything I need from their sale stock, all bought at at full price, of course. Aaaarrrgghhh!!!

Anyway, you'll be proud of me: because... I put them back. After sorting through everything on the bargain table to find all four sets, then sorting through them again to find the undamaged cover slicks, I put them back.

I'll keep buying everything Star Trek (books, novels etc, and the remastered original TV series on high definition when it comes out), of course, but I'm really going to have to bite the bullet and kick this collecting habit.

But can I?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The magic of the 60s

Yesterday and today, while avoiding housework by trawling around the Internet, I uncovered a few stray bits of uploaded data about an Australian children's television show of 1965-67: "Magic Circle Club". What was frustrating was that no one had done any cross referencing, so the Wikipedia listing was very incomplete (and is still quite vague in many places), but at least it looks less patchy tonight, now that I've gotten stuck into it.

I was in Year 1 when "The Magic Circle Club" premiered. It was probably my first favourite show, and what a thrill when it even won a Logie Award! (Of course that usually dooms the great shows and, yes, eventually "The Magic Circle Club" was deemed too expensive, and many of the production staff and performers found themselves in a new, but similar, show called "Adventure Island".

The brainchild of a dynamic group of early TV identities, including Godfrey Philipp and John-Michael Howson, it owed a lot to the pantomime genre, and featured original songs, music and dance routines, which my brother and I watched in all their blurry, flickering, monotone haze, as Channel Ten was only very new, and our grandmother's television antennae received a very untrustworthy, twitchy signal from that frequency.

FreddwhiteNancywhiteMax
Cassius, Leonardo, Fredd, Nancy and Max, c. 1965


Its characters were the denizens of the Magic Forest: the mute Fredd Bear (Tedd Dunn) and his screechy sister Fee Fee Bear (hilariously played by John-Michael Howson in a hair bow and high heels); Mother Hubbard (a bustle-wearing pantomime dame, played by Fred Tupper); the handsome Max (Max Bartlett); Curley Dimples, a young Shirley Temple analogue; Marlena DeWitch (Marion Weir); Hep Cat the cat; and villain Sir Jasper Crookly (Ernie Bourne) - definitely a precursor to Snidely Whiplash and Dick Dastardly (and a full year before Professor Fate of "The Great Race")! Sir Jasper's sidekick was the sniveling, cowardly Gaspar Goblin (Colin McEwan), who was reminiscent of movie host, Deadly Earnest.

The show was hosted by Nancy Cato, cousin of a famous author, the other Nancy Cato. A later addition to the cast was Liz (Liz Harris), who also took over as hostess when Nancy Cato suffered temporary paralysis and was confined to a wheelchair.

The 550 episodes were serialised across five days, with the Friday program wrapping up each week's storyline. (This was a great frustration to my brother and I, since on Friday afternoons, we all often had to walk to Rockdale shopping centre - from Arncliffe, two suburbs away - to do any shopping my Mum and grandmother hadn't done the day before, ie. "Message Day"). Each episode finished up with the hostess sitting on a large toadstool (or indeed, the "Magic Mushroom"), with Fredd Bear crouched beside her (usually after dusting off the stool with a handkerchief), while the pair shared viewer letters and artwork. Another regular feature included knock-knock jokes with Cassius Cuckoo and limericks with Leonardo de Funbird, who were very expressive wooden and felt puppets.

A semi-regular guest character was Aunty Vale (Bunney Brooke) - what a highlight of my time putting together my (still uncompleted) "Number 96" book: to interview Bunney Brooke and get her chatting about being Aunty Vale all those years ago!

The "Magic Circle Club" was influential upon me in so many ways. Even though I was only in Year 1 and then Year 2 at school at the time, I have a very distinct memory of the day I wrote a "Magic Circle Club" play. There were scripted roles for all of my school friends, and I had my younger brother, who was one year below me at school, and couldn't read, to play the part of the silent Fredd Bear. Through trial and error, I realised why play scripts need to have everyone's parts written on each copy.

I remember making several working cardboard and paper models of Leonardo de Funbird, with an Origami "colour-changer" for a beak. I also recall making a tiny stapled book of character drawings from the show - obviously my very first fanzine production (a collector's edition: #1 of 1 copy!). I also remember making a matching volume for "Adventure Island" when it started the next year.

