Vote for Geoffrey and Raven! (And other random gloats)

Vote for Geoffrey and Raven!

Nahanni National Park, Virginia Falls
Nahanni National Park, Virginia Falls. Image from Wikipedia.

Originally posted to my Dreamwidth account, earlier today.

All right, silly as it sounds, I'm asking for your help. At least the help of all of you who (a) live in Canada and (b) have a Facebook account.

ETA: Actually, it seems all you need is a Facebook account, so all of you, please just in and send us on our way!

My sweetie has never been camping, and neither of us have ever been to the Far North (or white-water rafting, for that matter). With your help, we just might win a trip to the Nahanni National Park.

Click here to vote for my perfect 50-word wish, okay? Many thanks in advance.

Onwards.

Click here for notes on my slowly-growing fame, on blogging, on the state of my knee and on the state of our Nation's security.

 

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August 16, 2011 - August 31, 2011

 

Hitler Lives!

Doctor Who survives a questionable gimmick

Muscle car, meet Tardis

August 30, 2011, OTTAWA — I feel almost shell-shocked.

After eight episodes of Torchwood: Miracle Day, I had almost forgotten that a television program set in the Whoniverse can actually be fun, that it can move.

As a bonus, Steven Moffat has slipped a pretty major change into that universe's cannon, one likely to upset both traditionalists and racists alike.

Of course, it's not all roses. To my mind, Steven Moffat's Who still suffers from a disregard for world-building and characterization that has been the sadly surprising hall-mark of his run as show-runner on the venerable franchise.

For the good, the bad, and the frustrating (with spoilers), Let's Visit Hitler.

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Torchwood's End of the Road hints at on-ramps passed by

Handsome Jack Harkness

August 28, 2011, OTTAWA — What in the world is going on with Torchwood: Miracle Day? For a wonder and, admittedly, grading on a steep incline, the latest instalment, End of the Road, was actually kind of entertaining, and left this viewer mildly interested in finding out what happens next.

Yes, there was too much techno-babble, but the story actually moved, at least in comparison to what's come before.

If there was still too much filler in End of the Road, for a starving fan, tinned ham beats rice cakes any day.

No skin, a little less snark, but just as many spoilers and structural analysis as ever, all at Torchwood: Mediocre Day.

 


 

Coming Soon!

Don't miss the next posts at Edifice Rex Online!

  • The return of Doctor Who! I'll review Let's Kill Hitler!
  • And on a completely different note, Jack Layton was buried on Sunday. What next for the NDP and for Canada?

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or follow me on Twitter!

 

 

Sins of the Show-Runner?

'Bring us Jack.'

August 21, 2011, OTTAWA — A commentator at the Tor.com discussion of The Middle Men passed along a "strong rumour" that Torchwood: Miracle Day was originally meant to be a five-episode series, but was expanded to ten, "so that Starz could get subscribers for longer".

Like any rumour, I take this one with the proverbial kilo of salt, but it does offer a credible, if not fully explanatory, hypothesis for the remarkably slow and inept story-telling to which we have been subject lo! these past seven weeks.

Less subtle than an average episode of South Park, the seventh episode is the best outing of the series so far. Or perhaps I should say, the least bad.

Immortal Sins at least boasts some action, some humour, some sex and even some romance.

On the other hand, the sex and romance is at best only as good as the merely competent fan-fic it will no doubt inspire, the action was counter-balanced by long, gruesome minutes of torture that would delight Mel Gibson and — of course! — a secondary plot and characterization that make no sense and which are in any case mostly negated by episode's end.

For skin, spoilers, stereotypes, structural analysis (and, yes, snark) see Mel Gibson comes to Torchwood or, The Passion of the Jack. Probably not safe for work.

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August 1, 2011 - August 15, 2011

Summertime's End

August 14, 2011, OTTAWA — The summer isn't over, but the end is visible and, on a personal level, it feels as if it's right in my face. Banged-up knee saw me miss the last four football matches of the season and now my bicycle has gone tits-up.

Not that I"m whining — I hope. The full, unusually personal, posting is here.

