Monthly Archives: July 2010

Vampires: Now Found In Every Suburb

Of all the disappointing, lackluster shows to hit our radars lately, none is as pathetic as The Gates.

This show simply takes the cake in the “suck department.” Somehow, between the Twilight craze, aging Anne Rice readers, and new suburban wives falling over themselves for Taylor Lautner, The Gates was invented, pitched, and made it all the way to our humble TV sets.

My thinking was that maybe, after a few episodes, the show about a secretive gated community in US, in which residents are composed of humans as well as witches, vampires, and succubi, things would get more interesting.

But they didn’t.

Instead, they created a universe of darkness and boredom. That fine soap-opera quality permeates every shot of this strange Twilight-meets-Days of Our Lives, while the storylines are so lackluster, slow and lacking in any form of enthusiasm, that watching this show feels like a form of Hollywood torture or some kind of liquid diet, aiming to strip you of any delight for all things fantastic.

You see, the vampires are parents, and they live in suburbs – just doing their best with schools, bake sales, and an occasional snack on the help.

And the show is boring, disappointing and dissatisfying in every possible way.

While the adults could possibly be part plastic, the high-school progeny of their vampire loins, may be as well be made of the stuff.

I just have a few words for you: don’t watch it. Don’t even bother.

Now that we’ve seen Moffats work…

Let’s be clear on this: Stephen Moffat has not won me over.

When Russell T. Davies announced his departure from the show, Doctor Who was at the height of its popularity. Tennant was ooozing that same level of exhilaration when seeing new tech, meeting aliens, or just interesting people. More joy than Indiana Jones, we were led to believe that the Timelord is a responsible, insightful, smart, joyful, and curious creature.

Things were good. Tom Baker level of good.

Sarah Jane had a fantastic little show, aimed at those hungry for a bit more of the Doctor magic. Torchwood rocked our socks off because it gave us that low-budget love, with a bit of sexy thrown in for good measure, and the occasional bout of tears. And Doctor Who was the BEST.

And then Moffat came in. I had faith in the fact that here was a man who was not only a fan, but a working one, garnering recognition while working side by side with Russel T. Davies, “learning the craft.” And my sincere hope was that Moffat will somehow magically be competent enough not to invent things, but rather just keep up with them. But that is not how the things went down.

Moffat’s moment of power was announced with a “reboot” of a beloved franchise. Unexplained reboot, new start, call it whatever you would like, but the idea of some kind of reinvention of a show that good struck fear in my heart.

Then there was the issue of Matt Smith as the Doctor: likeable, cute, some may even say, sexy. But one also might add: bored, slow, not so curious, slightly patronizing, and entirely void of joy.

Similarly, his companion is similarly uninteresting. Amy, while played by gorgeous Karen Gillan: all legs, red hair and lips; is also an underdeveloped character.

As a result, the show took on a different hue. Now, more comparable to Davies’ Sarah Jane show, the Doctor is fascinated with saving the children, usually even smaller and younger than the ones in the care of Sarah Jane. In the Beast Below, the children are the only ones not eaten by the lovely, giant star-whale. Star-whale?! Why not a magic pumpkin, or a giant peach?

Story lines are relatively lackluster, and lead to overly sappy endings, and even the greatest story arcs still feel stilted as if being dumbed down for this massive global audience.

Moffat’s version of Churchill is quite literally pathetic. And the Hungry Earth, a really beautiful story set at an underground facility of cryogenically frozen race of Silurians, was lost due to the meandering nature of the new Doctor: stripped of any semblance of passion, anger, love, excitement…

That Matt Smith is the youngest Doctor is something we understood from the very beginning. But we gave Smith the opportunity to showcase his talents. The same courtesy was offered to Moffat.

That Moffat is more focused on Smith’s abs (see the Lodger) than the Doctor’s endless comprehension, empathy and enthusiasm for kindness and good, is an entirely different, and very sad matter.

The show now is not something I look forward to watching. Instead, I view it, week to week, with a disappointment, watching a beloved character dissipating, murdered by bad writing, acting and lackluster directing.

Doctor Who is, at this point, lesser show than Sarah Jane Adventures. And that is worrisome.

Rob Bryanton is Gene Ray minus the mouth foam.

Marketing is everything. Whereas Gene Ray and his TIME CUBE theory has been heavily ridiculed since the early days of the web, Rob Bryanton’s 10 dimension story is actually selling books and seeding hippy pseudoscience cults.

