Friday, July 30, 2010

Slideshow of Select Future Life Magazine Spreads

Okay, so I'm kind of testing Picasa's embeddable slideshow player here. These images are all spreads from my favorite deceased magazine, Future Life. For more on Future Life (published for four years by Starlog three decades ago), see my chronicle of the magazine, which also includes cover images from every issue.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #151, February 1990: They Kill Security Officers, Don’t They?

The space-alien buddy cop story Alien Nation only lasted one year, 22 episodes, on FOX TV in 1989-90. But while it existed, it got this cover story boost from Starlog. Hey, it was this or yet another Back to the Future II cover.

This issue Starlog publishes its mandated annual postal statement of ownership and circulation. The total paid circulation for the issue closest to the statement's filing deadline is listed as 160,739 (up a bit from the previous year's 156,109 ), including the number of paid subscriptions of 8,978 (down just a smidgen from 8,993 last year).

Starlog #151
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $3.95

Intriguing and/or odd classified ad of the month: “PLANET OF LOVE embroidered emblems of performance art event. Send SASE ...”

Photo caption of the month: “Just before the scene with the knife, Vincent [Price] was tickling me and I was laughing, and I couldn’t stop laughing after that,” recalls Kovack of her Diary of a Madman experience.

Or wait, here’s a rather good quip from Denise Crosby in a photo caption: “If someone seriously offered me a ticket to the Moon, ... I would have to go – because there would probably be a Star Trek convention there.”

And now, the rundown: Gary Graham and Eric Pierpoint are the Alien Nation cover boys this month; meanwhile, veteran actor James Coburn takes the featured spot on the contents page. Communications letters include thoughts on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (including one reader from Singapore who writes, “ suddenly struck me that this could well be the last time Harrison Ford will ever be featured on the cover of your magazine, since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the last in the series...” ah, wait until next issue, my friend), plus a number of readers comment on various aspects of Trek, including one who fears that Deanna Troi’s character might be killed off; and there’s going to be a Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, based on the syndicated TV series, according to David McDonnell’s Medialog roundup of genre news.

Marc Shapiro profiles TV’s Alien Nation star Gary Graham (he plays Matthew Sikes); in some non-Alien Nation alien news, Peter Bloch-Hansen interviews actor Denis Forest, who plays a Morthren on War of the Worlds, another short-lived SF TV series; Kyle Counts interviews Land of the Giants star Gary Conway, who says, “Our show was much more visual. Star Trek tended to be very corny. It was filmed on static sets, and the FX weren’t particularly good. And the acting – talk about wooden.”; Marc Shapiro checks in with Lt. Uhura herself, Ms. Nichelle Nichols, who talks about Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and praises director William Shatner; hey, Klaatu! Laura Long interviews Billy Gray, who portrayed 13-year-old Bobby Bensen in the 1951 The Day the Earth Stood Still; the Videolog section includes an unbylined look at the science-fiction TV pilots that didn’t make it to series, plus David Hutchison’s short report on the latest video releases, such as Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

Abbie Bernstein makes her first appearance in Starlog’s page, though today (2010) she’s a familiar name to readers of Fangoria, and here she talks with Robin of Sherwood creator Richard Carpenter; the Fan Network pages include Lia Pelosi’s directory of fan clubs and publications, while Robert Greenberger answers readers’ questions (such as, “Are there any soundtrack albums available for any Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan movies?”); March Shapiro talks with Back to the Future II star Michael J. Fox; in part two of Tom Waver and Michael Bruas’ interview with Richard Matheson, the legendary writer rates his Twilight Zone episodes; David McDonnell chats with actress Denise Crosby, who has bounced up since leaving Star Trek: The Next Generation, having landed a starring role in Pet Sematary; and there’s more Tom Weaver, who also provides a Q&A with Nancy Kovack, actress in such films as Jason and the Argonauts, Tarzan and the Valley of Gold, and others; Lowell Goldman profiles actor James Coburn; in an abridged edition of Kerry O’Quinn’s Bridge column, the former publisher goes flying; in part two of Steve Swires’ talk with Ray Harryhausen’s filmmaking partner Charles H. Schneer, the producer explains how Jack Lemmon almost led The 3 Worlds of Gulliver; in a two-page Tribute section, Edward Gross remembers the late Marc Daniels and Gerd Oswald, Mike Clark provides the obituary for Lost in Space star Guy Williams, and Anthony Timpone says good-bye to Merritt Butrick, who died of AIDS at the age of 29; and editor David McDonnell’s Liner Notes features all of his reasons to buy various Starlog Group publications.
“Identified as a Communist before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1951, the South African-born [director Cy] Endfield was blacklisted in Hollywood and was forced to work anonymously or pseudonymously in England, until [Charles] Schneer became the first American producer to offer him major studio employment under his own name. ‘Other American producers wouldn’t hire Cy, ... I knew he had been blacklisted, but Columbia didn’t object and I certainly didn’t. Frankly, I’m not interested in a person’s political or private life. All I care about is whether or not he knows his job. I was oblivious to everything else. There wasn’t any social message in the movie, so Endfield wasn’t going to be able to convert anybody.”
–Steve Swires, writer, “Maestro of the Magicks”
To see more issues, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the permanent home of The Starlog Project.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New Battlestar Galactica Prequel Series Coming – to the Internet

Slice of Sci Fi reports that a new prequel series will join Caprica in depicting the events that took place before SyFy's groundbreaking Battlestar Galactica TV series.

But before you rev up your digital TV recorder, you should know that this series, called Blood and Chrome, will be an Internet video series of 10-minute episodes. The show will use digital backgrounds (think Star Wars prequels); the sets of Battlestar Galactica were reportedly scanned at the end of the show so they could be used in digital scenes in the future.

If Blood and Chrome is successful, it might spawn other online series of the same sort, and it might also be a "backdoor pilot" to a new Battlestar prequel TV series, according to Maureen Ryan at The Chicago Tribune.

Here's hoping.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Andrew Breitbart Gets the Andrew Breitbart Treatment

Far-right activist Andrew Breitbart – the man who helped get an innocent woman fired by promoting an unfairly edited video of her that made her sound racist – is given a bit of his own medicine from

A Daniel Kehlmann Primer (Measuring the World, Ruhm, usw.)

I discovered German/Austrian writer Daniel Kehlmann's books in an interview with him in a German magazine a few years ago. He sounded intelligent, and he was getting a lot of praise. Luckily for me, his book Die Vermessung der Welt had just been translated into English and published as Measuring the World. I read it immediately, and I found the praise for him was justified.

If you don't know the book yet, I strongly recommend it. When I tell people it concerns two towering figures of the Enlightenment – Carl Friedrich Gauss and Alexander von Humboldt – who embark on a global quest to literally measure the world, I realize it sounds either fanciful or dull. Two scientists measuring distances and quantifying the planet? But it's a beautifully, and cleanly, written book that is funny, smart, and never dull.

The only other book so far released in English by the 35-year-old Kehlmann is Me and Kaminski, which is even funnier. It concerns an unbelievably conceited journalist trying to interview a quirky artist. Again, that brief description does this short novel a great disservice.

Basically, if you have a brain and want to read a first-rate talent (not to mention if you want to read someone who's not just regurgitating the same themes and self-absorption of young American novelists), then I suggest you give Kehlmann's books a try.

I am currently reading the German edition of his still-untranslated first novel, Beerholm's Vorstellung. But I am eagerly awaiting the release of the third translated book this September, Fame (original title, Ruhm). In this video below, Kehlmann talks about Ruhm (sorry, it's in German).

What? You don't read or speak German? Sigh. Well, here's a video that looks like it's a commercial for the translated edition of Kehlmann's recent blockbuster Vermessing Der Welt. The video has text in Chinese (I think). You've simply got to know either German or Chinese to get along in this world. You knew that, right?

It is no surprise to me that his books are being translated around the world. His works are huge bestsellers in Germany, and I hope they enjoy similar success elsewhere. First, because he is such a good writer. Second, because he deals with issues that are of critical importance; he actually makes the Western Enlightenment something that people can see and experience. Perhaps that's possible because he was a philosophy and literature student; but having that knowledge means nothing if you can't make the words say what you want, the way you want.

