Friday, January 30, 2015

Dad's Birthday, 2015

Today is Dad's birthday. Happy Birthday, Dad! Here we are sometime back in the early 1970s. I still remember the feel of the plastic bricks that made up the faux-Lego building I'm holding. Those pajamas and the chair scream 70s, don't they? 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bucket List

1. Yellow, plastic, two litres
2. Green, plastic, ten litres
3. Wooden, five litres
4. Pink, child's beach toy size, with accompanying mini-shovel
5. Steel, used in Three Stooges pratfall
6. Odo's, used for regeneration

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Revisiting Buck Rogers

Over the last couple of weeks I've been making my way through the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century DVD set that I picked up 11 years ago. 11 YEARS AGO? And I thought my book backlog was bad.

In any event, revisiting a show that I first watched as a 10-to-12-year old has been entertaining. Even as a kid I knew the show was, on some level, derivative, unpolished and badly written, but I still enjoyed it because, hey...spaceships, aliens, scantily-clad space princesses, Erin Gray as Wilma Deering. Whatever the show's faults, the producer knew their audience: young boys (and hopefully a few girls inspired by Erin Gray's steely performance of the first season).

Like Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers presents a potentially interesting central conceit marred by lacklustre writing. The setup is simple but poignant: frozen in time for 500 years, astronaut Buck Rogers wakes up in the late 25th century to an Earth still recovering from a nuclear holocaust (one that happened, as it turned out, just after Buck left earth).

The pilot and a handful of episodes touch on Buck's sense of loss; unique in the world, this is a man who has truly lost everything in a way no one else ever could: not just a loved one, but all his loved ones; not just a country and a culture, but an entire civilization and all its complexity. (In a second season episode we discover that the Pyramids, Chichen Itza and Mount Rushmore are the only human artifacts to have survived to the 25th century.) Aside from a handful of scenes, though, the dramatic potential of Buck's displacement is virtually ignored in favour of pretty standard space villainy.

Were I to reinvent the series, I'd spend a lot more time exploring what a post-nuclear holocaust world would look like after 500 years of healing, and how Buck adapts. I'd probably ignore outer space entirely, relying instead on experts to come up with the sorts of real-world challenges such a society might face. I imagine everything would change, from manufacturing to agriculture to relationship customs to art. The art would be fascinating, one would think. You could even borrow an idea from the second season of Buck Rogers, in which the format changes to a more Star Trek-like exploration show; just keep the setting on Earth and have Buck and Wilma take on an HMS Beagle-style scouting expedition, roaming the world to catalogue mutant life and castoff pockets of survivors, not to mention any remaining valuable resources.

(As a kid I stopped watching Buck Rogers early in the second season, right after the Mark-Lenard-removes-his-head episode. Aside from the sarcastic new robot Chricton, season two really doesn't have much to recommend it.)

With Twin Peaks and The X-Files coming back to TV, it's not too far-fetched to imagine Buck Rogers might come back. It might even be good this time around. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Doubleplusungood Art

As I've written before...some experiments just don't turn out the way you wanted. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Bye, Raj

It's easy to forget it now, but once upon a time Dr. Raj Sherman was perhaps the best-known politician in Alberta, back when he was a rabble-rousing backbencher in Premier Ed Stelmach's Progressive Conservative caucus. Raj defended public health care with great passion and sincerity, and he paid a heavy political price for it.

Raj was the third and last of the three doctors I worked for who led the Alberta Liberal Caucus, once Alberta's Official Opposition, now, it has to be said, a small rump third party. (The first two were Drs. Taft and Swann.) I didn't work with Raj as long as I had with either Kevin or David, but I got to know him well enough to say that his heart was in the right place and he really cared about Albertans, particularly the vulnerable. In a province that vilifies Liberals, Raj took on the challenge of the hardest, most thankless job in Canadian politics, and for that alone I think he deserves thanks.

I shot the photo above on February 1, 2012, a few months before leaving politics behind. It was a pretty nice day for February in Alberta, and Raj was patient and pleasant as I fought with the light; I'm an amateur photographer, not a professional, and I appreciated his forbearance.

Today Raj resigned as Leader of the Alberta Liberals. Whatever he does next, I hope Dr. Sherman finds happiness and fulfillment. He tried to build a better Alberta, and I think that's pretty noble. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

What Memories Real?

A few days ago Jeff commented on the opening montage of the film version of the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century pilot, surmising that not only did Buck spend 500 years dreaming about scantily clad space women, but that the events of the series itself are merely a continuation of that dream. I dismissed the notion out of hand, but then I started to think about the idea more seriously, particularly after watching "The Guardians," a second-season episode in which Buck has a vision of being back on Earth before his ill-fated trip on Ranger 3.

In the vision, Buck awakens at his mother's home back in 1987. He's at the end of a two-week furlough, and Ranger 3 launches the next day. At first he's shocked to find himself back on Earth in his own time, but within a few seconds admits to his mother that his life in the 25th century must have been just a dream. The Ranger 3 mission goes forward...and ends in exactly the same way, with Buck in suspended animation.

During the course of the episode other cast members have visions of their own, and by the end the series' status quo is comfortably reached. And yet now I can't get the notion out of my mind, because the pilot movie explicitly says Buck dreams for centuries, and when he "wakes up," at least two of the women in his dreams - Wilma Deering and Princess Ardala - become, respectively, a leading figure and a recurring figure in the show. This of course suggests the events of the series are merely a continuation of his erotic dreams.

Note, too, the lyrics to "Suspension," the song that plays atop the film's opening credits. Here are a couple of lines:

What thoughts are fantasies, what memories real? 

Is it my life or just something I dreamed? 

All of a sudden the dream scenario almost seems deliberate. The only drawback to this theory is that the show itself isn't particularly dreamlike, aside from its conventional SF trappings. The storytelling, direction, visual effects and costuming are all pretty straightforward for the genre. Plus it's a pretty unhappy ending for Buck...it implies he never wakes up, and that his new relationships and adventures in the 25th century are just fantasies. In fact, you could even surmise that Buck never enters suspended animation at all, that he's simply flash-frozen and dies in a few seconds. And in dreams, instants can seem to take centuries...all two seasons of the show could simply be the last synaptic jerks in the mind of a dying man.