Space Exploration is the Human Legacy

Yesterday NPR had a story about the possible next generation of spacecraft that might make deliveries and carry astronauts for NASA now that the shuttle program is being done away with.  The new spacecraft will be made by the private aeronautics company known as SpaceX (yes it sounds like “Space Sex”) and will have twice the cargo weight capacity of the current shuttles.  The new rocket is being called Falcon Heavy and could be making its first launch as soon as 2013.  You can read the whole article HERE.

The possible design of the Falcon Heavy by SpaceX

In other space news, a fascinating article by Steven Kotler in this month’s Playboy deals with the very real and very near future industry of asteroid mining.  Yes that long running staple of the sci-fi genre, asteroid mining could become a reality and change everything.  One expert in the article states that he believes the first trillionaires on Earth will be the individuals who take the risks and invest in off world resource gathering.  NASA has flown probes up to, and kept pace with, various asteroids collecting particles and dust in their wake.  The Japanese on the other hand have gone one step further, not only sending probes to match the speed of an asteroid, but have actually landed on the asteroid’s surface, scraped it for samples, and then flew back to Earth with the samples intact.  That is essentially what the industry of asteroid mining would look like, only on a bigger scale.  Since asteroids are not within our Earthly atmosphere they aren’t processed and diffused, they are highly concentrated chunks of ore which wouldn’t require extensive digging to cull.  Whatever materials you can scrape off the surface, is pretty much what the entire asteroid is made of.  Those materials include iron, nickel, gold, platinum, and water, along with hundreds of other minerals that can be in short supply here on Earth.  This work with asteroid interception and remote resource gathering is a perfect stepping stone for a manned Mars mission, and eventual off world colonization.  If we can obtain resources like water and iron from asteroids and send them to, say, a Mars colony without having to ship them from Earth, that would drastically lower the costs of such missions.

Artists rendering of remote asteroid mining

 

As far as I’m concerned space exploration is one of the most important endeavors humans can hope to undertake.  It is a topic I have felt strongly about for many years and I will continue to uselessly argue for it with anyone who can hear me until I’m dead.  My opinions on the matter are not new, or based in astute scientific research that I’ve conducted, or even all that original.  The reason I feel I must repeat my feelings though are because people seem to forget, and lose sight.  So few people think about the big picture of the world, the future of humanity.  How we live on a razor thin edge which could be toppled at any moment from any number of sources beyond our control and unless we look out toward space now, everything we are currently doing becomes excruciatingly meaningless.

Some time in the future, countless days from now, our sun will die.  It will grow colder, dimmer, and expand enveloping our planet and evaporating away our histories and cultures.  Of course I suppose even that is wishful thinking, expecting the human race to make it that long considering we will more likely kill each other off through violence, pollution, and war.  Though even if we were to survive our own very human struggles there is still the regular threat from any number of extinction events that have swept the world previously.  What I’m getting at is one way or another, our world is doomed, humanity is doomed, and unless we take to the stars and move beyond where we are now everything we know and will ever know will simply cease to exist as if none of it ever existed.  A brief flash of light in the darkness of the universe, that no one saw.

Of course it all sounds very nostalgic, perhaps naively optimistic.  What’s to stop Earth colonies on Mars or elsewhere from turning out exactly the same as Earth, with war, pollution, and poverty?  Nothing, most likely those ventures will start out as purely financial stakes, some sort of corporate interests that want to make a buck.  Whenever we do set up bases on off-world landscapes (and I firmly believe we will) I have no real expectation that it will be done with the human races best interests in mind, it will most likely be much more small minded and profit driven.  However such a venture will allow people like me to look beyond those two dimensional motivations and have some small hope, some reassurance that the human race is indeed stepping out and establishing itself with at least a larger scope in mind.  We all know the old saying, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  I honestly look forward to news of longer space voyages and established bases on other worlds because until that time there is always the dark pall hanging over us that perhaps the space programs will be completely done away with one day, and we will be stuck on this planet isolated, simply waiting to become extinct.  Until I see images of humans on other planets, there will be a slight sadness and sense of longing when looking up at the night sky.

