Saturday, December 19, 2015

Spoilers * Star Wars, The Force Awakens Comments and Spoilers

So if you really don't want to read spoilers, STOP NOW








I went to this movie not knowing anything new (though I've just rewatched I, IV, V & VI). Always been a big fan of the first three movies (Star Wars: A New Hope, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi), and didn't care for the second three (Star Wars: Phantom Menace, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith). I knew by the end of Empire that Leia was "the other," something I argued about for three years because an amazing number of Star Wars fans couldn't see Leia as having that potential.

I was really convinced going in to see The Force Awakens that Rey was Han and Leia's daughter, and, perhaps to protect her, they "hid" her away. She looks much more like their offspring than Adam Driver does. And I thought that helped to explain why she was instantly at home in the Millennium Falcon. But Rey is a great character, and if she's Luke's daughter, that explains a lot (except for her height). It is striking that when Daisy Riley has her hair done more "Earth style," she looks a lot like very tall Natalie Portman. Daisy Ridley was wonderful and I think she'll go far in the movie biz.

I'm not an Adam Driver fan, but I loved him as Kylo - he was basically the ultimate malicious fan boy but the object of his devotion was Darth Vader. If you noticed, he had some power, but he seemed to be barely tolerated by much of the Empire. His parentage was a great surprise and I'm glad that wasn't spoiled for me.

Really liked both Jon Boyega & Oscar Isaac (whom I met when we were working on a movie in Pittsburgh a few years back). Some people were critical of Boyega, but, remember, his character getting his bearings as an individual deserter for the first half of the movie and he was overwhelmed a lot of the time. That was appropriate. Both Boyega & Isaac were terrific and I look forward to them working together in future SW movies.

Adored the Mas character, one of the most realistic CGI characters ever. I hope she survived the bombing of her cantina.

When Han and Kylo both wound up on that bridge, I knew at least one of them would not walk off. That was well-done.

Thought the on-again/off-again relationship of Han and Leia worked very well.

The effects/production values mostly quite good. The practical effects were excellent. There's a tendency for full-CGI sequences to look very gray (particularly noticeable in Harry Potter movies and sometimes in LOTR movies). The filmmakers avoided this.

Loved the "Empire spaceship graveyard."

The bad things:

Not enough Carrie Fisher - Leia. After being a forceful, competent leader as a 19-year-old, Leia seems to have badly faded away. Hated that. Bad scriptwriting there.

Gwendolyn Christie was really underused. She might not have been killed so maybe she'll be back. She's wonderful with weapons and it was sad you never saw her with a light saber or at least a staff. [[Yes, I hear she'll be back YAY!]] Gwendolyn deserves the "best sport" award during the marketing of the movie because we had no clue that she was going to be so invisible in this movie.

The Empire seemed overwhelmingly huge and the Republic seemed incredibly tiny. This was a serious mistake. They needed to be slightly more evenly matched. The Rebellion can't survive with 10 X-wings and one base.

The new Death Star-ish weapon was just too powerful. With the Empire losing two huge weapons in the past, you think their weaponry would be better distributed and not in one basket like that. On the other hand, it was bizarre that the Empire destroyed all the planets in a system except for the planet where they knew the little droid was (since destroying the droid would have solved the problem of Luke's location getting out).

Since moviemakers can do anything with CGI, they did just that. As a result, we got an utterly unbelievable sequence with the Millennium Falcon flying very close to the ground. Sorry, that didn't work for me at all. The asteroid sequence in Empire, pre-CGI, is still the best science-fictional flight sequence ever.

There was way too much running around in the desert town in the first 20 minutes of the movie. Way too much. Pacing of the movie was generally frenetic after that, but usually made more sense.

A few too many convenient coincidences, especially R2-D2 "waking up" at a key moment in the plot (though a friend suggested R2-D2 may be sensitive to "the Force" and started coming around when Rey was in the area.

