Friday, June 26, 2015

Five Fandom Friday: Guilty Pleasures

It's my birthday this weekend! So the whole concept of guilty pleasures is pretty apropos since it's my birthday weekend so I can do what I want!!

5. Trashy YA fantasy/SF novels

I mean trashy in the best possible, affectionate way. (And that's why I'm deliberately avoiding specific names, because one person's "trashy" fun speed read is another person's serious business life-changer, and that's okay.) They're like the jelly beans of books: not particularly challenging to your palette/brain, but just what you need when you're stressed, on public transport, or killing time on a long flight. Besides, there is a lot about writing to be learned from them: whether it's about plotting, characters, or what not to do.

4. Trashy 80s action movies

Especially if they star Sly Stallone.

I don't know what it is about them, but they're great.

3. Batman (1965 movie)

This movie is a league (and entry) of its own. With the Christopher Nolan "Dark Knight" trilogy rebooting Batman into something quite dark and gritty, it seems gauche or tacky to bring up Batman's campy past. But I love Batman's campy past. This movie never fails to cheer me up. Never.

"Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb."

2. Writing "fix fic"...for my own life.

Courtesy finerain

I think this is why a lot of writers write, to be honest. Maybe not often—maybe only a few times in their life, maybe after a traumatic break-up or when it concerns a particularly toxic friend—but my entire 2014 NaNo was essentially a fix fic. Or maybe more like a revenge fic. But you know what? It felt good. And when I was done, I felt even better. And now I have a more or less normal relationship with the toxic, dysfunctional friend who inspired in it!

I just hope that, if it's published, she won't recognize herself in it.

1. K-Pop

I know I shouldn't love it—it's commercial, it's crass, it's the product of years of child abuse and exploitation, a group's music and image are coldly calculated to pander to the tastes of Korean tweens, the music doesn't necessarily reflect the talent or tastes of the members, etc.—but I do. I do not go down the fandom rabbit hole; I don't follow the idols' personal lives, I don't have favorite "baes" and so on. I just put the tunes on my mp3 player and rock out. I guess I can pretend that it's helping my Korean...?

What are your guilty pleasures?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Trek Thursday: The Ultimate Computer

#18: The Ultimate Computer

In case you forgot: An experimental AI takes over the Enterprise. Kirk saves the day by getting it to self-destruct.

This is one of the few "man versus machine" TOS episodes I really, really like. Maybe because it came right after the turd bucket that was "Omega Glory" and that made it seem that much better, I don't know.

The threat that this machine, the M-5, entails is also better-done than in other episodes. Instead of the machine working perfectly, the threat is that the machine is pretty much straight up malfunctioning, to a degree previous computers on TOS would never do. They may be obsessive control freaks that micromanage peoples' lives even to the point of the people's detriment, but it's pretty safe to say they would never blow up a supply ship for no reason at all.

More than just "man versus machine," this episode is also great because we get a great sketch in our guest star of the week, Dr. Daystrom. First of all, some color-blind casting going on in the part, which is nice. Second of all, it's a great "what if" look at the bright young genius, all grown up. What happens to a person who gets too much praise too early? Daystrom has enough background that you could write a novel or movie about him without too much more than the episode lets on: not every walk-on character of the week gets that much. (Heck, even some regulars don't even get that much.)

While it's part of Daystrom's tragic flaw that he's intent on protecting the M-5 from destruction or disrepute, for someone who's equally concerned with pacifism and nonviolence, he lets his computer baby go a bit too long in its killing spree for you to really entirely like the guy.

Spock's assertion that a starship runs on the crew's loyalty to one man really rubs me the wrong way. It's just a little too close to cult of personality for my liking.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What I Read: Science and Human Values

Bronowski's "Science and Human Values" is a quick, compact little read. I finished it during a rest/recovery day over this vacation. (Introvert traveling means that you need an even mix of "busy" and "quiet" days.) If you follow Pharyngula,  you probably already saw the link. If you haven't read it yet (the whole thing is a free PDF), then it's worth taking the time to digest it.

