Sword Safety Video

From: By Bevans on Tuesday, July 31, 2007

This is the funniest thing I've seen all week. I don't want to spoil anything, and most people won't even read this paragraph anyway.

EDIT: Found another one.

If you don't see the video (like if you're seeing this on Facebook or the RSS feed) you'll have to click the title of this post, or the link on the bottom of this post (which you won't see on the web site itself).

Greatest cancelled TV shows ever (Part 1)

From: , By Bevans on Sunday, July 15, 2007

I was just watching some old video files I downloaded a while ago, and I came to the realization that some (or dare I say, most) of the best TV shows get cancelled before their time. So I thought I'd mention some of my favorites, in the hope that I'd get people interested in some of these lost gems. As far as I know, they're all available on DVD.

Carnivàle (2003-2005)

Jeez, it's hard to explain this show. It takes place during the Great Depression, and on the surface, it's about a struggling traveling carnival, and a seemingly-unrelated preacher. In the first episode, the carnival picks up a young man (Ben, the main character) who, unbeknownst to them, has the power to heal others. Ben and the preacher also share some sort of bond, and are gradually drawn to each other. Eventually, you realize that it's not really about a carnival at all, but a battle between good and evil. There's all sorts of mysticism and prophesy and a very deep mythology. Or there would have been.

Unfortunately, it only lasted for 2 seasons. The first season was very, well, deliberately paced, which could be mistaken for "slow". The ratings weren't very good, but HBO was kind enough to give it a second season to tie everything together.

The second season was nowhere near as deliberate as the first, and they abandoned the gradual buildup of the first season to get about 4 seasons of material into one. Things really start happening, and many mysteries are explained, including what the show is really about.

Personally, I can't decide which season works better. At the end of the first, I felt like "wow, this is a really cool show, but I still have no clue what it's about". The second explained too much, and of course there are plenty of plotlines still open, since they were hoping that ratings would improve enough for more seasons, or a movie of some sort.

To be a Carnivàle fan is to know true frustration, but I still recommend checking it out.

Farscape (1999-2003)

Farscape is about modern-day human astronaut John Crichton, who gets lost in space and winds up aboard a ship with several escaping alien prisoners. He accidentally pisses off a military officer, and must stay with the ship and prisoners to keep from being captured. Gradually, he makes friends with the prisoners and acquires lots of enemies. Crichton's quest for a way home is detoured when it turns out that he posesses something that the great military forces of the galaxy desire.

The show was produced by the Jim Henson Company, which means that the show is filled with weird alien creatures of every variety. Some characters are covered in extensive makeup, some obscured under very clever prosthetics, and some are actually elaborate animatronic puppets. Makes the pointy ears and goofy foreheads on Star Trek look quaint.

The show is full of sci-fi goodness like spaceship battles, laser gunfights, elaborate story arcs, oppressive military forces and all that, but it also has some truly amazing characters. Though there is a core group of characters, there are also often additions and subtractions as Crichton and his shipmates meet up with new people, all with their own agendas. Nobody is who they seem to be on the surface. Trusted allies can wind up betraying their friends, enemies can become friends, and just about everybody is crazy.

Farscape was the show that really helped the Sci-Fi Channel get off the ground, and helped it to become more than a glorified rerun network. The show ran for 4 seasons and was apparently approved for a fifth, but then Sci-Fi axed it. It was their most popular show, and they cancelled it. Of course, it was also their most expensive show.

Fortunately, Sci-Fi let them finish the show with a 3-hour miniseries a couple years after cancellation, but it's really hard to tie up 4 years of an elaborate story in 3 hours.

I think they still air the show in reruns, but it's one of those shows that you need to watch from start to finish, so I recommend DVDs.

Star Trek (1966-1969)

I just wanted to briefly mention the grandaddy of them all, because without the original Star Trek, where would Science Fiction be today? Like any good sci-fi, it was far deeper than it seemed. The show tackled numerous social issues, from race to war to religion, you name it. It only lasted 3 seasons before it was cancelled due to poor ratings, but it changed the world. And it looks better than ever on the recently released remastered DVDs.

Star Trek: Enterprise (2001-2005)

Enterprise never got the respect it deserved. True, it started out a little slow, but so did every other Star Trek show, and most other TV shows too, for that matter. The first season is pretty decent. The second season is good. The third season is great, and the fourth is also great, but for different reasons.

The show takes place many years before the Original Series, and the Enterprise is the first and only human ship capable of long-range space exploration. There's no Federation yet. Humanity has only had contact with a few alien races (the first being Vulcans, of course) so they're eager to get out there and see what's what. In fact, in the first episode, they see their first Klingon (dun dun duuuun!) and have to return him to his homeworld.

For the first 2 seasons, it's all classic Star Trek fare - seeking out new life and/or civilizations, going boldly and all that. The one hickup is the inclusion of the "Temporal Cold War" storyline. In the first episode, we're introduced to a new evil alien race called the Suliban, who are these crazy souped-up genetic experiments from the future, or something. Fortunately, there aren't that many episodes involving the TCW, and they're mostly absent from Seasons 3 and 4.

In Season 3 and 4, the episodes are way better. Season 3 is basically one long storyline where the Enterprise has to stop a race of aliens bent on destroying Earth. Season 4 takes major strides toward the formation of the Federation, and plays with a lot of established Trek lore. In one 3-parter, you get to see them deal with some of Khan's leftover genetics experiments, meet Data's great-grandfather, and find out why the original Kirk-era Klingons looked so much different than they do on the other shows.