If you were around in 1965 and 1966, and remember any details of Australia's "Magic Circle Club", which I've omitted here, please do let me know!

Saavik - she's half Romulan, Jim

Many fans wonder from whence came the idea of Kirstie Alley's Lieutenant Saavik ("Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan") being a Romulan-Vulcan hybrid. Sure, Vonda N McIntyre used the concept in her movie novelizations, but it was originally a (cut) scene from the actual movie. Lucky fans at a US film industry convention called ShoWest saw the scene in a presentation reel, long before the movie premiered:




Note that in "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock", Robin Curtis's Saavik is played as a full Vulcan, a choice made by her director, Leonard Nimoy (Spock) himself.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Blood - and time - will tell

Star Trek fans, I'm really enjoying IDW Publishing's Klingon mini-series!

After 40 years of innumerable Star Trek plots, including any number of licensed tie-in novels and comics that have provided new adventures, sequels and prequels to the aired episodes and movies, what makes this mini-series so fresh is that they are parallel adventures to the popular and well-known Klingon TOS episodes. The benefit of hindsight, and the contributions other, later Star Trek productions have made to the Klingon mythos, add to the drama.

Kor cover - Blood Will TellKoloth cover - Blood Will TellKrell cover - Blood Will TellMara cover - Blood Will Tell
Kor, Koloth, Krell, Mara (with Kang not far behind), oh my!


Issue #1 saw Klingon Commander Kor's seizure of a seemingly backwater planet, with Kirk and Spock as mere minor disguised players, but TOS fans who know "Errand of Mercy" well know that the power of the Organians will soon put a spanner in Kor's plans. An unexpected highlight is a cameo appearance, in flashback of Dr Phlox, of "Star Trek: Enterprise", as the results of that series' "Affliction" and "Divergence" Klingon episodes are recapped. This issue is also available in a Klingon language edition, complete with its script.

In Issue #2, a bumpy-headed Klingon is turned into Arne Darvin, Klingon spy - his bony bits are filed off while he's strapped naked to a slab! Ouch! Meanwhile, we discover how Koloth feels about the tribble debacle on Space Station K-7. It's the other side of "The Trouble With Tribbles" and is just as entertaining. In another heartwarming cameo, a gold-shirted Starfleeter, who closely resembles Ben Sisko of DS9 ("Trials and Tribble-ations"), happens to be wandering a corridor on some unmentioned mission.

I read Issue #3 recently. The cover (one of at least four variations) I selected is stunning and features Krell, of "A Private Little War", meeting a Mugatu. Krell is armed with a deadly Klingon knife we know only too well from its lethal use in "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock". Inside, he must fend off more Mugatu, and work with the native humanoid populace and arm them with new technology and weaponry, only to be thwarted time and again by James T Kirk who is (mostly "off-screen" and) evening up the odds with a rival group of natives. Again, it's the story of the episode from the Klingon point of view.

The artwork is interesting, but works extremely well. Sometimes quite stylized, and with Klingon physiques that take on superhero proportions, it moves at a frenetic pace and complements the text well. Each of the issues offer unique perspectives on the well-known episodes.

Issue #4 promises to be just as entertaining. The cover features Mara, Kang's wife, of "Day of the Dove" fame. And we know, from DS9, that Mara's future first born son will one day be slain by the mysterious Albino, and that Kang has mutual respect for people such as Curzon, a previous host of DS9's Trill science officer, Jadzia Dax ("Blood Oath"), and the future Captain Sulu (of Voyager's "Flashback"). It will be interesting to see what the story will entail.

Bookending each issue, a female Klingon named K'Ahlynn studies with her grandfather. This story arc appears to link with a "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" plot thread in the final issue (#5), as it seems to feature Gorkon from that movie.