Destination: Mars

Others out there are doubtlessly reading this and deriding these comments and my thoughts on the future and space exploration.  That’s fine, that’s understandable.  But when people say they are tired of seeing money spent on rockets into space when there are plenty of people here on Earth that need it, my only response to them would be “I guess you missed my point.”  Inflated military budgets and our war industry work more for the spread of conflict and loss of life then they work against it.  Our medical industry is working hard to make us immortal which will be nice when the shattering of Earth does eventually roll around, at least we’ll still be around to see it.  Our entertainment culture, which is important to the identity of the human race, should blindly keep shoveling millions upon millions of dollars into the movie, sports, television, and video game industries so that we can be thoroughly distracted from the realities of war and poverty, and so we don’t have to think about difficult and deep thoughts such as the future of the human race.  Why would we want to spend money on space exploration?  To perhaps actually preserve the legacy of the human race?  Preposterous!

I don’t have any real answers to anything and I’m certainly not really doing much in my life to change the situation or rally support for the space program or anything like that.  I suppose my main point in writing this post is simply to share my thoughts and perhaps invoke some others out there to think about the future, the planet, and the big picture as a whole.  If I’ve done that at all that’s great, and I hope you continue to think big and encourage others to do so.  If you’ve gotten nothing out of reading this, if you think I’m an idiot and you want that five minutes of your life back I say that’s what you get for reading a blog entitled “Mindless Philosophy!”

To the future!

That is all!

My B5 Mission

So here it is, another Babylon 5 blog post from me.  I’m sure you might be getting sick of hearing me go on and on about this defunct sci-fi franchise and I promise I will try and make this my last B5 post for awhile, but I just have a few more things to say about this series.

As I mentioned before I was overjoyed to hear that all five seasons of Babylon 5 are available to watch on Netflix now.  Unfortunately the show only saw a brief life in reruns due to some sort of distribution rights dispute that effectively shut down syndication of the series.  For years I relied on VHS tapes that I recorded from television with the commercials edited out in order to spread the word on the show.  Even that approach, or showing the series on DVD, requires finding time to meet up and watch all five seasons, episode by episode.  It’s often difficult to find a time when that works for both parties.  You of course can lend out your copies to friends and family, but as I grow older I more and more take the position of “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.”  I know I still have movies and games floating around the house that I’ve borrowed from friends years ago, and there’s always a slight pang of displeasure when I am without a lent item for extended periods.

The Babylon 5 station

Now however, thanks to modern technology, all of that is a thing of the past at least when it comes to spreading the word on Babylon 5.  Ironically I myself do not use Netflix, the wife and I are currently crunching numbers in an attempt to save money, and though it isn’t that expensive, it does all add up.  It’s on our list however and I’m sure we will catch up to the rest of the world shortly.  This development though does mean that I can finally conveniently and efficiently urge my friends and anyone else I know with Netflix to watch the show.

I am taking up a personal crusade to prosthelytize Babylon 5.  I really believe there has not been a show to equal its scope and level of storytelling.  I love the franchise and the Babylon 5 universe, and unlike other major sci-fi franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek, Babylon 5 needs a bit of a fanbase boost because it seems to be slipping further and further away from the pop culture spotlight (doubtlessly due to the aforementioned lack of syndication.)  BUT I also do not want to overhype it.  I hate when that happens, when you get all pumped up for something listening to others talk about, and you go in with enormous expectations that can’t be met.  If you have never seen the show I don’t want you to take a look at the first season and think “What the fuck?  He was praising this?”  So here are a few things to keep in mind:

1-The effects, for the most part, are bad.  At the start of season 1, the special effects can be blocky, slow and a bit awkward.  You have to keep in mind though that this was an upstart low budget series.  This isn’t part of a big franchise like Star Trek where they can use the legacy of the show, and established fanbase for larger budgets for graphics and effects.  Like Babylon 5 itself in season 1, the effects department was just getting off the ground and starting from scratch.  Thankfully as time goes on the overall look of the show improves tremendously.

