Things Pop Culture Ruined for Me

Another great thread from Rarasaur here, always so thought-provoking, at times just provocative…

I get where Rara is coming from with this and my thoughts since she posted it the other day were that perhaps she is being just a little precious over this…I mean, if something is precious to us, then we should still be able to hold it close…right?

Then I woke this morning, considered the issue again and the first thing that leaps into my head was Jar-Jar Binks (I hope you didn’t arrange that just for me, Rara, because it wasn’t a very fun experience…) and all of a sudden, I got it…

While I think that the original Star Wars trilogy started its downhill slide when the Muppets took over Return of the Jedi (and Palpatine thought he had problems) and then the revisionism of the 20th and 25th Anniversary releases (yes, I am on gain about Han shooting first!) but the following prequel trilogy just leaves me COLD. The one anchor of my faith in the Star Wars Universe is the theatrical release of Star Wars that George Lucas grudgingly included on the 25th Anniversary release DVD – even though he spitefully refused to remaster this version it remains the same awe-inspiring epic that first wowed me in January 1978. And, just for the record, I have great hopes for the Disney/Abrams epics in this universe planned for first release in 2015…

The other modern take on an old classic that leaves me shivering is the last few seasons of Dr Who, specifically the Matt Smith regime of weirdness. The original BBC black and white Doctor series used to terrify me as a child because it was a. really scary, b. had a diverse range of monsters, and c. it had lots of cliff hangers (each story would typically run over 4-6 30 minute episodes – At one a week the terror could be drawn out to the nth degree…now the Doctors all about love, fish fingers and custard (an offence against humanity in its own right), and Daleks, Daleks and more bloody Daleks – what part of extinct don’t you guys get???? And it’s all driven my how much the Beeb executives think that they can squeeze out of the franchise as opposed to any desire to actually rethink or revitalise it for this century…

So little Sunday morning rant over…Rara again drives her point home when I open my mind a little…

PS. I love both BSGs even if the 21st century version does ramble on a bit at times…

Edit: another WordPress tool that doesn’t work so well – I thought I’d give the reblog tool a go but the editing tools in it are sooo limited, I will just stick to my current practice of ‘pressing this’ on any page I feel like commenting further on…if I could have saved this, it might have been longer (that could be a good or a bad thing); ditto if the reblogging text window was more than three lines high – clearly this is meant to attract twits et al…and the formatting is all screwed up too…fail WordPress…..

My Little Life: Five Question Friday!! 3/22/13

My Little Life: Five Question Friday!! 3/22/13.

1. What advice would you give a newly married couple?

Chalet 029

Starting out doesn’t have to be flash…

Save….save like you don’t know where you next paycheck is coming from…eschew (say ‘no’ to) flash new cars and household bling, turn away from offers of credit cards and cheap loans…get your house paid off and build a home…

2. Who does more laundry around your house?

Me…but, in all fairness, I currently work from home so have the best opportunity to load up the machine and hand each load out during the day – and to recover it just on the off chance it should actually rain here in the Raurimu Desert…

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Not my turn today though…

I must say, though…really, I must, thjat this sounds very much like one of the domestic issues that will lead to a conversation that ends in the ‘statement’ “See…!!!!!” and/or “I told you so…!!!” Tread carefully on this one, guys…

3. What items, if any, do you prefer to buy organic or make yourself?

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The writing on the eggs is their collection date…

As much as possible, we like to grow our own vegetables and now starting slowly on our own fruit…we have been growing our own herbs for years and even had lemons growing successfully until Mr Lemon Tree got caught out by nasty old Jack Frost…we’re self-sufficient for eggs including having enough surplus to trade for chicken feed…

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The white things on the ground are summer hail stones…

4. What book/TV series would you recommend for a friend on bedrest?

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All five seasons of Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica for TV series…two of the greats scifi sagas ever told…more so after Mrs Lucas’ little boy dropped the ball…

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William Shatner’s three Trek trilogies: Odyssey, Mirror Universe and Totality…I like them over other Star Trek books because Shatner (or his ghost writers) gets into Kirk in an almost autobiographical manner…

