Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Punctuation is a killer!

Book Week is fast approaching!

Yesterday, in the school library, I was discussing some of the CBCA shortlisted books with Stage 2 classes, and we turned our attention to Ned Kelly’s Jerilderie letter (Black Dog Books), which is edited by Carole Wilkinson.

Now, the Stage 3 students became very aware of the Kelly Gang last term, thanks to their "Gold!" unit in HSIE (Human Society & Its Environment), and our library focus on bushrangers. I wasn't expecting Stage 2 students to have much of an awareness about Ned.

A student in one class was asked what he knew about Ned Kelly the bushranger. I was fully expecting something to do with metal helmets, or robbing people, or maybe a connection to the late Heath Ledger (whose Ned Kelly movie was mentioned in recent obituaries for the Australian actor.)

"Ned Kelly had a lot of headaches. I saw him on the Nurofen ads on TV." (Sure enough, I saw the commercial myself last night! Nurofen's a prominent pain medication.)

I read Carole Wilkinson's introduction to Ned Kelly’s Jerilderie letter to another class and we discussed her mention of Ned's rambling style as he narrated the long letter to gang member, Joe Byrne, and how Wilkinson had to correct Byrne's spelling errors and missing punctuation.

"What is wrong with having no punctuation?" I asked.

"Full stops tell you when to take a breath," someone suggested.

"Is that how Ned Kelly killed people?" another student piped up.


"Is that how he killed people? By making people read all those sentences without taking a breath?"

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A fishy story


Sometimes I think it would be great to have a fish tank in the school library where I work. Fish tanks are so... calming. Well, that's the theory. Usually, I manage to talk myself out of such a whimsy.

I had a large aquarium in my old library. The principal bought it, on a whim, from a casual relief janitor - and it functioned quite adequately for about a year. The students loved searching for the little "Where's Wally?" toy (in his swimming ring, snorkle and goggles) which decorated the bottom of the tank. (That's "Where's Waldo?" for my US readers.)

We eventually lost the last of our first batch of goldfish, so I cleaned out the tank one Friday and had the new water circulating all weekend, ready to buy more fish.

Of course, when we came in on the Monday morning the tank was bone dry: the water had leaked through a faulty seam (weakened during my strenuous cleaning?), and saturated the carpet! We had a special event (visiting children's author, Libby Gleeson) occurring in the library later in the week and we had to hire special air blowers to dry out the carpet in time. What a mess!

One six-week holiday, I put in a four-week food block to keep the fish happy for the time we'd be away from school. Someone said, "But what happens when the fish get hungry in the fifth week?"

I joked that "Of course, Survival of the Fittest" would be played out - and boy, did I feel bad when one poor goggle-eyed black moor got skeletonised.

Disaster averted!

A huge thank you to The Other Andrew and Sephyroth, who just nursemaided me through a blogger's ultimate nightmare:

I ended up with a weird glitch in my Blogger template last night. I tried to fix it ("cleverly" taking a copy of the HTML from another window I happened to have open - but it was only of one recent post) and, of course, everything looked perfectly fine when I previewed it. Then I've realised I'd managed to cause a logic loop of some kind.

Following some advice, I managed to do more of the same (ie. with more archived posts showing up, but the page itself was still "static".) Every link in my template kept me (and any readers out there) looping back to that same small sample of blog entries.

Time to seek out some HTML experts! (Surely, I kept telling myself, two years of earlier entries couldn't have been wiped out by one small coding error. I mean, I never pressed "Delete". The old posts must still be stored somewhere, even though I've seemingly severed all the old links?)

While waiting (im)patiently for an answer to my pleas (Sephy's on US time), I started grabbing Google caches of various "important pages", retrieving the HTML of my two annual indexes (so at least I had the titles of two years of entries). I started to imagine that, over time, I could rebuild the whole site from Google's cached pages. But, did I even need to? If it was just a minor HTML correction needed in the template I'd rather do it that way...

Then, at about 4.45am this morning, Sephy came to my rescue. Thanks everyone at Aussie Bloggers for all your good vibes, and especially thanks to Sephy, kathiemt, Snoskred and The Other Andrew. I could visualise what needed to be done, but that little voice in my head kept telling me I'd created a mess that wasn't fixable.

Essentially, all that was needed was to restore the Blogger template back to the one I was using, as it had all the specialised tags that Blogger uses to make posts appear (which the HTML I pasted in, in my panic last night, didn't). Then I just had to find all special code I'd so bravely added over the years (the sidebar, Sitemeter, etc) from the code in the static page I still had, save that to my computer, and then put it back in where it needed to be in the refreshed, but now-generic, template.

Easy! (When you're thinking straight, and have wonderful Internet friends to support you.) Yes, I did get a few hours of sleep overnight, but not enough.

Oh well, it's breakfast time...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I want to believe... I enjoyed it

I used up my last Hot Cash movie coupon today, just days before it expired. I ambled down to the cinema complex just after lunch, with a small list of films I wouldn't mind seeing, mostly lightweight stuff (with usually-funny lead actors) that seemed good/wacky/silly from the trailers, and all having quite mixed reviews: "Get Smart", "Don't Mess With the Zohan" and "The Love Guru".

None of those films was on at a time that suited me, so I settled for the "X-Files" movie, which is subtitled for the poster Fox Mulder always used to have in his office: "I want to believe".

Now, I wasn't a huge fan of "The X-Files" when it was on TV, but it certainly did grow on me. The first motion picture (with the "Fight the Future" tagline, 1998), which ran in cinemas between two regular seasons of the TV show and managed to squeeze in such huge dramas as a city building being bombed, a giant flying saucer buried under ice, and Mulder almost kissing Scully at last, was also satisfying and cinematic. Ten years ago? Incredible!

Only this morning, it was announced on the radio that "The X-Files: I Want to Believe" had been officially pronounced a disappointment at the US box office, having earned only $4 million on its opening day. Maybe people were worried it was no more than an overblown episode? No matter. I gave it a go and thoroughly enjoyed it. David Duchovny, who's had a fairly prolific career since "The X-Files", and Gillian Anderson, who's had a much lower profile, slipped back into their old characters with professional ease. I particularly enjoyed Amanda Peet as new FBI Assistant Special-Agent-in-Charge, Dakota Whitney, and yes, Mitch Pileggi eventually makes his appearance was Skinner. Surprise casting was Billy Connolly as a convicted pedophile and former priest.

The story is told on a much smaller scale than the first film. I guess, unless lots of fans are missing their old (free-to-air) TV show and are feeling nostalgic for it, many will complain that this movie is more like a double TV episode on the big screen, which they'll have to pay to see.

I was rained on while walking to the cinemas today but, news has it, the "light hail" that fell on Sydney's northside was "almost snow". Sydney doesn't get snow, but this was pretty close to the real stuff, by all reports. It seemed right that today' movie was so... snowbound. By the way, stay for the icy, then watery, after-credits sequence of this new "X-Files" film. It's cute.

If you have a curiosity about this film, and what its characters have been up to since their investigative unit was closed down, then check it out!

Sunday's magic number: 95.4 - back on track again, I hope...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Recent ramblings about Star Trek

Here Down Under, we've recently had a rush of William Shatner print media interviews. I originally thought it was just Sydney, but my mother sent me several clippings from Perth newspapers and magazines, all covering the same information. Almost every newspaper, in several states, has carried a variation of his press release about his new autobiography ("Up Till Now") - and every local journalist covering the story for their paper has added mention of the new JJ Abrams "Star Trek" movie, and how Shatner had been a little disgruntled that Nimoy would be reprising Elder Spock alongside a new cast, but at least Shatner was doing well with his TV career, writing career, and his online selling. None of the articles I read were anti-Trek.

Paramount can't buy this kind of publicity. It percolates along - and they haven't even started their own campaign yet.

TrekBBS posters are perhaps overly concerned about public perceptions of the forthcoming movie. They seem to think that Internet complaining and whining about any changes JJ Abrams has forced upon the accepted "Star Trek canon" (what has gone before in decades of aired live-action Star Trek) may scare away the general cinema-going public.

