Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Clouds and Fire Rainbows

The past couple days here have had a bunch of fire rainbows, aka circumhorizontal arcs. This is a relatively rare optical phenomenon that occurs when sun refracts just right through hexagonal ice crystals in cirrus clouds. I'm actually not sure whether what we had were really circumhorizontal arcs or rather infralateral arcs or something else, but in any case, essentially what happened was the cirrus clouds turned rainbow colors. It was very pretty.

There are some really amazing photos of fire rainbows out there (check out this one!). None of ours were that spectacular, but some of them were really quite nice--very noticeable and worth taking a picture of. Unfortunately, I never seemed to have my camera handy whenever the best ones were shining. I did take my camera out at one point to search for fire rainbows, but I only got shots with tiny little faint ones. Mostly, I just took pictures of some cool clouds. Here are some of the shots I took. See if you can find the fire rainbows in the last two.

Yes, that's my car.

Find the rainbows!

I'm going to reunions this weekend, leaving on Thursday, and I plan to be, uh, occupied tomorrow afternoon and evening, so I may not have any more posts until next week. Next month. Eek. Can you believe it's almost June?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I sold my soul to Champions Online Beta

MMORPGs consume the soul. I have made this accusation before several times on my blog as well as many times in real life. But it is true. I mean, have you seen The Guild? To be fair, I am sure there are plenty of people who get into MMORPGs but manage to keep their sanity and their social lives. But I have always stuck to single-player RPGs with the belief that doing so allowed me to maintain some sort of moral or at least social superiority--as well as my soul. I have said, however, that there would probably be a day when I would finally give in to the demon MMO.

Well, that day has come. I have officially crossed into the world of MMORPGs. The world of "Hey, I wanted to kill that baddie" and "Well I'll just stand here until that guy respawns". The game that finally corrupted me is Champions Online, a superhero-themed MMO by the people who did City of Heroes/Villains that is still in its beta testing stage. How did I get pulled in? My brother has been in on the Champions Online beta, and he got an extra beta key which he gave to me. So not only is this my first MMO, but it is also my first time playing a game in its preview testing state. I have been dutifully reporting any bugs I find, but most of them have just been annoying little visual bugs (icons not displaying, etc.), not anything to completely disrupt the gameplay.

The playtests are only on Wednesdays and Fridays at this point, which is both good and bad. The upside is that I cannot spend my entire week glued to my computer. The downside is that this means that I feel compelled to milk the playtest sessions for everything they're worth. In other words, I stayed up until 3 am Saturday morning playing Champions Online, since they don't shut it down until midnight West Coast time. I am not accustomed to staying up that late anymore, nor am I used to sleeping in until 11:30. I've had the beta key for a week, and my soul is already being sapped away.

So far the game has been pretty cool. There are a LOT of character appearance options. The costumes can be quite detailed and elaborate--shirts, jackets, vests, tights, skirts, pants, shoes, gloves, bracers, belts, capes, wings, etc., and everything comes in multiple styles, colors, and patterns. Customization is great, but it's a bit overwhelming to the new player; I will not admit to how long it took me to design my first character, and she didn't even look very good.

The gameplay is fun. I'm still trying to get the hang of it, and I haven't yet gone far enough into the game to get more than three or four different skills. But I think my favorite thing so far--something I haven't experienced in any previous game I've played--is the travel powers. Every hero gets to choose one--flight, rocket boots, ice slide, superspeed, teleport, and more. So far, I've only tried out the teleportation and the ice sliding, and they are really fun! I'm talking real "Wheeee!" moments here. Good times.

The devs had to clear all the characters after yesterday's playtest, so we'll all be starting over with new characters on Wednesday. Sad. But that gives me four days to plan my next superhero...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Chuck saved, upcoming fall shows, and Thor

I don't have much interesting new entertainment news to report since my last post on the subject, but there are a couple exciting things that I couldn't wait to share.

Firstly, NBC renewed Chuck! It will come back with a tighter production budget, but at least it secured a 13-episode order for a third season (Variety). This was the last show that I follow whose fate I was waiting to learn. Turns out the only show I watch that got canceled this spring was Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Chuck, Castle, Dollhouse, as well as all the other shows that were never in serious danger got renewed. This means that I will be rather busy next fall.

Fox has made some interesting choices in their fall schedule (Variety). First, their summer hit "So You Think You Can Dance" will be getting a fall skein. I have loved watching this show for the past few summers--I love dance and greatly admire the quality of the choreographers and dancers in the show--so I'm excited to see it moving up in the world. But it is a big time commitment, with two hours on Tuesday and one on Wednesday, which is fine when I don't watch anything else in the summer but will make things a bit crowded in the fall. Following the SYTYCD results show on Wednesdays will be new musical drama/comedy "Glee". The show focuses on a group of high school geeks who find their place in the school glee club. Fox clearly has high hopes for Glee, granting its pilot a golden sneak preview spot this Tuesday after the final performance episode of American Idol (that is, at 9pm). Early word is that it's clever, funny, and overall pretty great. Fringe has been moved from its first season Tuesday spot to the 9pm Thursday slot in the fall. This essentially is a big promotion, that time slot being the high attention spot that currently is home to heavy hitters CSI (CBS) and Grey's Anatomy (ABC). The question is whether Fringe will be able to hold its own in the time slot. Dollhouse will remain at 9pm on Fridays. New show "Human Target," about a decoy-for-hire who saves lives by assuming the identities of people in extreme danger, will debut in the winter starring Mark Valley and featuring Jackie Earle Haley; a new season of 24 is also scheduled to start in the winter.