Finally, the overall plot is too much like the overall plot of A New Hope. Rian Johnson wrote the rather loopy Looper which I liked a lot and wrote the next script so I hope it's not so derivative of earlier Star Wars movies. He'll also be directing episode VIII.

Friday, October 09, 2015

"This Is John Lennon's 75th Birthday" and Other Language Mangles Around Death (a plea from Dead People Server)

I have always hated when people write things like:

Today is John Lennon's 75th birthday

No, no, a thousand times NO!

When people die, they stop aging. That's part of the point of death. John Lennon will never be older than 40. John Kennedy will never by older than 46. Marilyn Monroe will never be older than 36.

Attaching an age older than the age of a person at their death is just plain silly and it denies that they've died.

It is correct to say:

Today is 75th anniversary of John Lennon's birth

That acknowledges that time has passed since he was born, and that he is no longer with us.

Almost as bad is the all-too-common phrase

Today would have been John Lennon's 75th birthday.

Now, when a person dies fairly young, this is a common phrase, and it didn't start bothering me until recently. You expect when someone is murdered at 40, that they could very well have lived another 40 years or so more. But, somehow, once you start saying "X would have been 90" today, that gets much less likely. The vast majority of people don't live to be 90.

My tendency from now on will be to say:

Today could have been John Lennon's 75th birthday.

John Lennon could still have been hit by a bus or something at 41. Just because he was murdered young doesn't mean he would have lived to be very old.

I think acknowledging a dead person's birthday as "anniversary of their birth," while a little wordy, is much more accurate.

Finally, I really don't like the term "passed away," but I understand why people prefer to use it. It sounds less harsh than to say "died." But "died" is more accurate and more honest. So when I die, please say "Laurie has died." I haven't passed anywhere except into death.

Dead People Server

Monday, September 21, 2015

2015 Emmys - Even More Diverse Than You Think...

I'm really glad that Viola Davis, Regina King & Uzo Aduba won Emmys last night. Viola Davis is one of the finest actors working today. Congratulations!!

But the Emmys were even more diverse than most people realize.

For one thing, women-centered productions really dominated. In addition to the female winners mentioned above, Amy Schumer, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and Frances McDormand (who was the person behind bringing Olive Kitteridge to screen when she bought the rights to the novel years ago) all won Emmys for their work.

For another, a fantasy show finally won Best Drama. Game of Thrones really ruled. For years, even good SF/fantasy shows (notably The Twilight Zone and Star Trek: The Next Generation) rarely got Emmy nominations beyond the special effects and some production awards. But Game of Thrones won an acting award, a writing award & a directing award in addition to Best Drama last night, in addition to a pile of production Emmys.

It has been over 50 years since a fantasy show won an Emmy for writing - Rod Serling won two writing Emmys for Twilight Zone.

Voters also finally noticed Orphan Black enough to give the versatile Tatiana Maslany an Emmy nomination for Best Actress. Long overdue, and there's always next year for her.

And, finally, as a longtime Mad Men fan, it was very nice to see Jon Hamm get his due. He was brilliant from the very first episode of the show. And he's also wildly funny. As Saturday Night Live has been kind of shakey the last few years, he was awesome every time he hosted the show.

One entertainment commentator observed this morning that the Emmys expanded its voting pool this year, which could be why the winners were more diverse beyond the usual. I'm really glad they did that.

So congratulations, Emmys, for awarding all kinds of shows run by all kinds of people and starring all kinds of people.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Three Sane #SCOTUS Rulings in Two Days - Marriage Equity, Affirming ACA & Fair Housing

I'm very happy for these victories for modernity. However, we need to be ever-vigilant. Civil rights for all races, genders and religions hasn't rid our nation of racism, sexism or religious bigotry. Likewise homophobia will not vanish due to changes in the law. We can't be complacent because I assure you the people who would rather have theocratic, 19th century laws will keep up the fight to drag us back. FORWARD!

Monday, May 04, 2015

Obese Woman Walks 13.1 Miles and Survives!

