Archive for April, 2011

Two Years Later – My Thoughts on Torchwood: Children of Earth

I watched the last episode of the five day Torchwood miniseries Children of Earth after waiting nearly two years from when it originally aired, and because it gave me a bunch of feelings, I decided to write up my final thoughts on the series. There will be spoilers, so proceed with caution and please don’t complain to me if you read something you didn’t want to.

On the whole, I liked it. As a piece of television, without any of the baggage I carry from previous seasons of Torchwood, I liked it. It’s dramatic, it makes very interesting points, and it’s very beautifully shot, edited, and scored. I love the build up between the five days; it almost feels Shakespearean to me, which is a topic I definitely want to explore on another day. I love how each episode represents one day in the series and the series aired five days in a row, making it feel like it’s happening in real time. As a writer myself, I’m drawn to pieces of work that both play with and adhere to our own perception of time, which is exactly what this series does. I love how every one of our main characters gets a chance to be brave and badass and amazing. The scenes with the British government and the American liason are chilling because I can actually picture something like that happening in our world right now, and it’s terrifying. I think that’s exactly what RTD was going for and it absolutely worked.
I love that Rhys joined the remaining team and helped them out in their time of need. I love Rhys and Gwen together, now that they’ve worked out all of their drama, and how their relationship is going to work now that Rhys knows that Gwen works for Torchwood. It’s one of my favorite things to see a couple work as a team and love each other despite any outside issues that may try to force them apart. I love Ianto and Jack tiptoeing around their relationship, trying to figure out exactly what they are to each other. I love Ianto’s sister and brother-in-law. Seeing the little hint of his relationship with his family, and seeing that Ianto is, even after his death, still as much of a mystery as he was when we were first introduced to him is heartbreaking but very fitting. He is, after all, the character who lied his way into Torchwood in the first place. I loved the little nod toward Tosh and Owen in the beginning and at the end; I didn’t mind at all that they’d been killed off then and after watching Children of Earth I still didn’t mind. I liked the reminder that the lives of Torchwood agents are often short and their deaths are brutal. In the very first series we are told this, and yet not one of our main cast dies. The ending of the second series brings it home, and the end to Children of Earth helps to reinforce it.

The acting was phenomenal. The main cast was at the top of their game, especially John Barrowman. He’s notorious for overacting due to his theatre roots, but Euros Lyn manages to channel his over the top tendencies into great performances. Eve Myles is gorgeous and beautiful and perfection, and Gareth does very well with all the material he’s been given (which just about equals everything he’d been given in the previous two seasons if you take out Cyberwoman and the ghost movies episode). The guest stars were also brilliant. I can’t pick just one to single out, they all were fantastic, but if I had to pick one, I would have to say that Peter Capaldi nailed it the whole way through; when he went home on Day Five, it was perfect. His look of resignation, his body language, they were perfect.

However, as an episode of Torchwood, the Torchwood of the first two seasons, I don’t like it. The first season was a mix of awful and wonderful, and I love how over the top it was, how much heart and spunk it had. It certainly wasn’t the best season of television ever written, but it had potential. The second season… well, you know how people say they have ‘their doctor?’ Well, I have seasons, and the second season of Torchwood is mine. It’s the perfect mixture of crack, fun, and seriousness, with enough room for fandom to fill in the blanks. Children of Earth turns that all on its head. There are some funny moments, but they’re overshadowed by the gloom and despair that the whole series ends on. So, I can value it as general good storytelling, but overall it’s not what I look for when I watch Torchwood.

I HATE that Ianto had to die. I loved his death scene itself, because how romantic and touching could you have asked for and oh Ianto you poor brave misunderstood lying soul! It’s no wonder that the whole fandom fell in love with you. How could you ask for anything more if your couple were to have a death scene? I can’t say, however, that I loved the fact that Ianto died. As much as RTD wants to explain it away, he still killed one half of the most interesting queer couples on television. He’s obviously a fan of the Joss Whedon School of Relationships Where No One Can Ever Be Happy and the only way to cause drama and pain in a character’s life is to kill them off. That’s bad enough when it’s applied to a heterosexual couple, but when it’s applied to a queer couple? Not cool. I am not a fan of Joss Whedon’s idea of adding drama to a series because it’s bad writing, and yet it’s used in so many forms of entertainment. That, however, is a rant for another day.

