Humpday Links for February 27

As February draws to an end and we realize we’re about to start the third month of the year (holy effing crap, where did the first two months go!?), let us enjoy these links together.  Well, not together, I mean by the time you read this I’ll have moved on to other things…whatever, enjoy.

– Turns out there is some statistical evidence that it wasn’t the red shirt that got those crewmen killed.

More news about possibly the most significant scientific accident of our time.  The possibilities of this discovery excite the crap out of me.

– Have concerns about your grocery bill?  Here are 16 foods that can re-grow from kitchen scraps.  And it doesn’t require a farm to pull it off.

– If you enjoyed “A Knight’s Tale”, then The Jousting Life website is for you.

Here’s a great little article about the rise of Pathfinder Society, Paizo’s organized play option.  As a Venture-Captain, I approve this message.

– Given that this was the first RPG I ever owned, I will acquire this shirt eventually.

– People, there is a new Stargate computer game coming.  I’m a bit leary of the use of “unleashed” but otherwise optimistic.

– In a similar vein, there are rumours of a “Knights of the Old Republic” movie, coming…whenever.

8 Tell-tale Signs You Are a Geek.  Something about the tone of this article bothers me, but I can’t put my finger on it…

– Again, you’ve likely seen this already.  Of course, you might have also put the new Game of Thrones trailer on a loop.  For a day.  Or two.  Shut up.

– Felicia Day has decreed it, and it is so: March 30th is International Tabletop Day.  You can join or create an event here.  You can also take part in two events already happening in Edmonton and area: GOBfest, and at Mission: Fun and Games in St. Albert.

– Want to learn new things, but don’t have the time/resources to take a class?  Hank and John Green have you covered with Crash Course.  Seriously good video lessons on chemistry, biology, world and American history, and literature.

That’s it that’s all!  Enjoy your slow slide into the weekend, and I’ll be back with more geekery soon.


When Did Joy Become the Enemy?

Okay, full disclosure.  I really can’t stand the Oscars.  Don’t ask me to explain, because I’ll cut the person that keeps me from watching the Tony Awards.  But the Oscars?  They’ve never done it for me.  I can watch clips later out of context (loved Anne Hathaway’s acceptance speech, she is an amazing woman), but I can’t sit through the entire production.  I don’t know, something about the whole thing just rings false for me.

So I missed Seth McFarlane’s hosting, missed the pretty dresses and the nice suits, missed the frazzled acceptance speeches.  Even turned off my Twitter feed, because while I can’t stand the Oscars my friends are into it. And that’s cool, but I don’t want to hear about it every few seconds.

So I missed The Onion calling 9-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis, nominated for her work in Beasts of the Southern Wild, a cunt.

I sure heard about it this morning, though.  The event was burning up my Twitter feed, all over Tumblr and Facebook.  Heck, most of the blogs I follow have already made comment on the issue, coming down on one side or the other.  That’s right, there are sides, because as hard as it is to believe there are folks that feel calling a child the c-word in a public forum is justified.  They make a lot of arguments about context and satire, and how The Onion was just trying to draw attention to the conduct of others.

Okay, maybe.  But, The Onion, and I’ll admit I’m having trouble moving passed this, you called a 9-year-old a cunt.  I’m not sure if that comes off as satire, or more like verbally abusing a child.  Now at this point some The Onion apologist will point out that it was on Twitter, and they only have 140 characters to work with and so they had to be concise and junk.  Sure, I get that, it’s not like The Onion has an entire website where they could write expansively on the subject, really dig into…they do?  Like a real one, not just a Livejournal account?  Yup, look at that, banner ads and everything.  Hoo-boy, this just keeps getting worse and worse for you, The Onion.

Look, I love a good satire as much as the next fella; Swift’s A Modest Proposal is like candy to me.  But calling someone a bad word isn’t satire.  If it were, every drunk dude-bro I pass on a Saturday night would be considered a brilliant literary mind.  And that is not the case, because I could not live in that world.

