Wednesday, March 30, 2011

On Stage with Michio Kaku

Above, courtesy of The Commonwealth Club's great photographer, Ed Ritger, is famed physicist and co-founder of string field theory Dr. Michio Kaku (right). I'm the other gentleman in the photo, which shows us on stage at the Cubberley Theatre in Palo Alto, California, where the Club event took place before a sold-out audience of about 300 people.

I'd love to tell you that we were on stage together so that Kaku could ask my advice about various perplexing scientific problems, but in truth we were there fielding audience questions about his new book, Physics of the Future.

More on this as I write it up. But, to put it briefly, if you ever have the chance to talk with a genius physicist, do so. And if that genius is Dr. Kaku, you'll enjoy every minute of it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Backstage with Michio Kaku

The photos here show famed physicist Dr. Michio Kaku on-stage (despite this blog post's headline), signing books following his Monday, March 28, 2011, speech and audience Q&A at The Commonwealth Club in Silicon Valley.

But there was a backstage, too. Before his speech, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Kaku in the green room, where we discussed some of the ideas he explores in his great new bestseller, Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100. I had known that he was born in San Jose, but I hadn't known that he had grown up in the South Bay, leaving only upon graduation from high school in 1964. He had some nice remarks about growing up here, back when Silicon Valley looked so different than it does today. He expanded upon some of his remarks during his speech to the sold-out audience at Palo Alto's Cubberley Theatre, as well as in the Q&A session, which I moderated.
I will write up a portion of the interview for my next column in Northside San Francisco. After they publish it, they also post it online, at which point I'll post an only slightly edited transcript of the interview on this blog, as I did with my Premal Shah and P.J. O'Rourke interviews. In the meantime, I will be working on the next issue of The Commonwealth magazine, which is slated to feature Dr. Kaku on the cover.

So it's all-Kaku, all the time around here. And that's not bad.

Defunding NPR

The latest political cartoon from my stepfather, Lyle Lahey.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Winq and Mate Magazines Pair Up

As the above announcement on the web site of Mate magazine notes, two of the nicest gay lifestyle magazines you can imagine have paired up, and it just might be that the only downside is that instead of two separate good non-adult gay magazines, we now will have only one. Apparently with the current issues, Germany's Mate magazine and the Dutch Winq magazine have merged, with the unified publication to be called Mate but carrying the Winq design (see above).

In the United States, we get only a quarterly version of Winq, which is published monthly or bi-monthly (I wasn't certain which) in Holland. We also have received the English-language edition of the German Mate, which has also been quarterly. Now, presumably, we will be the happy recipients of an English-language edition of the combined Mate.

I  would like to make this pitch to the publishers of the new Mate: First, please improve your distribution in the United States. Both magazines could be hard to find here. Trust me. I live in San Francisco, so if a gay magazine should be easy to find, this is the city for it. But I know of only a few places that carried the former version of Mate, and maybe six places that carried Winq. And if you subscribed to the old Winq, you would pay about twice the price that you would have paid if you purchased it at the newsstand. This is a market that the new Mate could conquer, but it has to be better represented in the States.

Second, please make it monthly.
I'm a fan of both magazines. They have produced high-quality, beautifully designed magazines that, I think, put to shame American gay magazines. Let us hope that together they continue the best traditions of both publications and don't become a muddle.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The History of Wisconsin Governor Walker – in Cartoons

Many of you already know that my stepfather, Lyle Lahey, is a veteran political cartoonist in Wisconsin, having worked for decades at the now-defunct Green Bay News-Chronicle.

For the past several years, he has been producing his political cartoons for the web, only taking a leave of absence recently to accommodate a move across town. Then he picked a great time to come back: right in the middle of the brouhaha over Wisconsin's right-wing governor, Scott Walker, and his plans to radically alter the state's politics and economics. (Let's just say Lyle puts the "haha" in "brouhaha").

Here, then, is a small collection of Lahey comics on the topic of Wisconsin's famous and infamous maximum leader. You can see new and more than 560 archived Lahey comics at his main site, and you can follow his new ones on his blog.

Click on the cartoons to view them in larger format.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ted Danson at The Commonwealth Club, Photos

Ted Danson in the Library of The Commonwealth Club of California, San Francisco. Photo by John Zipperer.
Actor and environmentalist Ted Danson is (as I write this) speaking downstairs in the main auditorium of The Commonwealth Club of California, as part of its Climate One series of programs. An advocate of protecting oceans and ocean life, he is also discussing his new book, Oceana

If you'll forgive the grainy quality of these camera-phone photos, you can see Danson (above, in center of photo) as he prepares to go into the auditorium, and (below, right) on stage in discussion with Climate One Director Greg Dalton.
On stage, Climate One Director Greg Dalton (left) speaks with Ted Danson. Photo by John Zipperer.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

So, You're a Ferengi, eh? The Starlog Project, Starlog #190, May 1993

It’s Star Trek on the cover of Starlog for the second issue in a row, and the fourth time in the last five issues. If I were a better, more faithful chronicler of these Starlog issues, I would spend the time to look over all 374 issues that the magazine published in its 33-year life and report back to you on how many of those covers featured Star Trek of any sort. Then we could throw in the foreign editions of Starlog, the special one-shots featuring Trek, the licensed TV series magazines, the licensed movie magazines, the assorted Yearbooks and Spectaculars and Scrapbooks and Best of issues of Starlog, and even the paperback books. (Let us not forget the forehead-slapping-loopy cover of the fourth issue of sister magazine Fangoria, which featured Spock from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.)