Jack Harkness is the Character Who Must Not Be Happy Ever plus the Character Who Cannot Be Tied Down Ever, but does that mean we have to kill off everyone he loves? Evidently it does, and that’s just what Children of Earth accomplishes, except perhaps for Gwen. The ending was completely in character for Jack and for what we’ve seen him do, but the way it was written, it feels like it was done solely to shock the viewers. It happened so abruptly for such a long, drawn out series, and Jack’s daughter and grandson seemed to be added for this sole ending, this deus ex machina of Jack using his grandson to push the 456 off the planet at the cost of his grandson’s life, that it feels like it’s just for the emotional manipulation of the audience and of Jack Harkness himself.

Despite all of these problems, I do like the series and I’m excited to see the fourth season entitled Torchwood: Miracle Day, the first episode of which airs on the Starz network on July 8th, 2011. I’m just going to view it as an alternate universe, which shouldn’t be a problem. Alternate universes are just another day for the denizens of the Whoniverse, after all, and perhaps one day we’ll see Toshiko, Owen, and Ianto back on our screens.

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Saturday Linkspam: Hollywood Edition!

Rent Out Gaius Baltar’s Vancouver Apartment

If I had had the money to rent this apartment, not to mention the time, I would have done so. Battlestar Galactica is the best TV show of the past ten years,  bar none, and Gaius Baltar is one of the best characters in television in the same amount of time. It would be amazing to rent the house they used to film the scenes which take place in Baltar’s head just to be there, to see the house, to sit on the deck and look out onto the water, and know that Gaius Baltar had been there as well. Whoever gets to rent this out is a very, very lucky person. It’s even more meaningful because it’s one of the only places that filmed on location; most of the show took place on spaceships, except when the fleet visited a planet. It’s like being able to own a prop from the show, only giant-sized.

Hollywood ‘Stuntman!’ Reveals Tricks of the Trade

Old Hollywood is a fascinating subject, not only for the gossip and behind the glitz and glamor stories,  but also because the whole process of film-making has changed so much in such a relatively small amount of time. Hal Needham’s perspective is fascinating, especially reading his thoughts on the current state of special effects. It’s one that I share; as pretty as CGI backgrounds and crazy stunts look, there’s a certain sense of reality lost through all of it. I will always firmly maintain that the original Star Wars trilogy still looks amazing even though the special effects are considered outdated, while the newer trilogy looks very fake because there’s very little interaction with the backgrounds and a certain lack of grittiness that, even a galaxy in pre-Imperial takeover should have had.

I know arguments for CGI will probably talk about how much cheaper it is to do it by computer instead of doing it by hand, but I feel like realism should be a key point in making a film. Whenever I see CGI in a film, I can instantly tell it’s computer generated and not actually real. Computer effects have gotten better in the past few years, but it’s not quite like having the real thing with you on set. I do enjoy films by Pixar, where the whole movie is created with a computer and therefore it’s not too distracting either way, but mixing the two, such as with James Cameron’s Avatar, just makes me

Needham seems like a pragmatic and likeable guy; one of the stories he relates in this interview is why he became a stunt man. Basically, Needham says he did it because he realized how much money he was making compared to his other job, a tree business. It’s a brave sort of man who risks his life on a daily business. I know I wouldn’t be able to stare danger in the face every day just for a high paycheck. After reading this interview, I can’t wait to read his biography. I’m going to pick it up as soon as I have the time to read again.

‘The Sounds of Star Wars,’ Now At Fan’s Fingertips

I’m proud to say that I heard this man give a speech at my cousin’s college graduation. It drove this Star Wars geek into paroxysms of joy. To have created so many iconic sounds, from Darth Vader’s raspy breathing, to the sound of a lightsaber, and even to a blaster shot or a TIE fighter’s screams with the equipment he had, it’s obvious to see that he’s a very creative man. I’m also looking forward to checking out this book, as a music student currently in a studio class. My fingers are itching to play with these sounds, to remix them and try to create them on my own. It’s not quite the same as going out, recording the individual components of each sound, and creating it through that, but it’s close enough.

And I know and admit that what I’ve just said about creating sounds in a studio is completely hypocritical to what I’ve said above about using real backgrounds and sets instead of CGI. I offer no apology and no explanation for my feelings on either subject. I’m a complicated person, okay?

