Space:1999 + LEGO = WIN!

Builder Joe Klang recently posted images from his LEGO construction book Build Your Own Galaxy in which he features a few builds based on the cult 70′s science fiction TV series Space: 1999 and if you’re a fan of the show like I am, the results will have you beaming. Joe built incredibly detailed models of Eagle One, a large portion of Moonbase Alpha Main Missions and even minifig versions of the command crew itself including Dr. Russell, Commander Koenig and Maya. What I wouldn’t give to have his LEGO Eagle One sitting on my desk, ready for lift off. I’ve been obsessed with Space: 1999 ever since I was a boy and seeing Joe’s creations, crafted out of LEGO’s brought me right back to my youth. Bravo, Joe!

Hat tip to The Brothers Brick for this post.

Breaking Bad’s Long, Long Rap Sheet

With AMC’s production of Better Call Saul in full swing, and Breaking Bad nominated for several Emmy awards, it seems like a good time to reflect on the show. Enter this cool infographic that outlines each of the main character’s criminal charges from the series’ run. Walter and his pals sure where busy little criminal bees, that’s for sure. Personally, I can’t wait for Better Call Saul to hit the airwaves, hopefully complete with key cameos from Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. As I’m sure Walter would say, you can never have enough of a good thing. Click the image to see the entire info graphic.

All hands! Fasten seat belts!

This page may take a few moments to load, but if you’re a Star Trek fan like I am, it’s worth it. Some geeks recently trained their image stabilization software towards the decks of the Starship Enterprise with hilarious results. These animated GIF’s show what the director and crew saw while filming these scenes for the various incarnations of Star Trek.

The original series used the shakey cam all the time so it’s really fun to see just how these shots were choreographed. I’m struck by the sheer number of people who were apparently on the bridge at the time of this impact. I love the blocking ballet that George Takei as Sulu has to do here to not only get out of his chair, but somehow hit the floor without breaking his neck. Well done, George, well done!

StableTOS2

Meanwhile on the set of 1982′s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the Enterprise takes a hit and once again no one is wearing seat belts. DeForrest Kelly is in his usual position for bridge scenes (above and behind the Captain) and once again he goes flying on cue, but this time to the right. It is me or is Kirstie Alley kinda phoning it in here as Savvik? So much fun!

StableWOK

Fast forward to S7 of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s episode Force of Nature. I could watch this stabilized clip on a loop for days. I love how everyone’s doing their own little stylized dance to convey the rocking of the Enterprise. Jonathan Frakes clutches his chair and appears to simultaneously steady himself AND rock the chair convincingly for the camera. The Hekaran scientist with Worf on the 2nd level struggles to hold on while the ensign in the back lurches, helping to complete the illusion. Oh, and Patrick Stewart may be the only person I know who can make shaking for the camera actually look cool. Okay, maybe not.

StableTNG

I love this hilarious gif of Next Generation’s Brent Spiner as Data pilots the Enterprise through a particularly violent jolt. You can imagine the crew member standing just off camera waiting to give his chair and console a good WHACK! when the director calls action. I wonder how many takes this took to get through without Brent cracking up.

StableData

This last GIF is from the Original Series but it’s almost 5mb, so if you want to take a gander, click here. Classic TOS fun!

Fox’s Cosmos Isn’t About False ‘Balance’

degrassetysonquote_science_fullI really had to do a double-take when I read last week that the creationist group Answers in Genesis recently complained Fox’s prime-time science show, Cosmos, lacks scientific “balance”. The group criticized host Neil deGrasse Tyson and the creative team behind the show because it provides no alternatives to the theories of evolution or the Big Bang for like-minded fundamentalists like themselves. The irony is so thick in this story you could cut it with a knife. For those people who continually ignore the scientific method and established facts about our world and universe to suddenly complain because they themselves are being ignored is nothing short of poetic justice. What makes it even better is that Cosmos would indeed cover the creationist viewpoint if there was any scientific substance to it what-so-ever, but there isn’t.

Creationism is not science, it’s religion pure and simple. There is nothing that can be quantified, tested or proven when it comes to religion, by definition it’s a matter of faith. If science could be applied to the concept of an all-knowing intelligent designer, it certainly would have been, but it cannot and so a portion of religious believers cry foul. What I think truly irks them however is not simply being left out, but being excluded from such a genuine media event as Cosmos. Such science series air pretty much weekly on the Discovery Channel, the National Geographic Channel, the Science Channel and others but we hardly hear so much of a peep from the hard right as we have now. The fact the reboot of Sagan’s science series airs on a major network such as Fox, and in prime-time to such critical and popular success is the straw that broke the creationist’s camel’s back.

As far as I’m concerned Danny Faulkner and his creationists group have as much right to complain about not being given air time on Cosmos as flat-earthers have on the NASA channel. Evolution is a proven scientific theory. It happened and is still happening today. It has withstood decades of rigorous tests and is the fundamental foundation of all biology on earth. I’m personally tired of the pressure put upon the media by conservatives to give false balance to any and all issues in today’s society. 2 + 2 isn’t 5, men really did set foot on the moon and the earth isn’t a mere 6,000 years old. If you cannot understand those simple scientific facts, change the channel, Cosmos isn’t your cup of scientific tea.