What I get from reading about last night is this: yes, there was a lot of condescending and dismissive behaviour towards Quvenzhané Wallis and her presence at the Academy Awards.  A lot of which seemed to be centred around her name, which may take the blue ribbon at this year’s Stupidest Reason Ever to Dismiss Someone’s Work Regatta and Pony Show.  The media felt her first name is hard to pronounce, but instead of doing some (dun-dun-DUUUUN!) journalism, decided to go the ridicule and belittle route.  For the record, it is pronounced kwuh-ven-jah-nay.  Know how I found that out?  Ten seconds with Google.  Know how I would have found it out if I were interviewing her? “Excuse me, but just before the interview starts, and I’m really sorry about this, could you tell me how you pronounce your first name?” Boom, done, nail the interview and walk away.  Breakfast Club fist pump optional.

But the young Miss Wallis was obviously there to enjoy herself.  She’s nine-years old, for crying out loud.  And she was nominated for a pretty prestigious award for something she obviously enjoyed doing.  Never mind she got a Best Actress nom for the first film she ever did; why wouldn’t she be excited about that?  Excited in a way that only a 9-year-old can be, in a way we all wish (even me deep in the recesses of my cold, metallic heart) we could still be about, well, everything.  But the just about anyone she talked to, or who talked about her, seemed intent on spoiling that for her somehow.  Up to and including the host, Seth McFarlane, who I guess…I don’t know, spoiling things was his job or something?  Whatever, I wasn’t watching.

So I can understand the impulse to step in and call everyone on their bullshit.  I’m getting all of this second hand and I still want to waste the day firing off rant after rant at these jerks, in between punching the wall in anger.  But, The Onion, you chose…poorly.  While you may have intended to be the Satirical Knight protecting the honour of young Miss Wallis, you came across as making a seriously over-the-line joke at best, and piling on an already bad situation at worst.  Which even you acknowledged with your apology this morning.  For which I have to give you respect.  Of course, the better solution would have been not to need to apologize…

My take-away from all this?  I think the folks in the industry that is Hollywood as well as the media, need to pause for reflection.  What was it about Miss Wallis, a 9-year-old taking joy from her accomplishments, that bugged you so much you needed to pull her down?  And why would that be your go-to instinct?  Why can’t we just let a little girl have her day?  Have we really reached the point where happiness is something worthy of ridicule?

Tao, I hope not.  Because I’d rather live in a world where drunk dude-bros are satirists than that one.

What about you guys and dolls?  What caught your eye at the Oscars last night, and what did you think of the goings on?  Comments are just down there…


Babylon 5: “And so, it begins.”

As today is the 20th anniversary of the premier of Babylon 5: The Gathering, the pilot babylon5that marked the beginning of a six-year fascination for me, I thought I’d share some things about the show you might not know.

But first…I really loved B5.  I’m not looking to start an argument about how good a series it was, or whether it was better/worse than Star Trek: The Next Generation, or anything like that.  While those, um, “discussions” can be fun as long as things remain civil (no biting, no pinching, no throwing furniture/animals/children), I tend not to indulge in them any more for a few reasons.  One, no sci-fi show in the history of ever has been perfect, and B5 was no exception. Neither was ST:TNG.  Two, I watched and enjoyed both, for very different reasons.  And three, you love what you love.  No series of arguments, however well-reasoned, will diminish that.

Okay, on to some Babylon 5 “secrets”…

Ambassador Delenn is a man, baby! – Yep, that’s right.  The Ambassador Delenn we all came to know and love was originally going to be male, but to help give him that alien feel was going to be played by a woman.  To quote J. Michael Straczynski himself:

What we have, basically, is a female actor playing a male character. Women simply *move* differently than men do; the gestures, the tilt of the head, the smile, it’s just a shade different…

It was hoped this slight disconnect would heighten the alien feel of Delenn, and add that slight bit of tension into his interactions.  Then, when the episode “Chrysalis” came along, he would transform into a woman as well as becoming part human.  Unfortunately, technical concerns sidelined this plan.  JMS could only get the necessary voice-changing technology to work “okay”, and “okay” wasn’t good enough.  So the idea was scrapped and Delenn became very definitely female when the series began.