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The best of the nine by a good country mile…

5. So, they say it’s Spring now…what does your “spring” look like at this very moment?

Well, here on the upside-down part of the world from Mama M, it is still the worst drought in seven decades (does that sound better or worse than 70 years?). Although it is still relatively green here, we are rationing our water just in case in continues on for more than another few weeks…

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Green 2012 North Island on the left, 2013 scorched version on the right…

Weekly Writing Challenge: A Few of My Favorite Things

This is a toughie…since this popped in my inbox early this morning  a couple of weeks ago (have been dillydallying – yes, it IS  a word – over a simple thing like taking the two photos), I have been keeping an eye out as I have drifted around the house, an eye out for a few of my favourite things…well, there’s Kirk and Lulu, of course, who follow me all around the house…except for when Kirk disappeared this morning a morning a couple of weeks ago after breakfast: we got a possum on a couple of Sundays ago and so I think he’s kinda hopeful of getting another – I don’t know if he’s noticed yet but Lulu and Deeda have already stolen Sunday’s possum from where he buried it – tarts! – and there’s not much left of it now… (nope – Lulu was last seen with a bit of possum snout sticking out of her mouth and that was all she wrote)…

So…favourite things…I’m always rapt to acquire another book to replace one of the many that went missing or were ‘borrowed’ while I was on the move in the 80s and 90s…I now have all the Airfix Annuals again less #3 and thought it was a real coup to score a full set of the short-lived (all four!) Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine from the late 70s, complete with the posters…this was the one that, in each issue, analysed a modern (70s) science-fiction movie, one from the 60s and one from the 50s and merged themes from each into a poster in each issue….I still smile when I think of the article that tried to calculate the physical size that the Enterprise’s computer would have to be to hold all the information retrieved from it during the Original Series of Star Trek, drawing the conclusion that it would be impossible by virtue of its sheer bulk for any computer to hold that much information…meanwhile 35 years later…

I still have odds’n’sods from soldiering days…my Gerber ‘letter opener’, various bits and pieces of web gear that might be useful one day – Carmen was quick to commandeer my secateurs and folding tree saw pouches onto a belt for her forays into the Lodge’s garden/forest – and I still jealousy guard the original day park and vest webbing we developed in 1 RNZIR…oh, yes, and of course, there’s the hat collection that graces the big beam running across the study, acquired from here and there…thirty odd years of military head-dress…less the warmer stuff that has found its way into the cold weather front line of hooks by the back door…

But the thing is, I’m not really that attached to any of it…sure, I don’t want it to just be binned because each represents memories…my favourite cup when I was in Waiouru was the classic ‘cups’ canteen’ partly because it held a lot of coffee but also because some fairly brutal attrition and experimentation showed that, of all cup types, it was the absolute least likely to be stolen…I don’t think that I have any one thing (non-breathing anyway!) that I would be desperately cut up about if I were to loose it…I’d be hacked off to loose my photo collection but I’d get over it, and ditto for the book and movie library and my still growing model collection (although I am getting better and slowing down on acquisition)…

Some things you just can’t beat…

Do you ever wonder…

…how things come about?

If you’ve ever wondered how all twelve colonies in Battlestar Galactica squeeze into a single system, here’s an explanation…

…or…

…how hard work and dedication might pay off? I’ve just seen a quick note welcoming Massey University’s Josh Wineera (Interbella et al) to membership of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (CSCAP). The CSCAP website hasn’t been updated yet with the new membership but I imagine there may be some Rommel?  Gunner Who? moments coming up the first time Josh takes a seat at the (pretty high-powered) table…always nice to see a mate doing well…

I’m back in the office this week and because I haven’t had remote access in to the network, have a mountain of issues to clear before I head home tomorrow – this has eaten into blog productivity time quite a bit but I have a couple of items on the boil for next week. in the meantime, I found this in an interesting discussion over at Small Wars Council on battlespace ‘ownership’. Inter-service jabs and rivalries aside, there are some interesting insights here:

Rules of Combat

USMC

1. Bring a weapon. Preferably, bring at least two. Bring all of your friends who have weapons. Bring their friends who have weapons.

2. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammo is cheap. Life is expensive.

3. Only hits count. Close doesn’t count. The only thing worse than a miss is a slow miss.

4. If your shooting stance is good, you’re probably not moving fast enough, nor using cover correctly.

5. Move away from your attacker. Distance is your friend. (Lateral and diagonal movement are preferred.)

6. If you can choose what to bring to a gunfight, bring a big weapon and a friend with a big weapon.

7. In ten years nobody will remember the details of calibre, stance, or tactics. They will only remember who lived and who didn’t.

8. If you are not shooting, you should be communicating, reloading, and running.

9. Accuracy is relative: most combat shooting is more dependent on “pucker factor” than the inherent accuracy of the weapon.

10. Use a weapon that works EVERY TIME. “All skill is in vain when an Angel pisses in the flintlock of your musket.”

11. Someday someone may kill you with your own weapon, but they should have to beat you to death with it because it is empty.

12. In combat, there are no rules, always cheat; always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose.

13. Have a plan.

14. Have a back-up plan, because the first one won’t work.

15. Use cover or concealment as much as possible. The visible target should be in FRONT of YOUR weapon.

16. Flank your adversary when possible. Protect yours.

17. Don’t drop your guard.

18. Always tactical load and threat scan 360 degrees.

19. Watch their hands. Hands kill. (In God we trust. Everyone else, keep your hands where I can see them).

20. Decide to be aggressive ENOUGH, quickly ENOUGH.

21. The faster you finish the fight, the less shot you will get.

22. Be courteous to everyone, friendly to no one.

23. Be polite. Be professional. But have a plan to kill everyone you meet.

24. Your number one Option for Personal Security is a lifelong commitment to avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation.

25. Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun, the caliber of which does not start with a “.4.”

Army

1. See USMC Rules for combat

2. Add 60 to 90 days

3. Hope the Marines already destroyed all meaningful resistance

Navy

1. Spend three weeks getting somewhere

2. Adopt an aggressive offshore posture

3. Send in the Marines

4. Drink Coffee

5. Bring back the Marines

Air Force

1. Kiss the spouse good-bye

2. Drive to the flight line

3. Fly to target area, drop bombs, fly back.

4. Pop in at the club for a couple with the guys

5. Go home, BBQ some burgers and drink some more beer

Manage is a good word

This is a picture of happier slower days.

Those happier slower days have gone now and we need to adjust to a new environment, one in which we must manage more information at far higher levels of resolution than ever before. I use the word ‘manage‘ deliberately – it has had a bit of a thrashing over the last decade or so, especially in the military, where management is a term reserved for stuff that people out of uniform do e.g. ‘…they’re just a manager…‘ Well, girls and boys, if you can’t manage, then it is unlikely that you will ever be much chop at command or operations. Here’s what one source thinks ‘manage’ is:

In 2005, the USMC’s Michael Scheiern posited a shift from platform-based tracking to individual-based tracking and was pretty positive that, in terms of the complex contemporary operating environment, tracking at the individual level was realistically achievable. But, here we are in 2010 already, with knashing and wailing over yet another failure of intelligence. The problem, as I see it, is that we simply don’t want to change: despite the thousands of lives and billions of $$ expended in this war, too many people are still too wedded to the nice safe days of the Fulda Gap and nowhere is this more apparent than in military information  management (which, by the way, is NOT the realm of the 6 community any more than it is that of the 2 weenies).

Over on the CAC COIN Blog (which I have been somewhat remiss in not visiting more often), there is an article entitled I Know Something You Don’t Know: Intelligence and COIN which touches on this topic, inspired by the 25 December Undies Bomber. Not only should we ensure “…every civil servant/diplomat/aid worker a collector…” in addition to “…every soldier a collector…”, we should be extending this to ‘every one an analyst‘ as well. This means that everyone out in their respective field must be sufficiently  trained and aware of their environment to act, when needs be, upon that information that, so far, we only want them to collect. And, by the way, “…every soldier a collector…” is not a theory as stated on the CAC blog – it is doctrine and as such should, indeed must, be part of the training regime.