Not a chance. There'll always be Star Trek fans who complain the loudest, but will still turn up on opening weekend, so they can blog about how much they hated it, or how well they boycotted/lied about it.

The "concern" is nothing new. It is precisely what happened with "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" and "ST IV: The Voyage Home". While both films made huge amounts of money, both films angered some fans. A lot. The character interrelationships were supposedly "missing" from TMP, and many complained that ST IV's comedy and science had been "dumbed down" for the masses. But both films received sufficient buzz to draw in the curious general public.

Ditto "First Contact", which polarized many TOS and "The Next Generation" fans (action Picard, supposed mis-portrayal of Zefram Cochrane, too scary for kids, etc) but was still a critical and box office success.

Many Trek fans seem to feel that the general public always thinks that "Star Trek is for basement-dwelling 'dweebs' with no social skills". Well, it didn't stop the general public associating with nerds to see TMP, ST IV or "First Contact".

You know, in my life, none of my non-ST friends, neighbours, work colleagues, kids I teach, or blog readers, think that I'm a basement-dwelling deeb. If they do, it must always be behind my back, and done so well that I never catch them insulting me. I never hide that I'm a ST fan, and I've fielded many curious questions as people have started hearing that there's "a new movie" on its way. Maybe jocks think I'm a "dweeb", a "nerd" or a "droob", but I can't say that I choose to hang around too many jocks, so we don't really know each other.

That the general public hate nerds but love and respect jocks is a crock. I would think that most cinema-goers would prefer to associate with polite nerds (when sitting in the darkened theatre with a group of strangers) than with those who'd rather be off being... active. (Mind you, whoever said that jocks have to hate Star Trek?)

On another Star Trek track...

The final issue of IDW Publishing's "Star Trek: New Frontier" comic (#5) turned up on Thursday. Some fun stuff, as usual, and a little more Arex action, but online fans are complaining that the ending kinda fizzled. I didn't mind this issue, but the art and pace of #4 was probably the best. Perhaps author Peter David was setting up for the next "New Frontier" text-based stories..., or the next IDW comic mini-series?

While I got plenty of NF bangs for my bucks with "Turnaround". My only main concern was imagining how anyone who had no familiarity with PAD's recent NF books understanding what was going on. While I personally enjoyed seeing Morgan Primus, Arex and M'Ress - and a Mirror Universe incarnation of superbeing Mark McHenry - these characters must have presented new readers with many "WTF" moments, if you'll pardon their expression

I guess for those unsure about ordering future NF comic issues, they could wait to hear some amazingly positive reviews of the next NF mini-series, and then there's always Volume 2 of the inevitable IDW trade reprint...

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Lazy Bloggers' Post Generator

The wacky team over at Aussie Bloggers suggested this great post generator as a celebration of the bbs' six month anniversary:

Crikey! I just climbed out from under my rock and realised I have not updated this since you last visited... You would not believe how tidy my house now is (Ha!). Apologies to my regular readers! Even the little blue ones!

I am distracted with discovering time doesn't stand still, personal projects, just generally being the life of the party to my colleagues, my day is passing in a blur from crawling out of bed at 6.30 to midnight. I am not growing up. I wish you could be here to share it.

I will try to remember I promised you I will make more of an effort to blog more often until the nice men in the white coats come back. Sincerest apologies. This is for my ever faithful, devoted public.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Miss Not-Appearing-In-This-TV-Series

Running the Number 96 Home Page, a website on a cult Australian TV show, means that I get the odd email from:

* young relatives of former "Number 96" actors saying hello, or asking for relevant episode numbers, or where to get footage of said scenes
* saddened friends and agents of recently-departed "Number 96" cast - sometimes having found email correspondence to/from me on their computer
* fans wanting the actual street address of the building used in the credits (ie. 83 Moncur Street, Woollahra, Sydney.)
* fans wanting to know if Arnold Feather lost his leg in the deli bomb blast (No, it was an earlier Mafia parcel bomb.)
* producers and researchers of TV documentaries, requesting specific episode numbers and airdates
* producers and researchers of TV specials, such as the Logie Awards' annual "Vale" reel, requesting specific, high quality stills

and the big one:

* readers of my site wanting proof that some mature woman they recently met/worked with/married/sold a car to really did once work on "Number 96". Semi-nude, of course.

It seems that it's quite trendy these days to claim to have once disrobed for "Number 96". Now, these dubious claimants don't just say they were once some nameless, wordless extra who dropped her bra for a fleeting glimpse of bare breasts in the background of one episode. No, they often claim to have been "the star of the show", or even - as happened this week - playing "Abigail" herself.

Bev and DonwhiteAbigail
They all want to be Abigail these days... except probably Abigail herself.

Now, I hate to burst any deluded former or would-be actress's fantasies - but Abigail was the name of the actress. Bev Houghton was her inimitable character on "Number 96". She with the almost-glimpsed breasts and "the voice which only Alsations can hear", to quote several cheeky former production people from the show.

Funnily enough, the women seem to think that the people they've chosen to boast/lie to, about supposed past credits, have no way of validating their claims...

Tonight, I wrote back to my most recent query email thusly:

"Over the years, many women who claim to have been Australian actresses in the 1970s say that they were in the Aussie soap opera, 'Number 96'. Often, this claim means that they were models or extras who played an unnamed background character, who took off their blouse in a single episode. Even during the 70s, you'd often see newspaper headlines that said things like 'Mirren Lee, the sex siren of Number 96...', but that woman played a minor character, a bikie's moll, in only TWO episodes. Undoubtedly, she took off her top in 1972, exposed her breasts, appeared topless in the Sunday Mirror's Veritas TV supplement - and then vanished."

Until ten years, and then twenty years, later, when some retrospective article brings her out of hiding for an interview. More headlines, more puzzlement.

Now, I hasten to add that the email today wasn't about Ms Mirren Lee. She's merely my example of someone whom various newspapers have continued to pull out of the archives - maybe she just had a diligent agent, and racier 8x10s? Anyway, I continued my email:

"Abigail (whose once-mysterious surname is now known to be 'Rogan') played a major character, Bev Houghton, from Episode #1 of 'Number 96'. When the character got married, she was Bev Goodman. When Abigail was fired from the series, she was replaced by an actress called Vicki Raymond, who now uses the name Victoria Resch. Vicki continued to play Bev Houghton until the character was killed off. Vicki's sister, Candy Raymond, was also in the show - playing the sister of another character! (Vicki had actually tried out to be Helen Sheridan's little sister, Jill, but didn't get the job because the producers said she looked too much like Abigail!)

"Several years later, Abigail returned to 'Number 96' playing a new character, Eve, who was going to be in a spin-off series called 'Fair Game', but they ended up using the pilot footage across several episodes of '96' instead.

"It's quite likely, I suppose, that your new relative (NAME WITHHELD) was in 'Number 96', but it would have been as a VERY minor character. Probably no lines, apart from saying 'Ooops!' when her bra fell off in the wine bar or something! It's also doubtful the show would have called a character 'Abigail' because that name was so closely regarded as one of the show's stars. My web site has a list of all the major actors (and many minor ones) who were in the show, and the characters they played. Your relative doesn't seem to be there under any of the names you suggested."

But that's showbiz.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Big Brother - all washed up?


It should have gone out with a bang, but it was more like a whimper. While I must confess to being a "Big Brother" junkie these last eight years, I found it increasing difficult to stay hooked for this 2008 season. 53-year old grandmother, Terri, was an obvious favourite and ultimate winner tonight, and I was really looking forward to the promised "best of..." scenes of eight years worth of shows. But the old clips of former hostess, Gretel Kileen, and former winners - Ben, Peter, Regina, Trevor, the Logan twins (Greg & David), Jamie and Aleisha - not to mention the infamy of bum-dancing Sara-Marie, merely reinforced how much lustre was lost from the show this year.

