Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hampering housework

Today I'm trying to do my annual guilt trip. it's almost time to start finding hiding places for lots of "stuff", that has accumulated over recent months, so the house will look good for Midwinter Christmas. I can't believe we're nearly there again!

I keep looking over my shoulder, trying to build up the energy required to do the job properly, and not just hide everything in cupboards and behind furniture. And I keep on surfing the 'Net.

Over on the Aussie Bloggers' BBS they are chatting about the concept of the modern day Christmas hamper, which one pays off in advance so as to have an overabundance of Christmas fare in December - several companies bungled their deliveries last year - and it was asked if companies like Chrisco gave value for money. It got me thinking...

When we were kids in the late 60s and early 70s, a highlight of the pre-Christmas period was the arrival (and ritual unpacking) of my mother's "Walton's Christmas Hamper". She used to pay it off in small advance instalments over the whole year, and the stuff that was in it was readily consumed by us over Christmas and January. It contained lots of stuff we bought regularly, anyway, but there was stuff we only ever had as annual treats because they were in the Christmas hamper, such as glacé fruit, Kool Pops, chocolate syrup for ice cream, tinned plum pudding, bonbons, etc. In the 60s and 70s, the Walton's hamper was very good value, but with the advent of supermarkets - and "specials" - it has become possible, and more economical, to grab the stuff you really needed throughout the year at lower prices.

We have a funny family anecdote concerning the matching plastic bottles of BBQ sauce and chocolate syrup! One year we went on a picnic and my Mum had made the most delicious stack of home-cooked roast beef sandwiches for us to take with us. Of course, when we arrived at the picnic grounds we realised that she'd used the chocolate syrup (brown bottle) instead of the BBQ sauce (dark red bottle). We still laugh about that error at family gatherings.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Would you trade Pedlars’ Pennies with this man?

Today was my school’s annual Pedlars’ Parade and Fair. Yours truly was on hand to swap Australian dollars for Pedlars’ Pennies, the only legal tender on the day! Happy Education Week!

Jester box

Jester eats

(Oh, and a happy birthday to my brother, Keith! See, I even dressed up to celebrate it!)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Recliner Seats of Narcolepsy

I think it's from years of 'Net surfing, but I commonly fall asleep in movies - microsleeps which can turn into extended snorefests, if I'm not careful, depending on the film - so it was with more than a little self-doubt in my ability to stay alert in a cushy, expensive Gold Class cinema experience, that I went with friends to see "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" tonight.

I survived! I know there were at least two times when I suddenly realised I'd missed a bit of the narrative after an overly long blink, but the film is worth seeing a second time, so that's not really a problem. It's come under some heavy criticisms in the press, too, but I did enjoy the movie very much. It was more involving than many sequences in "... The Last Crusade" (tank chases - ugh!) and it was heaps better than "... The Temple of Goo, er, Doom". (Put me off mangulated monkey brains for several months.)

"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" was probably as entertaining as the film which started it all: "Raiders of the Lost Ark". That was one of those films from my early days of Star Trek fandom and impromptu movie parties - coinciding with me helping my Dad out in his bread shop So Very Early on Saturday mornings before heading off to ASTREX meetings, followed by dinner and a movie - bit "Raiders" goes down in history as the late night feature film that is impossible to sleep through, no matter how early one got up to bake fruit buns... just as long as one sat next to a friend named Ruth who thumps both fist onto one's forearm whenever danger stalks our hero. (And, of course, in "Raiders" that happened Very Often.) But I digress. Back to "... the Crystal Skull".

Even though I saw this new film Ruthlessly, there were sufficient action and crystal skull goodness - and a well-timed serving of baked lemon and lime cheesecake served to me in the dark by a Gold Class waiter - to keep me alert. I was very pleased to see the Marion/Indy story arc come full circle - I think I recall reading once that they had tried, but failed, to get Karen Allen into the second film.

They've certainly set the scene for someone younger than Harrison Ford to take over the film franchise one day, should they need more films to inspire more theme park rides some day. (I'm sure several scenes from this one were only included so they could inspire an Indy theme park ride.) The amusing opening sequences in Area 51 were worth the price of admission alone, but then the Indy films have always specialised in having great opening sequences!

This film experience was, um, "gold class" (at least for me), even if the film wasn't as perfect as many diehard Ingy fans were hoping for these past nineteen years. Sure, there were probably lots of CGI scenes filmed on totally blue chromakey "sets", but I only really notice that stuff when people point it out, or I see lots of blue background in "making of" scenes. They were only noticeable a few times - well, to me anyway.

A great film - check it out for yourself before all the spoilers are out in the headlines!

