Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mother, Can I?

This is making that rounds, and it kind of annoyed me,  I'm don't know why I'm so grumpy; things are going well for me lately.

Teacher: Simmer down, Hermione. Are you talking to me or to that straw man you've constructed? I, and the rest of our present company would have understood that you wanted to borrow a pencil if you had pointed at it and grunted, but I think we can all agree that would hardly be appropriate for this setting.

I know you're in a rush to establish yourself as the smartest person in the room, but perhaps you should have paused to ask yourself if addressing an instructor in an academic setting was the appropriate context to use informal phrasing, particularly when you had reason to believe that this instructor would be inclined to correct you. Usage is dependent on context, and as the author of the original post identified me as "Teacher" for this tiresome bit of Kabuki, it would be irresponsible not to correct you.

If you still need additional reasons, think of it as being comparable to splitting an infinitive or ending a sentence with a preposition. They are not, strictly speaking, prohibited, but they sound like shit and mark you as a buffoon. Amateur sophistry is not going to win you any friends.

No, you can not borrow a pencil, smartass.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

List of the Worst Doctor Who Companions

Update: I think I shall have to release a revised list. I met Lisa Greenwood at Regen Who 4 and I can't go on hating Flip anymore.

A companion piece, so to speak, to an earlier post about the best companions in Doctor Who.

We'll open with two runners-up who did not quite make this list.

Adric: I actually don't hate Adric. He wasn't great, but he wasn't terrible either. He had a good relationship with the Fourth Doctor, and a bad one with the Fifth,

and I even feel a little sympathy for him. Every awkward introvert wants to be Rose, making the tough choices, being brave and saving the Doctor through your own ingenuity, where it's more likely that most of us would wind up closer to Adric. He just wanted to be liked, but he didn't know how, and the skills that made him stand out on Alzarius were common coin in the TARDIS,  He even gets what's probably the best death scene of the original series. (Sorry, Katarina. Second place again.)

Roz Forrester: One from the novels. She's a deeply nasty person, who, when on the sidelines of a murder investigation in The Also People, decides she'd rather hamper the investigation and take cheap shots at the victim. When marooned in Earth's past, she decides to murder one of Lincoln's ancestors, in hope that the act will draw the Doctor's attention. I hated her as an individual, but found her interesting as a character. I was never bored when I was reading about her.

The Ten Worst Companions in Doctor Who

And these polka dots, man.
It looks like she's trying to show up the Sixth Doctor.
Mel: Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Mel. I have nothing against Bonnie Langford. She's a child star who managed to transition into adulthood, and experienced success after her run on Doctor Who. So, good for her.

 I liked her in the One Doctor, one of the funniest audios, and she was decent in He Jests at Scars.  But she was rubbish on TV, When her memorable traits are "Screams on key" and "Loves Carrot Juice", she just never had a chance.

No caption could make this picture more ridiculous
Kamelion: Ha ha ha. His love is real, but he is not. Nobody seems to be able to think of Kamelion without smirking. I know I can't. You'd think that he'd be pretty extreme, seeing as his creator mispelled his name with a K, but no, he sucks.

I recall hearing a story that the operator who ran him died suddenly without leaving instructions, and nobody could figure out what to do with him. (You'd think that they'd be able to work around this limitation, seeing as he can look like anybody, but no dice.)

Also, he apparently killed a bunch of people.

Goodbye Kamelion. You still had a better run than Katarina.

Charlotte Pollard: Ugh. Charley is just the worst. She's a magnificently sanctimonious hypocrite with a psychotic lack of empathy. Whenever the TARDIS materializes in a locked room with a dead body, and Charlotte picks up the bloody knife just in time for the dead man's friends to see her standing over the corpse with the murder weapon in hand, her only response is a monumental tantrum of pissy indignation that they might have some a few questions for her.

She had a tenure of about eighty-five years with the Eighth Doctor, and just when we thought we were rid of her, she starts travelling around with the Sixth. Apparently she also has her own adventures after he ditches her, but you couldn't pay me to listen to them. Charlotte is just the worst.

Susan: Oh, you named the TARDIS did you? What a load of shit. Remember that time when you saw a monster and all you did was collapse and scream? And the other time?And the time after that?