Add up all of them, whateverthehell the final tally is, and I think it would be a safe bet that Starlog’s publishers produced more publications with Star Trek on the covers than anyone else in the universe.

Starlog #190
84 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.95

Would you date a fellow science-fiction geek? In the Miscellaneous section of this issue's classified advertising is an ad for "SCIENCE FICTION CONNECTION. Nationwide network for unattached SF fans forming. ..." Wonder how that worked out for them.

The rundown: The cover, in case you weren't paying attention, features Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Armin Shimerman, who plays Quark in that show; the contents page is given up to an illustration for a story by Anne McCaffrey, who is interviewed in this issue. In his Medialog column, David McDonnell reports that ideas are brewing to do some new things with William Shatner’s TekWar stories, which have already appeared as novels and comics. One idea: A series of TV movies. Could it happen? Wait and see. Michael McAvennie’s Gamelog column reviews T2: The Arcade Game, Dragon’s Lair, Dark Force Rising, and other games. And the Communications section includes Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile of The Phantom of the Opera, plus letters on Trek, Red Dwarf, Star Wars, and more.

Booklog’s reviews this month include The Door into Sunset, Arthur C. Clarke: The Authorized Biography, Maze of Moonlight, Stainless Steel Visions, The Architecture of Desire, Purgatory: A Chronicle of a Distant World, Skybowl, The Singularity Project, and Red Orc’s Rage, which might not be a bad name for a band. David Hutchison notes releases of new Dr. Who programs in his Videolog column. The Fan Network is comprised of the convention calendar and Maureen McTigue’s directory of fan clubs and publications. Kerry O’Quinn tells us how his friend Arthur C. Clarke “lives the large life.” And Lynne Stevens previews Raver, the new comic from actor and writer Walter Koenig.

Stephens also talks with actor Daniel Davis, who discusses his guest-starring role as Professor Moriarty in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Tom Weaver interviews Mark Goddard, the former star of Lost in Space who at the time of Weaver’s article was back in school earning his Masters degree in special education, which he would go on to teach for years. Sharon Snyder and Marc Shapiro separately interviewed actor Armin Shimerman, and Starlog knits together their interviews into one article, in which Shimerman talks about playing Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Ferengi bartender, Quark (and which includes this quote: “This is not the kinky Star Trek, but there are darker, more multi-faceted sides than on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Geen Roddenberry’s vision is still here, but it’s being shifted around and re-examined through other people’s eyes.”).

Award-winning fantasy novelist Anne McCaffrey (The Ship Who Sang, the Pern series, etc.) is interviewed by Drew Bittner. Bill Warren checks in with actor Peter Donat to talk about his role as the villainous Mordicai Sahmbi in Time Trax. Marc Shapiro profiles actor Jeff Kaake, one of the stars of the ill-fated TV series Space Rangers. When the original Star Trek was being put together, actor Malachi Throne was offered and rejected the role of the Enterprise’s doctor, though he later went on to make guest appearances on the series. He discusses those roles in an interview by Joel Eisner.

Michael Wolff and illustrator George Kochell examine the history of body-snatcher pod-people movies. Speaking of which, Kim Howard Johnson interviews Abel Ferrara, director of the latest Body Snatchers film, starring Billy Wirth. Jean Airey talks with actor Deborah Watling, former companion of Dr. Who. Joe Nazzaro continues his look at the British science-fiction comedy series Red Dwarf with a profile of actor Danny John-Jules, who plays Cat on that show. And editor David McDonnell urges people to keep reading in his Liner Notes column, which is interrupted by a Kevin Brockschmidt “Terminator Bunny” cartoon. You kind of have to see it.
“That was the three years on Lost in Space for me: ‘Is the show good enough?’ ‘Is it getting the ratings?’ And the cast was worried: ‘Is this laughable?’ Especially after Star Trek came on – ‘Can we compete with this kind of a show?’ Then, we went up against Batman and that hit us – they got good ratings and we didn’t, although we did come back later. ‘Batman’s a real camp show, we're not a camp show. Are we a real show? We’re not a real show like Star Trek and we’re not a camp show like Batman.’ Tension! We didn’t know where we fit, we hadn’t found an identity. An identity came near the end, when finally it was Smith and the Robot doing silly things, and that’s what the show became. But that’s not what it set out to be. I always wanted to do a comedy, but I never knew [while on Lost in Space] that I was in a comedy. One day I said, ‘Hey, I’ve been doin’ all this Method stuff – I didn’t know we were doin’ a comedy here!’”
–Mark Goddard, actor, interviewed by Tom Weaver: “Space Duty”
For more, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent site.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Print Avengers