I disagree with a few of Bronowski's points—there are parts that grossly mischaracterize (East) Asian culture and its effect on rigorous science, and I don't know if I hold with his epistemological claim about how science is the journey to find likenesses in disparate things—but the larger thesis is sound, and it's wonderfully written. Bronowski displays a broad knowledge of the humanities in addition to his science work; it's worth it just to "hear" a science writer quote Goethe in the original German.

Somehow Bronowski never came up in any of my philosophy classes, even though Karl Popper did. A new author to explore!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Five Fandom Friday: 5 Characters With My Favorite Fashion

Image courtesy Katelyn Jade
Fashion is one of those things that I know I should pay attention to (jewelry is fashion and has trends just as much as anything else does, after all) but I just...can't? I love having clothes that fit well and express my wack-a-doo personality, but I have never been really into "fashion" as such. I think my choices will make that crystal clear!

5. Shannon Mullins (The Heat)

On the surface I guess it's not much of a style, but her character's grunge-y and ultimately practical/androgynous outfit is still like a comfort zone fashion for me. Sometimes all I want are wide-leg carpenter jeans (why are they all skinny jeans these days?? remember wide-leg jeans? Pepperidge Farm remembers), a white tank top, and a plaid button-down thrown on top of it all.

This is maybe not something a creator and curator of fashion (via jewelry) should admit to—after all, you don't think "fab beaded jewelry" when you think "grunge"—but some maille might fit right in. Maybe a double helix patterned wallet chain?

4. Chunk (The Goonies)

I had an aloha shirt phase for a while in high school; it's nothing short of a miracle that my closet isn't still full of them. I would also not be above pairing that aloha shirt with plaid pants. (You know what else I miss, in addition to wide-leg jeans? Plaid pants.)

3. Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski (The Big Lebowski)

LEGO Lebowski courtesy Alex Eylar
The tricky question is, is it fashion or philosophy that I like about The Dude? I guess you could say that his fashion reflects his philosophy. Lucky for all of us, The Dude's sweater is still available for purchase! Thank you, Pendleton, for getting it and being such good sports about it.

2. Alex Mack (The Secret World of Alex Mack)

Hands up, 90s girls: who among you did not lift a style from a Nickelodeon show?

I thought for second about combining the last two into one sort of "90s Nickelodeon Fashion Mag Look Book" but eventually decided against. There were basically two characters whose styles I like(d) and even emulated, back in the day. That's not really enough to roll it all together.

I eventually lost interest The Secret World of Alex Mack at some point when they brought a love interest in, but I think I watched the bulk of the show (there were 4 seasons, I probably watched around 3 of them, definitely 2). My look in middle school was very much Alex, minus the beanies and baseball caps. Was it intentional? No, despite the fact that I wish very much to wake up on my 13th birthday with superpowers like hers. Or get hit by a truck carrying chemical sludge. Whichever.

1. Clarissa Darling (Clarissa Explains it All)

 I know I definitely tried to do the "tie a corner of an oversized T-shirt" thing after I saw Clarissa rock it on an episode. I watched a lot more of this than Alex Mack—maybe because I could relate to having an obnoxious younger brother more than I could to  having superpowers and a perfect, supergenius older sister. Even if I dressed more like Alex at the time, looking back I appreciate Clarissa's outfits more. (Plus, her bedroom was just WAY cooler.) I could never pull them off, but I appreciate them.

Speaking of 90s Nickelodeon, special shout-out goes to The Adventures of Pete & Pete. I didn't take any fashion cues from the Petes (or Ellen), but I loved it just as much.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Vacations and Blog Directions

I've been showing up in your feeds more or less as usual, but as I mentioned the other day in this month's Read Play Blog post, I'm on vacation! My Internet time is limited. Or, more precisely, my Internet time is unlimited, because it's my vacation and I do what I want, but the quality is unpredictable. Samwise, my netbook, didn't come with a heavy-duty wireless card.

More specifically, I'm on vacation along the American west coast. I have a friend getting married in Seattle, so I took the month off to visit a part of the country I had always wanted to see.