Yeah, I know, how much lustre did it ever have?

The prize money was back down to $250,000, no one received cars this year, no overnight program with wacky Mike Goldman filling in airtime while housemates snored, half-hearted and biased hosting efforts by Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O (Gretel never admitted on camera to having favourites!) - and it seemed like much of the regular budget at Network TEN went into flying over fasion guru, Carson Kressley, and then "Baywatch" personality, Pamela Anderson, to oil up the Aussie beefcake (and Travis) for her bizarre calendar shoot - for use in a reality TV show of her own later in the year.

I'm sure it'll be the cliche of the week, but: "It's time to go... Big Brother."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Looking for landmarks

With the new school term looming tomorrow, cold winter nights, a yearning for warm, fatty foods, and publicity for the looming finale of "Big Brother" on TV, everything started to seem very deja vu this weekend.

I was curious to check back through the blog entries to this time last year, to see when I'd started adding my Sunday mystery numbers - eventually revealed as readings of the bathroom scales, in an effort to shame, or encourage, myself with public figures. I knew I'd messed up recently, but it was very reassuring to see that at least I'd lost something since August 5, 2007, when the magic number stood at 99.

This Sunday's magic number: 95.9 - Sometimes there seems to be no rhyme or reason. I've slobbed around the house most of the week, and pigged-out at at a two-day fully-catered conference. Tomorrow is a staff development day - and another, traditional day for overindulging. And yet, I'm one kilogram lighter than last week.

Who sees JJ's Star Trek when?

Who sees JJ's Star Trek when?

The official 2009 release dates for the eleventh Star Trek movie have been revised/announced by Paramount Pictures! And it's great news for us Down Under, and on the best side of the International Date Line. As with the ST XI trailer that was attached to "Cloverfield", earlier this year, Australia is well-placed to see JJ Abrams' "Star Trek" ahead of most of the world!

Abrams' Star Trek movie

United States 08 May 09

Canada 08 May 09

Argentina 07 May 09

Brazil 08 May 09

Chile 07 May 09

Colombia 08 May 09

Mexico 08 May 09

Panama 08 May 09

Peru 07 May 09

Venezuela 08 May 09

Egypt 13 May 09

Israel 07 May 09

Lebanon 07 May 09

South Africa 07 May 09

Australia 07 May 09 (Yay!)

Hong Kong 28 May 09

India 26 May 09

Indonesia 08 May 09

Japan 06 Jun 09

Korea 11 Jun 09

Singapore 08 May 09

Malaysia 08 May 09

New Zealand 07 May 09 (The place to be?)

Philippines 08 May 09

Taiwan 25 Jul 09

Thailand 07 May 09

Austria 08 May 09

Belgium 06 May 09 (lucky Belgium, eh?)

Croatia 07 May 09

Cyprus 08 May 09

Czech/Slovakia 07 May 09

Denmark 08 May 09

Finland 08 May 09

France 06 May 09 (ditto France!)

Germany 07 May 09

Greece 07 May 09

Hungary 08 May 09

Iceland 08 May 09

Italy 08 May 09

Netherlands 07 May 09

Norway 08 May 09

Poland 29 May 09

Portugal 07 May 09

Romania 08 May 09

Russia 07 May 09

Serbia & Montenegro 07 May 09

Slovenia 07 May 09

Spain 08 May 09

Sweden 08 May 09

Switzerland - F 06 May 09

Switzerland - G 07 May 09

Turkey 08 May 09

Ukraine 07 May 09

United Kingdom 08 May 09.

The latest posters!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Easter eggs for Midwinter Christmas?

Gosh, look at that date creeping up. The night air is chill in Sydney at the moment and it reminds me that i usually have my plans for Midwinter Christmas well underway - but this year I haven't secured a suitable date, or even an invitation list. It looks like the celebration may well pass me by this year. Sigh...

Over on TrekBBS, I've been discussing two aspects of Star Trek novels that many people find very frustrating.

Firstly, one debate that rages, on and off, is the perception that licensed TV tie-in novels are somehow inferior because they must take their lead from the parent/source material (ie. live-action Star Trek episodes and movies, as aired), and that new readers are discouraged from reading them. Or, there is the almost-opposing perception that inter-continuity between ST novels is so tight that the supposed result is the same: ie. that new readers are discouraged from reading them.

Now, I must add that I'm very happy with the status quo because the modern ST novels, as a whole, seem to be at a peak of quality at the moment: solid storytelling in very generous chunks, and plenty of variety. my main beef is that I've fallen so far behind, mainly because I spend so much time here (ie. online). Of course, there are others who strongly disgree, and claim that the heyday of the ST tie-in is long gone.

One poster complained about "Easter eggs", those wonderful little in-jokes and bits of trivia that ST writers will seed through their work, either to provide avid fans (and themselves) with amusement, or to provide some inter-continuity between the novels, short stories and comics in unobtrusive ways. I mean, if an Easter egg is so obscure that you don't recognise it, why even worry if it might be there?

Surely, it's all a matter of personal taste? For every reference that has ever annoyed one fan, or passed unnoticed by their geek radar, another fan has acclaimed, "Hey cool!" And vice versa. Some references I might not have cared for might have been significant for them. For example, I never care if an author says Warp 5 for a three-day trip when it should be Warp 7, but some fans actually do these calculations. Ditto stardate inconsistencies. Different strokes... etc.

I'm happy to know that the Easter egg references (if I actually notice them) were significant enough for the author that they were included. For example, I can always tell which ST novelists are fans of Filmation's animated ST series (TAS), since they are usually the only ones to reference TAS events and people in the novels. An author calling a shuttlecraft the Fontana is probably a fan of DC Fontana's work on the ST TV series. "Vanguard" novel titles are named after "Rush" songs - whoever "Rush" might be? - and so on. One doesn't have to buy "Rush" CDs to enjoy the "Vanguard" novels, and one doesn't have to watch or know TAS, or read Peter David's "Star Trek: New Frontier", if a new ST novel or comic contains an obscure (to some) TAS or NF reference.

I challenged one poster to give examples of where references to other ST books have been "too gratuitous and/or uncool", and his response was to say that he was cancelling plans to buy any of the recently-announced TOS tie-in novels in 2009 and 2010. Gosh, my apologies to the ST novel writers! Looks like I managed to scare away one of their customers by disputing his disdain of Easter eggs in ST novels? (Guess I'll have to buy two of everything due in 2009 and 2010 now... Maybe there's still time? Eradicate all Easter eggs now!)

Failure: DVD rewinder

A different poster complained about which ST novels were targeted for reprint in trade-sized omnibuses. Of course, reprints are not made in an effort to gamble that the reprint will create a possible resurgence of interest. They are a response to the laws of supply and demand. Not enough demand, no supply.

There are many, many out-of-print ST novels out there. The ones that do get re-presented in some form are reprinted because their original sales figures were excellent and it is hoped they'll perform well again - to a new audience who might have missed them the first time. (ie. The four first "Rhiannsu" books, reprinted just in time for one, new, oft-delayed conclusion, "The Empty Chair".)

I suggested that a quick browse in a large second hand bookshop would uncover the mass market paperbacks he was looking for. I find it really hard to believe that London, UK, has less second hand bookstores than Sydney. (While our second hand stores have slowly vanished over recent decades, especially from the CBD, I still know about four with huge ST sections.)

A lot of second hand sellers have gone exclusively online these days. Sure, some ST novels are perceived as "rare" ("Mission: Gamma #1" before the recent trade paperback omnibus reprint) and command high prices, but I'm sure most ST titles would be quite reasonable online. Often, the postage is higher than the cost of the book. And online searching is so efficient!

It's called the "thrill of the hunt". I guess it's not for everyone? I did it - the hard way - for my first four or five years of collecting in the early 80s (every Thursday night and Saturday morning, for many months at a time, until all the shops knew me by name or at least reputation, and they'd often "save" things for me!) - and, you know, I still pick up the odd gap in my collection, but now using Steve Roby's Complete ST Library listings and the online searching facilities of Amazon.