Last night at a fundraising dinner, my tablemates included a number of members of the working press. On my left was the editor of a major city magazine; to my right was the publisher of an upscale regional lifestyle magazine. It didn't take long for the discussion to turn to one of my favorite topics, and it did so at their initiative, without prompting by me.

Both of them were saying exactly what I have been writing for years here and in my digital magazine-about-magazines, Magma: Print magazines need to be high quality to survive, but there's no reason they shouldn't survive.

The editor talked about the importance of having strong editorial content, even if it's just a couple significant pieces every issue that really make one invest time with the magazine.

That goes nicely with my argument that a magazine is a medium with which a reader spends time, reading it on long subway commutes or putting their feet up on their desk or lying on a couch. Make the experience worth it. Publishers and editors who try to make their magazines full of nothing but short, fluffy items that could just as easy be articles are missing the point and are shooting themselves in the feet. Those magazines will always be beaten by the internet, the medium that does such things better. Even moreso than with online properties, the greater amount of time one spends using and enjoying a magazine, the higher its value to advertisers, the greater the likelihood the reader will purchase another issue of the magazine or even subscribe, the greater the likelihood the reader will share the magazine with friends and family (or discuss it with online pals).

The publisher at our table noted that her readers really identify with her magazine, and the magazine in turn has been careful not to cheapen the experience. The paper quality and production value of the magazine have remained high, something appreciated by reader and advertiser alike. The editor, likewise, agreed with my contention that magazines should refrain from shrinking their size, as so many do by cutting their trim size ever so slightly ever so continually. His magazine is much larger than 8-1/2" by 11", and as a result its perceived value (not to mention its ability to feature greater designs and layouts) is greater than that of a standard magazine.

Should it surprise anyone that the editor's magazine is the healthiest prospect in his company's print unit, or that the publisher's company is planning to launch two new titles in the next year or so?

Missing from our table was a friend of mine who owns two local publications, both healthy. She strongly believes that quality counts, and she spends the time and money doing investigative reporting, follow-ups on previous stories, and in-depth profiles. Again, am I surprised that her company's prospects are so good that she recently brought in a partner to allow her to ramp up the publications even higher?

None of these three magazine professionals is tech-phobic. In fact, I know two of them have had extensive careers in the high-technology fields. They are, however, able to see value where others are blind to it.

I'm beginning to think of magazine professionals such as these three as the Print Avengers, superheroes of the medium. Their main foe is conventional wisdom that print has no future and no value. Their superpowers are the ability to prove the conventional wisdom incorrect month after month.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dr. Michio Kaku Coming to The Commonwealth Club in Silicon Valley

Dr. Michio Kaku will be coming to The Commonwealth Club of California in Silicon Valley later this month, and I'm pleased to say that I will have the honor and pleasure of moderating the program.

Kaku is a very well-known physicist (the co-founder of string field theory, no less), futurist, bestselling author, television personality, and all-around extremely smart guy. I've had the pleasure of twice seeing him live on stage, both times about a decade ago when I lived in Manhattan. One of the events involved him talking science and science fiction, an intertwining of topics he took to new heights in his 12-episode Science Channel TV program Sci Fi Science: Physics of the Impossible. His books include the brand new Physics of the Future, Hyperspace, Physics of the Impossible, and others.

He also hosts a radio program, Science Fantastic, on about 90 radio stations across the country, and another radio program called Explorations. And you are likely to see him show up frequently on Fox News and other programs as an expert on many topics (lately he has been offering his scientific expertise on the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear tragedies in Japan). How he finds the time to do all of that, plus make public appearances at The Commonwealth Club, I don't know, but I'm glad he does because I can guarantee he's worth seeing in person.

Kaku, who was born in San Jose, will speak to The Commonwealth Club in Palo Alto, California, on Monday, March 28, at 7 p.m. If you're in the area, please join us for the program.

Monday, March 14, 2011

San Francisco City Hall Hits the Snooze Button: My Latest Northside Column

 My latest column in Northside San Francisco is out in print and online.
Common Knowledge
No gadfly in City Hall
By John Zipperer
Published March 2011
San Francisco faces a tragedy that no amount of budget scrimping or constitutional tinkering seems likely to change. Simply put, our fair city might lose its place in the national pantheon of political train wrecks.
The new Board of Supervisors that took office in January is, well, boring, if you agree with a recent Bay Citizen report. After years of public sniping and snubbing and wild accusations among certain supervisors and Mayor Gavin Newsom, things have calmed down so much that Dr. Phil would be proud.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Omni Magazine in Japan, Spain, and Germany

In my never-ending dedication to informing the world about foreign language editions of American magazines (here, here, here, and probably elsewhere), I offer up this link to a web site that displays some neat covers from the late, great Bob Guccione science/science-fiction magazine Omni.

