30 January 2017

Donald Trump and extreme vetting

Many people have expressed their opinions on this already but here is mine. 

This is a monumentally stupid policy. Banning nationals from seven countries even if it is for 90 days because of the extremely slim possibility that one of them may be a terrorist is dumb. It is punishing the innocent with the guilty. 

It has only served to alienate moderate Muslims. 

Then again, the so-called Land of the Free has long been a massive case of high words, low actions. The Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are created equal was drafted by a slave owner. 

I could go on but it take all day.

28 January 2017

Sir John Hurt 1940-2017

When an actor's death is the top story on the BBC, you know that they were something special.

And John Hurt, who has died aged 77, was definitely something special.

His roles across his long career were legendary. The Elephant Man. Alien. Harry Potter. The dragon in Merlin.

Then most recently, the War Doctor. His appearance in Doctor Who in 2013 and later three Big Finish audio box sets, with a fourth due for release later this year, gave him yet another generation of fans.

His rich voice was truly memorable and I chose to use it as the one for Beeching, the computer on Alycidon.

His death was a surprise - he had beaten pancreatic cancer previously - but I am not that distraught about it. We all have to go at some point and hopefully he is in a better place now, swapping anecdotes in the green room in the sky.

He had a good long life. In fact, a spectacular one.

Rest in Peace, Sir John.

17 January 2017

Planet of the Really Bad Subtext (Review: 'Star Trek' 2.9, "Metamorphosis")

She's just watched "The Alternative Factor"

Stockholm Syndrome hadn't been identified at the time this episode had made... which is a pity, because this would have been a much better episode if it had been. Because frankly, its moral compass is broken.

[This review contains major spoilers]

Kirk, Spock and McCoy (quite why you put your top two officers and your medical guy on this mission, I don't know) are flying the shuttle Galileo - they've got a replacement after the previous one was lost - back to the Enterprise. Aside from those three, they are carrying a diplomat by the name of Assistant Commissioner Hedford, who has attracted a very rare illness and needs urgent medical treatment back on the starship. 

However, they are then taken off course by a mysterious space cloud that looks like Donald Trump's hair and end on an Earth-like asteroid. With a rather unusual inhabitant...

This is a rather 'compact' episode; with action limited to the planet, the shuttle and a couple of scenes on the bridge; Chekov is not present in this one.

None of the regulars really stand out in this story sadly. They do get the chance to do some electric shock dancing, but there is very little of the great character moments here.

Nancy Hedford (her first name is only given in the credits) is a headscarf wearing woman who starts off doing grumpy and ends up engaging in sweaty overacting. Played by Elinor Donahue - who is still alive and turns 80 in April - I couldn't help but be reminded of Alison Brie; who you might cast to play this sort of role - the latter dressed similarly in Mad Men.

The inhabitant on the planet turns out to be none other than Zefram Cochrane; the man who invented the warp drive! He went missing 150 years previously and was presumed dead. He in fact has lived on the planet, been rejuvenated by an alien companion who provides for all his needs to appear 35... and hasn't aged since. This is something he isn't entirely happy about. Played by Glen Corbett, he looks like a rather stereotypical sort of character for this period, a rather cynical space traveller; he also has a rather 'standard' haircut.

Cochrane's companion is a big glowing ball of animation on optical matte and looks very much of the period; many of the shots appear to be the same as in original transmission. Therefore, from the perspective of 50 years on, it doesn't pass muster. This said, its creator, Richard Edlund would later become a founding member of Industrial Light and Magic.

The massive issue that hits this episode in the middle is the revelation that the Companion is in fact female, deeply in love with Cochrane and that their relationship has basically been sexual. Cochrane feels violated by this... and the rest of the crew aren't, seeing his reaction as primitive.

Then the Companion, instead of curing Hedford, merges with her (did she ask?) and makes herself human... but can't leave the asteroid. So Cochrane decides to stay with her, because he's fallen in love with her...

To which my response is:

She imprisoned him and basically got her jollies via mind meld under false pretences for150 years! He's only in love with her because he's well and truly got Stockholm Syndrome! What a stupid, stupid, insulting twist!

Before that, however, the episode starts badly dragging. It's very talky and is arguably at least 10 minutes too long.
When being long and boring is one of the smaller faults in a work, then you have a problem.


What started off as an interesting affair involving unusual alien life began to increasingly drag... then turned very sour for me with the reveal about the creature and its purposes.

I have to judge this episode by modern standards and the morality I subscribe to, so I have to knock this down several notches.

This is the worst episode I've watched to date.

16 January 2017

Dealing with Trump

On Friday, Donald Trump becomes President. 

The United States now faces a serious danger to its democracy: a demagogue in the Oval Office. 

Those American readers of mine opposed to Trump and his agenda will have to do what the Civil Rights Movement did to end segregation; go through the judiciary because no-one else will help you. If he ignores Supreme Court rulings then it will be clear he is an autocrat and hopefully sense will prevail.

If it doesn't then things get very dangerous indeed. You may well need to be prepared to pay the ultimate price to protect freedom.

However, remember this. One day Donald Trump will die and have to explain his actions to the President of the Universe.

05 January 2017

Postcards from the Pleaides (Elite Dangerous Diaries 2)

I've managed to get myself out to Maia and am currently on my way back to the 'Bubble', having currently reached Pleiades Sector JC-V d2-62, home of a small military space station that you can go to in order to get repaired.

Doing the 'Maia' run in a Viper Mark IV (I was one of the people who won one in the community goal thing in March last year) is hard, but doable. You have to jump through a lot of unpopulated systems and engage in fuel scooping; trying to get enough fuel without overheating; a task made more complex when you run the risk of an emergency drop out of Frame Shift if you get too close.

Towards the end of the run out, I was actually starting to have Drive malfunctions, but I managed to make it.

Landed on an alien world, with a beautiful nebula behind me

Admiring a coronal ejection after a Frame Shift Drive drop-out
On my arrival in Maia, I wasn't able to sell my exploration data at Obsidian Orbital due to barnacle interference leading to their Universal Cartographics office being closed, but later made my way to a surface world, gaining over 70,000 for it. Less than I hoped, but I used the cash to buy myself a
missile launcher.

Before heading back, I chose to take a quick tour of the Pleiades, visiting all the Seven Sisters and their 'parents' Atlas and Pleione. This included a trip to the Maia black hole and a landing on Merope 5C, where the first 'barnacles' were spotted.

Approaching the Maia black hole

The Maia black hole itself

The Merope 5 gas giant with its huge rings

Merope 5C, the Planet of the Barnacles. No Barnacles this time though; many have mined out

An ice valley on another remote world that I stopped off at

My journey back to the Bubble will be via the stations dotted off the 'main route' from Sol; these allow for full refuels and repairs.

Approaching PRE Logistics Support Epsilion; you can see my fuel is rather low

01 January 2017

2017 plans

OK, first thing on the list is going to be the second and third parts of my Berlin feature. I am planning another long distance train trip, so that may well feature.

Otherwise, going to be keeping things fairly 'light and easy', with lots of shorter posts, including some mini reviews.