Monday, May 26, 2008

A licence to stop sneezing

When I was about eighteen years old, I had about six driving lessons - and decided that driving a motor vehicle reminded me of every sport I've ever tried (and detested): all that hand/eye coordination and outwitting your opponent... Ick!

So the world is definitely a safer place without me behind the wheel.

Travelling by public transport has never been much of a nuisance, and the money I save not running a car can be diverted to buying more books, action figures and comics - or booking the occasional taxi.

However, it's whenever I get a bad case of the sniffles - like today - that I run into trouble! In these dark of gloomy days of suspect-your-neighbour-of-everything, it's nigh impossible to buy strong cold and flu medication from a pharmacy without a driver's license, or at least equivalent proof of identity. My passport expired years ago - sigh - but who carries their passport to work and back every day unless you're a drug runner? - and it doesn't matter how choked up with mucous I happen to be, few chemists are willing to sell this potential "ice" manufacturer with pseudoephedrine!

I hear that some drug lords' minions spent their days going from pharmacy to pharmacy buying up cold and flu medication like it's going out of season, the crushing up the tablets to use as a major ingredient in ice.

Gosh, whenever I want ice, I just use plain tap water in a little plastic tray and stick it in the freezer! ;)

Ah choo!

(I did eventually get some cold and flu tablets, but with the hoops I had to jump through to get them, it almost would have been easier for me to go and do the computer simulator exercises, have a few driving lessons and pass my licence test first!)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Bantam Books, Star Trek and nostalgia

As a new Star Trek fan in 1980 - discovering fandom and the Trek merchandising behemoth - via "Star Trek: The Motion Picture", the most frustrating thing about the Bantam Star trek original novels was that there was no definitive list! The only way to know about titles you were missing was to read the little "Have you also read ______________?" messages inside.

I remember the day I celebrated in a poky little suburban newsagency (a drugstore without drugs for my US readers) after finding "World Without End", which I hadn't even heard of! How frustrating and exciting it was to know that the treasure hunt must continue: each new find would carry another title inside, for which I now needed to go looking.

World Without EndDevil WorldPerry's PlanetThe Galactic WhirlpoolDeath's Angel

Every time I thought I'd completed my set, there was more out there! The Star Trek Welcommittee had no list available, so they mentioned "Books in Print". I went off to the NSW State Library and checked every volume from the 60s through to 1982, finally satisfying myself I had them all. The frustration for Australian collectors was because we not only had the Bantam printings (of original ST and the James Blish adaptations of TOS), but also the Corgi UK versions! This made keeping one's collection consistent almost impossible. If I saw a new title in Corgi (which also did Alan Dean Foster's TAS adaptations for the UK), did I grab it and replace it later with a Bantam, or did I just wait patiently"?

"Devil World" was exciting: my first "new" ST novel from a Dymocks' "New Release" shelf, IIRC! Then came "Perry's Planet", which I'd actually seen listed in a "Locus" a few months before. "The Galactic Whirlpool" was so eagerly awaited: "Starlog" had carried preview chapters rather like the Titan ST mag does today! (Amazing to know some content in advance!) Then came "Death's Angel" - I was very disappointed by it, only to discover, at ST club meetings, that a few fans were calling it the best novel they'd ever read.

And "Locus" was promising that finally, the oft-delayed "The Entropy Effect" (the first from the new license holder, Pocket Books) was coming from an award-winning science fiction author, Vonda McIntyre. The delay was because Pocket had to wait for all of Bantam's contracted novels to come out and Sky's "Death's Angel" had been that last one. I'd never heard of McIntyre, but the local SF community even seemed to be interested.

The Entropy Effect

With so much new product coming these days, I'm unlikely to be able to do more than skim the Bantams every so often. Although they are steeped in nostalgia, they don't hold a candle to most of what's coming out now.

Sunday's magic number: 93.5 - yay! I was beginning to worry the scales were broken.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A thousand suns for IDW

I picked up IDW Publishing's latest comic, "Assignment: Earth" #1 by John Byrne, last night and it looks great. Read it on the train home. Some fun 60s stuff; at times "Brighter Than a Thousand Suns" felt like it had been made in the 60s, although I'm so glad the paper quality was better! I assume Teri Garr had to sign off on her likeness? (I still remember her "Starlog" interview; possibly the only ST guest who doesn't have fond memories of her association with Star Trek and its fans - not that ST actors have to have fond memories, but her interview was quite... angry and bizarre when the topic turned to ST, IIRC).

Contracts of the 80s and 90s (and beyond) have very different wording to those of the 60s. Recently it was mentioned here that the original cover of the forthcoming Kevin Ryan "Errand of Fury" novel, from Pocket Books, was to have featured the TOS Organians, but that there was no permission for one of the deceased actors so the cover would be changing.

