NYCC day one

Today is day one of NYCC, or Metaverse, or whatever we’re supposed to call it now. Much like SDCC, it’s all virtual this year. They’re really trying to make it a full con experience, which is nice. There are a bunch of panels streaming on YouTube. I took today and tomorrow off from work, just like I did for SDCC, and I’m trying to get into the con frame of mind, as much as I can. I watched the Star Trek panel earlier today, live, and just finished watching the recording of the Doctor Who panel. (I had a doctor’s appointment today, so I had to break out of the con mood for a couple of hours mid-day to take care of that, and missed seeing the Who panel live.)

I’m not sure which panels are being done live vs. prerecorded, but according to this article, about 25% of them are supposed to be live. So that’s cool. They’re all being streamed “live” at a specific day and time, with the YouTube chat window going, so that helps thing feel a bit more “live”, even if it’s just a prerecorded panel.

The article linked above compares Metaverse to SDCC@Home and DC FanDome, and how NYCC is trying to learn from what worked (and didn’t work) from those two events. And here’s another article about Metaverse, and the evolution of virtual cons. I’d be really happy if we can go back to having in-person cons next year, but I’m not optimistic. If there are in-person cons next year, I probably won’t want to take the chance on going to one, unless, by some miracle, this country actually gets its act together enough to get COVID-19 under control so large gatherings are safe again. I suspect that cons will still be mostly virtual through at least the first half of 2021.

The Star Trek panel was fun. I’m still resisting the urge to sign up for CBS All-Access, but I might break down and do it soon. Lower Decks looks like it’s a lot of fun, and I’m guardedly enthusiastic about season three of Discovery. I picked up the first season of Picard on Blu-ray today, so I’ve got that to watch now. And I guess I can wait a while on Lower Decks and Discovery, since they should both come out on DVD/Blu-ray eventually. (I already have the first two seasons of Discovery on DVD.)

I actually bailed out of the Star Trek panel a bit early, so I missed the announcement that Captain Janeway will be returning in the new Star Trek: Prodigy show on Nickelodeon. I’ll probably watch that one as it comes out, since it’ll be on “normal” TV and I can TiVo it.

There are a couple of more panels I will probably watch tonight, including one on The Expanse, and one on the Sandman audio adaptation. There’s really not much going on today that’s actually related to comic books, which is a bit of a bummer, but there’s more stuff tomorrow.

The Rise of Skywalker

I took the day off from work today, and went out to see the new Star Wars movie. I don’t go out to see many movies in theaters anymore, but I’ve seen most of the other Star Wars movies in a theater, so seeing this last one seemed like kind of an obligation. I’m still a bit sick, but I’m not doing too bad. I went to a 9 AM showing and made it through the film with the aid of a cup of coffee, two cough drops, and a few tissues. And one bathroom break. (I think I am now officially too old to make it through a 2.5 hour movie without a break.) Oh, and one call from my boss. (I considered ignoring it and calling back after the movie, but I thought it might be important. It wasn’t, really, but that’s ok.)

As a movie, it’s pretty much what I expected. There’s not really too much room for surprises and creativity in a movie like this. It needs to tie up everything from the prior two movies, sprinkle in some nostalgia from the original trilogy, add in some cute new characters for merchandising, and (maybe) set up some stuff for spin-off Disney+ shows. Overall, it was fun, and I’m probably going to want to see it again, if for no other reason than to the catch the parts I missed during my phone call and bathroom breaks. I may wait until it’s out on Blu-ray to see it again though.

The NY Times has a good review roundup for Rise of Skywalker. It’s (mostly) spoiler-free, as is their own review here. Their review calls it “one of the best. Also one of the worst. Perfectly middling. It all amounts to the same thing.” It’s kind of like there’s no real point in reviewing the movie, but it has to be done, I guess? Their take on The Mandalorian, Baby Yoda Is Your God Now, is also kind of weird and maybe a bit nihilistic.