UPDATE: The creationists are back after last night’s episode dealing with Edmond Halley and the origins of comets. Yes, they apparently even have an issue with the science behind comets. All kinds of problems arise when your belief system centers around young earth creationism. Anyway, head on over to Mother Jones to read more about it.

Percussive Maintenance

Anyone who can find commonality between Deep Space Nine, Hogan’s Heroes, Back to the Future and Happy Days is okay in my book. I love TV and movie supercuts and this is one of the most clever I’ve seen. Take all those times when characters fix broken equipment with a good whack and what you get is percussive perfection. Enjoy!

(via Collossal)

Breaking Bad’s Swimming Pool Symbolism


SPOILER WARNING: This post contains major spoilers for AMC’s Breaking Bad. If you’ve not watched through the first half of season 5 and don’t want to know spoil some of the major plot points, then you should really stop reading now. You’ve been warned.

The cult TV hit, Breaking Bad, wraps tonight on AMC in what is sure to be one of the best series finales ever to hit TV. I only recently started watching the series on Netflix and have come to appreciate the complex web of plot, character development, drama and awesomeness that is Breaking Bad. Watching the entire 5 seasons in a little over a month gives one a fresh perspective on the show that long-time fans may have missed, especially the subtle use of signs and symbols that are a favorite of the show’s creator, Vince Gilligan.

One of the re-curring symbols that shows up in Breaking Bad is water, and more specifically swimming pools. Chemistry teacher turned master meth cook, Walter White, has one in his backyard and throughout the show’s run, action frequently takes place in and around these small aquatic jewels. Fans of the show know that the pools themselves often portend ominous happenings in the world of Breaking Bad. In fact, I don’t think I can recall a single scene where people were actually having a good time in a swimming pool in the entire 5-year run of the show. No, in Walter White’s world swimming pools and the water that fills them represents something else entirely and it’s the single plot point that propels the show.

There are lots of different interpretations of what swimming pools mean in Breaking Bad, but the one that is the most obvious, indeed the one that hits us over the head by season 5′s “Fifty-One” is that they are a metaphor for Heisenberg’s blue meth. In the S3 episode ‘Caballo Sin Nombre‘ we see Walt fish a bandaid out of a swimming pool (see above). Walt’s always been a problem solver as well as a perfectionist and this small scene I think highlights Walt’s need to always improve his addictive product. He’s forever trying to keep contaminants out of the cook, something we’re reminded again just a few episodes later in “Fly“. It also symbolizes his desire to keep his family clear and “clean” of his seedy, second life.

Then there is the air disaster that marks the brutal end of season 2 when Jane’s father and air traffic controller, stricken with grief over losing his daughter to a drug overdose, accidentally collides two passenger jets in the skies over Albuquerque. The image of the pink bear haunts us in the cold opens for most of season 2, a horrible reminder of the unforeseen consequences of Walt’s actions.

In season 4′s ‘Hermanos‘ we visit the lavish home of Mexican drug lord Don Eladio. The home once again features a swimming pool that soon features prominently as the final resting place of Gus Fring’s partner as he’s laid waste by the ruthless cartel. In an ironic twist of fate, this same swimming pool becomes the tomb of Eladio as Gus returns to Mexico in S4′s ‘Salud‘ to exact revenge on those that killed his friend. The drug cartel reaps what it sows as we see lives slip away in the cool, blue waters.

Gillian also slips subtle references about the symbolic blue meth into the show’s dialog in several episodes including S5′s ‘Dead Freight‘. When Walt, Jessie and Mike plan to heist hundreds of gallons of methylamine, the crucial chemical needed to cook meth, Lydia explains that the train they’ll be hitting holds enough of the compound to “fill a swimming pool.”

Lest there be any more doubt about what pools represent, we have S5′s incredible episode ‘Fifty-One‘. The entire White clan gathers to celebrate Walt’s fifty-first birthday poolside. As Walt talks to his in-laws at a nearby table, his wife Skyler stands staring into the bright blue water, filled with dispair. She fears for the safety of herself and her children because of the monster her husband has become. As Walt speaks, Skyler slowly steps, fully dressed into the family pool. She descends to the bottom, floating like an angel in the cool water, literally drowning in the blue poison Walt has forced upon her and her family. Her sister and brother in-law beg her to get out, to save herself but they’re voices are muffled by the water and Skyler’s contentment with her plans to get her children out of the house and to safety.

There are lots of other examples of the meth/pool symbolism in the series, but one of my favorites is the cold open for S5′s ‘Blood Money‘. In a flash forward, Walt, deposed from his drug lord throne, returns to his condemned home to find his house in ruins. He watches a band of kids use his now empty swimming pool for skateboarding. He stares helplessly as strangers run rampant on his former property, his crystal-blue empire has turned to dust and he his powerless to stop it.

I love symbolism in television and films. Clever use of symbolism adds depth and meaning to storytelling and Breaking Bad has been one hell of an awesome story. I still have a few episodes to go before tonight’s finale (hopefully I’ll catch up in time!) but I hope this small insight into the shimmering blue waters of Walter White’s world has increased your appreciation for what Vince Gilligan and his Breaking Bad team of writers has given us these past five seasons. I for one am glad I decided to dip my foot in Breaking Bad’s pool.