2- The show is dorky.  In case you weren’t aware the show is a sci-fi series which, on occasion, conforms to the stereotypes of the genre and has a few dorky moments.  A couple of bad puns here, an alien penis joke there, you know, those old chestnuts.  Though actually as the series goes on those lighthearted “dorky” moments really help reflect the heavier, darker, and more epically mature moments in later seasons.

The show does have a lot of genuinely funny moments

3- The show is thick with continuity.  Babylon 5 isn’t a show you can pick and choose episodes with, in fact I often compare it to LOST in that respect when talking with people about the show.  Sure you’ll get the idea if you just jump right into season three, but there will be plenty of moments where you find yourself completely out of the loop, asking yourself “Now who the hell is that guy, and why is everyone so pissed?”  Without following the continuity of the show you really lose a great deal in regard to the development of the characters which is crucial to the show, and which I’d say is the best part of Babylon 5.  Which brings me to the good things about Babylon 5.

This show is unlike anything else in television, as far as I’ve seen.  The characters in the show grow and evolve with each episode and through every season.  No character is static, or two dimensional.  They are given quite a bit to deal with on screen and there are a plethora of rich personal histories that are alluded to, and referenced which help flesh out the characters.  When I say “the characters” I don’t mean just the main characters, the stars, the heroes, I mean every character on the show.  The side characters, the recurring characters, the comic relief characters, they all evolve as the show goes on.  You find as you watch Babylon 5 that your opinions of characters drastically shifts, and are often completely turned upside down.  The entire Babylon 5 cast is made up of cast of complex individuals working through their issues during the intrigues and immense storylines of the series.

Aside from the characters, the setting for the show, the B5 universe itself, is also deep and well crafted.  There is a sense of history in the universe that is seen through the characters and the plot.  There are political tensions and feuds between various interstellar governments tracing back through these fictional histories.  There is a strong sense of realism, emotional honesty, mingled in through the high tech unreal world of Babylon 5.  In a way the political tones and issues portrayed in Babylon 5 were ahead of their time, I would go so far as to say that J. Michael Straczynski was the first television writer to capture the feel of the post 9/11 United States, before 9/11.  Which is a huge credit to the political savvy of the show.  Thinking about it now, with its themes of corrupted media, distrust of outside cultures, misuse of military power, government conspiracy, and so much more Babylon 5 is more timely now then when it was originally aired.

My last bit of praise for Babylon 5 simply goes to the writing.  The only word I can think of for the writing is epic.  The best description of the show I’ve read was that Babylon 5 was a novel on television.  That is exactly it.  A novel with a huge story arc, dozens of tangents, and varied and complex themes.  The show changed my expectations of television and of the sci-fi genre.  In a way the show changed how I viewed politics and science, encouraging a better understanding of both.  The best thing I’ve taken away from the show however are dozens of memorable chunks of dialogue.  From sharp tongued one liners to eloquent dramatic soliloquies, Babylon 5 has them all.

The character of Michael Garibaldi is one of the best examples of the series writing

So overall my mission now is to create more Babylon 5 fans out there.  Why am I doing this you might ask.  Because I believe in the show?  Because I respect the creators and actors?  Because I hope to share the series message of realism mixed with hope?  The answer is yes to all of those I suppose, but I believe it is all pretty simple, and much more selfish than that.  I’m looking for more folks to talk about the show with who enjoy it as much as I do.  Perhaps I hope to prove to myself that I have been correct in devoting my fandom to the series.  If others out there like it, then maybe that means I have been right to spend so much time following the adventures of a band of fictional warriors and politicians in space.

Isn’t that why fans of any ilk band together?  Whether it’s TV, movies, sports, don’t we all get together not simply to enjoy the subject of our fandom, but perhaps to reinforce to ourselves that we are not alone?

That is all!