DC Comics had to draw a bald Garth of Izar, a ST III Captain Styles with no mustache, and a fat guy who vaguely-resembled Harry Mudd's physique for various issues. (Due mainly to existing likeness permissions not being on record.) When DC wanted to bring back Saavik in Series II, she had to resemble Robin Curtis, not Kirstie Alley, even though Kirstie's Saavik was more popular. And so on.

Sometimes the families of deceased ST guests might be happy to sign off. Others might insist on a royalty. Others might want approval of finished sketches, or they might refuse outright. It may vary from actor to actor, too, depending on their (and their agents') clout when contracts were signed. Welcome to Hollywood: a land of red tape.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Beyond Number 96

Since yesterday's exclusive announcement of more classic "Number 96" on DVD, I've felt a need to upgrade the last section of my old, annotated episode guide - the one with details of all "Number 96"-connected shows since the parent series went off the air. I Google this stuff every few years and it's amazing how little snippets turn up every now and then.

For example, when I did my initial research, I would have stopped my skimming of bound volumes of old TV Times and TV Week issues when I hit the end of 1977, and so I had no notes on the bizarre-sounding second pilot for a variety series that would have featured Reg and Edie MacDonald! Also, last time I checked, there was no online information whatsoever on "Eurotrash" (in which yours truly appeared as the dubiously-described as the "only member of the Abigail and Number 96 Fan Club!). Recently, I found an official site that listed all the segment titles and subjects of that tongue-in-cheek documentary series.

Anyway, here's the (UPDATED 2011) list:

SPECIAL: Number 96 Auction. (20/8/1977)
With Joe "The Gadget Man" Sandow as the auctioneer. A live cross to the grounds of Channel 10, Sydney. 90 minutes; aired at 12 noon. 0-10 Network.

UNAIRED PILOT: Oh Mummy, Oh Daddy. (Taped 2/1978)
Second unsuccessful attempt to spin off the characters of Reg and Edie MacDonald (Mike Dorsey and Wendy Blacklock), this time in a potential music/variety series with dream sequences (eg. Superman and Ginger Meggs characters in the pilot). Seven Network.

NUMBER 96 (US Version). (Commenced USA 10/12/1980; aired in Australia 1986)

GOLDEN YEARS OF TELEVISION: A Salute to Australian Soaps. (14/8/1986)
Presented by David Lyle and Ginger de Winter (aka Virginia Bell). Featured the infamous "bomb aftermath" episode (#840) and assorted footage. Nine Network.

Hosted by Steve Vizard. Featured flashback footage and live interviews with Elaine Lee, Jeff Kevin and Number 96 historian, Ian McLean. Comedian Vince Sorrenti conducted a tour of Moncur Flats, at 83 Moncur Street, Woollahra, the actual location of the Number 96 building seen in the show's credits. Seven Network.

SPECIAL: Number 96: They Said It Wouldn't Last. (21/11/1994)
With new commentary from Abigail. Featured most of the special made to celebrate the show's 1000th episode, revamped and concluded with the "curtain call" from the final episode. Network Ten.

DARREN GRAY DOWN UNDER: Number 96. (1995)
Hosted by Darren Gray. Featured interviews with Andrew Mercado and Number 96 historian, Ian McLean. CTV1 (Sydney) and the Wire Network (UK).

SALE OF THE CENTURY: Battle of the TV Classics. (19/6/1995)
Hosted by Glenn Ridge. Featured Johnny Lockwood, Elaine Lee, Jeff Kevin and Candy Raymond representing Number 96 and competing against stars from The Sullivans, Prisoner and The Young Doctors. Candy Raymond made it through to the finals. Nine Network.

Presented by Peter Luck. Weekly episodes, four of which focused on Number 96 stories. One episode featured James Elliott and Elisabeth Kirkby. Another reunited John Orcsik with Joe Hasham, who reenacted their kiss from the Number 96 feature film. Johnny Lockwood was interviewed in an episode dedicated to the deaths of beloved fictional Australians (8/8/97). A "Soap Opera Weddings" special featured Jeff Kevin and Pamela Garrick. Seven Network.

EUROTRASH: Abigail. (SEASON 5, #6, UK 1997; Australian airdate unknown)
Hosted by Jean-Paul Gaultier, narrated by Kate Robbins. Featured flashback footage of Number 96, Chances and Alvin Purple and interviews with Abigail, journalist Robin Oliver and Number 96 historian, Ian McLean. Foxtel/Austar's The Comedy Channel.

