Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sen. Barbara Boxer: Senate Filibuster Abused, But It Has Its Place

So I guess this is turning into a political blogging day. I didn't plan it that way, but let's just go with it.

Barbara Boxer, Democratic U.S. senator from California, was asked today about the filibuster, which allows a senator or a party to hold up all action on a bill it dislikes.

Responding to an audience question at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club, a public forum, she said the filibuster has its place. The problem, she said, is that it's being abused just to be obstructive. The filibuster formerly was used rarely and for major points of contention between the parties in the Senate, she said, but now "it's being used on motions to adjourn."

Boxer also shared her suggestions about ways to reform the filibuster process. "I think you should have to stand on your feet all night if you want to filibuster," she said. Boxer added that the number of votes required to end a filibuster should be reduced from 60 to 55, which would still present enough of a hurdle to protect the minority party.

Conservative Democrats Scared of Pelosi, Clueless about Politics

Politico's main story this morning declares that weaker Democrats are trying to distance themselves from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. This will supposedly protect them from "charges that they are beholden to the unpopular House leader and supportive of the ambitious national Democratic agenda."

Okay, two things.

First, Nancy Pelosi is the only reason the Democrats have a successful agenda. She doesn't begin with the weak assumption that the GOP is going to help; she welcomes their input and support, but she doesn't cave to their demands. As a result, millions more people will have longer and healthier lives and not be taken to the cleaners to pay for outrageous health-care bills. As a result of Pelosi, we got financial regulation reform for the first time in, what, seven decades? As a result of Pelosi, the government has reigned in some abuses of the student loans system. As a result of Pelosi, the government prevented a Great Recession from becoming another Great Depression. Yeah, run from that "ambitious" record if you want, but since your Republican opponent is already running against it, you've already lost your re-election, Mr./Ms. Conservative Democrat.

Second, this just makes me think that too many Democrats simply don't know how to be politicians. They think it's an office job (with lots of fundraising dinners). They forget that it's a matter of convincing people – hundreds of thousands of people, maybe millions – that they are worth supporting, that their prescriptions for laws are worth supporting.

The Republicans, of course, know it's a pitched battle, and they have played their weak hand absurdly well. It is hard to imagine a party and ideology that were still viable despite having been as discredited as the Republicans are now, following the failure of their economic and foreign policies (policies which have hastened the relative decline of this country – so much for country first). It's like Kaiser Wilhelm making a triumphant return to Berlin in 1923. Michael Foot moving into Number 10 Downing Street in 1983.  It's like Mikhail Gorbachev becoming Russian Federation president in 1992. But the Republicans are currently up in those generic congressional polls that measure basic public feelings toward the two parties, so some Democrats are losing their heads. They shouldn't. They should embrace their ambitious agenda and actually sell it. If they're politicians, that's what their supposed to be able to do.

But too many of the Democrats are clueless about their chosen profession. These are the people, after all, who were blindsided by the manufactured fury of the health-care town halls from August 2009, with only Rep. Barney Frank having the guts and brains to go face-to-face with a crackpot protestor. They should look to Pelosi's legislative success for answers to their cluelessness. They should look to Barney Frank (and senators Feingold and Franken and others) for alternatives to their flailing around. Because if the Democrats lose control of either house of Congress this year, it'll be a major self-inflicted wound, not of too much ambition, but of too little brains and guts.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Emmys Are Very Gay so Far

And that's a good thing. Just noting: Gay winners, non-annoying gay jokes, gay actors playing roles in the proceedings, winners thanking their same-sex wives.

They might still mess it up by giving some sort of award to 24. But at the one-third mark, the Emmy's are looking quite good.

Seriously, the opening number was good and peppy, the humor has been good and (thankfully) not insulting, and the pace has been strong. So far, Jimmy Fallon's earning a gold star.

Spotted on Embarcadero: Bushman and Scooterman

A coworker had told me a while ago about the bushman, a San Francisco man who hides behind a bush along a busy sidewalk and jumps out at random people to startle them. I don't remember what I said; I probably rolled my eyes and made some comment about San Francisco's quaint mainstreaming of mental illness.

And then I forgot about it. (Seriously, in a city where a 70-year-old man walks stark naked in almost every parade, where a strip club drives around the city in a caged vehicle to show off its women, a man who jumps out from a bush to scare people is really not the most significant fact to retain.)

Today, after lunch with some friends at Butterfly restaurant on the Embarcadero (that's on the bayshore, to you out-of-towners, and it has good food and very good service), we left the restaurant and were preparing to go find our cars when we spotted him. The bushman. Wait, according to Wikipedia, he's called The World-Famous Bushman. (Because nothing's real unless it has a Wikipedia page. Thus, I'm not real.) He was hiding behind his hand-held bush on a street with no other shrubbery, occasionally jumping up and startling unsuspecting walkers and joggers. However, most of the people who passed him smiled and waved, though I'd bet more than a few over the years have wanted to hit him.

The novelty of it wears off fast, so we crossed the street, where, as our parting gift for being at the tourist zone along the shore, a man on a homemade scooter – it looked like a motorized bar stool, which I suspect is exactly what it was – came along. (Alas, that photo, at right, didn't quite work out; you can only see a portion of the man and his scooter in the center of the photo.)

Characters? We've got characters. But it sure beats the recently stabbed woman I saw on the streets of Chicago, or the homeless man who was, um, using the street as a toilet in Manhattan. All things considered, this makes San Francisco a normal city.

Where's Glenn Beck's Acting Emmy?

I searched and searched through the lists of nominees for tonight's Emmy awards presentations, but I didn't see Glenn Beck listed anywhere for best actor or best supporting actor. Is this just another example of the liberal Hollywood elite snubbing a patriotic crazy hero?

I wonder if maybe I'm not looking in the right place, however. "Glenn Beck" might just be a fictional character created by a true artist, like Paul Reubens' Pee Wee Herman. So who is the real "Glenn Beck"? It has to be some sort of an acting wizard, because he's so over the top. I'm thinking Robert DiNiro. Yeah, that's it; and it's about time the Emmys recognized DiNiro for his great work.

The Starlog Project: Starlog #165, April 1991: Attack of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

In the late `970s, the good folks (well, the folks) at National Lampoon licensed the rights to publish an American edition of the famed French adult fantasy comics magazine Metal Hurlant (which was the creation of Moebius and other great French creators). They launched Heavy Metal in the United States in 1977 and started a revolution in mature illustrated fantasy storytelling, influencing Warren Publishing’s 1984/1994 magazine, Epic Illustrated, even something called Gasm. (By the way, adult and mature here mean that they showed more violence and shirtless people – mostly women – than normal comics; they weren’t pornographic.)

But National Lampoon and Heavy Metal fell on hard times in the late 1980s, and eventually the company sold Heavy Metal to Kevin Eastman.

Ah, you say; you were wondering why I was talking about Heavy Metal in The Starlog Project. Kevin Eastman is the man who made zillions of dollars as co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He parlayed that success into other creator-owned comics projects. (As opposed to what I would do if I earned millions of dollars, which is pay off my credit card bills.) One of the things he did was buy Heavy Metal magazine in 1991, and he continues to serve as editor and publisher of the magazine today (2010).

Not that you asked, but in 2000, I exchanged a series of e-mails with Eastman in an attempt to interview him for a weekly science-fiction column I wrote for my friend Aaron Barnhart’s TVBarn.com. Though it never worked out (Eastman was agreeable to the interview, but he was always putting it off until he came back from various travels), I had a largely favorable opinion of the man, as someone who is charging head-first into a bunch of exciting projects, always busy, enthusiastic, and desperately needs iCal on his computer.

So, to bring this all home: The heroes in a half-shell, aka the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, take center-stage this issue of Starlog, promoting the new film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, a movie you might well have considered skipping, even if you didn’t know that it featured a guest appearance by rapper Vanilla Ice.