Watch your Step: Trapdoors at Work – Given the way JMS wanted to tell the story of B5, there was the possibility of running into a problem with the actors on the show.  While the characters in a story are at the beck and call of the writer, the actors playing those characters have lives of their own.  To combat the potential problem that actors may get other work and not be available for the run of the series, JMS gave each character a “trapdoor”; a character that could step into the role another character was to perform if necessary.  This was most easily done with the diplomatic characters, and why each diplomat (Londo, G’Kar, Delenn) had an attaché or aide ( Vir, Na-Toth and Lennier respectively).

But other characters had them as well.  A key plot point was the discovery of an ancient base for the “evil” alien race, and that planetary base was going to be discovered by the station commander’s love interest.  Jeffrey Sinclair’s love interest started out as planetary explorer Carolyn Sykes (played by Blaire Baron); when she didn’t return to the show his love interest became planetary explorer Catherine Sakai (played by Julia Nickson); when Sinclair eventually left and John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) came on board (trapdoor!), the planet was revealed to us by his long-thought-dead planetary explorer wife, Anna Sheridan (played by Bruce Boxleitner’s real-life wife, Melissa Gilbert).  Whew!  Even the location of the base was trapdoored; while briefly placed on Mars and even Earth, it eventually got it’s own planet, Za’ha’dum.

Season Five: The Season That Almost Never Was – If Babylon 5 takes flack for any particular part, it is usually season five that bears the brunt.  And I will admit, compared to the three seasons before it S5 is a bit of a kludge.  But you can’t really blame JMS for that.  Though the exact details are somewhat murky, what basically transpired was that S4 was going to be B5‘s last season.  So JMS tied up the Shadow War, brought some early closure to some characters, and filmed what was going to be the final episode of the S4 and the series, “Sleeping in Light”.  And that would have been that, fade to black.

Except then the studio decided they could have a fifth season after all.  Fade back to full, JMS films “The Deconstruction of Falling Stars” as the final episode of S4 and shelves “Sleeping in Light” for later. And then had to figure out how to fit characters back in, and what to do with them, with only a season to do it.  Plus, we apparently see Mr. Garibaldi killed in the final episode of S4, so…

So yes, the fifth season is a bit of a mess when compared to S2-4.  But there is still a lot of really good television in those 22 episodes; the telepath problem, the heart-breaking intertwined fates of Londo Malari and G’Kar, and my personal favourite episode, “Sleeping in Light”.  I cry every single time I watch that episode, the only thing that varies is when I start.

Okay, I hope you enjoyed my pontificating.  If you are a Babylon 5 nut like me you likely already know about these two sites, but I will recommend them anyway: The Lurker’s Guide to Babylon 5, the perfect site for all your B5 facts, fables and foibles; and JMSNews, where you can stay on top of the news in JMS’s life in his own words.

Let me hear from you.  What did you love/hate about B5?  What would you have done differently? Let me know in the comments below.

Well hello, 21st Century!

I am not what you might call an early adopter.  Despite good ones being on the market for years I only recently acquired an e-reader (Kobo Touch, for those what are curious), I have a laptop that were it a child would be starting pre-school (or just finishing; God I’m a bad parent), and my desktop computer would be in middle school.  When cell phones first became popular I used the basic pay-as-you-go model, so basic it wasn’t even a flip.  The flip phone is what I upgraded to briefly years after others had moved on to sliding phones, and I only upgraded to a so-called smart phone when I thought my flip phone had *died.

So the fact that I have a brand-new (for me) **smart phone after they’ve become ubiquitous?  Pretty much my modus operandi.  Look, it’s not that I don’t get drawn in by the shiny allure of new technology just like every other nerd.  I do.  But while that draw might be a Strong Force for some geeks, mine is more on the order of a Weak Force, possibly even just Gravitational (science, kids, look it up).  I’m attracted to tech but I can maintain a stable orbit in relation to it.

And it isn’t that I don’t see how a smart phone will be useful.  I’ve had this thing less than a day and already our relationship is symbiotic (though if the phone ever learns to charge itself things may go badly for me).  I can already see how it will improve my work and creativity, and even ways I can use it to enhance my table-top gaming.  And really there is no real good excuse not to have a personal communicator that fits in your pocket.