TAMARA TONITE. (20/10/1999 - 3/11/1999)
Presented by Brisbane-based drag queen, Tamara Tonite (aka Roderick Paterson). Weekly episodes, three of which were focused on Number 96. Interviews with Sheila Kennelly (#137), Elaine Lee (#138) and Number 96 historian, Ian McLean (#139). Channel Briz31.

TELEVISION'S GREATEST HITS: The Best of Number 96. (13/3/2000 - 30/3/2000)
Presented by Andrew Mercado over three weeks. 24 episodes, hand selected by Andrew Mercado and Ian McLean. Episodes were: #2, 33, 450, 604, 613, 630/631, 649, 669, 679, 680, 689, 838, 839, 840/841, 844, 1005, 1006, 1136, 1160, 1164, and 1217/1218. Foxtel/Austar's TV1.

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 Number 96 historian, 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. Seven Network.

SPECIAL: Ten: Seriously 40. (21/8/2005)
Presented by Bert Newton and Rove McManus. Clip show celebrating four decades of the former 0-10 Network. Network Ten.

SPECIAL: 50 Years, 50 Shows. (25/9/2005)
Presented by Eddie McGuire. Number 96 rated #9 out of 50 Australian television shows. Nine Network.

DVD: Number 96: 2 Disc Collectors Edition. (10/7/2006)
Includes: a brand new 16:9 transfer of Number 96: The Movie (1974), uncut and uncensored, with newly recorded audio commentary (2006) with Elaine Lee, creator/screenwriter David Sale, and TV historian Andrew Mercado; original draft screenplay of the movie on DVD-ROM; And They Said It Wouldn't Last TV documentary special (1976, plus 1977 update); Abigail's introduction to the special's repeat TV screening (1994); an all new featurette, THE FINAL YEARS (2006), covering the last 218 episodes (and new interviews with Elaine Lee, Sheila Kennelly, Wendy Blacklock, Deborah Gray and David Sale); plus rare footage of the "Spirit of 96" train journey, as the TV cast attended the Logies in Melbourne (1975). Umbrella DVD Australia . (Note that cover art of the first pressings of this product mentioned a stills gallery, but this was unable to be included as planned.)

REPEAT OF SPECIAL: 50 Years, 50 Shows. (11/9/2006)
Newly presented by Mike Munro, celebrating Australian television's 50th anniversary. Nine Network.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW. (8/7/2007)
Presented by Melissa Doyle and David Koche. Featured Jeff Kevin, Sheila Kennelly, Elaine Lee, James Elliott, Elisabeth Kirkby, Frances Hargreaves, Chantal Contouri, Joe Hasham and Chard Hayward. Seven Network.

DVD: Number 96: The Pantyhose Strangler. (30/8/2008)
Includes: 32 consecutive episodes #649-680; stills gallery; newly recorded audio commentary (2008) with Chantal Contouri and TV historian Andrew Mercado; 2006 footage of the Network Ten News announcement of the earlier DVD release. Umbrella DVD Australia.

DVD: Number 96: Aftermath of Murder. (11/3/2010)
Includes: 32 consecutive episodes #681-712; newly recorded audio commentaries (2009) with Carol Raye, Elisabeth Kirkby and TV historian Andrew Mercado; "The Australian Way: A Salute to Aussie Sex Appeal" TV special (1982, incorrectly identified as 1978); original 1976 "Adults Only" TV promo for premiere of "And They Said It Wouldn't Last" documentary special; 1975 uncut Christmas messages from cast members; and 2008 footage of the Network Ten News announcement of the previous DVD release, including a reunion between Chantal Contouri and Pamela Garrick. Umbrella DVD Australia.

DVD: Number 96: 40th Anniversary set. (Forthcoming 2012)
Includes: sixteen early b/w episodes (#1-10, #13, #31, #33-35 and #450) and sixteen consecutive colour episodes, #832-847, covering the Mad Bomber storyline. Umbrella DVD Australia.

Thanks to Luke of Brisbane for a few crucial dates listed above.

On a totally unrelated topic...
Sunday's magic number: 94.0. Absolutely no change - again. (Should I admit now to Thursday night's two donuts. And Friday's four? Shhhh! Maybe not.)

How wonderful: it's Sunday. The day I declare my progress to the world, and it's sandwiched between Number 96 news that people will be Googling for months! Let's hope the numbers are lower by the time the new DVD set hits.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Exclusive DVD news! Beware The Pantyhose Strangler!














T *

They tried to stop me! They even sent Tracey Wilson after me! But I'll say it anyway...:

Australia's cult TV soap classic of the 70s is back: coming to a boxed DVD set near you... in September 2008.

(Okay, I'm joking about them trying to stop me: I just received the official go-ahead from Andrew Mercado to announce, exclusively, that a deal has at last been cut to bring the saga of the complete Pantyhose Murders storyline of "Number 96" to DVD.)