Wizards, Jedi, and Vorlons: The Golden Age of Card Games

So over the past few weeks I’ve undertaken the task of organizing my collection of various card games I currently and formerly played.  A couple of weekends ago I was sorting through my Magic cards and this weekend found me extensively organizing my Babylon 5 cards.  (If those sentences haven’t made me sound like a complete dork then just wait for the next couple.)  As I was going through my B5 cards I remembered how awesome that game was and it also reminded me why I love that show so much, but it got me thinking about a time when collectible card games were king.  A time that has come and gone, when innovation and creativity were the banners held high for such games and their creators.  A day when several giants of the card game industry roamed the earth, unlike today where a single giant lumbers along with a few lesser known shrimps riding its coattails.

I have some experience with tabletop games.  I haven’t ever really successfully played Dungeons & Dragons or anything like that, but board games like Risk and Axis and Allies are a good time, most of the Cranium games are great, and I have discovered a few lesser known games like Zombies!.  Each year my New Years Eve festivities entail alcohol mixed with many board games with my wife and my entire family.  (Good times!)

During my college years I got into HeroClix, the superhero based miniatures game where four players build teams of superheroes from the Marvel and DC universes and then battle it out across a giant game map.  HeroClix is a personal favorite of mine because it is more or less a huge game of chess, but instead of the pieces moving in different ways, the pieces have super powers and they take clicks of damage, and . . . . well, it’s better if you just play it to see what I’m saying.

An example of a HeroClix game piece. Superman is a really good one to have, just FYI.

My first loves of table games however are card games.  I started in middle school with Magic: The Gathering, of course.  When that game was first getting started it spread like wildfire!  Nearly everyone I knew was playing Magic and it really is the game that started it all as far as collectible card games go, but let us fast forward several years to a time that I consider to be the peak years of card games: 1997 – 2001 The Golden Age of Card Games!  It was during these years that my geek culture and gaming interests collided in an epic fashion.

Magic: The Gathering is neither “Magic” nor a “Gathering.” Discuss.

This period saw card games expand in scope and complexity and brought us two more big games which would join Magic at the top of the stack, the Star Wars Collectible Card Game and the Babylon 5 Collectible Card Game.  For me, being a geek and a fan of both those properties, it was a glorious time.  Magic had set up the culture of card games and with the addition of popular franchises into the mix, card games were taken to a whole new level.  Players of the Star Wars CCG could watch the Empire Strikes Back while they defiantly reworked the movie’s plot on the table before them, having the rebels successfully repel the Imperial attack on Hoth.  Babylon 5 fans did not simply follow card text and use strategy to win the games, they had to make alliances and cut deals with their fellow players if they wanted to make any headway because many of the cards in that game relied on voting and political intrigue to succeed, just as you might expect for a card game based on a television show about intergalactic space politics.  For those who remember reading Scrye magazine back in the day, you will remember these three games dominating the covers of that bimonthly publication.  And as if these three games weren’t enough this is also the era that gave us the Pokemon Trading Card Game, the Star Trek CCG, and saw the beginning of the Lord of the Rings card game.

But let’s take a moment and examine what made each of the “Big Three” card games so great.

Magic: the Gathering The King of the card games, the Duke of decks, the sovereign of shuffling . . . . you get the idea.  Magic was and still is the number one card game of all time.  It’s broad fantasy setting and ever expanding library of cards has a wide appeal.  The single pile deck, straight across layout, and simple rules make it easy to learn, understand, and play.  Magic was unleashed onto the world in 1993 and was eagerly taken up by young and old alike.  The deceptively easy rules are offset by the wide variety of cards which a master player can assemble in swift and crushing strategies.  Overall Magic has endured because its original concepts are so brilliant and concise, and because of its general fantasy vibe which can change and evolve unlike games based on various movie and TV franchises.

This is Dr. Steve Brule’s favorite card.

Star Wars CCG– The loss of this card game still brings me down.  After its release in 1995 the Star Wars CCG was a solid second place in terms of sales behind Magic.  A smooth well crafted game that effectively captured the excitement and mythology of the Star Wars movies.  Somewhat more complicated then Magic, Star Wars still pitted two players against one another in a familiar linear layout but added the brilliant touch of having the deck itself be the “life” of each player.  In Magic each player starts with 20 life points and through battling that total is whittled away.  In the Star Wars CCG however each deck must have no more than 60 cards, which are then depleted through gameplay and damage from the opponent.  The main decks were cycled through three piles on each player’s side that would ebb and flow every turn like the Force.  This game mechanic was a practical solution to the problem of the “bad shuffle.”  The crisp, clean look of this game and the exquisite attention to detail made this card game not only fun, but a true homage to the Star Wars movies.  This game at one time held such great sway with Lucas that it was allowed to name and flesh out the history of several previously unnamed characters they depicted on their cards which have gone on to have some prominence in the Star Wars EU, which I suppose is the real legacy of this game.

