Sunday, October 31, 2010

At DC Rallies, Liberals Clearly Have The Home Court Advantage

On Saturday, I went to the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.


All it restored was disappointment.

In terms of execution, even the most liberal apologists acknowledge that the program was a bumpy ride, with a lot of waiting and very few laughs. For those who traveled hours (or more) to join the throng of people on the Capitol Mall, the rally was a stunning disappointment, as poor preparation (Comedy Central predicted only 60,000 would come) and inadequate audio/visual equipment left most with nothing to do but people watch.

See but the goal wasn't really to enterain the people who came -- it was to humiliate Glenn Beck.

The Stewart/Colbert rally had vastly more people than the Glenn Beck one in August. CBS News estimated 215,000 attended, compared to about 90,000 for Beck’s. The accuracy of head counts at events like this is greatly disputed, as supporters will tend to overestimate and detractors will underestimate. But regardless. I went to both -- this one had way more people.

But how useful is that of a gauge of relative national influence? Unlike, say, web traffic, book sales, or TV ratings, a rally represents the mood of a community far more than a country. And given that, liberal organizers have an obvious advantage over conservatives for an event like this: demographics.

The District of Columbia is probably the single most Democrat municipality in the country. Its population is primarily African-Americans, college students, and rich, white liberals – Obama’s base. He did get 92 percent of the vote here, and DC was the only place, beside Walter Mondale’s home state of Minnesota, that Ronald Reagan didn’t win in his 1984 sweep. Moreover, the rest of the northeast seaboard is also heavily Democrat and could attend something like this with no more effort than a short bus trip.

If Beck had wanted an overwhelming crowd at his event, he would have held it at some conservative stronghold – he probably could have gotten more people at a rally in Salt Lake City than in DC. But he wanted to show that he could still get a huge crowd without home court advantage.

Comparing the influence of the political ideologies behind the two rallies is certainly not to be gauged by the rallies themselves.

But by that measure, the advantage is clearly to the Republicans.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Freshen your tea?

So I wrote an article abou the Tea Party, and The Daily Caller picked it up!

The link is here.

I start the article with a quote from "TNG" and I end it with a line from the Joker in "The Dark Knight."


All in all, a pretty good day.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Hobbit Movie - Peter Jackson prepares to take us there and back ... again

So it is with glorious adulation that I learned the movie adaption of "The Hobbit" has been greenlit. As The Telegraph reports:

The project had been delayed by financial problems at the beleaguered Hollywood studio MGM. No location has been named for filming amid an ongoing union threat to boycott the production if it takes place in New Zealand.

The films, with a budget estimated at up to $500 million (£315 million) will be shot in 3D. Peter Jackson, who was behind the award-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy, was confirmed as the director.

This is of course wonderful. Initial reports indicate that Andy Serkis, Sir Ian McCellan, and Hugo Weaving are all signed on to reprise their roles as Gollum, Gandalf, and Elrond respectively. While I kind of hope they don't go overboard with it, they could also have Aragorn, Arwen, and Legolas appear as cameos ... and John Rhys Davies could easily play Gimli, Gloin's father.

If he'd liked it, then he should have put a ring on it.

While it is both lame and irritating that the film(s - yes, there will still be two of them) has been delayed so much, I think in the long run this will be better for the franchise. The superhero genre is already waning (the Spiderman reboot, while it will probably be cool, indicates how quickly the meme is burning out, and the Avengers franchise will disappoint). Harry Potter will cast his last spell early next year. And this whole vampire crap has got to burn out eventually.
Note the spike in the Alexa score of, the main fansite for Middle Earth:

So there will be a void for cool, nerd cinema. (Note: Star Trek 12 will come out it 2012 and will probably be as awesome as No. 11 -- take that prediction however you choose.) The two Hobbit movies will dominate the dojo, and all the teenagers who grew up watching the trilogy will be 20 somethings with cash to spend on nostalgia for the franchise.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Captain Poll...