And as I said in several recent posts, my only qualms concern the multiple covers for each issue from IDW. In the heyday of "The Next Generation", when ratings and tie-in sales were at maximum, the lines could support multiple covers. But my local shops aren't ordering enough copies to get a fair selection of the alternatives - recently, not even a choice - and that causes anxiety to: the anal collectors, who want a matched set of a certain cover style; and the completists, who want all four, or six or whatever, cover variations for each issue.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Number 96 and the Demidenko connection

Well, what a surprise! Viewers of tonight's "Where Are They Now" probably guessed that the two (extra) special guests on the "Number 96" reunion special would be iconic members of the cast, but I was anticipating Joe Hasham (as homosexual law student, Don Finlayson) and Abigail (as the vivacious but virginal Bev Houghton).

Now, I did know that the researchers at Network 7 really wanted Abigail on the show, and were having trouble tracking her down last year; she was thought to be in Europe, and even her agent had not heard from her in ages. Joe wasn't a difficulty; he'd already been a surprise guest for John Orcsik in the old Peter Luck version of "Where Are They Now" (1997).

It was a thrill to learn that Chard Hayward (as Don's campy lover, Dudley Butterfield) had agreed to return to Australia for "Where Are They Now", to catch up with his former cast mates after 30 years. About ten years ago, the cast had tried to involve Chard with a literary project they were working on, but he preferred to stay focused on his new life as a director/actor in the USA. (Maybe you noticed his credit on early episodes of "Lost", on which he consulted about the Australian aspects of the scripts?)

Tonight's show can be summarised thusly:
WHERE ARE THEY NOW. (8/7/2007)
Presented by Melissa Doyle and David Koche. Featured Jeff Kevin (Arnold Feather), Sheila Kennelly (Norma Whittaker), Elaine Lee (Vera Collins Sutton), James Elliott (Alf Sutcliffe), Elisabeth Kirkby (Lucy Sutcliffe), Frances Hargreaves (Marilyn MacDonald), Chantal Contouri (as the pantyhose strangler herself: Tracey Wilson), and surprise guests, Joe Hasham (Don Finlayson) and Chard Hayward (Dudley Butterfield).


From the Archives: Ian McLean meets the Pantyhose Strangler!


But for me, the biggest surprise tonight happened after the "Number 96" segment: the appearance of controversial author, Helen Demidenko (aka Helen Darville, now aka Helen Dale), of "The Hand That Signed the Paper" infamy! What an amazing personal coincidence! You don't see a connection? Please allow me to explain:

Way back in 1995, I received the wonderful news that publishing company Allen & Unwin was considering offering me a contract for the book I'd proposed (and had half-finished): my social history on "Number 96". My agent, Selwa Anthony, and I had just had lunch with the Allen & Unwin editor, and it all seemed extremely positive.

Arriving home, I immediately rang four people who'd been of significant assistance in getting my proposal out into the world of publishing: Nancy Cash, widow of Don Cash, from the team who originally produced "Number 96; David Sale, the creator of the show, who'd been so supportive and generous of his time; and Valerie Parv and Natalie Jane Prior, two longtime friends who'd already become successful, published authors.

After his encouraging words of hopeful congratulation for the safe arrival of my first contract, David Sale had made some very witty jokes about Allen & Unwin's then-current debacle to do with Helen Demidenko, and the accusations of misrepresentation and plagiarism that were dogging her. It had been the only news event being talked about that whole week. David suggested I could impress Allen & Unwin by changing my name - to Ian Demidenko, or perhaps Ian Sale - and gain some extra notoriety for my book.

We'd fallen about hysterically but then I attempted to convey these same jokes to my pal Natalie, along with my news. Natalie was naturally thrilled for me having had what seemed to be such a successful meeting with my editor, and that we were about to share publishers, since Allen & Unwin had already published several of Natalie's children's books (including "The Paw"). Strangely, though, Natalie seemed rather cool towards the jokes at Ms Demidenko/Darville's expense. Of course, I had no way of knowing that said Helen D. had been hiding out at Natalie's house all week, in secret, and on the run from the media frenzy Helen had managed to create! (A few days later, a Sydney newspaper's poster outside the newsagents screamed, "Friend tells of Darville's lies!")

Alas, my book on "Number 96" ended up not happening - the Allen & Unwin marketing people were rightly concerned there was no longer a big enough demographic wanting to buy a book about "Number 96"- sigh! - but my big day did end up in a book after all: "The Demidenko Diary" by Natalie Jane Prior, in which Natalie told the world of her bizarre association with the person who perpetrated one of Australia's most famous cases of literary fraud.