The one good thing I'll say about Susan is that her relationship with the Doctor gives Whovians something to talk about when we're bored.

There is a Big Finish audio play called "An Earthly Child", which is pretty clever (though the best punning title of a Classic Doctor Who story is "The Horror of Glam Rock"), but that's not enough to make Susan cool.

Susan is just the worst.

Sock it to me!
Polly: The best thing I can say about Polly is that she's portrayed by an actor named Anneke Wills, which is a really cool name. She was almost unimaginably generic, and yet she's featured in nine stories! That's as many as Ace or Leela! What kind of world do we live in?!

Apparently, Anneke Wills played Charley's mom in a Big Finish Production, which seems apt. Polly is just the worst.

Nine stories. Christ.

Dodo: Dodo is the one character who unites all the various factions of Doctor Who fandom, in that we can all agree to hate her. The writers who chronicled her adventures after she left the TARDIS certainly did. She had a nervous breakdown and was killed by a mad gunman, but not before contracting space gonorrhea. This is after her last televised appearance, where she wandered away after being mind controlled by a malevolent AI, and the Doctor shows absolutely fuck all interest in her well-being.

Were she anyone else, I would feel kind of bad piling on to the mountain of hate she already receives, but seeing as it's Dodo, I'm just going to make the obligatory "Dead as a Dodo" joke and move on.

Yearbook photo:
Most likely to suck.
Ben Jackson: Man, the First Doctor sure had a lot of shit companions, didn't he? Ben is a seamen (heh heh). I first saw Doctor Who when Tom Baker was the Doctor, and when Harry Sullivan and Sarah Jane were his companions. I thought Harry Sullivan, naval surgeon renowned far and wide for his astounding blandness, was the most amazingly boring companion imaginable.

I envy my youthful naivete. Harry Sullivan is the improved version of Ben.

Ben was just the worst.

Flip Jackson: Speaking of companions named Jackson. Ugh. She's Rose Lite. I actually appreciated Rose a lot during her early run. She was a great audience surrogate, she had guts, she didn't do as she was told, she asked the smart questions. She did what the viewer would have done in her place.

The Parting of the Ways would have been a great capstone to her adventures with the Doctor, except that it wasn't. She went another twenty seasons with Tennant. RTD certainly loved her, didn't he? It was like watching the prophecy from the Lego movie"...And be the greatest, most interesting, Most important person of all times. All this is true, because it rhymes."

Now this is Flip, not Rose, but you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference. She has the same background, same personality, same origin story, right down to kissing her boring boyfriend right before she leaves him behind to adventure with the Doctor.

I don't really like Rose, but she gets a pass for the purposes of this list because she was a great introduction to the show for new, lapsed or casual viewers. I'd be extremely surprised if this wasn't deliberate, as Rose remains extremely popular.  However, we don't need that kind of audience surrogate in the audio plays, where Flip appears, which have been ongoing for more than ten years and hundreds of stories.

Flip is just the worst.

Take it from me, Peri. Your duck face will
kill it in the future.
Peri: I've often said that a no-budget show like Doctor Who, noted as much for its engaging writing and memorable characters as it is for its shoddy visual effects was ideally suited for the audio play format. I've always loved the title theme, and it has a number of great song effects as well, the TARDIS, the voices of the Cybermen and the Daleks, the Dalek's death rays, just to name a few. Even from the very beginning, the audio elements of Doctor Who have been excellent. There's nothing wrong with how the show sounds.

Unless they're trying to do an American accent. John Barrowman can pull it off, because he grew up over here, but no one in any way affiliated with Big Finish can manage even a slightly convincing accent. It's awful.  Even when they do manage to dig up someone who remembers how we pronounce our Rs, they just don't seem to know what words we use. Dear Doctor Who writers, no American has ever said, "I got out of my lorry and ate a biscuit whilst I rode the lift up to my flat." It's not some obscure tribal dialect! Hugh Laurie can do it! It's not that hard! Just pronounce the words the way they are meant to be said!

Where's Henry Higgins when you need him?