I’ve been thinking back on my experiences of seeing previous Star Wars movies. I remember being pretty excited about The Phantom Menace, back in 1999, and actually going to a midnight showing for that one. I can’t imagine doing that now. For Revenge of the Sith, in 2005, I went into NYC and saw it at the Ziegfeld. (The Ziegfeld, of course, isn’t a movie theater anymore, so that option wouldn’t have been open this time around.) And for Last Jedi, the previous installment, I was also kind of sick, and also (eventually) saw it in Manville, on a weekday morning.

Anyway, I’m feeling pretty ambivalent about the whole thing. I’m still a fan, but I think maybe I need a break. Hmm, Sátántangó is still playing at Lincoln Center. That would be a good palate cleanser. If I could get in by 3 PM, I could even see it today. (Too late for that, though, really.)

Star Trek Discovery Season Two

A quick follow-up on my ST Discovery post from last week: I just noticed a reassuring observation about season two in Paul Duffield’s Twitter stream:

So that’s a good sign.

Star Trek: Discovery

The internet probably doesn’t need another opinion about Star Trek: Discovery, but I binge-watched the first season over the weekend, so… here’s another opinion about Star Trek: Discovery.

I avoided this show when it first aired, since I didn’t want to pay for CBS All-Access. It’s out on DVD now, so I picked it up that way. I’ve been a Trek fan since watching reruns of TOS on channel 11 (WPIX) when I was a kid, and I’ve watched every show since (TNG, DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise). Ever since Enterprise went off the air, I’ve been hoping for a new Trek show, in the same vein as those shows. In particular, I’d have loved to see a show that continued on from the TNG timeline, rather than a prequel or alternate universe show. Well, Discovery is a prequel show, and honestly feels a bit like an alternate universe show too. Which is fine. Enterprise ended in 2005, and TV has changed a lot since then, so this is a new show that’s more in the style of the 2004 Battlestar Galactica reboot than it is to any previous Trek series.

Here’s a review from the NY Times that I mostly agree with. The Times even has recaps/reviews of every episode of the first season. Their recap of the season finale makes some good points.

Overall, it was a fun show to watch. But there were parts that really didn’t hold together well, or make much sense. A lot of the plot twists were predictable. And there were a lot of clichés, including a Groundhog Day episode. (I’m starting to think there’s some kind of legal requirement that all sci-fi TV shows must do at least one Groundhog Day episode.) The TV Tropes page for Discovery is quite long (and fairly amusing). The season felt a bit like the creators were desperate to keep up a stream of big reveals and big plot twists. There weren’t too many moments where they slowed things down for character development or anything like that.

Season two is running on CBS All-Access right now, and is up to episode four, I think. I haven’t looked at any reviews too closely, to avoid spoilers, but from what little I’ve read, it might be off to a good start, with some course correction from season one. If I stick with the “only watching it on DVD” plan, I won’t get to see season two until, probably, this time next year. I’m OK with that. I have plenty of other stuff to watch. But I will probably buy those season two DVDs when they come out.

Lazy Sunday

I had tentative plans to go in to NYC for the Frankenstein exhibit at the Morgan today, but it turned into one of those mornings where I couldn’t quite talk myself into getting all my stuff together and heading for the train station. Instead, I finished reading a big Avengers hardcover, then spent way too much time writing a review of it on Goodreads. I’m kind of in a mood to read some more Marvel stuff now, so I might spend the afternoon reading Avengers vs. X-Men, which I have in Comixology.

DC was really pushing their new DC Universe service at NYCC last weekend; every DC-related panel started with the DC Universe trailer, and the service got mentioned a lot in some of those panels. I’ve alternately been talking myself into and out of signing up for the service. On the one hand, I’m a long-time DC fanboy, so there’s probably lots of stuff there I’d like. On the other hand, I still have a huge pile of unread comics and graphic novels that I haven’t read yet, and DVDs and Blu-rays that I haven’t watched. And I haven’t watched the most recent season of any of the Marvel shows on Netflix. So I already have a lot of superhero content to consume, that I’ve already paid for. But at $75/year for the service, that comes out to $1.44 per week, which is less than the price of a single comic book. So… maybe.

