Saturday, September 16, 2006

new archeological results

Recent archeological results have raised questions indicating that Homo Neanderthalis may have been more cultured and sophisticated than was once thought.

Here is some of the evidence.

Thanks to Achim for the link and the title.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Monday, September 11, 2006

the relentless pursuit of cliches

Well, the writers of the Stargate shows can now check off "a duplicate of one of the cast members shows up from an alternate universe" from the list of Star Trekisms and science-fiction cliches that they are going through for script ideas. Duplicate of cast member from another dimension: check. Time travel where the characters accidentally alter the future and then have to fix it: check. Alien that looks like a human with a serious makeup job: check. Characters accidentally end up in an alternate universe and have to get back: check. Starships with teleporters, shields and phaser-style weapons: check. Instruments that can detect "life signs": check. Magical computer viruses that can take over a system just by being loaded as data: check. Telepathic aliens: check. Members of the cast find themselves in an illusory world created by brain machines and/or telepathic aliens: check. A hostile alien civilization with such powerful technology that they are practically invulnerable: check. Aliens who are so "advanced" that they have transcended the material universe: check. Said transcended aliens are too good to help us against previously mentioned invulnerable aliens: check. A weapon that is so powerful that we dare not use it: check. Guest character showing up with super powers that the cast characters learn to duplicate in order to defeat the guest but then never use again: check. Planet of apparently low-technology people that really have a high technology: check. Planet of lotus-eaters: check. Planet where a rogue from Earth has set himself up as a god: check. Dilithium crystals: check. At least Stargate doesn't have computers that you program by talking to so I don't have to commit violence on their persons.

Notice that I didn't complain about aliens posing as gods and traps left over from ancient high-technology civilizations. Both of those could be construed as trekisms, but they fit with the Stargate idea, so they aren't trekisms. The rest of it is pretty pathetic. I honestly am beginning to wonder if the writers of Stargate do have list like this and I don't understand why. It's not like they aren't competent writers; the shows may be based on cliches, but many are well-done cliches, with interesting twists from the originals that they are copying.

I think my annoyance started with the teleporter. The transportation device in the move wasn't a teleporter. The movie transporter required a device at both ends and it shot something up to the ship; it wasn't a pure energy transfer. If that wasn't good enough, the writer could have adapted wormhole technology. Imagine a machine that can project a wormhole to a specified location --a little stargate just appears in front of you and you have to step through it. Or even more interesting, a pre-programmed box that the characters have to carry around to create a quick-exit wormhole. But no, the writers had a script where they thought it would be funny to have a character teleported instantaneously to an alien ship, so they stole the teleporter from Star Trek.

The teleporter would be bad enough, but life signs? What the hell is a life sign? And don't forget: "Captain, they're energizing their weapons!" which Stargate has also copied. How the hell do they know that? OK, you cut Star Trek some slack for magical sensor technology to help move the plot along when they need to get instant information to the audience, and magical limitations on the magical technology when they need to keep the audience in the dark. It was the 1960's; science fiction was strictly a nerd hobby, and no one expected TV execs or TV script writers to understand how it works. I expect better of modern shows. And at the very least I expect them to come up with a new term so that it isn't so obvious where they stole the idea from. How about "organic process indications" or "multi-cell-life signals" or "living organism indicators" --something besides "life signs". As to energizing the weapons, just create weapons that have to be rolled out like cannons instead of being permanently ready to fire, so the sensor officer can say: "Captain, they're opening weapon ports!" Wouldn't that work just as well?

OK, I realize that no one has read this far because I'm just ranting, but here is the biggest complaint I have: the cramped, tiny worlds. Star Trek had an excuse for this: budget. The set designers of Star Trek created alien worlds on a TV stage. You can't do believable panoramas with background images, so Star Trek always had cramped sets with nothing but close camera works that showed very little sky and no horizon. Stargate did not have to be limited like that because computerized special effects are so good and so cheap that they could have had SG 1 wandering through great, expansive panoramas with rolling hills, deep canyons, towering mountains, oddly-colored skies and spectacular horizons with strange landscapes and multiple moons. Why didn't they hire some digital special effects guys (probably a whole team for the cost of one or two major cast members) and create a visually impressive series? Didn't they know that they were doing a science fiction series with alien worlds? It was a tremendous opportunity and they blew it.

OK, I'm done carping for now.