C-3PO was included in the initial limited edition of the Star Wars CCG

Babylon 5 CCG-The Babylon 5 CCG had the smallest audience without a doubt, but surprisingly held onto the number three spot for popular card games for quite some time during this period.  Introduced in 1997 the Babylon 5 card game did not have the highest production value.  Whereas the Star Wars card images were heavily cleaned up and digitally enhanced, the B5 game often lacked such finery and was decorated with several fuzzy and grainy images from the television show.  This however was made up for by the intricate gameplay.  It wasn’t necessarily true to say that the Babylon 5 game was complex, because the mechanics were pretty straightforward, I would instead describe it as involved and strategically demanding.  Also Babylon 5 by far had the most accoutrement accompanying the game.  To play Magic and Star Wars all you needed were the cards, but to play B5 there were a few accessories.  I suppose you could play without some of these accessories, but they helped clarify a few things.  In the game each player represented an alien ambassador from the show who was representing their species aboard the Babylon 5 station, ala a UN in space.  During the game you had to keep track of political tensions between the races which could lead to peace or war.  You had to track your factions influence and the influence of the Babylon 5 station and other races that were not playable but which could affect the game and individual factions.  It all sounds very difficult and for a first time player or someone who knows nothing about the Babylon 5 show it doubtlessly was difficult.  However this was a unique game in that it was meant to be played by more than two players, it of course could function with only two players but then things would be rather dull.  This game did a good job of keeping their card mechanics in check, unlike Magic and Star Wars which seemed to introduce some new rule or card ability with each expansion.  Babylon 5 kept true to its original game concepts while continually encouraging action through the players and their own politicizing.

The Narn were one of the more adaptable factions to play as in the B5 card game.

In 2001 this personal golden age of card games came to a screeching halt.  In 1999 Hasbro bought up Wizards of the Coast, the makers of Magic: The Gathering which was a big deal at the time.  Hasbro is also the manufacturer of Star Wars toys and collectibles and is the long time holder of those production rights.  In 2001 Lucasfilm decided to consolidate their merchandizing, and did not renew their contract with Decipher, the producer of the Star Wars CCG.  Instead they handed the gaming rights over to Hasbro to produce a new series of games with their newly acquired Wizards of the Coast.  None of those games however matched the level of detail and quality of the Decipher game, or matched the success of Wizards of the Coast other big seller, Magic.

Later in 2001 Warner Bros. did not renew the Babylon 5 rights with Precedence, the card games developer.  Most likely this was due to a waning lack of interest, the namesake show had reached the end of its five season story arc and the cancellation of the spinoff series, Crusade, which was unable to match the tone and scope of Babylon 5 meant there was little in the way of future expansions for the card game.  The Babylon 5 CCG slowly winked out of existence like a dying star in the night sky.

Magic is still going strong and constantly making new innovative changes to the design of the game.  The Star Wars CCG though no longer in print, still has a large fan following, typical of Star Wars fans, and boasts a sizable online player community who still produce online “virtual cards” for the game and hold tournaments.  Babylon 5 however, like the show itself, has unfortunately gradually slipped further and further away from the public eye.  Immediately after the game was cancelled there was an online fanbase that took up a movement similar to that of the Star Wars CCG, but it lacked the numbers and the momentum of that game and is, as far as I can tell, all but dead now on the web.

That’s not to say that it’s too late for a resurgence of these games!  I still play Magic occasionally, but if anyone has any interest in playing some Star Wars or Babylon 5 let me know, I’m game!  Ha!

That is all!