These issues are from Japan, Spain, and Germany. I actually own two copies of the German edition of Omni, for which I paid a king's ransom in postage (photographed above). I also own a copy of the UK edition of Omni, which cost me considerably (and inexplicably) less. But, because Omni listed on its masthead many foreign editions, Guccione clearly had an aggressive international marketing plan.

Judging from the two German copies I own, it looks like Omni was smart and let the international editions include lots of (mostly?) local content, rather than forcing U.S.-created content down their throats.

Check out Apogeebooks' gallery for more foreign Omnis.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I Can't Beat This Headline

Probably no one can top this headline. No, it's not a headline from the New York Post or the National Enquirer. It's from the perfectly respectable English-language web site about Germany, The Local.

The headline?

Former Neo-Nazi Becomes Leftist After Sex Change

That might seem like just a bit too much change in one's life in so short a time, but it's probably for the better. The story, if you have the interest, is online.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Yes, Lyle Lahey Is Back

For those of you who enjoy good, independent political cartoons, I am pleased to inform you that veteran Green Bay News-Chronicle cartoonist Lyle Lahey's back from his sabbatical, and he's in top form.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker might not be happy about it, but I'm thinking Walker might not like most of what's happening in Wisconsin these days.

You can see all of the action at Lyle's main web site or his blog.


David Granger Has Seen the Promised Land of Print and Digital Partnership

The January/February issue of Publishing Executive magazine includes an interesting guest column by Esquire magazine editor David Granger. Longtime readers of this blog – or new readers who just have a lot of time on their hands to read all of my old posts on Esquire in general or David Granger in particular – know that I both respect and am impatient with the long-serving celebrated editor of Esquire. On the one hand, he really gets it on why print is important and what it does better than anything else. On the other hand, I think he produces a magazine that underperforms in terms of its writing and intellectual quality and gets sidetracked with silly gimmicks. It's Esquire, after all; it's hard to get an American magazine with a better pedigree than that. But the mag is filled with articles written for people who are hipper than they are bright, smirkier than they are stylish.

But whether or not you agree with me, I think he's someone to whom you should pay attention if you're interested in the dramatically evolving world of periodicals publishing. In his PubExec column, Granger enthuses about the growing "entanglement" between all of a publication's media: print, web site, tablet computer.
[W]e're taking advantage of the Web's awesome disseminative power to broadcast a daily version of Esquire to the widest possible audience and then to entice a significant percentage of that audience to pay for the print and iPad Esquire experiences. Simply, subs sold on the Web are cheaper to acquire, and you can charge more for them. The iPad and other e-readers promise a whole new distribution matrix that will build on this foundation and let consumers carry more of the revenue load. Beautiful. 
And, of course, as this happens, we will get to pour more resources into doing even crazier, more expansive magazine/Web/iPad projects that will make everyone want our products more and make them more valuable to advertisers.
I think Granger's on the correct general path toward finding how different media forms work together, and helping to end the fundamentalist fight between people who just hate print or just resent the internet.

I've received the occasional request from readers of my issue-by-issue chronicle of the late science-fiction film magazine Starlog for directions on where they can find digital copies of that magazine. Each time, I reply that the former publisher of the magazine had at one time promised to release a digital archive of the magazine, but it hasn't appeared yet. Any digital copies you find online are illegal, and I can't support them.

Despite my responses and despite the lack of a legal digital copy available, it's not too hard online to find people who have scanned print articles or even entire magazines and posted them to their blogs or web sites. Think of it as media convergence, rebel-style.

The image above that accompanies this post is of a cover of Esquire magazine, but it's not the American edition, despite my discussing the editor of the U.S. edition. The above image of the South Korean edition of Esquire is from a screen grab of a web page that I came across doing a simple Google Images search for "Esquire 2011" – and it's apparently a site where you can illegally download digital copies of a wide variety of magazines (from the looks of the featured magazines on the site's home page, they specialize in soft-core porn magazines, which is an interesting twist on the one print publishing niche that I do agree has no reason to continue existing in a world where nekkid pictures are disseminated much faster and cheaper online). Cut off at the bottom of the image above is the handy download button.

But I'm not sure the publisher of Esquire can or should be too upset about the magazine's unauthorized distribution over the internet. Granted, they don't make any direct money from it, but as Granger notes in praising his magazine's own authorized digital forays, digital offerings can allow the magazine to reach a wider audience, some of whom can be enticed "to pay for the print and iPad Esquire experiences."