Doctor Meh

The Eleven DoctorsToday Doctor Who fans around the world learned that 55-year-old Peter Capaldi has been cast as the 12th incarnation of everyone’s favorite Time Lord. While the choice of Capaldi will no doubt prove to be serviceable, I can’t help thinking that Steven Moffat, Doctor Who’s lead writer and executive producer, blew a huge opportunity to take the show in fresh directions and gain scores of new viewers in the process.

One of the greatest character strengths the Doctor possesses is the ability to regenerate. When the Doctor dies, he is reborn and played by a new actor, sometimes for an entire generation of fans. Yet, in the entire illustrious 50-year history of the BBC show, the part has yet to be played by anyone other than a white male. The actors who play the Doctor have varied in age and style and each brought their own wonderful interpretation of the Doctor to the small screen, but the general dynamic is always the same. The Doctor is always male, and although his companions sometime vary, the are typically young, pretty females.

Imagine the storytelling possibilities that would present themselves if the Doctor regenerated as a woman. Thanks to the spirited portrayal of River Song by actress Alex Kingston, we have a hint at just what such casting could be like. Much like the Doctor, River was a strong-willed, cocky scientist who was always in the thick of trouble. But River is not the Doctor and a true portrayal of that ancient Time Lord by a woman would instantly add interest, drama and a breath of fresh air to the series. Moffat could have broken with tradition and cast a woman as the Doctor or gone even further and cast a new, male companion for her as well. Suddenly all the old stories would be turned on their head, new character interactions could be explored and we might even have a reversal of sexual tension in the TARDIS.

Even if Moffat chose not to explore those themes or kept a female companion for the Doctor, how much more interesting would a female / female dynamic be when chasing down Daleks and saving the universe (yet again)? I always loved the interplay between female leads on shows like Xena: Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I think it could work wonderfully on Doctor Who. It would also give girls the world over a new female role model that they could look up to and be inspired by.

The forward-looking nature of science fiction shows like Doctor Who, demand characters and stories that make us stop and think. Star Trek portrayed its first black Captain twenty years ago in 1993 when Avery Brooks played DS9′s Captain Sisko and just two years later Voyager cast Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway. Sooner or later the character of the Doctor will be played by a woman. When that day comes I’ll stand up and cheer loudly for a show I’ve loved since childhood. With the news of Capaldi’s casting I’m buckling down for more of the same kinds of stories we’ve seen for the last 50 years, and that’s a shame. Today I wish I was shouting “Geronimo!” instead of merely muttering “Meh.”

COSMOS Is Coming

I’ve been a fan of the late Carl Sagan’s groundbreaking PBS TV series, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, ever since it first aired in 1980. When the news came last year that FOX was teaming up with National Geographic, executive producers Seth MacFarlane, Ann Druyan, Sagan’s widow and Neil deGrasse Tyson to remake the series in 2014, I was over the moon. Now we have an official trailer that debuted at San Diego Comic-Con and it’s positively astounding. From the trailer we can see Neil will re-introduce viewers to the Spaceship of the Imagination, the cosmic calendar and other scientific concepts that made the original both fun and educational. Because the series will air in prime time, FOX is giving Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey an amped up, epic treatment that’s sure to lure new viewers both young and old. As far as I’m concerned, 2014 can’t get here fast enough!

Star Trek: TNG 25th Anniversary Posters

If you’re heading to San Diego Comic-Con this year, then be sure to stop by CBS’s booth (#4129) for some awesome Star Trek related goodies. To help celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Next Generation and release of season 1 on blu ray, CBS has released a set of graphic posters any Trek fan is sure to love. You can follow the official StarTrek.com twitter account for updates on when they’ll be giving away postcards and prints at SDCC or just order them online. The posters come in different sizes and although they seem a bit pricy, they just may be your cup of tea.. Earl Gray, hot. Engage!

Fixing Home Sharing’s TV Troubles

iTunes Home Sharing is a wonderful feature that’s designed to let you share media libraries between multiple Macs, iOS devices and Apple TV. If you have Home Sharing turned on and a solid Wi-Fi connection, you don’t need to fill your iPad with movies and TV shows you’ve downloaded to watch them. Simply connect to your Mac’s media library via the Videos app, select the shared library and iTunes will present you with a list of all of your movies and TV shows. I own lots of TV show episodes, some I’ve ripped from my DVDs and some purchased directly from iTunes. Home Sharing should allow me to get quick access to all of them any time I want. At least that’s the theory.

The Problem

When browsing music and movies via iTunes Home Sharing, media is displayed as one would expect. Movies are listed alphabetically by title and music arranged into playlists that can be navigated and played easily either via Apple TV or an iDevice. Unfortunately, TV shows are a whole different story. TV shows don’t always display in the proper order when browsed on Apple TV or iDevices via Home Sharing. Furthermore, certain TV show seasons will display multiple times or even worse, simply not appear at all. When this happens, it’s impossible to select the series and episode you want to watch making Home Sharing effectively useless. So what’s going on?

The Cause

I recently spent several long nights experimenting with my iTunes media library learning what was causing some TV shows to appear multiple times, others appear out of order and some just not at all. I read several support threads at Apple that explained how a TV show’s meta data can confuse iTunes’ Home Sharing feature if not set correctly. What is metadata? It’s the information that is assigned to a file in iTunes such as the show’s title, season number, episode ID and so on. Selecting a song, movie or TV show in iTunes and then getting information on it (cmd-I) will reveal the file’s metadata and allow you to edit it.