ABC has given a series order to new sci-fi show "Flash Forward" (Variety). They had been promoting it with teasers during Lost commercial breaks, showing little clips followed by the words "What did you see?" without naming the show, and during the season finale last week gave it a proper full promo. The premise is that on one day, for 2 minutes and 27 seconds, everyone on Earth falls unconscious and sees a flash forward of their lives six months in the future. The show seems meant to tide Lost viewers over through the fall as they await the final season of Lost to arrive in the winter. Joseph Fiennes, Sonya Walger (known to Lost fans as Penny), Courtney B. Vance, Jack Davenport, and John Cho are among the cast.

My last bit of cool news is that it looks like Thor has finally been cast. Chris Hemsworth, recently seen as Captain Kirk's father (himself a Captain Kirk for 12 minutes) in the new Star Trek, is in final negotiations to take the lead role in the Kenneth Branaugh-helmed movie adaptation of the Marvel franchise (Variety, IMDb).
The deal would also land him a part in Marvel's planned Avengers film. Oh, Chris Hemsworth. Yesterday morning, I didn't know who you were. Then just minutes into the Star Trek film you won me over and broke my heart with your heroic resolve and sparkling blue eyes at once both joyous and pained beyond imagining... *Sigh...* Ahem. Yes, well, now he's poised to become a blockbuster superhero. God of thunder and all. I hope the Thor movie will be good.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I love love love the new Star Trek movie!

I really wanted to see Star Trek on opening weekend. I recently talked about how the Nielsen Ratings are unfair in that their polls don't allow most viewers to have a "vote" in their TV programming. When it comes to movies, the way we can "vote" for the kind of movies we want to see is by bringing in big numbers at the box office. The first measure the studios have of a movie's success is its opening weekend take. It doesn't matter as much in the end as the movie's total box office gross, but it's still a mark of honor. The fact that I didn't do my part to add to Star Trek's opening weekend receipts bothered me more than it should have, but I had a friend who couldn't go last weekend and I said I'd wait to see it with her. Turns out she still couldn't see it with us this weekend anyway, so I went to see it today with another friend. I'll have to content myself to helping Star Trek's second week drop-off, which looks to be a respectable 46% down from last weekend's opening $79.2 million (including Thursday night previews).

Well, I loved the movie. Loved it, loved it, loved it. It was totally awesome. Everything I wanted. J.J. did not let me down. Nor did the cast. Or the crew. I'm sure once the post-movie euphoria wears off I'll start to see flaws and question plot points, like why did the red matter need to be at the core of the planet to suck it into a black hole (my guess is either because of complex physics that we are centuries away from understanding or because a giant energy drill is a great bad guy weapon and watching a planet fold in on itself is so cool). But right now, all I've got is love.

I think most people will agree that the movie had some great eye candy. And I don't just mean Chris Pine (or Zoe Saldana, for the other half of you). Space was gorgeous. The Enterprise looked amazing. The Romulan ship was frighteningly cool. The special effects were very smooth. The action was exciting and engaging. They paid their respects to the original Star Trek designs and then made it all awesome. Of course, in 40 years people will probably think it all looks really stupid and fake, but right now, I just think it's pretty sweet.

I really thought the cast did a great job. It's a hard job for an actor to take over a well-established character from another actor; the actor must stay true to the original character while making it his or her own. I must admit that I am not familiar enough with the original Star Trek series to say how well each of the new actors evoked their original incarnations, but I was totally convinced that the characters were their own. One of my fears going into the movie was that I wouldn't be able to shake images of Sylar out of my head when I saw the new Spock on screen. But on the drive back from the movie theater, I realized that I hadn't thought of Sylar even once while watching the movie. Well done, Zachary Quinto.

Not knowing too much about the original Star Trek, I'm sure I missed lots of clever nods to the classic series (people I've talked to recently seem to assume that I'm a big Trekkie, but the fact is, as much as I might like to be, I'm really not). I know that Uhura's green-skinned roommate whom Kirk wooed in the movie was a nod to the episode "Whom Gods Destroy" from the original series in which Kirk sleeps with a green Orion slave woman (thanks, Entertainment Weekly). I also knew that poor Chief Engineer What's-His-Face parachuting down to the drill with Sulu and Kirk was doomed to certain death by the color of his outfit. Bones exclaiming "Dammit, man! I'm a doctor, not a physicist!" had a familiar ring to it, but the rest I'm sure was lost on me. I need to find a real Trekker to explain it all to me--well, not too serious of a Trekker, since I don't need to know how much stuff they "messed up" in this movie.

