My 5 cents on the Jian Ghomeshi Debacle

by Irma Arkus

Jian Ghomeshi is a soft-spoken radio host who works for CBC. He recently launched a lawsuit against the CBC for a bagillion dollars, with which he intends to decorate his castle, I presume.

The whole maelstrom surrounding the injustice against Mr. Ghomeshi has taken the world by storm. Reddit is discussing it, The Guardian is covering it, The Tyee has written about the BDSM element that “just doesn’t add up” so I can throw my 5 cents into the eye of the storm, just for the record.

I find it absurd that “Canadian radio’s brightest star” would be shunned by the CBC over what he surmises are ugly rumours and unsubstantiated accusations.

After posting a letter on Facebook, in which he explains that his BDSM inclinations are being misconstrued by his employer, Ghomeshi filed a significant lawsuit against the CBC.

According to Ghomeshi, these allegations are an act of a vengeful, demonic presence that is his ex-girlfriend and one of those filthy journos who are taking advantage of the situation.

Admittedly, we all dated a demon or two, but most of us never found ourselves in a situation of our high-profile employment being endangered, or worse, resulting in a dismissal.

Unless I’m mistaken, Ghomeshi is not only a beloved star, who has been removing panties with a mere whiff of his pillowy cheeks and fine designer duds for years, but also a union employee. Judging by the barrage of the press coverage, I will also bargain that he has a great PR and legal team at his side.

Not only is he assured of certain protections, but considering his popularity and value to the CBC, whatever the case with the network may be these days, I find it dubious that some barely spun story by a vengeful ex would make for a just cause for his dismissal, no matter the “optics”.

Ghomeshi has select protections as an employee. As an asset of great value, I would assume that the network would go the extra mile to absolutely ensure that Ghomeshi is not faced with a PR disaster of unparalleled proportions based on mere vengeful rumours and fallacies. CBC would do its due dilligence, and prove without a doubt that there is a grievous cause for a dismissal of a major asset, such as Ghomeshi.

So what is the lawsuit really about? Ghomeshi is attempting to save his own skin, build up the presence that will make the audiences wonder “did he or didn’t he” to sow just enough confusion in public that would ensure he gets another gig somewhere. This lawsuit is not about justice, but about visibility, and the fact that you and me are writing and thinking about Ghomeshi, learning how to spell his name correctly, and not reading about Rob Ford.

To assume otherwise would be a grave mistake. So, without jumping to conclusions, I would sit back, watch whatever dirt comes out next, before I jump on the Ghomeshi defense train.

I am sure that the circus has only rolled into town and that there remains a lot more to be witnessed.

i-Phone 6 is a cheap piece of bendy junk

Yesterday was #Bendgate bonanza. It’s as if consumers around the world woke up with the realization that the semi-disposable pieces of technology that they wait for in crazy line-ups and pay exorbitant amounts of money for are actually getting junkier.

Don’t worry. Apple has us covered. Their first line of consumers determined that the i-Phone series 6, a slightly oversized version of the smartphone that is picking its cues from Samsung, bends when placed in a pocket.

US is by no means a nation of murse-wearers. Dudes in North America apparently love to carry all their junk in their pant pockets, which also explains for scratched up and broken phones in general, as well as an enormous loss of wallets and other such personal items. But I guess if you carry around a small house (read: car) with you, having some puny briefcase or a murse seems redundant.

The thing is, the phone bends. It is bendy. Reports on the “bendiness” of the iPhone 6 come from consumers carrying the device in their front as well as back pockets.

It seems that the phone is simply built too cheaply to maintain its structural integrity, regardless of which pocket you choose.

The aluminum casing, optimized for cost of unit vs. materials expended, is superbly lightweight, but also structurally unsound, bending specifically around the cut-outs for buttons.

This is a typical failure of culturally-relevant product testing, and such things occur more commonly with companies entering new markets, in which as outsiders they have no ability to understand the nuances of the local cultural landscape.

This failure to connect implies that Apple no longer understands the culture of North American consumers. Apple doesn’t comprehend the very cultural norms of the people it hails from.

So the question is – how do Apple executives carry their phones? Do they put them in their pockets?

Watch the bend.

Films No One Should Watch: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

TMNT>

I remember being a kid under the spell of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons. We kicked ass and ate pizza, and dreamt of nothing but hanging out with wise rats while spelunking through sewers of major metropolitan cities.

It made no sense, the cartoon, combining random ass-kickery and enthusiasm dedicated to all things ninja and coolness of katanas with pizza flavor, and yet we loved it. We didn’t try to make sense of why the turtles have morphed into TNMT. Today, a cartoon such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles wouldn’t be made. Then again, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shouldn’t have been remade either, and yet here we are.