These days many second hand stores have their entire collection on a database and, even if browsing in the bricks 'n' mortar stores, the managers can often tell you, as you walk in, whether the book is somewhere inside! As for early Pocket ST novels, many of these were on the bestseller lists, were kept "in print" for ages, and are in larger quantities than one might imagine. Every ST novel turns up somewhere, sometime! It's the thrill of the hunt to find the right title, in the right condition, and at the right price.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Full moon, dark knight

I just walked home under a glorious full moon, having just seen "The Dark Knight" at the local cinema complex.

Heath Ledger was... magnificent! (And so was the moon.)

I'm sure it's trendy to say that Heath did well in the part, but I reckon he was captivating. Understated, dangerous, chilling.

The movie itself was quite complex; the plot just keeps going and going. Some very strong performances all round, but how sad that Heath isn't around to collect his accolades.

Heath Ledger as the Joker

Advance beam-up

"Star Trek XI"














Entertainment Weekly magazine and have four beautiful advance posters of main characters Nero (Eric Bana), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Kirk (Chris Pine) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) of JJ Abrams' "Star Trek":

JJ Abrams' Star Trek (2009)

Captain's Log: Supplemental. Click here for the latest 2009 release dates of the movie.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Party Poper

It's here: World Youth Day 2008 celebrations, in the middle of my home town.

I'm on school holidays, it's Thursday night, and this afternoon should have been my weekly trek into the CBD to collect my latest piles of comics and books. I already have my email confirming this week's comics deliveries to Kings Comics, and there's probably a new Star Trek novel collection to collect from Galaxy Bookshop.

How many avid Star Trek fans can say that the Pope - yes Pope Benedict XVI of Rome - prevented them from picking up their reserved copy of the new TokyoPop "Star Trek" Manga (Volume 3 - "Aratanaru Michi He") today? Aaaaarrrrgghhhh! I understand it even has a comic based on "Bandi", the cute-pet-on-the-Enterprise script which David Gerrold wrote before he finally cracked success with "The Trouble With Tribbles" (TOS).

Sydneysiders were being asked to avoid the CBD today - unless we were planning to go in (on public transport only) and cheer for "Benny" in his "boatercade" and help to celebrate World Youth Day with the world's young Catholic pilgrims.

I wanted Bandi and got... Benny.

Oh well, have a happy and holy World Youth Week everyone! (And thanks to Christopher L Bennett for the punny title.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More learning, growing and achieving

Unlike the last conference I was asked to speak at, I went into today's events without that heavy weight of responsibility and impending disaster. I mean, if I could fill an hour on my own last time, how much easier would it be this time? We knew our material back-to-front, if necessary. The most difficult aspect would surely be, what bits do I leave out?

My co-presenter, Cath Keane, had prepared eleven of our PowerPoint pages, I'd added my own hyperlinks to the twelfth and last slide, and we only had 50 minutes or so to fill anyway. We also had plenty of time before our session, "Young rappers", to play on the interactive whiteboard (IWB), test our hyperlinks and cache all our web pages that we were planning to visit. We also knew in advance that we had about twenty people signed up to hear our talk. Everything worked in the rehearsal and off we went to the first keynote event of Day 2 of this Early Years Conference.

Clinical psychologist, Lyn Worsley, presented her fascinating session on "The resilience doughnut: the secret of strong kids" and, while she probably didn't say anything terribly new, especially to a ballroom filled with teachers who already had solid backgrounds in early childhood education, the strength of her approach was the clear answer of "where to know?" that one could glean after having used her clever, simple analytical tool for gauging the resilience of a particular student. Wonderful!

Before we knew it, Cath and I were deep into our presentation on book raps, blogs, wikis and Circle Time. Our only hitch was that our computer connection, which had worked so perfectly in rehearsal, had been lost for the presentation. A tech person came in and got us back online most efficiently, but our live connection to the Wilfrid rap blog (on Edublogs) was no longer working. Luckily, our PowerPoint had lots of frame grabs from the site, and the links to the Departmental website and my school's wiki pages were still viable, so we carried on regardless. We finished off with a reading of my Kinder students' "Zebra with spots" fable of 2007, and a walk-through of selected pages from my school's wiki pages. I hope our presentation has encouraged more schools to start dabbling in wikis and blogs.

It all seemed to go very well, but a highlight for me was that two attendees hung back at the end to (re)introduce themselves. It was none other than Warren and Kathy, two of my colleagues from my teachers college days! They'd noticed each other in the audience of my workshop session - I'm not sure at what point they realised that I was also from the same year - but morning tea turned out to be a mini-reunion of the Class of '79 of the Guild Teachers College. We swapped anecdotes about the good ol' days and pocket histories of our lives. It was the first time we'd seen each other since Graduation Day in 1980 - very exciting, and great to know that they are doing so well in their own teaching careers. (I can see a bigger reunion coming up in the next few months! I hope.)

Next up was Peter Gould, Manager, Mathematics at NSW DET - and one of the people I worked with on numerous occasions back in my Scan editor days. Peter's keynote was "From ABC to 123: what counts in early numeracy" and - despite some frustrating glitches with the movie clip elements of his presentation - it was an invaluable reminder of the essential differences in the ways young children learn to be numerate as opposed to literate.

After lunch, I attended two more workshops, both of which (again) ably demonstrated the amazing array of teaching and learning strategies that interactive whiteboards are bringing to classrooms in the 21st century. I guess that's the main thing I'm taking from this conference: that most of today's students are already citizens of the digital world of Web 2.0. The sooner their teachers and parents play catch-up the better. Every presentation I went to was using IWBs as part of their presentation - even my presentation, and today was the first time I'd actually been able to use one! Knowing that a little knowledge is dangerous, I can't wait to get my hands on an IWB as part of my school library's facilities and let my imagination run wild. Or wilder.

This conference left its delegates with so much food for thought (and delicious food for the body - the Novotel, Brighton-le-Lands always does well in that regard), great ideas we can start using on Monday (first day back of Term Three), and some wonderful memories of networking with colleagues, old and new. Synthesising all the learning into our daily lives will take time, but I'm glad I gave up two days of my vacation to absorb it all. I'm also grateful for the very handsome, gold-embossed "Presenter" pens, which Cath and I received for doing our workshop.

Roll on Term Three...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Learning, growing, achieving in the early years, Day 1

Tomorrow I'm speaking at Day 2 of the 2008 Early Years Conference: Learning, Growing, Achieving, presented by NSW DET. Day 1 was held today, but my talk session - co-presented with current Scan editor, Cath Keane, isn't until tomorrow.

Cath has put together a PowerPoint presentation about our recent ventures into the world of Web 2.0 - online book raps for Stage 1, and related blogs and wikis, and I'll also be talking about my school wiki pages, using some of the material I prepared (on fable writing for Early Stage 1) for the School libraries leading learning conference I did earlier this year. My conference notes are still online, revamped a little to incorporate some recent reflections. Since that last conference, I've also worked on some other relevent projects: a wiki page for the Arthur Simultaneous Reading event and some great Nursery Rhyme matrices, which I used in Term One this year with Early Stage 1 and Stage 1 classes.

Today there were some excellent and thought-provoking keynote speeches from Professor Scott Paris, of University of Michigan, ("Teaching and assessing comprehension right from the start") and Tracey Simpson ("Honest talk, shared language: connectedness for success in the early years"). Both keynotes emphasised the importance of teachers making full use of evidence-based practice, both reading the results of others' research, and using one's own to inform future teaching. I enjoyed these sessions, took lots of notes - which I promise to synthesis and report back about.

As I await my school's first interactive whiteboard (IWB), it was interesting to note that many (most?) workshop presenters are now using them as standard equipment. I attended excellent and flashy sessions on "Student learning in a digital age" and "COGs: raising the bar in the early years". In the main room, there was also a "Regional showcase" of the Best Start assessment tools project from the Sydney Region.