Is that click-baity enough for you?

The actual title of this should be "Walking the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon Route," but these days you need an inciteful title to get any readers.


The last few years, I've been increasing my walking. I've walked over 2,450 miles since January 2012. I rarely walk a lot all at once; 3-4 miles a day tends to be my limit, except for a few days while on vacation. I've about walked 8-10 miles per day while on vacation a few times.

I can't run, but I've always been interested in walking a marathon. So I decided I'd try by following the route of the Pittsburgh half marathon.

Walking the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon Route, Saturday, May 2, 2015

Monday, April 06, 2015

The Problem with Slate-Voting for Popular Awards Like the Hugos

Like the vast majority of people who've been voting for the Hugos for years, I have never, ever voted for a slate of people/works. It's certainly been tried. I haven't voted for people I've known for a long time, because I've never viewed the Hugos purely as a popularity contest. I have always believed the Hugos should go for quality works.

I don't believe the slate-voting that produced the 2015 Hugo nominations was a crime or an act or war. I think it was wrong, but it did not break any of the current set of rules, mostly because no individual/group had ever carried the notion of a slate to such an extreme.

In fandom, we often work together, but we act as individuals. It was unthinkable to find 200 people in fandom to vote in the lock step manner the SP slate demanded. So I'd argue anyone who did vote the SP slate is, by default, not a fan.

No matter who wins next August, unlike almost every other year, this year's Hugos will not reflect the votes of Worldcon members, because the nominations were so skewed. Some good works probably will win, but many good works, under the old "cream rises to the top" theory, didn't even make the ballot.

The fact that a slate took over the nominations does not mean I won't vote this summer. I certainly will vote, and I will work to help keep slates from taking over a ballot in the future.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Reviving the "25 Things About Me" Meme

It's probably the ultimate in navel-gazing, but what the hell. I responded to the meme in early 2009, I've added some additional comments [[in double brackets]] in early 2015, just after my 58th birthday.

