Happy birthday Elise

[i][/i]This blog entry is simply to wish my niece Elise a very happy first birthday. Can it really be a year since I recorded her birth on here? It hardly seems it. I hope she is having a wonderful day anyway, and that she is getting spoiled rotten by her parents.

Coffee in New York, anyone?

While part of me rather doubts it’ll ever come to anything, this is just too cool for me not to flag up. ”People will soon be able to fly from city to city within minutes, rocket and car entrepreneur Elon Musk says. Mr Musk made the promise at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Adelaide, Australia.” He speculates that we could soon be using hypersonic rockets to fly between cities; rockets capable of flying between London and New York in less than half an hour. Imagine it: instead of having a coffee in the park, I could enjoy my daily dose of caffeine on Broadway, or in Sydney, overlooking Darling Harbour. Bring it on Mr. Musk, I say.

Three million hits

Today I have the pleasure of noting that yesterday my blog hitcount passed the three million mark. As I noted when it went over the two million line a couple of years ago, it seems to be going up faster and faster. I know bigger sites can expect three million hits in a day, but this is just my little corner of the web where I waffle on about whatever takes my fancy, so I must be doing something right. Watching the hitcount go up and up gives me the incentive I need to keep blogging, so you can expect much more. Mind you, I’ve decided to steer clear of politics for a bit: the political situation is getting too stupid to bother with, and makes me far too angry.

Why I call Star Wars a kid’s franchise

From time to time I rather facetiously like to brand Star Wars a kids franchise. I uses to assume that it was aimed at adolescents and post adolescents – roughly the same audience as, say, Star Trek. Yet, especially since the franchise was taken over by Disney, I have taken pleasure in teasing Star Wars fans that theirs is a children’s franchise. Yet, the question arises, is it? What’s the difference between a children’s franchise and one aimed at adults? To me, Star Wars seems to lack a maturity adult franchises have: it has more in common with Harry Potter than The Lord Of The Rings; it’s characters more crudely drawn, it’s plots simpler. To my mind, Star Wars tries to claim gravitas for itself, but that gravitas is frittered away by the inclusion of absolutely infantile things like having aniken skywalker race tie fighters. Darth Vader was once one of the most awesome, menacing villains in film, but knowing he was part of such a childish sequence, cheered on by the cringeworthy Jar Jar binx, places him firmly besides the likes of Jafar and Sheer Kahn. The light sabre was once an iconic weapon, yet it was rendered a mere prop for martial arts stunts in the newer films; the equivalent of Mithrandir’s mighty staff became a hogwarts students wand, stripped of iconic weight in favour of a far more shallow type of coolness. Adding the second blade to the light sabre was the semiotic equivalent of a dose of monosodium glutamate: it may have looked cool, yet, because it was done only to look good and to bring in the bucks, the change lacked any artistic merit.

I get the impression that George Lucas sees himself as cinema’s equivalent of JRR Tolkien, a claim that has always struck me as highly presumptuous: contrary to what he and his fans claim, his creations do not have anywhere near the complexity or detail of Tolkien’s. Lucas is just a self-promoting hack; the producer of kid’s films which he passes off as for adults. I mean, how can anyone claim Jar Jar Binx ranks alongside characters like Samwise Gamgee or Spock? Star Wars did once belong among film’s great sagas, but these days it’s for children. I’m sorry, star wars fans, but as far as I’m concerned, you’re obsessing over kid’s films.

Netflix

I was wondering the other day how I could watch Star Trek Discovery. The solution, it seems, was quite obvious, although I did need to get my credit card out for it: sign up to Netflix. That’s what I did last night, and I’m now happy to report that I’ve watched the first two episodes of the latest incarnation of Star Trek. On top of that, having signed up for a free trial month, I now have easy access to all the TV and films I could possibly watch – this will keep me busy for days, if not weeks!

As for Discovery itself, it struck me as a good start, but I don’t think I can say much more than that. While there was a lot that was familiar to the trekkie – and I relished seeing Klingons again, with all their internal house politics – there was a lot that was unfamiliar too, such as new species. While this was certainly trek, it wasn’t quite the trek we know. It was great to see Klingons speaking the Klingon language with subtitles (Qa’pla!), for example, but on the other hand they didn’t look like the Klingons in any of the previous series (although this might be explained in a future episode, given that their appearance has changed before). Further, these two episodes struck me as a tad too feminine. They seemed driven almost entirely by two female characters. That is fair enough, I suppose; but the captain and first officer reminded me too much of Janeway when I wanted something more akin to Kirk, Picard or Sisco.