The print edition of the U.S. Esquire is not expensive; I believe the price has risen since I entered into a ridiculously cheap multi-year subscription a while ago, but it's still dirt cheap. Esquire is one of those consumer books that makes its money not from circulation but from advertising. I understand that model, though I've been criticized in the past by people who didn't know there was another model. Really, I think publishers should pursue whichever model – or a hybrid of the two – works for them.

And ultimately, that's the angle that interested me the most about Granger's PubExec column. Because, after praising entanglement and silly "augmented reality" gimmicks, he points out that it's not just a one-way street, of print endlessly hemorrhaging advertising and readers to its online "competitors." The two can be symbiotic in numerous ways, including the ability of digital to increase the sales of print subscriptions. "Simply," he says, "subs sold on the Web are cheaper to acquire, and you can charge more for them. "Beautiful," indeed.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Empire Magazine's Science Fiction Love; Spinoff to Follow?

The March 2011 issue of Empire magazine, the giant movie magazine from the UK, has a special section focusing on science fiction. This Sci Fi section is 32 pages long and features the exhaustive, well-assembled content for which Empire magazine is known.
I haven't read it yet; I've just returned from the magazine shop. But just a quick perusal of the articles in this section are what made me commit to buying the periodical. (Several articles on knockoffs of Star Wars, for example. I'm there.) 

It also made me wonder: Is this a market test for a possible science-fiction spinoff magazine launch? Something to take on SFX and Sci Fi Now, two other oversized, attitude-filled UK science-fiction film mags? Those two magazines also are published by large UK media houses, which put out tons of periodicals, including SFX parent Future's Total Film magazine, which competes directly with Empire, as far as I can tell.

Empire is part of Bauer Consumer Media, which is a unit/division/branch/whatever of German media Giant Bauer Media Group. They own zillions of newspapers and magazines across Europe, plus radio stations and other media. Looks to me like they have the capacity to do just about anything they want.

Treks Ahoy! The Starlog Project, Starlog #189, April 1993

After writer Harlan Ellison was finished with putting out his An Edge in My Voice columns, which began in Future Life magazine and then migrated to other publications after FL folded, he put out a book with the collected columns and new introductions. The book, also called An Edge in My Voice (1985), was one of my favorites of that decade, and I gave it as a gift to several of my friends.

I always expected Ellison’s friend and fellow writer David Gerrold to one day collect his long-running Starlog columns in book form. Gerrold began writing for the magazine with its fourth issue in March 1977 and continued every month (later switching to bimonthly frequency) until issue #101, rejoining its pages a couple years later to chronicle the birth of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which he helped birth with Gene Roddenberry. Over the years, his columns ranged from controversial reviews of the first Star Trek movie and The Empire Strikes Back to computer insights to thoughts on life and encouragement for readers. I figured that was a no-brainer candidate to become a book, but none ever appeared. Gerrold seemed more intent on producing new novels and some television work, which is his right, of course. But still, a missed chance, no?

Then there’s been some talk in 2011 about a possible book collecting Kerry O’Quinn’s From the Bridge columns, literally hundreds of which were written over decades by the magazine’s co-founder and former publisher. In Starlog #189, O’Quinn begins his column noting that he had recently received a letter from a friend, who wrote, “I’ve seen a few of your most recent Bridge columns, and they’re fun to read because you wrote them – but I haven’t seen a ‘reach for the stars’-type column lately. I hope you still feel that they’re important.”

O’Quinn then goes on to offer up just such a column, about Jok Church, creator of the Beakman’s World TV series and the syndicated comic strip You Can with Beakman. Reading the story about how the young man struggled to get his ideas off the ground and then found success in print and on television, I found myself agreeing with O’Quinn’s friend about how much I enjoy the “reach for the stars” columns. It’s one of the ingredients that is missing from all current science-fiction media magazines, not to mention any other magazine I can think of with a young audience. It’s easy to throw together a magazine with all the ingredients that your focus groups tell you are important and that the MBA in the corner office insists are critical; it is much more difficult to engage readers on the level of their dreams, their souls. Seeing them as consumers is one thing; seeing them as humans is another.

Let’s hope O’Quinn publishes that book.

Starlog #189
84 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.95

There is some personnel-shifting at Starlog this month. Managing editor Michael McAvennie is heading off to greener pastures (actually, DC Comics; DC and Marvel seemed to hire away a lot of Starlog junior staffers over the years). He will continue to write the magazine's video-game review column, Gamelog. Taking his place as managing editor is Maureen McTigue, who would herself end up working at DC Comics and Harris. In a long interview with Sequential Tart in 2002, McTigue was asked about her Starlog tenure:
ST: What was the main difference between being an intern at Starlog and being an assistant editor there?
MMT: [grins] I got paid better.
ST: Between being an assistant editor and being a managing editor there?
MMT: [smiles] More responsibility.
For more on the joys and tribulations of working at Starlog, see my interview with former staffer Carr D’Angelo in my digital magazine-about-magazines, Magma.