The Starlog Project: Starlog #150, January 1990: The Big One-Five-Oh

Starlog #150 kicks off a new decade for the magazine. Consider where it’s been in the past 10 years. January 1980 was a 68-page, $1.95 publication, with the pages half-color, half black-and-white. A little-known movie called Star Trek – The Motion Picture was on the cover.

Ten years later, the magazine is not much bigger – 76 pages – but the cover price is about twice as much at $3.95. The quality of the paper looks and feels higher, though it has bobbed up and down through the preceding decade. The cover logo has shrunk dramatically. There’s a different editor, one of the publishers has left, we’ve had musical chairs of the art director (and the entire design staff), and much of the editorial staff is different, though David Hutchison remains in his slot. The Starlog Photo Guidebooks seem to be a moribund project, but the company has spread its wings in many other ways, with videos, conventions, poster magazines, licensed Star Trek: The Next Generation magazines, official film magazines, Scrapbook photo magazines, spinoffs, and much more.

The thing that probably matters most to readers, however, is the content of the magazine. I tend to like the personality (and occasional controversy) that columnists give to a magazine, and in January 1980, Starlog had personality to spare, with a whopping five columnists (Gerry Anderson, Jonathan Eberhart, David Gerrold, David Houston, and Susan Sackett), plus editorial columns by the editor and the publisher. Ten years later, the only columnist is that publisher – now former publisher – Kerry O’Quinn, plus the editor, David McDonnell. If five was too many (and it was, for a small magazine), then one is too few. The articles, and the article mix, remain strong. Old and new, television and movies and books, interviews and previews and retrospectives, episode guides and convention coverage.

What’s missing in the latter era is not just the columnists, it’s the space science (even the Future Life science section disappeared after a few years) as well as (an admittedly sometimes heavy-handed) devotion to inspiring the readers. But what hasn’t changed is an occasional inspirational piece (often by columnist O’Quinn), a dedication to genre journalism that outclasses all competition, and a willingness to court controversy when it comes, whether it’s the outspoken people it interviews or the willingness to be a bit bolder and franker than some readers would like.

But Trek.... Trek remains.

Starlog #150
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $3.95

This is the 150th issue of Starlog, a magazine that by most rights shouldn’t have lasted four issues, much less become the anchor for a company publishing a couple dozen titles. Unlike the 100th issue, however, this issue only trumpets its numerical significance with a cover badge and an in-passing mention in the editor’s column.

But don’t let that fool you; it’s a very strong issue, and once again it’s not the blockbuster on the cover that makes it valuable but the interviews with various creators of SF and fantasy, where writers (in particularly Ben Bova and Philip K. Dick, in a previously unpublished interview from shortly before his death) are asked intelligent questions and they’re given the space to give intelligent and sometimes extended answers. So we get Bova – a legendary presence in the writing and editing fields of science fiction – talking politics (loves missile defence, hates Walter Mondale), and Dick – a legendary and legendarily cutting-edge writer – singing the praises of the Blade Runner adaptation of his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep as well as giving great insights into his view of writing and his stories. And that doesn’t even mention the absorbing interviews with Richard Matheson, Kurt Siodmak, and the first part of the Charles H. Schneer interview.

This is what magazines do best, when they do it well. They provide the types of in-depth articles that make you put your feet up on the desk or lie down on the couch and settle in to get some great entertainment and intellectual stimulation.

So, happy 150th, Starlog.

The rundown: Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly returns to the screen in the Back to the Future sequel, and BTTF II takes its second consecutive cover of Starlog; meanwhile, the contents page feature photo is Blade Runner’s Harrison Ford, who is described by Dick as being “fabulous ... absolutely incredible” in his role as Rick Deckard. Communications letters include a Smithsonian employee who thanks Kerry O’Quinn for his recent column on the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and offers some corrections to details in the column, plus readers chime in with their opinions on Batman and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade; and David McDonnell’s Medialog column notes that Arnold Schwarzenegger is considering which of many sequels to take part in: Twins II, Commando II, Predator II, Terminator II, and Conan III. Scuttlebutt has it that he’s most keen on returning to the Conan world, with the possibility of directing (yes), and “Shwarzenegger ... calls his participation in a Terminator II unlikely.”

Edward Gross picks up from Marc Shapiro last issue and talks to Kenneth Johnson about his new TV series Alien Nation; David Hutchison’s Videolog looks at the Christmas-timed release of the Batman video; T.W. Knowles provides a Q&A with veteran writer Ben Bova, who talks extensively about his Kinsman series of novels (which are the books that make me a Bova reader), as well as the Star Wars missile defense concept, which he pioneered years before Reagan was taken with the idea; the Fan Network pages include Lia Pelosi’s directory of fan clubs; Gwen Lee and Doris E. Sauter interview the late Philip K. Dick; Ian Spelling talks with the multi-talented James Cameron, who looks into The Abyss; Marc Shapiro talks with Back to the Future II director Bob Zemeckis; and in the first part of their interview, Tom Weaver and Michael Brunas are told by veteran writer Richard Matheson about one of his few arguments with a film director.

Marc Shapiro chats with Quantum Leap producer Don Bellisario; Lee Server interviews writer/director Curt Siodmak; Steve Swires chats with Ray Harryhausen’s partner, Charles H. Schneer; in his Bridge column, Kerry O’Quinn asks readers to send him their stories for a possible book about chasing your dreams; Jean Airey and Laurie Haldeman interview Terry Nation, who talks about improving science-fiction conventions; and editor David McDonnell’s Liner Notes talks about the science-fiction “creators” interviewed in this issue.
“OK, there won’t be as much sex [in Blade Runner] as I would like to see because I just never weary of sex. I think sex is really wonderful. Sex is not an integral part of the plot, unless you lump love and sex absolutely together. I mean, [Deckard] does fall in love with Rachael in the end, the replicant. And I don’t blame him, because she sure looks cute, and jeepers, I know I would like to meet her.”
–Philip K. Dick, interviewed by Gwen Lee and Dores E. Sauter: “Thinker of Antiquity”
To see more issues, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit The Starlog Project's permanent home.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Inception Was Great, but ...

The Christopher Nolan film Inception was great: Intelligent, exciting, great acting. See it.

But could someone tell the two women who sat near me that it's simply not acceptable to talk out loud during movies, and for god's sake, if your stupid cell phone rings because you were too dim to silence it before the film, that you at least don't answer it – and continue to talk out loud on the phone?

Great film. Stupid audience.

The Starlog Project: Starlog #149, December 1989: Back to the Back to the Future

We know from his interview with Starlog several years back that Harlan Ellison hated Back to the Future. To punish him for his troublesome relationship with the studios (such as making a submarine drop on a big-time producer’s head) (you had to be there), Hollywood decided to release Back to the Future II: The Wrath of Khan. Wait, no, it was just Back to the Future II.

You remember that movie? It was the one you sat through because you thought it’d be better than the first one, but it turned out to look like a collection of out-takes from the first Back to the Future. In short, Back to the Future II was the Star Trek V of this series. (BTTF III, however, I thought was quite enjoyable, my usual Ellison-support be damned.)

Nonetheless, Back to the Future II is given center stage this issue, while Star Trek V: The Final Frontier takes it on the chin from readers and from Starlog’s former co-publisher.

Starlog #149
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $3.95

Classified ad of the month: “THE FIRST STAR TREK COMMUNITY will form for mature Trekkers. Structured community life expressing core values of ST on realistic level. Responsible, self-supporting individuals send legal SASE and autobiog letter of interest to ...” Who says fans don’t have commitment anymore?

The rundown: Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd are the co-cover boys this issue, heralding the second in the Back to the Future trilogy; but pre-teen girls will prefer the contents page, which features a big photo of Ariel from The Little Mermaid. The Communications section is entirely devoted to reader reactions to Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (one reader notes, “The Final Frontier is a perfect caricature, a distillation of everything that spells Star Trek to the uninitiated and the unsympathetic: camp, silliness, pseudo-science, pretentious pseudo-morality.”); and David McDonnell’s Medialog column questions whether Star Trek V killed the Trek film franchise. This might be a good issue to hide from William Shatner.