One thing that helped make the movie so enjoyable was that it was very funny. There were a lot of good laughs in there. Some of it was pretty silly, like the whole sequence in which Kirk is trying to tell Captain Pike that the Vulcans are being attacked by Romulans all while his hands are inflating, his tongue is going numb, and McCoy keeps chasing him with new injections. But I like silly. And it was never so silly that it didn't work. I wished that Scotty didn't take so long to show up, since Simon Pegg is hilarious, but he did provide plenty of laughs as soon as he arrived.

In short, I think this new Star Trek movie did a very good job of rebooting the franchise. It had just the right balance of character, action, humor, story, and sense to be thoroughly entertaining and satisfying. It also cleverly tweaked the time-space continuum to allow the new movies to take the liberties with the storyline that they need to shape the new series. I am definitely looking forward to the sequel.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Season Finales

I said that I would talk a bit about some of the recent season finales of my favorite shows, so here it is. I am also happy to report that both Dollhouse and Castle have been picked up for another season. I think that leaves Chuck as the only show I watch that is still on the bubble. A final decision is expected this week.

As you might guess, there are SPOILERS ahead...

I think Heroes is more on track than it was at the beginning of the season, but it hasn't yet fully recovered its former greatness. The finale left us with an unexpected ending of Nathan dying and Sylar essentially becoming Nathan. And I don't mean he took on Nathan's identity for his own nefarious purposes, but he was forced by Matt Parkman, at the behest of Angela Petrelli, to believe he is Nathan, and his powers to acquire memories (sort of at least) and shapeshift completed the transformation (this came up in my discussion of metaphysics). Pretty cool. And likely very problematic. A lot of Heroes have been weeded out at this point, though I'm still waiting to see more of Micah again as well as the third incarnation of Ali Larter. I'm still not overly hopeful about the future of this show, but I'll still be tuning in when it comes back next season.

I love Chuck. I love his secret agent handlers Sarah and Casey. I love his family--sister Ellie and now brother-in-law "Captain Awesome"--and I like his friend Morgan. But I was getting really, really sick of Chuck's co-workers back at the Buy More. Lester and Jeff were embarrassing, totally sketchy, and not funny. And I just didn't really care about Big Mike or what's-his-name played by Tony Hale. That is why I am very hopeful that the fact that Chuck and Morgan both quit their jobs at Buy More means that we won't have to see any more of those nuisances. Assuming, of course, that Chuck even gets renewed. But I hope it gets renewed. The real game-changer in the season finale was that Chuck has a new Intersect computer in his head which in addition to giving him "flashes" of secret government information also gives him crazy expert martial arts moves. I kind of saw it coming ("They made changes to the Intersect... What does this new computer do?"), but it was still cool when it happened. The only thing I was disappointed about with the season finale was that they killed off pretty pretty pretty Bryce Larkin. Sad. I'm hoping for a Season Three, but if it ends here, I'll at least be fairly satisfied with the ending.

The season's penultimate episode was great (hooray for Alan Tudyk's comedy), and the finale was also good, though it kind of fizzled at the end. With Alpha slinking off while Echo tries to retrieve Caroline's memories, we were robbed of a final showdown, though we did get the "You saved her" moment that, while predictable, was quite satisfying. I loved the revelation that Dr. Saunders had once been the active "Whiskey", but was taken out of active duty when Alpha scarred her face. I wonder if Victor will get a new job around the house. I was sad to see November go, since I thought it quite refreshing to have a capable, sexy young woman on TV who was not a size 2. Paul Ballard's relationship to the Dollhouse has now changed--he's not trying to bring them down?--and I'm very interested to see what direction the next season takes.

It's Leonard Nimoy!!! Yes, the legendary actor made a cameo appearance in Fringe at the very end of the season finale, and appearance which probably didn't hurt the show's ratings or Star Trek's box office. But the finale was great. We got a final visit from a recurring villain, delved deeper into this concept of alternate realities (metaphysics at work again), and learned an exciting revelation about Peter. They had peppered the episode with clues, so I guessed it before it was revealed, but it was still immensely satisfying, and chilling, when we saw the name written on the gravestone. I'm looking forward to the direction they plan to take this next season.

The people behind Lost definitely know how to do a season finale. On one front, we finally got to meet Jacob, who before this had been a completely ambiguous entity--Is he invisible? Is he a ghost? Does he even exist? He is still mysterious, but we've seen him, learned that he lives under the big statue, has been there a long time, visited our survivors in their pre-Island lives, seems kind of nice, and likes to weave. We also know that he has a nemesis, a man who wears a black shirt, does not share his optimistic outlook on the progress of humans, and who has been trying to kill him for a long time. We learned that the resurrected John Locke is not really John Locke, but probably a disguise of this black shirt guy (I totally called what would be in the box at the beginning of the episode), and it seems that he has finally found his "loophole" and killed Jacob at the end of the episode. What's more mysterious than this murder is that Jacob did not try to avoid being killed but even seemed to encouraged Ben to stab him.