The rundown: It’s Trek, Trek, and more Trek on the cover of this issue, where Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and even animated Trek get featured placement, with a note that inside there’s info on the oft-maligned Star Trek V movie; on the contents page, we get a Trek-breather and instead some comic-book aliens get the spotlight. David McDonnell’s Medialog column tells us that the little-talked-about CBS science-fiction series Space Ranger, noted briefly last issue, debuted months earlier than planned, in January rather than in spring, which seems to have wrong-footed Starlog’s coverage of the series. That coverage starts this issue. The series, though, only lasted six episodes, so the magazine was left dribbling out coverage of the show after it had died. Michael McAvennie’s Gamelog reviews a Star Trek: The Next Generation game called How to Host a Mystery, which McAvennie warns “can take as long as four hours to play.” And the Communications section is filled up with mostly kvetching about Alien3, though the magazine’s recent 20th-anniversary Blade Runner coverage gets some reader love, too; also, It (just It) is featured in Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile.

Booklog reviews Kingdoms of the Wall, Damia’s Children, Kalifornia, Dirty Work, The Red Magician, Demons Don’t Dream, and Assemblers of Infinity. Starship Invasions is out on home video, warns David Hutchison in his Videolog column. Maureen McTigue’s directory of fan clubs and publications and the convention listings fill up the Fan Network pages. In a two-page Tribute section, T.L. Johns remembers the late writer Fritz Leiber, while Tom Weaver does the honors for actor Robert Shayne. And, as noted at the top of this post, Kerry O’Quinn highlights Jok Church’s efforts to make science fun and understandable to young audiences.

Marc Shapiro kicks off Starlog’s feature coverage of Space Rangers with an interview of actor Jack McGee, who portrays the, um, zaftig cyborg in the series, and who comments on similarities with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator cyborg: “I guess you would say we’re quite the same. I know he would love to have a body like mine.” Animated Star Trek episode writer Larry Brody (“The Magicks of Megas-Tu”) is interviewed by Bill Florence; he also discusses his never-filmed script for Star Trek: The Next Generation, how Harlan Ellison got fired from a TV series over one of Brody’s scripts, and other interesting tidbits from his career. Craig W. Chrissinger profiles actor Dale Midkiff, star of Time Trax. And Marc Shapiro checks in with Time Trax’s creator, Harve Bennett, to discuss his views of William Shatner’s Star Trek V.

Kim Howard Johnson previews ALIENS: Colonial Marines, a new series from Dark Horse Comics. Ian Spelling visits the set of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Joe Nazzaro interviews Red Dwarf’s Hattie Hayridge, who plays the ship’s computer. Ian Spelling also talked to actor Robert Patrick this month, and Patrick discusses his roles in Terminator 2 and Fire in the Sky; meanwhile, Kim Howard Johnson provides a sidebar chat with that latter film’s director, Robert Lieberman, who claims it’s “much more science fact than science fiction.”

Craig W. Chrissinger checks in with Star Trek: The Next Generation story editor Rene Echevarria. Mark Phillips profiles actor Arthur Batanides, who discusses his roles in Star Trek (“That Which Survives”), Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers, Land of the Giants, and others. Kim Howard Johnson talks with screenwriter Nicholas St. John about his new Body Snatchers interpretation. Bill Warren chats with writer George R.R. Martin about Doorways. And editor David McDonnell wraps it all up in his Liner Notes column by saying hello/good-bye to his managing editors, plugging the next issue of Comics Scene magazine, and announcing a giveaway of new Alien Nation novel The Day of Descent. Did you get one?
“I told Bill [Shatner] that he was doomed to disappointment at the film’s [Star Trek V] end. It’s not that the film couldn’t be great, but that he was going to be stuck with a philosophical unsolvable. In the end, he would end up saying, ‘Well, it isn’t really God, folks,’ and the audience would know that you were going to have to say that. I explained my feelings to Bill until I was blue in the face. But he was very persuasive in defending his idea. It was the way he wanted it and everybody over at Paramount was telling me to do what Bill wanted to do. And ultimately I did because I love Bill. … Ultimately, my fears about that storyline came to pass. But the funny thing is that, not too long after [Trek V] came out, Bill came up to me and said that the next one we do should be about the Fountain of Youth.”
–Harve Bennett, producer, interviewed by Marc Shapiro: “School’s Out”
For more, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent site.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The New Tina Brown Newsweek: More Week, Less News?

Lord knows (or at least regular readers of this blog know), I'm a big supporter of Tina Brown's takeover of Newsweek. As I've written elsewhere, if anyone can make a go of Newsweek, which has lurched from problem to salvation to problem over the past decade, it's Tina Brown, who knows print and online, clearly believes in both, and has been successful at both (with the exception of Talk, of course).