Marc Shapiro goes behind the scenes of the new Alien Nation TV series, a spinoff of the recent film of the same name; Richard Feather interviews novelist Connie Willis; Michael J. Wolff, the magazine’s interplanetary correspondent, explores movies from the sea (Creature from the Black Lagoon, Splash, etc.): “The number of legends concerning ‘sirens’ would indicate that ‘sea-faring’ nations (Greece, England, etc.) contained a greater than average number of mermen among their populations. Sinbad, Odysseus, Popeye, Nemo, Cousteau and other maritime adventurers may have been mermen or descendants of mermen” – make of that what you will.

Peter Bloch-Hansen interviews actor Robert Lansing, who portrayed Gary Seven in the original Star Trek episode “Assignment Earth” and who says of co-star Teri Garr, “She hadn’t had much experience then, but she had this kooky personality that certainly worked,” which is amusing only because in her own Starlog interview, Teri Garr pretty much straight-up expressed her disdain for the science fiction world; the only time I ever recall seeing Raggedy Ann & Andy mentioned in Starlog is in this month’s Videolog column by David Hutchison; in a recent issue of Starlog, we met Catwoman, and this time we meet Yvonne Craig, the Batgirl actress who is interviewed by Kyle Counts.

In the Fan Network pages, Peter L. Huston writes about a public television station that broadcasts episodes of Space: 1999, Laurie Morris announces the winning candidate for Klingon of the Year honors (it's Worf), and an unsigned item announces J.M. Dillard’s book Star Trek: The Lost Years; Marc Shapiro goes behind the scenes of Back to the Future III to preview the sequel; in part six of David Hutchison’s lengthy examination of the special effects of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, we learn some of the challenges that faced the filmmakers; Kathryn M. Drennan talks with actor and director Jeff Corey, who discusses what it was like to testify before the House Unamerican Activities Committee at the height of the Red Scare, and Mark Phillips contributes a sidebar on Corey’s role in the Star Trek episode “The Cloud Minders”; Edward Gross checks in with Star Trek V: The Final Frontier screenwriter David Loughery (with two sidebars: “The God Thing” and “Star Trek V: The Lost Ending”); Bill Warren checks in with actor Charles Cooper, who plays Klingon General Korrd in Star Trek V; continuing the Klingon theme, Kris Gilpin interviews actor Todd Bryant, who played Klaa in Trek V; it’s a veritable mini-Klingonpalooza, as Marc Shapiro interviews actress Spice WIlliams about portraying Trek V’s Vixis; in his Bridge column, Kerry O’Quinn continues his theme from last issue, as he finally gets to see Shatner’s Trek directorial debut and gives a mixed review of it, saying it’s not as bad as people had told him, but giving it especially harsh grades for its silly religious content; and editor David McDonnell is photographed “consulting with Weasels in Toontown” and chats/jokes about time travel in his Liner Notes column.
“In this first Back to the Future, I felt more like a tool. In this one, I feel more like an accomplice. ... In the last movie, Marty [McFly] was pretty much a victim of circumstance. He starts out that way in this one but we also discover a weakness in his personality along the way that tends to stir the pot and make things interesting. Marty has gone through enough of this traveling stuff to think that manipulating it might benefit him. He thinks that, in an innocent way, playing with time just might help him out.”
–Michael J. Fox, actor, interviewed by Marc Shapiro: “Back to the Future III
To see more issues, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the permanent home of The Starlog Project.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Westboro Babtist Church Crazies Get Conned – Comic Conned

The loons of the Kansas cult called the Westboro Baptist Church (you know the folks, the Fred Phelps clan that pickets soldiers' funerals claiming the soldiers were punished by god for America's leniency toward gays?) went to San Diego to protest the annual Comic Con convention. Of course.

But may the Lords of Kobol bless the science fiction and comics fans at the event, who staged a grand counter-protest. According to this report on Comics Alliance, the SF/comics crowd included many people dressed in genre costumes, and they chanted "'WHAT DO WE WANT?' 'GAY SEX!' 'WHEN DO WE WANT IT?' 'NOW!' while brandishing ironic (and some sincere) signs."

Go read the report; the photos are priceless, and they confirm in me the belief that SF/comics folks will one day save this planet!

Is Sarah Palin Gunning for 2012?

NMA News has posted this video on YouTube. Now that the Germans have the lego World Cup videos, and the Chinese have these animated news reports, I think this proves beyond a doubt that Americans have lost the video race. (We also lost the World Cup, but you're trying to forget that, I suppose.)

The Starlog Project: Starlog #148, November 1989: Exit Interviews

Starlog’s kind of becoming the place you go to do your exit interview when your character is killed off in a science-fiction TV series. Denise Crosby had her pre-, post- and follow-up exit interviews with Starlog when her Tasha Yar character was murdered in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and she even got a cover story out of one of those interviews.

This month, it’s Richard Chaves’ time to pick up his final paycheck and his accumulated vacation balance, chat with the HR lady, and then carry his box of belongings out to the car. Chaves’ character, Lt. Colonel Ironhorse, was killed off for the second season of TV’s syndicated War of the Worlds program. He checks in this month – with a cover story – to talk about his character, the show, and his career. The magazine also interviews the program's producers, who explain why the changes were made.

Starlog #148
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $3.95

The letters to the editor this issue almost go meta on the whole Star Trek matter. Does Starlog cover too much Star Trek? Not enough? Readers battle back and forth, with this one having the final word: “OK, now that you have done it – a whole issue without any major Star Trek articles, bring Star Trek back to every issue. I’m sure [the reader who complained in a previous issue about too much Trek] will bronze this issue (#142), but, for me, it goes into the circular file.”

The rundown: War of the Worlds’ departing actor Richard Chaves is on the cover, along with the line, “Why they’re killing me!” Meanwhile, Tron’s David Warner is featured on the contents page. Communications letters tackle Trek, the state of non-Trek TV (apparently there is some), identify with Wil Wheaton, and more; and David McDonnell’s Medialog reports the latest genre news headlines, including John Haymes Newton’s replacement as the star of Superboy by Gerard Christopher.

Terminator and The Abyss star Michael Biehn is interviewed by Dan Yakir and Ian Spelling, and he tells them about whether or not James Camerons sees him as an alter ego; in the Fan Network pages, Robert Greenberger answers reader queries (such as, “Where could I get a new style captain’s uniform?”), and Steve Jacobs (who I believe is one of the magazine’s typesetters – and heir to the fortune?) reports on Universal Studios’ Earthquake ride; Bill Warren talks with actor David Warner about Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, performing Shakespeare with Patrick Stewart, Time After Time, Time Bandits, and more; Edward Gross profiles actor Tony “Paracelsus” Jay from Beauty & the Beast; Kyle Counts interviews former Catwoman Julie Newmar, who discussses her long career; and Jami Bernard checks in with a very pre-Ally McBeal Peter MacNicol about his roles in Ghostbusters and Dragonslayer.

