Musing on Sci-fi

Ok, I’ll hold my hand up here – I love science fiction.

Star Wars leaves me a bit cold. It is a ham-fisted teen pulp novel about space-wizards, where the acting ability and story telling is inversely proportional to the quality of the fight scene choreography. In the words of Yahzee Croshaw, George Lucas doesn’t write as much as vomit through a pen.

No, Star Wars isnt sci-fi, but can I class the other archetypal “sci-fi” franchise as science fiction?

Star Trek.

Disregarding the original series – as anyone sane will – we are left with not a bad set of shows.

The imperfect characters in DS9 are my favourite. Gone is the shiny (boring) utopian federation – here it’s all about an uneasy alliance of mistrustful people dealing with forced relocation, war crimes, the power vacuum left after the departure of an occupation force, and religious suppression of fact for myth. All hard hitting stuff, in a slightly camp (occasionally wooden) way. And this is just the first series, before the Dominion started breaking shit and we saw utopia involved in a total war. Compelling and fascinating TV.

Then we have Voyager – a show centred much more on the individual characters, and consequently better acted. Out in the middle of no-where, with only their own moral compasses a crew try to get home while trying not to slip into madness or depravity. Ok, there are plenty of over sentimental episodes, but Janeway is well acted character – troubled by guilt, prone to anger, stubborness and occasional pettiness, trying desperately to stay to the straight and narrow and act as she knows a captain should.

And then ofc their are the more recent movies.

First Contact is a great film, showing a traumatised Captain being brought face to face with his tormentors and his own demons, all with a nice sense of threat and building tension. Good stuff!

Insurrection was good too, if a bit silly – Jonathan Frakes obviously had a great time directing this one, and who can blame him. But the discussion about the younger galactic powers starting to question the Federations slightly stuffy, restrictive society was a great plot point, if slightly under-used.

So, (some) Star Trek follows sci-fi traditions of social commentary, satire and exploration of issues of humanity. I’m willing to let it into the club.

Likewise (the new) Battlestar Galactica. I liked this series for its drama, and tension. Druidic levels of sex, death and religion in a night-time telly kind of way. (If you got the Eddie Izzard reference, have a jazz chicken). The discussion of what makes us human, what makes us alive is a good old trope of sci-fi. The same can be said of the dilemma of Artificial Intelligence, and defining what makes something ‘alive’.

But I have a gooey spot for ‘realistic’ sci-fi. My favourite from television may be one you haven’t heard of – the anime series ‘Planetes‘. A very good manga originally, I stumbled across the anime first, and fell in love with it. It tells the story of an Earth of the near future, where space industrialisation has begun in earnest. Corporate espionage, anti-space terrorism, issues of sovereignty. All stuff we are starting to deal with, or will be dealing with in the coming century. It feels more terrifying for it; no humanoid aliens with funny noses here, just a backdrop of a breathless humanity trying to keep up with it’s own ambitions, and some of the best characters to come out of a japanese show that I have found. Dystopian elements that appeal to me, cynical misanthropic bastard that I can be.

Ok, I have to admit that I am not as knowledgable about TV shows as I might be. I watched Star Trek as a child, and occasionally stumble across new shows when they are recommended enough, but shows that friends like such as Lexx, The Fringe or Threshold didn’t gain enough traction on my mind to make me watch them. Maybe I missed some gems?

I could go on a whole lot longer on my favourite books, however. Maybe I will at some point, but this is already rambly enough!


Melbourne Grand Prix

What a race! Not an enduring classic, but a solid and competitive race, with plenty happening all down the field. This bodes well for the rest of the season.

——————————————–

In private I’d tipped Mercedes to be a bit of a surprise this season on the back of the banning of the exhaust energised defusers. They monstered the speed traps all weekend, and both drivers looked to be confident in the car. Their “Super DRS” seems to have been the icing on the cake.

They made a fool of me on Sunday though; the car really eats its tyres, which somewhat scuppered Rosberg’s afternoon. Michael was laid low by a gearbox problem, I believe.