So, note the Tina Brownification of the cover, which was revealed this past week:

  • There's nothing newsweekly (or Newsweekly, either) about the cover text, by which I mean it suggests feature articles, not weekly news reports. All of the cover-blurbed articles look like they could appear on the cover of Vogue or The Atlantic or Vanity Fair. Considering the moribund state of newsweeklies, that's probably a good move.
  • No fewer than four article authors are listed on the cover. Tina Brown is known for using star writers to sell her publications. She's been criticized for being somewhat ruthless in her use of them and then disposal of them when they no longer deliver, but I don't think you can claim that she doesn't know what she's doing. 
  • Keep the logo, which is good. No need to scare the loyal Newsweek readers.
  • Celebrity. On the cover. Sells magazines.

This new issue reportedly goes on sale today, so I haven't yet picked up a copy. But I will, because I am interested in what else has been changed in this new Tina Brown era. One of its biggest tests will be if it draws in the advertising; the magazine had become very anemic in ads and total page count.

So, Ms. Brown: We await the rollout.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Thomas Mann's Wise Words

On my subway ride to work this morning, I began reading "The Best German Novelist of His Time," an article by Phillip Lopate in the February 24, 2011, issue of The New York Review of Books. Lopate is discussing the writer Theodor Fontane, whose work I have never read. In fact, I hadn't planned on reading this article; I'm way behind on my magazine reading (I'm already carrying around the March 10 issue of NYRB), and I usually find the reviews of novels and the articles about novelists to be the less-interesting part of that excellent magazine. But I guess the Germanophile in me won out, and I didn't have to wait long for my reward.

The fourth paragraph of the article is an extended quote from another great German novelist, Thomas Mann, discussing "The Old Fontane":
Does it not seem as though he had to grow old, very old, in order to fulfil himself completely? Just as there are youths born to be youths only, fulfilling themselves in early life and not maturing, certainly not growing old; so it would seem that there are other temperaments whose only appropriate age is old; who are, so to speak, classic old men, ordained to show humanity the ideal qualities of that last stage of life: benignity, kindness, justice, humour, and shrewd wisdom—in short a recrudescence on a higher plane of childhood’s artless unrestraint. Fontane’s was such a temperament.
What a great quote. What a great insight in one man and into men. One could probably stretch Mann's words too far by trying to apply them to not just people but countries, but it would be a fascinating effort, if done well. Until that occurs, however, I am going to let Mann's words shift around in my head and grow more interesting as their human applications add up.

Mr. Lopate's full article (partially behind a pay wall) is on the NYRB's web site. It's also available in print if you can still find the February 24, 2011 issue around.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Harve Bennett’s Time Trax: The Starlog Project, Starlog #188, March 1993

A TV show! On the cover of Starlog! A series that I only watched for five minutes! So I have nothing worthwhile to write about it!!

Well, I’ll try anyway. Harve Bennett, who worked his way into the hearts of Starlog fans with his producing work on the Star Trek movies, launches this science-fiction/cop hybrid television series with high hopes. Time Trax features a policeman (Dale Midkiff) who tracks down criminals who fled into the past. Nothing terribly stunning in that concept, but nothing that is terribly terrible in that concept, either. But when I did sit down to try to watch an episode, I found it completely lacking in personality, a well-produced by uninteresting show. So, as I noted above, I turned if off after about five minutes and was never tempted to try it again.

But the program lasted for 44 episodes, so someone liked it enough to keep it on the air. And that probably made Mr. Bennett happy.

Starlog #188
84 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.95

This issue, Starlog publishes its annual postal statement of ownership and circulation. Basically, you’re supposed to publish these statements in the late fall or early winter; you’ll find them in most magazines’ November or December issues. But Starlog, for whatever reason, published them as late as their March issues, which can only tell me (someone who has to fill out and publish these forms every year) that Starlog’s post office was more lax in enforcement than the San Francisco post office, which runs through my numbers with a fine-toothed comb and checks every detail. (This is painful if, like me, you’re not great at math.)

Anyway, assuming the numbers are correct, Starlog’s circulation is holding remarkably steady. The total paid circulation for the issue closest to the statement's filing deadline is listed as 164,886 (roughly the same as the previous year's 164,074), including the number of paid subscriptions of 9,675 (little changed from 9,521 in the last year).

In staffing notes: Maureen McTigue, previously a more junior staffer, is now listed as co-managing editor along with Michael McAvennie.