Dan Yakir interviews Robert Davi, James Bond baddie; David Hutchison’s Videolog notes the latest genre releases, including a number of classics; Peter Bloch-Hansen reports on the changes in the second season of War of the Worlds; Christopher Golden interviews writer Craig Shaw Gardner (A Difficulty with Dwarves, An Excess of Enchantents, etc.); in “Casualty of War,” Peter Bloch-Hansen talks with Richard Chaves about his honorable discharge from War of the Worlds; Jean Airey and Laurie Haldeman complete their episode guide to Blake’s 7 (the guide ends the same way the series ended: “A stunned Avon kills Blake, a real Federation officer is revealed, troops charge in, shots ring out and, of the Scorpio crew, only Avon is left standing. Encircled by black uniformed guards, Avon raises his gun, smiles eerily, and ...”); in the fifth installment of his Who Framed Roger Rabbit special effects report, David Hutchison reveals some of the scenes that did not make it into the final film; Kerry O’Quinn’s Bridge column recounts his visit to the Toronto Ad Astra 9 convention, where he was hearing very bad things about Star Trek V: The Final Frontier; Kim Howard Johnson talks to Terry Jones about The Saga of Erik the Viking; speaking of Python, David McDonnell’s Liner Notes column chats with Kim Howard Johnson about his new book, The First 200 Years of Monty Python. Read it for the George Harrison note.
“An actor prays for a kind of diplomatic immunity from outside prosecution: a director saying, ‘I want it to be this way. I don’t want you doing that.’ I want benign neglect. Ivan Reitman is a secure enough man that he let me do just about everything I wanted to, with one exception. I wanted to have a kind of an old Beatles wig and jeg-black hair, as if to say the ’60s had just now reached Carpathia, that it had taken a while, it had gone from village to village, and it was just now coming into fashion in this remote mountain area. They receive their culture like messages in a bottle. It looked like the wig was a go, and then, I’lll never know if it was a fellow cast member or what, it was cut. It was the lamest of reasons, which is why I suspect it was for another reason. Someone said, ‘Oh, everyone in this picture already has dark hair.”
–Peter MacNicol, actor, interviewed by Jami Bernard: “Who? Me a Villain?”
To see more issues, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the permanent home of The Starlog Project.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Just Found This Two-Year-Old Interview with Horror Historian Tom Weaver

While searching for something else online, I came across this interesting interview with Tom Weaver on

Weaver is well-known to anyone who's read Starlog or Fangoria for the past couple decades. His stock in trade is the extensive, well-researched interview with classic filmmakers. In the Q&A, he says he thinks he's done about 600 of them so far; a fair number of them have appeared in Starlog and Fango, and sometimes it seemed he was a regular fixture of their pages. (Always a fan of Weaver's interesting articles, I once wrote to Fangoria expressing surprise that they'd gone something like two consecutive issues without publishing a Weaver article; it was meant as a compliment to the man, and I received a nice response from him.)

Anyway, check out the interview. He begins with a fascinating (well, for us writers and editors, at least) story about how he got his start interviewing these folks: sending audio cassettes with a list of his questions and having them record their answers and return the tapes.

PS: Weaver's interviews have also been collected in many books. His latest seems to be A Sci-Fi Swarm and Horror Horde: Interviews with 92 Filmmakers.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Famous Monsters #251: Get Thee A Designer, Please

An ambitious launch (or relaunch) of a genre magazine is always welcome, as far as I'm concerned. And with IDW's relaunch of Famous Monsters of Filmland – which created the market niche that would later be populated with Cinefantastique, SFX, Starlog, and more – we get ... I'm not quite certain what.

It's ambitious, all right. At 128 pages (plus covers), it's a heavy magazine. As we used to say in the technology magazine business, it feels substantial when you plop it down on your desk. Printed on heavy paper, with a heavy cover, you can plop this down on your desk, or use it to clobber zombies over the head. Either way, it's impressive.

Famous Monsters of Filmland's 251st issue is also ambitious in its pricing. The cover price is $12.95. Not only that, there are four variant covers; do they really think someone's going to pay $26 or $39 or even $52 for multiple copies of this?

Now, I'm actually a proponent of magazines charging higher cover prices, if it frees them from a corrosive addiction to advertising-fed revenues. The key is providing enough quality content in the magazine to make it worthwhile. That shouldn't be difficult; people gladly pay $9 or $10 to see a two-hour movie; they'll pay twice that to buy it on blu-ray. But a really good magazine can provide many hours of enjoyment, and they can be priced that way.

But the writing has to be good, intriguing, and original. Plus, the design should be pleasing, including the use of excellent illustrations and photos.

I don't mind the $12.95 cover price of this magazine; as a quarterly publication, it's not going to drain anyone's wallets very quickly (well, unless they're drunk and they're buying all four variant covers, which they'll be able to sell on eBay for $5.00 each). My problem with Famous Monsters #251 is that it's just not intriguing. Too much space is given over to self-infatuation; I mean, 26 pages of people remembering Forrest J. Ackerman? Look, this has nothing to do with respect for the man. I've heard lots about him, I've read interviews with him, and I've read articles by him. He was a towering figure in genre publishing, and he sounds, truly, like a prince of a man. But to devote one-fifth of a magazine to memorials for him is a waste. Give us instead six pages or, if you must, 10; but Forry's memorial is the magazine itself, which inspired generations of young genre film fans (some of whom went on to become genre professionals).

The rest of the magazine is very uneven. It's always a great idea to interview Ray Bradbury, and the inclusion of a new short story by him is a nice touch. But throw in a few current-movie previews, profiles, and what must be the weirdest photo/ad layout in human history, and you get a magazine that doesn't have a definition, even as quirky.

And that's all before we get to the design. There's nobody in the staffbox listed as designer or art director, so I feel a bit better about criticizing this. But the page layouts are simply ghastly. The text is all in paragraphs separated by a blank line, with no indentations at the beginnings of the paragraphs. Yes, like this and every other blog. We do it on blogs because we are forced to by the HTML gods, who abuse us so. But magazines should not look like amateur web productions. And – remember the $12.95 price tag – we're paying for a deluxe product here, and we're not getting it. Add to all of this the heavy-handed use of dark patterned backgrounds on many of the pages, and you get articles that are not easy to read, not pleasant to look at, and don't look like they were assembled with care and skill.

I wish I could write nicer things about this product, but let's stick with my comments about high prices. Paying $12.95 means I also expect it to deliver. If it were a $3.50 or $4.95 magazine with 88 pages, and only one article in the magazine was worthwhile, I wouldn't feel disappointed. That's what keeps GQ and Esquire publishing, after all. And granted, I was never an FM reader (as readers of this blog know, I was always more of a Starlog and Fangoria reader), but that doesn't mean I'm not open-minded about the publication. But it's got to meet me halfway.

I'll still look forward to how this magazine evolves. First issues are often over-produced or beset with problems as the machinery gets up and running. And there's certainly room for competition in the genre magazine marketplace. But for now, this is a vanity magazine that needs to sharpen its act.

The Starlog project: Starlog #147, October 1989: When They Walked Among Us

One would expect that chronicling a 20-year-old magazine would be an exercise in nostalgia, but it is usually a very personal one: I remember what I was doing, what I was going through in life, what my attitudes were, at the time I read a particular issue when it first came out.

But this issue of Starlog is a bit more like a public time capsule, mixing brand-new film and TV productions with long-ago classics and with then-alive persons (such as River Phoenix) who would not survive into the new century. It is hard to read Lynne Stephens’ article on a stage play of the German silent science-fiction classic Metropolis and not reflect on the times that created the story in the first place (and you’re helped with that thought by Stephens’ fine writing, which begins the article telling us just how filmmaker Fritz Lang was inspired to make his story). Or Bill Warren’s profile of former Tarzan actor Denny Miller takes chrononauts back to the carefree (but boring) 1950s, when the country went for a Tarzan who looked more like a surfer than a jungle man.

However, I suspect this issue will stand out for most people because of Dan Yakir’s Q&A with 19-year-old River Phoenix (then appearing in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), which shows the young actor – who only had another four years to live – to be a sensitive and thoughtful man. “I would just look at Harrison [Ford]: He would do stuff and I would not mimic it but interpret it younger. Mimicking is a terrible mistake that many people do when they play someone younger, or with an age difference. Mimicking doesn’t interpret true, because you can’t just edit it around.”

Starlog #147
100 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.95

This is another “100-page SF Spectacular” (so says the cover), and it’s a great, article-packed issue.

In some ancillary notes, Starlog announces the debut this issue of another horror spinoff magazine, Toxic Horror. That brings to three the number of the company’s horror film magazines: Fangoria, Gorezone, and now Toxic Horror. Gorezone would last a few more years, and it retains a fan base to this day for its devotion to more independent, bloodier horror than in Fango. But Toxic Horror – which was initially edited by Bob Martin, the former Fangoria editor – would only last five issues before being killed. It was an attempt to merge filmed horror with real-life horrors and cult topics. Martin has written elsewhere of his struggle with the publishers to prevent it from being just another horror film magazine, but the company knew how to sell horror magazines, not odd hybrids, and, according to Martin, he didn’t want to work on the magazine they had forced Toxic Horror to become, so he exited. Soon, so did the whole magazine.