On the other front 30 years before, Jack convinced his fellow time travelers to back him up and help him carry out Faraday's plan to throw the hydrogen bomb core down the shaft at what was to be the Swan station in the hopes that, without the Swan station, their plane never would have crashed, and thus all the terrible things that have happened since the start of the show would never have occurred. Wow. We spent the entire season being convinced that the past couldn't be changed--what happened happened--and then they pull this on us. What made this finale even more cruel to us viewers was that when the bomb went down the shaft, and they all waited the long seconds for certain death, the bomb didn't even go off!!! All hell broke loose with the super electromagnet sucking things in toward it, some people died... And then, at the very end of the episode, we saw Juliet, who had fallen to the bottom of the shaft, use her last bit of strength to make the bomb explode. The screen went to white and the word "LOST" popped up over it. The end, until next January or so. We have no idea what will happen in the beginning of the next season. Really, really no idea at all. If the hydrogen bomb did what Faraday predicted and prevented the magnetic anomaly that crashed the plane, would any of what we have seen in the five seasons of this show have even happened? But if those things didn't happen, then how did Jack et al. throw the bomb down the shaft to prevent the magnetic anomaly in the first place? The paradox of time travel--metaphysics at work again. The show would be kind of sad if it didn't work and they actually did just write Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Sayid, Hurley, Jin, Juliet, and Miles out of the show. And yet for everything that has happened to not matter anymore would seem a bit cheap. I cannot wait to find out where they're taking this show. Next year can't come soon enough.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Dear Nielsen Diary...

Sitting on my desk right now is a Nielsen TV Ratings Viewing Diary. Being a geeky entertainment biz follower, I am way more excited than I should be. They apparently send out 1.6 million of these things during sweeps periods, but I feel like I've won the lottery. To be fair, they didn't actually send the Diary to me. I shouldn't really have it. It probably violates their rules and messes with their data that I have it. The fact is that the TV Viewing Diary was sent to a friend of mine who doesn't watch TV at all and who knows that I am a big fan of TV and guessed that I would love having a Nielsen Ratings Diary. And she doesn't care at all about TV ratings, so she doesn't care if this messes them up, and I am more than happy to mess up the Nielsen ratings in my favor.

For those who don't know, the Nielsen Ratings are essentially the only measure that the TV industry has of how many people watch which TV shows. Knowing this number is obviously important for the business, helping them figure out how much to charge advertisers and whether or not to cancel or continue showing a series. Nielsen Ratings are gathered two ways: through "Set Meters" installed on the TVs of selected households and through these "Diaries". Ratings for a given TV program are usually reported with two numbers, the rating and the share. Rating is the percentage of the total number of U.S. households with TVs (currently about 114.5 million) that are watching the program. Share is the percentage of the U.S. television sets in use at the time of the program that are tuned to the program. For instance, last week's most watched program, the American Idol results show, had a 13.7/21, meaning that 13.7% of the TV-owning households in the U.S. were watching it, and 21% of the TVs on at that time were tuned to the show (kind of sad...). In many cases, though, what the TV business types care about is what a show's ratings are in the demo--that is, in the 18-49 age demographic, a group believed to be more receptive to advertising and thus more valuable to the advertisers. So while CBS's CSI typically wins Thursday night in total viewers, ABC's Grey's Anatomy usually gets higher ratings in the 18-49 demo and can thus charge more for advertising (last night's season finale was actually an exception because Grey's narrowly beat CSI in overall viewers as well as in the demo).

Anyway, I currently have for myself a Nielsen Diary to do with as I please. The diary came in an envelope along with a letter, directions for keeping the diary, and a dollar bill, which I already spent on dinner last night (crab cakes, mmmm; perhaps I should have given the dollar back to my friend, but I was low on singles and they always come in handy when you're splitting a restaurant bill). Anyway, having a Nielsen Diary is really a bit like having a voting ballot. If you think about it, most of us don't have representation in the politics of TV programming. We may be watching a show, but no one knows we're watching (unless we join some desperate campaign to get a show renewed, as in this year's Five dollar foot-long campaign for Chuck). We have to rely on other people with Set Meters to watch the same things we like. It's like deciding an election based on polls! So to me, getting my hands on this Diary is like gaining the right to vote.

Unfortunately, I'm getting this ballot at the very end of the May sweeps period. The Diary is for the week starting Thursday, May 14. Almost all of my TV shows have ended for the season. Desperate Housewives has its season finale on Sunday and How I Met Your Mother's season finale is on Monday, though they are already locked in for renewal and don't really need my vote (but I'll of course list them in the diary anyway). Other than that, all I plan to watch this week is Jeopardy and Ellen. Shows that could have used my support--Chuck, Dollhouse, Castle, Sarah Connor Chronicles--have ended for the season, so I can't do anything to tell the Nielsen Ratings that I was here watching (though note that the latest word on the Dollhouse front is hopeful). It's a bit like turning 18 on November 5, 2008. Alas.