I have also been thinking about what I want to do with this blog. I like writing it, though I don't always like how I come off. Sometimes things sound forced, sometimes things come off as a little too high school confessional, sometimes I don't even know what. This weirdness is also tied with the limbo of my Etsy shop. I'll have more to post about that's relevant to the intersection of jewelry and science once I start making more jewelry.

That's not interesting. It's a blog cliche: the blogger putting their Long Dark Night of the Blogging Soul out there for people to read. But I think it's worth communicating that I'm having those thoughts, even if I'm keeping what they are to myself.

Meanwhile, because I don't feel like there's enough of myself/my presence/whatever on the blog, here I am checking off a bucket list item: touching a redwood tree.

Trek Thursday: Charlie X

#19: Charlie X

In case you forgot: Emotionally stunted teen with godlike superpowers terrorizes the Enterprise until his adoptive, immaterial parents take him home.

Charlie's awkward early encounters with other people are charming; there is a ring of naive authenticity in the ways he goofs up. There is the same kind of authenticity in the punishments he doles out during his temper tantrum, in that they seem like the kind of thing a distraught and totally alienated teenager would think of. The woman with no face in particular is some freaky stuff (and is a Google suggestion when you image search for Charlie X, so I guess that brief scene really made an impression). The few moments of Spock being forced to recite poetry manage to be both kind of funny and kind of terrifying at the same time.

What makes the episode stand out, though, is the end. Charlie's fate—to return to immaterial beings he can't touch or love—is pretty grim. Kirk's pleas with the aliens to allow Charlie the chance to be rehabilitated so he can be with his own kind may be one of the highest points for Kirk's character: even though this near-omnipotent brat just destroyed the Antares and took over the Enterprise, Kirk still has enough compassion that he can't doom Charlie to such a future. But the aliens are right, and Kirk and the crew and the audience knows it. Charlie is probably beyond rehabilitation, or at least beyond safe rehabilitation. A lifetime of solitary confinement is his only option—that or death.

The fact that the problem resolves itself despite (and without) any efforts of the Enterprise crew makes the ending, dramatic and disturbing as it is, a little bit unsatisfying, even if this isn't the only time it's happened. At least that interference makes for a nice irony to the episode: the very powers that condemn Charlie to his terrible future were originally given to him to save his life.

While Charlie's initial butt-slap of Yeoman Rand is funny—it's such an obvious mimicry of what he witnessed between two crewmen that you can't really blame him for thinking it would be okay—the way no one involved can talk about personal space, bodily integrity, and respect is just frustrating. Some humor doesn't age well, and this particular humor drags on for far too long.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

June Read Play Blog: Video Game Worlds

Read Play Blog is a meme about video games and books, posted every 16th of the month. Bloggers are encouraged to answer a discussion question, recommend a video game that they like, and share what they're currently playing. Hosted by Happy Indulgence Books and Read Me Away!

So this is one of the few blog posts for June I didn't write up beforehand. Lucky for me, today is one of the quieter days of my trip so far, so I have time to talk about video games! On to this month's question:

Which video game would you want to live in or be the main character of?

Most video games have pretty fucked up worlds. Even if there's powerful magic and cute fantasy creatures, there's also usually some serious shit going down, like the end of the world or whatever, and I don't need to be living in the shadow of that apocalypse. Theoretically I already am, the way we keep denying that we're fucking up our planet.

If I had to pick one, I would have to pick Myst. It has beautiful landscapes not under immediate threat and I'm pretty sure I remember how to free Atrus from his prison, so I would have someone to keep me company. He could even write more linking books if we ever got bored of the ones already on the island, or teach me how to do it.

June's Recommendation

I had the good luck to be staying with a friend right as she had finally decided to buy a PS3 (again). We spent a lot of time in the local GameStops and after some perusing and discussing she went home with Ni no Kuni (which you may remember I love the shit out of), a Japanese fighter that reminds me a lot of BlazBlue but is not, in fact, BlazBlue, and Journey. We sat down and played Journey together for a couple of hours and I loved it. It's a lot like Myst, actually.