I’ve been curious about the game Stardew Valley since I heard it discussed on an NPR podcast a couple of months ago. (Here’s the article that they mentioned on the podcast. And here’s another NPR article that makes me wonder what kind of Stardew player I’d be…) I was kind of hoping that the game would have been available for the Apple TV, since I have a game controller for my Apple TV that I never get to use for anything. But no. It’s available for most other platforms, including Mac, PC, PS 4, Switch, and XBox One. The only game console I currently own is a PS 3, so I’m out of luck there. I could buy it for Mac or PC, but I was looking for something I could play on the TV. I saw an article a few days ago announcing that it was coming out for iOS, so I had some hope that would include Apple TV. Still no; just iPhone and iPad. And I saw that Minecraft for Apple TV has been discontinued for lack of players. So if Apple TV can’t support something as popular as Minecraft, it probably can’t support any big, interesting, game. Oh well. Maybe I should buy one of the current-generation video game consoles, but I just don’t think I would use it enough to justify the price. (I was really hoping Apple TV gaming would take off at some point.)

I didn’t make it to the big Doctor Who panel at NYCC last weekend. I’m sure it would have been fun, but it sounded like it was going to be very crowded and I was too tired to deal with that. The full panel is up on YouTube now, on the official Doctor Who channel, so I’ll have to watch that later. I watched the first episode last week, and liked it enough that I’m looking forward to this week’s episode. I don’t get BBC America, so I get the episodes through iTunes, which means I don’t get it until tomorrow. I’m not liking this new Sunday night schedule for the show. When it was on a Saturday night schedule, I could watch the new episodes on Sunday afternoon. Now I have to wait until Monday after work. Well, at least it gives me something to look forward to after work on Monday.

OK, so this turned into a long rambling post, it’s almost noon, and I’ve killed my entire Sunday morning reading comics, listening to music, and writing pointless reviews and blog posts. Eh, there’s worse ways I could have spent the morning. Time for lunch.

Nostalgia: Bleecker St, Tekserve, Blueberry iBooks, and old SF magazines

I went down a rabbit hole this morning, following a couple of threads from a couple of articles I was reading, which stirred up some old memories and made me do a bit of spelunking on the internet. I thought it was interesting enough to justify a blog post, so here we go.

I think the whole thing started with this article about all the empty storefronts on Bleecker Street in NYC. This led me into a reverie about the “old days” of cool record stores and book stores and computer stores. Which reminded me of Tekserve, which went out of business about a year ago. (Tekserve’s collection of old Apple hardware is now owned by MacPaw, an Apple development shop in the Ukraine, which seems kind of crazy to me, but that’s probably because I’m old.)

I’ve also been reading through old TidBITS newsletters, and hit one this week that mentioned Tekserve’s closing, and linked to this video from an old Sex and the City episode that includes a couple of scenes shot at Tekserve. I’ve never actually watched Sex and the City, but that clip is kind of fun.  Aasif Mandvi (from The Daily Show) plays the Tekserve employee who handles her laptop, and there’s a bit with a Blueberry iBook that made me a little nostalgic for my old Tangerine iBook.

And, going back to the Bleecker Street article, Sex and the City was apparently one of the main reasons for the beginnings of the real estate bubble on Bleecker Street, after Magnolia Bakery made an appearance on the show. And that got me thinking about the changes in Greenwich Village, in general, over the years, including Bleecker Bob’s getting replaced with a yogurt shop in 2013, and Kim’s Video closing down in 2014.

The Kim’s Video article includes this quote: “Manhattan in the 21st century is this Disneyland for the superrich,” from Richard Hell. And that reminded me of a science fiction story I read in 1989, which basically used that concept as its premise. The story was called “Do You Believe in Magic,” was written by Paul Di Filippo, and appeared in the January 1989 issue of the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. And, no, my memory is not nearly good enough to have remembered any of that. I had to do a bit of searching to figure that out. (I’m glad to have found The Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Weird Fiction Magazine Index, by the way. I may need to use it again some day.)

