Saturday, March 31, 2007

March, the edited highlights

What else has been happening over the last month, since I last blogged about "general stuff"?

1. I've turned 31, which tragically bumps me from the demographic bracket of "21-30" to "31-40". An excellent birthday for Stuff, though. My wish list lies in tatters, surrounded by a chalk outline and a cordon of "Zombie Squad" police tape.

2. The flat move is complete, but the unpacking still isn't. However, the new flat now feels like home. I think on reflection it started to feel like home once we'd moved the bookcases across - even before we'd got the bed in. The quirks of the place have now revealed themselves, and they compare favourably to the quirks of our previous flats. I think the big ones are that the fridge has a fondness for making sudden, disconcerting cracking noises, and that the lounge is perfectly placed for the afternoon sun to shine straight into your eyes when you're sitting on the futon. In the summer I expect it'll be like a greenhouse.
At least there've been no problems on the scale of the last flat's bathroom. I think the biggest quirks there were the estate agents, who took five weeks to do anything about it (and "anything" turned out to be getting someone in to put the interior decorating equivalent of a sticking plaster over the top of it).

3. General moving and busy weekends led to us missing three weeks of Dancing on Ice and, having started watching it, Primeval, but we got to see how they both finished.
From the available evidence, Primeval looked like a decent enough Monster-Of-The-Week runaround - I think there was also some sort of ongoing storyline with the character I've named Evil Dino Wife, but it was easy enough to figure out from the "story so far" intro, and I somehow suspect the dinosaurs would have been of more interest to most viewers. Most amusing moment was a shot of a swarm of baby pteranodons attacking a stationary ambulance in which the main hero is hiding. It suddenly occurred to me that if you took away the CGI, what you were left with there was several minutes' worth of footage of a perfectly ordinary parked ambulance - the camera crew must have had a whale of a time shooting that! Good finale, though, inverting the show's premise in a way that might have taken a similar show in the '80s or '90s a couple of years to get around to. Interesting (if sudden) cliffhanger ending, but what does it mean for the format of the show next year?
Dancing on Ice was, of course, a pleasure. We watched the deserving candidate win it, and then watched him win it again the next week. Winner vs second place finalist - didn't we settle this one already? Imagine if she'd won instead. Perhaps, for a more genuine "Champion of Champions" edition, they should simply have pitted him directly against last year's winner. Or would that not have been "now" enough?

4. Comic book mayhem! The annual bonus has come around, and allowed me to bring myself up to date with Fables and Ex Machina. Mmm, I sure do love Ex Machina. Have given up on the same author's Y: the Last Man, mainly because the dialogue wasn't as good (those extra years' experience made a difference), but also because it just didn't engage my attention in the same way. Here's how I think I can explain it.
You see, one thing that Brian K Vaughan does very well as a writer is come up with unforeseen little things that throw his protagonists' lives off track. Now that's perfect for Ex Machina, because it's all about unforeseen little things getting in the way of its protagonist as he tries to run New York City, be they unexpected reactions to his policies or unexpected fallout from his past as a superhero. (The political angle is, incidentally, one big reason why I like the series; it's come to occupy that place in my heart where Transmetropolitan used to be a few years ago.)
But the chief premise of Y is one big unforeseen thing - the sudden death of all men, except the hero. And I use the word "hero" deliberately, because that series, underneath its modern SF trappings and the additional little things that happen to the hero and allow Vaughan to spin the story out a bit more, is really a Quest. It's mythic, it's legendary. One day all the men died, except one, and he went off on a quest across the world to find his girlfriend and possibly to find out what killed all the men. As a Quest, it has a definite end in sight, the reward for its mythic hero once he's collected the plot vouchers. So I don't know that it's really the right series for random events that try to derail the story and push it in a different direction.
(And in any case, if you're going to do something different with a one-gender-only set-up... well, I won't say "It's been done before", but women-only societies aren't new, not even in comics (look at Wonder Woman, for example). And yet people write about women-only societies because we're used to male-dominated societies. A story about a men-only society would be both less obvious and less interesting. Perhaps a story in which a catastrophe turns everyone into hermaphrodites? Oh, I dunno.)
Compare with Ex Machina: the reward for the protagonist is to get elected Mayor of New York, but that's already happened when the series starts. The first issue makes it quite clear that this series is the story of his (apparently ill-omened) four years in office, so there's an end in sight (i.e. the series won't just go on indefinitely, which I think is a good thing in comics generally), but not really a goal, beyond the nebulous political goal of making the world a better place. It just seems to me that this is the right story for Vaughan's talents. Anyway, I'm enjoying it.

5. We've finally watched the Musical War of the Worlds DVD, hooray! To call the show grandiose would be an understatement. This thing drips prog pomp from the CG/filmed backdrop to the vocal performers hamming it up on stage to Richard Burton's Giant Polystyrene Head. It's one of the best things I've ever seen.

6. Doctor Who tonight!! Eeeeeeeee!

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