The root of the trouble seems to be that unlike movies which are stand alone entities, and songs, which can be part of an album, TV shows are not only broken down by series title (the TV version of an “Album”), but also by season. This two-tierd level of sorting can be extremely confusing for the user since it’s not always obvious how iTunes decides what comes first, second, third and so on. In addition, there appears to be a quirk in iTunes where if values of a television show’s metadata (like episode ID) conflict with other episodes of that same TV show, the series simply won’t display in Home Sharing. Finally, to make matters worse, often times the metadata of a TV show isn’t set consistently by the publisher from season to season or even from episode to episode. Mis-numbered or conflicting episode ID’s, especially within the same TV series across multiple seasons, throws iTunes into a tailspin and leads to problems.

In the above example you can see that I have downloaded two seasons of the BBC series Sherlock. Both season 1 and season 2 have the correct season metadata set, but the individual episodes have duplicate episode ID’s. Season two’s episode ID’s are labeled “1, 2, 3, 101 and 102″ when they should be labeled “201, 202, 203, 204 and 205″. Because the season 2 episodes use ID numbers that conflict with those in season 1, Home Sharing freaks out and in this instance displays the series out of order. Making matters worse, some publishers include the season number in the name of a show’s title, like “The Walking Dead; Season 2″ which causes problems when an iPhone or iPad polls for how to display the program.

Lastly, the strangest thing I learned in my investigations was that it appears improperly labeled metadata for one show can affect the display properties of a completely different television show as well. So until you correct the metadata of every single TV episode in your iTunes library, random problems may persist when trying to display them. It really makes no sense, but in my testing this was the case.

The Fix

The solution to the problem lies in making the show’s title, season numbers and episode ID’s logical and consistent throughout your entire iTunes library. If you have a fairly large collection of television show episodes it will take you some time to edit them and correct the display problems, but it is indeed fixable.

Follow these steps:

• Select tv episodes (one at a time or in batches) & press command-I
• Select the “Info” tab
• Set the show’s “Name” field to the title of the episode itself
• Set the “Album” field to the name of the series

Note: When naming a series with multiple seasons, it’s important to use the same naming on each episode. For instance, don’t name one episode’s Album “The Big Bang Theory” and another’s “Big Bang Theory”. Pick a naming convention and use it for all episodes of that television program to help eliminate problems.

Next:

• Select the “Video” tab
• Set the “Show” field to the name of the series (the same one used in the Album field) & remove any qualifiers like “Season 1″ etc
• Set the “Season Number”, episode ID and episode number to their proper values

Note: When setting episode ID’s, each one should be unique to that series. Typically, 101 would be season 1, episode 1. 202 would be season 2, episode 2 and so on. It’s crucial that each episode within each TV show has a unique, and logical ID number or the show won’t display correctly and could affect other show’s listings as well.

Lastly:

• Select the “Sorting” tab
• Make sure that the Album name matches that in the Video tab
• As a precaution I also removed any information contained in any of the sorting fields of this tab. The album name seems to be enough for iTunes to find and display the show correctly so the rest is unnecessary

Once you have updated all of the metadata on all of your TV shows, each series should appear only once and in the proper season order in Home Sharing. You may need to exit and kill the video app, relaunch it and re-connect to your shared media library to actually see the changes take effect. If a show is still out of order, or doesn’t appear, then an offending bit of metadata is still out there. You’ll need to hunt it down and correct it, but when all is said and done your TV show library should look something like this.

Conclusions

As frustrating and time consuming as this process can be, seeing a properly ordered, shared TV show library is extremely satisfying, especially if you’re as obsessed with organization as I am. I’d write a developer radar report for these issues but honestly, I’m not even sure why it occurs, or even if it’s really a bug. It seems more likely iTunes is just finicky about logical, non-conflicting metadata. Unfortunately, each file has so many fields of data it’s difficult to tell which one should be set to what value, resulting in user frustration. The good news is that armed with the information above, and a little patience, you too can whip your Home Sharing library into tip-top shape. Just be sure to bring along some popcorn and a sense of humor.

Double Standards for Chopped All-Stars

SPOILER WARNING: This post contains mild spoilers for ep. 1 of the new season Food Network’s Chopped All-Stars. If you’re a stickler for spoilers, leave the kitchen now.

If you’re a fan of Food Network’s reality TV competition, Chopped, then you’re no doubt you’re relishing the new season of all-stars which started this past week. The show pits the biggest names of the network head to head in the Chopped kitchen to see who stands above the rest. The All-Stars edition is a great opportunity to see how talented chefs deal with the pressures of limited time and crazy mystery ingredients in a creative and professional manner. Or so one would think.

In the first episode of Chopped All-Stars, two of the competing Iron Chefs, Marc Forgione and Michael Symon each drank from a bottle of coconut rum they were given and then proceeded to pour the ingredient from the same bottle into their pots. As any fan of the show can tell you, whenever competing chefs commit a cooking no-no like this, they are always called out by the judges at the end of the round. Always. Judge Scott Conant is a stickler for cleanliness and has made many competitors feel 10 inches tall after having tasted from a spoon and then used the very same spoon to stir their creations. Mysteriously, during the all-star edition no one called out either Forgione or Symon for their un-professional behavior.