One of the reasons that we are still not getting into this (after EIGHT years of war!!) might be those alluded to here on Coming Anarchy, or more specifically, this Wikipedia page referenced in the CA article. I’d never heard of Baconian method (not that that means much) – I have heard of bacon jam though – but it identifies four obstacles (idols) in considering a problem:

  • Idols of the Tribe (Idola Tribus): This is humans’ tendency to perceive more order and regularity in systems than truly exists, and is due to people following their preconceived ideas about things.
  • Idols of the Cave (Idola Specus): This is due to individuals’ personal weaknesses in reasoning due to particular personalities, likes and dislikes.
  • Idols of the Marketplace (Idola Fori): This is due to confusions in the use of language and taking some words in science to have a different meaning than their common usage.
  • Idols of the Theatre: This is the following of academic dogma and not asking questions about the world.

Sound familiar? Seen any of these in YOUR work place? Perhaps even subscribed to one or two yourselves…?

This is the problem – we talk up the need for learning organisations, lessons learned, better information and intelligence but here we are – having just bumbled through someone trying to blow up a plane with his undies…

But as much as the intelligence world may be long overdue for a shake-up, we also need to have a good hard look at the rest of the organisation and ask ourselves just why it is that we have to rely on the ‘2’s (sounds a bit like Battlestar Galactica: the 2s versus the 6s….) for analysis instead of applying some common dog common sense ourselves…uh-oh it’s that old Information Militia thing again. The intel weenies and command geeks together need to get out on the streets and see what police officers do and how they do it in thinking things through on the spot…what was it we found in the COIN Review? Oh, yeah…intelligence in the COE may be closer to CRIMINT than that required for conventional high-intensity operations e.g. the Fulda Gap…

Interbella asked the question: What’s in the price of bread? Changing how we look at intelligence may help with the answer…

Taking a break

Today anyway and only from the generations of war thing – not because I have lost interest at all but because I am doing the accounts this week and it’s not much fun and any distractions are welcomed but dangerous.

John Birmingham has two blogs at the Brisbane Times and The Geek is by far the most fun. His recent item on Dr Who is worthy of posting in it’s entirety:

Who’s the master of cool sci-fi (not a question)
November 13, 2009

Have you ever noticed that when a bunch of geeks gather around the campfire to nut out once and for all the important question of what was the coolest science fiction TV series ever, that the actual coolest science fiction TV series ever almost never gets a look in. Why is there no lovin’ for Dr. Who?

Stargate SG1 is always pushing to the front of the line blowing everybody out of the way, goosing Star Trek, snorting in derision at the original BSG and Space 1999 (with good reason, admittedly). But where does it get off calling itself the longest-running sci-fi series on TV. That would be the Doctor you’re gazzumping there Jack. He first appeared on our screens back in 1963… and he’s still here. Not just in syndication and repeats either.

Sure the effects were crap in the early days. Okay, they were crap right up until cheap CGI and more generous production budgets meant the most recent series didn’t have to build their aliens out of old garbage bins and lengths of rubber hose. But go back and look at some of those original Star Trek episodes and hang your head in shame American sci-fi TV producers. I mean, tribbles, come on, really?

So great is the show’s longevity of course that eleven actors have cycled through the lead role, and God knows how many supporting cast have been there with the Doc, twisting their ankles, getting captured, occasionally getting killed, and generally raising the question of why he bothers with traveling companions anyway since they just get in the way or cause cliffhangers every 22 minutes. But putting that aside, which other serious, sci-fi or mainstream, can claim to have survived a change in lead actor so regularly, or even once.

Much as I liked Ben Browder’s character on Farscape for instance, he was really just Jack O’Neill lite in the later SG1 series.

And where most TV shows get weaker as they get older, Dr. Who has arguably grown stronger with the years. Partly this is a function of great writers and producers coming to the latest series of in a spirit of paying homage to a much loved show from their childhood, partly it’s to do with increased production values, and partly the Doc has hung around for so long he couldn’t help but benefit from the improved aesthetics of the medium as it matured. Bottom line however, it has improved while other series, particularly some big-budget American shows (yes Lost, I’m looking at you, and your mate Heroes) have all but sputtered out creatively after a couple of good early years.