Back Again: The 19 Best Movies That You Didn’t See in 2009

This title is inaccurate, I have actually seen one of the movies on this list. It’s also one I would recommend to others; you should check out Anvil! The Story of Anvil. The story of a heavy metal band that didn’t quite make it, despite being inspiration to such thrash metal bands as Metallica and Slayer, truly makes one think. Just what quality leads to super star dom? In this documentary, you can see that the members of Anvil have the same amount of drive and talent as members of Metallica do (and perhaps a bit more humility), and yet they never made it big. Even more inspiring, they’re still out there touring and making albums after all these years, even though most of them have families and full time jobs alongside their musical careers. I would love to see or read an interview with them about the effect of this documentary on their careers after it came out or maybe even a sequel as a follow up to show where they are now.

Based on my enjoyment of Anvil! The Story of Anvil, I’m going to check out the rest of these movies at some point. Have you seen any of them? Do you agree or disagree?

And that’s my Saturday linkspam for today! I’m planning on writing a blog post talking about the closure of TOKYOPOP which I’ll try to post by the middle of the week. Have a great week, and I’ll see you back here next weekend for another Saturday Linkspam

What do you think about the use of an overall theme? Do you like a mixture of topics or would you rather read about a specific topic like I’ve done today?

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Magical Musical Mondays

I found this group while I was searching Youtube for covers of Rammstein songs and I’m quite impressed. Not that it takes a lot to impress me as far as this sort of music goes. Give me cellos and violins playing in a heavy metal style and I’ll be yours forever. I’m even writing my senior thesis on the similarities between heavy metal music and classical music from the Romantic era.

Here’s their cover of Rammstein’s ‘Sonne,’ which is one of my favorite songs of theirs. Silenzium’s cover is great. They take just enough liberties to make it their own, but the song is quite clearly ‘Sonne’ by Rammstein. It’s a gorgeous cover; I’ve always felt that Rammstein’s music is particularly suited to classical instruments and so have other musicians. In 2002, composer Torsten Rasch adapted music from Rammstein’s catalog into a song cycle for Baritone and Orchestra, which you can see part of here.

Here’s a cover of ‘Anthem of the World’ by Stratovarius.

And last, but not least, is an original composition from the leader of the group, Nata Grigoryeva.

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Saturday Linkspam

It’s a beautiful morning, the Wells Bells are ringing, and here’s a few more links that I’ve found in my adventures across the Internet.

Cheezburger Time – Cute Cat Tails

A plethora of funny macros about cats and their tails. My personal favorite (and you have no idea how hard it was not to write ‘purrrrrsonal’ right there) is this one:

 

cattails

Did you know that you can eat cattails? You can take the starch from the stems and make a flour. You can also roast the 'tail' part and eat it like corn! - Cool fact from Wikipedia

When the Chocolate Cookie Went Rolling with the Peanut Butter…

The pages I tend to be introduced to the most on that most noble of time wasters — StumbleUpon — are recipes. I have no idea how that happens; maybe it just knows that when I’m ‘taking a five minute break’ in the middle of the night while trying to write the next page of my thesis, I’m going to get hungry. It’s very bizarre. I’ve marked more than just ‘Food’ in my interests on the site, and yet that’s all I seem to get. So, after a while, I get sick of seeing all of these recipes. Except for these.

 

Chocolate and peanut butter morsels of heaven.

Aren’t they gorgeous? If the person who invented the combination of chocolate and peanut butter ran for president, I would vote for them. If you’re as interested in these as I am, take a look at the link I’ve posted above. I haven’t gotten a chance to make them yet but I can tell just by looking at them that they will be perfect. (Note: If they don’t actually turn out to be perfect, I take no responsibility. Don’t send me your receipts asking for reimbursement, don’t spam my inbox with nasty letters, and please, please tell me how they turn out!)

Now, after seeing this idea, I’m struck with ideas for other such combinations. Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter? Chocolate Chip and Sugar cookie? Pecan sandy and Snickerdoodle? The possibilities are endless!


The 12 Settings of GMails Tea House theme

Unless you’re obsessively check your email every hour on the hour for an entire day, you’ve probably never seen each image of the Firefox’s tea house. I’d never seen them all, at least, so I was grateful to find this link which showed each step of the Firefox’s relaxing day. The background information on the meaning of each hour is especially interesting:

In ancient China there used to be the concept of 时辰 (Shi Chen), each lasting 2 hours long, to make up the day. They name these “bi-hours” using the 12 zodiac animals.