The DVD set will comprise 32 episodes on four discs - starts with Episode #649 (originally aired 4/11/1974) and finishes with #680 (original airdate 27/01/1975). There will also be a stills gallery (to which I have contributed), a new commentary and even the Network Ten News report (10/07/06) of the first "Number 96" DVD release. Cue the cheering!

In 2006, Umbrella Entertainment released a great salute to "Number 96", a two-disc collectors' edition of "Number 96: The Movie" and "And They Said it Wouldn't Last" (the documentary celebrating the first 1000 episodes of the TV series, including missing archive footage of the cast at Luna Park), and "The Final Years", a new featurette made for the DVD.

But you wanted more! So here it is!

While it would be great to start commercial releases of the TV episodes of "Number 96" from the very beginning, the sad fact is that many early black-and-white episodes no longer exist. The first few episodes were well-preserved but there's one eighteen-month-long chunk of TV history that crumbled to dust in the early 80s. Sadly, that missing footage includes the infamous, highly-controversial Black Mass. Then there's a lone episode (#450) and another long run of missing stuff.

It was also thought that a boxed DVD set could start from #585, the first colour episode, but that's rather tame compared to "Number 96" at - arguably - its creative and comical peak: the Pantyhose Murders! We commence our DVD tour after it is realised that the body of a blonde woman - found strangled with pantyhose in Chestnut Lane, Paddington - was not, as everyone feared, Marilyn MacDonald. The storyline weaves its way through the shocking deaths, and near-deaths, of several long-time residents of 96 Lindsay Street, thus putting most of the other residents under suspicion, including two mysterious young beaus, Michael Bartlett (Peter Flett) and Matt Barrington (John Paramor). Not to mention the nasty Peter Wilson (Dennis Miller), the cruel, estranged husband of Nurse Tracey Wilson (Chantal Contouri)!

In September, you'll be reacquainted with ditzy Lorelei Wilkinson (Josephine Knur), the equally ditzy Marilyn McDonald (Frances Hargreaves), and the wonderfully whiny Patti Feather (Pamela Garrick), new wife of Arnold (Jeff Kevin). Interspersed with the action on the killing fields is the sad (temporary?) departures of the beloved Goldolfuses, the arrival of a new deli owner, Freda Fuller (Sheila Bradley), and some wonderful Aussie comedy relief, as only vintage "Number 96" could showcase: wacky Les Whittaker's strangler-capture devices; wacky Mummy MacDonald's false boobies as she struggles to tend bar downstairs at Norma's; and Dorrie Evans' equally-wacky turn as a brunette (in order to avoid being the next blonde victim of the Strangler, of course)!

*If you think you recognise the rather sinister woman strangling me in the above picture, yes, that's Tracey Wilson herself. Ms Contouri has recorded a brand new commentary with Andrew for the DVD set!

Roll on September! At least you can't say, "Why wasn't I told?"

Pantyhose Strangler DVD boxed setwhiteNumber 96 DVD vol 2: The Pantyhose Strangler
The Pantyhose Strangler: evolution of a cover design

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

First contact?

I just heard that this instrumental, "Rain" by Exposure, was originally commissioned for the soundtrack of "Star Trek: First Contact", but didn't end up being used. Maybe it was supposed to play over the scenes that had "Magic Carpet Ride" or "Ooby Dooby" instead?

It's pretty.

Ah, and a version with lyrics:

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mum's day

I rang my Mum in Perth today. The flowers I sent arrived safely and she was thrilled.

When she first moved to Perth, I often picked out potted plants for my Mum from an Interflora catalogue - and she always ended up getting so much more than advertised, such was the lower costs of flowers in sunny Perth. Select a little flowering pot plant, receive several huge ones. Select a small green ferny thing, receive a small rainforest. And so on.

I don't always send flowers for birthdays and other special days, but if I want to get a parcel of goodies to her, I've found that an "overnight" postal satchel works well, but suburban Perth actually takes 48 hours, not 24. I did have a few interesting little items I'd found over recent months, but I couldn't get away from work early enough last week to guarantee delivery in time for Mother's Day. So flowers it had to be.

These days, the Internet (and the online White Pages phone directory) makes flower deliveries so much easier. I had to laugh, though. The florist I've come to use in Perth doesn't record orders on a computer; I assumed they'd have my details on file since the last time, but they do it the old fashioned way. A pad and pen. How quaint.

No matter. I tried cut flowers this time and my mother received her (apparently very generous) "bright colours" arrangement of cut flowers on Friday morning, and has thus enjoyed Mother's Day all weekend - and no doubt will for most of the coming week.