So let the word go forth from this time and this place that I have settled this debate once and for all. Dr. Who is the coolest TV sci-fi series ever made.

While Stingray is my first memory of ANY TV series, it is also my first memory of a science-fiction show, followed closely by Forbidden Planet: both had me squinting at the screen through my fingers from an early age…three perhaps…? But it was Dr Who that sits still at the top of the heap: I was terrified by the Abominable Snowmen, Cybermen and Daleks (the Big 3 – all the rest, including the over-rated Master are Tier Two scaries) but refused to miss my weekly doses of terror. I still recall almost crapping myself when I was 7 or 8: running around the shadowy passages of Dad’s squash club, I turned a corner and ran smack into an oversized badminton shuttle. Obviously it must have been some sort of promo item but it was as tall as me and it definitely looked like a Dalek. I was adios amigo and refused to go back there for weeks.

I lost interest during the latter part of the Tom Baker years – possibly because the Beeb was starting to chew through the Doctors and some of them were pretty silly; or equally possibly because teenage boys develop other interests. I had a brief resurgence of interest when the US-made movie came out in the 90s (had Eric Roberts in it?) and then that was it until 2005. The new series had come out but I’d dissed it believing that it would just be a shoddy rip-off of the 60s and 70s classics. On my return from CLAW 1 in Salisbury, we were spending the weekend with friends in Rotorua; Dr Who just happened to be on during dinner (Bad Wolf, I think the episode was) and I became interested very quickly.

Although I have lapped up Season 2-4, I have still to see most of Season 1 (too cheap to pay full price and waiting for the box set price to drop). JB is correct: Dr Who IS the most enduring science fiction show around; yes, there are those that are older but NONE that have been develped and evolved so consistently over four decades and into a fifth. Thunderbirds is as enduring but is a year younger and has not evolved from the original series – still a bit hit with young kids today though.

While I was a big fan of all the other Gerry Anderson series, nowadays there have more of a cult fascination appeal (apart from Thunderbirds) than serious interest. UFO was the centre of my known universe when I was 10 and 11 but now it seems vaguely pretentious and overdone -still very cools toys though – and, yes, I too was going to build my own Moonbase (on the Moon, of course) and use my secret organisation defend the world from the Aliens. Still might but if so I really do need to pull my finger out…

If I was to have my Top Five science fiction series they would be:

  • Thunderbirds. Everything EXCEPT Jonathan Frakes’ miserable 2004 movie.
  • Bablylon 5. Up until the end of Series 4 – after the two big storylines were dealt to, Series 5 seemed a bit anticlimatic.
  • Dr Who. Everything from the very first episode to the Series 5 teaser episodes.
  • New Captain Scarlet. Please, please do more with this: the animation is great, and it builds upon the gritty dark side of the original series.
  • Firefly. The whole series + Serenity. A great concept that just didn’t quite get the support it needed although Serenity did really tie-off the original storyline so they would have needed a new one for further series.

I enjoy Star Trek in chunks but actually prefer the books, especially William Shatner’s first trilogy. Voyager and TNG were great once they figured out that violence was OK; Deep Space Nine was like Star Trek does Mallrats and just boring; but I do have a bit of a soft spot for Enterprise possibly because they can not use the transporter or time travel to get themselves out of narly situations. I do have the Star Trek Borg and Animated Series sets though and and do rate them quite highly.

I’m also a big BSG (both series) fan but in terms of a top five, the original is a bit campy now, and the rethink version is just a little too complex and intertwined to be enduring for me.

Farscape, Andromeda, Stargate? Whatever…just light relief.