I was originally planning on segueing into a discussion of the season finales of some of my favorite shows, but I've decided that would make this post seem pretty random and rambling (not that that has alwasy stopped me before, but...). My season finale discussion will get its own post next.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I'm not really a poet. My blog has two previous poems; one's a silly sonnet and the other is just four lines of bad Quenya. I've never thought that my poems were particularly good, so I don't often try to write them. But some things just don't seem right in prose. I could write a simple three sentences telling what happened, but that would make it too small and insignificant. I could explain in detail why this little incident struck a chord in me, but that would be too explicit for something so mundane. This story, I think, is best addressed with an attempt at a poem. Here goes. My apologies in advance.

On the lawn I pass
On my walk to work,
I found not one
But two four-leaf clovers.
What double luck!
I thought to pluck,
To press, to keep them
In a book,
Dry and shriveled
Yet preserved,
But chose to leave them
Let them lie
To grow and live
Their lives complete
And marked their place
That I might return
To look upon
Their lucky leaves
Fortunate foliage
Another day.
But then the lawnmower
Lopped off their heads.
Eight leaves of luck
Eight hundred shreds
Now scattered and lost
In the grass.

Friday, May 8, 2009

"Sexy socks" guest post for Sebastian

Wow, today is a guest-post-apalooza for me. Funny how these things turn out. I now have a guest post up on Sebastian's blog. Sebastian is a geek in the greatest sense. He knows more than I do about gaming and musicals, he takes beautiful photos, details his strange and exciting adventures around the world, gives astute analyses of varied topics including geeks, love, and religion, and is quite funny. My post for Theories of Anything was all about my own fantasies. My guest post for Sebastian is more about fulfilling his fantasies!

Thus far, the pictures I've posted of myself on my blog have shown that I dress fairly conservatively and am partial to long skirts. The pictures I have put in my guest post for Sebastian are a bit different. Long socks, pointe shoes, and a miniskirt. For me, that's scandalous. Why am I wearing these things? It has something to do with Dollhouse, the season finale of which airs tonight on FOX at 9pm. For the rest of the story, though, you'll have to read the post!

"My Identity" guest post at Theories of Anything

After last week Tuesday's metaphysical discussion of identity, I guess it's somewhat fitting to follow it up with a discussion of my identity, or at least one small aspect of it. But you won't find it here. Today I have my first guest post!

Als at Theories of Anything had a series of guest bloggers for the month of April writing on the theme of "My Identity." I decided to jump on the bandwagon and do a guest post. I swear I got it in a couple days before the end of the month, she just chose not to post it until now. So head on over there to read my guest post. It's a bit out there (and by that I mean it reveals my supremely geeky nature, to a greater extent than I have on my blog if that's possible), and it addresses one of those "uncomfortable truths" of mine, so just appreciate how naked I feel and then maybe forget about it. Als's blog is great, so once you're there, stick around to check it out--she has some lovely poems (I love the four-part butterfly poem), some insightful essays and commentaries, and discussions of books and music that she enjoys.

This is my very first guest post! Hooray for the blogger community. Enjoy!

Update: Some time since hosting this guest post series, Als decided to make her blog invitation only. So, if you want to read the post, I've copied it below:

Guest post originally for Theories of Anything

If you were to meet me in real life, you would probably conclude that I'm a fairly normal girl who pretty much has her life all together. I graduated from a prestigious college, I've been working in environmental research for almost two years, and in the fall I will begin working towards a Ph.D. in oceanography. I take care of myself with a healthy lifestyle and maintain a normal social life. In fact, plenty of people know me a long time without ever learning that I am a total geek.

Now, geeks come in many flavors, but I fall primarily in the fantasy/sci-fi gamer realm of geekdom. My favorite movies and TV shows are in the sci-fi or fantasy genres, I read almost exclusively fantasy novels, and, perhaps most notably, I devote an appalling amount of my time to playing computer games. My favorite games are fantasy or sci-fi role-playing games (RPGs), particularly ones with complex, engaging storylines; ideally, playing an RPG should be like watching a movie or TV show except that you're in control of the main character.

Like most fans of the fantasy (and sci-fi) genre, I love it for the escape. Fantasy worlds offer magic and spaceships. The characters are always getting swept off into exciting adventures to save the world. What better way to escape from the boredom and harsh realities of the Real World than to dive into another world governed by completely different rules? What escape can be more thrilling and satisfying than saving the galaxy from evil? Books or movies allow the reader or viewer to live vicariously through the characters; RPGs go a step further by allowing the player to step into their shoes. It's almost like becoming one of the characters.