I always considered string theory to be too above my head for me even to fathom it, so I always avoided exploring it – I was saving it for later when I was old and had time to learn tensor calculus and stuff. When someone told me there was a video that makes sense of 10 dimensions and string theory in an easy to understand manner, I was all over it. I have to admit that I got suckered in by Bryanton’s slick animations and smooth narration. There was a moment where I was getting excited because I thought that mainstream physics condoned the notion of time travel and alternate realities. “Woah, I totally understand string theory,” I thought to myself. Then I did a cursory wikipedia search of string theory and 10 dimensions. At that point I realized that Bryanton’s imagination has nothing to do with reality or any educated theory whatsoever and that I was a sucker for believing him.

Normally I wouldn’t be angry – Bryanton’s 10 dimensions is a cool sci-fi concept that unifies time travel, alternate realities and alternate universes. But when you consider that he’s literally selling his imaginary world as truth to eager believers who don’t know any better, then this man is a unremitting charlatan.

Anyways. My main point: marketing makes all the difference. First we’ll have Rob Bryanton’s nice, polished bullshit:


See. That was nice. Sort of cool. I’d buy that for a dollar if I didn’t know any better. And people are paying many dollars to buy his books.

Now Gene Ray’s Time Cube as a reference:


When you’re selling hot air it’s all in the technique.

Copyright. Infringements. Plagiarism. Lameness.

Having a great memory often sucks. Because sometimes you’re not certain whether what you envision you know, is a byproduct of your own thought processes, or whether you’ve just perfectly memorized a line from some paper that came across your desk when doing research.

Years of university were filled with trepidation, after realizing that my meticulousness for research has a massive flaw – often I recall entire chunks of text, sometimes without context, a sort of semi-photographic ability – this placed me in a trepidatious position, tethering on infringment, plagiarism…I would often wake up in cold sweat after finishing a paper in a single night, dreading the thought that somewhere, I haven’t referenced a quote.

In my case, that would result in an disciplinary action – a scarlet letter marking a failed class, a zero for a grade, or even worse, a note on my transcript marking me a social reprobate forever. A criminal.

But the idea of plagiarism isn’t nearly as clean cut as universities and colleges would like you to think. My little memory issue aside, the concept of plagiarism, or unethical writing and research, misrepresenting someone else’s work and ideas as your own, is far more complex and nuanced than most “experts” on the subject would have you believe.

And that is why I found recent debate on the subject of plagiarism on New York Times infurating, frustrating and…yes, debilitating.

For one, referencing works adequately takes skill. Generally, I found most students behind the university gates are in actuality merely semi-literate (and the state of reading and writing skills often falls short of expectations by the time they graduate.) Research takes time, and so does juggling a complex line of thought interspersed with other people’s ideas.

My first encounter with psychology 101 quickly convinced me that it was less about psych and more about the APA Style Guide. Referencing is important, and whether it be APA or MLA, the idea that EVERYTHING that comes from someone else, is meticulously noted as such. That’s why copyright laws exist (hmmm, no they don’t but let’s pretend they do anyways).

But that throws the whole idea of plagiarism (or copyright) for a loop too: researching most (art)works and writings, quickly unveils a discomforting fact that every single “original” work, is heavily influenced by the preceeding works. Culture, it seems, tends to suffer from evolution, like the rest of us, and referencing it back tends to be far more difficult than initially envisioned.

I am blurring the issues of plagiarism with copyright, yes, but the two are intricately tied in the brave new world, where your own work, for example, no longer belongs to you, but is rather fed into a giant database. Then a private company charges your institution to maintain and compare your essay or paper with that of other students.

Bingo! Presto! Eureka!

The issue of plagiarism is relevant to copyright because of MONEY. You see, those of us who are convinced of our superiority to others, expect to be paid for our ideas. So, referencing those ideas or creations, associating them with an identity, a person, is a precaution against theft. Especially if those people are supposed to be paid for their genious. You know, like Britney Spears for her singing efforts, or your multi-national pharmaceutical company guarding the recipe to a life-saving medicine.

(Yeah, I was getting to that bit. And fyi, writing these rants can get tough, usually at midnight.)

Did I sound pissed off? Because I generally am.

For one,combating plagiarism in universities is not new. In fact, it is old. Ancient even. If we were to upload undergrad papers from the rosteer of current academia, I would bet that the statistics would show similar rates of plagiarism. The previous generations just had lesser chances of ever getting caught.