The latest stab at the childhood hearts and all things awesome by the crippling, life-sucking hand of Michael Bay, took victim of this simple nostalgic concept, and turned it into another action zombie that no one should watch.

This while elephant of a production that cost over $125m to make, and is bound to triple its money in sales, does share one thing with its cartoon inspiration: it makes little sense, except in all the wrong places.

The beauty of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was that the turtles were small, and feisty, and existed outside our reality. They were outsiders who felt it, allowing all the little kids to learn an important lesson: the size doesn’t matter, it’s the attitude and potentially those mean martial art skills that do.

We learned that the inner turtle is a fighter, and I clearly remember being surrounded by all those little kids who for the first time learned about Da Vinci, and the power of jiujitsu, and how much we all agree on pizza being the best food in the world.

In this version of TMNT, we have a convoluted back story of turtles who were really April’s turtles, but not really. You see, she would visit her father’s lab, and was carrying a super sophisticated camcorder for a child, and considered the lab animals her pets, turtles and a rat, feeding them pizza and whatnot. After rescuing the animals during a fire/murder of her father in the lab, she places them on a sewer grate, which is how they end up in the sewers.

Not sure what kind of heartless psychopath April is, but if I rescued pets from my recently departed father’s lab, I’d be taking them home, instead of condemning them to die from drowning or starvation.

You know what happens after that? April forgets all about the pets. She in fact needs to remember them using her video evidence and notebooks.

She is also a reporter. And she is Megan Fox.

This, mind you, is the very same Megan Fox who was banished from Michael Bay’s kingdom, for speaking out against the monarch.

There is the bad guy, played by William Fichtner, and his plan is to extract all the blood from the captured TMNTs, and then synthesize some kind of curative against a toxin that he will himself release onto the population, resulting in both riches and glory.

How blood + toxin + the lab backstory make a congruent narrative is… they don’t.

For some reason, there is also Will Arnett, who is presumably her less attractive, fumbling camera operator/driver. I am quite positive that Arnett is supposed to be the man-candy for the female audiences who are guaranteed to be horrifically bored during the entire film.

Will Arnett is an interesting casting choice, but also represents a painfully wasted opportunity.

The action is glossy. The film is heartless. Lots of jumbly bits convoluting the screen. TMNT win at the end. There are a few mediocre jokes thrown about, here and there.

Also, the new TMNTs are huge. Think “giant turtles.” Their actual size is difficult to approximate, but well above the 6′ mark.

These giant turtles have nothing to do with children, and even less to do with those nostalgic moments filled with laughter, eating ice-pops and playing good-guy ninjas on the playground.

I would go as far as to say that they don’t even have anything to do with teens, except that the film is rated PG-13 for “scifi action violence,” so I guess they are the perfect audience for this incredibly mind-numbing film. Teens, with their limited options for entertainment, are literally forced to go to the local mall and waste their time watching this. That’s the only real teen portion of this film.

Strati, the First 3D-Printed Car

The first 3D printed car is made of merely 40 parts, and is made by the Arizona-based Local Motors.

The process for this unique vehicle took 44 hours to complete, has a battery range of 120 – 150 miles, and sports some conventionally made parts, including tires, seats, wheels, battery, wiring, suspension, eletroci motor and windows. The seats, body, chassis, dash center consol and hood are printed out of black plastic reinforced with carbon fiber.

Read more at Techodrom.

Outlander & Extant: The Rise of Lady Sci-Fi

Outlander-Costumes

by Irma Arkus

There is a new generation of science fiction on television and I can think of no better way of calling it than Lady SciFi.

What is Lady SciFi? Good question indeed. I’ve been breaking my head trying to understand what Extant is, or whether Outlander even qualifies as science fiction, and indeed, they both belong in the same sub-category of shows with an appeal to primarily female audience.

On the one hand, these shows are a welcome change from the recent stabs at hard sci-fi, both in film and tv, largely oriented toward men. And lest not forget comic book films, which this year proved to be largely exceptional in storytelling, but continue to be abysmally weak (as always) in the female character development department.

Outlander is a little bit of romance, little bit of time traveling, but mixed with a lush, period drama. This high quality production is based on a series of best selling books by Diana Gabaldon, and represents a new era of high-production value for Starz network.

My guess is that Outlander is an answer to the powerhouse that is GoT by Starz, and is going to be a relatively successful one.

