Sunday, May 24, 2009


So there's this new TV show on Fox about a high school glee club named (appropriately) "Glee."

The pilot episode is available on Hulu here. It's reasonably clever, and the acting is great, especially the teen stars, and Jane Lynch has a prominent role (whom I love from her work in the Christopher Guest mockumentaries - she's on the left in the picture). There's a good review of it on the NYT here, where the writer says it's "blissfully unoriginal in a witty, imaginative way."

The highlight is this cover of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing," the greatest song of all time.

However, I don't know how much we can expect from the series as, even in the pilot, it is unable to avoid Hollywood high school cliches (i.e. jocks are evil). "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" hit a (pun intended) high in televised high school drama (side note: before it jumped the shark when they went to college), but that was against the backdrop of adolescence as a metaphor for demonic invasion of the Earth. Will "Glee"be able to do the same? Will it be as clever as "Mean Girls", or will it be as trite as "The Breakfast Club"?

I will be "gleeful" if the former is true. (Ha ha.)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Star Trek Boldly Kicks More Butt Than All Three Star Wars Prequel Movies Combined

As a science fiction fan, the question is often posed: which does one prefer – Star Trek or Star Wars? For most science fiction fans, I’m sanguine that the answer would be Trek, given that it’s more thoughtful, intelligent, and science-based. For those exact reasons, though, Star Wars is more popular with mainstream audiences. It’s OK to like Star Wars and still be considered a normal person – I don’t know why there’s this distinction, but the reason for that (I would guess) is evenly split between Ronald Reagan and Kevin Smith.

With such greater mass-appeal, Star Wars, accordingly, is much more profitable – drastically outselling Star Trek in merchandise and box office receipts, and existing in the collective conscious of the American psyche despite having produced (really) only six movies, whereas Star Trek had released 10 films and more than 500 televised episodes.
  • There's a mildly cool (albeit lazily un-updated) comparison on the business side of Trek v. Wars on here.
So for these reasons it’s delightful to be able to report that this summer’s “Star Trek” – the latest (but not the last!) entry into the film franchise is light years (note the clever, completely original metaphor) ahead of the competition, and more than that: this movie boldly kicks more butt than all three of the Star Wars prequel movies combined.

Financially, Star Wars has so much muscle, this year’s “Trek” probably won’t overtake any of them (even “Attack of the Clones,” the lowest-performing of the three crossed the $300 million mark), but critically “Trek’s” phasers were definitely set on kill: its Rotten Tomatoes score is a breath-taking 96 percent, whereas the prequels got, respectively 64, 67, and 80 percent.

The most remarkable thing about “Star Trek” is that it (finally) has been able to thread the needle between die-hard fans and mass audiences. The action, humor, and real-world human drama can appeal to anyone, and the copious insider references reward the stalwart viewer.

Playing from their strengths, the film makes copious references to “Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan” and “Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home” – generally regarded as the franchises two best outings. Noting that such a list has not yet been compiled on the Wikipedia entry for the new Star Trek movie, I’ll try to assemble my own of the allusions within the film to previous incarnations of Trek: (This is from memory, and I’ve only seen it once, so let me know if I missed any.)

1) The whole Kobayashi Maru business (“Star Trek 2”) When Kirk is recounting on the Genesis Planet how he reprogrammed the simulator, he is eating an apple. When young Kirk in this film is defeating the program, he is likewise eating an apple.

2) Spock saying “You have been my friend, I always shall be yours” (also “ST2”)

3) Older Spock counseling younger Spock to “have faith” (“Star Trek 6” – Spock said it to Lt. Valeris)

4) Sulu’s fencing (Episode “The Naked Time”)

5) Scotty saying “I canna give it any more power!” (any one of a dozen episodes)

6) Chekov’s struggling with Vs (notably “Star Trek 4,” though I was disappointed they didn’t work in a place for him to say “wessels” – maybe in the next one)

7) The Vulcan testing scenario (“ST 4”)

8) When Amanda Grayson asks Spock if he’s fine, it’s echoing when the computer asks the resurrected Spock “how do you feel?” (“ST 4” too)

9) The Vulcan bullies (Episode “Journey to Babel”)

10) Sarek saying marrying Amanda was seemed a most “logical decision” at the time (also “Babel”)

11) Spock serving as an ambassador on Romulus (Next Generation “Unification” episodes)

12) Captain Pike in a wheelchair (“The Menagerie”)

13) The green Orion female Kirk gets it on with (“The Cage,” others)

14) McCoy referencing his ex-wife (“The Man Trap”)

15) Spock’s hesitation about the Kolhinar ritual (“ST 1”)

16) Spock’s rejection of the Vulcan Science Academy (“Babel” again, I think)

17) Kirk coming from Iowa (first mentioned in “ST4”)

18) Kirk has to get Spock mad to complete his mission (“This Side Of Paradise”)

19) The red-shirt who bites it on Vulcan (any episode you want to name)

20) The Ceti eels that Nero uses on Captain Pike are the same (albeit much more fancily animated) that Khan uses on Chekov and Terrell ("ST2")

I could keep going, but I don’t think y’alls need me to. They did a great job. I was happy. And nothing is harder for the creators of Star Trek than making Star Trek fans happy, so – mission accomplished, guys.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Great Politico story - Brother, can you spare a job?

Yesterday I was on Capitol Hill for an interview and some networking as I search for my next gig. I met with a friend from the White House who said, "Have you seen today's Politico?"

They story, available here, is about how the trifecta of the 1) slow economy, 2) loss of Congressional seats, and 3) loss of the White House, is making it difficult for ex-Bushies (such as myself) to land jobs in Washington, particularly political ones. The money quote is...

"The economic implosion that was largely an intellectual policy challenge inside the White House has abruptly become a harsh reality for Bush administration officials cast out of the bubble and back into the real world. To survive, they’re taking pay cuts, stepping down to state government work and even renting out their own homes to the ascendant Democrats."

Check it out...


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