Why, you might ask, did Starlog publish so many horror film magazines? Yes, horror was going through a Freddy Krueger-inspired boom at the time, but it wasn’t off the charts. Judging from comments various former editors have made, the reason appears to have been a desire to soak up newsstand space, to own market share of the horror magazine market (i.e., squeeze out competitors). So the publishers weren’t terribly concerned about whether the new magazines would last 30 years; they just needed them to last long enough to send off a few of the competition. Starlog did much the same in the 1990s, when it at one point was publishing Starlog, Sci-Fi Teen, and Sci-Fi TV (which was actually quite a good magazine). Earlier, it had spun off Starlog Platinum Edition (which switched names to Science Fiction Explorer), a title that survived a couple years before dying. (It also published two boxing magazines at the same time in the early 1980s, as well as numerous wrestling magazines for decades.)

I understand the business sense of bulking up your market share to try to see off the competitors, but I also remember, each time Starlog did something like this, that I’d rather the company had bulked up Starlog itself instead of creating separate thin magazines. Make Starlog a 100-page magazine every month; even at a higher cover price, it would have been worth it, as the editors proved with 100-page special issues such as this one, #147.

Anyway, the rundown: Brent Spiner, as Data, is the cover boy; meanwhile, a different Trek takes the contents page slot, a big photo from Star Trek III showing the Enterprise burning up in the atmosphere. Communications letters include fan comments on War of the Worlds and Beauty & the Beast, reader reviews of Batman (the movie and recent articles), a complaint about Blake’s 7 coverage, and more; and David McDonnell’s Medialog column reports that former Doctor Who actor Jon Pertwee is going to star in a new science-fiction ecology-based series called Starwatch.

Continuing the mag’s Trek movie coverage, Marc Shapiro interviews actor Leonard Nimoy about The Final Frontier (“I know the question is on many people’s minds as to how much longer we can all continue to do Star Trek.... [M]ore and more people are coming up to me and saying, ‘Are all of you still alive?’”); a restored Mighty Joe Young leads off David Hutchison’s Videolog; Dan Yakir talks with actor River Phoenix about acting in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, plus life, vegetarianism, and society; Edward Gross profiles Star Trek writer Arthur Heinemann (“The Savage Curtain,” “The Way to Eden,” “Wink of an Eye”); in the Fan Network pages, Robert Greenberger answers readers’ queries (such as, "In an Adam West interview [issue #117], it was mentioned that he played Batman in two comedy specials. Can I have their titles and dates aired?”), photos of science-fiction actors in non-SF scenes, William S. McCullars’ short article on the location of a Klingon battle cruiser from the original Trek series, and more; I’d never heard of this production before, but Randy Quaid starred in an adaptation of Frederic Brown’s classic story “Martians Go Home,” and Marc Shapiro has an on-the-scene report.

Kerry O’Quinn’s From the Bridge column title has been, er, abridged; it is now just called Bridge, and it’s no longer anchored (I’m mixing metaphors, but what can you do?) to the front of the magazine next to the staff box; this month, Bridge carries O’Quinn’s page-and-a-half photo report on signs that incorporate science fiction names. Speaking of films I didn't remember hearing about before now, Kyle Counts reports on Martians!!! – a low-budget comedy extremely loosely tied to War of the Worlds; Craig Chrissinger profiles Star Trek: The Next Generation executive script consultant Melinda Snodgrass; actor/author Walter Koenig is still at it, making sure he has a non-Trek career, and his latest effort is starring in Moontrap, which he discusses with Marc Shapiro; in the fourth installment of David Hutchison’s extended look at the special effects of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, we learn more about shadows and dummy characters, and more; novelist A.C. Crispin continues her conversation from last issue with novelist Andre Norton, who discusses her favorite genre films, the Beastmaster film (adapted from her book, nonetheless not one of her favorite genre films), her writing topics, and more; Lynne Stephens talks with actor Brian Blessed about the stage version of the classic German silent film Metropolis (with a sidebar on Blessed’s role in the Flash Gordon film); Marc Shapiro interviews composer Danny Elfman, who talks about scoring Batman; interplanetary correspondent Michael J. Wolff gets a bit more serious this issue, with an exploration of race and racism, “Pigments of the Imagination” (illustrated by George Kochell).

Bill Warren chats with former Tarzan actor Denny Miller, who also discusses acting in V and Battlestar Galactica; Jean Airey and Laurie Haldeman, who have been extensively chronicling the British science-fiction TV series Blake’s 7 with their interviews of anyone and everyone involved with the show, here present part one of a complete episode guide to the series; Will Murray talks with author John Varley, who discusses the Millennium film, which was made from his short story “Air Raid”; Beverly M. Payton and Shelley Savren interview young actor Christopher Daniel Barnes, who played Scott Hayden in the Starman TV series; and editor David McDonnell wraps it all up with his Liner Notes column, in which he discusses Andre Norton, as well as the more serious article by Michael J. Wolff.
“It angers me that in this society we’re trained from a very young age, watching television, to swallow preconceived ideas of what is the ideal man or ideal woman. It’s prejudice, really. Many people overcome it, but so many remain oppressed if they’re not happy with their looks, if they don’t look like Robert Redford. It’s a shame, because they shouldn’t be. When I was younger, I was worried about how others viewed me and if I was good enough. I realize now that you can’t mold an image or try to be something that you are not. As far as being an actor is concerned, your work really speaks for itself.”
–River Phoenix, actor, interviewed by Dan Yakir: “A Hero By Any Other Age”
To see more issues, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the permanent home of The Starlog Project.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #146, September 1989: The Year of Batman

For the second issue in a row, Tim Burton’s Batman is on the cover of Starlog.

For those of you keeping track of the Starlog family of publications, the company has produced the first edition of its Comics Scene Spectacular magazine, featuring guess what on the cover? Yup, Batman. It’s also been busy with its Starlog Poster Magazine line; according to the ad in the Starlog Trading Post ads, that publication is currently up to the second issue of the second series (so, #10 overall). And the Starlog Yearbook (which apparently is published twice a year, so what’s in a name?) is up to its fourth issue. Mind you, all of these magazines were put out by the same small staff that produces Starlog each month, plus four issues each year of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine.

Starlog #146
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $3.95

Photo caption of the month: “In reality, Einstein did know Marie Curie (Odile le Clezio), but they weren’t an item.”

The rundown: Jack Nicholson’s Joker is the cover boy; a scene from James Cameron’s The Abyss is featured on the contents page (which again, alas, doesn’t list departments, only the feature articles; this is kind of the contents page for Unclear-on-the-Concept contents page designers). In his From the Bridge column, Kerry O’Quinn visits the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum; Communications letters include a call to save TV’s Beauty and the Beast (it seems that sooner or later, just about every science-fiction TV series ends up with fans pleading for the show to be saved), defense of Wesley Crusher, thoughts on why Blake’s 7 is a cult classic, and more; in his Medialog column, David McDonnell reports the exit from Star Trek: The Next Generation of Diana Muldaur, and her replacement by the person she had replaced, Gates McFadden.

Years before Yahoo became synonymous with searching the World Wide Web, people across the nation were terrorized by the word Yahoo because it probably meant they were about to be subjected to a comedian called Yahoo Serious. Scott Lobdell interviews Yahoo about his movie Young Einstein. Speaking of comedians of disputed success, Bill & Ted are back to pester audiences with the video release of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, according to David Hutchison’s Videolog column, which also notes other recent releases; Will Murray talks with director Michael Anderson about his film Millennium; former staffer Robert Greenberger’s back this issue to provide answers to readers’ queries in Fan Network (such as this query, “Sometime ago, I heard rumors that the people who made Terminator were planning to make a sequel. Will it ever be made? Or another Alien?”).