Cowabunga, boys.

Starlog #165
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.50

This is the last issue of the magazine before its publisher finally starts adding pages, which is also the harbinger of – believe it or not – yet another hike in the cover price. So cherish each page of this issue while you can ...

Oh, and a classified ad from the Did-I-Send-This-to-the-Wrong-Magazine department: “BUTTERFLY HUNT! Learn how to find, capture, prepare, preserve and display butterflies & moths. Send $3 plus $2 for shipping to ...”

The rundown: The juiced-up juvenile Japanese ... I can’t think of a synonym for “turtles” that begins with “j”, so let’s just say the turtles and be done with it – anywho, they’re on the cover; The Neverending Story II is featured on the contents page photo; all five pages of the Communications section are taken up with letters about various aspects of Star Trek, with the exception of Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile feature Blob, from The Blob; and David McDonnell’s Medialog column announces Tim Burton’s intention to make a sequel to his successful Batman film, including this tidbit: “Sean Young – briefly part of the first film, replaced by Kim Basinger – will play the Catwoman. And the penguin will be – yes!!! really!!! we’re not kidding!!! – Danny DeVito.” Despite the initial skepticism or at least surprise, DeVito would nail the role and become the best villain of the Burton Batman cycle of films.

Richard Starr interviews fantasy author Phyllis Eisenstein (Sorcerer’s Son, Born to Exile, etc.), who talks about her books and her husband, Alex, which leads me to wonder: The Eisensteins lived in Chicago, and there was an Alex Eisenstein who wrote for another (long-defunct) science-fiction movie magazine, Fantastic Films – is that the same Alex Eisenstein?; the Fan Network pages include a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze contest, Lia Pelosi’s directory of Star Trek fan clubs, and the convention calendar; Teresa Murray and Karen Funk Blocher profile actor John Levene, who portrayed Sergeant Benton for seven years on Doctor Who; in his From the Bridge column, Kerry O’Quinn writes about meeting Dori and Lori, two conjoined twins who succeeded despite the odds; Edward Gross talks with Judy Burns, who wrote the “Tholian Web” episode of the original Star Trek (and who shares some interesting insight into the script for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which she critiqued for Harve Bennett and for which she urged the inclusion of more emphasis on the Kirk-Spock relationship); Adam Pirani explores the stage version of A Clockwork Orange, a theatrical version of the controversial Anthony Burgess story that managed to get performed in the United Kingdom, where director Stanley Kubrick had forbidden the release of the film since 1972.

Marc Shapiro goes behind the scenes of The Neverending Story II, with a sidebar on Neverending Story II’s co-star John Wesley Shipp, aka The Flash; T.L Johns writes the cover story, an exploration of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ sequel, The Secret of the Ooze (complete with that Vanilla Ice photo); Edward Gross checks in with director Richard Franklin, who talks about FX2; back in issue #150, Gwen Lee and Doris E. Sauter provided a portion of their interview with Philip K. Dick, possibly the last interview (certainly one of the last) before his death, and this issue, Lee and Sauter are back with more Dick, who talks more deeply about his thoughts and his writing; Tom Weaver interviews Don Taylor about The Final Countdown, The Omen, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, and more; T.A. Chafin explains what it takes to enter a masquerade contest at a science-fiction convention (which includes a series of photos from a very innovative “Skin of Evil” gag); Arachnophobia and other genre releases are given their due in David Hutchison’s Videolog column; and in his Liner Notes column, editor David McDonnell highlights The Boys in Autumn, a Huckleberry Finn/Tom Sawyer stage play by Walter Koenig and Mark Lenard.
“I had known Mr. [Alfred] Hitchcock because I had been up for a couple of his films. Rope [1948] was one of them; I had just finished Naked City and I went to see Hitchcock about Rope. We just talked. He had just seen Naked City and he wanted to know how they made this shot, that shot and the other shot. He marveled at the fact that we shot on Fifth Avenue in New York. Anyway, I didn’t get Rope, but I had been interviewed by him. And once I got to do that first Hitchcock [TV series] episode, then I used to sit and watch him direct. He was taking all the good scripts. My first year, he, Arthur Hiller and myself were among those directing. Arthur and I were way down at the bottom. If Hitch didn’t want to do it or couldn’t do it, then Robert Stevens got it, and if he had already had one, then it came down to Arthur or me. Once in a while, we’d get a good one; many times, we were struggling. But basically, those were good scripts. When I think of the stuff that goes by me today, those were excellent scripts. The only thing that was wrong with them was what was wrong with most of the shows at the time: There was absolutely no production. They would put up two walls and put a picture on the wall, a chair and a table and say, ‘Shoot.’ No books, no magazines, no papers, no frills. You couldn’t get any production worth a damn.”
–Don Taylor, director, interviewed by Tom Weaver: “Director of Men-Apes”
To see more issues, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit The Starlog Project’s permanent home.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #164, March 1991: Dan Aykroyd's Nothing But Trouble

Valkenvania, the Dan Aykroyd/Demi Moore/Chevy Chase fantasy comedy, has been renamed Nothing But Trouble and relaunched on the cover of this issue of Starlog. It’s not exactly the most pleasant cast of characters on the cover; you know it’s an odd collection when Edward Scissorhands (upper left corner) is the most normal “person” on your cover. But that’s genre publishing!

BTW, in an interview with the movie’s director, Aykroyd, inside this issue, the Saturday Night Live alum recalls giving the script to Warner Brothers. “They said, ‘Fine, we want to make this movie with you and John Candy.’ I said, ‘Fine. I want to play the judge and the banker.’ They said, ‘How about Chevy Chase as the banker?’ I said, ‘Great!’ He said ‘Great!' Everybody said, ‘Great!’ Then, we kind of looked at each other and said, ‘OK, who’s going to direct?’ And I thought to myself, ‘If I say I don't have a director at this point, it’s going to take months to find somebody,’ so I just blurted out, ‘I’ll do it.’”

Starlog #164
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.50

Reading through this issue, one notes that a number of Starlog family publications are chugging along. The licensed magazine Star Trek: The Next Generation is working on its fourth season, All-Star Action Heroes has its third edition, as does Comics Scene Spectacular (there would soon be a Starlog Spectacular and a Fangoria Horror Spectacular), etc. Of note (and editor David McDonnell does note it in his editorial) is the release of the 100th issue of Fangoria, the sister magazine that almost didn’t survive. It had a rough time (legally and in terms of sales) getting out of the gates in 1979, until the editors went with their guts and made it a full-fledged horror magazine and not a fantasy-horror-science-fiction hybrid. It was reportedly struggling again around issue #50, after both editors (“Uncle Bob” Martin and David Everitt) left and sales were soft, so Starlog editor David McDonnell took over editing chores (while he edited Starlog and numerous other titles; I really don’t know how he did it) for a little more than a year while he groomed future Fango editor Tony Timpone, who would go on to helm Fangoria for a quarter century – until early 2010, in fact.

All of that’s a long-winded way of saying that Fangoria reaching its 100th issue is a big deal. And it celebrates with a very good, special 100-page issue. As I write this (in 2010), Fangoria is nearing its 300th issue. It never would have gotten there if Starlog’s editor hadn’t stepped in and supported it when it was in danger of dying.

The rundown: Dan Aykroyd and John Daveikis are in fat-baby suits on the cover, while Jack Rickard’s illustration of the Creature from the Black Lagoon is on the contents page. In the Communications section, readers write about Beauty & the Beast, Land of the Giants, and Star Trek, plus Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile features the Creature from the Black Lagoon; and David McDonnell’s Medialog reports on a whole slew of sequels, including a planned sequel to The Punisher before the first movie has even been released.