A quote from page 139, which takes place after another frantic day of Natalie fielding phone calls and complications about Helen and the employees at Allen & Unwin: "After all this I was a wreck. I had to take a few other calls, including one from a friend to say that his first book looked likely to be published by - you guessed it - Allen & Unwin". (Prior, Reed Books: 1996.)

Sometimes coincidence and serendipity create a synergy that really freaks me out. And here I was yesterday, saying I felt a bit left out of the reunion. (Especially after hearing that my old friend Andrew Mercado had been in the studio for the taping...) Thanks Network 7 for a fun show tonight, and for one more very bizarre coincidence!

By the way, for people searching out Chantal Contouri's Adelaide restaurant, it would seem to be the Original Barbecue Inn.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

070707

Happy 07th of the 07th month, 07!

The number seven has always been my lucky number. I have a very distinct memory of a whispery female voiceover on a 60s station identification slide, for Australian television's Network 7, which proclaimed, "Seven is my lucky number..." and I thought, "Yeah, okay, mine too!"

And 7's been rather lucky for the deliciously wicked, 70s TV soap opera, "Number 96", in recent decades. (Moreso than at Network Ten, where they usually pretend to have moved on from "Number 96" - onto more sedate things like "Big Brother Uncut" and "Torchwood", perhaps?) ;-)

In Where Are They Now's previous incarnation - the Peter Luck version of a decade ago - I provided research for three 1997 episodes, which reunited James Elliott and Lis Kirkby (Alf & Lucy Sutcliffe); Arnold Feather with his first wife Patti (Jeff Kevin & Pamela Garrick); and actors Joe Hasham and John Orcsik, who reenacted Don and Simon's first embrace. Although I only helped with research again for tomorrow night's latest "Number 96" cast reunion on the revived "Where Are They Now" - how I wish I could have been there! - I was an onscreen interviewee for two previous Network 7 productions that focused on "96".

TONIGHT LIVE WITH STEVE VIZARD. (20/7/1993)
Hosted by Steve Vizard. Featured flashback footage and live interviews with Elaine Lee, Jeff Kevin and (to quote Vizard) "Number 96's own historian", Ian McLean. Comedian Vince Sorrenti conducted a live-cross to Sydney, for a tour of Moncur Flats, at 83 Moncur Street, Woollahra, the actual location of the Number 96 building of the credit sequences. Sadly, Abigail phone in sick. Her place was taken by Vizard writer, Steve Bedwell.


TONIGHT LIVE WITH STEVE VIZARD


THE BEST OF AUSSIE DRAMAS: Part I. (7/11/2002)
Presented by Kate Ritchie of Home and Away. Contained numerous clips of Number 96, with sound byte comments from John Orcsik, Elaine Lee, Jeff Kevin, Lorrae Desmond, Vince Sorrenti and Ian McLean. Part II aired a week later, and a two-part focus on Aussie Cop Shows followed over the next fortnight, with additional sound byte comments from Paula Duncan, John Orcsik and Lorrae Desmond.

So long ago now... It seems like some wild fantasy, especially the Vizard experience, since I was whisked straight from work on the Tuesday afternoon, flown to Melbourne, dinner with the Elaine Lee and Jeff Kevin, dressing room drinks with Steve Vizard and Naomi Robson after the show, dessert in the wee hours with the celebrity guests, overnight at the exclusive Hotel Como (my suite had a doorbell!), and flown back to Sydney the next morning to arrive at work for a normal Wednesday in Punchbowl Public School's library, as if nothing had happened - and yet everyone had watched the show, live, the night before. Crazy, crazy days... my tiny taste of the everyday lives of some celebs!

Mel & Kochie have promised a big surprise for the Number 96 cast tomorrow. Any guesses? And hey, I just noticed: I'm talking about luck and Peter Luck in the same post. Just lucky, I suppose.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Number 96 cast reunion on Where Are They Now!