The characters are kinda standard, though they get much more interesting as time goes on. Captain Archer is more like Kirk than other captains, though he's also somewhat less sure of what he's doing, since what he's doing has never been done by other humans before. The science officer is an uppity female Vulcan who seems to only be there to tell the puny humans how stupid they are for the first season. The rest of the cast are all humans for obvious reasons. There's a likable southern engineer who winds up in a lot of embarassing situations (and provides most of the swearing on the show), a quiet British armory officer, a worrisome Asian communications officer, and the token black guy who flies the ship, or something. Oh, and then there's Phlox, who's an alien doctor (best character on the show).

After 4 seasons, the show was ended due to low ratings. The final episode (which is generally considered equal to Paramount kicking each of the show's fans in the balls) is a Holodeck simulation on the Next Generation Enterprise, featuring Riker and Troy looking pretty old and overweight playing the characters they played 15 years ago. Sigh.

I've got more shows to cover, but I'm getting tired of writing, so I think I'll make this a two-parter and continue tomorrow or something. And yes, I'm going to mention Firefly.

My laptop is better than your laptop (probably)

From: , , By Bevans on Friday, July 13, 2007

I'm really excited. I just ordered a new laptop.

"But Bevans," you may say, "you're broke as fuck. How can you afford a $2,600 laptop?" The answer: student loans. No, really. Now that I'll be attending Brown College (starting next week) I need a laptop, because they require them there. So everything works out: I fulfill a requirement AND get a kick-ass laptop.

I got the best one that I could find for $2,600. I chose Dell, because they seem to make great laptops, and also because they seem to be the only ones selling laptops powerful enough for my needs (besides people like Alienware and Voodoo, who happen to sell them for crazy prices).

I'm really glad I'm in a Graphic Design program, because that means that I can satisfy both my professional and leisure needs with one machine without having to give one or the other precedence. It'll process large graphics and high-res video AND make my games look amazing with high framerates.

So here are the stats. They're not the best that Dell had to offer, but for $2,600, they're pretty good.
  • Model: XPS M1710 (Black)
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo Processor T7400 (2.16GHz/667MHz/4MB)
  • Memory: 2GB DDR2 SDRAM 677MHZ
  • Video Card: 256MB NVIDIA GeForce Go 7900
  • Screen: 17 inch UltraSharp TrueLife Wide-screen WUXGA
  • Hard Drive: 80GB 7200RPM SATA (I know this is kinda small, but I intend to upgrade it later)
  • Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium Edition
  • Other: 8X DVD+/-RW, Built-in Bluetooth, Wireless ethernet, etc.

Now, the hardest part will be waiting for it. It isn't set to arrive until about the 30th.

UPDATE: Now it's looking like it'll be here by the 25th. Woot.

Bevans' Political Soapbox, Vol. 1

From: , , By Bevans on Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sorry folks, I've decided not to run for President in 2008. My 2000 campaign was a bigger success than I ever imagined (I got one vote), and I honestly don't remember if I ran in 2004. But in 2008 you will not see my name on your ballots.

Why? Because, quite simply, I don't want to be the one to have to clean up Bush's mess. I don't want to have to fix the colossol clusterfucks in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran (just wait). I don't want to be the one to try to patch up our international relationships. De-Bushifying our education, healthcare, welfare, social security, and numerous other public services would be a major undertaking, and I just don't want to spend all my time doing that. I don't want to have to break up all the illegal monopolies that have formed and flourished thanks to Bush's "let big business do whatever the fuck it wants" policy.

In fact, undoing all that Bush has done to this country and this world is going to take decades, so I may not even run in 2012 or 2016. We'll see.

Another reason for not running is that I'll probably be labelled an "enemy combatant" or something and hauled off to a secret prison somewhere, just for writing this post. Naturally, that would put a major strain on my campaign. So it's best to just leave it to someone else for now.

In the coming weeks, I'll be offering my opinions on the other losers running for President in 2008. And what a sorry bunch of...

Procrastination Study

From: , By Bevans on Thursday, July 05, 2007

I found this list of 10 Things to Know About Procrastination from a well-respected psychology web site. As I was reading it, more and more I was saying "yea, this is definitely me".

To pad out this post, I'm just going to cut-and-paste some excerpts that I think are particularly relevant to me.
  • They don't pay bills on time. They miss opportunities for buying tickets to concerts. They don't cash gift certificates or checks. They file income tax returns late. (Oh shit, my taxes!)
  • "Telling someone who procrastinates to buy a weekly planner is like telling someone with chronic depression to just cheer up," insists Dr. Ferrari.
  • Procrastinators drink more than they intend to—a manifestation of generalized problems in self-regulation. (I've always suspected that this was true, which is one of the reasons why I don't drink.)
  • They distract themselves as a way of regulating their emotions such as fear of failure.
  • One of the types: Avoiders, who may be avoiding fear of failure or even fear of success, but in either case are very concerned with what others think of them; they would rather have others think they lack effort than ability.
  • Just over the course of a single academic term, procrastinating college students had such evidence of compromised immune systems as more colds and flu, more gastrointestinal problems. And they had insomnia. (Oh yea, I've definitely got the insomnia.)
  • Procrastination has a high cost to others as well as oneself; it shifts the burden of responsibilities onto others, who become resentful. Procrastination destroys teamwork in the workplace and private relationships.

Well, that's about half the article right there. But the rest is definitely interesting too, and worth a read.

UPDATE: I just found another great article on the same site, called Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature. And if any of you out there ever visit Digg, you'll probably notice that I just get a lot of this stuff from there.