But just almost. Once in a while you hear stories about obsessive, addicted gamers who eschew their real lives for their in-game "second lives". I'm not like that. I know what's real and what's not, and I know better than to sacrifice my real life for the benefit of a virtual game. My true identity is clear; my love of fantasy and gaming has not given me any sort of identity crisis.

At least, I do a very good job of hiding my fantasy-related identity issues—even from myself. Only occasionally do these feelings surface, and they are always quickly suppressed. But delving into a personal journal that I kept while in college—a private journal that I never intended anyone else to see—I found some disturbing evidence of my identity issues:

If I should die, keep my computer, for it holds the people I wish I could be.

Though I am loathe to admit it, when confronted with this pitiful honesty, I cannot deny that I still relate to the person who wrote it. The truth is, there is a part of me that feels a strong kinship with my computer game characters. These characters live in fantastical worlds I find preferable to our own, live lives more exciting than my own, and because I control them in the game, they reflect my opinions and choices—they reflect a piece of me. This is not actually an exclusively game-related phenomenon. You name any fantasy or sci-fi world that I've ever loved—Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, X-Men, Heroes, Star Wars—and you can bet I've daydreamed about who I would be in that world. Frequently. I have had more of these fantasy identities than I can remember.

I know that these identities are just fantasies. They are illusory daydreams hidden beneath the real me who is just a normal, cheerful girl contributing her part to society. It has been said, after all, that it's not who we are underneath but what we do that defines us*. If we subscribe to that philosophy, my identity is defined by my successful young career as an environmental scientist and my healthy relationships with the people around me, not by these false fantasies.

If we subscribe to that philosophy. It is true that what we do in life defines us to the outside world. Our actions are what really matter, since they are what the rest of the world will witness and remember. The world doesn't care about our hidden thoughts. Our actions echo through the future, while our inner feelings die with us. Still, what we do is influenced by other people, limited by the world and the circumstances under which we live. Our dreams, in contrast, are unfiltered by reality. In that sense, what is more our own—more ourselves—than our dreams?

The way our unrealistic dreams have any relevance is through our personal happiness. My actions may affect the world around me in a tangible way, but when I compare my real life to my fantasies, it affects how I feel. Like many twenty-somethings, I spend a lot of time struggling to find my role in life. And my fantasy identities are always there to taunt me: You will never matter as much to your world as Commander Shepard or Gorion's Ward matter to theirs! These characters torture me because I love them but I know they can never be real. How can I ever be satisfied with my life when I compare myself to superheroes? How can I find my place in the world when I yearn for a different universe? Some day, I may mature enough to let these false dreams go. But until then, fantasy will remain my escape—and my prison.

*My fellow geeks may have identified this as a reference to Batman Begins.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Turtles, Wolverine, Real-world Hobbits and more!

It's been a long time since my last post on entertainment news that I found fun and interesting. Let's see what has happened since then...

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles celebrated their 25th birthday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 23 (Variety, IMDb). Fans celebrated the Ninja Turtles with special events including a screening of the original Ninja Turtle movie, and the Empire State Building was even lit up "turtle green" for the day. The event coincided with the news that the franchise would be brought back for a new live action movie probably around 2011. Ah, the childhood memories. My brothers and I were fans growing up, collecting various action figures including one that talked if you pulled a red strip of plastic through its shell (wow, that seems so primitive now). One of my parents' favorite baby stories is how my little brother used to call "pizza" "bunga nummins", which was baby brother speak for "Ninja Turtle food" (work with me here--"bunga" as in "Cowabunga!", and "nummins" as in the noun form of "num, num, num" which is obviously what you say when you're eating). I can't say I've really kept up with them--I didn't see the 2007 TMNT movie--but the '80s/'90s child in me is happy to hear they're still around.

Tracking the future of "my shows"... ABC has picked up Lost for another season, though this was already assumed since they made a deal before Season 4 to end the show at the end of Season 6 (next season). Castle, starring Nathan Fillion, is still on the bubble (Variety). Fox gave an early pickup for another season of Fringe (Variety). I already reported that Sarah Connor hadn't been renewed, and I have yet to hear a decision about Dollhouse. The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother, my two CBS sitcoms, will both be returning in the fall. NBC renewed Heroes, though it has fallen far from its lofty first season status. Chuck remains on the bubble. More decisions may be made in the next week or so. I love my shows, and I don't want any of them cancelled, but as you might have seen when I listed everything that I watch, my schedule is pretty full. It might be healthy for me if a few more were cancelled.

I've mentioned Gore Verbinski's planned live-action movie adaptation of BioShock a couple times (actually it made an appearance in what was basically my blog's first real post). The project has been put on hold, a victim of the bad economy (Variety, IMDb). Apparently, once the budget passed $160 million, executives at Universal Pictures halted production and let some production team members go. Verbinski is looking for ways to cut the budget, including a possible location move to London. The IMDb short mentions that Wentworth Miller, one of the two stars of Prison Break, is rumored to be starring in the movie. I like him. (I bought Mariah Carey's music video of "We Belong Together" on iTunes because he plays the boy with whom she belongs. Yes.) If this movie will bring him to the big screen, then I wholly support it. Save the BioShock movie!