Bev & Don

All can now be revealed! (I've had to sit on this for months!) See the reunion of the Number 96 cast on Where Are They Now with Mel & Kochie, Network 7, Sunday night, 6.30pm, 8th July, 2007!

Trek fears

I have none for Star Trek XI, but it seems that there are still many who do.

I say to them, do you like "Lost"? I love it - and have great faith in JJ Abram's attention to detail and clever storytelling.

Have you seen the new "Transformers" movie? I haven't yet and was sure I'd hate it, not being a Transformers fan or collector of transforming robot toys, but friends who've just seen it are raving about how "geeky yet respectful" it is. The trailer looks amazing, and the movie is written by Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci, the new Star Trek movie writing team.

Do you like the music for "The Incredibles", "Mission: Impossible III" and "Lost"? The same composer, Michael Giacchino, has been signed up to score "Star Trek".

And George Lucas's ILM has been announced as the SPFX guys.

The new Trek film is gonna be cool.

I think I do have fears, though, for my IDW Star Trek comic collection. Although I'm really enjoying the new mini-series ("Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Space Between" and "Klingons: Blood Will Tell"), the multiple covers are driving me - and Kings Comics - crazy. Each issue comes in three - sometimes four - variant covers, and I decided I wanted to get only the art covers. The photo covers, which supposedly sell better in book stores than comic stores, are usually well-known publicity stills, so the new art on the drawn covers is usually far more compelling (to me).

However, the assortment is meant to be 50/50 of art/photo covers, with the rarer variants thrown in as bonuses for the comic store, for buying above a certain number of issues, to sell off at a higher premium. But now that Kings has downgraded their order, they are no longer being given that 50/50 split. Stock of issue #5 of "The Space Between" arrived only as Wesley Crusher photo covers and, so far, Kings' attempts to back order me an art cover is drawing (ha!) a series of blanks. Plus, there is no guarantee that the reorder will have an art cover; they might get sent more Wesley issues. Wah!

I do wonder how many Star Trek fans are madly collecting multiple issues of each comic to get all the cover variants. And how many gave up on the whole thing after issue #1.

Last night, on my way to the latest Star Trek Meet-up, I picked up the third issue of "Blood Will Tell" - art cover! - and it's fantastic! Review coming soon.

Beware the blog!



Mingle2

"This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:
* dead (7x)
* shoot (2x)
* cum (1x)."

That last one had me scratching my head, but I did recently say "green Orion slave girl cum game show merchandise model" in a blog entry about our old Star Trek convention game shows.

And so now I've said "cum" four times all told. Anything for ratings, eh?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The magic of eBooks

Every time someone on TrekBBS or Psi Phi mentions Star Trek eBooks (ie. downloadable electronic publications), there is a backlash of angry, resistant book readers who malign them as unwanted, unreliable rivals to "dead tree", hardcopy, paper versions.

The ranting never seems terribly IDIC (as in "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations", to quote Spock's Vulcan philosophy) and, while I haven't embraced eBooks wholeheartedly to the extent that I'd dispose of my personal forest of dead trees, I really don't see them as evil, either.

How is computer file corruption any different to one's dead tree collection suffering from mould, tempest, flood, silverfish, carelessness or a light-fingered houseguest?

Closed minds = Star Trek? Something's wrong here... For some, eBooks are an amazing, unrivaled convenience of the modern/futuristic world. Some hardcopy book lovers assume that the eBook files are never replaceable, but there are several circumstances where eBooks are safer than MMBs or hardcovers! Most eBook sellers allow you to download a new free version if your previous file gets corrupted, so the chances are an eBook collection may survive certain conditions better than a paper collection.

I haven't had to ever do it, but I know when Amazon was selling the Pocket eBooks, you simply accessed an online folder with your Amazon password, and entered the credit card number you used to open up the original eBook, to download a new version. (I did used to wonder what happened if you ever had to switch credit cards, and were expected to still have the old number on file somewhere, but I'm assured places like ereader allow this number to be updated easily.)

I have such a pile of unread dead trees here that I haven't needed to make Star Trek eBooks a priority. The eBooks I've bought are things I've needed desperately (eg. "The Magic of Tribbles: The Making of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Trials and Tribble-ations", which was an eBook exclusive; the "New Frontier: No Limits" short story anthology, which I couldn't wait to read, and bought it while my hardcopy was in transit; and "SCE: Where Time Stands Still", a TAS episode sequel) but I haven't had the time to read even these files more than once, as there's just so much else to read.