Interplanetary correspondent Michael Wolff is back with another exploration of a popular genre concept, this time looking at Frankenstein throughout the years (as illustrated by George Kochell); Edward Gross hears Kenneth Johnson’s unrealized plans for the continuing adventures of Alien Nation; the Fan Network pages feature Lia Pelosi’s fan club directory and a convention calendar; David Hutchison reports the release of 42 episodes of Space: 1999, in his Videolog column; Tom Weaver interviews director Robert Day about his Tarzan films (in an article that is sadly undercut by a green patterned background on the pages that is printed too dark, making the article nearly unreadable); Dan Yakir talks with director Tim Burton about Edward Scissorhands; and Marc Shapiro interviews actor/director Dan Aykroyd about his new film Nothing But Trouble.

Pat Janiewicz talks with writer Jerome Bixby about Fantastic Voyage, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Star Trek’s “Mirror, Mirror” episode, and more; Tom Weaver and Michael Brunas interview actor Richard Denning (Unknown Island, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Day the World Ended, and more); Weaver solos with an interview of 1950s star John Agar, who talks about Tarantula!, Revenge of the Creature, and other films (with a sidebar on The Creature Walks Among Us); Kyle Counts checks in with director W.D. Richter, who wowed Starlog’s editors with The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai and is back with Late for Dinner, a far less bizarre affair; in his From the Bridge column, Kerry O’Quinn discusses Aggiecon; and David McDonnell’s Liner Notes column notes Fangoria’s 100th issue and lists some more contest winners.
“[When I was a kid] there was this kid next door who we convinced that an alien spaceship had crashed in the park. We had set up a bunch of ruins of a ship and told him it was inhabited by these invisible aliens, so we put footprints – it was very elaborate. I think we also used the same poor kid when we staged a fake fight out in the front lawn. I was playing a masked killer or something, and I beat up my brother and stabbed him in front of this kid, and he screamed and his mother came out and started screaming and called the police. The kid also bought it when I took my clothes off and threw them into the pool and we said that they had acid in the pool to clean it and someone fell in and disintegrated. Oh God! We would go to any length to make this work.”
–Tim Burton, filmmaker, interviewed by Dan Yakir, “Director’s Cut”
To see more issues, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit The Starlog Project’s permanent home.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What If: A Silent Star Wars (Before the Talkies)

Before the Wookie-Talkies, that is. Here is a farther nifty reimagining of The Empire Strikes Back, done as if it were a silent movie:

And here's another silent Star Wars, though it uses bits from episodes IV, V, and VI, so it's more of a video montage. But still fun:

Get Back to the Point

Note the image above. That's from the homepage of USA Today (at least at mid-day August 25, 2010). The main story is about a film (a bad enough omen, but that's not at issue here), The Social Network. But the story that the newspaper decides to tell (again, as its main story) is about how the company's "brand" might be affected by the film.

First of all, I don't care. Facebook is what it is: a way-overhyped social network that exists to connect people and mine the hell out of their information for commercial gain. It is inevitable that someone would try to make money by trying to make Facebook sound like it has an interesting story. (And I am not sure that it does; the groan-inducing previews are so over-the-top melodramatic that at first I thought I was seeing a parody, then I began to grow a bit horrified as I realized that people really thought a film about spoiled rich boys at Harvard getting richer was a story with which all Americans could identify.)

Whatever. Just become my Facebook friend, okay?

My real complaint is with this type of journalism, represented by USA Today's report. Why are we supposed to care about Facebook's balance sheet? Why is that the most important thing about this silly movie? Good lord, why is it the most important news thing of the day?

It's not just USA Today and Facebook. Sports journalists do it all the time. Athlete So-and-So says something racist/misogynistic/criminal or is filmed doing something racist/misogynistic/criminal, and faster than you can say, Who is this guy and why should I care? we get the news stories about how this will hurt his ability to negotiate a new contract with the sports team that was daft enough to hire him in the first place. Or how it will affect his sponsorship deals, Jesus be praised.

Oh, entertainment journalists do it, as well. Actor So-and-So says something (or screams it on a secretly recorded phone) that is racist/misogynistic/criminal, and we have to endure not intelligent discussions about So-and-So's pathology, but rather easy-to-report "news" about how this could hurt So-and-So's box office or ability to get financing for his next movie.

These journalists who do this are missing the point. I know America is often one big get-rich-quick scheme, and half of the population would sell their spouse into slavery if it increased the odds of their getting a discount on Google stock or whatever. But journalists are supposed to have some news judgment, and they should recognize that, if stories with these angles are valid at all, they should come very late in the news cycle and be given low billing.

Because in the end, it just is not going to affect you or me one bit if Athlete So-and-So makes $14 million rather than $22 million next year. It won't affect us, it shouldn't affect us, and we shouldn't have stories pitched at us as if there is some unspoken agreement among all Americans that we should automatically put the monetary success of famous people ahead of their crimes or even their professional performance.

Family Kidnaps, Beats Gay Brother

This would be a family about which one would want to think twice before letting them know your sexual orientation. The Jerusalem Post reports about a young man who moved from his village to Tel Aviv to escape his family, but the family came after him nonetheless, kidnapping him off the street, taking him out of town, beating him and holding him for 12 hours before the police rescued him and arrested the kidnappers.

The brothers wanted to force him to return to the village and act "normal." If they were acting normal, then the world's better off that the one brother remains gay.

I just hope he doesn't invite them to his wedding.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Terror of the Undead: My Filmography

Terror of the Undead. The mere title of this 30-year-old independent American horror film is enough to make older genre fans' eyes mist over with fond memories. Where were they in the summer of 1980 (or somewhere around then) when this film was crafted by a bunch of young teenagers in Manitowoc, Wisconsin?

Just like the hundreds of film vets who got their starts working for B-movie king Roger Corman, Terror of the Undead provided the training ground and launchpad for such modern film legends as mmmmbbllee mummble mummblle and mummble mmrrmerr mummble. This movie is a great example of what art can be created if enough talent is deployed, along with blood, sweat, tears, and about 15 minutes of pre-production planning. Just like you witnessed with the guerilla filmmaking techniques used by The Blair Witch Project, you'll be amazed at the shaky camera work (accomplished using the pre-digital effects technique known as we didn't know how to hold the camera steady).

The acting is, if I may say so myself, sublime. I was honored at this point in my junior high school career to be offered the lead role of "the reporter" in Terror of the Undead. I had been dissatisfied with the scripts being sent to me, and I was on the verge of seeking new representation when the Terror opportunity presented itself, and I recognized it immediately as the career-changing role it was. (Seriously, career-changing. I'm now a magazine editor.)

As I told the Actors Studio's James Lipton, I've never gone in for that old-fashioned method acting stuff. For me, it's enough to know the camera is on and that I remember I'm supposed to look (a) pensive, (b) unemotional, or (c) expressionless. Though I was beaten out at the Oscars that year (damn you, Dustin Hoffman!), I think the industry appreciated my "new-wave" approach to fleshing out and humanizing "the reporter."

Go ahead, watch the film. When you see me, I'm sure you'll immediately say, "Oh, wow, you had a full head of hair back then." No, no. I was a bald 12-year-old, too, but I made you believe that I had a full head of hair. That's called acting.

Watch the entire film – free of commercials or film industry censorship!!! – here.

The Starlog Project: Starlog #163, February 1991: Harry & the Hendersons

Does anyone remember the short-lived TV series Harry & the Hendersons? Did you know that Scott Baio was one of the directors of this show’s episodes? Yes? No?

Doesn’t matter. The syndicated series, which was based on a 1987 movie of the same name starring John Lithgow, lasted 72 episodes before being shown the door. Whether you liked or disliked this show, it must still cause you alarm that ALF lasted a entire season longer than Harry & the Hendersons. Just pointing that out.