Nevertheless, I’ll certainly continue to watch, and eagerly await the next episode. Now I have access to all these tv programs, I’ll also be watching much more. In fact I can see myself becoming glued to my computer screen for most of the coming winter. The problem with things like DVDs was getting someone to put them in and take them out, but between Netflix, Youtube, Iplayer and other video streaming sites, that problem is now sorted. I may have to pay for Netflix, but looking at the range of what’s on there, just under eight quid a month is probably worth it. That said, then, I’m off to watch somee more.

What will the beeb say about pirate radio?

Lyn might like this news. On Friday evening, BBC Four will broadcast a documentary about pirate radio stations. Lyn is a big fan of Radio Caroline and that kind of independent online broadcasting, and I’m getting into it too. This might be a good watch, then. It will certainly be very interesting to see what the beeb – a broadcaster as mainstream as you can get – say about that type of alternative media, both historically and contemporarily.

Proper Star Trek is back!

The new incarnation of Star Trek, Discovery, premieres today, and I’m just itching to find a way to watch it. It’s on Netflix in the US, but I haven’t seen where or how

I can watch it over here. From what I’ve read, it looks pretty good, full of references to the other series. I’m still hoping they can somehow get Picard and the Enterprise D/E crew to make an appearance. As I wrote here, I’ll also be interested to see what it has to say about contemporary america, and what it has to say – if anything – about this new Trump era. Of course, how Discovery stacks up against other Trek series remains to be seen, and I can’t comment properly until I find a way to watch it. It has been so long since Trek’s TNG/DS9 heyday, it has a lot to live up to; but for now I’ll just say that it’s good to see ‘proper’ Star Trek back, as opposed to the reboot films.

Changing Discourses

I have been watching quite a lot of Youtube recently; it has become one of the websites I go to most, and I can spend hours on it watching videos. I’m sure we all do these days. I was just thinking, though: Is YouTube to film what twitter is to the novel? Short, intense forms of writing are encouraged online; is this similar to the short film form we see on YouTube? Do the shortened forms of both languages share qualities, i.e. Directness and immediacy? Short videos online are becoming far more analytical these days: people are increasingly using YouTube to say things they formerly used writing to, such as film analysis or political commentary. At the same time, as on twitter, these videos are a short, rather abrupt form of discourse – most videos I watch are only ten to fifteen minutes. Broadly speaking, they use the conventional grammar of other video media, but, just like on Twitter, it is highly abbreviated in order to deliver the maximum amount of information in the minimum time.

Thus, online, discourse is becoming shorter as a whole, yet no less informed. Intellectual expression – how we communicate our ideas and thoughts – seems to be changing, adapting to the online world. It is adapting to the shorter attention spans we now seem to have, as well as becoming more democratic inasmuch as we all have the ability to get our views across. This new online video language is one anyone with a cameraphone can use. Yet it is becoming no less deep and engaged: in fact, going by the videos I’ve been watching recently, people are far more intellectually engaged and curious than when they only had writing to express their ideas. Perhaps this is because new forms of media in a way encourage people to experiment. Either way the online world is opening up new languages and ways to express ourselves; visual, image-based forms of communication, more easily understood than the rarified neoacademic forms of writing used up until now.

Attenborough, it seems, is back

At least amid all my current fury over Brexit – and last night’s newsnight enraged me so much it was frightening – I can still find good things to think about and look forward to. I caught this interview last night: David Attenborough, it seems, is back. I thought he had retired – and who would blame him? – but apparently he’s still going. At the end of a fascinating, and at times heartbreaking, interview in which he summarised sixty years of natural history film-making, Sir David gave us a big hint that his awesome career may not yet be over. He said he still felt like he was about 45, and alluded to more programmes to come. That’s great news, and enough to cheer me up. Something to cling on to as elsewhere things get more and more stupid.

Perpetually present franchises

I just want to jot down something which occurred to me last night which may be useful in future work. I was watching The Simpsons. I rarely watch it these days as I like to watch the news, but the last two or three nights I’ve turned over to watch the simpsons instead. As I was watching, something rather interesting occurred to me: the simpsons exist in a kind of eternal present. It’s quite an old program now: we’ve been watching it, every weekday at about the same time, for almost thirty years, yet the characters do not age. By rights, Bart, Lisa and Maggie should be adults by now, yet they are the same age as when we first met them. At the same time, the series keeps up with the times, existing unageing in an ever-present. In last night’s episode, for example, there were references to mobile phones and Facebook. Thus we see the same strange relationship with time that we see in the Bond films. They too are always set in the present of when each film was made; Bond does not age, but exists perpetually as a virile thirtysomething. In both franchises, we see the same odd time dynamic. Neither changes, and both keep up with the present, being always set ‘now’. Could this help explain why they are both so successful? Can we see something similar anywhere else?