Sunday, May 17, 2009

Star Trek: Postcard from the Edge

Due to a variety of circumstances, I didn’t get around to seeing the new Star Trek movie until Saturday. Very good movie, well worth seeing. Overall, it rates an A-.

The visual and sound effects were stunning, and for me, that’s reason enough to go watch a movie. The new Spock character is unbelievable. He’s not just good; he’s spooky good! You could almost imagine that it really was an earlier version of the original, and that imagining stood up just fine with a side-by-side comparison.

They also did a good job of modeling younger versions of the other main characters. McCoy was another outstanding replacement. A younger Scotty is still inventing crazy stuff that somehow works, and Kirk goes off to defend the galaxy against hopeless odds. The time twist involved in the plot was very gracefully done.

Still, there were a few detractors. The most obvious is the disgusting level of brutal violence. I’m not talking about the “high violence” of spaceships getting shot up. There was plenty of that too, and that’s fine. But the repeated use of bloody fistfights added nothing of value, and was a serious detraction. It made the film worse. The overall tone of the movie was also darker than I like.

Many of the action scenes, when they weren’t being excessively personally violent, were just chaotic and visually confusing. Stunning in visual and sound quality, but jumbled, and undisciplined. And they dragged on in that condition for too long.

As a more minor thing, the relationship between Spock and Uhura was tacky and contrived, and added nothing useful to the plot at all. The fact that the Spock character was so perfect a rendition added to the failure of this ploy. It was just clearly unnatural, and it didn’t work.

Overall the new Star Trek movie is a very good film. It could have been an excellent film with more civility, and more discipline. Sounds sort of like today’s youth culture, doesn’t it?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Idyllic Stroll

I just spent some time in the backyard with the kids. We really have a pretty nice yard, and I don’t spend nearly enough time back there.

For the new folks here, Karen and I have four kids living at home, all of the furry, four-legged variety. They are, in order of age:

1) Chimera. We got Chimera when Cygnus, who we had for 18 years, died in 2004. Chimera was just a kitten then. She is a calico weighing about 16 lbs, and is a chubby little pudge ball.

2) Leia. Tiny little cat, maybe 8 lbs dripping wet (Which happens, because she likes water. She haunts Karen in the shower). The best description we’ve heard so far is that she is a champagne colored tabby. I had never seen a cat with that coloration before, although I have seen one other wandering around the neighborhood since. We got Leia in June 2005 when she was about a year old.

3) Xena. She was born in April 2005, and we got her in summer 2005. We thought we were getting a cute little Lab puppy. Turns out she’s a Lab mixed with Golden and Great Dane. She’s almost solid black, and weighs about 125 lbs (like her parents, she needs to lose a few). If she likes you, she will jump up and put her paws on your shoulders, and try to lick your face. If she doesn’t like you, she’s has a growl that comes straight from the depths of hell.

4) Hobbes. Son of Leia, born in May 2005. Leia was still nursing Hobbes when we got them together. Hobbes is also about 16 lbs, but solid muscle. He’s not the sharpest claw in the paw, but he can jump six feet straight up from a standing start.

Xena was 22 lbs when we got her, at around 3 months old. Hobbes was still tiny. Xena was a big bumbling mass of fur, and she terrified Hobbes. But not Leia. Leia would get between Xena and Hobbes, and just stand there. If Xena got too close, Leia would bop her on the nose. When Xena caught on that it didn’t hurt, Leia would bop her twice. When Xena got past that, Leia started using a little claw on the nose. That worked until Hobbes was big enough to easily escape (he’s very fast).

The relationship between Chimera and Xena is weird, but awesome. They’ll sleep together. They snuggle each other, as they compete for my attention. When Hobbes harasses Chimera, Xena goes to Chimera’s defense.

When Xena wants to go out, she scratches at the door. Leia quickly learned to do the same thing. We can’t let the cats out loose because of the coyotes (a neighbor lost one by doing that), but we let them out supervised. Xena was out, and Leia scratched at the door, so I went out with her. Hobbes and Chimera stayed on the deck, as Xena and Leia and I went down the stairs to the fenced back yard.

Normally, Leia makes a beeline for the fence, and scouts for holes to get out. She found quite a few before I plugged them. She could get over the fence if she really wanted, but it’s pretty tall, and it would take a lot of work.

But today was different. Instead of bolting for the fence, Leia kept next to me the whole time. Xena stayed with us for a while, but then went to one of the sitting spots she’s created. I pulled up a chair next to a fallen log, and watched the two of them, while Hobbes and Chimera played on the deck.

Xena knows when I move to go in, and if Leia doesn’t follow, Xena herds her in. After sitting for a while, some birds gathered on the deck, and I noticed the feeder was empty. So, I got up, Xena herded Leia toward the door, and we all went inside. At my motion to go in, Hobbes and Chimera just go inside on their own. I filled both the bird feeders, and closed the door. For now.