A bit of a later bloomer with eBooks, I was held back by my old PowerMac, which didn't like eBook versions being offered. And the firewall at work prevented my downloading eBooks to the work PC. But everything simplified when I bought my iMac.

I did notice that the last time I upgraded Adobe Acrobat, my eBook copy of "Where Time Stands Still" is now refusing to open, but I'm not panicked as the dead tree reprint is due eventually, and I always intended to buy that. When SCE ("Starfleet Corps of Engineers") started up, it was an eBook-only series of short novels.

In fact, I probably think of eBooks as more like a video rental. If you want to see a new movie, you pay for your discounted ticket at the cinema, or rent the video, and get entertained, but you can't necessarily keep it. But if you want to ensure you have a more permanent copy, you buy the dead tree (or DVD) version when it comes out.

If the plastic on a VHS cassette breaks ten years after buying it, would the manufacturer replace it for free? If you drop a new (or old) book into the mud, would the publisher just give you a fresh copy? If a DVD breaks in half through no fault of your own, would it automatically be replaced?

The eBook corruption that would cause me the most concern is if anything ever happens to "The Magic of Tribbles" by Terry J Erdmann, Gary Hutzel & Paula M Block, since there will never be a dead tree version. I don't really even remember which provider I used to buy it! (Although the old email receipt would still be on file, and I guess there's an "About" file connected to the eBook?)

The Magic of Tribbles

I understand some company is working on a portable eBook reader that has a screen that resembles a sheet of paper, with black "print" that assembles itself on a white (or any colour) background. That sounds like fun!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy blogversary to me!

Hey, I just noticed. I've been blogging for a whole year now.

It's certainly the longest I've ever kept a diary, and it's been very satisfying to put my various Internet responses somewhere more permanent that just letting them drop off the menu at some online bulletin board.

Thanks everyone for the support, even if so few of you leave messages. I can tell by Sitemeter that there are plenty of Star Trek, pet and naked Abigail fans out there, even if you don't always tell me in person that you've dropped by again.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Deja View-Master

I've long wanted to do a piece on View-Master stereo and 3D picture reels and viewers, and with this week's mention of "The Omega Glory" (TOS) and "Yesteryear (TAS) Star Trek View-Master products on TrekBBS, I'm feeling a burning need to bring something together.

Today I actually saw the newest packaging, still carded on blister packs, as they have been for about 20 years, but now much closer in size to the traditional, square, paper envelopes of the 60s and 70s. I'd been hunting for "Superman Returns" ever since that movie came out last year, and eventually ordered one (on the US rectangular blister pack) via the Internet, but today I actually saw European "Superman Returns" sets on the new square blister pack. (A little underwhelming, though. Most people wouldn't even know to open the minimal packaging carefully so the reels could be stored safely.)

I've been collecting View-Master reels since Christmas 1974, when - at a loss as to what else I wanted on my Christmas want list - my mother bought me a viewer and several reel sets (of her own choosing): "Adam-12", then a current US TV police drama; animated old-time family favourite, "Top Cat"; "Insect World: Entomology"; "Pan Am's 747" and "France". I was quite impressed with her selection. "Insect World: Entomology" looks amazing in stereo pictures! "Pan Am's 747" gave me itchy feet for my first aeroplane ride. And "France" was highly suitable to a then-high school student studying French.

Sadly, what has disappeared over each change to the View-Master format is text. Originally, most View-Master envelopes came with 16-page illustrated booklets, which described each of the 21 sets of stereo pictures. In the 80s, the tall, rectangular blister packs came with several paragraphs on the reverse of the packet, synopsising the production contained on the 3D reels (although European-released versions often had to reduce font sizes to squeeze in multiple translations).

In recent years, the three reels in each rectangular pack have had foil character stickers added to their reverse, and these now face outwards - but there are no instructions on how to preserve the blister pack as a "convenient storage container". The new square blister packs really have no text synopses at all, and appear to be quite disposable. Sigh. (I guess you're supposed to buy up several vinyl View-Master collectible, zippered storage containers!)