In summing up the regional showcase, Rob Randall reminded us of an excellent earlier quote and many people jotted this down as one of their last comments on their notepads. The new emphasis for the schools involved in Best Start has become "... shorter teaching episodes with fluid groups of students".

Not an entirely new thought for those of us with plenty of experience in PSP (Priority Schools Program) schools, but no doubt quite a new concept for others.

Tomorrow - Day 2! Wish me luck!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Cover story: Number 96!

Here it is: the draft box art for the upcoming release of the new "Number 96" set of DVDs...

Pantyhose Strangler DVD boxed set
The Pantyhose Strangler

Umbrella Entertainment has released details for the September release:

Price: $49.99
Directors: Peter Benardos & Brian Phillis
Format: PAL
Language: English
Region: All
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Number of Discs: 4 (Total of 32 episodes)
Rating: M
DVD Release Date: 30/08/2008
Run Time: 800 MIN
Genre: Drama

Special features:
* ANGELA BISHOP REPORTING (Network Ten News - 10/07/06 launch of previous DVD set)
* AUDIO COMMENTARY ON EPISODE #680 with Andrew Mercado and Chantal Contouri (Nurse Tracey Wilson)
* STILLS GALLERY (including items from the collection of yours truly!)

NUMBER 96 was one of Australia’s most controversial and highest-rated TV shows ever. Now for the first time in years, see complete episodes of NUMBER 96 and discover why it is one of our most-loved and influential drama series.

When Les and Norma Whittaker discover their wine bar waitress, Lorelei Wilkinson, dead on their lounge, it’s just the beginning of a killing spree from the apartment block’s most notorious visitor ever, The Pantyhose Strangler. With everyone a potential victim or suspect, the residents try to move on with their lives even as the victims continue to pile up around them.

Vera Collins has worrying psychic visions about the killer and is poisoned. Lovers Don Finlayson and Dudley Butterfield are forced to play it straight for Carol’s homophobic boyfriend. Herb Evans is horrified when his wife, Dorrie, and Flo Patterson compete against each other in a Senior Citizen’s Club election. Reg MacDonald has a secret admirer in Alderman Mrs Bullock. Norma’s snobbish mother comes to stay. Lucy Sutcliffe is upset by shock news from New Zealand. And Marilyn MacDonald comes face to face with the Pantyhose Strangler while working late in the launderette.

“Oh my God – it’s you!” Marilyn screams. The Friday night cliffhanger from 1975 had the entire country on the edge of their seats as they waited all weekend to find out who the killer was. Now you can find out in one wild marathon screening of NUMBER 96!

If you want to really spoil yourself with a more detailed episode guide, go here and scroll down to Episode #649 (originally aired 4/11/1974). The DVD set finishes with an all-new commentary for Episode #680 (original airdate 27/01/1975).

Number 96 DVD vol 2: The Pantyhose Strangler
Final cover art: The Pantyhose Strangler

Access: blog post inspires blog post!

My post of yesterday, about my colour blindness, was inspired by Snoskred's great post on Aussie Bloggers about people telling the truth, and what good blogs should include (and avoid). In turn, my blog post has inspired Craig Thomler's latest post on eGov au.

Craig asks, "Do government communications discriminate against - or for - the visually impaired?" He continues, "Despite the requirement for government in Australia to ensure our websites are accessible, I worry both that we do not do enough, and that we do too much, in this area."

I added a comment to my post, clarifying that my Curriculum Directorate colleague (at Ryde State Office of the NSW Department of Education & Training), mentioned in the post, did spread the word about my "condition" - with my permission, of course - and I became an unofficial colour evaluation guinea pig for several Units' webpage revamps for the Departmental website while I was there.

Mind you, while I was able to help them with specifications to aid my red/green colour blindness, there are other types. Where does all the beta testing end? ;) I know we tried to address numerous aspects of accessibility for the "Scan" and School Libraries web pages while I was there, and our tweaking of the book rap blogs and wikis have been ongoing. But it seems there's always so much more you can do to make a site more accessible and equitable.

That web composers are open to suggestions (and complaints) from people trying to use their site, is of paramount importance. For example, as pretty as Flash animations may be, to use only such a visual on the front page of a site can mean that people using old browsers or computers can't even progress to the page with contact details to lodge a complaint! (I've been there before!)

Thanks for the link to my blog post, Craig!

All about Olive

Yesterday, Australia and the world lost their oldest female blogger: 108 year old Olive Riley.

That's what I call a good example of an "early adopter" of ICT (information communication technologies)!

RIP Olive! Your stories shall live on.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Confessions of a colourblind man

Now, I make this admission as the person who, as a kid in the 60s, had a huge argument with his parents and siblings about the eventual introduction of colour TV to Australia (it didn't arrive here until 1975). But I was able to see green on black and white cartoons all through my childhood!

The day I realised that specific tone of "green" was actually grey, was... an eye-opener. I still have very distinct memories of watching Fred Flintstone mowing his luxurious green lawn around his cave house (with an inverted prehistoric stork-looking bird as a mower, of course). But it was all an illusion.

The Flintstones
The Flintstones - in glorious black, white and green

It certainly explained why, when colouring in, I often had to study the differences between my blue and purple pencils, my brown and black pencils, and - shudder - my green and orange pencils. (Luckily I didn't have access to grey pencils - not until I advanced to those bigger tinned sets of Lakeland Coloured Pencils in primary school.) I could spend several minutes intently comparing sky blue against violet - and end up colouring the entire sky in my picture... mauve. That happened many times. (Teachers thought I was very "creative".)

Then there was the day in 1970, when I was taken to get my eyes checked, and my first pair of glasses. That I needed glasses to improve my long sight was obvious, but the ophthalmic surgeon, and my mother, were puzzled when he asked me to tell him when a certain light changed from green to red - and I said nothing for the longest time. I was only seeing an orange light, you see, so I couldn't even work out where I was supposed to be looking. Ooops.

They didn't bother doing actual colour blindness tests on me because, as the doctor said, there is no "cure", so what was the point? With a smirk, he also said, to my mum and me, and that if only I'd been at his office a few weeks earlier. He had been given a coloured poster of a woman in a bikini. Apparently colour blind people couldn't see the bikini! (Try having that discussion in front of an eleven year old boy today and getting away with it.)

I lost my job as a golf caddy when my Dad and his golfing buddies switched to those fluoro orange golf balls in the 70s.

"Where's my ball, caddy?" my Dad's mate would say.

"I dunno", I'd scratch my head, even if the ball was at my feet!

"Help him," my Dad would tell my brother, who still claims he's not colour blind (if I recall correctly).

"I can't see it either!" my brother would say.

Yes, colour blindness often runs in the family.

Orange golf ball
Mmmm, what colour is this tee, I wonder?

My next memorably embarrassing moment was my first term at teachers college in 1977. The science lab had a rectangular poster with coloured spots which spelled out the word 'onion'. I puzzled over this sign for the whole term and, eventually, curiosity got the better of me and I asked the lecturer (in front of the class) why a poster which said 'onion' needed to be on the wall of a science lab.

"Because if you weren't colour blind," said Barry, "it would read 'color'."

I looked back at the poster, and suddenly it read 'color'. D'oh!

Please don't tell me this spot pattern says something rude...

Just when I thought I had a handle on things, my class of Year 3 students were in hysterics one day. We'd made these wonderful cut and paste patterns using two contrasting colours of Brennex paper squares (ie. school Origami paper, in many, many solid hues). I was up on a ladder pinning up their efforts, then climbed down so we could critique everyone's work from a distance. I ending up accusing some poor kid of handing me a plain sheet of paper to pin up. Her design was lime green on orange, or was it orange on lime green? Sadly, its magnificent effect was totally lost on me.