The second point comes from anecdotal evidence, but a solid source. Few years back, sitting in the offices of the Distance Education department, I took part in a conversation regarding – you guessed it – plagiarism. Few of the department staff were literally in charge of the committee dealing with plagiarism complaints against students, giving me the inside scoop on what goes on behind closed doors.

International students, often from privileged families, lived in luxurious, shared accommodations with services that ranged from
housekeeping to chefs. But they also had personal tutors on staff, and an exclusive database with old tests and examples of papers associated with each class and professor.

Those students, I was explained, often have enough money to pass a test, or buy a paper.

Similarly to these, any of more privileged students have the capacity to utilize expensive “tutors” who are known to not only assist with research and editing, but are also notorious for writing original content for their clients.

It comes at a price, I know. But I continuously run into wealthy students who had assistance from high-school to their Masters degree. Few years ago, I was offered by a student to finish off an essay for $100. Amazed at the offer, I discussed it over with a friend who coolly remarked “I charge at least $200 for that kind of work.”

The “war on plagiarism” endorses a culture steeped in already draconian measures to preserve works as capital. And it ultimately fails to address the issues at hand. Most students are unprepared to do the work, and importance as well as grades of students can be easily devised as to decrease potential for plagiarism.

It also punishes particular segments of the student population: those who are rich will escape the wrath of the new technology, but those trying to work and juggle impossible deadlines, or have learning difficulties, are turned into criminals without a hesitation.

The idea of uploading our papers onto giant, private databases, seems to smack of “guilty until proven innocent” attitude. Moreover, our rights as creators of these works are being ignored. Noone asked you for permission to “copy” or “distribute” this paper of yours, did they? [illustration created by Poptimism and obviously farts in the direction of copyrighted Coca Cola branding]

Throttling Traffic is Illegal, Says Google

Canada will breathe a little easier over the weekend, as recent statement by Google inc. urges CRTC to take action and halt the illegal bandwidth throttling.

“Bell claims its throttling of peer-to-peer applications is a reasonable form of network management. Google respectfully disagrees. Network management does not include Canadian carriers’ blocking or degrading lawful applications that consumers wish to use,” adding that the Internet is too important to be left at the mercy of corporate interests, left to their own devices and acting as usage gatekeepers.

The 15 page submission to CRTC states that the act of throttling is illegal in relation to current telecommunication laws: “From consumer, competition and innovation perspectives, throttling applications that consumers choose is inconsistent with a content and application-neutral internet, and a violation of Canadian telecommunications law, which forbids unfair discrimination and undue or unreasonable preferences and requires that regulation be technologically and competitively neutral.”

In other words, current telecommunication laws imply net neutrality, and Bell, Rogers, Telus & co. are taking advantage of their market positions to impose new usage parameters.

At stake, Google says, are innovation and fair competition, echoing words of numerous net neutrality proponents.

Many worry that technologies such as Google’s famed search engine, YouTube and Facebook, once mere tinkerers’ projects that turned into some of the most important innovation engines of the decade, and grew into multi-million dollar companies, would never have a chance if rules are to change.

From newly announced draconian copyright laws, and digital locks, to traffic throttling, the environment will become hostile to innovation in order to protect the revenues of few existing monopolies and multi-national companies.

ComicCon Updates: Sucker Punch

One of the more intriguing (at least visually so) films to pop up on the radar is Sucker Punch. Aimed for a 2011 release, this North American take on Lolicon twists the old Alice in Wonderland with…well, hot babes and modern weapons.

Directed by Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen), Sucker Punch allows Snyder to do what he does best: combining fantasy and comics with heavy action.

The story sets on a different type of Alice: a girl with an evil stepfather is kept in a mental asylum. After a lobotomy, her escape is an internal, mental one. In her imagined, alternate reality, she plots her escape.

The story resonates the mental toils of some of our favorite TV characters: Sisko at DS9, who leads an alternate (and unexplained existence) as a black science fiction writer who ends up in a mental asylum; or Buffy (s6, e18), who hallucinates an alternate version of
illusion in which all her friends and enemies are product of a mental illness.

With names like Abbie Cornish, Jamie Chung, Emily Browning, and Jena Malone kicking ass, the film promises to provide thrills with that extra streak of darkness.

HiSciFi – With Aaron Golden

This week we’re joined by Aaron Golden, who tells us of his role-playing game and upcoming novel(s). Tune in for the conversation and this week’s news in entertainment.
HiSciFi – With Aaron Golden