Poll on

Now I know that online polling of this kind is hardly scientific, but it does prove a point I made last month - that Trek fans like Picard better than Kirk (or at least certainly Stewart better than Shatner).

Note this other poll:

What is your favorite Star Trek series?
  1. The Original Series - 89 (28%)
  2. The Animated Series - 2 (1%)
  3. The Next Generation - 81 (25%)
  4. Deep Space Nine - 76 (24%)
  5. Voyager - 51 (16%)
  6. Enterprise - 22 (7%)

TNG, DS9, and TOS are all in essentially a dead heat. The numbers for VOY, ENT, and TOS line up almost exactly with the popularity of their respective captains, but TNG takes a nosedive and DS9 soars over Sisko's ratings.

What will marketers do with this? Find some way to get Patrick Stewart into "Star Trek 12." ... Frankly I wish that Stewart had been cast as Sarek in "ST11," but that may have been too distracting from the new crew.

"30 Rock" Live -- win.

OK I haven't even finished watching this and I'm stunned by its brilliance.

"30 Rock" is back on top, baby! And last night's "The Office" was terrible.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

When copycats surpass the originals...

So as I indicated, the blog counter has been going up much faster than it ever has before with my whole "Star Trek Week" that turned into "Star Trek Month." I have more posts I could make on the subject, and will later, but for now let me talk about this subject: when copycats surpass the originals.

Case study # 1: Lindsay Lohan

Hey I'm not going to lie -- I once signed an online petition "make Lindsay eat." Would that anorexia were our only concern with this one! Alas after being blessed with remarkable opportunities, luck, looks, and talent, Lindsay altered her trajectory from the next big star to the next big reality show star through drugs and crime.

Now while she was still relatively successful, movie producers wanted someone in her same vein, but much much cheaper. And thus was Emma Stone discovered.

Cast for an unremarkable role in a surprisingly tender, enjoyable movie ("Superbad") -- a role that would have been beneath Lohan -- Stone parleyed her performance here into progressively larger roles until she has now been tapped as Gwen Stacy in the second Spider-man trilogy. (Note: they have yet again wasted a perfectly good redhead to play this blond character.)

Emma looks like Lindsay ... and she now has her career.

Case study # 2: Michael Cera

Pity poor Michael Cera -- such a lovable character actor, but, man, he cannot perform at the box office. While he's been very prolific, he has not proven he can lead a film: Year One, Youth in Revolt, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Paper Heart and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World have all been duds, even though Pilgrim was still a great film.

Ironically, he's still been able to ask enough of a salary that tight-pursed producers started turning to Michael Cera look-alike Jesse Eisenberg for Adventurelandand Zombieland in roles that were obviously written with Cera in mind.

When Zombieland (which was a clever idea but still only an OK film) made over $100M, Eisenberg was tapped to headline The Social Network, which has been doing well enough that Eisenberg has got to be feeling pretty good about his future.

Now of course Michael Cera would have been able to play the role, and it would have been nice to see him play a character other than George Michael Bluth.

* * *

Just because someone gets there first doesn't mean they'll be best. Frequently the first generation of a product gets improved by the person watching their mistakes. The examples are copious: Goldwater/Reagan, Gobots/Transformers, Old Testament/New Testament, and (germane for this post) Myspace/Facebook.

But it isn't terrible when one of your favorite stars drops a bit, because that means they might take boutique roles they'd overlook otherwise. Though at this rate, maybe Jesse Eisenberg will play George Michael in the Arrested Development movie, and they'll get Emma Stone to play Maebe Fuenke.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Saturday, October 2, 2010

ST Top 10 Redux – The Next Next Generation

OK last one on this topic for a while. It's going to be time for "South Park Week" soon, so...