Eric Niderost interviews Cesar Romero, who played The Joker in the 1960s TV series version of Batman; Nick Dudman, who performed the makeup chores for Jack Nicholson’s Joker, is interviewed by Adam Pirani (plus a sidebar on costume designer Bob Ringwood’s work on The Joker); novelist A.C. Crispin interviews Alice Mary Norton, better known as novelist Andre Norton; Iain Blair talks with director James Cameron about a little film called The Abyss; Ian Spelling profiles Max Headroom star Matt Frewer; Peter Bloch-Hansen interviews War of the Worlds star Philip Akin; Kathryn M. Drennan checks in with Star Trek actor James Doohan (who reveals that he almost signed on to be the chief engineer in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea); Ian Spelling interviews George Takei (who admits to not watching Star Trek: The Next Generation); Lee Goldberg talks with Michael Wilson, producer/co-writer, about the latest James Bond film, Licence to Kill; in the third part of David Hutchison’s special effects report on Who Framed Roger Rabbit, we meet the animators behind the work; and in his Liner Notes column, editor David McDonnell talks about someone who’s been impersonating novelist Diane Duane.
“The basic idea hasn’t changed at all, although obviously many of the details have gradually evolved over the years in between first getting the inspiration and actually being able to get it on film. I originally conceived [The Abyss] as a story about a group of scientists in a laboratory at the bottom of the ocean, which is the sort of sci-fi idea that appeals to all kids, I suppose. But once I had arrived in Hollywood, I quickly realized that a bunch of scientists aren’t that commercial, so I changed it to a group of blue collar workers and made the whole thing much more accessible to the average man on the street.”
–James Cameron, writer/director, interviewed by Iain Blair: “Underwater in The Abyss
To see more Starlog issues, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the permanent home of The Starlog Project.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #145, August 1989: Batman in Pink

The garish pink cover must have worked so well the last time Starlog used it that it's back, this time serving as the background for a decidedly dark and sort of aggressive-looking Batman.

But with this issue, we're clearly in the Age of Batman (circa Tim Burton), so get used to seeing him or his colleagues on the cover and heavily featured inside for the next few issues. And years.

As noted last issue, Starlog #145 sees the regular cover price leap from $3.50 to $3.95. The number of pages, amount of color, and quality of the paper remains the same.

Starlog #145
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $3.95

In an off-handed way, former publisher Kerry O'Quinn tells us that several years previously, he was given the green light to create a science-fiction anthology series for HBO. Like many (most, I assume) series plans, it never came to fruition, but in this issue he tells about how one of the stories from the series – an original Isaac Asimov story called "Teach 109" – had recently been made into a 30-minute short film. It was probably a bitter-sweet moment for O'Quinn: he didn't get to make that story into an episode of his series, yet his natural pleasure in seeing creative people succeed gets combined with the very positive reactions the short film gets from people in the industry.

The rundown: Michael Keaton's Batman is on the cover, looking pretty in pink. Also, this issue's contents page omits listing the departments and only lists the feature articles (against a dark background shot of Keaton's Batman). In his From the Bridge column, Kerry O'Quinn explains the genesis of the short film "Teach 109"; Communications letters cover everything from Star Trek to Doctor Who ... to Star Trek; David McDonnell notes the signing of Peter Weller to star in Roger Corman's Frankenstein Unbound, and other genre news, in Medialog.

It might be the Year of Batman, but it's also the Year of Star Trek V, and Starlog will be publishing the official, licensed movie magazine for William Shatner's feature directing debut, so they've got lots of access to the creators and actors to dole out every issue of Starlog. This issue, Marc Shapiro profiles actor Laurence Luckinbill, who plays Spock's odd half-brother; meanwhile, animated Star Trek episodes are being released on video, as David Hutchison notes in his Videolog column; in the second part of Marc Shapiro's interview with William Shatner, the director dodges questions about T.J. Hooker and Kingdom of the Spiders ("What can I say? Let's talk about Star Trek some more"); Kris Gilpin previews director Stuart Gordon's Robot Jox (sort of a very low-budget, live-action American Gundam); Dan Yakir talks with James Bond star Timothy Dalton; the Fan Network pages include winners of the magazine's Batman contest, plus a short item on Bat merchandising, convention listings, and more.

Jami Bernard interviews actor/comedian Rick Moranis about Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (co-written by former Starlog and Future Life staffer Ed Naha), Spaceballs, and Ghostbusters; Adam Pirani profiles Batman director Tim Burton; Peter Orr does a Q&A with cyberpunk author William Gibson, whose newest book, Mona Lisa Overdrive, is being given away to 50 lucky readers; Will Murray interviews actor John Rhys-Davies about his work in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade; Lee Goldberg talks with actor David Hedison about Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and James Bond films (in which he plays Felix Leiter); in the second part of David Hutchison's multi-part look at the special effects of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, we learn about the staging of the dueling ducks Daffy and Donald, and about Baby Herman; Bill Warren looks at the preproduction art of designer Ron Cobb for James Cameron's film The Abyss; and in his Liner Notes column, David McDonnell praises the magazine design work of Jim McLernon and Calvin Lee, both of whom are also on display in person in the Fan Network pages, where they are shown with two other staffers sporting Batman clothing (with Lee wearing a cowl).
"When I first saw [Clive Barker's] Books of Blood, I thought, 'Here's a guy coming from left field.' In those stories, you can feel him getting down in the basement of the generic form and kicking the s--t out of the foundations. [Laughs]. You can see Barker figuring out what horror stories do. Regular American horror fiction never made it for me. So many of the stories are structured like dirty jokes, you know, with the revelation of obscenity at the end. Those writers are so coy, with that deliberate and sometimes totally false naivete about the stories' sexual underpinnings, whereas Barker seems totally conscious of it. He forges ahead with the sexual material. It's interesting, but I wonder what effect it has had on the genre consumer, the guy who walks into the bookstore and says, 'Gimme the next third-rate Stephen King clone.'"
–William Gibson, author, interviewed by Peter Orr: "William Gibson, Neuromantic"
To see more Starlog issues, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the permanent home of The Starlog Project.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Michael Ballack/Becker-Spiegel Gay Affair, Part III

If you've been following the hullaballoo over the ridiculous gay-baiting comments made about the German national team (die Mannschaft) by Michael Becker, the agent of star player Michael Ballack, then you might enjoy taking this a bit further.

Briefly, as noted here, a Der Spiegel article reported the comments Becker made, which included such inane things as referring to specific (but unnamed in the article) players as "gay" or "half-gay" (whateverthehell that means). But his real problem seemed to be the exciting style of play of this newfangled, diverse team. That in itself signified homosexuality to this professor of humankind. But as other commentators have pointed out, Becker was likely trying to talk down the new world of German football because his star client, Ballack, is every bit the representative of the old style of German football: disciplined, slow,  and unexciting.

So, it's disciplined, slow and unexciting, versus disciplined, fast and exciting and "schwul"? Well, I think the German Volk have spoken, and it's wildly in favor of the gay boys, er, the allegedly gay players, no, wait, the almost completely straight players who have been insulted by Becker as playing "gay" football.

Now, leaving aside the ancient squabble of whether gay should even be an insult, it seems inescapable that Becker was insulting the team on purpose. But here's what astonishes little old gay me: Ballack is still the official captain of the team, even though Phillip Lahm filled in for him during the World Cup; so Ballack potentially will take the field in training and competition with those players at some point, and does he really need his ancien regime agent sowing discord and ill will among his team. A team captain is supposed to lead the team, defend it vigorously. But I think each player will likely be looking at Ballack when he comes to the locker room before his first get-together with them, and they'll see Becker-Ballack.

That can't be good. And that's on top of the bad press Becker has caused for his client with the general fans. I don't know anything about Ballack's private beliefs, but I've never heard of him being bigoted. He has always been quite popular, as far as I know. He might be old-style, but I don't think of him as a bad guy. He should get a new agent to make sure others don't begin to think so.

Anyway, in the spirit of lightening up this soap opera-ish tale, I'll note that my favorite tweet that I saw on the topic was to the effect of: "Michael Ballack's manager calls German national team 'gay'; homosexuals say,' Please let it be Podolski!'"

I rather like that. And not just because Podolski wears a game shirt that's a size or two smaller than other players would wear, so it shows off his well-muscled torso. It also just reminds us not to lose our sense of perspective. Becker might represent the old-style football figure who talks dumb and tough and offensively; but Germany has moved on, which is shown by the way the country has wildly embraced this team. At about the same time as the Spiegel article came out, there was the cover story in Stern magazine (see photos above and below) celebrating this team. The German national team includes players from Turkey, Brazil, Ghana, Bosnia, Poland, Spain, Tunisia, Nigeria, and of course good ol' Deutschland. And it might be the most popular team in German history that didn't actually win the Cup.