This issue Starlog publishes its annual postal statement of ownership and circulation. The total paid circulation for the issue closest to the statement's filing deadline is listed as 171,137 (up from the previous year's 160,739, continuing a slow multi-year increase), including the number of paid subscriptions of 9,567 (also up, from 8,978 last year).

Starlog #163
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.50

Correct me if I'm wrong: Technically, Kevin Peter Hall has a first-and-only record-setting achievement this month. As the actor-in-the-monster-suit for both Harry & the Hendersons and the Predator movie, he appears twice on this cover, as different characters. (Note the Predator's pretty face in the upper right-hand corner of the cover. No, not the left; Gates McFadden was in fact played by Gates McFadden.)

The rundown: Kevin Peter Hall, who for a while was the go-to guy for tall-creature acting, is featured on the cover in his harry Harry (sans Hendersons) guise; and a blast from the past – E.T. – is on the contents page; the Communications section is kicked off with a long letter urging science-fiction fans to take environmentalism seriously, while other readers show how seriously they take Star Trek: The Next Generation, Lost in Space, and even android definitions, while Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile features King Kong; and David McDonnell’s Medialog column recounts the many failed efforts to resurrect Alien Nation.

Kyle Counts interviews Lost in Space star Bill Mumy, who discusses that series as well as his efforts to create a reunion show; David Hutchison’s Videolog column notes the releases of Total Recall, Back to the Future Part III, and other genre titles; Duane S. Arnott contributes his first article to Starlog, an interview with actor Robert Brown, who portrayed Lazarus in the original Star Trek episode “The Alternative Factor”; Desire Gonzales talks with actor Ritch Brinkley, whose role as Beauty & the Beast’s William the Cook was a bit of a misnomer, because “you never saw me cook so much as a piece of bread” (he also discusses his role as Carl the cameraman on Murphy Brown); T.W. Knowles II contributes a Q&A with novelist Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, who uses themes in her books from her time as a nurse in the Vietnam War; and Ian Spelling checks in with actress Gates McFadden, who discusses returning to Star Trek: The Next Generation (and who appears to be as clueless to her exit-and-return as is the audience).

The Fan Network pages include Patrick Daniel O’Neill’s report on the BBC’s attempt to recover lost video of Doctor Who episodes, plus Lia Pelosi’s directory of Doctor Who fan clubs; Marc Shapiro interviews “The Man in the Monster Suits,” Kevin Peter Hall, who talks about Harry & the Hendersons and Predator 2; Jean Airey talks with director and producer Vere Lorrimer about his efforts to continue and then kill Blake’s 7; Industrial Light & Magic effects supervisor Dennis Muren talks to John Stanley about creating special effects for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, The Abyss, and others; in part two of Steve Swires’ interview with director Val Guest, the 79-year-old Guest talks about working with Woody Allen, among others; Dan Yakir speaks with director Adrian Lyne about Jacob’s Ladder; Kerry O’Quinn’s From the Bridge column sort-of reviews Michael Crichton’s book Travels; and in his Liner Notes column, editor David McDonnell lists the winners of a number of recent give-away contests.
“William Shatner is a sweetheart. He loves to laugh. Not the stiff, forced Nimoy guffaw, but a man who sees the odd part of life. Humor is his friend. He seems to be poking fun at himself more than others. A very likable fellow. As the intellectual type, Leonard Nimoy was somewhat removed, much like his acting, although a decent man of conscience.”
–Robert Brown, actor, interviewed by Duane S. Arnott: “Lazarus Rises Again”
To see more issues, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit The Starlog Project’s permanent home.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Shooting Ourselves in the Foot with "Ground Zero Mosque" Hysteria

The Los Angeles Times reports on the worldwide surprise and disappointment regarding the United States, as people around the planet watch the bigoted demonstrations and the inflammatory rhetoric over the attempts to build an Islamic community center and mosque within a few blocks of the World Trade Center. The Jerusalem Post reports on the fundamentalist passion being aroused by the opponents of the center, mixed with (and sometimes led by) the families of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

There are a lot of things on which I'm more than happy to give my political opponents the benefit of the doubt, to at least assume they mean something other than what they are saying, to recognize that – when you take away the cameras and just talk to someone with an opposing view– I sometimes come away respecting them even if I still strongly disagree with them.

Not on this topic, though. Anyone with even a fourth-grade understanding of freedom of religion, of freedom of conscience, of a Sunday-school understanding of fair play and love of your fellow man – anyone with those basics of social rules can easily think themselves out of the box in which the Fox political agitators have put this country.

This is all sound and fury, anyway. The Islamic community center & mosque project is slated to cost $100 million, and backers of it have raised – get your pitchforks and poorly spelled protest signs ready – a whopping ... well, pretty much nothing. Notes an AOL News report, the developers still have to raise about $100 million for the $100 million project. Bake sale, anyone?

Verbal bomb-throwers like Sarah Palin have been making badly spelled demands that Muslims repudiate (I assume that's what she meant with refudiate, but one can never be sure with Palin) extremist versions of their religion.

Well, then, she and her ilk should welcome this Islamic center, because it is being planned by people who want to do exactly that. They should also examine the good work countries like Jordan are doing in re-educating militants and promoting a more peaceful Islam. But even knowing about such things apparently takes the effort of reading newspapers or even Googling, so why do it? If it conflicts with your personal beliefs, then it's not worth reading, for these folks.

And that's why I don't respect the views of the people making anti-Islam and anti-Muslim (and anti-religious freedom and thereby anti-American) statements. They haven't done the slightest bit of work to educate themselves, and therefore they don't deserve to take up national air time.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #162, January 1991: LeVar Burton in the Spotlight

Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Geordi La Forge is one of the characters that started out on that show in a relatively ignored status, but who grew and grew as the show went on, the cast evolved, and as actor LeVar Burton proved he had the acting chops to be more than a navigator saying, “Yes, Captain!” when told to “Engage!”

Worf’s role also grew dramatically throughout ST:TNG (and Deep Space Nine). It makes you figure that Denise Crosby was way too impatient to be complaining about a lack of opportunity with her Tasha Yar character in the middle of the first year. Clearly, her character would have expanded and matured and gotten her day in the sun.

A little magazine business talk: This is the second issue Starlog has published since increasing its cover price (from $3.95 to $4.50). It doesn’t add pages (yet; that’s coming), but it does add one color to its black-and-white pages (the non-glossy paper pages). So these pages are (in publishing lingo) B&W +1. It’s a nice addition, though Starlog – as Starlog is wont to do – overdoes it, larding many of these pages with the extra color (which changes each issue, sometimes a light green, sometimes a blue, sometimes – eek – a yellow).

It’s kind of interesting that the magazine added this on the second issue with the higher price. Usually, you add it on the first issue (or sometimes the last issue of the lower price), so the reader isn’t ever left with that feeling of shelling out more money and getting nothing for it. Who knows; maybe there was a mixup in the executive suite of Starlog and they raised the cover price before they had all their ducks in a row. But even if the addition of color is a delayed improvement, it’s still an improvement. And in a few issues, they’ll even throw in four more pages, so get out your party dress!

Starlog #162
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.50

Some classified ads are just more interesting than others. Case in point: “AT LAST, A guide you can buy about a gravity driven mother ship. Write for free information ...”

The rundown: LeVar Burton as Geordi La Forge is the cover man; meanwhile, a somewhat meaner character, the Predator, is featured on the contents page. Communications letters rip apart RoboCop 2, genre journalist Paul Mandell gives an extended expert response to Steve Swires’ interview with Ray Harryhausen’s producing partner Charles Schneer (in Starlogs #150-152), plus Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile comic features The Ymir; and David McDonnell’s Medialog column informs us of planned sequels to Moontrap, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, Beastmaster, and The Terror Within.

