Saturday, November 15, 2008

A visit to the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame

(Copied from my blog at Hardcore Nerdity)

In early October, my wife Lynn and I took a couple of days trip to Seattle with another couple, mostly to do a little cross-border shopping. (Fortunately, we managed to squeak this in before the sudden recent plunge in the value of the Canadian dollar. Excellent timing!) But as part of the trip, I decided I needed to visit the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. It's very close to the the city's famed Space Needle and was practically across the street from our hotel.

That's a view of the building from our hotel room. Only half of it is the SFM, with the other being another museum called the Experience Music Project. That funky design is thanks to Canadian designer Frank Gehry. Oh, and the Seattle monorail runs through a big hole in the building.

The entrance is pretty cool. The windows are plastered with collages of SF book covers...

...and images from a host of SF films and TV programs.

However, these scenes are all in danger from the nasty looking spaceship digging its way into the windows!


Anyway, once inside, photography is not really allowed so I only have a few photos from this point on (all of them washroom related - you'll see) and will just list some of the highlights. (I'm sure you can see some pictures at the Museum's site).

The first thing you see when entering is a great big replica of Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still. And, damn, he is tall. Immediately after that are some public washrooms. We didn't need to use the facilities, but spent some time gazing at the signs on the doors. And why is that? Here:

When we finally entered the Museum proper, we were greeted to the sight of a large ball hanging from the ceiling with a projector inside, flashing montages and planetscapes onto the ball-shaped screen.

Then, the first true display. And it's for (surprise, surprise) Star Trek. They've got a nice little selection of actual props and costumes from the classic series. An actual captain's chair from the set and an actual captain's uniform worn by William Shatner. And, man, you realise how slim the Shat used to be. There's also a replica of Nichelle Nichols' script for "The Deadly Years". The script is "annotated" by Nichols, which seems to mean doodling and underlining her own lines.

Further along, one display includes Neal Stephenson's hand-written manuscripts for his massive "Baroque Cycle". Hand-written. It's four and a half feet tall.

Blade Runner outfits. Neat. But, boy, was Sean Young tiny.

A section on Social Commentary in SF, mostly literary. Books about subjects like gender issues and overpopulation.

Ooh, a big video wall made to seem like we're looking out on a massive spaceport with dozens of ships from TV, film and books flying by. It's a little jarring seeing the Enterprise followed by the 5-mile-long Red Dwarf.

There's an actual Gemini astronaut's space suit. We boggle at how... flimsy it seems. It reminds one of the crazy/brave thin line. I can't believe people went into the vacuum of space in these things!

A display of vehicles, both large (although in reality small, like the model of the Galileo 7 from Star Trek) to the one-person (like Griff's hoverboard, "Pit Bull", from Back to the Future Part II).

"The Armory"! Nice selection of weapons, both long-range laser types and close-range melee types (bat'leth anyone?). And I can't believe it when I see a Fun Gun from the Doctor Who (classic) story "The Happiness Patrol"! "I'm glad you're happy!" "And I'm happy you're glad!"

A Mars display featuring original editions of The War of the World by Wells, The Martian Chronicles by Bradbury and Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy.

And now, the SF Hall of Fame. Looks pretty slick.

All the images of the inductees are etched into blueish glass in a 3D fashion. Very spiffy. There's also a console which allows you to watch brief bios of a number of the inductees.

Next up, a neat display of a number of SF awards, including a number of Nebulas and the 1953 Hugo given to Forrest Ackerman, basically for being the uber-fan that he was.

Speaking of fans, there's a nice, big display devoted to fandom, with a whole bunch of fanzines and a selection of fan-made costumes. We boggle slightly at the incredible detail put into the costumes.

Now we reach the robot display. There's Twiki from Buck Rogers; I discover that it is in fact impossible to see Twiki without automatically going "bidi bidi bidi". There are also copies of Robbie the Robot from Forbidden Planet and the robot from TV's Lost in Space. They each go through a loop of lines they delivered in their movie/series. The thing is, they've been set up to make it seem like they're having a conversation! They introduced themselves to each other, have a big of an argument and then make up!

