Phoenix Comicon 2015


Yep, I’ll be there. Only three panels this year. One on LGBT Whovians, another on the classic series, and one on the unsolved mysteries of the show (which I am on, despite what this schedule currently says). Come out and say hi to me, and win fabulous prizes at the classic series panel!

Movie Review – Mad Max: Fury Road


One of the movies I was most looking forward to this year was Avengers: Age of Ultron. It was a decent movie. A solid B. A better film than the first one, but less entertaining.

The other big summer blockbuster I was looking forward to was Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s odd, because I have never seen the original movies (despite growing up in the 1980s), and it didn’t seem like one of those sorts of films that I’d be at all interested in. Then I saw the trailer.

After seeing that, I thought, “This looks likely to be stupid as fuck, but entertaining as hell,” and I made plans to see it at some point.

Then, on Friday, it was released, and the reviews began to come in. Four stars on Roger Ebert’s website (out of four). A great review on Slate. 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s an insanely high-level rating. By contrast, Birdman, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 2014 has “only” a 93% rating. For a “genre” film to get that kind of high rating is almost without precedent.

And so I went to see it yesterday (and yes, that was partly to annoy certain men’s rights assholes out there), and I was impressed. So very impressed. It’s entertaining as hell, yes, but also, surprisingly, very intelligent, has a good, strong plot, interesting characters, and strong messages about gender and religion.

The story concerns Max who, at the beginning of the film, is captured by the bad guys (lead by a religious leader who controls all the local water supply), who plan to use him as a mobile blood bank. He’s glomed-onto by a “warboy”, one of the religiously-minded soldiers his captor keeps around, who attaches himself to Max’s blood supply. This get interesting when a woman named Furiosa (love it), steals a large semi that’s been outfitted as a battle platform. Inside? Several women who are basically the cult leader’s sex slaves. Their goal is to make it to an idyllic “green place”. The warboy goes in chase, dragging along Max (and everyone else, including a mobile heavy metal rock platform), and the movie kicks into high gear.

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I really cannot overstate how much I liked this movie. It’s easily the best movie this year, and one of the best new movies I’ve seen in quite sometime. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron turn in the best performances of their careers (which in her case especially is really saying something), and Nicholas Hoult still manages to somehow bring the sexy, despite being covered with way too many scars and what is possibly the worst case of chapped lips in all of human history.

The pacing is excellent, despite being basically nothing but a giant chase for most of the film. Also, unlike many films of this type, the action is very well-executed, excellently filmed and easy to follow. At no point does one experience a real sense of spatial disorentation, as can happen with even a lot of the best films (I’m looking at you, The Dark Knight

If you’re looking for an enjoyable, escapist film that you can have a great time watching while eating popcorn, this is that movie. But, surprisingly, if you want an intelligent, interesting film that’s also great popcorn entertainment, well…this movie is that, too. An astounding feat.

One last note; the 3D is well done, but not really required. If you see it in 2D, you’l be fine.

Are You an Idiot?


Here’s how to tell if you’re an idiot. I’ve made a simple test for it. Give it a try!

Is there a difference between Republicans and Democrats, or are they basically just the same, so who cares, why vote, Ron Paul 2012!

If you agree with the above statement then you are, alas, an idiot.

You see, we have two major parties in the USA, and that’s fine. It is, in fact, an unavoidable outcome of “first past the post” voting. Those parties are known, broadly, as the Democratic Party and the Republican Party; two names with very nicely encapsulate our status as a representative republic. There are other parties out there, of course, but they don’t matter much, and likely never will.

Some people out there like to smugly claim that there isn’t any real difference between our two parties, and that they’re both equally bad versions of terrible. Well, first off, if that were true, it’d be the fault of the voters (which this smug person probably isn’t one of, unless he votes for Ron Paul 2012!).

You bitch about paying taxes, but keep donating to this lost cause.

You bitch about paying taxes, but keep donating to this lost cause?

There are, in fact, many, many differences between the Democrats and Republicans, and in case you’re too stupid, too ill-informed, or too willfully blind to see them, allow me to make them clear to you.

SIMILARITIES:

There are some areas of overlap. Both love their country in their own way. Both will say or do just about anything to get into office (same with any third party person who actually gets elected). Both are significantly beholden to corporate interests and pay way too much attention to lobbyists. Both bow and scrape to make it appear that they “love our soldiers!”, our police, our fire departments and our teachers, while at the same time not exactly busting ass to make sure those groups get well-compensated for their efforts.

That’s…really about it. That’s it for the areas of overlap. Now for the rest.

DIFFERENCES:

Please note that the following statements are all broad generalizations. There exceptions to all these things within both parties, but the statements are broadly true for the party as a whole.

Republicans believe that you should never have sex unless you want a child, and especially not gay sex. If you’re too poor to afford birth control, don’t expect the government to provide it, to pay for an abortion, or to help you raise the child after you give birth. Bonus points if you end up pregnant by being raped, because, you know, not saying you deserved it, but you shouldn’t have been dressing like that and walking alone in that neighborhood after dark, just saying.