Marc Shapiro interviews LeVar Burton about his role as the chief engineer on Star Trek: The Next Generation (Burton notes, “Making Georgie Chief Engineer and moving him to another part of the ship was great because it gave him a responsibility that’s integral to each and every story”); David Hutchison’s Videolog column notes the latest genre video releases, including the apparently much-hated Robocop 2; William B. Thompson profiles writer Robert Jordan (The Great Hunt, The Eye of the World, and others); Steve Swires talks with 79-year-old director Val Guest about the Quatermass films and other productions in his career; Marc Shapiro interviews actor Kent McCord, who discusses Predator 2, Adam 12, and Galactica 1980 (including how the show morphed from a planned riff on The Day the Earth Stood Still to a show in which alien kids played baseball); Robert Pegg talks to screenwriter Caroline Thompson about Edward Scissorhands; and the Fan Network pages include Lia Pelosi’s directory of fan publications and clubs (this is your chance to get in touch with West Germany’s Knight Rider fan club).

Marc Shapiro profiles Quantum Leap star Dean Stockwell (“I always liked the idea that Al was the equivalent of a desk sergeant who sends the other cops out to arrest the bad guys”); Bill Warren previews She-Wolf, a TV series from former Starlog correspondents Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin (with a sidebar in which the two discuss writing for Beauty & the Beast); Dan Yakir gets Patrick Swayze to discuss his role as Ghost’s ghost; Mark Phillips interviews actor Liam Sullivan, who guest starred in the original Star Trek episode “Plato’s Stepchildren” (which featured the first interracial kiss on slow-to-the-gate American television); continuing the magazine’s coverage of the 1960’s TV series Land of the Giants, Mark Phllips profiles actor Don Matheson (with a sidebar chat with Giants writer Esther Mitchell); After he made his mark as Benny in L.A. Law, Larry Drake starred as the villain in Darkman, which he discusses with Kyle Counts; in his From the Bridge column, Kerry O’Quinn goes back home for a Texas-sized Star Trek convention, including taking George Takei out for bar-b-que; and David McDonnell’s Liner Notes column tells us about the revived Starlog Festivals.
“The last sequence of the film was the confrontation with the creature in Westminster Abbey. It was imperative that Jack [Warner] – who had been right through the picture as Inspector Lomax – was in that final scene. Yet, the night before we shot it, the assistant director told me, ‘You can’t have Jack Warner tomorrow. [Producer] Tony Hinds won’t pay his salary for the day.’ I said, ‘You must be joking. It’s the last scene in the film. This man has tracked down the creature through the whole movie. He is the one person who must be there.’ ‘Tony isn’t going to pay for him,’ the assistant director said. ‘He’s off the pay list.’ I told him, ‘You go to Tony, and tell him I will personally pay Jack’s salary for the day. He has to be on set tomorrow.’”
–Val Guest, director, interviewed by Steve Swires: “The Quatermass Conductor”
To see more issues, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit The Starlog Project’s permanent home.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fun with Blagojevich

When former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was charged with a zillion corruption charges, I told some colleagues that I wouldn't be surprised if he wasn't convicted. The reason was that, in the absence of a powerful new political force in Illinois, there would be few people willing to testify or convict a governor for shaking down the state's businesses and citizens. Those shake-downs have been occurring for too long, and they simply are seen as the way business is done in that state.

I don't like corrupt politicians – in fact, it annoys me deeply in my Wisconsin-bred heart and soul – but I simply don't think Illinois is going to go through a great awakening of political and social reform that will make the state government operate in a transparent and clean manner. (BTW, if you want a fascinating and at times jaw-dropping story of Chicago corruption and amusing reform movements, check out the book Sin  in the Second City.) Don't forget that Blago himself got into the governor's chair by campaigning as an anti-corruption reformer.

It's how Illinois operates. It's how Chicago operates. And the fact is that I think most Chicagoans and most Illinoisans figure the system runs pretty well. You know, you never want to see legislation or sausage being made. Chicago's got its problems (crime is stubbornly bad, for example), but it's a great city with so much going for it. Take away the current Great Recession-related financial problems, and Illinois doesn't have too much to complain about.

So for all of us good-government types, this should be horribly depressing. And yet, I'm not depressed.

I can't quite explain why. Perhaps living in Chicago in the 1990s corrupted my reformist's heart. But whatever's the case, I make this prediction: Little will change in Chicago locally or Illinois statewide in terms of how business is done with the government. Some new rules and laws will be put into place. They'll be adhered to in word if not in deed. And the state will continue sending a high percentage of governors to jail.

Fun fact: The lawyer for a 1920s Illinois governor charged with corruption – who was himself a former governor – argued that Illinois governors enjoyed the divine right of kings. Laughable as that is, was Blagojevich's in-your-face legal counter-offensive any less brash?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Can Cheese Shrink? Well, the Moon Can

No doubt, your kids woke you up this morning when they ran into your room shrieking, "The moon is shrinking, Daddy/Mommy/court-appointed-guardian!" And you, as always, reached over to grab the alarm clock to see what friggin' time it is, accidentally knocking the empty bottle of vodka off the night table.

Frankly, you're an unfit parent. But that's not what's important here. The fact is, your kids are correct. They're not the crazy little sugar-powered liars you've always taken them to be. (Seriously, you need parenting counseling.)

The news today is that our planet's one and only moon is shrinking. The Bad Astronomy blog at Discovery explains why and how. But here's what you need to know (consider this the executive summary, you lazy parents): It's not going to change your view of the moon, should you ever look up into the sky anyway; also, the moon isn't going to completely disappear, the Associated Press helpfully informs us.

If you don't trust those liberal media to tell you what's really going on with our only natural satellite, then you might want to go right to the source of Big Space, NASA itself. The space agency tells us: "Newly discovered cliffs in the lunar crust indicate the moon shrank globally in the geologically recent past and might still be shrinking today, according to a team analyzing new images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft. ... The moon cooled off as it aged, and scientists have long thought the moon shrank over time as it cooled, especially in its early history. The new research reveals relatively recent tectonic activity connected to the long-lived cooling and associated contraction of the lunar interior." Translation: The moon is shrinking.

So read the complete articles if you want the details, or if you want to be able to hold an informed conversation with your children, for once.

Photo detail credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University/Smithsonian

Dear Rafael Mandelman: I'll Consider Voting for You When ...

On my way into San Francisco's Glen Park BART station (that's one of our subway lines, for those of you out-of-towners), I snapped this photo of one of the trash bins at the station. On the other side of the entrance, the same sign was on another trash bin. Around the entrance were several supporters of this candidate, Rafael Mandelman, who is running to become our supervisor (the equivalent of an alderman, and with all the weirdness that entails in most city councils).

I know that following the law seems to be considered an optional pursuit in San Francisco by many people, but am I really being too stuck up to be annoyed that a candidate plasters his material on public property? Or did BART (or the city – whoever owns the trash bins) approve of this use? If so, it's a form of endorsement of the candidate, and it's wrong. If BART or the city did not approve of it, then it's abuse of public property, and it's wrong.

Considering all of the troubles we have with people who get into public office (at all levels, in all locations, from all parties and ideologies) and forget about the line between their personal aggrandizement and the public good, we should hold people to decent standards when they're running for local office. So, Mr. Mandelman, you might be a perfectly fine candidate in many ways, but I'll consider voting for you when you display proper respect for the people you intend to serve. Get your signs off my – our – public property.


The Starlog Project: Starlog #161, December 1990: To Catch a Predator 2

The first Predator movie kind of came out of nowhere to become a cult hit. But the media was prepared for the sequel, and it got more attention than its predecessor. Thus, a Predator cover on Starlog.