Another tidbit that’s just as telling is Iron Chef Cat Cora’s use of raw red onions in one of her dishes, an ingredient Conant is infamous for hating. His dislike of red onion is legendary on Chopped but for some reason he didn’t seem to mind Cora’s use of the onion at all. These details are nit-picky to be sure, but are important none-the-less. Speaking as a fan, it rubs my rhubarb to know the Food Network’s talent is put on a pedestal instead of the chopping block where they belong.

Discovering Babylon 5

SPOILER WARNING: This post contains mild spoilers for the first season of Babylon 5. If you’ve not watched the series yet, and intend to do so some day, you might want to skip this post.

When Babylon 5 originally premiered in January of 1994, I was buried in massive amounts of grad work and didn’t have time to follow the newly announced series on the air. Being the huge, protective Star Trek fan I was, I also considered Babylon 5 to be somewhat of an “also ran” at the time. Now, thanks to my Netflix enabled Apple TV, I decided to see what I was missing and dive head first into the landmark sci-fi TV series. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what I’ve found.

I will say I’m still green when it comes to Babylon 5. I’m getting ready to wrap up watching the first season so please don’t post spoilers in the comments section. What I’ve discovered so far is a science fiction series which was crafted with love by its creator, J. Michael Straczynski. Although the production levels would be considered low budget by today’s standards, the writing of the characters and the drama is top notch. Like any fledgeling series, Babylon 5 took more than a few episodes to find its space legs. The first episode I really enjoyed was ‘Born to the Purple‘ featuring the Centauri diplomat Londo as played by the talented Peter Jurasik. One aspect that makes the show so appealing is the dialog between characters. Interactions often seem more “real” than they ever did on Star Trek: The Next Generation and there’s a intentional lack of the so-called “technobabble” that often served as a dramatic crutch on Star Trek.

Indeed, in interview after interview, J. Michael Straczynski stated he wanted to do things differently than Roddenberry and Berman did on Trek. Externally, the premise of the show may seem very Trek-like, but scratch more than the surface and the similarities end. Babylon 5 centers around an immense space station build by the Earth Defense Force to serve as a sort of deep-space United Nations to keep the peace between the major races of the galaxy. The story follows the crew and inhabitants of the station as they jockey for position in their day-to-day dealings with each other and the cosmos. The series is unique because it was planned as a single, massive five-year story arc that had a definite beginning, middle and end.

I’ve enjoyed the way Babylon 5 treats certain topics, among them religion. While religion played an important part of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, there it served as the center of faith for the Bajoran race, not of humans. Gene Roddenberry had specifically said that by Star Trek’s time, mankind had “grown out” belief in God. In Babylon 5, characters embrace religion, and in an ironic nod to Gene’s vision, even celebrate its infinite diversity on the planet Earth. One of the first season’s best episodes, “TKO” finds the station’s second in command, Susan Ivanova, dealing with the death of her father and embracing her Jewish heritage. The scenes with Ivanova holding shiva for her papa are touching and bring a sense of humanity to the technologically complex, and sometimes cold universe of Babylon 5.

Other parts of the show I’m enjoying often involve details. A scene between Commander Sinclair and Security Chief Garibaldi, part of which is held in a public men’s room. It’s refreshing because something like this NEVER happened on Star Trek. While I couldn’t possibly imagine Worf and Riker discussing the day’s events while standing at a urinal, it seemed like a perfectly normal scene on Babylon 5. Another funny exchange comes in the form of a funny practical joke Garibaldi and Sinclair play on Ivanova over breakfast one morning. Moments like this are rare in the often overly dramatic universes shows like Babylon 5 inhabit, which is why they’re so welcome by fans like myself.

Perhaps the best part of discovering Babylon 5 is knowing that I’m just at the outset of the series. Over the years, I’ve heard many good things about the show and how it became “must see TV” for an entire generation of scifi fans. I’m gratified to finally have a chance to witness the friendly jibes between Londo and G’kar, to slowly discover the mysteries of the Vorlons and to learn more about the ruthless and enigmatic Psi Corps. Watching the show for the first time is like discovering an entire universe of rich fables all waiting to be unwrapped. For a geek like myself, its a guilty pleasure and one that I highly recommend. Some time ago I wrote a post highlighting my top 10 favorite science fiction shows ever. At the time I had not seen Babylon 5, and so I had no reason to include it on my list. If the series continues to improve as so many on Twitter have told me it does, I may just have to go back and make amends.

My Most Anticipated of 2010

With so much to look forward to in the coming year, I thought I would assemble a list of just some of the things I’m anticipating most. All of the things on my list have been in development for a very long time, and all of them are coming to a head in 2010. If you’re like me, then you know at least a one item on this list, if not then hopefully you’re in for a few pleasant surprises.

• • •

Star Trek Online

Video Games

When Star Trek Online finally beams down in February of 2010, the game will have been in development for over 6 years. This massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) has the potential of being the best online experience since Blizzard’s hugely popular effort, World of Warcraft. Players will be able to command their own starships, explore strange new worlds, and team up to defeat classic Star Trek enemies such as the Borg and Klingons.

