“What a perfectly vicious little circle.”
“Pen Pals” has its heart in the right place but is a fairly boring affair; both of its plotlines are competent but uninteresting. In the A-plot, Data makes contact with a little girl on a dying planet, and drags the Enterprise into a debate about the Prime Directive when trying to determine whether they should intervene to save her. In the B-plot, Wesley is given his first taste of command, leading a team that is studying the geological instability of Sarjenka’s world. I should, at least, eat the B-plot up like candy, but it’s weakly done, and gets dropped halfway through the episode anyway. And meanwhile – there’s no point denying it – Sarjenka just creeps me out. She’s one of the less successful makeup designs on the show (bright orange, with overlong fingers and sunken, skull-like eyes), and one does well not to think too deeply about the modern-day equivalent of adult Data trolling the universe for little girls to cyber-chat with. That dog don’t hunt.Read more
Milford - Did we crank the Hobbit score, tracks 22 to 27, when driving a winding mountain road through wet forests in fog so thick you couldn’t see the tops of the mountains? Damn right we did. Day trip to Milford Sound today, which took us out of “regular New Zealand” and into “crazy Jurassic Park New Zealand” so fast that, had our station wagon been harried by a flock of pterodactyls, none of us would have raised an eyebrow. In Milford we took a long, leisurely boat cruise around the sound, past towering mountains garlanded with permanent waterfalls and rainwater spouts; past fur seals who roll in the water to aid their digestion; and - at one notable point - straight into a freshwater fall, whose power and intensity I might have SLIGHTLY underestimated. In this regard, my TELUS jacket, surprisingly waterproof, became the second reason that going back to my job there remains the best decision I’ve made in the past five years.
On our way back from Milford Sound we stopped to hike to Key Summit, beginning in a thick pea soup fog and adventuring into a wilderland of myths and symbols so dense that emerging, four hours later, was uncannily like waking from a dream or crossing into an alternative reality - and I’m not entirely convinced I’m not still there.
The deathwater - emboldened by my earlier experiences and carrying nowhere near enough water for the hike, I filled my bottle from a rainwater spout, which Dave and Demetre were convinced would lead to my death; they may have been right, but I don’t particularly want to live in a world where one cannot trust a spring as beautiful as that.
The throne of blood - after slogging uphill through spongy rainforest for over an hour we popped over the crest of the trees into a wide, dry scrubland, deathly quiet, raked by ghostly mist.
The wood between the worlds - upon reaching the summit Demetre found that the path lead even further on, away from the last of the other hikers and into a forest of strange shapes and preternatural stillness, ringed by small mirror-bright pools of water. I followed the path as far as sense dictated before giving up and turning around; this will haunt me for the rest of my life. When we emerged from the forest again, I could not be entirely sure I’d come back to the same world.
The Godzilla mountain - tantalizingly glimpsed through the pearlescent cloud which clung to the top of the mountain was a huge, huge, UNBELIEVABLY HUGE mountain behind the one we had climbed; although we saw it only in hints and fragments it looked like the grey, scaly back of some large, horrible beast, all the more frightening for the degree to which it could not be fully made out.
The God mountain - and then the cloud was blown clear of our perch, and a mountain so enormous that it dwarfed anything any of us had seen so far stared down at us from the opposite side of the peak, ringed by tiny fluffy clouds, and crowned by the platinum stare of the afternoon sun. The entire valley opened out below us, fading from saturated viridian to cobalt blue through a dozen shades of turquoise in between… and there, ever dominant, the mountain.
Normally when you hike a track where you have to take the same path down that you took up, it’s a disappointment, but the world of our climb and the world of our descent - one a dripping rainforest wrapped in a white blanket; the other a glittering forest at play in the sun - were as apart from one another as a dream is to waking.
Meat pie count, trip thus far: 5
Gfellers Pizza Parlour - open late.
Ho ho ho, and welcome back to the month a year where I’m the worst atheist alive. Well no, not really: I’m certainly not swanning about celebrating the birth of Christ, at least not directly. I’m swanning about, fetishizing the stuff.