View-Masters

Star Trek has been quite well-represented in View-Master reels over the years, much to my delight:

* "The Omega Glory", a live-action episode of TOS (The Original Series).

* "Yesteryear", as "Mr. Spock's Time Trek", from TAS (The animated series from Filmation).

* One image of 21: TOS USS Enterprise filming model at the Smithsonian Institution's "National Air and Space Museum".

* "Star Trek: The Motion Picture", one of the first sets with recreated "3D" images, rather than stereo pictures shot on-set. The b/w booklet has trivia and "foto-fun" rather than a text description of each image.

* "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan", one of the first rectangular blister packs - no more booklets! Sigh.

* "A Matter of Honor", an episode of TNG (ie. "Star Trek: The Next Generation").

* Two images of 21: "A Star Trek Adventure" (including the bridge and "beaming up") on the revamped rectangular blister pack version of "Universal Studios, Hollywood, Set 2: Entertainment Center".

I hadn't really thought about the View-Master "Yesteryear" images not being actual stills and cels from the show itself, until the matter was raised on TrekBBS. Of course, all those old View-Master "Peanuts" (Charlie Brown and Snoopy) animated specials, and "Bugs Bunny" cartoons were reels of images recreated with little three-dimensional statues and amazing table-top dioramas, and filmed with a stereo camera!

Checking out "Mr. Spock's Time Trek" anew, some frames have over seven layers of 3D action! Like the now-rare Tuttle & Bailey TAS collector cels (including the six-fingered Spock from "Yesteryear", and Arex and M'Ress with "The Jihad" aliens), and the ones provided to Japanese "Starlog" (eg. Arex and M'Ress interacting with the kzin Chuft-Captain), it seems that Filmation was happy to create special, all-new images (below right) for these TAS tie-ins. The booklet in the View-Master pack seems to have newly-created artwork, too, and different to what's on the reels.

Additional work used to be done for live-action View-Masters of the 60s, too. When the View-Master cameras visited the live-action sets of "Batman", "Mission: Impossible" and "Star Trek", for example, they took stereo photos alongside the guys filming the episodes! And the USS Enterprise and USS Exeter in orbit was a shot re-created with the three-foot shooting model of the Enterprise and a licensed AMT plastic model kit (for Exeter). The set-up (below left) was photographed in stereo in View-Master's own studio. It's not a still from the episode made 3D, it's a recreated shot made with physical models. (By the 80s, View-Master wasn't using on-set stereo cameras at all, but simulating the 3D effects by manipulating 2D images of studio publicity photos. Sigh.)

I did once read an interview (in "Starlog"?) with someone who described the day View-Master came visiting Desilu to shoot "The Omega Glory". They had to snatch their moments - at rehearsals and after the film cameras moved off to other locations, but they weren't any more obtrusive that the Desilu stills photographer who turned up all the time.

There's one amusing bridge shot of Sulu and Uhura, supposedly talking with Kirk on the planet, but Nichelle Nichol's script is sitting on her lap!

I was always flummoxed as to why they didn't choose a more colourful episode, like the alien-filled "Journey to Babel", but essentially View-Master had to take pot luck with all the TV production sets they went to in the 60s and 70s. They were actually due to visit "Star Trek" the previous week, but Gene Roddenberry kept putting them off, which seemed weird in retrospect since Gene Roddenberry was rarely down on the studio floor and was busy prepping Art Wallace's "Assignment: Earth", the Gary Seven/Roberta Lincoln "back door" pilot, which was due to film the next week.

But, of course, moving View-Master's appointment by a whole week meant that it was a pure (even if not good) Gene Roddenberry script that was adapted, and not DC Fontana and Laurence N Wolfe's "The Ultimate Computer". So Gene picked up yet another royalty: adaptation rights for the little View-Master booklet! (Mind you, DC Fontana had her revenge, as it was her TAS episode that got adapted by View-Master a few years later.)

Fascinating stuff, and how great that View-Master continues into the 21st century?