Historically, video games based on the Star Trek franchise have not been widely successful. I have a feeling that Star Trek Online is about to change all that. How do I know? I’ve played it. That’s right I’ve sat in the Captain’s chair and I am here to say STO is a winner. I can’t divulge much due to the closed beta NDA except to say that Cryptic Studios has managed to capture this Trekkie’s heart with their incredibly fun and detailed futuristic universe. Star Trek Online enters public beta in January of 2010. Unfortunately no Mac or Linux version is planned for launch, but there is a logical alternative. If you own a fast Mac and aren’t afraid to run Windows via Boot Camp, there’s no reason you can’t go where no one has gone before. Make it so!

• • •

The Pacific

Television

From Producers Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, the team that brought us the Emmy Award winning miniseries, Band of Brothers, comes The Pacific. I first wrote about this HBO 10-part drama back in April of 2007 and have been waiting for it ever since. The original Band of Brothers was a tour de force showcasing the gritty realism and heroic courage of WWII in Europe. The Pacific aims to tell the story of a small group of Marines in the Pacific theater of battle and includes an almost entirely unknown cast of actors.

The Pacific is based on two memoirs of U.S. Marines: With the Old Breed by Eugene Sledge and Helmet for My Pillow by Robert Leckie. The series will tell the stories of the two authors and Marine John Basilone, as the war against the Empire of Japan rages. According to Wikipedia, the series will feature well-known battles involving the 1st Marine Division, including Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, Peleliu, and Okinawa, as well as Basilone’s involvement in the Battle of Iwo Jima. While Band’s battle scenes rivaled anything on the silver screen, it was always the thoughtful stories of the men who fought and died for their country that made the series so compelling. The Pacific is set to air on HBO in March of 2010.

• • •

The Return of Futurama

Television

You just can’t keep an animated robot and his hilarious best friends down. After a pre-mature cancellation by Fox in 2003, Futurama found new life in syndication thanks to Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim and Comedy Central. The show’s creators, Matt Groening and David X. Cohen teamed up and briefly brought Futurama out of deep freeze with the release of 4 straight-to-DVD movies, the last of which was released in early 2009. On June 9th, 2009, Comedy Central announced that they had picked up the show for 26 new half-hour episodes which are due to start airing in mid-2010.

I’ve been a personal fan of this deeply funny show since the first day it aired on Fox. While I have enjoyed the DVD films, the 1.5 hour format really didn’t suit Futurama and the stories lost focus. I’m confident that returning to the 1/2 hour format will make all the difference as the writers, producers and voice actors once again lift us to new heights of geek-filled fun. Plus, I’m dying for new material for my Futurama icon sets!

• • •

Super Mario Galaxy 2

Video Games

When it was released in November of 2007, Super Mario Galaxy quickly became hailed as one of the greatest video games of all time. As the flagship title for the new Nintendo Wii, Galaxy brought the beloved Mario series to a whole new level. The game challenged gamer’s preconceptions of 3D level design as Mario dashed and jumped around and across entire planets on his hunt for Power Stars. Adding to the game’s impact were the over 20 fresh and epic musical tracks scored by composer Koji Kondo. Although few sequels live up to the thrill of the original, knowing Shigeru Miyamoto as they do, Nintendo fans everywhere are anxiously awaiting Super Mario Galaxy 2′s appearance sometime in 2010. Count me among them.

• • •

Apple iPadd

Technology

Rumors of the mythical tablet computer from Apple have been swirling for the better part of a decade, but it wasn’t until the iPhone came along that the possibility of such a device seemed real. Add to that slips of the tongue from newspaper and magazine publishers, supposed patent filings and oodles of fake mock-ups and suddenly rumor becomes reality. If speculation is to be believed, then the iPadd (my pet nickname for the device ode to the ubiquitous tablet computers from Star Trek) will arrive sometime in March or April for under $1,000.

When all is said and done, the bigger question might be why is Apple making a tablet computer in the first place? The answer seems to be to do for books what the iPod did for music, that is to revolutionize it. Steve Jobs is apparently setting Apple up as the direct competitor to the hugely successful Kindle from Amazon, and that’s just fine with me. Call me crazy, but I think if you’re going to let users download and read books in bed, that device should have built-in backlighting. Oh, and color would be great too.

I could easily see my trusty iPadd coming in handy while I watch TV to tweet a snarky comment or to look up a movie reference. I could also see myself propping up the device on a nifty stand to display the recipe du jour as I cook. Oh yes, if and when the iPadd comes, I’ll probably find a way to talk myself into needing it along with millions of other consumers. Curse you Steve Jobs!

• • •

TRON Legacy

Movies

This long-awaited sequel to Disney’s original TRON has geeks everywhere spazzing out. The story follows Flynn’s son Sam as he attempts to track down his missing father. Inside the cyber world audiences first visited in 1982, the programs have become more advanced, video games more violent and cyberspace more deadly.

The sequel will feature original TRON stars Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn and Bruce Boxleitner as Tron himself. Given the advancements that have been made in computer special effects in the past 28 years, TRON Legacy promises to be a visual spectacle unlike anything movie goers have ever seen. Disney has scheduled the release date of the film as December 17th, 2010, a year and a few days from when I write this. Only time will tell if it’s worth the wait.

• • •

Fox News’ War on the White House

When the White House first pushed back against Fox News, I wasn’t sure it was a good idea but now I am. Media Matters put together what Fox has been up to since the day Obama was elected, month by month. I’d love it for someone to go through and try and make a montage like this of Fox’s positive stories about the administration. It’d probably last all of 30 seconds.