Also note that this issue Starlog’s cover price jumps 55 cents, from $3.95 to $4.50. I know, inflation blah blah blah. But still, the magazine has been at a standard 76 pages (excluding special extra-page issues) since #94 back in May 1985 – 68 issues ago. The paper quality is much better than it was five years earlier, but it’s the same total number of pages, the same amount of color pages in the overall package, and it costs $4.50 instead of the $2.95 that #94 cost.

But don’t complain too much. Within half-a-year or so, the magazine will finally upgrade its page count and color situation, resuming its march to ever-more of both.

Starlog #161
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.50

Photo caption of the month: “Pete Martell stands out as the most normal Twin Peaks resident – just don’t let him near a percolator.”

The rundown: A powerful-looking Predator star is on the cover, while Valkenvania’s Demi Moore is featured on the contents page. Reader letters in Communications include praise for the Michael Ironside interview in #155, give decidedly mixed reactions to Total Recall, and attempt to be as weird as the Philip K. Dick interview it's referencing; and David McDonnell’s Medialog announces a sequel to be called Bill & Ted Go to Hell, plus other genre news.

Marc Shapiro previews the Dan Akroyd-John Candy-Demi Moore fantasy film Valkenvania (about which Akroyd says, “I don’t know why Starlog would want to cover this movie. It’s definitely not science fiction.” Fine. I said it was fantasy.); new video releases (Jetsons: The Movie, Total Recall, Back to the Future Part III, etc.) are announced in David Hutchison’s Videolog column; Robert Pegg profiles actor Jack Nance, veteran of David Lynch productions such as Eraserhead and Twin Peaks; Robert Greenberger interviews actress Suzie Plakson, who portrayed the Klingon K’Ehleyr in Star Trek: The Next Generation; in the second part of his talk with writer George R.R. Martin, Edward Gross explores how the series dealt with star Linda Hamilton’s decision to dial down her involvement with Beauty & the Beast; Michael Vance and Bradley H. Sinor talk with veteran science-fiction author Hal Clement; and Dan Yakir checks in with writer Bruce Joel Rubin to talk about his new movie Jacob’s Ladder (and he also discusses Ghost and Brainstorm).

The Fan Network pages include Lia Pelosi’s fan club directory, convention calendar, and some very short news bits on SF music parodies and a non-fiction book by Edward Gross exploring aspects of Beauty & the Beast; in the cover story, Marc Shapiro unveils this season’s Predator (and includes this comment by writer Jim Thomas: “I think Predator vs. Alien is a good idea that will probably never happen. ... My personal favorite would be to have the Predator beat the crap out of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”), with a sidebar chat with director Stephen Hopkins; Shapiro also explores TSR’s first move into the comics publishing business, with a new Buck Rogers title; actor Liam Neeson tells Kyle Counts about his role as the star of Darkman; Tom Weaver interviews actress Jane Wyatt, the veteran who portrayed Spock’s mother (and whom I always mix up with Jane Wyman, Ronald Reagan’s first wife); a two-page Tribute section includes Kim Howard Johnson’s remembrance of actor Jack Gilford and Python Graham Chapman, and Tim Ferrante provides actor Jock Mahoney’s obituary; Jean Airey and Laurie Haldeman, who chronicled everything Blake’s 7-ish a while back, return with a complete episode guide to the Robin of Sherwood TV series; Kerry O’Quinn gets all misty about Niagara Falls in his From the Bridge column; and David McDonnell’s Liner Notes column announces Mike Fisher’s new computer-drawn “Creature Profile” comic panel that will appear in the magazine for a number of years.
“There’s a moment when the cameras are rolling and before the director has called ‘action’ that you’re waiting. You’re not yet committed to the scene and you’re waiting for the cue and you’re in a very vulnerable kind of moment. It’s an intense pressure and concentration. And David [Lynch] will use that moment and start talking to you and give you verbal cues to the scene like ‘wrapped in plastic’ and you’ll be reacting to what he’s saying and do it on the spot. He has caught you, caught you unawares. It’s really neat and it’s really personal, a kind of intimate thing.”
–Jack Nance, actor, interviewed by Robert Pegg: “Deceptive Appearances”
To see more issues, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit The Starlog Project’s permanent home.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Whole Month to Go yet Before Daniel Kehlmann's Fame Is Published

Sigh. The English translation won't be published until mid-September.

See, this is why everyone should live in Europe, so we can get the original edition when it first. comes out.
Above: As Amazon says.
And as Barnes & Noble says

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Lost Sandstorm Scene from Return of the Jedi

It's not video, but it's recreated from stills of a lost scene from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. It involves a sandstorm that takes place after Luke rescues Han and his friends from Jabba the Hutt.

Watch the video below; then check out some background.

The Starlog Project: Starlog #160, November 1990: The Flash – in a Pan

Audiences weren’t exactly enamored of the previous Flash – the Dino De Laurentiis Flash Gordon film from 1980. But 10 years later, in 1990, CBS TV aired a different comics-based hero, The Flash, as a regular series. It starred John Wesley Shipp, and noteworthy guest stars include Mark Hamill. The Flash only lasted one, 22-episode season, and in that respect it resembled various failed attempts to bring science-fiction or comics projects to the small screen in the 1970s. I’m no Flash expert or fan, but from what I gathered from listening to other folks who were Flash-ers, this series was fairly well received and appreciated by comics fans (unlike many of the cheapo 1970s productions alluded to above), if not the network.

So, short-lived but well-loved.

Meanwhile this month, in other Starlog-ish news, Lia Pelosia is now listed as a consultant, along with former publisher Kerry O’Quinn, in the staff box. Also, the company ceased publication of its Bob Martin-spawned real/reel horror magazine Toxic Horror, and one of its other horror film magazines, Gorezone, has switched from bimonthly (six times a year) to quarterly (four times annually) publication. Starlog, Fangoria, and Comics Scene are all chugging along healthily, however. And, after a couple years’ interregnum, the Starlog Festival SF conventions return, with a January 12-13, 1991 event in Anaheim, California, with appearances from Patrick Stewart (Whoopi Goldberg’s boy toy, as you’ll see), Bill Mumy, Denise Crosby, Joe Barbera, and others.

Starlog #160
76 pages (including cover)
Cover price: $3.95

Classified ad of the month: “STAR WARS Can get ya it got me good. I got over stocked with original Star Wars style A posters & Anakins U.S. $80 each ...” Oh, if only people’d pay the extra 30 cents to have correct punctuation in their ads.

The rundown: That’s John Wesley Shipp as The Flash on the cover; Kim Hunter in full Planet of the Apes get-up is on the contents page; Communications letters are overwhelmingly devoted to commenting on various Star Trek topics (such as how to defeat the Borg), with the remainder a grab bag of Land of the Giants, James Coburn, Airwolf, and Quantum Leap commenters; and David McDonnell’s Medialog includes the truly scary news that the people who brought to TV the mind-numbingly boring and annoying series thirtysomething are planning a Robin Hood movie, which (thankfully) never materialized. (For you readers too young and blessed not to have lived through an episode of thirtysomething, just know that it was the show that confirmed in the rest of the population the conviction that Baby Boomers were self-absorbed and whiny. That show, the network suits saw fit to run for four seasons. The Flash could have livened up those characters.)