Democrats believe that, yeah, you should probably stick to sex only within marriage, but if you don’t, that’s cool, too. Sex for pleasure is ok, but we’ll never actually discuss it in those terms. If you’re poor, government should probably provide you with birth control, or at least subsidize it quite a bit. Obviously, if you’re too poor for that, you can’t afford to raise a child, so some welfare is probably on order, too. As for abortions, well, clearly, for some reason taxes shouldn’t pay for them, but you should have the right to have one if you want! Of course, if you can’t afford that, we’ll at least provide you with welfare for the child you didn’t want!

Republicans tend to favor war as a solution to all foreign affairs issues. North Korea might use their nuclear weapons? WAR! Syria’s government is up to no good? ARM THE REBELS! The rebels are somewhat ISIS-y? ATTACK THE REBELS! Iran might develop a nuclear bomb?

To be fair, some Republicans do favor a certain level of diplomacy, but god forbid that should involve compromise at all.

Democrats, by contrast, at least try for diplomacy and do so publicly and without shame. Yes, there is a hawkish wing to the party, and it gets more attention than it should, but in general the Democrats tend to favor diplomacy. Thus we have things like the pending arangement with Iran and the opening of relations with Cuba.

Basically, it breaks down to Republicans being arrogant and assuming everything we do is always right all the time no matter what. Democrats have a bit more nuanced view. This is not always the case, but it is more often than not.

Republicans tend to be completely, 100% ok with torturing suspects and holding them without charges or trial. Democrats are against this, though not as loudly and as often as they should be. Neither really have come out in support of trials for those who used and approved torture, which annoys me.

Republicans have no problem, in general, with the death penalty. Neither do a lot of Democrats, but when you see stories about reform to the death penalty, or it being ended entirely, it tends to be done by Democrats. A stance against it is also a part of the party platform.

Republicans have become extremely pro-business, anti-union, and very much stand out against the poor in favor of the rich. Democrats tend to also be pro-business, but generally support unions and help out the poor. Not always to the amount they should, but more than the Republicans would.

Republicans tend to support candidates who don’t believe in evolution or global warming, and who often support the idea of teaching that the Earth is 6,000 years old. Some even go farther and support the idea of forced school prayers.

Democrats don’t generally support this. They tend to support actual science being taught in schools, as opposed to religion. The Democrats have their anti-science wing (mostly over things like GMOs and vaccines), but they tend to not allow those people to make policy.

These are just a handful of differences. These are just the merry few that come to mind. They alone prove that there is a great, big, giantic difference between Democrats and Republicans, and if you genuinely choose not to see that, and choose to believe they are basically the same, then you are, absolutely, a total fucking idiot.

Exciting Torchwood News!


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Doctor Who spinoff series Torchwood is, at last, returning, though not in the expected manner. It was last seen on our TV screens during the less-than-stellar, largely American-based series “Miracle Day”. Since then the future has been up in the air. Now, however, Big Finish Productions, who have had a license for Doctor Who audio stories for over fifteen years, have announced via their website that the series is returning in audio form.

Torchwood, the intrepid team of alien investigators, returns in a series of six audio productions, as part of a licensing deal with BBC Worldwide.

Once again, the Torchwood team will be led by the irrepressible Captain Jack, as played byJohn Barrowman – who broke the news of the series return on his radio show on Sunday evening.

Conceived as a spin-off from Doctor Who, Torchwood was created by Russell T Davies (Doctor Who, Cucumber, Banana, Queer as Folk) and made its debut on television in 2006. The top secret organisation Torchwood saved Cardiff (and often the world) from alien menaces and terrifying forces, trying to keep the city safe from the inter-dimensional rift that ran through it. In charge of Torchwood was Captain Jack, a man who has been called: “A companion to the Doctor, a rogue Time Agent, an immortal, a dangerous con-man, and very good at parties.” Captain Jack can’t be exterminated or trusted, and there’s just no stopping him.

This is pleasant news all around. The “Miracle Day” series left a bad taste in the mouth of many fans, and was generally regarded as a financial and critical failure. Fans have waited several years for the series to retunr, and it looks like they’re finally getting their wish.

But in what form? Listeners to Big Finish know that the company prefers to do full cast audio stories. Indeed, that’s what most of the Doctor Who range, as well as other ranges, like The Avengers, Blake’s 7, and the upcoming series, The Prisoner, tend to be. But in this case, it looks like, for now, they’re going to take a different track.

The new series of audio dramas will each focus on different members of the Torchwood team, exploring the impact that a mysterious event has on them. Starting off the range will be John Barrowman, who stars in The Conspiracy, a deadly thriller by David Llewellyn, which is released September 2015.

This sounds like something similar to the Companion Chronicles series that Big Finish have done with Doctor Who. In those stories, you have one main cast member acting and narrating alongside one or two other actors. It’s a somewhat limiting format, but not without its merits. It is also hopefully a stepping stone to bigger and better things.