I don’t know what disgusts me more, the fact that Fox pushes its extreme-right opinion 24 hours a day or that most of my family enjoys having lies and propaganda spoon fed to them on a daily basis. This is one time when turning the other cheek just isn’t an option.

Amazing Race Revs Up Again

Season 15 of CBS’s Emmy Award winning reality television series, The Amazing Race, beings this Sunday, September 27th at 8pm est. As usual, 12 teams will compete in a race around the world for a chance to win $1 million U.S. dollars and in the process explore new cultures, foreign traffic jams and maddening airport delays. I’ve been watching The Amazing Race since season one and despite an unchanging formula, it remains my favorite reality series ever.

This season’s field of entrants include a pair of Harlem Globetrotters, former (now unemployed) executives for National Lampoon, a duo of professional poker players and the usual assortment of dating, engaged and married couples. Over at the Iconfactory, I start a pool at the start of every season of the Amazing Race to pick the show’s winning couple. Judging these human books by their covers, one could easily pick Sam & Dan, brothers, to go all the way. They look like they’re in good shape and they’re brothers so there shouldn’t be any unknowns between them. It’d be poetic justice to see the Globetrotters trounce the other teams on a world wide race, but something tells me they won’t last beyond episode 5.

No matter who wins, I’m just happy that The Amazing Race has returned once again to fill my Sunday nights. The show is exciting, dynamic and this season promises to offer new, unseen twists and turns. I’m so addicted to TAR that I’ve been filling the down time between seasons with showings of The Amazing Race Asia. The show “can be found” on the tubes if you know where to look and offers much of the same frantic travel goodness as it’s U.S. counterpart. It may not have Phil Keoghan, but the host obviously enjoys his job and the non-US centric cast and locations is a welcome change of pace. In the meantime, head on over to CBS.com and meet this season’s teams, check out Phil’s video diary and then be sure to tune in Sunday night for one wild ride. Remember, travel safe!

Ode to a Pitchman

After a string of celebrity deaths last week comes the awful news that famed TV pitchman, Billy Mays, was found dead in his Tampa home this morning. Unlike Michael Jackson, Mays won’t have thousands of tribute parties thrown in his honor around the world. Mays also didn’t have the body of work or the rapport that actress Farrah Fawcett or Ed McMahon had with television audiences. While the passing of all of these famed individuals are sad occasions, I feel the most moved by the loss of Billy. Ironically, this wouldn’t have been the case a few months ago except that I’ve gained insight into the man via his series on the Discovery Channel – Pitchmen.

Until I started watching Pitchmen, I really hadn’t thought much about Mays except when he and his loud voice would boom across my TV screen to sell me OxiClean or another infomercial product. I usually changed the channel pretty fast and really didn’t give Billy the time of day. Then in April, Discovery started airing a series based on how infomercials are produced starring Mays and his pitch-partner Anthony Sullivan. The series followed the pair as they looked for the next big items to hock to the American public, gave us a peek at the process and the private lives of Anthony and Billy.

Through Pitchmen I learned that Billy Mays absolutely loved his family and his life as a salesman. He worked tirelessly to bring, what he thought, were the very best products into our home. Prior to Pitchmen I didn’t know that everything Mays pitched, he tested and stood behind 100%. If he wasn’t comfortable with a product, it wasn’t safe or it didn’t perform, it meant that Billy Mays didn’t put his name behind it. I also learned of the wonderful relationship he had with his son, Billy Mays III. His son had started to work with him on set and loved his dad with all his heart. When young Billy tweeted this morning that his dad was gone, it was a real shock. My thoughts and prayers go out to his son, his wife and young daughter in this difficult time.

I am grateful for the Discovery Channel’s look inside the life of Billy Mays before he passed. Although many people probably thought of him simply as the “loud infomercial guy”, as my wife says he was more than just a pitchman, he was a true icon. A man of gentle spirit, yet booming confidence. He loved his family and worked his entire life to get ahead. He brought a smile to my face, and made my life better in small ways with the products he pitched. I’m positive heaven will be an even cleaner place, now that Billy’s in it.

Republicans Can’t Let Go

Liberal comedian and commentator Bill Maher isn’t always my cup of tea. He often diverges into shallow attacks of the right and when he does he hurts his credibility. But friday’s New Rules was right on the money. His New Rules segment summed up what I’ve been saying for weeks about what’s happened to the right since the election.

Conservatives have nothing left except the word “No.” They have no ideas of their own, have lost the reins of power in both houses of Congress, and the President and his policies continue to be very popular. As a result, the right is floundering in tea parties, talk of secession and made up facts. It’s like the entire right-wing of the country needs to go to group therapy to work through their Obama issues. Maher recognizes this and hits the nail on the head as only he can. Skip forward to the 2:21 mark for the noteworthy bit:

Telling Time Warner What It Can Go Do with Itself

I received a call at the office yesterday from a Time Warner rep offering info on digital phone service and how Time Warner could “save me tons of money” on our phone bills. I told the woman to email me about the pricing structure, all the while resisting the urge to lash out in anger about Time Warner’s proposed bandwidth cap and rate hike.