“Patrick Stewart doesn’t have much hair, but, boy, is that man sexy!” – or so says Whoopi Goldberg in her interview with Marc Shapiro, in which she discusses her recurring guest star role on Star Trek: The Next Generation and her role in Ghost; David Hutchison’s Videolog column notes the release of some Woody Wookpecker cartoons, plus other genre releases; Steve Swires interviews Edward Judd, star of The Day the Earth Caught Fire and First Men in the Moon; Tom Waver and Michael Brunas do a Q&A with actress Kim Hunter about her days as an ape on the Planet of the Apes movies; Marc Shapiro talks with Alien Nation star Eric Pierpoint, who portrays detective George Francisco in that series; Shapiro also has a short talk with actress Lauren Woodlan, who portrays alien kid Emily Francisco on Alien Nation; and Frank Garcia profiles actor Brian Tochi, who guest starred in the original Star Trek episode “And the Children Shall Lead” and also appeared in Space Academy, The Twilight Zone, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Marc Shapiro keeps giving us more this issue: he explores the new superhero TV series The Flash; the Fan Network section includes a directory of fan clubs and the convention calendar; Bill Warren previews Eve of Destruction, which stars Renee Soutendijk and Gregory Hines; in the first of a multi-part article, Edward Gross talks with veteran writer George R.R. Martin about TV’s Beauty & the Beast, about which Martin comments, “To the extent that if your ratings are strong, you earn yourself the freedom to do whatever you want. When your ratings begin to sink, and I experienced this on Twilight Zone too, suddenly you’ve got a lot of ‘help’ from the network and the studio. And it’s not necessarily the help you want. On Twilight Zone, things got so bad at the end that we had two network representatives sitting in on our story meetings. We never got that bad on Beauty & the Beast, but yes, we did go with more action in the middle of the second season and definitely in the third.”; in “Lord of Disaster,” Lowell Goldman talks with director John Guillermin about The Towering Inferno, King Kong, Sheena, and more; in part two of Mark Phillips’ talk with the writers of The Land of the Giants, future Dynasty creator Richard Shapiro notes about his involvement with Giants: “My writing career was not exactly soaring when I got my first script assignment for Giants. I needed the credit, I needed the money and frankly, I would have worked for anybody who offered to hire me.”; Kerry O’Quinn’s From the Bridge column explores his enchantment by total solar eclipses; and ye kindly editor, David McDonnell uses his Liner Notes column to – perhaps oddly, perhaps uniquely – suggest other magazines of interest (from other companies) to which Starlog readers should subscribe.
“Ah! That was great! Jonathan [Harris] and I remained friends years after the show [Space Academy]. Jonathan always had a story to tell. I would just sit with him and marvel at the stories about stage from way back and he would have them all. I remember every morning, he would bring a whole box of Tootsie Pops! He was terrific, so much fun, so clever, so witty, so much arrogance. He was testy. The first time I met him was at a doctor’s office – we were having our medical checkups for insurance purposes. In there were Pamela [Ferdin] and Jonathan Harris! I went up to him and said, ‘How do you do, I’m Brian Tochi, what’s your name?’ And he looks at me! ‘You do not know me, really?’“
–Brian Tochi, actor, interviewed by Frank Garcia: “Star Child”
To see more issues, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit The Starlog Project’s permanent home.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love Author Elizabeth Gilbert to Lobby for LGBT Immigration Equality

When I lived in Chicago and tried explaining to friends the immigration difficulties gay couples had when one of them was foreign-born, more than one of them asked if my partner and I couldn't just get married or become registered domestic partners and that'd take care of it, right? Forget the fact that at that time – the late 1990s – there was not legal gay marriage anywhere in the United States. Even today, state-approved marriages mean nothing in federal law; in fact, I've heard of gay couples that list themselves as married on federal paperwork (customs forms, taxes, etc.) getting into big legal trouble because they're not considered to be married in the eyes of the theocracy – I mean, the federal government.

Don't judge my friends harshly for not knowing that; unless you're caught in that horrific space of worrying about having to move to another country or being separated from the one you love, you don't think about such things. And when you do have to deal with it, be prepared for a long fight. Get a really good lawyer. And kiss off any idea of being able to afford a home anytime soon.

So here's the scoop: A straight person can sponsor her foreign-born boyfriend for U.S. immigration purposes. The immigration authorities are known to be difficult even in those situations, because they have to deal with a lot of people who lie about being a couple just to get into the United States. But it is possible, doable, and legal.

Hell, here's a worse scoop: An American man can buy a wife from another country, and that passes muster with our federal government. They don't have to have children. They don't have to stay together for the rest of their lives. They don't even have to love each other. But a man who's been together with his boyfriend for years and who wants to be together with him for the rest of their lives is unable to sponsor his partner. Their relationship means nothing to the government.

So it's great to see that Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert is reportedly going to Washington, D.C., to join the fight to end discrimination against gay and lesbian couples in U.S. immigration policy. She is doing so in support of a piece of legislation called the Uniting American Families Act, the sort of law that would make the Fox News crowd choke on their own bile, but which makes sensible people choke up with emotion because they know that real love and commitment is at stake.

Reports on Gilbert's actions include the note that she knows what she's speaking of, because her foreign-born partner was unable to stay in the United States. By "partner" they mean her Brazilian boyfriend. You have seen the movie, no?

If you're interested in learning more about immigration equality for all citizens, here are some resources:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #159, October 1990: Captain Picard’s a Borg!

This autumnal 100-page special issue of Starlog is a nice time capsule of what was going on in the science fiction and fantasy worlds around October 1990. Star Trek: The Next Generation’s third season had presented some of its best work (such as “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and “The Best of Both Worlds, Part I”), and season four would continue the show’s maturation from its somewhat PC first year. A new generation of science fiction writers were making their names, including William Gibson (interviewed in Starlog #145), Terry Pratchett (interviewed in #157), and Orson Scott Card (interviewed this issue).

What was happening outside of the SF world at that time? After all, if there’s supposed to be some connection between the themes of science fiction and the real world, then there should be something of interest.

Let’s see. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev got his legislature to pass laws laying the foundation for a market economy. France and England are connected by the Channel Tunnel. East Germany and West Germany are reunited after 45 years. President Bush was readying Operation Desert Storm to counter Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August. Akihito becomes the 125th emperor of Japan. And, perhaps most important, the Internet Movie Database is launched, ending world conflict (well, as long as that conflict revolved around trying to figure out how many Police Academy movies featured that guy who can make weird sounds with his voice). Hey, it apparently brought a East and West Germany together.

Hmm, the real and the science-fiction worlds seem to be out of sync. In the real world, nations are moving together, settling old fights, and uniting (with the exception of Iraq, though even that brought together a million nations in George Bush’s coalition to invade Iraq). But in the science-fiction world, the peaceful if bland federation is threatened by the evil Borg, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is threatened by memory control.

Or wait, maybe it’s all right after all. SF is supposed to predict the future, right, not necessarily reflect the present. So this issue of Starlog has an interview with Orson Scott Card, who presages the rise to power of anti-science conservatives who reject climate science and impose religious views on matters of individual freedom. (But hey, I’ll give him this: He’s a very good writer.)

If only we’d known ...

Starlog #159
100 pages (including cover)
Cover price: $4.95

A photo caption to make you think: “Sikes (Graham) comes to terms with his feminine side as he must help deliver George’s (Pierpoint) child.”

The rundown: Patrick Stewart hasn’t been made into a knight yet by the queen of England, but he has been made into a Borg by the Borg queen, as he models the latest in cyborg headgear on this month’s cover; meanwhile, Peter Pan gets the contents page featured photo slot. Letters to the editor in the Communications pages all explore the Back to the Future III film or respond to Bruce Gordon’s exploration of that film (and, I have to admit, some of the hypotheses they suggest are quite interesting – Starlog readers really pay attention when they see movies); in Medialog, Marc Shapiro shares Bill Cosby’s comments about his planned remake of H.G. Wells' The Man Who Could Work Miracles, and David McDonnell provides a roundup of genre news, such as reading the tea leaves indicating that a Star Trek VI will be made (because Paramount’s been shopping around merchandising opportunities to potential partners – and I’d be willing to bet $2 that one of those potential partners was licensed movie magazine publisher Starlog); the Fan Network pages include a two-page article by Bill G. Wilson about modelmaker Mark Bradley refurbishing the original Battlestar Galactica model, a Star Trek novels contest, a very brief list of Beauty & the Beast fan clubs, and a convention calendar; and David Hutchisons’ Videolog column announces the release of Peter Pan on video, pllus other news.