The rundown: Actor Dale Midkiff poses for the cover shot from his new TV series Time Trax; on the contents page, some artwork from the Beauty & the Beast comics are featured. David McDonnell’s Medialog column informs us that six episodes have been shot of a new science-fiction television series called Space Rangers, starring Linda Hunt. What? A new SF television program is coming out, and it earns nothing more than a two-sentence drive-by in an omnibus media news column? Well, I managed to watch more than five minutes of Space Rangers, and it was anything but Shakespeare, but at least it was at times amusing and I am almost always a sucker for space opera. But note that this CBS show only ever had the six episodes produced. What does that say about the obvious difference between Harve Bennett’s team and Space Rangers’ team when it comes to talking to the genre press?

In Gamelog, Michael McAvennie reviews Alien3, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time, Taz-Mania, and other games. The letters in the Communications section are not, thank goodness, all Trek-focused; instead, they discuss the then-new Sci Fi Channel, Beauty & the Beast, Quantum Leap, and more; while The Thing is featured in Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile. David Hutchison’s Videolog announces a new widescreen release of Terry Gilliam’s great film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, plus other videos. Booklog reviews Triumph, The Ancient One, The Caterpillar’s Question, The Ring of Winter, Whatdunits, Deus X, A Sudden Wild Magic, and The Harvest. Maureen McTigue’s directory of fan clubs and publications, along with the convention calendar, fill up the Fan Network pages. Mark Phillips continues his look at The Immortal, with a profile of actor Don Knight. And Kerry O’Quinn plays virtual reality games in his From the Bridge column.

Marc Shapiro talks to writer/producer Harve Bennett about Time Trax, though he also talks about his abortive plans for Starfleet Academy, the “reboot” of the Star Trek franchise that Paramount didn’t want to make (but J.J. Abrams kind of later did, sort of, in a way). Drew Bittner previews the new Beauty & the Beast comics series from Innovation. Another defunct TV series, Alien Nation, returns in printed form, and Joe Nazzaro explores the franchise’s novels. Jean Airey interviews actor Andreas Katsulas, who portrays G’Kar on Babylon 5 and who also guest starred in several episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which he discusses along with his other roles – and the role he didn’t get: a continuing character on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which he says he didn’t get because “they were looking for someone ‘cute.’”

Ian Spelling profiles Terry Farrell, who was apparently judged to be cute enough to play the Trill character Jadzia Dax on Deep Space Nine. Jean Airey also talks with actor Ray Winstone (Will Scarlett in Robin of Sherwood). Mark Phillips interviews actor Joseph Ruskin, who portrayed a number of villainous characters, including one in the original Star Trek TV series. Kyle Counts profiles comedian and actor Richard Moll, who was a recent Starlog cover boy, and they chat about Moll’s Night Court tenure and roles in Highlander, the animated Batman, and more.

Stan Nichols has the enviable job this month of interviewing Douglas Adams about life, the universe and everything else. (For example, they discuss atheism, computers, and other serious stuff, in addition to his books.) Victoria Selander chats with former Dr. Who Colin Baker, who discusses his work on the faux-Who series The Stranger and Miss Brown. And an even odder character, Red Dwarf’s hologram Arnold Rimmer, is portrayed by Chris Barrie, who talks with Joe Nazzaro. And in his Liner Notes column, editor David McDonnell relates a tale of obsessive (and maybe dangerous) fandom.
“I was doing Mission: Impossible when I got the call for Star Trek. The costume I wore was a robe that went all the way to the floor, and that gave me an idea. I had just seen the Morsaef Dancers, and in one dance, you thought for sure that they were on bicycles. But when they open their robes, you see they’re not. It’s an illusion, and I discovered how they did it. That’s how I played [Trek villain] Galt. My head didn’t move and I moved as if I were on wheels.”
–Joseph Ruskin, actor, interviewed by Mark Phillips: “Untouchable Evil”
For more, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent site.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Who's More Delusional? Muammar Qaddafi or Charlie Sheen?

I'm not so sure that it's a great thing for people to be clamoring for Western military intervention in Libya, as horribly as that country's despotic leader is treating his people. Qaddafi's done for, and we'd be better off if that situation ended with outside support – from the West, from Egypt, from others – but not military intervention.

Qaddafi, of course, does not do himself any favors by appearing in television interviews refusing to accept a reporter's assertion that street protestors were opposing him. "No," he told BBC's Jeremy Bowen. "No one against us. Against me for what?"

Ah, yes, military intervention or not, we can all have pleasure in his certain upcoming defeat.

But is mental instability the new normal? Qaddafi, don't forget, told his nation that the protesters who have been piecemeal taking over his North African realm have been controlled by the West, by al-Qaeda, and by hallucinogenic pills.

Well, one person who it's hard to imagine isn't under the influence of drugs is actor Charlie Sheen, who is on a crazy tour of the news media this week, telling everyone he's cured himself of drugs, partying is his birthright, he's some sort of alpha-dog human genius that would make Scientologists jealous, and that no one can understand him because his mind is so Sheen-tastic that only he knows how it operates.

Well, I'm sure there's at least one person who knows where he's coming from, but that guy's living in a Libyan tent on a short-term lease.