My favorite is the Hour of the Cow – the ghost Foxes are adorable! Which one is your favorite?

 

Why All Records Do Sound the Same

As a music student in a world that grows with new media every day, I’ve been paying attention to the popular music scene with a slightly more trained ear than the average listener, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized exactly what this article points out. They provide a much more easier to read and detailed description of the process, so I’ll just leave you with their words on the actual process instead of my own. It’s amazing to see just how far the music industry and the creation of a record has come, but at the same time the music of today feels like something is missing. Is it imperfection? Is it heart? I’m inclined to think it’s a combination of a lot of different factors, because in my mind nothing is completely black and white, but I think my suggestions are a great deal of the problem. When all of the imperfections are mixed out of a recording, it looses so much of the feeling and uniqueness that recordings originally had.

The final point of a record is to make money, but shouldn’t our music have some artistic integrity left in them? Do you want to be remembered for hit after unmemorable hit, or do you want to be remembered for your musical talent and ingenuity? I’ll use a now famous example: Lady Gaga. Her records today sell millions, and yet her songs all sound the same, the same dance beats, the same fun pop ambiance. Each song is just as unremarkable as the next pop song. But if you go back to her very early performances, like this one, she’s got a hell of a voice. I can’t say she’s wasting it on what she’s doing now, because she’s obviously the most successful pop star out there right now. I just feel like a lot of the popular music out there right now is soulless, and if you combine that with the bad economy and the ease with which you can find music for free online, it’s no surprise the record companies are hurting when compared to previous eras.

 

As always, I’d love to hear your opinions on what I’ve posted today! Also, if you have any interesting links you think I would like, either post it in a comment here, or send it to me at econlon42@gmail.com, and I’ll be sure to look at it next week!

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Saturday Linkspam

And how are you all doing, on this fine Saturday morning? Get ready for the Saturday Linkspam!

Afghan women boxers eye Olympic knock-out

Just a little something to brighten everyone’s day! I’m an Olympics junkie, and it’s stories like these that really make me wish for the next games, which take place in London next summer. I’ll keep my eye on these ladies and hope that they do well.

12 Reasons to Ignore the Naysayers: Do NaNoWriMo

I originally heard about NaNoWriMo when I was thirteen years old. Writing a novel in a month, or 1667 words per day, didn’t seem like such a hard thing to do. Ah, the naivety of youth. I got about five hundred words on the first day before I got distracted and never completed that first novel.

I came back to NaNoWriMo during my first year of college. My roommate and I both competed in the contest, and won with just a few hours to spare. Now, I’ve heard a lot of praise for the ‘competition,’ although it’s not quite a competition except if you think of it as a competition with yourself, and a lot of criticism, so it’s not for everybody. But for me, this list, in response to another blogger’s criticism, gives the perfect reasoning for why this is a useful and fun thing to do for yourself, whether you’re a professional writer, an amateur, or someone who just does it for fun.

“Underground”: From Bootleg to Breakout

If you’d found out that your entire comic, six whole issues worth, had been posted online for free, you would think you’d put up a great deal of fuss. However, when Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber’s ‘Underground’ was posted in its entirety on the Comics and Cartoons section of the infamous but popular imageboard known as 4Chan, instead of demanding instant legal action, he did something different. Lieber engaged the readers there, answering questions, joking, and even providing the entire comic on his website for free download, along with mentions of ‘if you liked it, you should buy it.’

Surprisingly, there was a rise in sales from both Amazon and from their site on Etsy. While this isn’t a good business model for DC or Marvel in the long run, it’s an interesting look at what communication between fans and creators can accomplish and, with a little tweaking, could possibly provide insight into the way to solve the problem of comic scans.

Philadelphia Flash Mod: Opera

Flash mobs are a great way to brighten someone’s day and bring a little bit more of the performing arts into the world. As a student of music and a budding singer, I’ve loved opera ever since my first voice lesson, where I started learning ‘Voi Che Sapete’ from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. If you combine the two, as the Opera Company of Philadelphia has done here, it’s perfection. In a world where the love of opera dwindles, we desperately need to do all we can to spread the love as much as possible in hopes that someone else will realize just what a special thing an opera can be.

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