Speaking of Forbidden Planet, at some point, we found one of Anne Francis' outfits from that film. Damn, again, another actor who must have been insanely tiny! She must have been something like a size -1!

Another video display, cycling through views over a number of future cities. There's the placid, imaginary world from The Matrix, the dark dystopian Los Angeles from Blade Runner and... the world of The Jetsons! Well, I know which one I'd rather live in.

It just goes on and on. It's delightful! There's just too much to describe it all here. Any SF fan visiting the Seattle area really must give this place a visit. Just make sure you give yourself a good couple of hours.

One last picture. We used a second set of washrooms. I started slightly on entering, confronted with a huge movie poster of Alien Vs. Predator. When exiting, Lynn smiled at me and asked, "Did you have one in yours as well?" "What, you mean the AVP poster?" "That's not what was in mine. I took a picture. I'll show you later." We get back to the hotel room, and Lynn shows me this:

She knows me so well. Now, I just need to find one for our home bathroom.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Nerdity of the Hardcore variety

I've neglected the blog for a bit (big shock there) but I've come back long enough to do a little promoting of another site where I spend a good chunk of my time these days. Hardcore Nerdity:

Visit HardcoreNerdity

Hardcore Nerdity (or HCN) is sort of a cross between Facebook and a 24/7 SF convention, plus its own weekly podcast. It's a social network for genre lovers. It is, as they say in one of their tag-lines, "where the elite meet to geek". They haven't been around that long, but they're already over 1000 members. If you like science fiction[1], fantasy or horror, check it out. I think you'll be glad you did.

View my page on HardcoreNerdity

[1]And I'm assuming that a few of you are here because you googled the Doctor Who line "Those would have been terrible last words" and, therefore, like science fiction. So go sign up already!

Friday, August 15, 2008

40... it feels a lot like 39

I turned 40 on Tuesday. Yep, the big 4-0. Middle aged. And, really, it doesn't make me feel any different. On the other hand, it means I got a kick-ass party the Sunday before (Tuesday's a crummy day to have a decent party)!

Rather than do any food ourselves, we mostly got a selection of really nice meat/cheese/veggie/sushi platters from the grocery store. It greatly simplified things. Of course, plenty of food was brought by guests. And there was a cake (courtesy of my mother-in-law Helen). There was a selection of ice cream to have with the cake. There were also Shirley Temples.

I also did all I could to get as many guests as possible to play SingStar. It's always fun to stick a mike in someone's hand and make them sing along to "We Built This City" and "The Final Countdown" (which actually has the lyrics, and I quote, "Ba ba ba baaa! Ba ba ba ba baaa!"). Everyone was impressed by Nathan, my supervisor from work and as white as any of us at the party, kicking butt on Run-DMC's "Tricky". I'm not sure if he was singing the Run part or the DMC part, but he rocked.

And gifts. Wow. Much more than expected. A couple of weeks before all this, I got myself a PS3 (woo!), so it was great when I got Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction from my mom; it was the game I most wanted for the new console (although I gather she didn't know exactly what she was after and asked for Pools of Destruction at the store). I also got a couple of gift cards for EB Games, so I now also have Lego Indiana Jones. Other gift highlights had to include:
  • a plush of the killer bunny from Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • an extremely silly Marvel comic called Wha-- Huh?!
  • my very own Doctor Who sonic screwdriver, along with a wallet with psychic paper (now I can make anybody's cell phone work across any distance through time and space and I can easily get into any party or crime scene of my choice)
And best of all, everyone honoured my request; there were no dancing girls (or girls jumping out of cakes), no firework, and no one tried to get me to drink alcohol. There was the mandatory singing of "Happy Birthday" as the cake came out, though, which was a bit embarrassing.

Most of all, the day was just... fun. I've got great family, great friends, great co-workers and a great wife in Lynn (who really held things together and made sure I had a steady supply of Shirley Temples).