T. L. Johns interviews legendary SF author Fritz Leiber; Bradley H. Sinor talks with Russell Bates about the animated Star Trek; Marylois Dunn profiles author (and self-proclaimed “very mean little old lady”) Ardath Mayhar; Jim George talks with director Nicolas Roeg about his fantasy The Witches, and he also gets Roeg to comment on his David Bowie SF film The Man Who Fell to Earth and its leading man, with whom he seems to retain a cordial if distant friendship; Star Trek: The Next Generation writer/producer Michael Piller tells Edward Gross about recent episodes; Will Murray interviews Total Recall screenwriter Ron Shusett about the film, including the abortive David Cronenberg-Richard Dreyfuss version; Edward Gross gets the inside scoop on the late Alien Nation TV series from that show’s writers; in part one of a multi-part article, Mark Phillips talks to the writers of the 1960s TV series Land of the Giants; and Mike Clark interviews Shimon Wincelberg, writer for Lost in Space (and he tells us that Carroll O’Connor – who eventually starred in All in the Family – was considered to star in Lost in Space, but the actor turned it down), Time Tunnel, and more.

It's a very writers-heavy issue. W. Bradford Swift interviews Ender’s Game author Orson Scott Card, who mostly gives a standard overview of his books and writing, but who also has some typically thought-provoking comments; Kerry O’Quinn’s From the Bridge column issues a call for ideas from readers; Bradley H. Sinor talks with another novelist, Walter Jon Williams (author of Angel Station, The Crown Jewels, and more); Wanda J. Hall checks in with Star Trek novel writers Diane Carey and Greg Brodeur; in a three-page Tribute section, Adam Pirani says good-bye in obituaries for the great Jim Henson and actor David Rappaport, Tom Weaver notes the passing of actress Susan Oliver, and Eric Niderost remembers actress Jill Ireland; and editor David McDonnell wraps it all up in his Liner Notes column, telling a cute story about his younger self, a mimeograph machine, and memories.
“I’m talking about books by 35-year-old novelists writing about 35-year-old characters who nevertheless approach the world as an adolescent: that life is all about getting free of people that dominate you. That’s a 15-year-old’s viewpoint. There should be fiction that tells you about growing up, about being an adult who’s responsible, who can’t just walk away when he gets tired, who doesn’t just go and get a divorce, who doesn’t have a mid-life crisis, but instead, sticks it out and deals with what goes wrong. There aren’t many adult heroes in fiction.”
–Orson Scott Card, author, interviewed by W. Bradford Swift: “Words He Lives By”
To see more issues, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit The Starlog Project’s permanent home.

Friday, August 13, 2010

David Boies Gives Advice on Dealing with Critics of Recent Gay Marriage Court Ruling

Working on my next column for Northside San Francisco, I was reviewing the great speech and audience Q&A with lawyer David Boies, who is one-half of the team that convinced a federal judge to rule Proposition 8 unconstitutional.

Boies went through a careful demolition of the anti-gay marriage contingent, which you can hear for yourself if you watch the video of his speech. But in brief, he proved that the defendants' arguments didn't hold up on the witness stand, where they had to present evidence and explain facts. The anti-gay marriage folks don't have facts; they have fears.

Then Boies predicted that people would hear criticism not of the opinion that the judge wrote but of the judge and the courts. And he was right; that's exactly what we've heard in the post-ruling wailing of the hard Right in this country.

He gave this advice: He said you won’t hear people saying, This is what the judge said in his ruling, I think he’s wrong, and here’s why I think he’s wrong. Boies challenged people who hear their friends and neighbors say they disagreed with the ruling to ask them what exactly in the ruling did they disagree with? What did the judge say that they think is wrong, and why do they think it’s wrong? What facts and evidence to they have to share? “Because if we can simply move this debate out of the realm of emotion and bias and prejudice, and into the realm of dialogue, and logic, and evidence, there is not another side.”

He makes me hopeful.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Judge Vaughn Walker Rejects Request to Stay Ruling; Marriages Legal as of August 18

WIth federal judge Vaughn Walker's decision today rejecting the defense's request to stay his ruling from last week that struck down our state's anti-gay Proposition 8, same-sex couples in California are able to begin getting married again starting August 18.

Couples were lined up inside the court building in San Francisco before the ruling was announced, ready to get married the instant it was made legal again. But they'll have to wait. The judge's ruling said:
None of the factors the court weighs in considering a motion to stay favors granting a stay. Accordingly, proponents’ motion for a stay is DENIED. Doc #705. The clerk is DIRECTED to United States District Court For the Northern District of California enter judgment forthwith. That judgment shall be STAYED until August 18, 2010 at 5 PM PDT at which time defendants and all persons under their control or supervision shall cease to apply or enforce Proposition 8.
In the case Perry et al v. Schwarzenegger et al, Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker supported his previous ruling. This was expected in many legal quarters, because in his ruling striking down Proposition 8, he made very broad and strong denunciations of the weak "evidence" and assertions of the defendants, and he also made fundamental statements about constitutional fairness. That's not the kind of thing you then go back and say, "Well, maybe I am wrong." If you rule something is a fundamental constitutional sin, you don't say that should be continued while lawyers jaw-bone it out in the courts for years.

You can get the official ruling here, at the site of the U.S. District court.

So, on the the U.S. Circuit Court!

After many years in which anti-discrimination causes were under heavy fire, it's great to see some momentum in the direction of fairness and equality.

Daniel Radcliffe and the Half-Blood Cover Photo

Well, the ol' tubes of the internets are buzzing with mostly complaints about gay lifestyle magazine Out's new cover featuring actor Daniel Radcliffe. (Do tubes buzz? We'll never know; Ted Stevens isn't around any longer to ask.) The image, as you can see, makes the handsome young actor look either crazy or strung out after a night of drugs.

The story inside the magazine is at least somewhat interesting; it's about Radcliffe's befriending of a transgendered musician. It also plays up the fact that Radcliffe has become a very public champion of equal rights for everybody, including the LGBT population. Gay magazines love to play up gay-friendly actors or other performers – especially if they're gifted in the looks department – because there's only so many times you can put Rupert Everett or Adam Lambert on the cover. And, let's face it, some folks love to fantasize about the gay-friendly-but-straight actors like Radcliffe. Hell, even Mel Gibson used to be a gay icon, and he's barking mad in his homophobia.

So I'm glad to see Radcliffe being unafraid to identify himself with gays, lesbians, and transgendered folks. He's proving himself to be a thoughtful person, one who is also a talented actor.

But what does this Out cover photo convey? That he needs to get out in the sun some more, despite his natural Britishness? That no one – no one – should ever wear a tank top? That you can make even Daniel Radcliffe look unattractive if you try hard enough?

In short, the photo is horrible. It was chosen, no doubt, to give some edge to an actor associated with a wholesome young-adults movie series, but it was still a bad choice. That's not to say that you can't dirty up Radcliffe. Esquire's UK edition did so a little while ago, and it looked fine. The cover photo showed the roughed-up actor in a way that supported the editorial content inside, and it didn't make you speculate about the magazine's professional judgement.

Another UK magazine, the gay lifestyle magazine Attitude, had Radcliffe on the cover and didn't think he needed to look vampiric. The American mag Details (and is there any gayer straight magazine?) had a very good-looking Radcliffe on the cover. And you certainly didn't think this blog in particular would publish a bunch of Daniel Radcliffe magazine covers and not include at least one Starlog cover, did you?

Of course, Dumbledore should have been getting this love from the gay publishing world, and maybe he would have, if that dastardly old Snape hadn't offed him ...