The show, created and produced by Ronald D. Moore (of Battlestar Galactica), stars Caitriona Balfe as Claire Beauchamp, who while on post-war vacation in Scotland with her amateur historian husband, gets transported back in time to 1743, right in the midst of uprisings, political maneuvers and major conflicts between Scots and English.

In two blinks of an eye, savvy Claire becomes held by the “laird” whose illness forces her to show off her medicine woman skills, which the world of 1743 desperately needs.

The story itself is interesting, interspersed with lots of Scottish pride, pomp, and circumstance, tradition and incomprehensible Scottish dialects, peppered with numerous speeches that lack some much needed subtitles.

This is all very nice and dandy, but the production feels as if it is a brainchild borne of Scotland’s Ministry of Tourism, and that of Scottish nationalist party (whoever that may be). A lot of chest thumping and noble pomp, the show is a rudimentary propaganda piece with heavy separatist tones. To call them undertones would be a stretch.

These are not political messages of peace, love and understanding, but rather a call for war, honour, freedom, tradition and Scottish cultural integrity, and all that perfectly timed for the Scottish separatist referendum.

I cannot fault the show for it, but it feels somewhat burdensome to watch it. Despite the lush cinematography, and beautiful costumes, and some mighty handsome men who do what it is that Scottish men do, it feels like a beautified propaganda piece. Then again, perhaps it is time for some feistier political messaging on TV, subtlety be damned.

The other thing that bothers me is the acting. Claire is supposed to be this strong, smart, savvy, knowledgeable and even sexually provocative character, yet Caitriona Balfe appears to be incredibly waspy, cold and wooden actress who makes the likes of the queen of wasp, Andy MacDowell, look like a tropical heat pump with chortling laughter and a bubbly personality in comparison. And that is something of a concern.

Caitriona Balfe after all, is a model, considered beautiful by photographers and fashion designers alike, and she may have graced catwalks and magazine covers, but for the life of me, I fail to remember her in anything at all, despite her fair number of acting roles.

She feels wooden, she looks wooden, and while her body may represent the photographic ideal of the fashion world, I would have given my firstborn for someone more human and curvy, and with a bit more personality to have been cast for this role.

I thought it would become easier to connect with her character, that she would grow on me a bit, but as the show goes on, she is becoming mildly repellent, colder and less sympathetic.

CBS_EXTANT

Extant, on the other hand, is also Lady SciFi, but more of a Mommy SciFi. I’m not even sure that this is a television show, but the heavy marketing campaigns assure me that that is indeed the case.

Brought to us by Steven Spielberg, (which is strange, because the show has more in common with Ronald D. Moore’s Helix than anything else I can think of,) the show focuses on a mom, who is both a mother to an android and an alien newborn.
Extant_promo shot
Halle Berry, an accomplished actress for whom I have the utmost respect, stars in the protagonist role. Berry, as Molly Woods, is an accomplished scientist who spends some odd 13 months in orbit on a solo mission, only to come back with some interesting cargo on board.

Woods returns home to her loving husband and their solution to her barren state, a little android child, that looks and acts just like the tyke from AI.

In fact, the entire storyline feels like it has been pasted out of random, trashed pages from AI, and has been progressively getting less coherent.

Characters that were entirely in the background, such as the case with Alan Sparks or Gordon Kern, become suddenly enriched with flimsy backgrounds, and are pushed to the forefront in a matter of minutes.

Berry is mostly seen flailing, sweating, doing her best to keep up appearances. I am not sure that any of the actors know what is going on, and they get to read the scripts before they shoot the show. As for the viewers, I can assure you that we can only surmise that this show has been written by monkeys.

Extant fails to connect in terms of narrative integrity, timing, action, and is generally drowning in what I can only call an abysmal failure.

At this point, the show has hit its 11th episode, and let me assure you, things have not been getting better. Quite the opposite, in fact. At this point, the alien man-child is on the loose, and the action surrounding the chase after him is incredibly poor.

That said, the lighting is good. The costumes are great, and the future looks like it has been constructed out of catalogue pages. It’s also making me cranky, because there is a missing piece of the story that pertains to their society, aka. our future. They are either living in an era of prosperity because of some cataclysmic event, or the show is simply suffering from the fact that the peeps working on this production are entirely divorced from reality of human existence, which constitutes the extra insult to viewers, as the show is called Extant.

Those blind monkeys working on this show will most likely never see the second season, so I recommend you soak up as much Berry as possible.

These two shows represent an interesting new breed of television. They are grappling with science fiction themes while trying to connect to a less explored audience. Similar science fiction developments aimed at teen audiences also premiered this year, namely The 100, and Star-Crossed.