  1. My parents met at Middlebury College in about 1950. Dad was a history major, Mom was an English major and I've always been interested in both history and English (though I went on to be an English major, too). They had relatives who were into genealogy, so I know I've had ancestors in New England from both sides of my family since 1642.
  2. I'm the oldest of four children - two girls/two boys. As was more common in the '50s and '60s, my mother had four children in seven years.
  3. I learned how to read when I was 5, mostly because I spent weeks in the hospital and at home suffering from nephritis. I was hyperactive and was one of the few girls on Ritalin in 1962.
  4. I was one of the tallest kids in kindergarten with one of the biggest voices so I played Santa Claus in the Christmas pagent. "Ho Ho Ho."
  5. My father spent most of his career as Director of Placement for Worcester Polytechnic Institute and my mother was a free lance writer who went on to work for WPI's Alumni Journal. Dad was active in local theater groups (including playing Mr. Gibbs in Our Town the week I graduated from high school) and Mom was sometimes sang in a church choir.
  6. We rarely traveled out of New England while I was growing up (with 4 kids, it was a little tricky), but in 1968, we made a big cross country trip with our grandmother completely by train since my mother wouldn't fly. We went to Chicago, Phoenix, the Grand Canyon, Anaheim, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Vancouver and Montreal. Ironically, a landslide hit the train in the Canadian Rockies and killed one passenger.
  7. In the '70s, West Boylston Jr.-Sr. High was a small school with an odd configuration - grades 8-12. The eighth graders were not supposed to join the senior high clubs, but I showed up at Drama Club anyway and wasn't tossed out. There may still exist a black and white tape of my adaptation of "Repent Harlequin, Said the TickTockMan" that I wrote and starred in for a Drama Class in about 1974.
  8. I touched my first computer keyboard nearly 35 years ago. It was an early Wang that our school got to teach students computer programming. Paul Yankowskas was also in the computer class, where we learned how to program "Hello World" in BASIC.
  9. During high school, I was in Central District Choir three times and Massachusetts All-State once. I made a touring choir (Concordia Youth Chorale) in 1974 and spent three weeks touring Germany, Austria and Italy, with a lunch in Switzerland. This trip made me love international travel and lager beer.
  10. While my parents strongly encouraged me to go to Middlebury, I wanted to go to a college in a city out of New England but in the northeast. After spending years researching colleges, I narrowed it down to Case Western (Cleveland) and Carnegie Mellon (Pittsburgh). I visited both colleges a few weeks before graduation and picked CMU because I liked Pittsburgh much more than Cleveland.
  11. I met Jim Mann at a science fiction club meeting on campus two weeks to the day that I arrived. While we became fast friends, we didn't start to date until the following February. The rest, as they say, is history.
  12. When Jim and I got married in Massachusetts on May 22, 1977, it was 96 degrees! We had a simple ceremony with an informal reception at an estate on the Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
  13. I made the University of Pittsburgh College Bowl Trivia Team, at a time when College Bowl wasn't televised but was an interscholastic competition. We placed second in a regional competition. While I later did well playing trivia in bars, I've taken the Jeopardy test twice and failed both times.
  14. Leslie was due Election Day 1980, so I got an absentee ballot...which I never needed to file since she wound up being nearly three weeks early. Her first trip outside was so I could go vote. I have voted in every federal election since 1976.
  15. When we moved up to Massachusetts in 1982, a huge number of the members of NESFA, the local science fiction club, worked for Digital Equipment Corporation. I was interested in going to work for a computer company, and, eventually, got a job with Stratus Computer (thanks, Kurt Baty!). I worked for Stratus in a number of jobs for nearly ten years; Jim later worked there for about eight years as a technical writer.
  16. I've had an E-mail address since 1983, owned a PC since 1988 and been active on the Internet since 1988. At Stratus, I created a departmental intranet in 1986, in an effort to help track forms, training information and other information about publication production.
  17. I learned HTML in 1994 and created the first Hugo/Nebula site in HTML (AwardWeb) that October. I went on to run Women Leaders online for a few years, and then took over Dead People Server, a site I've been curating since 1997.
  18. I burned out after working for about three years at ANSYS (which included an insane schedule to convert documents to XML in advance of our then-current publishing software failing at the end of 1999), and went back to finish my long-delayed college degree at Pitt in 2000. I graduated with honors in April 2001.
  19. I'm enough of a movie fan that 2009 marks the 40th year I both predicted Oscar winners and will be watching the show. In 2004, I actually watched the Oscars from a ballroom in Hollywood along with 1,000 rowdy Lord of the Rings fans. About 20 members of the cast and crew of LOTR visited our party later than night with their Oscars.
  20. Our daughter had no first cousins (except for one step-first-cousin) until she was 23 years old; now she she has 4.
  21. While most of my family have been longtime Republicans, my mother's cousin Alice was a Democratic legislator in Vermont who used to commute to Montpelier with Howard Dean in his pick-up truck. Politically, I take after Alice's side of the family (at least after 1975 or so).
  22. While I can't say "I was nominated for a Hugo," I can say "A book I edited was nominated for a Hugo" since William Tenn's "Dancing Naked" was nominated for a Non-Fiction Hugo in 2005. Since Phil was unable to go to Worldcon in Scotland, I was his designated acceptor. It was an honor to be a designated acceptor! ;->
  23. I worked for Obama, voted for him (only the 3rd time I voted for a winning president), and attended his Inauguration (1.5 miles away from the Capitol, but what the hell).
  24. My movie geekdom probably reached its peak in 2008 when I was an extra on "She's Out of My League," and I started the fan site "The Road Rumors and News." Both movies are due out in 2009. [[Since then, I've been on about 30 different movie/TV sets.]]
  25. [[We've been able to take some big trips since 2009, and have gone to southeastern Australia, Alaska, England, Ireland, Wales and Canada (twice).]]