Today we’re talking about “TNG’s” legacy – or rather the way subsequent sci-fi shoes have followed in its footsteps by wearing a completely different pair of shoes. The imprint is so strong that you have to defy that standard or you're "doomed to repeat it." For the last 15 years there has been a tendency whenever a spaceship show -- EVEN A PRE-EXISTING ONE is unsure what do to, they default to a "TNG" mindset. Take the Star Wars prequels:
  • The ships were too clean and sleek. Queen Amidala's ship in "Phantom Menace" felt more like the Enterprise-D than the Millenium Falcon.
  • Techno-babble about "meta-chlorines"? Yeah, that's "TNG" speak right there.
  • Endless space politics? Remember "if this is a consular ship where is the Ambassador" ... sessions of Congress are not exciting.
We can summarize it with the following chart. A “win” means the show defied the unsuccessful “TNG” paradigms listed across the top, a “fail” means it didn’t.

There are a couple notes to make on this chart. One is that the least-loved of these seven shows is the one with no anti-“TNG” “wins” – “Voyager.” The show’s concept was cleverly designed to conform to Roddenberry’s “vision” while correcting the problems of limited resources and conflict among characters: strand the ship 70 years away from the rest of the fleet and make one-third of the crew terrorists.

While there are a few key episodes that kept this premise, most of the show did not.

This episode shows actual conflict between crew members, legitimate to the show's premise.

If anything, "Voyager" was even more touchy-feely than "TNG," and the level of technology displayed surpassed even that on the NCC-1701-D. Ron Moore – who wrote masterpieces for “TNG” and “DS9” – was inspired to reimagine “BSG” because of how far “Voyager” fell short of its basic premise. He said:

“Voyager is not true. If it were true, the ship would not look spic-and-span every week, after all these battles it goes through. How many times has the bridge been destroyed? How many shuttlecrafts have vanished, and another one just comes out of the oven? That kind of bullshitting the audience I think takes its toll.”

The kid-sister show of “TNG,” “Deep Space 9,” made as radical departures as they could, not only from the failed “TNG” paradigms, but from other key Roddenberry concepts:

Holodeck: The “DS9” holosuite is not a technology that’s simultaneously omnipotent and utterly unreliable (O’Brien jokes that the Enterprise crew could do anything “except keep the holodeck working”). It’s main use is for simple recreation and (ahem) personal indulgence.

Ferengi: Ira Steven Behr on “DS9” realized that no one took seriously an alien that looked like a mutant monkey and wanted money, not conquest. They were much better suited as comic relief, and as the occasional sarcastic jibe against the Roddenberrian standard of “All praise humanity!”
"Farscape’s” greatest success was with the presentation of aliens – they all look truly alien, and some were created by Jim Henson’s creature shop. Way better than goop on the forehead. And “Babylon 5” was good too, beating “DS9” for a make-up Emmy in 1995.

The shows that do the best along this spectrum are the ones that were most critically/commercially successful (“BSG”) and most devotedly beloved (“Firefly”). On the DVD, Joss Whedon names the failures of “TNG” (without naming “TNG”) as the source of “Firefly’s” strengths: he said real people don’t ever deal with ambassadors; real people worry about getting a job. Characters on “Firefly” are openly religious (one of them is a preacher), and the constructed religion of the “Lords of Kobol” on “BSG” is an integral part of the show.

But the most profound factor is the “homogenous characters who are never in conflict with each other” – every one of these shows avoided that problem. The characters argue with each other, sometimes even coming to violence. “Voyager” tried the whole Marquis-vs-Starfleet idea, and that was OK, but at its best it felt like a ho-hum “DS9” episode. Then they added Seven and she helped.

So then wait: if everyone’s did the opposite of “TNG,” maybe it actually sucked?

The answer to this is easy. No one (including “TOS”) can really compare to “TNG” on its strengths – writing, acting, directing, production values – so they go after its weaknesses. If you have to compete against Michael Jordan, challenge him to a game of darts not basketball.


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