Currently Playing

The same friend also had Hatoful Boyfriend on Steam and I definitely sunk a lot of hours into it (and even earned her a few achievements!). So I'm not technically currently playing it, but it's the most recent interesting thing I've played and I'll definitely get it at the next Steam sale. It's more than just a pigeon dating sim, you guys. It is some cracked-out sci fi. (Depending on your choices, of course.) I won't spoil any more than that for you but holy shit just go and play it now.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Five Fandom Friday: Favorite Fictional Fathers

Image courtesy Katelyn Jade
Father's Day is coming up, so this Friday we're taking some time to talk about our favorite fictional fathers.

5. Frank Bunker Gilbreth

I cheated a bit for my first one, since he actually existed, but honestly when I think back on books about children and families, the Gilbreth family (Cheaper by the Dozen, Belles on Their Toes) is the first that springs to mind. I don't know if I would have liked to grow up with 10 or 11 other siblings, but Gilbreth seemed like he was an interesting person to know, and a lot of fun to have as a father, even if he looks like a big ol' sourpuss in that photo. It's hard to believe he was a real, living person!

4. Carson Drew (Nancy Drew, Carolyn Keene)

Carson was pretty mellow dad. He lets his daughter go off and have adventures, trusting her to be smart and careful when necessary. He even encourages her detective work and helps her with the legal stuff! This is a man who doesn't let pervading stereotypes of the time blind him to his daughter's awesomeness.

3. James (Fallout 3)

An accomplished scientist? Check. A man of scruples? Check. A man whose number one priority was the future, for the world and for his child alike? Check. Voiced by Liam Neeson? Check! A father anyone would be proud of.

2. Haruki "Harry" Yasutani (aka "Haruki #2) (A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki)

I've already raved about this book, but I guess it isn't entirely out of my system yet. A big thank you goes out to all of the book blogs that I follow who mentioned it—there are too many and it was too long ago for me to remember which ones they were, unfortunately—your collective praise piqued my interest, so that when my friend-boss asked if I wanted a copy in a book package she was sending I said YES DEFINITELY.

I can't talk too much about what I like about Haruki Yasutani without spoiling some major plot details and character development. At first he seems like another depressed and overworked Japanese salaryman, but there is much more to him than that. I'll just tell you to hold on and give him a chance.

1. Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee)

Atticus Finch, Attorney at Law shirt from Up Shirts Creek

Doesn't everyone want Atticus to be their dad? Kind, principled, courageous....Atticus Finch is probably definitely my favorite father in fiction. “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

Who are your favorites?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Trek Thursday: The Cloud Minders

#20: The Cloud Minders

In case you forgot: The Enterprise needs to pick up some zenite, a material crucial to ending a botanical plague elsewhere in the Federation, but gets embroiled in a class struggle on Stratos between the city dwellers and the Troglytes. Kirk and Spock arrange peace with the help of miniature gas masks and the power of love, respectively.

Much as I love science fiction silliness, the TOS episodes that deal with cross-cultural differences and struggles without a shred of techno-babble all have a special place in my heart. This includes "The Cloud Minders." TOS was no stranger to dealing with prejudice in these sorts of episodes, but grounding the prejudice in fact (McCoy reports the Troglytes are mentally inferior) suddenly adds a new moral level to it. The fact that it's largely the Troglytes' circumstances—the gas emitted from pure, raw zenite, in this case—that make them so much more violent, rather than an inherent proclivity, is a nice parallel that  rings uncomfortably true fifty years later. Someone could have written the episode today, the Aesop is still that relevant.

Watching Plasus get a taste of his own medicine in the zenite mines is nice, though it would have been nicer if he had eaten a phaser blast (he's just that much of a creep). There's also something about the matte painting of the cloud city that's charming. It reminds me of Terry Gilliam's animations for Monty Python, if less surreal.

Droxine's inexplicable attraction to Spock doesn't really sit right with me. Why does she have to fall in love with him to see the merit of his argument for reconciliation with the Troglytes? Oh, right—she's a silly woman. Speaking of women, Kirk's struggle with Vanna, the leader of the Troglytes, gets really uncomfortable really quickly.

This episode had so much potential for a real gut-puncher ending—an armed insurrection that kills Plasus and leaves the grieving but still compassionate and sympathetic Droxine in charge, for example—but ultimately it just kind of peters out.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Birthstones: Pearl (June)

What do pearls and kidney stones have in common? They're both organic minerals!