I’d like to reread that story, but if I still have my copy of that issue, I have no idea where it is. (I looked around my apartment a bit, and did find some F&SF issues from 1964, but none from 1989. I can’t remember where I got those 1964 issues from, but the covers sure are nice.) I found that it’s contained in a collection titled Fractal Paisleys, which is available on the Kindle for a little over $5, and contains a bunch of other stories that are probably also pretty good.

So I think that brings me full-circle, back to 2017, where I use the internet to track down old SF stories and then buy DRM-protected digital copies of them from a giant global monopoly retailer, without ever leaving my apartment. (Which I guess is why we don’t have book stores, or record stores, or independent computer stores anymore…)


Here’s a good article on the possibility of a coming bananapocalypse. It sounds kind of funny, but it’s a real problem.

The world’s most popular fruit, the Cavendish banana, is also one of the least genetically diverse. These seedless bananas destined for the $11 billion export market are, essentially, clones. That leaves the humble Cavendish vulnerable to diseases that can take advantage of its limited genetic diversity.

I eat a banana almost every day, so it would really bother me if they disappeared, but of course that’s a “first-world problem.” I’d just eat more of something else, and get on with my life. In some parts of the world, bananas are a staple and an important source of nutrition.

All of this seems to be leading up to a world much like the one presented in Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl. Let’s hope we don’t actually let it go that far. (Which reminds me: I need to read more Paolo Bacigalupi.)

AD&D games and Doctor Who audio

I’ve blogged about AD&D gold box games a couple of times in the past. I finally got around to buying a bunch of them from GOG last week, when they had some game bundles on sale for 50% off. So I only spent $10 and got about a dozen games.

The last thing I bought from GOG was Neverwinter Nights, which I started playing over this summer, but got sidetracked from at some point. I haven’t played it in more than a month (though I do really want to get back to it).

So I’m probably not going to actually play any of those gold box games any time soon. But that’s OK. They’re DRM-free and multi-platform, so they’ll be there whenever I get around to it. And they include PDF files of all the cool extras that came with these games, so I’ll have some fun browsing through them at some point. It’ll bring back some fun memories.

I’ve also recently started listening to Big Finish’s Doctor Who audio dramas again. I hadn’t really listened to any of them at all this year, so it’s fun to get back into those. I’ve still got 4 or 5 of them that I haven’t listened to yet, so I’m in no danger of running out. But they had a Halloween sale this weekend, so I went ahead and bought one more: a box set of Fourth Doctor “lost stories.” I haven’t listened to any of Big Finish’s Tom Baker stuff at all, so I’m looking forward to that.

So I’ve got plenty of nerdy entertainment options to get me through the fall and winter!

Weird Al and Star Trek and other stuff

Fairly soon, I will be heading into NYC for a day of (hopefully) fun. The main purpose of the trip is to see Weird Al at Radio City Music Hall tonight. A secondary purpose is to drop in at the Paley Center and maybe watch a couple of episodes of Star Trek. So, yes, I’m a nerd.

I’ve been working on my migraine problem over the last few weeks. I haven’t actually had a migraine with aura in more than a month, so that’s good. But I’ve been getting (relatively) minor headaches on a somewhat regular basis, and sometimes they’re bad enough and last long enough to be a real nuisance. I’m hoping that I can get through the day today without any problems. But I do have a hotel room booked, so if I get a headache this afternoon, I can always hole up in my hotel room, draw the curtains, and take a nap.

The Ten Doctors

I just finished reading The Ten Doctors. I started reading this on the advice of a friend who is a huge, long-time, Doctor Who fan. There are many references in this comic that I don’t get, since my knowledge of the Doctor prior to the Russell T Davies reboot is spotty at best. But, even if you don’t know all the characters and continuity, this is a fun story. It’s always cool to see someone with some talent and a lot of enthusiasm do something like this, purely for fun. Fan fiction like this is usually pretty bad, but this guy is a pretty talented cartoonist and a good storyteller.