Even the green/grey problem came back to haunt me in adult life. When I was working at the State Office of the NSW DET, seconded as editor of "Scan", I had my new computer monitor set on what I assumed was the neutral grey background. It stayed that colour for many months, even after my cute "houndstooth of hounds pattern" screensaver overlay disappeared in an upgrade of our server. A colleague from another building was passing through the office and asked me if green was my favourite colour.

"Huh?" I wondered, checking my clothes and various belongings. But she was pointing to the screen I'd lived with all that time - and suddenly I could perceive it as a vivid grass green - rather the same colour as Fred Flintstone's lawn, actually!

Every now and then, colour blindness becomes a real issue when web surfing. I've had to force myself to identify many reds and greens that give me trouble, but I hate it when some web designer or blogger decides on a wonderful combination of, say lime green and funky orange, which, of course, are totally opposite on the colour wheel and should be contrasting colours, but are identical in wave length to my eyes/brain. If someone puts red-hued writing on a green background, or vice versa, I probably won't even notice the writing is there.

I have been known to have trouble with combinations such as black/brown, blue/purple and yellow/tan. To others these are combinations which are of high contrast. Similarly, some sites will have an override on their underlined hyperlinks and visited links, or they'll use colours instead of underlines, and the site becomes absolutely useless to me. Some WordPress templates/themes are terrible in this way.

Do I tell people the truth about their tricky colour combinations? Definitely, if I think it's an easily fixable problem - or if I plan to return to the site often for content reasons.

Please, have pity on the colour blind. We know not what we see.

Sunday's not so magic number: 96.9 - I'm depressed. Maybe I'll record this number in orange, on green paper? You can tell that winter's here and the early evenings are getting very nippy for dog-walking. Too many bikkies, not enough walking.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Missing Shore Leave

This weekend, the annual US "Star Trek" and SF media convention, "Shore Leave" - with its traditionally strong emphasis on the printed word - is taking place, and I'm feeling rather depressed that I'm not there. Last year, it fell towards the end of the school holidays. If I had have done some serious forward planning, I could have organised long service leave and gone - either then, or this year! Especially since this year it's fallen in the middle of my two-week vacation. I coulda been there!!!

Ah well, it's been fun sitting online at TrekBBS all day catching up on what's happening. Sigh...

My other reason for disappointment is that it's recently been announced that the big "Star Trek Experience" attraction, at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel, is closing at the end of August. Drat, drat, drat. (I was so sure it would be renewed at least until they saw how well the new Star Trek movie worked - next May.)

It's been there for ten years, and I've never been able to get there... and I just can't contemplate racing around obtaining a new passport, getting a visa, applying for long-service leave, helping to find a trained teacher-librarian replacement who's able to do all of the days I'd be away, clamouring for decently-priced airfares and hotels, leaving plenty of work for my replacement to use, explaining the Premier's Reading Challenge to them (and demonstrating what needs to be done to enter all the students' details before September), and ensuring I was back in time for Book Week at school. Whew. I'm exhausted just contemplating it all. Double sigh...

Anyway, here's the current "Upcoming Star Trek Books" schedule, with some new stuff announced for the first time at the Pocket Books presentation at Shore Leave this weekend, presented by editors Marco Palmieri and Margaret Clark. (The list was originally posted by Keith R A DeCandido on TrekBBS, and he reminds us, "Please keep in mind that the schedule is tentative and subject to change, particularly as you get farther away from the present.")

I've added annotations from various other sources.

Key: hc = hardcover, ho = hardcover omnibus, tp = trade paperback, to = trade paperback omnibus, mm = mass-market paperback, mr = mass-market reprint, tba = to be announced

July 2008
"DS9: Fearful Symmetry" by Olivia Woods (mm)
(Already out!)

"Myriad Universes: Infinity's Prism" by William Leisner, Christopher L Bennett, and James Swallow (tp)
(Three alternate universe stories)

August 2008
"TNG: Greater than the Sum" by Christopher L Bennett (mm)
(Continuing the TNG Relaunch)

"Myriad Universes: Echoes and Refractions" by Geoff Trowbridge, Keith R A DeCandido, and Chris Roberson (tp)
(Three more alternate universe stories)

Myriad Universes 2
Cover art by John Picacio

September 2008
"ENT: Kobayashi Maru" by Michael A Martin & Andy Mangels (mm)
(Continuing the "Enterprise" Relaunch)

"Star Trek 101" by Terry J Erdmann & Paula M Block (tp)
(Fact book)

"Star Trek" Calendar for 2009

"Ships of the Line" Calendar for 2009

October 2008
"Destiny, Book 1: Gods of Night" by David Mack (mm)
(Starting the crossover trilogy)

"Corps of Engineers: Wounds" by Ilsa J Bick, Keith R A DeCandido, John J Ordover, Terri Osborne, and Cory Rushton (to)
(Reprint omnibus of the eBooks)

November 2008
"Destiny, Book 2: Mere Mortals" by David Mack (mm)

"Academy: Collision Course" by William Shatner, with Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens (mr)

Collision Course
Cover art by James Wang

December 2008
"Destiny, Book 3: Lost Souls" by David Mack (mm)

January 2009
"TOS: Errand of Fury: Sacrifices of War" by Kevin Ryan (mm)
(Completing the second of Ryan's TOS trilogies)

"Mirror Universe: Shards and Shadows", ed. by Margaret Clark & Marco Palmieri (tp)
Short stories by Christopher L Bennett, Margaret Wander Bonanno, Peter David, Keith R A DeCandido, Michael Jan Friedman, Jim Johnson, Rudy Josephs, David Mack, Dave Stern, James Swallow, Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore, Susan Wright
(Third volume of series)

Shards and Shadows
Cover art by Tom Hallman

February 2009
"A Singular Destiny" by Keith R A DeCandido (mm)
(A "Destiny" trilogy follow-up)

March 2009
"Titan: Over a Torrent Sea" by Christopher L Bennett (mm)
(A "Destiny" follow-up)

"TOS: Mere Anarchy" by Mike W Barr, Christopher L Bennett, Margaret Wander Bonanno, Dave Galanter, Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore, and Howard Weinstein (to)
(Reprint omnibus of the original eBook mini-series)

April 2009
"VOY: Full Circle" by Kirsten Beyer (mm)
(Continuing the "Voyager" Relaunch - at last)

"New Frontier: Treason" by Peter David (tp)
(Usually a hardcover, this one's a trade pb instead; presumably takes up where the IDW comic mini-series left off)

May 2009
"Vanguard: Open Secrets" by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore (mm)

"TOS: Crucible" by David R George III (ho)
(Hardcover reprint omnibus of the mass market paperback trilogy, with newly added story material!)

Crucible: triptych cover
Cover art (from MMPBs) by John Picacio

* Speculation: Presumably, this month with also see the publication of the novelisation of JJ Abrams' "Star Trek" movie! *

June 2009
"TOS: Troublesome Minds" by Dave Galanter (mm)
(Set during the five-year mission)

July 2009
"TNG: Losing the Peace" by William Leisner (mm)
(Continuing TNG Relaunch; a "Destiny" follow-up)

August 2009
"DS9: The Soul Key" by Olivia Woods (mm)
(Continuing DS9 Relaunch)

"Seven Deadly Sins", ed. by Marco Palmieri (tp)
(Seven stories, featuring: "Pride: the Romulans" by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore, "Envy: the Cardassians" by James Swallow, "Wrath: the Klingons" by Keith R A DeCandido, "Sloth: the Pakleds" by Jimmy Diggs, "Greed: the Ferengi" by David A McIntee, "Gluttony: the Borg" by Marc Giller, "Lust: the Mirror Universe" by Britta Dennison)

September 2009
"DS9: The Never-Ending Sacrifice" by Una McCormack (mm)
(Focus on Cardassians)

October 2009
"VOY: (title TBA)" by Kirsten Beyer (mm)

"ENT: The Romulan War" by Michael A Martin (tp)

November 2009
"Titan: (title TBA)" by James Swallow (mm)

"Myriad Universes" (title and authors TBA) (tp)
(Third volume of stories)

December 2009
"Vanguard: (title TBA)" by David Mack (mm)

"Corps of Engineers: Out of the Cocoon" by Robert T Jeschonek, Kevin Killiany, William Leisner, and Phaedra M Weldon (to)
(Another omnibus eBook reprints; this one has newly added material - an updated "minipedia"!)

