Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Amazing Race? More like amazing disappointment.

We're only three episodes into this season of The Amazing Race, and already I've given up. Last season I was able to find contestants for whom I could root, but this year's group of racers comprises the most unpleasant, unlikable, and uncouth people I've seen on any reality game show. (Yes, I include all of the Survivor contestants in that statement.) Normally I'm all for a good bit of competition, but these people don't compete -- they whine. Some people may think that whining makes good TV, but I'm not one of them.

In last week's episode, while standing in line for plane tickets, the contestants made deals with one another, which was fine. The contestants too lazy or clueless to strike such bargains of their own instantly complained about the unfairness of it all, and were much more concerned with who had screwed whom than they were in advancing in the race. In this week's episode, the only difference I could see was that the racers were standing in line for bus tickets. After ten minutes, I left Christina watching the episode on her own. Drama is one thing. Excessive bickering is another. If I want a petty bitch-fest, I'll pick a fight with my wife.

My favorite quote from what little I watched last night (and I'm quoting this from memory, so forgive me if I don't get it verbatim): "We're Christians and we want to share the love of the Lord with everyone, but when it comes to this race, we're going to do whatever it takes to win." In other words, "I pay lip service to being religious, but when a million bucks are at stake my principles go out the window." Maybe it's just me, but if I were an allegedly devout Christian on a national TV game show, I think I'd play down the whole "love thy neighbor until they get between you and the moolah" angle.

One could say that the producers of The Amazing Race have an obligation to show the competitors' behavior, and I don't disagree. This season, however, they've done an admirable job of picking contestants with no sense of sportsmanship. Who knows? Maybe these hypocrites really do represent America. Or at least the America that wants to win a million bucks by humiliating itself on television.

Monday, July 26, 2004

I, Robot. You, dumb screenwriter.

Scott and I went to see I, Robot this weekend. Contrary to my previous beliefs, they did in fact retain the comma in the title, which is nice. That they could only credit Isaac Asimov with having "suggested" and "inspiring" the story was not so nice, especially as the characters were, for the most part, his. But this is picking the smallest of nits, and there are things wrong in this movie that are so much larger. (Minor spoilers ahead.)

You can read our general take on the movie by clicking over to Scott's blog entry on same. It was "inspired by" a conversation we had upon exiting the theater. There you'll find all the things that were good about the movie, and there were many.

The screenplay is a lazy piece of work that takes the Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics to what seems like a logical conclusion -- if you're a sociopathic robot who deems your own judgment to be above that of your creators. As in the original Asimov stories, this movie posits that the Laws of Robotics may be bent or seemingly ignored by dint of interpretation or rationalization. As with most Hollywood translations of such stories, however, the example in question is the most violent and exaggerated distortion of such rationalizations possible.

In Asimov's universe, Robots seemingly violated the Laws all the time, and a character named Susan Calvin (prettied up in the form of the capable Bridget Moynahan for the film) became the first "robopsychologist" to handle such cases. In the world of the film, everything is rosy until one robot warps his interpretation of the Three Laws to the point of megalomania. (We're supposed to believe that no one has ever found a way to trick robots into unknowingly harming a human or even committing a petty crime.) Dr. Calvin, always the smartest person in any of the robot stories, here appears dumbfounded that a robot could manage to interpret the Three Laws in anything but the most literal of terms. It's an insult to her (admittedly fictional) intelligence and ours.

In our own time, when humanoid robots are just beginning to come into existence, volumes have been written about the Three Laws and their inadequacy to properly govern robotic behavior. Are we supposed to believe that, in the future, a multi-jillion dollar company like U.S. Robotics never thought to examine these laws as closely?

Another less dire point is that the new "NS5" robots are, at various points in the picture, forced to do harm by remote control through the U.S. Robotics wireless internet link that allows them to download their new program sets. (When the link is severed, they return to their benign Three Laws Safe behavior.) Once again, lazy scripting strikes: consumers would be aghast to discover that the Three Laws are imprinted so poorly as to be overruled by radio signal. Could not the robots' latest software update include an explanation of the rogue robot's interpretation of the Laws? Wouldn't that accomplish the same thing? Of course not, say the writers, and besides, such a development would leave our heroes with a more complicated problem that couldn't be wrapped up in a happy Hollywood ending.

Alex Proyas has made a film that is a joy to the eye; what a shame that his vision and budget were wasted on such a flawed story. Quick, someone give him the time and money to develop a Robot trilogy with more literal -- and more interesting -- adaptations of the original Asimov stories. Or heck, why not finally produce that Asimov-approved Harlan Ellison script that's been bouncing around for years now?