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I wonder how Carl from Liverpool is doing. Who, you may ask, the hell is Carl from Liverpool? Well...

I'm looking through an old Doctor Who Magazine from a few years back, just as a little background work on my Doctor Who Chronology. This issue (specifically issue 343) saw print sometime in the year before Doctor Who's return to TV. Much had been announced about the show. Russell T. Davies as show runner, Christoper Eccleston as the Doctor... But it seems that Carl from Liverpool had... well, a wee problem with Russell. Thought he was "arrogant" (whahey?!). And, possibly, had a wee bit of trouble with Russell's sexual orientation. To quote a chunk of his letter to the editor for the issue:

I'm surprised that Russell T Davies didn't cast himself -- after all, there must still be some people in the world who don't know that he is 6ft 6in and gay, and this could have been his chance to spread his message.

Due to the arrogance of Davies, I won't be watching his new series, and I sincerely hope that it will be a critical and ratings failure.

To quote Nelson from The Simpsons: Haw-haw! I am very much looking forward to seeing this week's finale for Series 4 of the massive critical and ratings success that is the revived Doctor Who.

As for Carl from Liverpool... I wonder he'll be up to this weekend...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Weird patron encounter of the week:

Yesterday, I changed the paper roll in the self-check machine. This always produces a chunk of extra paper as the machine automatically makes an initial cut to give the roll a nice straight edge for its next receipt. So, I crumpled up that bit of paper and, as I passed the upstairs public internet stations, tossed it into the recycle box next to those stations. And the lady at the terminal next to the box got seriously pissed off. Apparently, what I'd done was "inappropriate", although God knows how. She said I should have kept the paper and thrown it in the recycle box in "my own area". Um. Yeah. It's a public box lady. Anybody, including staff can use it at any time.

I uttered a couple of "sorries" but I don't think she believed me. Which is fair enough, because I didn't really mean it. I'd done nothing wrong.

For the next 10 minutes or so, when I wandered anywhere near that area, to assist patrons with something or other, she just glared at me.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Look who's been remiss in his blogging. That would be, oh, me.

Finally feeling much better after more than a week fighting off a nasty cold and likely an infection of some kind. Still coughing a fair bit but not as often or as long. It's actually nice to get back to work after being home sick for a week. Especially today.

We played video games at work. Really. A bunch of us attended a workshop on video games and literacies. A couple of women from the University of Victoria gave a little talk on how video games are not bad for kids. And are, quite often, good learning tools. Then, for the second half of the workshop, we actually played games for a while. The verdict: I might do okay on the Wii with a little practice on the controller, I'm half decent at Dance Dance Revolution and I suck pretty badly at Guitar Hero.

So, all in all, a pretty good day to return to work. Plus a few of us went to Japanese Village for lunch. Nice.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

We won. We actually won. The library lock-out is over. And we got what we were asking for. Well, mostly. More than I thought we'd get anyway.

Monday evening, our union local met at a nearby (for us) school gym and presented to us a package worked out by the employers and our representatives. Then we voted 85% in favour of accepting it.

We got pay equity. Not exactly the pay equity we were asking for. We were going for equity with Victoria city hall, but ended up with an average of two other municipalities' city halls. That's still a big improvement over what we had and is, in essence, still equity. And it's retroactive to the beginning of last year!

Management has agreed to creating a number of "senior page" positions. This will be a page position that is full-time and permanent, which means benefits. Just like a real job!

It was certainly not a perfect package, but it's a huge step forward, especially considering that we didn't lose anything we already had. There had been talk of changing Sundays to a regular work day, rather than an extra day, but we ended up making no concsessions.

So, I'm back to work today. Just a half day for today and we won't be opening until Tuesday, but we are back! And it mostly comes down to our union members' strength during this last couple of months and the huge public support. Don't mess with library patrons or employees!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

This morning, I finally finished the third and final part of the futuristic role-playing Xenosaga video game series. The series' story-line is massive, epic and, to be honest, rather too complex for its own good. Don't get me wrong, I very much enjoyed playing the series. It looks great, it's got a huge amount of (mostly) fun side quests, the characters are likeable (if a little melodramatic).