All of this implies is that science fiction is currently the less explored genre with a huge potential, and that there are indeed less explored audiences, which may result in that one new show to reach unprecedented heights of popularity.

With HBO raising the bar with GoT, I am hoping some of it will soon translate into not only ill-conceived Lady Sci-Fi, but excellent, high-quality science fiction television that will garner fans for generations to come.

Best Fan Artist Prize Unveiled at the Hugo Awards

by Irma Arkus

According to the latest from Alaska Dispatch, Sarah Webb, an illustrator from Fairbanks received this year’s L. Ron Hubbard Illustrators of the Future as well as the Best Fan Artist prize at the Hugo Awards ceremony this year.

Other Hugo Awards presented this year include Ann Leckie’s “Ancillary Justice” for Best Novel; “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu for Best Short Story; and “Gravity” and “Game of Thrones” for Best Dramatic Presentations (long and short forms, respectively).

Her art is amazing and she is super cute too!

20140410 - ASI - WOTF - THE BIG REVEAL _promot shot

Check out some of her amazing art here.

2014 Hugo Awards Nominees

Presented at:Loncon 3, London, United Kingdom, August 17, 2014

Best Novel

Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
– Neptune’s Brood, Charles Stross (Ace / Orbit UK)
- Parasite, Mira Grant (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Tor Books / Orbit UK)
– Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles, Larry Correia (Baen Books)


Best Novella

– “Equoid”, Charles Stross (Tor.com, 09-2013)
Six-Gun Snow White, Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean Press)
– “Wakulla Springs”, Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages (Tor.com, 10-2013)
– “The Chaplain’s Legacy”, Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jul-Aug 2013)
– The Butcher of Khardov, Dan Wells (Privateer Press)


Best Novelette

– “The Lady Astronaut of Mars”, Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com/Tor.com, 09-2013)
– “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling”, Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013)
– “The Waiting Stars”, Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam)
– “The Exchange Officers”, Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jan-Feb 2013)
– “Opera Vita Aeterna”, Vox Day (The Last Witchking, Marcher Lord Hinterlands)

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Sofia Samatar*
Max Gladstone*
Wesley Chu
Ramez Naam*
Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Best Short Story

– “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”, John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)
– “Selkie Stories Are for Losers”, Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons, Jan-2013)
– “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”, Rachel Swirsky (Apex Magazine, Mar-2013)
– “The Ink Readers of Doi Saket”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Tor.com, 04-2013)

Best Related Work

– “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative”, Kameron Hurley (A Dribble of Ink)
– Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction, Jeff VanderMeer, with Jeremy Zerfoss (Abrams Image)
– Queers Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the LGBTQ Fans Who Love It, Edited by Sigrid Ellis & Michael Damian Thomas (Mad Norwegian Press)
– Speculative Fiction 2012: The Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary, Justin Landon & Jared Shurin (Jurassic London)
– Writing Excuses Season 8, Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Jordan Sanderson

Best Graphic Story

– “Time”, Randall Munroe (XKCD)
– Saga, Volume 2, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
– Girl Genius, Volume 13: Agatha Heterodyne & The Sleeping City, written by Phil and Kaja Foglio; art by Phil Foglio; colors by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
– “The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who”, written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Jimmy Broxton (Doctor Who Special 2013, IDW)
– The Meathouse Man, adapted from the story by George R.R. Martin and illustrated by Raya Golden (Jet City Comics)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

– Gravity, written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Esperanto Filmoj; Heyday Films; Warner Bros.)
– Frozen,screenplay by Jennifer Lee, directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee (Walt Disney Studios)
– Pacific Rim, screenplay by Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro, directed by Guillermo del Toro (Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros., Disney Double Dare You)
– Iron Man 3, screenplay by Drew Pearce & Shane Black, directed by Shane Black (Marvel Studios; DMG Entertainment; Paramount Pictures)
– The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, screenplay by Simon Beaufoy & Michael Arndt, directed by Francis Lawrence (Color Force; Lionsgate)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

– Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere”, written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
– Doctor Who: “The Day of the Doctor”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Television)
– Orphan Black: “Variations under Domestication” written by Will Pascoe, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions; Space/BBC America)
– An Adventure in Space and Time, written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Terry McDonough (BBC Television)
– The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, written & directed by Peter Davison (BBC Television)
– Doctor Who: “The Name of the Doctor”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Televison)