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Torchwood: The Middle Men, Introduction

 

The subtleties of Russell T Davies

August 13, 2011, OTTAWA — As snarky and impatient and critical as it can be, creators also get an awful lot of slack from fandom. We've invested time and energy in characters and situations, almost as if they are real people, and so we can forgive a lousy episode or even a lousy series, if we can hope that, as with a beloved but losing sports franchise, "There's always next year."

So I found myself silently cheering The Middle Men, just a little. A scene here, another there. Watching Gwen burn pointless rubber on a motorcycle was kind of fun; Jack's Batman-like disappearance before the constabulary arrived at the restaurant was cute as well. Cliched and kinda goofy, they nevertheless had an element of fun this series has been sorely lacking.

Even a brief scene of intense and cringe-inducing, brutal violence was strangely welcome.

But even for a fan, a character moment here, a well-blocked scene there, is pretty thin soup if the back-story makes even less sense than it did last week, and the plot is still driven by your favourite characters acting, well, stupidly.

The Middle Men isn't quite as awful as the previous installment, but still ... the stupid, it burns! As usual, spoilers, snark and analysis behind the link.

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Review: Crysis: Legion, by Peter Watts

August 10, 2011, OTTAWA — As you might know, I've been serially reviewing the latest Torchwood series, a work that (I presume) is as much the product of Russell T Davies' personal vision as is possible with an inherently collaborative medium.

So it is rather difficult to ignore the irony, that there is more credible social commentary, more humour and more excitement in Peter Watts' 300 page adaptation of a first-person-shooter video game, which (again, I presume) was written strictly for the money, than there has been in the first five hours of Davies' brain-child.

Watts' story, about a an accidental cybernetic soldier's brief campaign on a ruined island of Manhattan a scant 12 years in our future is also fairly rigorous science fiction, as one might expect from the "reformed marine biologist", but probably not from a novel about a super-soldier and his mysterious battle-armour.

If Crysis: Legion is not quite the follow-up to his 2006 hard-SF masterpiece, Blindsight one might have wished for, it's a better book than one has any reason to expect of a media tie-in.

Click here for "Strange bed-fellows". Some spoilers may occur.

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Torchwood: The Categories of life, introduction

The Categories of Idiot Plots

August 7, 2011, OTTAWA — Why am I writing this? Why am I even still watching?

At the half-way mark of Torchwood's miraculously boring 2011 series, there are two answers to both questions.

The first is that I said I would and that I am trying to develop a reputation for reliability. The second is that there is some morbid fascination in watching to see just how bad this thing can get.

Contrary to a prediction made in an early draft of my my review of last week's Escape to L.A., the return of Jane Espenson, whose keyboard was behind the best episode in the series so far, didn't make for any improvement after all.

The Categories of Life is so slow moving and so driven by idiot plot devices that it's tempting to imagine Russell T Davies is playing some sort of Zen game of Patience with his audience, but on reflection, the evidence doesn't support that hypothesis.

A far more plausible explanation for the ineptness on display is that Davies was so excited about the huge sums of American money at his disposal, that he was so distracted by fantasies of crane shots and exploding helicopters, that he forgot to write a story in which to blow his toys up until mere days before shooting was scheduled to start.

Click here to read about the Miracle of the Legislatures and the Parliaments. Yes, there are lots of spoilers behind the link, but click away! I've watched it so you don't have to.

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Torchwood: Miracle Day — Escape to L.A. Introduction

August 1, 2011, OTTAWA — The answer to the question, What happens in Escape to L.A.? is, "Not very much and what does happen is too stupid for words."

As there is no sense of reality in Torchwood: Miracle Day, so there is no sense of urgency. The only ticking clock is that of the viewer's rapidly-dwindling patience.

Once can only imagine that two years ago, the four hours to which we've been subjected so far would have been, to much better effect, condensed into the first 30 minutes or so of Russell T Davies flawed but taut, emotionally-moving and thoroughly gripping Children of Earth.

Do you really want to read more? Well, click away. As always, some spoilers behind the link; as sometimes, some foul language as well. You've been warned.