Nicola Bryant has been playing the role since 1984. That's more than THIRTY YEARS! And yet her accent, so called, is no better than it was back during her original press tour when she claimed to be an American.

Peri has nothing to redeem her, and is just the worst. Except for...

River Song: The monkey's paw version of Romana II.

(Urkel voice): "Did I do that?"

Steven Moffat is an extremely talented writer when given proper supervision. Unfortunately, when he doesn't get it,  he's a boorish, sexist hack with a profound lack of knowledge of, and respect for the source material, who writes everything like a spec script for Coupling. Barring Mary Whitehouse, it's hard to imagine a less suitable showrunner.

Moffat did not understand that the Hark A Vagrant Strong Female Characters strip was not intended as a guidebook.

She starts out a great character in an excellent story. I was like "Hey, it's an actress older than 23! Hey! It's that lady from ER!" I loved her first appearance, and loved someone who had a relationship with the Doctor on her terms.

She dies in that story, but I hoped we'd see some of the earlier (from her perspective) adventures. But by the time she returns, Moffat is firmly in charge, and like George Lucas before him, he does not wield his total creative control responsibly, but more like Chris Farley treats potential sales in Tommy Boy

She started out as a great character, and ended up as the Queen of the Mary Sues, one step up from a Nibovian Wife, one of the countless legions hopelessly besotted with the Doctor.

I think that's why I hate her so much. She had so much potential to be a great character in anyone else's hands. Moffat says he has a fetish for powerful women, and his critics (rightly, in my opinion), say that he has a fetish for powerful women being brought low, and there is certainly a great deal of support for this point of view in his body of work. It's a shame that the character that River could have been was instead sacrificed on the altar of his spank bank.

River really is the worst.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The time Neil Gaiman pulled a Roadmarks

I thought this was interesting.

According to the Comic Book Legends Revealed column, Neil Gaiman, whose writing was influenced by Zelazny's (and to whom he dedicated American Gods), pulled something of a Roadmarks with Sandman: Endless Nights. He wrote a story, then rearranged it as the the pages came it and re-scripted it based on that.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Barfing Gnome Weather Report

Gravity Falls Barfing Gnome, what do you think about this weather we're having?

Rock on, Barfing Gnome.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

List of the Best Doctor Who Companions

This is my list of the best Doctor Who companions. It's a list because we're on the Internet, and its a list of ten, because we're humans and because we have ten fingers, that's how we tend to organize things. The criteria for "best" is "Which characters I like the most", which, while arbitrary, is pretty much what these lists come down to anyway, so at least I'm being honest. It's drawn from the Classic series, the rebooted one, the audio plays and the novels, except I don't have any novel-only characters here.

10.) Leela:  I was never a huge fan of Leela during my first viewing of the series. It was only through subsequent viewings, and listening to her in the Big Finish audio plays, that I came to appreciate her. But she's got a lot going for her. She's only in nine serials, but each one tells a distinctive and memorable story. I think that's the core of her appeal; she's not an ingenue from then-modern London, as are so many of the modern companions, but a primitive tribesman descended from the survivors of a survey team on an alien planet, who eventually leaves the Doctor on her own terms, to live on Gallifrey. You can tell stories with Leela that you can't tell with other characters.

On top of that, Louise Jameson still owns the part. When she announces that she is Leela of the Sevateem, she's neither boastful, nor apologetic. It's simply who she is.

9.) and 8.) Jamie McCrimmon and Zoe Heriot. Despite the fact that Jamie was on the show for almost two full seasons before Zoe (she had her debut in the final episode of season 5), I always think of them a package deal. You can't have one without the other. (Except for, you know, Season 4, or The Two Doctors.)

I like them for much the same reasons I like Leela. They're not the usual boring audience surrogates. (Well, for a 21st century super-genius, Zoe does have a lot of "But, Doctor, I don't understand" dialogue.) The characters had interesting connections with each other, and played off each other in interesting ways, and the actors all like each other, as well. I even find Frazer Hines' attempt at a Scottish accent endearing.