Word on the boulevard is that Guy Ritchie, known for directing gangster/crime films such as Snatch and the upcoming Downey/Law Sherlock Holmes, is planning on directing a musical (IMDb). But you know what makes this even better? He's in talks to do this musical with B-action king Jason Statham (who did Snatch with Ritchie back in the day and has since done The Transporter, Crank, Death Race, The Bank Job, The Italian Job, etc.). Oh boy. We'll see if anything comes of this.

This was tagged on IMDb last week: The Biology of B-Movie Monsters. Mostly it analyzes the problems that unnaturally large or small creatures/people would face that are not recognized by the movies that feature them. It is so awesome. My Bridge of Khazad-dûm paper just can't measure up. No pun intended. Luckily, I think my Balrog is exempt from most of the criticisms presented in the article, seeing as it's a magical monster made out of molten rock.

I mentioned that ABC had greenlit a pilot for a new sci-fi TV series called "V", based on the original 1980s miniseries. But now I have heard that Alan Tudyk (aka Wash of Firefly) is starring in it! In a recent interview with Alan Tudyk, Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello mentioned in one question "I'm assuming your role in ABC's V reboot--assuming that it gets picked up--could pose a complication...." (EW.com, but WARNING: Dollhouse SPOILERS from the 5/1/09 episode immediately once you get there). I love Alan Tudyk (Fun Fact: I saw him on Broadway in Spamalot). He's awesome. My interest in the show "V" is definitely greater knowing he's in it.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is barely out in theaters, and they're already planning for another Wolverine sequel (Variety, IMDb). I have not seen the new Wolverine yet because I heard it is disappointing (if one of my friends wanted to see it, I'd go, but I won't try to convince anyone to see it with me if it's going to be bad). I probably will see it at some point, since I like X-Men and I like Hugh Jackman (Fun Fact: I saw him on Broadway in The Boy from Oz). But if this one wasn't very good, I don't have high hopes for the quality of its sequel. The news doesn't stop with Wolverine. Twentieth Century Fox is planning another spinoff movie focusing on Deadpool, aka Wade Wilson, played by Ryan Reynolds in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Variety, IMDb). I gotta say, he is easy on the eyes, and the bit from the trailer in which he slices a bullet coming towards him in half and the two halves hit the attackers behind him was pretty sweet. But I really have my doubts about how good that one will turn out. A spinoff of a bad spinoff? Doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

How about a bit of real-world news? Has anyone heard about what are being called the Indonesian "Hobbit" people? Scientists discovered skeletons of 3 foot tall, 65 pound humans on the Indonesian island of Flores back in 2004, but they have recently concluded that this is a new species of human, rather than some variation of previous species (BBC News). I love that they're being called "Hobbits," though apparently their feet are not as big as the Hobbits of Middle Earth. A shame.

Lastly, critical consensus seems to indicate that the new Star Trek movie will be totally awesome! See compilations of reviews here, here, and here. It opens on Friday, May 8 (tomorrow), though some theaters will not only have midnight screenings but various screenings earlier this evening. It probably won't do as well as Wolverine did last week because the franchise hasn't had the recent blockbuster success that X-Men had (basically, Star Trek isn't tracking as well among younger people, since it's staler in people's minds). But it's undoubtedly a better movie, and it should do better at the box office. So go out and see it. Get your friends to see it. Support Star Trek!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


My grandmother had a stroke on Monday. I found out on Tuesday via two forwarded emails from my mother, the originals having been written by my grandfather, who was a doctor before retirement, and my mom's cousin, who is also a doctor and lives in Hawaii. She seems to be all right--her speech is slightly slurred but still understandable, and she can now walk again--but it still came as a shock. She's had some health problems, but mostly she appears very healthy. Her hair is even still almost entirely black (there's just some silver in front of her ears), and she still drives her car. She drove me to get shave ice when I was there in March. This is all just a reminder that she is 86 years old, and once you reach that age, all bets are off. Things can change so quickly.

I feel bad because none of her children or grandchildren are there. None of us can go visit her in the hospital. All of us live too far away from Hawaii. If things were really bad, we'd all buy tickets out to see her, but as it is, we're just making phone calls to her hospital room. I will be moving to Hawaii later this summer, but I'm not there yet. The timing was so close for me being there to help keep her company in the hospital. But not quite. Hold on, Popo, I'm coming!!

My other bit of guilt came from my conversation with my grandfather on Tuesday night.

Gung-Gung: So, have you figured out when you're moving out here?
Me: No, still not yet.
Gung-Gung: Do you know what you're going to do about a car?
Me: I think I do want a car in Hawaii, so I might drive my car to the West Coast and ship it from L.A. or somewhere...
Gung-Gung: You could have our car. You know I don't drive [his seeing is really bad], and I don't think Popo will be driving anymore.