But there are certain behaviours I miss and others I’d be happy to see diminish, and their lack/presence are a result of this brave new world of connectivity.  For instance, I miss me being the priority when friends come to visit, or when I visit them.  In a behaviour so ingrained as to be invisible, the very first things most people do upon entering my home is a) look for connectivity, and b) check to see what has happened in whatever amount of time it has taken them to get here.  Only then does the focus swing back to me and why we are getting together…until it’s time to check for the next update, like a gerbil going back to the water bottle.

It’s not exactly news, but our electronic devices give us an unparalleled level of connection to the world around us.  But I’ve noticed, as an outside observer without one of those devices, the connection tends to be at a distance; that one can stay right on top of events in another part of the province, country or world, but sometimes at the expense of noticing things and people nearby.  I’m not trying to be alarmist.  For instance I don’t anticipate a world in which we only communicate through our devices, where the deviceless are functionally deaf and dumb.   It’s more that, having been one of the deviceless for so long I can appreciate both the doors and the walls these devices create.  And that appreciation is what keeps me reluctant to snatch up every electronic pretty that comes along.

Does this mean I’ll be the paragon that never tweets during a conversation, or takes pictures and shares them on FB or Tumblr while I’m out with friends?  No, I’m not that pure-hearted.  But I will try to remain aware of and value the proximal, before I expand my focus.  Shouldn’t be too hard.  The people I keep in proximity are worth the attention.

So, what are your thoughts on the way technology connects or divides us?  The comments section is just below…

*Turned out later the phone didn’t die, the wall socket I plugged it in to for recharging wasn’t functional.  When I woke up to turn it on it still wasn’t charged, so I assumed it was dead.  I learned my mistake later, but by then I had the new phone and had moved on.

**A Samsung Galaxy S II, for those what are wondering.  With an Otter Box case, because I am prone to dropping expensive things.

Humpday Links for February 20

Another Odin’s Day is upon us, and with it the traditional offering of electronic links, as it was in ancient times.

But first, the news.  I reached my fundraising goal for the Hair Massacure with a nail-biter of a finish.  A huge thank-you has to go out to everyone who donated to the cause; I just paraded Imagearound in pink hair for a month but you guys made this fundraiser work.  Thank-you so much, and I hope you’ll keep the support going next year.  As you can see by the pic, I need to get going on growing out the hair now…

Also, the “My Patronus is a d20” t-shirt I created to support the fundraising did not get enough pre-orders to print, which is sad.  What isn’t sad is that I re-started the campaign with a Imagelower price, longer duration and lower pre-order minimum.  Proceeds still go to the Stollery, it just won’t be part of the Hair Massacure donation.  But I wanted to make sure the T-shirts printed this time, to reward the stalwart few who wanted them.  So click on the T-shirt image (or here) to go to pre-order and get your very limited edition nerd shirt.

Okay, less blather, more links!

Ernie Gygax Jr.’s home has burned down. Thankfully no one was hurt, but he could use our help.

Wizard’s of the Coast is set to re-print the original D&D white box set.  On the one hand I’m happy that a new generation will see where our hobby started. On the other…hey WotC, how about some new gaming material?

– Dragonchow (makers of my favourite dice bags) is undergoing a fantastic change as it turns three years old.

Weregeek creator Alina Pete has a Kickstarter going for her fifth Weregeek collection.  It is already on to stretch goals, so jump on board now!

– You’ve likely seen the “Chaos” teaser for the return of Game of Thrones. But it’s worth another watch, right?

– While you await the return of GoT, maybe you can hug these Jon Snow and Ghost plushies.

– If you’re like me, you love the old pulp sci-fi covers.  Now you can make your own.

SyFy is set to adapt Philip K. Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle” as a four-part mini-series.  I’d write more, but I think that is the punchline.

– Paizo Project Manager Jessica Price gives a great article on how the gaming industry is getting less sexist.

– Wondering who the nominees for the Nebular Awards are?  Let SFFWA President John Scalzi tell you.

– If you are going to Gen Con (or even if you aren’t), why not book a few extra days and stay in a castle?

– If you like to doodle, why not give it a try in three dimensions?

– Ever wonder what Star Trek would look like if Pixar took the reins? Wonder no longer.

That’s all for this week, stay tuned for more bloggy goodness and don’t forget to be awesome.