Normal services have been restored

Well, laughter MIGHT be the best medicine but that’s the last time I’ll try to laugh off a virus!! I’ve pretty well been on my back since 9 September and only really felt human again yesterday – and this from someone who normally fills up with Panadol and Dispirin, has a crappy night and bounces back in the morning…so if anyone tells you that this swine flu thing is just another ploy by the big pharmaceuticals, please give them a poke in the eye with lots of love from me…

So what’s been happening in my world in the fortnight or so since transmission was so rudely cut-off? The mancave has proven stable on its piles but roofing will have to wait til I get back from the UK next month: just shifting the roofing iron down from the top of the house drive to the site put me on my back gain last week – so much for trying to get out and about in the fresh air. Replaced the spouting along one side of the guest house today and felt quite sprightly about it so am really hoping the bug is gone for good – has been a great day for that sort of thing – looks like the weather is about to go down the gurgler tomorrow but that’ll allow for a decent systems test of the new fittings. And the spurt of water from the downpipe when we ripped away the rusting spouting is a good sign re the water levels in the tank – especially leading into spring and summer when tank levels can become kinda problematic.

The UK…really had hoped that the virus might have been my way out of this trip but couldn’t bring myself to BS the doc on Thursday when she cleared me to travel pending another 3-4 restful days…so while the lessons workshop will be professionally enlightening and possibly even challenging, the travel plan means I get to miss both the Interbella presentation at Ft Leavenworth on Thursday morning Kiwi time and tDavid Kilcullen’s presentation in Wellington next month. Still such is life and hopefully (not for the lack of pleading and hint-dropping on my part) both will be recorded for enjoyment at a later date.

And on the topic of flu, avian this time not swine, what is it that possesses chickens? We have 7 (down from 10) chicken who have 1.1 hectares over which to free range at the moment. If Darwin was right, then the nature of the surviving 7 is a real insight into why ‘birdbrain’ is quite definitely an insult of the highest order…all this space over which to roam, chock full of seeds and bugs and other chicken delights and the Death Wish Chickens (DWC) would rather stray on this side of the fence where the canine forces of darkness roam…if nothing else, I don’t think we have to fear global takeover from chickens anytime soon…

walking tall rock

We watched The Rock (Dwyane Wassissname)’s version of Walking Tall on telly the other night. I have to ask myself why would you bother? The original story is so much better, if you have to remake it as a platform for some up-and-comer, why not just remake it? Like the old folk are always saying, if it ain’t broke, it don’t need no fixin’ – how to take a great true story and degrade it into a crappy beat’em up in an hour and a half – anyone who is interested should Google for Buford Pusser and read up on the real Walking Tall story…it’s worth it…

I really struggle with this predilection so many have with taking something old and trying to make it better for the modern day and just so totally dropping the ball on it…the original The Four Feathers is a true classic, even in grainy black and white, the triumph of a man over his environment and himself – does he need a trusty native helper? No! So why bother…newer is NOT always better and 9 time out of ten, I’d probably go for the source, the original…

The superficiality of many modern productions seems to echo the lack of deep thought we see so often in other areas – just skim the surface and hope she’ll be right – so ironic when in the 30s, 40s and 50s when so many of the classics were produced, life actually was pretty simple. Now we up to our ears in complexity and our main philosophical approach to it is the embrace blandness….

bsg new

In terms of the rare one in ten, I would have to rated the ‘re-imagined’ Battlestar Galactica as a plus plus success, not so much a replacement for but a great complement to the original 70s series – Lorne Greene will always be the best Adama (probably all that experience with wagon trains and Indians from Bonanza) whereas Edward James Olmos, while very gritty, is still the small team leader, Castillo, from Miami Vice

Unlike the original which left fans hanging for decades (the less said about the second season the better), this story does come to a definite conclusion. What it is you will have to sit through Series 4 to find out – and the preceding series – otherwise it will make little or no sense so no cheating sneak peeks – it does mean though that I will have to go back to the drawing board for a back story for my epic as other writers keep beating me to the draw on getting my ideas out in the open; really just a case of great minds….I have a new spark that I hope to flesh out while overseas, probably in some dodgy 600 year old pub where my muse will appear through the bottom of a pint (or a number of them)…

Having now restored normal services, the plan is to keep up daily updates using the combination of Blackberry email to blog tools once we go wheels up on Wednesday…