Dr. Zaius Facepalm

     You might not know this (or care) but there is a new Planet of the Apes movie on the horizon.  Supposedly this will be a new “reinterpretation”, “reimagining”, or whatever you want to call it of the origin of the Planet of the Apes.  There are some interesting actors attached to this apes remake including James Franco, Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Andy Serkis (Gollum), John Lithgow, and Brian Cox just to name a few.  News has recently popped up on several entertainment sites that the movie’s release has been pushed up, from November of this year to early August.  There are all kinds of opinions already about this movie, most of them negative, and you’re about to hear mine!

     First off let me just say that I am an avid Planet of the Apes fan.  All five of the original movies left quite an impression on me in my teenage years with their scope and twisting continuity.  I spent a good two years of my life obsessing about the apes movies and digging into their mythos.  Those movies had me thinking differently about the sci-fi movie genre, and hell, movies in general.  From my interest in the Planet of the Apes, and Charlton Heston I went on to discover a greater love for movies from the 60’s and early 70’s, especially other sci-fi outings like Soylent Green, West World, and the Andromeda Strain.  The one thing that hit home with me, although I probably didn’t fully grasp it at the time, was the social commentary delivered in the planet of the apes movies.  Complex, thought provoking themes that were mingled throughout what some consider to be a schlock premise.  The futility of war, the arrogance of mankind in the face of nature, the destructive power of nuclear weapons, and all the intricate and ambiguous overtones that go along with those things.  Long story short, I appreciate the Planet of the Apes series for what it is and what it was trying to achieve.

Charlton Heston, Linda Harrison, and Maurice Evans as Dr. Zaius

     Now onto this new Rise of the Apes movie.  When I heard the first hints about this movie, and read that James Franco was involved I was pretty excited.  For the most part Franco has been making some very smart, calculated movie choices and seems to really take an interest not only in giving a good performance but the content of the script as well.  Of course we all remember the last “reimagining” of the Planet of the Apes under the direction of Tim Burton.  Now I love Tim Burton and most of his body of work, but that was not a good apes film.  It was a soulless outing that relied exclusively on the novelty of talking apes in a world turned upside down, and offered up nothing in the way of thought provoking storyline other than vague themes of overcoming oppression.  It was like Gulliver’s Travels, without the satire, just a few trips to some zany places.  I still don’t think Burton’s apes can be completely admonished though.  The makeup, costumes, and sets for that movie (as with most of Burton’s movies) were fantastic, visually it kept what was great about the originals and improved upon it.  But visuals and special effects was never what the Planet of the Apes was about.  It wasn’t a technically difficult sci-fi movie in the vein of 2001: A Space Odyssey or Star Wars, its strength was in its message.  The talking apes weren’t supposed to enthrall the crowd with the mere spectacle of their presence on screen, these creatures that thought so highly of themselves and their post apocalyptic culture were meant to make us look at ourselves and think about our behavior and its impact on the world as a whole.

     When it comes to Rise of the Apes, there are seemingly already several things stacked against this ape production.  First off is the moving up of the release date.  You might be thinking, “But hey it’s coming out earlier, that’s a good thing right?  We’ll get to see it sooner!”  Ah, not really.  If anything it implies that the studio doesn’t have much faith in it and will move it up to a time when the summer movie heavy hitters are dying down, eliminating competition while keeping it away from the more intense holiday movie season. 

     Secondly there’s the talk that the apes in this movie will be CGI, or motion capture, or some other kind of digital effect.  The Planet of the Apes movies are known for, in fact heralded for, their ape-man makeup.  Eliminating this element of the franchise seems wrong, almost shameful.  Regardless if such complaints are simply nostalgic or old fashioned the fact that the movie is now moving up its release date also means they have three less months for finishing those complex effects, which means it will be rushed, which of course means it will most likely be crap. 