——————————————–

Jensen looked quietly confident on the grid, and happy and content in every interview – he was always going to be a man to challenge anyone this weekend, and his qualifying performance (faster than Hamilton in sector 1 on his fast lap) was only narrowly slower than Lewis overall, astonishing considering that Lewis is widely considered to be the faster over one lap. The new McLaren is obviously to Jensen’s liking though, and he was (as Martin Whitmarsh said) immaculate during the race, not putting a wheel wrong, and consistantly faster than everyone else, including his fellow Brit.

Having said that, aside from the opening 300m of the race, Lewis was faultless too. You’d struggle to get Lewis to see it that way though – personally i’m beginning to find the mans sulky attitude grating.

I am going to enjoy the intra-team dynamic at McLaren – I expect some fireworks before the season is out. Jensen has got under Lewis skin, in my opinion, and if he keeps performing like that every weekend I fear Lewis will be broken in much the same way that Massa has been at Ferrari.

———————————————

Another team with a tastey bit of rivalry between the two sides of the garage is Toro Rosso. I have to top Vergne to come out on top of that, but that’s an opinion based more on gut feeling and seeing the two race at Paul Ricard in F3.5 last year. His running ahead of Riciardo for most of the race kind of vindicates me, and if not for the crazy last lap for those runnning 7-11th he would have snatched a well deserved point for his maiden GP after Maldonado shunted his Williams.

I do expect the Vergne will be the preferred replacement for Webber when the Aussie moves on. France is a new market for Red Bull (the company), and another Aussie in the Bull will do little to advance the brand. Sorry, but speed is not the whole story in F1 these days.

———————————————

I am not a fan of Pastor Maldonado. I didn’t particularly rate him in GP2, despite his performances. However, I cannot deny that the man showed impressive determination and speed this weekend, only let down by his last lap shunt. That he was pushing so hard shows how much confidence he had in himself and his car – he knew he could pass Alonso’s dog of a Ferrari for 5th, and he would have deserved every point.

I am greatly heartened to see William’s improved fortunes. I was skeptical after testing, branding the new car “another dog”. I happily eat my words!

——————————————–

My feelings regarding Grosjean’s short race can only be described as ‘gutted’. An astonishing qualifying by the amiable frenchman should have translated to 5th or 6th at the very least, but Maldonado’s somewhat forthright overtake left Romain with no room and no options. A racing incident; Pastor could not have been expected to know exactly where the Lotus was.

Kimi performed well, and was typically fantastic to watch. Looking forward to seeing him get back up to speed (maybe a read of the rulebook wouldn’t go amiss, but the ‘pick it up as i go along’ approach seems to be working for him!) What he might have done had he qualified properly is anyones guess.

——————————————–

Got to say something about the UK coverage of F1 this season. I am lucky that my folks live not too far away and that they have Sky F1 HD. I turned up at their door at 5:45am on Mother’s day, and sat and enjoyed a bacon sandwich with my Mum in front of the TV (honestly, my mum is awesome!) so I saw both Sky and the Beebs coverage this weekend.

I like that Sky have a full channel dedicated to F1 – the variety of shows this week and potential for techical shows catering to the insatiable appetite of a true motorsport fan is amazing. I was not overly fond of the style of coverage however. I cannot place exactly why, and it is purely a personal opinion, but the show seems… shallow. Tabloid.

Only the presense of Martin Brundle and the unflappable Ted Kravitz lent the show any weight really. Anthony Davidson’s superflous role standing in front of the “SkyPad” (oh, puhleeez! *scorn*) with those huge mics was just silly. I like Davidson a lot, don’t get me wrong, but it was silly, and unnecessarily flashy. And their paddock reporter (Georgie?) was pretty poor.

The Beebs coverage was good, but predictably lacking with the loss of a sizable chunk of their team to Sky. DC did an admirable job in the commentary box, Jake is rapidly growing on me (he actually has some personality unlike the forgettable whats-his-face fronting Sky’s effort) and Lee McKenzie is as professional and insightful as ever. Their pit reporter was woeful however, and thats not just cos I’m a Ted Kravitz fanboy! Honestly, very very poor.