Best Editor, Short Form

Ellen Datlow
John Joseph Adams
Jonathan Strahan
Sheila Williams
Neil Clarke

Best Editor, Long Form

Ginjer Buchanan
Liz Gorinsky
Sheila Gilbert
Toni Weisskopf
Lee Harris

Best Semiprozine

– Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, Rich Horton, and Stefan Rudnicki
– Strange Horizons, edited by Niall Harrison, Brit Mandelo, An Owomoyela, Julia Rios, Sonya Taaffe, Abigail Nussbaum, Rebecca Cross, Anaea Lay, and Shane Gavin
– Apex Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Jason Sizemore, and Michael Damian Thomas
– Interzone, edited by Andy Cox
– Beneath Ceaseless Skies, edited by Scott H. Andrews

Best Fan Writer

Kameron Hurley
Abigail Nussbaum
Foz Meadows
Liz Bourke
Mark Oshiro

Best Fan Artist

Sarah Webb
Brad W. Foster
Mandie Manzano
Spring Schoenhuth
Steve Stiles

Why You Need to Watch: Halt and Catch Fire

halt-and-catch-fire-season-1

by Irma Arkus

Recent addition to my viewing schedule is AMCs Halt and Catch Fire which according to EW today is getting a very welcomed second season renewal.

The show, created by Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers, set in 1980s, depicts the riveting ups and downs of personal computing industry. The surprise? It’s neither too technical, nor makes for bad drama. In fact, it’s brisk, captivating, likeable and somewhat enigmatic. But let’s get to the gritty…

Set in Texas, very much mired in history of “Silicon Prairie” and Austin’s boom during the same era, the show depicts an ambitious yet tyrannical and manipulative visionary, embodied in no other than a sales agent and product manager, Joe MacMillan. Played by the wonderful Lee Pace, MacMillan shows up out of nowhere, joining a relatively sleepy corporation with a mediocre product. Sleek, polished and persuasive, MacMillan is quickly uncovered to have more lofty goals than your average East Coast sales agent, as he maneuvers his new employer, Cardiff Electric, into an impossible and legally-trick competition against the giant IBM.

Before you know it, not only is the company transformed, but has a new product in the works that may (or not) transform the booming industry of personal computing.

Caught in his web of ambition are two major talents. The first is a family man, Gordon Clark, whose entire life is defined by his previously failed independent product developments. This development vision, it seems, is also a passion which he shares with his surprisingly talented wife, played by Kerry Bishé, who despite her contributions to variety of hardware and software developments, seems to continuously earn but the short end of the stick.

Clark, played by Scoot McNairy, is a wonderfully complex character, who often consumed by a creative challenge, finds himself battling personal inadequacies, faces the crimp of family obligations, and is generally plagued by personal demons.

The second, and most lovely, is Cameron, played by a Vancouverite, Mackenzie Davis. Not only is Davis preposterously and captivatingly beautiful, but she very aptly depicts the new generation of programmers who view the world of computing with very different norms and expectations, seeing technology as a gender and class-neutral device for individual and meritorious empowerment.

Lately, we’ve been watching a lot of shows about business, mostly adventures set in isles of antique department stores, but Halt and Catch Fire is not really about the riveting life of retail. Difficult to peg, the show can be described as Mad Men meets Silicon Valley.

On the one hand, there is the nostalgic element of the 1980s, with its bold, fresh, cutting edge designs and interiors. On the other, there are the dangers of developing anything (back then or these days), and the potential for failure for many of these entrepreneurial projects all makes for a riveting drama.

Survival SciFi: The 100

In the year of little to no science fiction gracing the television screens, CW has announced the release of its new program, The 100.

The premise is interesting enough, as for the execution, that is yet to be seen. The show will be released in March of 2014.

Here is the trailer:

Outlander Promises a Time Travelling Romp With Kilts Flying

Ronald D. Moore is working on a new production. Moore, the creative force behind Battlestar Galactica, has a new show Outlander, based on some pretty soft time travel romance novels by Diana Gabaldon that remind more of the Time Traveller’s Wife than anything else.

The casing is thus far promising some handsome men in kilts, and ample swooning ladies in some fine corsetry, with seasoned actor Simon Callow as the Duke of Sandringham, Tracy Wilkinson as some savvy housekeeper (sorry but that’s all we know as we’re a little short on deets), and according to JustPressPlay’s Randall Unger, an ample amount of angry Scots in kilts.

The premise is an unusual one, summarized as nurse flying through time only to land in midst of a Scots vs. English conflict during the Jacobi rising.

And of course, there is the romance angle, with a handsome, kilted, champion of all men.

Just when you think Ronald D. Moore went the way of J. Michael Straczynski, he comes back with not one, but two anticipated shows, as Helix is expected to premiere in January of 2014 on SyFy.