7.) Jack Harkness: Good old Captain Jack. He's the only NuWho companion on my list. He starts out as a time-traveling omnisexual con man and turns into a mopey immortal with a giant head in Torchwood. (Seriously, have you seen him in Arrow? Dude's got an enormous melon.)

I don't like his portrayal in early Torchwood at all. All of the joy was gone from him, but he has several lifetimes of goodwill from how he swaggered to his death in The Parting of the Ways.

" if the way one fell down mattered."
 "When the falls is all there is, it matters."

6.) Nyssa: The worst thing one can say about Nyssa is that she's Romana Lite, which isn't a bad thing to be at all. Like Zoe (whose name really needs an umlaut somewhere) and Jamie above, she's enriched as a character in large part due to her interactions with her fellow companions.

She's more a peer than a companion to the Doctor, particularly in his Fifth incarnation. In the Big Finish audio plays, the Doctor refers to her as the daughter he never had, and I like that conception of their relationship.

5.) Sarah Jane Smith: I wrote in my review of Shada that one of my favorite interpretations of the Doctor is that he was strictly an average Time Lord within their society, and only became exceptional after leaving it. Sarah Jane was a wonderful companion, but she became more than that after leaving the show. She was the elder statesman of former companions. When I picture Lis Sladen, I imagine her as she was when she passed, and not as she looked when she originally appeared on the program.

For most of the Big Finish stories, the actors reprise their roles as if they were the same age as when they originally played them. But not Sarah Jane. She's mentor to new generation in the audio plays, and on the Sarah Jane Adventures.  Her character grew in a way that the others didn't.

4.) Hex: I had briefly read about Hex when looking up something else on a Doctor Who wiki. He sounded just awful. Apparently his mom was some kind of bio-engineered vampire, and that name. Just the sound of it is like nails on the chalkboard. "Hex". Except it's short for Thomas Hector, which actually kind of works.

He's a nurse from the near future, a kind, caring and emotionally intelligent young man. Hex just wants to help people, and he's a wonderful counterweight to the dark Seventh Doctor and the darkening Ace. (In one of the behind the scenes featurettes, Sophie Aldred mentioned how odd it is to be playing a Will They/Won't They romantic relationship between the pair, as she's old enough to be his mom, whereas he's close to the age of his character.)

Like the rest of us, he's got a bit of a crush on Ace, who treats him like a younger brother.  Like Zoe/Jamie and Nyssa/Turlough/Tegan, he's a good character made brilliant through his interplay with the rest of the cast.

3.) Ace: Ace started out as kind of Wizard of Oz joke (A girl named Dorothy Gale whisked away to another world by a freak storm) and became one of the best companions of the series.

Like Leela, she was in fewer stories than I would have guessed. (Only nine stories/31 individual episodes). Each one was so memorable that it just seemed like more.

She matures in the spin-off media in a way that few other companions do (though her continuity is a bit of a nightmare), and she has wonderful chemistry with McCoy and Philip Oliver (Hex).

Ace had guts and independence, and everything you can say about Rose goes double for Ace. She's so awesome that she even points out to the Doctor that Silver Nemesis was the same story as Remembrance of the Daleks.

2.) Romana: Romana II, obviously. No offense to Mary Tamm, but Lalla Ward is where it's at.

I'll just say the things everybody says about her. City of Death is like a honeymoon episode, and it's the one you show your non-Whovian friends when you want them to like Classic Who. She was great with Tom Baker. The Second Doctor treated Jamie and Zoe as peers, but on some level that was just a courtesy to people he liked and respected. They weren't true equals in the way that Romana was. (Sorry, Jen!)

Like some other companions, she has had a rich (and sometimes complicated) life beyond the series. She was Lord President of Gallifrey, which is something I could really believe. Apparently, Juliette Landeau voices Romana IV in some of the later Big Finish plays, which is pretty cool.

1.) Evelyn Smythe: Another audio-only companion. I touched on how great Maggie Stables/Evelyn Smythe was in an earlier post.

Maggie Stables retired from acting after an illness, but not before Evelyn received a wonderful, bittersweet, poignant send off in the aptly titled Death in the Family.