And the similarity stops and ends there. Sorry. that wasn't really a great joke. But imagine, for a second, if there were a race of aliens who thought our kidney stones were gorgeous and cultivated us for the express purpose of harvesting them. Gah!

June is one of a myriad of "alternative" birthstones for June. The original Tiffany & Co. poems used agate, but the Kansas City 1912 list instead has pearl and moonstone. The updated Kansas City list added alexandrite. So, theoretically, June has 4 (!!) birthstones. I've already talked about agates and alexandrite. Today, we're moving on to pearls.

Like opal, pearl is not a true mineral. (Opal, as you'll recall, is a mineraloid: an "almost" mineral.) An organic mineral, as you've probably already guessed, is one formed by a living, biological creature. The two most common examples of organic minerals are pearls and the aforementioned kidney stones.

Pearls are made up of two parts: small bits of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) held together with conchiolon, the proteins a mollusk's mantle secretes to protect itself. Together, this milky-white material is called nacre, or mother-of-pearl.

Pearls have a long history in human culture. They could be found wherever there were mollusks, basically, and their milky, iridescent luster captured anyone and everyone's attention.
  • Krishna is said to have discovered the first one and given it to his daughter on her wedding day. In Vedic astrology, pearls are associated with the moon, water and water-related things, and the sign Cancer. They're also thought to ensure good sleep.
  • Egyptians were decorating items with mother-of-pearl as far back as 4000 BCE. After the Persian invasion, pearls themselves also became fashionable and valuable (though never as valuable as gold).
  • Rome went mad for them around 100 BCE: women sewed them into couches and on the hems of their gowns. Paradise, according to the Koran, is absolutely dripping with pearls.
  • By 230 BCE, the Chinese had pearl experts who looked down their noses at "strings of pearls not quite round," and by 500 CE they were creating their own nacre-shellacked images by placing lead figures on shells:

Chinese origin, currently on display in the museum on Mikimoto Pearl Island in Japan.

The English name "pearl" comes from the French perle, which in turn is derived from the Latin perna ("leg"), the name given to the leg-shaped bivalve whence pearls derive.

Pearls remained a rarity and a luxury (literal tons of bivalves have to be harvested to find just a handful of gem-quality pearls) until pearl farming appeared in the beginning of the 20th century. What at first glance looks like a couple of dates is actually a fascinating, if often overlooked, story!

Mikimoto is the name associated with cultured pearls in the business today. Because people were slow to take to cultured pearls, Mikimoto went balls-out in terms of promotion. At one point he publicly burned "inferior" pearls, just to drive home the message that the cultured pearls from Mikimoto Company were of a superior quality! Such antics made him a legend (at least in some circles), and so the process was attributed solely to him.

However, this is probably not the whole story.

The outstanding cultured pearl patents of the time were granted to Mikimoto...and the unlikely combination of a government biologist (Tokishi Nishikawa) and a carpenter (Tatsuhei Mise). Nishikawa and Mise had, by 1907, received a patent for their pearl-growing method. Mikimoto appears to have continued his own studies for some time (receiving a patent on a technique in 1916), but his methods couldn't mach the Nishikawa–Mise process in terms of efficiency and commercial viability. He eventually came to some kind of arrangement with the pair—whether the marriage of Mikimoto's daughter to Nishikawa was a love match or part of the arrangement, I can't find—and thus began the boom for Mikimoto Company.

This is all stuff that can be confirmed by looking at the paperwork. So far, so good.

But where did the Nishikawa–Mise method come from?

Most likely from a British marine biologist named William Saville-Kent, but there doesn't seem to be much of a paper trail to confirm it. Saville-Kent never took out any patents on pearl farming, possibly because it was one of a myriad of marine biologic interests for him, and possibly because he died in 1908. Mikimoto, on the other hand, had been obsessed with pearls from a young age and had little to no education to speak of. Pearls were his game: it was that or nothing. He had at least three patents to his name, all about cultured pearls. He also outlived Saville-Kent by quite a few years, not dying until 1954.