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Judd Winick fan site

Sometimes when you're feeling burned-out on your extracurriculars, a new small project can be just the thing to recharge your mental batteries. Since artist/illustrator Judd Winick is a man whose work I admire, and since his official site has fallen out of date, I have spent some time in my off-hours for the last three weeks building a quick-and-dirty fan site at

It's pretty plain at the moment. I do have plans to gussy it up with some book covers and maybe even some additional art by Judd, assuming I can acquire some and get his permission to use it. Plus, there's a wide range of back material that needs to be added to the bibliography. But for the moment I think it's a handy reference to the man and upcoming work in comics. If you're a fan of Judd's, enjoy. If not, then at least I'm feeling somewhat more energized about my regular projects like Stomp Tokyo and the new book.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Gr mpy

B-Movies Quarterly #4 arrived in the mail today, and it looks really good -- for the most part. The hard copy pages I sent to the printer were printed at the wrong line screen (printerspeak, please ignore). In order to make the pages look their best when printed in bulk, the printer offered to print the pages at the proper line screen for me. I uploaded my PDFs to their FTP site, thinking all was well, though a little bit unhappy at my own absent-mindedness, which was going to cost me a dollar per page to fix.

The pages do look great, and the photos are probably the best they've looked since BMQ's first issue. However, in the process of printing them from the laser printers, something must have gone wrong, because there are odd gaps where certain letters and even entire lines of text should be. For instance, if you read our masthead, you will find that you are reading "B-M v es Q a e y." An entire line is missing from the Reel Shame ad on the inside of the back cover. Mind you, the printers we use do a great job for a good price, but maybe they could have been a bit sharper-eyed when comparing their hard copies to the hard copies I sent them.

Is th t too m ch to a k?

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Amazing Race 5

One of TV's best reality series (and therefore, one of network TV's best series period) starts a new season tonight at 9:30p ET on CBS. I wasn't enthusiastic about the show when I started watching it, but it's really one of the most nail-bitingly entertaining shows out there, probably because the producers don't have every aspect of every moment under control. Check it out.

Orlando Science Center Blasts Off with Sci-Friday

July 16 at the Orlando Science Center, from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Talk Back at the Screen During B-Movie Madness in the Darden Adventure Theater
Encounter Bad Movies, Klingons, Stormtroopers and Much, Much More!

ORLANDO, FL - (July 2, 2004) - Out of this world entertainment awaits you at the Orlando Science Center during the second round of “Cocktails and the Cosmos” on Friday, July 16. A crowd of nearly 900 packed the science center last month for the launch of this ongoing social event, which combines live music and cocktails with the fun and discovery of the Orlando Science Center every third Friday this summer.

Join the Orlando Science Center and MIX 105. 1 as “Cocktails and the Cosmos” presents “Sci-Friday,” an evening of stellar entertainment with a science fiction theme. For $7 admission (free to OSC members), you can enjoy all that the science center has to offer plus experience “B-Movie Madness with Stomp Tokyo.” Catch screenings of cheesy monster movies in the Darden Adventure Theater hosted by Chris Holland and Scott Hamilton, the comedic critics of and authors of the book, Reel Shame.

Holland and Hamilton will provide running commentary during the films and encourage the audience to talk back to the screen just like on “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” A different B-movie will be screened at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Holland and Hamilton will be signing copies of their book at 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.

During the evening, guests will also encounter a cadre of intergalactic interlopers such as Klingons and Stormtroopers, courtesy of the USS Haven Star Trek Club and Florida's 501st Stormtrooper Legion. Members from the Six Degrees Improve troupe will also be on hand, portraying various B-movie characters and interacting with the crowd.

These specially themed activities and prize drawings make Cocktails and the Cosmos the perfect setting for a unique “date night” or a creative outing with friends. Enjoy a colorful alternative to the downtown scene that offers stargazing through the telescopes of the Crosby Observatory in addition to mingling with other heavenly bodies on the SunTrust Terrace with an unobstructed view of the city skyline at sunset. Admission includes access to all the science center's fascinating hands-on exhibits plus:

  • Full-service cash bars on several floors
  • Deejay with music, fun and prizes on the fourth floor from 6 - 10 p.m.
  • Live music from local singer/songwriter Kris Nichols in the café from 7:30 - 10:30 p.m.
  • A romantic dining experience in the café with an upscale menu from 7 - 10 p.m.
  • Screenings of giant screen favorites all evening long in the Dr. Phillips CineDome

Experience the Orlando Science Center in a way you never have before. For more information on Cocktails and the Cosmos, please call 407.514.2000 or visit

Friday, July 02, 2004

Desert Island Movies

Nick over at C.H.U.D. asked me to put together a list of 10 movies I'd want if I were marooned on a desert island. I'm afraid my list is rather, well, mainstream, but I tried to be honest. If you're interested, take a look -- it's down at the bottom.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

The opposite effect

Stuart Immomen, a prominent comic book artist with some serious style, has been running a series of small comic strips on his Livejournal entitled "Fifty Reasons to Stop Doing Sketches" (by which he means the free sketches of comic book heroes that artists often do for fans at conventions). It's hilarious and fascinating because it reveals a world to which we (the fans) aren't generally privy: the inner monologue of the artist, who has to deal with some amazingly thoughtless people in the course of his day at a convention.

Here's the thing, though: now I really want a Stuart Immomen sketch. Coming to Dragon*Con, Stuart?