Sunday's magic number: 94.0. Absolutely no change since last week. I have mastered the art of keeping my mass stable? I've been fairly careful this week; just not careful enough to get the numbers down again.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Movie letdowns

Lee, at Quit Your Day Job, asked about our "Top five movie let downs" of all time.

Mmmmm. My first big theatrical disappointment as a teen was definitely "Logan's Run". It got rave reviews on TV (including Jeanne Little on "The Mike Walsh Show", so maybe that was my warning!), but I came out wondering how I'd managed to waste my hard-earned pocketmoney on that!

This would be followed by "Superman III", "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace", "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier", the three "Star Wars" prequels, and Mike Meyers in "The Cat in the Hat". And I'll add "Star Trek Nemesis", but my main disappointment in that was the fact that the cinema was almost empty... on opening night!

That's more than five. I'm sure there are others, but the above-mentioned films I thought might be excellent, despite the pre-release jittery rumours.

Audio silence?

Simon & Schuster Audioworks hasn't abridged a Star Trek novel since William Shatner's "Captain's Glory" in 2006, and it was the first not to be released as an audio cassette. CD and download only! Obviously, Star Trek abridgments have become unprofitable, much as I enjoyed collecting (and listening) to them.

A company called Recorded Books has done a set of unabridged Star Trek audios for the "Vulcan's Soul" trilogy. But, even though I think of myself as a completist, I've had no desire to commit to the expense, let along find the time to listen to many, many hours of these stories, word-for-word, when I've already read them. I feel that unabridged audios are aimed at people who probably don't intend to read the actual book, or want to hear the whole thing again on a looooong journey.

To me, abridged audiobooks often have a fresh take on a story, even if shorter, and they sorta, kinda, feel like an official adaptation/episode.

Every now and then, a fan will ask if there's a place in the market for original audios, but it seems no one has secured the separate license for these since Simon & Schuster's three "Captain Sulu" audio-only experiments in 1994-95. I recall John Ordover, a then-editor of the print novels, once saying that Simon & Schuster was not able to present the audio tracks of the "Star Trek Academy" computer game as an audiobook, (as they had for 1996's "Star Trek: Klingon" and "Star Trek: Borg") when that game came out, because they'd let the part of their licence lapse.

If another original-to-audio series was mooted, it would be very hard to judge what the audience would be. "Doctor Who" and "Blake's Seven" went to original audios when there was a dearth of official new visuals being made. I hear "Star Wars" is about to relaunch as original audios.

Does anyone know if S&S Audio's ST license has actually lapsed, or is there a chance they intend to adapt the big, controversial crossover novel trilogy, "Star Trek: Destiny", later this year? (If they intended to, I'd assume Book 1 would be underway already.) It's odd that S&S would wait so long between audios if they did intend to produce more.

Does anyone know any contacts over at Recorded Books, and if they have more Star Trek plans?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

A novel completist

Over on the Star Trek online bulletin boards, there's been a thread about people who ask, but don't always receive, more information about upcoming Star Trek novels from Pocket Books. Who's in it? Where is it placed in the timeline? What's going to happen? Will it clash with other recent ST novels? Will it clash with older titles set in similar territory? Will it get overruled by JJ Abrams' new movie? And so on.

So how much should one know about an upcoming novel before it's "too much" information?

It seems to me there are a lot of ST fans who are very curious about the storylines of ST novels, but lack the finances - or the inclination to find the time for actually reading a novel. They will then seek out reviews or spoilers so they either don't have to read it, or they will seek out spoilers so their curiosity is sated, or so they can say, "Sounds stupid, why should I spend my money?"

When I ran ST clubs (we had a group which grew from 200 to 1000 people over about twelve years), there was only ever a small percentage of members who maintained completist collections of ST novels and comics. I did a column in the newsletter calling "Publishing news" and many of our members were happy enough to read that, and perhaps the odd book review - and not buy the actual books - or they'd grill the completists at monthly meetings.

I see, quite often, people asking online for exhaustive reviews of certain ST novel mini-series - stories that are crossovers with ST series they don't follow, or mini-series that are too long to attract their attention, or mini-series where a few titles are perceived as being weaker than others. When "Voyages of Imagination: The Star Trek Fiction Companion" (2006) was coming out, I remember people boasting they could finally "catch up", as if Jeff Ayers' summaries of all past novels and short stories would somehow be enough.

Perhaps my available funds allow me to be more extravagant? I choose to buy all ST novels and comics, after all, and try to keep pace with reading them all. Maybe if I ran a car and had to educate a family of young children, I'd be scrimping to buy the odd ST book, and perhaps would be scrounging for novel spoilers to satisfy my curiosity, too?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The return of Mr Thelin!