The following titles don't have publication months yet, but are intended for 2010:

"TOS: The Millennium Bloom" by Mike W Barr (mm)
(An early Captain April story!)

"TOS: The Unspoken Truth" by Margaret Wander Bonanno (mm)
(A post-ST IV Saavik story!)

Over at TrekWeb, you'll find some great new cover artwork.

Looks like a busy couple of years, Trek-wise. I'm still halfway through a holiday and I feel like I need... a holiday. If only transporter technology already existed...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Creators' commentary! - "Starship Exeter"

What a cool surprise! Today I accidentally stumbled across a five-part presentation of the Star Trek fan film, "Starship Exeter: The Savage Empire", that included a creators' commentary track! Producers Jimm and Josh Johnson recorded this commentary in December 2005, exactly ten years after the film was conceived. The fan film itself burst onto the Internet - at - in December 2002. I knew the commentary existed but I had no idea it was available through Youtube.

Now, if you're only interested in seeing my scene (as Senator Therin of the Andorian Planetary Council), you'll need to scroll down to Part 5. Otherwise, enjoy the full commentary using these Youtube links.


Part One of Five - with creators' commentary!

Part Two of Five

Part Three of Five

Part Four of Five

Part Five of Five,
featuring my cameo scene, which was videotaped
here in Sydney and airmailed to Jimm in the US
to be edited into the footage as a special effect.

And here's the whole thing without commentary...

The Great Star Trek Viewing Order Debate

Because this a clear example of an FAQ (Frequently Asked Question), I'm putting this example of Star Trek geekiness where I can find it easily for next time.

Someone over on TrekBBS just asked about the differences between airdate order, production order and stardate order when watching Star Trek DVDs...

For a long time, people didn't readily know the "production order" of TOS (The Original Series). The "Star Trek Concordance" by Bjo Trimble (and all other lists of the day) presented summaries of the the episodes of TOS and TAS as they had originally aired in Los Angeles, USA, and then tried an experiment by adding a second list: putting the stardates into order (which really only proved conclusively that stardates, particularly in TAS, were quite random, and prone to typographical errors).

Gene Roddenberry had gone to great pains to say that stardates were really just random numbers, at a whim of time and space irregularities, and only had to be progressing sensibly within an episode, but weirdly, they do often seem to have a weird connection to each other. And fans love weirdness.

TOS was usually made to be viewable in random order and, when the series went to US syndication in the 70s, US TV stations either stuck with original airdate order or total randomness. Then along came "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" - and Alan Asherman's "Star Trek Compendium". He had researched the production numbers and dates and, for the first time, many ST fans could see the order in which the episodes had been made. The TV order they'd all been used to had only came about due to such random factors as late SPFX on some episodes and/or network exec demands ("Give 'em a monster ep first up", ie. "The Man Trap".) When a few fans (and TV stations) started using this "new" order to screen episodes, it was noticed how a few continuity threads suddenly matched up. Uhura's gold uniform episodes suddenly ended up together, for example. "Where No Man Has Gone Before", the show's second pilot was not suddenly a confusing "flashback" episode, but more like an Episode 1.

With Filmation's animated "Star Trek" series (known as TAS), the airdate order in Los Angeles - and Bjo's Concordance - was different to the rest of the country. George Takei was running for local political office when TAS premiered, so a Takei-less episode of TAS had to be run on a certain week in LA, otherwise his opponents could have demanded "equal time" (22 minutes) from the station running it.

By the time of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (and beyond), if an episode was running late due to tricky SPFX, or if episodes were shot out of order (ie. Denise Crosby making another episode after her on-screen death; or "Unification Part II" being made first to fit in with Nimoy's availability), the producers were able to tweak things to keep the screening order okay, continuity-wise. There are a few glitches they glossed over: originally, the realism of the holodeck scenario in "The Big Goodbye" was originally possible only because it had been upgraded by the Bynars in "11001001", but they realised they'd have to screen those episodes out of intended order, IIRC.

Anyway, if you want to recapture the viewing experience of the very first TOS fans, watch your TOS DVDs as presented, with "The Man Trap" first. Hop around your discs if you want production order instead. (The first DVD twinpacks, originally released in the US, had production order, and many TOS diehards - including the people preparing the DVD sets - thought that was a travesty!)

For the rest of Trek, just relax and let the DVD boxed sets screen you the eps as presented.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Four years of free hugs!

Free Hugs

Today, racing through Pitt Street Mall in the Sydney CBD, to meet up with my friend, Wendy, for lunch, I happened to notice the familiar sign of the "FREE HUGS" guys. It was the first time I'd noticed the sign in about a year - I'd assumed they don't stay as late these days. I also noted that the Asian man holding the sign wasn't the regular "FREE HUGS" guy - perhaps the original guy was overseas again? - but I didn't think too much of it as my watch was closing in on 1.00pm and so I quickened my pace.

As you know, I'm in the city every Thursday, usually early evening, doing the rounds of my favourite book, comic, collectibles, CD and DVD shops, a ritual I've done almost every Thursday night since 1977, when I was at the Guild Teachers College, Ultimo. After classes at college I'd often walk all the way up to the CBD from the old Grace Bros. building at Broadway, usually all the way to Circular Quay, dropping into all my special and secret haunts along the way. (So many of the old second hand bookshops have gone, of course...)

Four years ago, at about 6pm, I noticed a neatly-dressed guy in Pitt Street Mall, holding a large sign advertising "FREE HUGS". He wasn't busking - there was no hat or bowl on the ground for people to toss money into - he was just giving out free hugs.

It was a puzzling scene and I recall watching him for quite a few minutes - he was catching quite a few hugs - and I was probably thinking, "If the idea is to frisk (and mug) people while hugging them, he's pretty blatant about it." I remember both of my hands were barely holding several bags of packages and, knowing me, I probably had more purchases stuffed in my backpack, so I decided to just toss him a smile as I passed, and declined any attempt to give or receive a hug.

Now, it's not as if it's the weirdest thing I've seen in the mall. There are always unusual buskers to be found there - singers, musicians, jugglers, silver robots, living statues - and even a young guy who used to dress up as a very realistic nodding donkey. One cold winter's night in 2003, there were even numerous almost-naked young men, handcuffed to poles as faux Buck's Night grooms, to advertise the premiere night of "American Pie: The Wedding"!

Eventually, the "FREE HUGS" guy and his pals had become a Sydney institution: someone to swap a smile with every so often, but I never did collect my free hug. A few years ago, a great Youtube music clip appeared online of the original guy - he calls himself Juan Mann. (Get it?)

The Youtube clip that stepped up Juan's notoriety

From that publicity, Juan managed to attract the attention of "GMA" (not "Good Morning Australia", but "Good Morning America"!), and then... Oprah Winfrey! (Not to mention the Sydney City Council, who tried to close down his "operation" because he didn't fit the standard profile of a busker.) I remember seeing the Oprah clips, and the petition fuss, on the nightly news, and being impressed that his little gesture of humanity had paid off in such an abundance of good will and positivity, but I still didn't give it much thought. According to Google, I missed his appearance on Andrew Denton's "Enough Rope".

The Free Hugs Campaign on TEN News, featuring Juan Mann and band, Sick Puppies

Well, after lunch, Wendy and I were hurrying back to her office. The Asian man was still soliciting "FREE HUGS" a few metres away, but suddenly Wendy was greeting a friend and chatting away as if completing a conversation from a previous day. The distinctive velvet jacket and ponytail on her friend should have clued me in. We were talking with the Juan Mann!