Reports today that Time Warner is “revising” its plans and, as expected, increasing the limit on bandwidth to try and satisfy upset customers regarding the ridiculously low limits initially proposed. As a stop gap measure the company is now saying that for a mere $150 a month, users will have “virtually unlimited” bandwidth available to them.

So let me get this straight. I’m supposed to be happy that my current cable bill is going to go from $39 a month for a true unlimited connection to $150 a month for something that can’t even be guaranteed? That’s in addition to my cable TV bill. To top it all off, TW now says these new plans will start in August instead of the “fall”.

What planet does Time Warner thinks it lives on?!

As Time Warner continues to lose more and more respect in the eyes of consumers, events are starting to whirl and people are starting to take notice. Ed Cone points to an article at Wired that calls into question Time Warner’s excuses of higher expenses. Turns out bandwidth costs have been decreasing not increasing as they’ve insisted. More proof that this change isn’t about costs, as I said before it’s about control.

Our local leaders are starting to wake up too, which is a good thing because until the Triad gets some serious internet competition, Time Warner’s pretty much got us over a barrel. Don’t stop writing people and don’t stop calling to complain. The worst thing you can do as a consumer is to become complacent and think it’ll all just work itself out. And if you happen to work in the Time Warner sales force and made a call to me last Thursday, get ready for an earful when I call you back on Monday. Then go play my call to your managers so they understand they’re about to lose a valuable business customer thanks to your company blatantly screwing over its consumer division.

To Thine Own Self Be True

SPOILER WARNING: This post contains spoilers for season 5 of Bravo TV’s Top Chef. If you’ve not watched the finale episode yet, then you should stop reading right now. I really mean it. Just stop.

Part of the problem, and allure, of reality television is that it doesn’t always go how you want it to. Take the conclusion of one of my favorite shows, Bravo’s Top Chef. Season five of the hit reality series about a group of wannabe Julia Childs seemed to be full of promise. There were a number of chefs that really knew their way around the kitchen and were worth rooting for.

They ranged from fan favorite Fabio, a suave Italian competing to be Europe’s first Top Chef, to my personal favorite, Carla Hall, the eclectic cook who put a heaping tablespoon of love in each of her dishes. Like many others, I didn’t like Carla at first. She seemed too flighty to be a serious competitor and didn’t win any of the Quick Fire Challenges early on. Then a strange thing happened. Carla decided to make dishes from her roots and cook food she was passionate about. She began to earn the respect of the judges, edged out Fabio for one of the 3 spots in the finale and seemed to be poised to take the title.

I was sure the competition in the final round would be between Carla and Stefan. The other finalist, Hosea Rosenberg never seemed to have his act together, a fact illustrated when he crossed the line flirting with another contestant, Leah Cohen. In addition, despite owning his own seafood restaurant, Hosea lost a critical seafood challenge. So when Hosea managed to best both Carla and Steffan for the ultimate title of season 5 Top Chef, I was upset.

I was upset with Carla not because she cooked poorly or made mistakes, but because she let herself be second-guessed by her assigned soux chef, Casey Thompson from season 3. Casey convinced Carla to cook her main entree using a technique she wasn’t familiar with, sous vide. The meat was rubbery and didn’t have the soulful feel the judges had come to expect from Carla. In addition Carla took another bit of advice from Casey and changed her desert course from a tart to a much more risky soufflé. Carla didn’t pay attention to the oven temperature and the soufflés were ultimately ruined.

By taking direction from the person who was assigned to her, Carla effectively gave the $100,000 prize to Hosea. To add insult to injury, Hosea managed to pull an upset against the man who has served as William Shatner’s personal chef, Stefan. If anyone of the three deserved to lose Top Chef, it was Hosea, and judging from the polling that night about who the audience thought would win (Carla 65%, Stefan 20%, Hosea 15%), the final results came as a shock.

Carla doesn’t blame Casey for her loss, and although I was upset with Casey at first, I’ve come to realize it wasn’t her fault. Carla was the one who didn’t listen to her inner chef and follow through with her plans. Like so many of us in our day to day lives, Carla let hesitation creep in and as a result, her once strong plans turned sour. If there’s a lesson I’m going to take away from my latest bout with reality TV, it’s simply this – stay true to yourself. That plus don’t take cooking advice from runner-ups. Here endeth the lesson, we still love ya’ Carla.

Frak You, Sci-Fi Channel

Just sent this off to The Sci-Fi Channel. I encourage you to do the same at feedback@scifi.com:

•••

As I’m sure you are aware, my favorite show on TV, Battlestar Galactica will be ending in just seven short episodes. After making me wait almost a year between the first half and the second half of season 4, you are once again demonstrating your utter disrespect for fans of this incredible series.

I have no idea why you insist on destroying the drama the series works tirelessly to build each week, but you do. For some reason, you insist on adding spoiler-filled previews directly at the end of each week’s episode before I even get a chance to change the channel or turn off my TV.

This week’s episode, “The Oath” was possibly one of the best in the entire run of BSG and yet you and your network slug-heads seem to need to pander to non-fans of the series by packing as much plot spoiling information into the 15 second previews as possible. Why?

I beg you, for Galactica fans everywhere, stop it. We don’t need to be teased to tune in next week. There are only 7 episodes left. We’ll be there anyway. Here, at the end, just once give us the respect we deserve and smarten up about next week’s previews. So say we all.

Ged Maheux
Galactica Junkie and Sci-Fi Geek