Myriad Universes 2
(Cover art by John Picacio)

A few weeks ago, Paul Simpson, editor of the Titan "Star Trek" magazine suggested that I'd be very pleased by the next issue of magazine, and I assume that means there'll be something Thelin-related with the extract of "The Chimes at Midnight". Maybe the distinctive cover art, by the talented John Picacio, which features Thelin the Andorian, from the alternative timeline of "Yesteryear" (Filmation's animated Star Trek series of the 70s)?

Pocket Books' "Myriad Universes: Echoes and Reflections" collection is due in August. It contains three alternate universe stories. "The Chimes at Midnight" is by Geoff Trowbridge. "In a continuum where Spock died during childhood, an Andorian named Thelin became Captain Kirk’s stalwart friend and first officer. But at the moment of Khan’s final defeat, history takes an even stranger turn, and the emerging potential of Project Genesis is revealed as the galaxy’s greatest hope... and its most ominous threat." I can't wait!

Thelin in "Yesteryear"! - this image was tinkered with in Photoshop, several years ago, to give him Andorian blue skin. Famously, on TAS as televised, Thelin's skin is a more of a greyish/causcasian colour, and varies from frame to frame. Although, more recently, on the "Enterprise" TV series, we met the pale blue/white Aenar subspecies who share Andoria with the blue Andorians.

Captain's Log: Supplemental. Here it is: Thelin from the Titan extract:

Issue #12 (US), July/August, 2008, p. 56. Thanks Paul! So cool!

Iron Man and the Dark Knight

I'm hearing nothing but positive reviews for "Iron Man", the latest superhero movie based on the Marvel comic. Robert Downey Jr has been Down Under last week promoting the movie, and he's been on his best behaviour and very charming - and so passionate about the film.

Everyone is saying "Make sure you stay through the credits at the end". I always do, but it's great when you know there's a bonus for the ones who do stay! Can't wait. It opened here last Thursday. I've never really followed "Iron Man" in the comics, but I recall the animated series of the 70s(?) very well, and my younger brother's stunning yellow and red Mego action figure.

Tonight, the TV news shows have been running an intriguing new trailer for "Batman: The Dark Knight", featuring the late Heath Ledger as the Joker. This too looks amazing! A bit longer to wait for this one, though. They are predicting a posthumous Academy Award for Ledger. The media is also suggesting that the regimen (and solitary confinement) the actor voluntarily put himself through, as preparation to get into the Joker's head, is partly to blame for his ongoing problems sleeping, and his dependence on the cocktail of drugs which claimed his life. Sad.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Writing better blog posts

Sue Waters, of The Edublogger, says, "Here’s My First Five Tips For Writing Better Blog Posts — What Are Yours?"

My five tips, to add to Sue's five would include:

1. Use of humour - especially if I find myself telling a funny anecdote more than once. That usually tells me it's worth repeating as a future blog entry. (It's amazing how often I check back through old entries now, and find humorous stories I've almost forgotten writing. If they hadn't ended up in the blog, they'd perhaps be gone forever.)

2. Know your topic(s). I think that sometimes bloggers try to be too eclectic. Focusing on a few topics you know well helps the audience to anticipate your future blog entries in those areas. You become "the guru" on a topic.

3. Know your audience - but also remembering that your audience may well be bigger than you think. (If you miss blogging for an extended period, you are likely to hear from them! I had no idea my two young nieces regularly checked my blog - until I was on vacation, far from an Internet cafe, and they emailed me wondering where I'd vanished to.)

4. Keep in mind the international nature of the World Wide Web. Be prepared to be informative by embedding a few clues in your posts. Remind them where you are writing from. Some quirky, localized things will seem quite bizarre to those of your readers not familiar with certain terminology, places, customs, the local slang, etc.

5. A picture is worth a thousand words. A picture can help explain many of the above mysteries for international web surfers. Most of my new visitors seem to come via people following a link to posts after locating one of my Flickr photos, which they found during a search of Google Images!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Revenge of the mousse

Yesterday afternoon I made a quick dash to the supermarket and, on a whim, decided that I would gather up the ingredients to make the Quick Chocolate Mousse recipe from my school's cook book that was made for, and distributed at, the recent reading picnic. I'd been given a sample of the finished mousse on the big day, and I have been curious to see if it was really as easy to make as it seemed.

I guessed a little enthusiastically on quantities while shopping, and managed to buy twice as much chocolate, cream and marshmallows as necessary, so I simply doubled the amounts. Unwise, on reflection, because the melting marshmallows grew enormous in the microwave oven, and the mid-procedure cleanup was tricky - melted marshmallow mixture is not only very, very hot, but it sticks like the strongest adhesive ever invented. If the mess didn't attract ants, it would make amazing quick-set glue!