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July 16, 2011 - July 31, 2011

The Droz Report #7

The brothers Ford reveal the naked neocon truth

July 29 2011, OTTAWA —It sounds like a skit from a Marx Brothers movie. On the one hand, the Mayor of Canada's largest city is said to have given the finger to a six year-old girl and her mother while at the wheel of his van and while talking on his cellphone; and on the other, the Mayor's brother (and also a City Councilor) falsely claims there are more libraries than Tim Horton's coffee shops in his part of the city and tells Canada's leading novelist to butt out of municipal politics unless she gets elected to city council. Yes it's farce, but it's also deadly serious politics, that reveals volumes about neo-conservative attitudes and the triumphalist agenda the radical right-wing. Read the full story here.

* * *

Despite all the foregoing, sometimes mockery is the right approach, and so it is a privilege and a pleasure to present a visual response to the Brothers Ford.

   
 

Cartoon by Sidra Mahmood, OneSeventyFive.com.

 

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"My leg! My leg!"

July 26, 2011, OTTAWA — A blog entry, in which I report on a sports injury suffered on Sunday, and worry about the fate of Livejournal.com.

The full entry is here.

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How can a country lose a war without anybody noticing?

July 24, 2011, OTTAWA — The brilliant blogger Sabotabby notes that Canada has just lost a war. "The empire is naked, again. We (Canada, that is), got our asses handed to us in Afghanistan by a bunch of dudes who live in caves." In case you missed it, we helped to invade a country half-way around the world, we lost the war, and nobody here is paying much attention at all.

I think we ought to consider making it a rule that, if you can lose a war without most of your citizens even being aware of it, you had no business fighting it in the first place.

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Torchwood: Miracle Day - Dead of Night Introduction

July 24, 2011, OTTAWA — Miracle Day's third episode marks another step on the road towards a fully-engaging story, but still with some mis-steps, awkward steps and hints of dumbing-down for the new (yes, American) audience along the way.

Despite those cavils, a lot more seemed to happen in "Dead of Night" than in both of its predecessors put together, an important thing for a program that is trying to do triple duty as a mystery, a science fiction thriller and a social satire.

Unfortunately, too much of what happens feels as if it was inserted according to Russell T Davies initial plans, rather than growing organically out of the characters and the action.

For thoughts on the good and the bad, the Bechdel Test and the long-awaited man-sex, click here (possibly not safe for work).

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Rendition: Delayed

July 18, 2011, OTTAWA — Turns out I was anticipating the second episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day a little more than I thought I would.

I awoke to a dead computer on Saturday morning, with a full day already scheduled with Raven. I struggled with the recalcitrant beast's BIOS (the computer, people! The computer's BIOS!) until it was time to step out into the real world.

By the time we had returned from a tour of the Royal Canadian Mint and my very happy introduction to Malaysian cuisine (if you're looking for curry in Ottawa, the Nyonya Curry Chicken at Pedas in Chinatown is very good. But I digress), we were a little sunburnt and a little more worn out by a 10 kilometre stroll on a blistering day. (It's true: the lives Raven and I lead do not resemble a Torchwood storyline in the slightest.)

Nevertheless, I finally managed to finally get the machine to boot from a live Ubuntu CD and then, to diagnose and repair itself. But by then it was too late to watch anything. Quite a lot my surprise, I realized that, in my secret heart of hearts, I had been more frustrated by the delay in watching the second instalment of Torchwood: Miracle Day, than I had been anxiety-ridden by the prospect of getting professional help in repairing a dead computer.

Well, I've seen "Rendition" now, so that, among my life's stressors, is in the past. And so, after a decidedly mixed series opener, where are we at?

This reviewer, at least, is happier about the state of the Whoniverse this week than he was last week. For my full review, with fewer spoilers than usual, click here for Thugs On a Plane.