Well, I finally got my hug today! And it was cool that Juan seemed just like an old friend - he's already become such a familiar part of my Thursdays. Wendy was saying that Juan told her a few days ago that he was celebrating the fourth anniversary of his "FREE HUGS" campaign. I'm in awe. And tonight, trawling through all the Internet gossip about the campaign, I feel great!

Onya Juan!

Shimon Moore and Sick Puppies, who created the Free Hugs Campaign video

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Squared-eyed memories

Today I had a chance to catch up some fun cartoons of my childhood: episodes of "The Herculoids", "The Impossibles" (of "Frankenstein Jr and the Impossibles") and... "Prince Planet". Although many of my US penpals say they've heard of "Prince Planet", most never saw it in their area. Black and white cartoons were pretty old hat in the US at the time. And yet, here in Australia, it was as well-known as the original "Astroboy". I even made my own (double-sided) "P" medallion - the reverse side was all P'ed out, for when Prince Planet needed to refuel.

Prince Planet
Prince Planet, aka Bobby Prince, in glorious black and white.

Hmmmm, there's a superhero theme common to all of those, I only just realised.

As I mentioned here recently, the first TV show I remember vividly was the Magic Circle Club in 1965. I was in Year 1 at school, and my brother was in Kindergarten. The show, a precursor to "Adventure Island", was like a live musical pantomime and it played five nights a week - but very often, instead of seeing the Friday resolution episode, we had to go shopping after school with my Mum and grandmother!

Monday recess was for catching up with what had happened on the Friday, much as "Number 96" was discussed in the playground when I was at high school. (And in primary school, it was always "Batman", and how he and Robin were going to set themselves free from the arch criminals' amazing trap.)

Other very early TV memories: "The Adventures of Robin Hood" with Richard Green, and the very scary UK version of "The Invisible Man", both favourites of my Dad.

And an afternoon kids' show with Bill the Koala, a lifelike hand puppet, who climbed back up a gum tree at the end of each show, while the hostess sang, "Bill's asleep, Bill's asleep, tra la la la la..., Bill's asleep." For the life of me, I can't remember the name of that show.

So, what were your earliest TV memories? Go on, make me feel old!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Confusion in the New Frontier?

I'm enjoying IDW Publishing's "Star Trek New Frontier" storyline, "Turnaround" by Peter David, very much but it must be very confusing to anyone who isn't familiar with the long-running book series that David writes for Pocket.

Robin Lefler's mom, Morgan Primus, looking like Number One, Chapel and Mrs Troi is worth a smirk or two in the novels (and her face was obscured by a hand mirror in the Wildstorm one-shot comic), but seeing Number One - er, Morgan - phasing in and out in the new comic issues requires some background knowledge from the books.

Likewise, M'Ress and Arex (formerly of TAS - see below) have just turned up for their NF comic cameos (issue #4) and casual TOS readers (or anyone who's just been reading IDW's various "Year Four" issues) are gonna wonder why they're suddenly in the 24th century.

Mress and Arex in New Frontier comic
Art by Stephen Thompson

And hey! We've now finally seen a depiction of Desma the Andorian - she's the new first officer (below) of the USS Trident, introduced a few novels ago.

Desma the Andorian
Art by Stephen Thompson

Monday, July 07, 2008

Darn it!

I'm glad no one was watching, with a video camera or mobile phone at the ready. They missed a spectacular trip and fall by yours truly today. A prize winner on "Australia's Funniest Home Videos" is ever there was one.

Just after lunch, to celebrate the first weekday of my present school vacation, I was going to take a long stroll to Nepean Square (mainly to check out the big K-Mart toy sale that's getting so much radio airplay, but I also needed milk for my first coffee of the day), but I stubbed my toe on the traffic roundabout at the end of my street and did a leap worthy of "Hancock", and ended up all palms-and-knees on the concrete. Ouch!

Once I'd recovered my bearings, I had no option but to trudge back home to apply some Dettol on the extremities, and later headed off in the opposite direction to get just the milk this time. I really needed that coffee now. My big toe (luckily, not the one I injured last April) is still throbbing, but is hopefully not broken, and I sense a rectangular bruise forming on my right thigh in the shape of my mobile phone. Thank goodness I wasn't walking Jack at the time...

I realised, as I arrived home, that the force of my toe-stubbing actually poked a hole through my sock. It's been many years since I've darned a sock and I'm not sure I want to spend these holidays doing so. I did get back to Nepean Square later this afternoon. There were no toys of interest, so I bought chocolate instead. Oh dear...

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Hancock: surprisingly good

I have a small wad of Hoyts' Hot Cash coupons in my wallet (no moths!) which expire in July, so I used one today to see the unlikely superhero movie, "Hancock".

I'd seen some great trailers, which seemed to indicate a Will Smith comedy, and then some fairly positive reviews on "The Movie Show", which suggested a movie with something more to offer. Hancock is a tramp-like, perpetually drunk, super-powered human living in Los Angeles, who has no regard for the damage he causes when rescuing victims of crime and natural disaster. When the amnesiac Hancock saves the life of a public relations exec, Ray (Jason Bateman), who was trapped in the path of a train, Ray promises Hancock he can turn the tide of the way the public perceive his life. Ray's wife, Mary (Charlize Theron), believes Hancock cannot be transformed into a legitimate superhero, and yet there seems to be an odd connection between Hancock and Mary.

I really don't want to say any more, because the movie has several unexpected twists that really took me by surprise. One was almost spoiled by one of the TV commercials, but I found I quite forgot about that while watching the movie. So there are plenty of surprises. There's nothing particularly new about this movie, but the elements are put together very well, and the cast is extremely appealing. I haven't noticed Jason Bateman in anything since TV's "Valerie"/"The Hogan Family", although I note he was in a few things I've seen, such as "Dodgeball", and a DVD I own but haven't watched yet, "Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium".

If you're wondering about whether to bother with "Hancock", and you're still waiting for the next big superhero movie on the horizon, "The Dark Knight", I say, "Go for it."

Sunday's not so magic number: 95.5 - Oh dear. Oh well.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Now we are two

Well, today I chalk up my second year of blogging.

As I said this time last year, it is so satisfying to put my various inner thoughts (and Internet responses) somewhere more permanent that just letting them drop off the menu at some online bulletin board.

Thanks everyone for the continued support, even if so few of you leave messages. I check Sitemeter almost every day, and my stats tell me I continue to get about 50 visitors a day, who read more than one post per visit, and these numbers have been consistent for many months, whether I'm posting every day or being slack. A great many newcomers stumble across this blog via Google Images. I continue to be a more visual medium than the quality of my written entries, so I won't be giving up on putting lots of images on Flickr. There are still plenty Star Trek, pet and naked Abigail fans out there, even if you don't always tell me in person that you've dropped by.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Worn out, but holidays are almost here

I'm feeling quite ragged this week. It's been a long and eventful term at school/work - but on the other hand the weeks have been just flying by. Every (usually) spare spot on my timetable has been used to let as many Stage 3 (Years 5 & 6) students as possible participate in the Identity: Sharing our stories rap, not to mention any other spare second, and many late nights, helping to moderate the incoming messages and solve a few tech problems.

The rap has used print and online interviews with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, and the ten groups of students, who've worked on the rap for the last seven weeks - brainstorming group responses to set questions, which are then shared with other school groups via a blog - have gotten so much out of the experience, it's all been well worthwhile.

Last night, I was supposed to be presenting our work to any interested parents, while their children attended the school disco. Unfortunately, I had no takers and i was left sitting upstairs with a whole bank of computers set to the rap, and no audience. (Last term we had a good roll up for a similar presentation on the Wilfrid book rap.)

No matter. On Friday it's our annual NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islander Day of Celebration) Assembly at school, and I get to do a presentation there of some of the highlights of the students' work.

I must admit to feeling a little put out this morning when suddenly one of my student helpers in the library slipped me an impromptu note, artfully decorated in glitter glue of many hues: "Thank you Mr McLean for all your herd (sic) work." She stressed that the note was created by her, but was from all ten of my library monitors. It left me grinning all day, despite my weariness.