Nishikawa and Mise themselves are little more than nobodies who only appear as footnotes in pearl history (and in their 1907 patent).

Here is the most likely trail from Saville-Kent to Mikimoto:

Nishikawa was sent to Thursday Island, Australia in 1901 with the Arafura Pearling Fleet, where he eventually met Mise's stepfather (Mise and Nishikawa would not meet until they both returned to Japan). Saville-Kent was there at the same time with the official title of "Fisheries Commissioner."

Beyond that, it is unclear when or if paths ever crossed. Nishikawa and Mise could have met Saville-Kent, or they could have just met some of his collaborators and coworkers. At some point they must have at least heard of Saville-Kent's work in some detail, as the Nishikawa–Mise method in no way resembles the old Chinese lead figure method, but it's impossible to tell if they outright copied Saville-Kent's method or were merely inspired by it.

As a reward for reading all that, check out the world's largest pearl: the Pearl of Allah (sometimes called the Pearl of Lao Tze), clocking in at 14 pounds:

Courtesy Drow male; it's 9 inches across and originated in the Philippines

Note the lack of luster: this is not a nacreous pearl, formed by a mussel or an oyster. It is, instead, much more akin to man-made porcelain and comes from a giant goddamn clam. Technically clam pearls are pearls, but they are usually only of interest to rock hounds and collectors, not jewelers. Remember, clams can get pretty huge.

Like, this huge (and more). Courtesy Mike Baird.

There are further distinctions: freshwater pearls (from freshwater mussels that can be cultivated all over the world) and saltwater pearls (from saltwater pearl oysters that require warm waters to survive). "Freshwater" is often another trade name for "cultured" (that is, farmed) pearls, but wild freshwater pearls are possible (just rare).

Imitation pearls are also popular and made from a wide variety of material: plastic, glass, alabaster, or crushed mussel shell. An easy way to tell if your pearl is imitation or not is to rub it on your teeth (fingernails work too, if you're in a store or in public); real pearls, regardless of cultured or not, will feel gritty, while imitation pearls will feel smooth. To determine if a pearl is wild or cultured, a gemologist has to X-ray the stone to see what lies beneath the nacreous surface.

There's a whole lot more to pearls that I didn't have room to go into here. For a thorough and academic look at pearls and pearl farming, you can find The Pearl Oyster on Amazon or GoogleBooks. I also used Antoinette L. Matlin's The Pearl Book (also available on Amazon). 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Five Fandom Friday: Comic Book Heroes Who Need Their Own Series/Movie

The first of my scheduled 5 Fandom Friday posts! Thanks to Barb from You Fancy Me Mad for putting the prompts for June up early so I can answer them now, instead of stressing during my vacation.

Image courtesy Katelyn Jade
I have never been a huge, flailing comics geek. I've always been the kind to let the interesting stuff float to the top (or trickle down?) to me, mostly via my friends and loved ones. I guess you could say the following opinions I have are "outsider" (or, in tongue-in-cheek gamer parlance, "filthy casual"). But that won't stop me from sharing them!

5. Black Widow

Messy-ass Joss Whedon can't be involved, though. And it has to be a movie outside the current orgy of Avengers stuff because Black Widow being included in the Avengers team makes no goddamn sense. You have Iron Man, you have The Incredible Hulk, you have Thor, you have Captain America...what can Black Widow do that they can't? Or Hawkeye, for that matter?

I mean, not that I condone Marvel mysteriously dropping her from their Avengers promotion line. Obviously that's bullshit—if they put her in the movie, then they should commit 100% to her being in the movie and a part of the team—but it does indirectly point to Black Widow's true purpose in the movies. As Robot Chicken (and countless others) pointed out:

There have been other female Avengers recruits with actual powers the writers could have used, so I have no idea why the writers went with Black Widow. So it goes, I guess.

But a standalone Black Widow movie, in a world without Norse gods or freakish mutants or overpowered tech, would be awesome and I would watch the hell out of it.

4. Promethea (Promethea, Alan Moore)

Apologies to Mr. Moore, who has washed his hands of the movie industry, but Promethea is a way better story than V for Vendetta.