This is what Ebert calls “touching the bases.” I touch them all, and hope to become a better person. Once a year, a random collection of oddments across all media - the musical, the sculptural, the edible, the literary, the cinematical, the biological - has the ability to de-Grinchify my cantankerous heart and send me spiraling backwards to an imagined 1840s London driven dark by furious black and white and poorly-preserved film stock. (Scrooge, the best of the filmed adaptations of A Christmas Carol, plays at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on December 20. This is Base #1. Though I admit, the notion of seeing the film on anything other than a 4x3 television set disturbs me down to my marrow bones.) Base #2 is Dickens’ novella itself, which I do not read every year, but nearly every year. It doesn’t take long - you can crank through it while you’re waiting for the house to go quiet on the 24th, which inevitably takes less time than you think, but no matter; you can stay up a bit past the descent of silence, just to get to Stave Five, a.k.a. the Stave That Totally Owns.Read more
So: why, I wonder, did the Eiffel Tower scene in Zazie dans le Metro scare the shit out of me? Up until Mission Impossible 4 last year I never would have thought myself scared of heights; I still don’t. Yet with each improbable step off what seemed to be the top of that tower in Zazie, I could feel thousands of feet of open air tingle beneath my toes. It’s bizarrely kinetic. I’m also a big fan of the sequence of Zazie and the cabbie descending down the tower’s spiral staircase for what seems like hours, the camera languidly tracking with them, while they argue about this and that; the movie is a lot of argument between that foul-mouthed kid and the entire sex-besotted adult world.
But seriously kids: moules et frites? That’s a thing? And what to make of the moules et frites scene, where Zazie gamely tells a story with some key details left out, but which seems to be about the time her mother caught her father trying to have sex with Zazie, and shot him dead on the spot – all told with the protagonist’s nominal carefree style. I quite like the visual gag of the crowd of people slowly mounting in the window behind the table as Zazie talks, a pack of mussels themselves, and when Zazie leaps up, her story done, and jumps on the table, smashing the mussel shells as she takes off, it’s like the end of a magic trick. I think the scene is somewhat like the movie for me – I didn’t really figure out I liked it till it was done.Read more
We look a three recent releases: Lincoln, which is doing better than expected, and Life of Pi and Rise of the Guardians, which are doing worse. Plus, we inadvertently delve deep into this week’s James Gunn fiasco, and do a bit of plugging for our new podcast, Very Important!
Let me state very clearly – and I hope it is obvious – that the United States Government had absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its content and message. To us, to me personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible. It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose: to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage. But as I said yesterday, there is no justification, none at all, for responding to this video with violence.
Now, I know it is hard for some people to understand why the United States cannot or does not just prevent these kinds of reprehensible videos from ever seeing the light of day. Now, I would note that in today’s world with today’s technologies, that is impossible. But even if it were possible, our country does have a long tradition of free expression which is enshrined in our Constitution and our law, and we do not stop individual citizens from expressing their views no matter how distasteful they may be.
There are, of course, different views around the world about the outer limits of free speech and free expression, but there should be no debate about the simple proposition that violence in response to speech is not acceptable.
“State. The. Purpose.”
“Justice” isn’t particularly successful as a piece of drama but it’s a bracingly open shot across the bow on three of Roddenberry’s core beliefs – sexual libertarianism, atheism, and the evils of capital punishment. On the first point, at least, “Justice” is probably as far as Star Trek: The Next Generation (and likely, all incarnations of Star Trek before or since) have visibly pushed it; for a series that eventually became relatively sexless, Next Gen was comparatively filthy for many of its inaugural episodes. In “Justice,” the Enterprise arrives at a goofy garden-like world populated by barely-clothed Aryans with childlike intellects who do nothing all day besides jog, play sports, and most importantly, “make love at the drop of a hat – any hat,” as Geordi and Tasha express after their first visit to the planet. (One is called upon to wonder about what actually happened to Geordi and Tasha on that first away mission, given how the team members who later return to the planet are greeted by its inhabitants. One is also called upon to wonder what happens in the middle of the second act, when all the adult away team members are lead off into various Edo antechambers to take part in pleasures unknown. There’s a detectable “what happens on the away missions stays on the away missions” knowingness amongst the Starfleet crew in this episode and elsewhere.)Read more