     Third.  This movie is an origin story, the name Caesar has been thrown around and was at one time part of the title (Caesar: Rise of the Apes.)  The plot of this “new” origin has been described as: a young super intelligent chimp, Caesar, rallies his comrades and other apes to revolt against their human captors.  Ok sure, sounds alright, except it really means this movie isn’t a true reimagining of the origin, it implies that it is more or less a remake of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, the fourth segment of the original apes saga.  In Conquest of the Planet of the Apes two of the apes from the timeline of the first two movies escaped the complete destruction of the world and are hurtled backward in time to the era when Charlton Heston’s character first left on his mission (stay with me).  There the surviving apes are questioned with curious suspicion and misunderstood, flip flopping the premise of the first movie in a very creative way.  Those apes of course are inevitably killed by an arrogant world that fears them, but they have a baby who survives and who is the subject of the fourth movie Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (pause for breath).  In that movie chimps and other apes have replaced cats and dogs as the world’s most popular pets, the now fully grown evolved ape from the future has been renamed Caesar by his benevolent master.  Soon Caesar embraces the legacy of his parents and more or less teaches the domestic, slave apes to be more self reliant and fight for their freedom thus completely altering the entire timeline of the Ape Multiverse in the process changing the way the apes actually rose to prominence (shew!).  That movie completely sent the whole concept of the Planet of the Apes in a new direction while still bringing along the previous social and political issues of the other movies.  This remake of Conquest, which Rise of the Apes seems to be, looks to be trying to utilize that innovative climax of the fourth movie, without the crucial continuity of the other films.  Without having all the information about this film, Rise of the Apes sounds to me to be more of a Planet of the Apes rip off, rather than an actual part of the franchise.  It’s almost as if the producers decided that they wanted to take the peak of the action from the original saga and redo it in a modern style.  That idea of starting in the middle of your story might have worked for George Lucas and Star Wars, but the real impact of that peak in Conquest of the Planet Apes is lost when taken out of context, and we are left with what will most likely be another vague tale of generalized oppression as with the Tim Burton movie.

     And lastly, speaking of not having all the information about this film, where is the information about this film??  It is now coming out in August of this year and we have very little information, images, script details, or anything else even remotely promoting this movie.  That is perhaps the biggest clue that this movie will be terrible.  From where I’m sitting it looks like the studio (Fox) is going to put a minimum of effort into promotion, move it to a timeslot that has weak competition, and simply hope for the best.  With such low expectations from the movies producers how can I be optimistic?

This lackluster photo is one of the only images currently out from Rise of the Apes.

     I will however defiantly do my best to keep some hope out for this film, I love the Planet of the Apes series and I really think there is some potential left in the message and tone of the original movies.  I would also like to see a sci-fi movie reclaim the genre’s place in legitimate cinema.  Too often these days sci-fi movies are simply dull, action and effects driven “summer movies” with not much to say.  If Rise of the Apes can bring back sci-fi that also has a message, that means there is also still hope that there is a movie going audience left who aren’t all glassy eyed morons mesmerized by big explosions, thoughtless dialogue, and CGI goofiness.

(Not that those elements don’t have a place at the movies, but when that seems to summarize most of the movies out there, things start to seem bleak.)

That is all!

Human or not, Charlton Heston knew how to handle any leading lady.

My All Time Favorite TV Show, Still My Favorite

IGN recently released their list of the top 50 greatest Sci-fi shows which can be found here.

My all time favorite TV show is of course one in the sci-fi genre, and it is not surprisingly on this list. I would have liked to have seen it placed slightly higher (it came in 13th) because as TV series go this show had a set goal in mind from the very start, it only ever grew in quality of story and design, and it broke away from the genre stereotypes of the day, that is to say it wasn’t simply a Star Trek rip-off. I am of course talking about Babylon 5, the brainchild of one of my favorite television and comic book writers J. Michael Straczynski. I should first explain that I hate Star Trek, though I suppose hate is a bit much. As an enormous Star Wars fan I am diametrically opposed to Star Trek in all its forms. I can watch the original series for the great cast, and I enjoy catching an odd episode of the Next Generation here and there, but Star Trek has just never gotten it’s hooks in me and I do not at all seek to further investigate the mythos of the Trek.