Overall they both seem just a little bit shitter than the 2011 coverage from the BBC, but on balance Sky’s show is the better this year. There is just more of it, even accounting for the fact that the BBC were only showing highlights. We work with what we’ve got, I guess.

——————————————

Roll on Sepang!


Working on a short story

This is the first time I’ve planned a story from the outset. I know, I know, this is why I rarely finish anything! One thing I’ve found is that I find it sooo much harder working to a rough plan.

Normally I have a world in mind, and sketch out one or two characters in my head, followed by a situation, and just see where the characters motivations take it.

This time I have a definatly plan in mind. The way I’ve formed it is to have the protagonist and the antagonist both have definate plans in mind for the duration of the story – one’s is to steal something of value, and the other’s is to watch the first to see when they are going to attempt the heist, and try to stop them.

It’s really not as simple as I’d hoped!

Oh well, back to it.


This post contains the entire universe.

Nothing to say on this. If you are fascinated by the universe, and want to have your mind boggled by the sheer scale of everything, click the link below and read/play.

You’ll thank me.

Go on, really.

http://images.4channel.org/f/src/589217_scale_of_universe_enhanced.swf


God in a Box – Part 4

In which we meet the protagonist for the first time, and where we get a hint to his character. (I.e. a bit of a prat, and a sap!)

————————————————————————-

Weedsley drifted upwards through the last soft clouds of sleep and opened his eyes. The first dappled rays of sunshine were falling on the canvas of his tent, filling the small space with warm light that shivered with each breath of air that whispered through the trees outside. The tent was light and airy, kept warm but not suffocating by a refreshing zephyr of morning air. He felt the hairs on his legs and and chest move with the ebb and flow of it, savouring the sensation as the heat was lifted from his skin by the moving air. His morning erection was his only nexus of tension, but he dismissed its insistent nagging and heat, and listened to the whistling birds and their light hearted songs of territoriality and sex. A memory was tugging frantically on his mental sleeve, trying to get his attention, but he ignored it.

A shiver of relaxation passed through him and he smiled contentedly. Something was tickling his stomach, so he reached down to scratch it. His finger tips encountered something solid, rhythmic and apparently made of hair. He looked down at the increasingly fierce heat between legs and stomach to see a cascade of brown hair obscuring the view of his feet. The exasperated memory finally gave up all pretensions of politeness, threw up its hands, and jumped to the front of his brain.

Magda.

The frenzied pink memory of the previous night came back in a rush, all flickering diffuse firelight and soft curves.

The elegant girl had met Sir Benedict’s party as they continued their meandering away from the Imperial Citadel. Benedict’s Knights Errant, chisel jawed fops to a man, had been suggestively polite as they had passed her. She had curtsied, swooning only slightly as Sir Benedict bent to kiss her hand from horseback, striking just the right chivalrous pose as he did so. Most saw this as a sign of a true hero, but as sole squire to the whole sorry crowd Weedsley saw how much nightly effort the good knight put into his image. He was undoubtedly handsome, in extremely good shape, and in specialised areas extremely intelligent. However his narcissism tended to clog up his normal human appetites until something aside from satiation was in the offing, such as the favour of a powerful woman, money, or fame. It was for this reason that Magda had come to him. Sir Benedict was her hero, she’d confided, but as a poor girl of middling stock she could not hope to be noticed by such a man.

“But you, Sir Quadrangal, you are not of noble blood, are you? You must be a warrior of great prowess to be Sir Benedicts bodyguard!”, she had said, coquettish smile on her delicate lips.

Squire 2nd class (on probation) Weedsley Quadrangal had nodded modestly, and informed her that he had served Sir Benedict’s house for some time in the same capacity as he now did, and that the noble gentleman depended on Weedsley a great deal, and that there were many things that Weedsley could teach the knight. Would she like Sir Quadrangal to show her?

He had had to admit, the girl was an eye opener. Her shy demeanour had evaporated with her clothes, but for all her obvious experience she had sung his praises as he lay, spent, in the tent as the fire burned low outside. He had smiled, drunk on hormones and platitudes and promptly fallen asleep.

