Sunday, October 10, 2010

Smallville - Release the Flying Monkeys

Nearly a decade ago, the first season of Smallville held some promise of being a decent television series. Sadly, albeit not unexpectedly, that idea quickly dissipated with show after show of pointlessly unrequited love and needlessly murderous "villains" who always die at the end of every episode after witnessing one of Clark's powers, something every other character remains completely oblivious to season after season. Despite this, the show somehow managed to maintain an audience for nine years, and now in their tenth and (thankfully) final season the writers are so desperate for ideas they have stooped to, and I'm not making this up, flying monkeys. Yes, you read that correctly.

If you had the misfortune of watching Smallville last night right through to the end (or perhaps you did yourself a favour and just tuned in for the first five minutes and the last fifteen since nothing important ever happens in between), you were rewarded for your optimism that, surely, the show simply has to get better at some point, by baring witness to flying monkeys escaping from the chest of the villain as if he were Azkadallia from Tin Man, though it was a cloud of flying monkeys rather than being released from tattoos on Kathleen Robertson's undeveloped chest. Pathetic as it sounds, that was the highlight of the show. 

The writers of Smallville seem determined to keep alive the hackneyed conventions of shows from the '70s like The Incredible Hulk by conveniently knocking apparently soft-skulled characters unconscious with minor blows to the head just in time to prevent them from accidentally witnessing the hero save them. Of course, they have to ensure the day isn't saved until the last possible moment, and to that end not just Clark, but his cousin Kara, AKA Supergirl, both wandered around a nightclub searching for Lois because, once again, they forgot that they had x-ray  vision, super-hearing, and can run so fast no-one can see them which should have allowed them to search the entire building in a fraction of a second. This just moments after Kara finished chastising Clark for not being able to control and use all his powers. I guess super-absentmindedness must be one of the most powerful of Kryptonian abilities.   

Normally the writers love using Clark's super-speed, and they utilize it up to a half-dozen times per episode -- though only to change scenes. When it's time to save the day they expect the audience to believe that someone who can move faster than bullets with reactions to match has never learned, after years of watching people die because of his inaction, to not just stand there until after the villain attacks and do something while there's still time to save someone other than a main character who is by this time, of course, unconscious. 

Intelligent writing is clearly Smallville's kryptonite, and now that the series is drawing to a close, I fear for the next classic franchise they intend to similarly ruin.  


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Piggy Grey Squirrel

I've had a pair of black squirrels that play in the red maple in my backyard for years now. They don't nest in my tree (apparently my tree isn't good enough for them, the snobs) but they do like to hang out and play squirrel-tag in it. In the past I've put out peanuts for them, assuming they ate them when I wasn't looking, but it turns out that these particular squirrels don't like peanuts and will walk right past the pile I leave out when they forage for food.

Well, something was eating the peanuts, and I finally discovered it's a pair of chickadees who will fly with a half peanut to the fence and peck at it a while, sound a triumphant "look what I found!" chirp, then fly off with their prize.

This year a male cardinal must have noticed the chickadees in their not exactly subtle feeding habits and joined them in enjoying their peanut bonanza, coming three times every day between 8 and 9 am, and another three times between 3 and 4 pm., flying back to it's mate somewhere in the bushes across the street afterwards.

I decided I enjoyed watching the cardinal enough that it warranted putting up a bird feeder. Having no luck in finding one at Walmart* or Canadian Tire, I ended up finding a wonderful selection of feeders at TSC, so I bought a small feeder and a squirrel log there, and an enormous 17-year supply bag of bird seed at The Bulk Barn because, hey, a sale is a sale, and strung the feeder from my air conditioner bracket so that it hung right in the middle of my patio door where I would have the best view of it.

Unfortunately the perching area wasn't large enough for the cardinal to land comfortably, and the chickadees would swear up a storm when they came in to land, trying desperately to stop in midair and hover like uncoordinated hummingbirds before perching on the feeder. Obviously that wouldn't do (no-one likes to be sworn at by tiny birds), so I tied some bamboo garden poles to the bottom of it and now the chickadees can land without any problem.

Well, no problem for the first bird to land, but when it takes off it sets the feeder spinning like a top, leaving the other to hang on for it's little birdie life and looking very dizzy as it revolves around with an expression on it's tiny face like a child on the tilt-a-whirl about to hurl.

Apparently chickadees are smart enough learn from their experiences,so after enduring the birdie-go-round a couple of times they learned to wait on the fence for the feeder to stop spinning, but they started to swear again about how long this was taking so I tied a piece of thread from one of the perches to the patio door and now the feeder is finally stable and the chickadees are much happier.

The next morning I heard the female cardinal plaintively calling the male over and over again, but he never replied and it's been several days and he hasn't returned to the yard yet, so I'm afraid he's come to an unfortunate end. Now, on the one hand I'm sad to know he's gone, but on the other hand I did all this just so I could watch the cardinal, so how dare the ungrateful wretch get himself eaten.

The squirrel log, which is actually a log of compressed corn and not made out of squirrels as you may have been led to believe, I tied to the closest arm of the barbeque where I could watch the squirrels nibble away in squirrelly bliss if the packaging on the log was to be believed, and indeed my squirrels do enjoy the corn and haven't even looked at the bird feeder to try to steal the seed out of it the way squirrels have a reputation of doing. Then again, my squirrels ignore peanuts so there's a good chance they're retarded and it may never have occurred to them to raid the bird feeder in the first place.