The sensible quantities, as described in the actual recipe, required 125g dark chocolate, broken into small squares, 100g marshmallows, 300ml thickened cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla essence. (Oh, I just realised I used ordinary cream last night, and it worked fine!)

You then simply combine the chocolate and marshmallows over a double saucepan, stirring over simmering water until melted, or microwave on "High" for about one and a half minutes. (I microwaved the marshmallows separately, but in a bowl too small for the job, intending to stir in the chocolate squares later, but that was a decision made before I glued a fork, a spoon, my fingers and several other things to the sides of the container, and the inner walls of the microwave oven, when the hot marshmallow overflowed! (You know, I had a latent memory fragment of marshmallows melting into a clear liquid, but these were just white, cumulus fluff.) It was like karmic payback that I ended up with a panicky clean-up job before the housemate arrived home and discovered what I'd done to the kitchen.

Anyway, you then just gradually stir in the cream and vanilla, and pour out into separate serving bowls if liked. (I left mine in the big bowl I'd turned my melted marshmallows into, and it worked.) Refrigerate overnight - and secretly enjoy the huge wad of stickjaw chocolate fudge that may accumulate on the stirring fork, if you're lucky. (Those last few scrapes of hot chocolate/marshmallow hitting the cold cream mixture was a yummy, fortunate mistake of an afterthought.)

Serve with more cream and more chocolate, as mentioned in the recipe's extravagant "serving suggestion". And thank the heavens it's Junk Food Day today.

Sunday's magic number: 94.0. Ooopsie. Mmmm, pass the mousse, but hold the antlers.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Top 100?

Over in Dipping into the Blogpond, Meg has been challenged about her "Top 100" index of Australian blogs.

I’m confused. I can think of hundreds of ways someone could create a "Top 100" list, but I don’t see any problem with Meg calling her list "THE Top 100"and not "A Top 100". On Meg’s blog, the list IS a definite article. The guy doing the complaining, Lee, is entitled to think of it as an indefinite article on his blog.

I check out my own stats (on Site meter) every so often, mainly because they are… fascinating. Maybe if my blog was used for revenue raising, I’d worry what they really meant? Even trying to imagine how open to interpretation my stats are, depending on which stats are given priority over others, that someone could challenge Meg over there being better ways to calculate a "Top 100"...

I've visited the list of the "Top 100" twice in the last year. It's a handy way to check out blogs I hadn't discovered before, but many of those listed are not of interest to me, no matter how their stats are calculated. I never thought of it being definitive for anyone beyond Meg herself. And I understand that Lee is on the list (currently #76, up from #86); maybe just not high enough for his liking?

I’m confused... and bemused.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Greedy for blogs

In the last year at work/, we've formed at least three new professional learning groups that extend beyond our one school and take in other local schools with similar goals and projects. Inevitably, these networks mean even more after-school committee meetings, but the value of the results these groups can produce, means it's usually well work the time invested.

Today, I found myself volunteering to create another blog for the teachers, teacher-librarians and consultants involved in two of the groups - this one a little more in-house in theme, purpose and audience/participants, so I won't be promoting the URL far and wide at this point, although if it takes off it may well find a niche beyond its original brief. It's only very early days yet.

Essentially, it's a blog about our school (and other schools in our learning support group)'s quest to select, purchase and efficiently utilise interactive whiteboards (IWBs) in our school programs. I had suggested to the network that involving ourselves in some group projects would be a great way to support each other, proactively on several learning journeys with the IWBs. Me and my big mouth. (A new wiki activity just wasn't enough!)

As my third blog (fourth if I count helping out with the Wilfrid rap blog last term), I was astounded how quickly I could go to Edublogs, throw together a few pieces of already-created information and have a slick-looking set of posts, attachments, links and models of previous examples in about an hour, with a few hours of after-work tinkering to get the presentation looking user-friendly.

It's empowering!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Living in a vacuum

Tonight I had the pleasure of meeting three new members of our monthly Star Trek Meetup group. One, a recent "migrant" from north Queensland is happily making new Star Trek acquaintances. The other two of them, a young couple, have lived in Sydney all their lives, have always been fans of various aspects of the Star Trek phenomenon, but somehow have managed to not have encountered organised Star Trek fandom before.

Furthermore, as big "Lost" fans, they didn't know that JJ Abrams was directing the next "Star Trek" movie, or that it was highlighting the characters from the original series (ie. TOS)! It made my night being able to fill them in with all the hot gossip on casting.

I found this great interview with Anton Yelchin (the new Chekov) on Youtube. Leonard Maltin, who is practically bubbling over with excitement for this new movie, conducted an exclusive chat for :