His attention drifted inexorably back to the bobbing shadow below him, and remained so his shuddering conclusion. She looked up at him, mischief in her glittering blue eyes. She crawled up to him and kissed him on the mouth as he fell asleep once again.

——

“Quadrangal!”
Weedsley sat bolt upright, adrenaline doing the work of a cold dip in the river and a run around the clearing.

“Quadrangal! Come forth from that canvas whore house you call a tent! Quadrangal!”

He looked around with incremental levels of panic for Magda, his clothes, and then anything else he could cover himself with. All three missions inevitably failed. Left with little further choice, Weedsley crawled out of the low tent flap, and stood to attention, blinking in the mid-morning sun.

Sir Benedict, resplendent from the waist up in his armoured helm and chest plate loomed like a sparkly thunderhead over the naked squire. Weedsley looked down – he couldn’t help it, the suns reflection from the Knights white legs stole the show. All he wore from his waist down were a pair of short linens. His bare feet tapped an allegro beat of annoyance on the flattened grass.

Behind him could be seen the other knights errant similarly clad. Sir Bruno the Morose appeared to be wearing only his helmet, although mercifully not on his head.

“Care to explain, Quadrangal?”

“I couldn’t possibly, my Lord.”

“We appear to have been robbed, Quadrangal, and the only visitor to camp was last seen in a state of some undress leaving your tent. I am assuming she is no longer your guest?”

“No, my lord, I appear to have misplaced her.”, mutter Weedsley, looking around for signs of his recent conquest. No, he thought, his recent conqueror. Damn. He returned his gaze to the furious knight.

“Quadrangal, we cannot continue our journey like this. I have no… I mean, we can’t be seen in the…”

For the first time ever the knight appeared flustered. Weedsley stared his lords reddening face in astonishment. Sir Benedict made a mighty effort, and made an effort to stand even straighter – his breast plate seemed to puff outwards.

“Quadrangal, I deem this your fault! You will ride forthwith to the nearest town, and acquire supplies for our noble venture. To whit, one pair of platemail legguards.”

The other knights piped up.

“Cod piece, and chainmail tunic!”

“All of my armour, damn yer eyes!”

“Four sets of breeches, and my chainmail.”

“Breeches and mail tunic, greaves, short sword and boots”, muttered Sir Bruno dejectedly, before looking down and adding “And a new helmet.”

“Get riding, Quadrangal”, finished Sir Benedict, menacingly.


Well, I Was Wrong

It, in fact, looks very pretty.

McLaren MP4-27

(Image from autosport.com – their copyright)

I’ll look for some three-quarter shots, but from that view the car looks neat, sleek and fast. And nimble – last couple of years models have looked a bit long and ungainly, but this looks like a shorter wheel-base.

I would imagine that the wings are last years models (they certainly look very similar), so that might change the lines slightly, but im gratified to see that the nose isn’t the ghastly stepped thing I expected.

Exhaust positions look like they are pushing the rules though. Should be interesting to see if anything comes of that.


February already

January, that most maligned of months is consigned to a very boring history book somewhere.

So, Hello February! A month to look forward to. Usually a month with some snow, maybe. Also the month when the F1 teams let their new babies out into the glare of public scrutiny.

Today should be Mclarens launch day, and I am really looking forward to seeing the MP4-27 – reported to be radical. How, we will see. Only one thing is for sure.

It won’t be a looker.

The formula1.com technical section has been updated for the new season, and has some great visuals explaining the rule changes for this year, which will go some way to explaining the design choices of the more conventional teams.

I expect Mclaren and Ferrari to have radical new cars this year, with RB likely having another evolution of there championship winning car – why fix what is more most assuredly not broken? I predict Mercedes to have a strong challenger this year, and the Lotus E20 to be pretty quick out of the blocks too.

As for the others, well I’m going to wait until testing is well under way before I make any judgements.

I’ll put some pics of the Mclaren up when it appears!


Cake 'n' Stabbin'

The Life and Times of Tinycat

The Hobby Project

A Hobby Blog for everything miniatures, including the Imperial Crusade Project.

stuffandthings152

Just stuff... and things...