They really do enjoy the corn though. They'll run across a branch then walk down the fence in that gravity defying way that squirrels do, then balance on a thin branch that's fallen on the garbage can, scamper along some hose, then hop onto the barbeque -- which is directly underneath the branch they started out on so maybe they really are retarded. Anyway, they'll take a bite of corn, but only after contorting their bodies in several unnecessary and very silly ways, then look at me with the same smile I have when eating Jelly Bellies, take another bite, then it's back to either playing squirrel-tag in the tree or flattening themselves against the fence like they've been stepped on by an invisible foot and watch the birds with me for a while.

There is a grey squirrel that comes by occasionally, and it's an arrogant little brat of a squirrel. It will sit and puff up it's fluffy tail and show off how it's the grey colour of parking lots and gravel from above and from below it's the white colour of the sky, and it will boast that it's better looking than my squirrels and much better camouflaged to boot. It will brag to me and the chickadees and my squirrels ...which is more than my squirrels can take and they'll chase the bugger who easily outmanoeuvres them until it gets bored and goes back to (I'm guessing) the snobby squirrel neighbourhood where it lives.

Well, twice it's eaten from the squirrel log, hopping straight from the branch to the barbeque so I guess it's smarter than my squirrels too, but the piggy little bastard will bite off a huge piece, eat two or three bites, drop the piece it's eating like it's bored with it, bite off another huge piece, eat two or three bites, drop that piece, bite off yet another huge piece to eat just a couple of bites, then look me straight in the eye and let that piece fall to the ground, give me the squirrel equivalent of the finger, then dare my squirrels to catch it before prancing back from whence it came.

Oh, I hear another cardinal: I hope it will come to visit my backyard.


(these are temporary photos until I have a chance to upload my own hilarious illustrations)

Addendum: One of the squirrels bit through the string that held up the bird feeder so I guess I need to buy some airplane wire. Oh, and I now have two baby skunks, Noisy and Twitchy.  Noisy shuffles around the backyard loud enough to be mistaken for an animal 14 times larger (I measured) and Twitchy jumps at every sound Noisy makes, and a twitchy skunk is not what you want to have in your yard!

I still haven't gotten around to either illustrating or writing here, though I still write for several hours each day. Once I get the new computer tomorrow ...well, I'll probably end up playing StarCraft II for a few days until I beat it. Hey, I waited 10 years for this to come out!

Once I get the new video camera and start vlogging regularly right after I finish StarCraft II though ...that will be just about when the animé I've ordered will arrive.

Almost definitely after that though ...I should be able to find excellent excuses to still not be writing. Somehow being asked by everyone I know "why aren't you writing yet" seems to have exactly the opposite from the intended effect on me.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Doctor Who

"Doctor Who", like so many other science fiction television series (and movies for that matter) is more entertaining than "good" if you follow my meaning. Series that try to deliver airtight plots working towards a greater storyline and routinely have quality scripts and solid acting such as "Babylon 5" and "Firefly" are cancelled despite critical reviews and sometimes, such as was the case for "Farscape", despite high ratings.

However, even the weakest written series, say "Star Trek" for example, have a line that can't be crossed lest the very plot device the series relies on falls apart, effectively punching the viewer in the face as a reward for years of faithful viewing because the writers didn't care enough to restrict themselves to the canon either they or their predecessors created.

The finale of the thirty-first season of "Doctor Who" which aired last night crossed that line when they pulled a "Bill and Ted" by giving their past selves the keys to solving the problems from which their future selves could not otherwise have escaped. Although the Doctor has created time paradoxes in the past (proclaiming nonchalantly that he is immune to them), never in the previous 769 episodes was such a direct cause and effect used to make up for a lack of imagination on the part of the writers, because, I presume, previous writers realized that to do so makes every death and sacrifice that's ever occurred or ever will occur in the series completely pointless as now the audience will always have to ask why the Doctor doesn't simply travel back in time to prevent each and every personal tragedy from occurring in the first place.

Both his sonic screwdriver becoming a do-anything device and the pan-dimensional TARDIS being carried off several times a season despite having once been described as requiring something that can lift 50,000 tons to move since the series came back from it's 16 year hiatus in 2005 can be forgiven (though they are really over-relying on the sonic screwdriver issue lately), and the middle-finger salute inducing ending of this season's finale is a self-contained bit of nonsense that we'll never have the misfortune of being subjected to again, but using a causality paradox is a plot crutch which causes lameness that affects the entire franchise and for that they should be ashamed.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Billy's Balloon

Every now and then I return here to blogger or Live Spaces or a half-dozen other blogs I've tried hoping that one of them has improved or added some of the basic features that I take for granted on Facebook so I can finally separate my blogging from everyday socializing and hopefully start to seriously blog and/or vlog as I've been planning to (in my head) for several years now.

Something as simple as posting a link (embedded video or site link using an auto-generated thumbnail image or a selected page photo which even Facebook hasn't managed to screw up yet) is still mission impossible here on blogger. I'd much rather be able to hit the "share" button and send the item here than to Facebook where anything I post "disappears" within a day or two to the endless unsearchable attic known as "older posts".

Perhaps we'll see some improvements after Google launches their Facebook-killer, but for the time being, within minutes, every site I try leaves me feeling like I'm fighting with a killer balloon.