To fans of Torchwood, this is extremely welcome news. It’s also something that Doctor Who fans can be cautiously optimistic about. Big Finish is, in addition to Torchwood, also releasing a series focusing on the new Who version of UNIT, complete with Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart. Can a full-on new series range be on the horizon? One can but hope.

Like I’d Let May Day Pass


Keep up the fight, everyone. $10.10, accountability for police, true universal health care, an end to the massive levels of income inequality and justice, justice, justice!

She Has, in Fact, Earned It


Our next president? Yes, please.

Our next president? Yes, please.

If you’re one of those whining Democrats who want to complain about Hillary Clinton and what a sub-par candidate she is, and, “Can’t we do any better? Like Elizabeth Warren! Or Bernie Sanders!” then fuck you, get a clue, and tune into Sanity FM.

There’s this odd perception going around that Hillary is somehow a terrible candidate, and she’s only getting supported, and not really very challenged, because it’s “her turn”. That she’s somehow just awful, and we could do so much better than her!

Really? Better than someone who was twice elected to the Senate, served one full term and part of another, before then becoming Secretary of State and serving in that position for several years? Better than someone who is connected to a former President who’s time in office was one of great prosperity and success for our country? Better than someone who really knows the political system, understands how it works, and can make it work for the benefit of the American people? Better than all that?

Hillary has earned every vote she’s going to be getting during primary season and if, when we get to the convention in 2016, her nomination feels more like a coronation, then that’s fine. She is, on paper, the best candidate the Democrats have fielded in decades. Better than Obama, Clinton, Carter and pretty much everyone after Johnson.

But being good on paper isn’t everything, it’s true. So we’re lucky that she’s also good in reality. She turned out to be one of the better Secretaries of State that we’ve had, and did a good job as a senator. Really, while Elizabeth Warren is an interesting choice, she isn’t as good on paper and lacks the experience that Hillary has. Also, she’s said repeatedly that she isn’t running, and frankly she’s excellent in the Senate, so let’s leave her there. As for Sanders, he isn’t even a Democrat.

None of this is to say that I’m keen on Hillary running unchallenged. I’d be quite happy to see someone on the left pop up and obligate her to moderate her hawkish tendencies a bit. She is also more conservative than I’d like, but frankly, so is Obama, and so were Clinton, Johnson, Carter, Kennedy, Truman and Roosevelt. In fact, we’ve never had a president as liberal as I want, and I’m ok with that.

Because, you see, we don’t tend to elect people who lean strongly to the left or the right. In this country, when it comes to our president, we generally prefer moderates. There have been outliers, like Reagan and George W, but for the most part, we choose fairly middle-of-the-road presidents, and when either party nominates someone who is obviously outside that, it tends to go badly for them (though usually more so for the Democrats).

Lastly, let me point out that Hillary is, hands down, the best, most likely person to win in 2016. Any Republican who comes up against her does not fare well, with the possible exception of Jeb Bush, and even he likely wouldn’t win against her. Also, let’s be honest, the woman thing doesn’t hurt. Much as Obama helped get black people out to the polls to vote for him, so Hillary will help with the female vote.

And it’s very important that we get a Democrat in office in 2016. Why? If for not other reason than the fact that Scalia, Ginsberg, Thomas and Breyer are all in their seventies or eighties. These are not young people. The next president will almost certainly pick anywhere from two to four SCOTUS justices, and I want that president to be a Democrat. Even if that Democrat is someone I disagree with sometimes, they’re still likely to be better than any Republican president.

So stop viewing Hillary with a vague sense of, “Fine, I guess I’ll vote for her if I have to, whatever, she’s no Elizabeth Warren, etc”, and start embracing her. She’s a strong, excellent candidate. The party has done, can do, and will do in the future, much worse than her.

And with that, my coverage of Campaign 2016 begins…

Much to My Growing Horror


Something terrible and amazing appears to be happening. I have started my new job. It’s a good job, and I’m genuinely enjoying it so far. But the job requires that I be up and out of bed by 6:30 in the morning so as to be at my desk and ready to work by 8:00.

Since the 1990s, I’ve had jobs where I worked swing or graveyard shifts. Oh, I’d occasionally have to haul myself out of bed super-early for a training shift, or to go in early for someone. But that was rare. It’s not ever been something I’ve had to do on a daily basis.

And yet, here we are.

And much to my surprise…it seems that I might actually have been a morning person all these years.

You see, I find that I’m sleeping better by waking up in the mornings. Whereas I used to wake up two or three times a night, now it’s maybe once a night. Maybe. I also wake up much better rested, and ready to deal with the day, instead of blearily looking at my cell phone, resetting the alarm for an hour later, and dropping off again.

Yes, by the time my ride to work arrives, I’ve had breakfast, watched some morning news, sometimes even surfed the web. All at a time that, a month ago, was only a few hours after I would have gone to bed.

This is…weird. It’s welcome, I suppose, in that it makes my life easier. But…weird.

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