However, the story is so deeply steeped in mythology, Biblical scholarship and the works of Nietzsche (yes, that Nietzsche), it's often difficult to figure out exactly what the hell is going on or what the characters are going on about. Although I enjoyed it, I won't be going back to play these over again. Guess I'll turn in the volumes I own for credit at EB Games.

The Xenosaga series will certainly go down as winner of Most Bizarre Video Game Plot Twist of All Time. One the main characters, KOS-MOS is a hot, kick-ass blue haired android who regularly pulls out massively oversize guns to take down enemies:

The bizarre twist? It turns out that KOS-MOS was built to be the re-incarnation of... Mary Magdalene. Mary. Magdalene. Whahey?!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Day 612 of the library lockout. ... Okay, maybe it only seems like day 612. At least, today it does.

In reality, we are closing in on the end of the second full week of the library board and the Greater Victoria Labour Relations Association's depriving the city of their libraries. And, so far, an end to it seems awfully far in the future.

I've mostly been pretty positive during all this. Certainly not happy, but generally hopeful that things will turn out, especially given the overwhelming public support. But, for some reason, today... Today, I felt cranky and just generally annoyed at the world. Lynn says it's probably because I didn't sleep well last night, and she's probably right, but I was still grouchy. I hope the mood passes.

A random thought about the situation:

While spending four hours walking back and forth in front of the library, I'm reading a bit here and there, working my way through The Last Days of Krypton by Kevin J. Anderson. It tells the story of, well, the last days of Krypton: the events leading up to Krypton's destruction. Superman's father Jor-El, as the story has always gone, tries to convince his world's ruling council of the danger threatening them all. The council refuses to listen, burying their heads in the sand, desperate to maintain the status quo. Gee, sounds like a certain library board I can think of...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A little after 3 PM on the second to last day that the library is open before a lockout...

"It's a madhouse! A MADHOUSE!!!!"

Just a little on the busy side, then.
Today's my last day at work for what could be a very long time. Actually, nearly all of us at the library are having their last day today or tomorrow. We're being locked out.

I've mentioned our labour problems here a couple of times and now things have come to a head. After 5 months of asking the library board to return to the bargaining table and trying to not strike completely, they've decided they'd rather shut us down.

What's really got a lot of us pissed off is that their official press release has this passage:

“We do recognize and value the contribution of employees and would urge employees to ask their union representatives to return to the negotiating table to work out a fair collective agreement that meets the needs of all parties.”

Um, what?? They're doing their best to make it look like we are the ones who don't want to negotiate, despite telling them repeatedly that we would stop any and all strike actions if they would return to the table. Dickweeds.

Lynn and I expect to be okay, as long as the lock out doesn't last more than a few months; we've got a decent amount saved up right now. But a lot of folks are going to suffer because of the board's petty and small-minded actions.

Now, back to that last day.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Hey, it's only taken me until February to make my first blog post of the year! To make up for the long gap, I'm presenting a new Disturbing Library Find!

Yes, the adorable little tale of an adorable little mole in adorable search of "whodunit". That "hat" on his head? It is what you think it is. A co-worker originally found this in its original German format and passed it on to me, thinking it ideal for Disturbing Library Finds. He was right. Everyone I show this book to, whether in German or the above-pictured English translation, tends to sit with their mouth gaping open in disbelief.

The little mole pops his head out of his hole one morning and, yes, suddenly has crap land on his head. Understandably pissed off about this, he goes from animal to animal, asking if they are the perpetrator. On each double-page spread, each animal proves their innocence by letting go with their own, unique feces. There are thuds and splats all over the place. Wherever these animals all dwell together is obviously to be avoided if you care about your footwear at all.

I won't spoil the ending for you by revealing "whodunit" but I will let you know that the mole clearly believes in "an eye for an eye" and gives as good as he gets.