So I decided to do Becker's job for him, and I paged through Stern's article, which features many of the players with large photos and short bios. Is Mesut Özil gay? That'd be neat. What about Cacau? Very cute, especially in the photo showing him in traditional German clothes. Jérôme Boateng and Marko Marin? Cool, yeah, sure, make them gay. Serdar Tasci? Yeah. Sami Khedira and Mario Gomez, or Piotr Trochowski or Mirslav Klose? Wonderful. Thomas Müller, Dennis Aogo, or Bastian Schweinsteiger? Nice to contemplate. Lukas Podolski? Please let it be Podolski!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Improv Everywhere's Star Wars on the Subway Scene

ImProv Everywhere has posted this video of their reenactment of a scene from Star Wars IV: A New Hope on a New York Subway.

When I lived in NYC, my subway rides were like this all the time.

The Starlog Project: Starlog #144, July 1989: Shatnerized

It’s the magazine’s anniversary again, and Starlog celebrates its 13th birthday with a thick issue full of interesting articles. Not only is the cover taken over by William Shatner, but the man was busy taking over the Star Trek film franchise itself, as he checks in on his feature directorial debut, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

In staffing news, Eddie Bergana and Daniel Dickholtz, who had previously shared the title of associate editor, now share the title of managing editor. And remember that weird title “advertising design” from a few issues ago? No longer exists. Meanwhile, the company’s publishing efforts continue to expand, with the launch of All-Star Action Heroes, covering action films and including four posters. The debut issue includes an interview with Mel Gibson that is actually safe for kids to read.

This issue is the first to carry a $4.95 cover price (last year’s 100-page anniversary issue was $3.95). The regular-sized issues will increase in price to $3.95 next issue. It’s of course quaint to realize that a 100-page science-fiction magazine that cost $4.95 in A.D. 2010 would be a steal, but then one realizes that this was 21 years ago, that age is catching up with you, and you burst into tears. Which is appropriate for a birthday issue. So what do the editors have in store for their sweet 13th?

Starlog #144
100 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.95

I’m quite sure few people read it at the time, so its mention here is only vanity on my part. In 1989, I reviewed Star Trek V for my college newspaper, The Badger Herald. My thoughts on the movie were, of course, mixed, which made me one of the more indulgent reviewers of this film. Actually, even 21 years later, my feelings are mixed. Parts of it disappoints me as a let-down, as less than what could have been. But other parts of it are quite nicely done. Am I consistent or what?

The rundown: If I were a better host for you through this history of Starlog, I would go through each of the previous anniversary issues so I could see if the following statement were true or not, but I”m not: I think this is the first anniversary issue in which Kerry O’Quinn’s From the Bridge column is normal-sized, not a super-sized “special anniversary editorial.” Nonetheless, he goes Down Under and reports on the Aussie science-fiction scene. In Communications letters, readers write post-mortems of sorts for Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, and other readers write about everything from Alien Nation to Gates McFadden’s Star Trek: The Next Generation exit; and David McDonnell’s Medialog updates us on all of the science fiction and fantasy projects of mid-1989, such as which genre pictures were recognized by the Academy.

Robert Greenberger talks with Count Nikolai Tolstoy about Merlin/King Arthur stories (is this the first time Starlog has interviewed anyone with the title of “count”? Again, I’m not that nice of a host to go back and check); Peter Bloch-Hansen interviews Richard Cheeves, star of War of the Worlds; David Hutchison’s Videolog rounds up the latest genre video releases, such as Willow and The Wizard of Oz; Bill Warren interviews actor Martin Kove about the TV show Hard Time on Planet Earth; and just in case you were worried that people were beginning to think science fiction was getting waaaaay too serious, San Scapperotti goes behind the scenes to report on the Jeff Goldblum- and Geena Davis-starring oddity Earth Girls Are Easy; and the Fan Network pages include Michael McAvennie’s report on the continuing matter of Starfleet spaceship designs, plus there’s a quiz about SF movie advertising lines (and they include the Star Trek V ad showing a seat flying through space with the tagline, “Why are they putting seatbelts in theatres this summer?” which I think is a damn good advertising slogan. I mean, it’s no “In space, no one can hear you scream,” but I might have to go back and adjust my review of the movie....).

Adam Pirani interviews Alison Doody, who plays Indiana Jones’ (and Dr. Henry Jones’) sorta-Nazi, sorta-girlfriend in The Last Crusade; the Shat is back: Marc Shapiro interviews William Shatner about his Trek directorial debut, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier; Scott Bruce looks at SF-related lunchboxes; Adam Pirani interviews Batman co-star Kim Basinger; Kim Howard Johnson previews the Terry Jones film The Saga of Erik the Viking; David Hutchison talks with Who Framed Roger Rabbit (and really Who Censored Roger Rabbit?) creator Gary Wolf and others involved in the movie version; interplanetary correspondent Michael Wolff (with illustrations by George Kochell) takes a look at genre stories of shrinking people.

Lynne Stephens profiles actor john Neville about his role as Baron Munchausen; Juanita Elefante-Gordon interviews actress Sarah Sutton regarding her time playing a Doctor Who companion in the Peter Davison years; Paul Tomlinson questions Stainless Steel rat author Harry Harrison; Edward Gross talks to director Vincent McEveety about working on original Star Trek episodes such as “Balance of Terror,” “Dagger of the Mind,” and “Patterns of Force”; Kathryn M. Drennan pens a one-page look at actor DeForest Kelley’s career in Western films; and David McDonnell’s Liner Notes explains why the magazine is publishing David Hutchison’s many-part article on the special effects of Roger Rabbit.
“There were some cast members who had expressed their apprehension about what I would do. But I knew what I wanted from certain actors and did my damndest to get it. Despite any fears the cast may have had, they were totally cooperative. As the movie progressed, they saw that I did know what I was doing, and I think I turned those people around who had previously doubted my ability to direct.”
–William Shatner, actor/director, interviewed by Marc Shapiro: “Shakedown Cruise, Part One”
To read previous issue descriptions, click on "Starlog Internet Archive Project" in the keywords below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent home.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Der Spiegel Article on Ballack's Agent's Gay-Baiting Comments

In a blog post yesterday, I noted that German soccer star Michael Ballack's got a new headache: An agent who doesn't know when to shut up and keep his silly thoughts to himself. Agent Michael Becker apparently went on and on about how various members of Germany's third-place World Cup team were gay.

You can read the entire Der Spiegel article, translated into English, here (or, in German, here). The article frankly makes him sound less menacing but probably dumber than Mel Gibson, who's getting a lot of deserved heat over the latest flare-up in his long history of anti-semitic, anti-gay, misogynistic, racist rants. But Mel (who, let's be honest, is probably suffering from some mental problems) at least generally knows to shut up about his crackpot beliefs when the camera's running. (No, not always, but generally. It's usually chalked up to extreme inebriation when he gets on a hate rant. I personally don't think the drinking is an excuse; not everyone who gets drunk thinks that Jews are warmongers or that ...  oh, hell, I'm not going to repeat all the crap that man says.)