No, Gung-Gung, I don't want your car! I want Popo to still be driving! Their car is considerably older and crappier than my car, but more importantly, I don't want to get a car because my grandmother had a stroke. Congratulations, your grandmother could have died, and you've won a free car! I didn't ask for it, it was my grandfather's idea, but still, it's not something I want to have on my mind every time I get into my car. I guess I don't really need a nice car, the insurance would be cheaper with their car, I won't exactly be going on long car rides on the island, and it would be nice to turn my new-ish car into a chunk of cash... Maybe I will end up taking their car, but it makes me feel guilty just thinking about it.

I hope my grandmother is all right. I hope her life hasn't changed too much and she can go on as normal. I guess next time I'm out in Hawaii, it will be my turn to drive her to get shave ice.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A second Saturday stroll down memory lane: Total geek in many ways

I had so much fun last month looking back at my college days--specifically, what I had been up to four years ago--that I thought I'd do it again. So what had I been doing in the month of April 2005, following the bee incident? These are excerpts from my private journal...

Well, I had an adventure tonight. Anna and I failed our Stealth check, in part due to carelessness, and in part due to Anna's dismally low move silently. Luckily, my persuade was high enough to make a successful Persuade/Lie check. Jeff made a lucky stealth check, and when his stealth failed he made up for it with speed.
Mischief managed, but just barely.
There's a silly one. Room draw for the next year was coming up, and my two friends and I were planning on selecting rooms from a dorm that was currently under serious renovations--they spent the whole year gutting the building and changing around the rooms and hallways. But we didn't want to choose a room that we hadn't seen yet; the floor plan did not satisfy us. So one night we climbed through a cloister window and squeezed through a slit in the fence to enter the forbidden dorm's courtyard. From there, nothing was locked. We tiptoed over unfinished floors and found our way to potential rooms. At some point my friend Anna and I decided to head home, leaving Jeff behind. But when we were in the courtyard, we saw someone coming. Who else would have access to waltz into the forbidden courtyard but someone from public safety? We tried to hide behind a pile of something, but Anna tripped on a metal pipe that clanked quite loudly. We were caught! She didn't say anything, but I basically talked our way out of trouble, and we left the forbidden courtyard. Jeff had been about to exit the building when he saw the man coming and was able to duck back inside. Once he thought the coast was clear, he started to leave, but the guy saw him and called out. Anna and I were already waiting in the cloister when Jeff came leaping through the window, yelled "Run!" and continued sprinting down the walkway. It occurred to us afterwards that the man we saw was not particularly public safety-like. We wondered if he wasn't some random dude who had no more business being there than we did. Well, at least we got away. And we got really nice rooms the following year.

[My friend] Cal Johnson said that the day he gets tenure, he's going to smoke a tobacco bong in class.
This is fairly self-explanatory.

So I beat Knights of the Old Republic tonight. It was a wonderful day. Before dinner, I finished my evil 303 problem set. After dinner, I cleaned the room. I hadn't swept my own room since, well, ever. Dana had swept the room, but never under my bed or my desk. There was so much dust and dirt and...stuff...under my desk, I couldn't really put my feet down very far back there. Anyway, I cleaned the room, sweeping and vacuuming because the prefrosh are coming tomorrow. Then, I put up my away message, "It ends here, tonight," and beat the game. Away message after: "And so it ends." The ending makes me very happy.
This one's a bit embarrassing. First, ew, that I hadn't swept under my desk. I'm pretty sure that by "stuff" I meant like bits of paper or very small rocks. Yes. Second, I continue to be a total geek and write about playing KotOR. But it was a fun game. The next entry is even worse. I'm not sure if I should include it, it is so embarrassing...

Excerpt from 4/15/05
Earlier in the day, I counted how many of my iTunes songs I had listened to 0 times, 1 time, etc. and made an Excel spreadsheet and graph of it.
What more can I say? Sometimes I have to let the totally dorky nerd out. The fact that I included it in my journal means that even at the time, I recognized it was a totally crazy thing to do. All right, time for more KotOR comments...

Conversation today on the phone with my little brother:
Me: I wish I could play KotOR again for the first time.
Bro: Well, you could hit yourself really hard on the head...
Me: No, brain damage is not the answer.
He's so cute. More random snippets of conversation:

Funny bit tonight at dinner, Todd said to Dave:
"What are you doing? It's like Stonehenge, but with a squash... and salt."
Can't make that any more clear than it already is, except perhaps to clarify that by "salt" he was referring to a couple of salt shakers.

This last one was a really big event, so it is very odd that I didn't say more in my journal about it. I did get back to my room really late, so it's not so strange that I didn't write about it that night, but I would have expected me to write something up the next morning. As it was, all I did was copy my AIM away message from that day.
Facebook away message:
I'm with the Choir. We're singing at CARNEGIE HALL tonight!
Yes, I probably haven't mentioned it before, but I was once a professional singer, and I even performed in Carnegie Hall. It's not actually as impressive as it sounds, but since it sounds so impressive, I'll just leave it at that for today.