Babylon 5 however did hook me. When it comes to large projects on either the big or small screens I don’t insist on huge budgets and witty, clever writing. I look for something with some ideals and some heart, which is exactly what Babylon 5 brought to the table, the addition of excellent writing just happened to be a bonus for me. I was introduced to the show when my father told me there was going to be some new made for TV space sci-fi movie on. He couldn’t remember the name of it at the time, but said it looked interesting. Being the angsty teen I was, I thought to myself it would most likely be a terrible, campy, bad effects, TV movie. If my dad thought it looked cool, then it probably wasnt’ cool. Then the title came up and it was Babylon 5: In the Beginning. Then I was really pissed, because of what little I knew about Babylon 5 before this introduction, I assumed it was another Star Trek spin-off series and had simply written it off as nothing more. However I didn’t immediately switch the channel and within the first five minutes I realized Babylon 5 was something all its own, something original set in a unique universe. The movie we watched, In the Beginning, was actually a perfect jumping on point. It was a prequel movie that encapsulated some of the history that would often be alluded to later in the show and introduced me to all of the main characters, if only in brief snippets. The movie was shown on TBS or TNT or something and was of course a cross promotion timed along with the start of Babylon 5 being shown on the channel in reruns from season one.

The original Babylon 5 crew lead by Commander Jeffrey Sinclair

I of course tuned into the show, I started the journey through the series from episode one faithfully following through the shows ups and downs to the end of season five, and beyond to the brief and mostly forgotten spin-off show. I could go on and on about why I love this series. The characters. The politics. The mysteries within mysteries. The idea behind the Babylon project. The galactic United Nations concept. The characterization of the cultures. The full deep history of that universe which was presented in a way that didn’t drown you in details but rather delicately hinted at its fully fleshed out complexities. This show without a doubt had some of the best characters on television, who not only made for great stories but who each had their own story, every character evolved, grew, changed and adapted as the show went on which was one of the major selling points of the series. I have so much love for this show it is difficult not to get carried away in praise of it, I will continue to press this show upon the uninitiated until the day I die. The only problem I can pin on this series is that it relied on the viewer to follow the story, to get to know these characters, and thusly became very dependant on its own continuity. The idea of a TV show doing that today is nothing new, what with DVR, Hulu, and seasons of shows coming out on DVD like clockwork it’s much easier now to catch up on a show. For a long time however that was a major downside to Babylon 5, it was hard to go back and rewatch episodes past. In fact I made it a mission of mine to spread the love for this sci-fi realm to the point that I religiously recorded each episode, edited out the commercials on my rig of two VCRs, and struggled to put them in proper chronological order (remember, such information was not yet as fleshed out on the internet in those days, I had to hope the reruns were aired in the right order and if not I had to try to figure it out from episode to episode.) I showed those tapes to as many friends as possible, and eventually formed a small band of my friends into die-hard B5 fanatics. We had many a long evening where we played the Babylon 5 card game, while eating oven baked appetizers, followed by watching as many episodes as we could before passing out.

The gang from Babylon 5 under the command of Captain John Sheridan

From the start of the Babylon 5 saga creator J. Michael Straczynski had a story arc in mind which would take place over 5 seasons. Mysteries were brought up, histories revealed, characters developed, intrigues lingered, and epic wars were fought. The last season ushered in a new era for the characters and wrapped up the overall story excellently. There were no loose ends, and closure was achieved. There were of course things that crept into the spinoff and with such a huge and well laid out universe there were of course more stories to tell, but Babylon 5 the show, and the station itself, finished it’s tale in a grand style. For the longest time I expected Babylon 5 to be dethroned as my favorite show by the highly awesome LOST (which heavily features Mira Furlan, a Babylon 5 heavy hitter.) I wisely decided to hold back crowning LOST as my favorite until the series ended and wrapped up it’s winding enigmas. Personally I believe LOST failed in its conclusion. That is not to say LOST is not an awesomely terrific show, but the build up, climax, and ending of Babylon 5 will, for me, remain the measure of a well thought-out, smart, and unique television experience. Hopefully one day there is a show that can top Babylon 5, but as for the direct future I do not see any such show on the horizon.

Anyway, believe it or not I was hoping to keep this blog entry brief, so that is all!