Anyway, in the Spiegel article by Alexander Osang (which is quite good and worth reading in whole), Becker is reported to be acting as if his anti-gay attitude were the norm:
He talked a lot about people who were envious of his client, because they were supposedly mediocre, ugly, untalented, bureaucratic, provincial, unmanly or gay. He told me some unbelievable stories, which I wrote down on my pad of paper. Becker didn't seem to mind, perhaps because he assumed that they would never make it into print anyway, or that they were already common knowledge. A few days later, on the sidelines of a farewell match for footballer Bernd Schneider at Bayer Leverkusen, Becker told a group of agents and journalists in the Bayer clubhouse that there was a former player on the national team who was about to go public with the names of "the gay combo." I expected my fellow journalists to be all ears, but they seemed relatively blasé about Becker's remark. It seemed that every sports journalist was already familiar with the alleged homosexual conspiracy swirling around German coach Joachim Löw's team.
And this:
[Becker] told me, beaming, how Elton John had sung the German national anthem at Ballack's wedding. When I asked him whether he thought that a player whose nomination to the team had come as something of a surprise was gay, Becker said: "He's half-gay." When he said that, I realized that all of this was somehow synonymous with something Becker could no longer understand. It was something that was light, non-ideological, dance-like, beautiful, joyful, and easily confusing for someone whose life had revolved around pecking orders and hierarchies until then.
Mel Gibson's agents dumped him after his latest escapades. (I agree with Joy Behar on her cable talk show yesterday, when she said that Mel's films won't be funded now by Hollywood studios, so Gibson's only hope is to fund more of his own films – which he can afford to do, but which won't result in the agency getting a percentage fee. So no points for bravery or integrity to his former agents.)

Now I'd like to see Ballack give Becker the boot.

Read Part III of the saga.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Maybe I'll Have to Un-Follow Michael Ballack on Twitter: Ballack's Agent Slams German Team as "Queers"

Michael Ballack, the German team captain who missed the recent exciting World Cup contest due to injury, is dealing with another pain these days: his own agent. The Local, an English-language German news site, reports that his agent called the German national team – aka die Mannschaft – a "bunch of queers."

The remarks were reportedly made a couple months before the World Cup, when a team including a lot of young talent surprised the world by ending in third place; there had even been questions as this series started whether Germany would get out of the group stage. Best of all, die Mannschaft was a diverse team of players born in Brazil, Turkey, Africa, Poland and Germany, a mix of religions and skin color that is helping to change the image of Germany.

The comments of Ballack's agent, Michael Becker, were more throwback to olden days than representing the new era of German football. It's also not entirely clear whether Becker was honestly referring to homosexuality or if he was just speaking roughly, but he made a number of anti-gay comments in that conversation, which was reported in this week's edition of Der Spiegel.

One hopes Ballack knows how to publicly slap his agent upside the head and disown his comments, both to show he's a man of the 21st century and because he should show his support of the national team, not of his agent.

Will Hugh Hefner Take Playboy Private? He Should

Reports are out that Playboy Enterprises founder (and majority shareholder) Hugh Hefner has made an offer to buy the shares he doesn't currently hold and take the company private. MSNBC says his offer values the company at $185 million.

According to the Financial Times, the company's board has not yet decided how to respond. (I wonder what they could do even if they didn't want to agree; if Hefner's the majority shareholder, wouldn't he wield the most weight on the board?)

Nonetheless, the company should go private. The extra costs associated with being a public company are wasteful even in good times, and they're unacceptable during rough times. Also, Hefner has been quoted as saying that the worst decision he ever made was to take the company public in the early 1970s. This could undo that damage, save money, and restore his control over a company and brand that has had some tough times.

Except for the obvious initial ability to reap money from a public offering, I fail to see the joys of public companies. It's – at the risk of sounding like a right-wing or left-wing loon – similar to communism: nobody at the top of public companies are usually held responsible when things go wrong (and in fact they often get a golden parachute from their pals on the board), and when things go well, the money is often squandered in ill-conceived mergers and acquisitions that fail to deliver real value. Public companies rarely have long-term vision, and all-too-often suffer from short-sighted focus on quarterly results. Give me a wisely run private business any day.

You go, Hef!

The Starlog Project: Starlog #143, June 1989: Indy Rides Again

It’s the summer of 1989, and there is a big batch of new genre films out or soon to be released: Batman, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, The Abyss. A number of those films would become milestones in genre history. That’s not to mention many other films of this season – nor the TV series such as Star Trek: The Next Generation, Beauty and the Beast or War of the Worlds. This was really a time of growth for the science fiction and fantasy genres, and Starlog’s busy covering it all.

Oh, and get out your checkbook: They’re running a special promotion this month: Subscribe to Starlog for $34.47 and get an extra issue (13 in all!) free, or buy a gift subscription for that same price and you’ll get sent your choice of a free copy of Starlog Yearbook #5 or Starlog Poster Magazine #3 (which I take to mean that the company had extra copies of the yearbook and poster mag they were looking to unload, but it’s a good subscription premium nonetheless).

Speaking of merchandise, did you know that on page 51, you can order a Fangoria t-shirt (“Member, Fango Family”) for just $9.95? And did you know that you can't order a Starlog t-shirt, because they don’t sell any? Now, does that seem fair?

Starlog #143
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $3.50

This issue we get what’s essentially the last change to the magazine’s contents page. Instead of multiple photos above a listing of articles, there is now one big photo that takes up the entire page, and the departments, features, and indicia (the publication info) are printed over parts of the photo. It allows the designers to get more impact from a big photo, and they can be more flexible with the text treatment. One thing to watch out for: After a while, for some reason that I’ve never been able to fathom, the contents page stops listing the departments and will only list feature articles.

The rundown: Harrison Ford as a horse-riding Indiana Jones is the cover boy (while Sean Connery as Dr. Henry Jones is on the contents page). Kerry O’Quinn’s From the Bridge column takes a swipe at communism as it’s fading in Europe and tells people how to help give it a kick in the rear by sending SF material behind the iron curtain; Communications letters include a bumper crop of readers responding to the recent conglomeration of Klingon articles, as well as a few other (mostly Trek) articles; and David McDonnell’s Medialog includes a round-up of genre news, such as this morsel: There’s a Spaceballs sequel planned, but it’s called Spaceballs III: In Search of Spaceballs II.

Will Murray interviews actress Heather Locklear, who talks T.J. Hooker and Swamp Thing; James P. Bozikis pens an article chronicling all of the similarities between Indiana Jones and Jiminy Cricket (he’s joking, see); 25th-anniversary Doctor Who videos are highlighted in David Hutchison’s Videolog column; Edward Gross interviews actor Ron Perlman about his starring role in Beauty and the Beast; Jean Airey and Laurie Haldeman talk with John Leeson, who provided the computer voice of Doctor Who’s K-9 (which includes the tidbit that he “even managed to lose a K-9 soundalike contest”); Peter Bloch-Hansen previews The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman II; Edward Gross checks in with Tracy Torme, creative consultant on Star Trek: The Next Generation; Bill Warren talks with another Trek figure, but one who wouldn’t join that franchise for many years: Robert Picardo, here best known for appearing in Explorers, The Wonder Years, Innerspace, Legend, and more.

Kathryn M. Drennan checks in with DeForest Kelley about his role in the fifth Star Trek film (and he also comments on his cameo in the premier episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation); Robert Watts, producer of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, is interviewed by Marc Shapiro (and the article includes this bit: “The third film won’t end with Indiana Jones settling down in the suburbs with a wife and kids.” No, that comes in the fourth movie); costuming maven John L. Flynn explores the world of science-fiction fandom costumes; in fact, it’s a veritable constuming special issue, what with the Fan Network pages largely given over to Crystal Wood’s article on “10 Steps to a Winning Costume”; and don’t leave out James E. Brooks’ article going behind the scenes on the designs for Star Trek movies, including a sidebar on making your own Starfleet uniform; and there’s yet more! Adam Pirani profiles costume designer Bob Ringwood, who talks about the costumes for the new Batman film, plus Dune, Solarbabies, and more; and David McDonnell’s Liner Notes column talks about his Indiana Jones hat.
“I had played beasts prior to this. This is not only a beast, but a beast who lived as an extension of his pain every moment of every day, and all of that was there in the relationship with this woman who opened up all of these new feelings in him. It was just mind-blowing that somebody could come up with a character that crystallized all of the beasts which had ever been written in history, including the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the beast from the Cocteau film and the beast that I played in Name of the Rose. These guys, I always felt, had tremendous feelings underneath their ugliness and those things were always touched on by the other characterizations, but never as articulately as in this version. I just saw an incredible sensitivity on the part of the writer for this man’s pain and his ability to transcend it.”
–Ron Perlman, actor, interviewed by Edward Gross: “Ron Perlman: Prince of the Underground City”
To read previous Starlog issue descriptions, click on "Starlog Internet Archive Project" in the keywords below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent home.