View-Master - TOSwhiteView-Master - TAS
Images from "The Omega Glory" (TOS) and "Mr. Spock's Time Trek" (TAS)


* TAS View-Master frame originally scanned by Kail Tescar.

* SF author, Robert J Sawyer, briefly discusses "The Omega Glory" View-Master SPFX shot on his blog.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Jack: 0; Mozzie Zapper: 2

History repeats! It was a bit chilly late this afternoon, and I needed to race an important letter to the overnight-delivery mailbox, so I dressed Jack up in his collar, harness and winter dog coat, said the magic "W" word, and we headed off to the post office.

Once again, as soon as we'd reached the fire station - many blocks down from the kebab shop - Jack sat down hard on the pavement and refused to budge. I almost had to drag him along, as he again avoided shop doorways, asked for "pick-ups", and even tried to leap into any parked cars opening their door. I figured if he was going to perform, I may as well buy kebabs!

Once again that wacky little dog, with the memory of an elephant, was anticipating the kebab shop had its ultra-scary, ultraviolet mosquito zapper switched on.

Deja zzzzzzpt!

Little wimp.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Brazilian banquet, Vanguard euphoria, Cookie Puffs - and new boots to boot!

What a fun, full weekend! (Full in more ways than one.)

Even though the trains were out (for trackwork, between Blacktown and Strathfield) I made my way into the city last night to join some friends for the amazing Brazilian Churrasco Banquet at A Taste of Brazil in Pyrmont. Yummo! (And unique garlic bread rolls, made with a mayonnaise filling.) Oh wow!

I stayed overnight at Nate's for a marathon of early "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episodes, although after all the Merlot at dinner, we all dozed through most of them, usually waking in time to see end credits flashing by for each episode.

This morning we had brunch at one of Nate's favourite breakfast cafes, and then I ventured off alone into the city where I finally located, at Politix, the most amazing grey farmed-crocodile-skin zip boots to go with my newly-arrived, screen-used Andorian costume. (I knew I'd seen them somewhere, but the last few weeks of looking around was drawing a blank.) The boots were $100 off and really look wonderful. Now I can't wait to organise a proper full-dress photo shoot. (After I find someone to help me put the boots on when the skin-tight Andorian leggings won't permit bending, that is!)

On the bus-and-train home from the city, I finished reading David Mack's "Star Trek: Vanguard" novel, "Reap the Whirlwind". A lot of fun, but because I've been rather busy, I've had to read it in numerous one-hour chunks over many weeks now.

I was caught by surprise as I'd completely forgotten the author had put a Minipedia in the back - I'd restrained myself from reading it when I bought the book - so about three pages before the end of the narrative, the book flicked open to reveal that I was really only three pages from the end of the current story! (Reminds me of the good ol' days when some ST novels had a surprise excerpt of an upcoming "giant" Star Trek mass market paperback in the back.)

I'd also accidentally seen comments on TrekBBS about big surprises at the end, so I'd avoided all the details and responses. While reading this morning, all the details started being revealed, and I was very pleased.

The series has great characters who are revealing their complexities over each instalment; [i]two[/i] Caitians, at least three Andorians in this one - how cool is that? And journalist Tim Pennington continues to be a great character, redeeming himself over previous indiscretions.

Fan writer/editor (and New Zealander) Lana Pennington-Brown is a very good friend of mine (and is the Pennington the "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" writers had in mind when they made canonical reference to the Pennington School in the TV series), so even though Tim started out in "Vanguard: Harbinger" as an untrustworthy love rat, he's already becoming a better man than he used to be (as he mentioned himself in the chapters of "Reap the Whirlwind" I read today), and so I enjoy rooting for one of Lana's descendants. Makes the "Vanguard" novels even more fun!

I'm off now to read up on all the online posts about the book before I delve into a new "Tale of the Lost Era", "Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Buried Age" by Christopher L Bennett.

And, to celebrate my "Vanguard" euphoria...: I discovered today that Puffy Cookie Puffs have released a new flavour: chocolate Cookie Puffs! They are to die for! (Or is that "to diet for"?)

Cookie Puff
Puffy Cookie Puffs: now available with chocolate filling!


And, according to the official website, caramel cookie puff filling is due soon.