I get a lot of mileage out of this gif.

It might need some tight editing towards the end—lessons on the Tarot's Major Arcana or the Tree of Life are great for graphic novels but kind of tedious in movies—but I would love to see the stunning visuals and reality-bending ideas on the big screen. I'm thinking Terry Gilliam would be a good director.

If you haven't read Promethea, you are missing out. Get on that!

3. Superman (Red Son, Mark Millar)

There have been a bunch of Superman movies already, I know. But this one-shot from Mark Millar that posits an AU Superman who landed in Soviet Russia instead of the US is a great, unique reimagining that would make for interesting movie fodder. There are some things in the story that I would tweak (the Wonder Woman and Batman cameos seemed shoehorned in just for the lulz instead of contributing to the story), but overall it would be a great movie. Much more interesting than Batfleck versus Superman. (Take note, DC.)

...a lot of mileage. 

2. The Great Machine (Ex Machina, Brian K. Vaughan)

Brian K. Vaughn is the hot new name in graphic novels these days, with Saga being the new big thing. I haven't had a chance to get into it yet, but I will.

Before there was Saga, but after Vaughan had already gotten his toes wet with the highly-acclaimed Y the Last Man, there was Ex Machina. People don't talk as much about Ex Machina, though. I don't know why, so I'm going to change that here and now: Ex Machina is a great read and The Great Machine deserves a film treatment.

1. Doom Patrol (Doom Patrol, Grant Morrison)

I love the hell out of Morrison's run on Doom Patrol. I love it so much. At some point I need to sit down and reread it and talk to people about representation and mental illness but it's still the only superhero ensemble I can take seriously, probably because master storyteller and fiction bender Grant Morrison knows what he's doing better than anyone else in the business.

Anything else in this list would be better as a movie, but Doom Patrol has so many wonderful, complex characters and involved backstory that it would probably be better as a miniseries. And, so long as they had Morrison on board as an adviser or head writer, and stayed true to the original story arcs, I would watch it. No doubt at all.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Trek Thursday: Is There in Truth no Beauty?

#21: Is There in Truth no Beauty?

In case you forgot: The Enterprise is once again on a diplomatic mission (yay!), this time transporting an ambassador Medusan (Kollos) back to his home world. Humans can't look directly at Medusans without going mad, so Kollos has a handler (Miranda Jones) to accompany him in a little carrying case. Some shenanigans go down, we learn that Jones is blind but has some cool dress tech to compensate, and Spock nearly loses his mind by accidentally looking at the Medusan without some special glasses.

The problems inherent in trying to communicate with an alien species so dramatically different from our own we can't even begin to imagine it make for great science fiction fodder. The excuse the show uses for Kollos's box (and for calling the Medusans the Medusans) is that they're OMG SO UGLY, but I prefer to think of it as something like uncontrollable psychic powers or emission of certain pheromones or so on, and that's an easy enough substitution to make.

Miranda Jones is also an interesting character. Her obsession with being "close" to Kollos doesn't immediately come off as "silly woman in love" but can easily be read as the obsession of someone who wants to be the best person in the room at their job. While it's par for the course that Mavrick has a serious unrequited crush on her, the episode doesn't seem to blame Jones for not being interested in the guy (which, good, because he's creepy).

Random thought: Starfleet's going to outsource all of their navigation to the Medusans, then? Poor Chekov and Sulu, out of a job.

The last-minute crisis of "oh no Spock looked at him without the visors!" is tacked-on and, like all the other tension based around WILL THIS MEMBER OF THE POWER TRIO SURVIVE (the answer is always yes), rather pointless; the time would have been better-spent expanding on the the Medusans' relationship with the Federation and Jones's relationship with Kollos.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Riding the Lord of the Rings: Rauros Falls!

So I got to Rauros Falls maybe three weeks ago but forgot to share!

Since this is where the Fellowship breaks, I had two options for my next destination: Isengard with the rest of the Fellowship, or Mordor with Frodo and Sam?

Mordor, duh!

If you want, you can try the the Éowyn challenge yourself. You can also check out my goals for my new 101 in 1001 list, which begins July 3rd.