She was a superb foil for the Sixth Doctor, giving as good as she got. Older, not as traditionally pretty, feisty, opinionated. Anyone who tries to cockblock Julius Caesar's parents by barging in to play a kazoo during their romantic dinner is a companion for the ages.

That's my personal, biased list. Please add yours in the comments, and stay tuned for the list of the worst Doctor Who Companions, coming soon!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Not Milk

My lovely wife threw out my delicious home-brewed Irish Cream. She claims she thought it was expired milk.

Honest mistake, or conspiracy? You be the judge. Here is a reference photo.

*Clearly* labelled

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Game of Thrones: The IMAX Experience

As I've mentioned, we're fans of Game of Thrones, and we live next door to a superfan.  One of the local theaters was showing the last two episodes of the season on the IMAX screen, so we decided to see it before we left. Some thoughts.

We had already seen these episodes. There were maybe twenty people in the theater, and I would be extremely surprised if any one of them hadn't seen the episodes we watched multiple times.

The first of the episodes was The Watchers on the Wall, the one where Castle Black goes all Helm's Deep. I was pretty disappointed the first time I saw it, as I don't find this storyline particularly interesting. As AGOT usually splits up its episodes (I think this is only the second one that didn't, Blackwater being the first), I can usually wait through the storylines I don't like in anticipation of the ones I do. I didn't have that option this time, so I didn't enjoy the episode much of the first viewing. (When our neighbor asked me what I thought of the episode when it first aired, I believe my response was "I liked it all except for the parts on the Wall).

Now that I knew what I'd be getting, I could appreciate it for what it was, and not disparage it for not being what I had hoped. It's still a very good episode, and certainly the best suited for the big screen treatment. I could see every one of Maester Aemon's nose hairs.


On the flip side, Jen commented that the intro seemed grainy, and I couldn't dispute that. It's CG optimized for the small screen, so, of course it wouldn't upscale as well as the rest of the show, but a new IMAX introduction wouldn't have been out of the question, and it wouldn't have left us with our first impression as mildly negative one. (On a tangent, I found this article on AGOT from the perspective of a cinematographer, and I found it interesting)

Watchers on the Wall was extremely well executed from a technical point of view, though sometimes the top of the Wall looked like a set.

The Children was the second episode. It was less suited for the IMAX treatment than tWotW, as the scenes have a lot of emotional heft, but not as much cinematic spectacle.

Something I did notice for the first time: I don't think the actor who plays Stannis knows how to ride, or get off a horse. I don't think we ever see him riding (though I could be mistaken), and there is an extremely awkward cut where he begins to dismount, it cuts away for just a moment for no particular reason, and then he's standing next to his horse.

I mean, I can't ride a horse either, but I don't have a job that requires me to.

It was fun. I enjoyed going with friends, and the episodes were followed by the season 5 trailer, which looked much better on an IMAX screen than it did on my phone.

I'd probably do something like this again. I'd like to get some kind of Rocky Horror Picture Show thing going on, and have people yell "You're not so pretty anymore!" when Brienne bites off the Hound's ear.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Worst XKCD ever:Are you ready for some sportsball?!

I generally like xkcd quite a bit. It's consistently one of the best sites on the internet, and the worst things I usually have to say about it are:

  1. That was slightly less awesome than it usually is,
  2. That was funny in a way that didn't appeal to me, and occasionally
  3. I don't get it

However, this one bothered me. It's really uncharacteristically condescending and judgmental. 

I don't care about sports, and a lot of other people do. It's not some sense of ironic distance; they just don't interest me. Just the same, I tend not to shit all over them in front of my friends who do like them, because I'd like to keep them. That's generally good advice anyway.

The second panel sets up a bogus comparison by comparing enthusiasm about niche interests to aninterest in sports, as there exists a real possibility that a listener might not have been exposed to macrame meteorology charts or whatever, and there exists a possibility that by expounding on the subject, you could inform them why it means so much to you.

The same opportunity is not available when talking about sports, as discussion about them in ubiquitous in almost all aspects of our society, and it's very nearly cradle to grave exposure. Anyone who has an opinion on sports by definition has an informed opinion on sports.

It didn't ruin my life, or even my day, but I won't pretend I didn't find the chastising tone kind of insulting.