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The contentedness of the weekend warrior

July 17, 2011, OTTAWA —

  • Temperature (as of 1700 hrs, game's end): 34 C

  • Feels like: 41 C

  • UV Index: Bloody high

  • Left knee: Skinned, a little bloody

  • Right knee: Skinned, dripping blood

  • Time on field: Probably 40-45 minutes

  • Years on this Earth more than next eldest team-mate: I'd guess 15, but I'll say 10, to be safe

  • Joy felt upon leaving the field, defeated: Bloody marvellous

  • Taste of chilled beer upon return home: Like god's own ambrosia, brothers and sisters. I haven't hurt as much as I have this summer (what with the running, the tennis and the badminton on top of the sunday soccer/football matches) in many years, yet I haven't felt as good in even more.

Have I mentioned lately how pleased I am that I stopped smoking? Well, I should, because I know I wouldn't have been able to keep up if I was still sparking up those death-sticks.

I don't think my pants are any looser (more's the pity), but I sure as hell feel better than I have in a very long time, even — maybe especially — where it hurts.

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July 3 2011 - July 15, 2011

Reviewing Torchwood: Miracle Day

That's right folks, it's summer and, this year, that means another series of Torchwood. Ten episodes over ten weeks this year, as compared to five over five days in 2009.

And yes, I'm watching it, hoping that Russell T Davies can return to form and wash the disappointing memories of this year's Doctor Who from my mind.

The first two series of the show ranged from campy delight to nearly pornographic awfulness (sometimes in the same episode) and the third came within a last-minute intellectual cop-out of being a masterpiece of sociological science fiction, so it's anybody's guess how Davies' fourth kick at the Torchwood can will turn out.

One episode in, the results are still up in the air.

My review of the episode is posted here and my overview of the series to date is over here — and be warned, I'm pretty free with spoilers.

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Treme: Television comes of Age

Introduction: Lost in (outer) space

Anybody remember Star Trek: Voyager? The 1995 edition of the Star Trek franchise was based on an idea that begged for a treatment much different from where any Star Trek had gone before but, though the program survived seven seasons, it can only be considered a colossal failure of creative nerve.

The concept was simple. Rather than yet another Starship only days or weeks away from a galactic garage, Voyager was a vessel hurled (never mind how) so far into space its crew found itself facing the prospect of a 75 year journey home.

Obviously, Voyager was going to be a study in the physical and psychological travails of a small group of people utterly isolated and aboard a vessel falling slowly into disrepair, gradual stripping away the veneer of 24th century civilization to reveal the essential characters of the men and women wearing the fraying Starfleet uniforms.

Or not. In fact, just like its episodic predecessors, but without the justification of having a Starbase just past the next star system, Voyager followed a simplistic Adventure of the Week formula. Thus, each week, scars both physical and psychological were magicked away and all was re-set to factory specifications for the next episode.

The format has its merits and has produced some excellent drama of a certain (essentially childish) kind. Even at best, it is of limited depth and certainly takes no advantage of the time available to tell a really long story.

Enter Treme, a program set in the heart of New Orleans, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Now just finished its second season, I dare to suggest we are witness not just to one of television's rare masterpieces, but to the birth of a new art-form — the long-format drama.

So let's talk about David Simon and Eric Overmyer's Treme. Let's talk about a drama that avoids cliches and tropes and easy laughs. Let's talk about what is, as one blogger put it, "a dramatic TV series that is about a city's history and culture."

Few spoilers, and definitely no cops'n robbers inside.

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The First Naked Bike Ride

There isn't a cause out there (or so it seems) that doesn't have a dedicated, international 'Day' assigned to it. Typically, it is brought to my attention too late for me to say much about it, even if I do have something to say, and this years was no different.

That's right, 2011's 2011's Canadian version of the annual World Naked Bike Ride has come and gone, without either my notice or my participation.

If Wikipedia, as of July 2nd, 2011, is to be believed, the first Naked Bike Ride was held in Spain in 2001, in Spain. (I did not participate in that one, either.)

However, I have cycled naked, though I did so neither as a simple exhibitionist nor as one disguised as a protester making some arcane point.

As it happens, the last time I arranged my valuables just so on a bike's saddle, I did so fully prepared to do battle over an entirely different (though, arguably, just as questionable) point.

Click here to read about my childhood adventures as Naked Superhero — remarkably, they are Safe For Work!

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