The fourth and final season of Battlestar Galactica concluded last week with a 2 hour season finale. If you are a fan and you don’t like spoilers, please stop reading now. First of all, I am a huge fan of this show. It’s by far the best thing I’ve ever watched on TV. I love the premise, the acting, the writing, the direction, the cinematography and almost all of the twists and turns along the way.
But I absolutely hated the finale. The following is what I wrote the next day.
I failed to see the point of a lot of the flashbacks. They were filling in emotional backdrops like the Apollo/Starbuck love triangle that we already knew about and that they had depended on for ages. The entire Roslyn love trist sub plot was random and of no importance current events. It wasn’t incredibly interesting to find out what had happened to motivate her to get into politics in the first place, and in the end her motivation wasn’t demonstrated well anyway. What a waste of time.
Bringing in The One True God as the explanation for all that has happened that was mystical seems like a massive cop out to me. It’s the explanation for how Starbuck was resurrected. It’s the explanation for the projections of Six and Baltar being seen by each other (yet how come there were at least a couple of occasions when Cavil appeared too?). The “angel” idea is weak because the characters inside people’s heads were so clearly not angelic. They weren’t guiding them, they were manipulating them, for good as well as for evil. This is the biggest problem I have — if anything could be achieved by a One True God, what was important or significant about the particular things that did happen. It’s far more interesting if these things were (at least on some level) the result of an intelligence that is less than all knowing and all seeing.
Identity was the central theme of the series. Yet this final episode only treated it as a side issue. It wasn’t asking us to consider who we are, what it means to be human or cylon, or how that might change if we are human-cylon. It was taking a step back to focus on humans and technology as a tool. I felt they missed a fantastic opportunity to drive home the point of the cylon/human relationship. It was completely implausible to me that all the human and cylon survivors would happily shun high technology (including medical technologies) as a grand symbolic gesture that they were getting rid of past mistakes when they knew very well that societies would develop the same types of technologies over time (or just die out before they did). It was even more stupid that they then immediately set about creating an agrarian society among their prehistoric brethren (who somehow happen to have matching DNA) and therefore do exactly what they said they were not going to do. Besides, around that time there the total world population was supposedly about 2000 people in two tribes in Africa, yet they talked about people being in all continents (including I think Australia) which is sloppy and completely strange for such a tightly written show.
Many of the key characters didn’t do what they would have done in those circumstances. It was so ridiculous that Tori would stand right next to Tyrol when she knew he was about to see what she did to Cally. It was even more stupid that Tyrol wouldn’t be able to control himself for a couple of minutes before strangling her. He’s thrown the odd punch, but really, he knew the consequences could be massive. I didn’t buy that at all. Adama leaving his son & adopted daughter to build a house on his own away from everyone else also seemed completely dumb to me. He’d want to be with his son. And Lee would want to be with him. Most of all, what are we to think of Starbuck? She mystically disappears, and we’re left to assume she was basically a Christ like resurrection who just left at her whim in an instant. Yet for the past several episodes she’s been unable to figure out who or what she is. So in summary, she’s flesh and blood, just as flawed as ever, doesn’t know who she is, yet she’s been resurrected to guide them to New Earth and then knows how to disappear in a puff of smoke? No. I just don’t think it washes.
Lotte and I are finally back in Melbourne. In the end it felt as though a lifetime had passed since we first got the news that started off our 2 year adventure to England. And yet, inevitably, when we returned it felt a little like that was just a moment ago. It has predictably been a good time to reflect for both of us, and we’ve spent a lot of time just talking about what an amazing journey we’ve been on. We really have been so incredibly fortunate just to have the chance to do this. It’s difficult to describe how many ways we’ve been effected, but just by looking back over this blog it’s obvious that we’ve both been given all kinds of opportunities in terms of family, work, travel, dancing, teaching and (perhaps most significantly) life long friendships.
The last couple of weeks in Cambridge were pretty frenetic, and they just reinforced this last point for us. First of all we performed in Perspectives with the troupe, who have all become really close friends to us. Doing a show for 6 nights in a row is such a great way to have fun, and Perspectives was the most rewarding performance experience of my life so far. The sense of inspiration it gave all of us was palpable and lasting, and every time we danced in the last couple of weeks it showed.
And we did dance rather a lot. Somehow we ended up with a really intensive schedule, starting with our last night of teaching on Wednesday where again had something close to 60 students in the beginner class and 25 or so in intermediate. We held the AGM in between because there was no other time and we were really pleased when 6 new committee members put their nominations forward. Then on Friday night we taught a class at Wolfson, and partied until midnight and on Saturday it was the main event: the Lindyhopathon!
Lotte did a wonderful job in her interview with ITV for the hopathon (above). Unfortunately Ros, the main organiser, was too sick on the day to be there for the interview. But the good news is that we raised over £5,700, including more than £450 for the taxi dances alone! Actually the media campaign for the event was very successful, because we had 2 radio interviews and a front page in the local weekly as well as this. At the very least there should be a few more people who are aware of it next time around.
By Sunday night we had finished packing, and all that remained was to get rid of Lotte’s bike, and to party with everyone at The Snug in Lensfield Road. The send off turned out to be pretty emotional, particularly when Maria handed over a leather bound memory book with contributions from all of our friends. The book has all kinds of photos, stories, illustrations and in-jokes from the last two years. We’re going to add some of our own photos as well.
At 7.15am on Monday morning we took the bus to Heathrow and promptly fell asleep, blissfully unaware that the bus would run into traffic on the way, delaying our arrival by about half an hour. We were also told by the driver that Terminal 4 was a mess because of roadworks, so we would be better off getting the train from the central bus terminal. We struggled down to the underground with all our stuff, and found that the next train was not for another 9 minutes. That was when we started to panic. We had to check in at least 90 minutes before departure, and with nearly an hour of delays we were now cutting it very fine. We formulated a plan that Lotte would run ahead to the Qantas check in desk while I struggled along behind with most of the luggage. For whatever reason, they don’t actually have a Qantas sign up anywhere at departures, and with about 2 minutes to spare Lotte was not strangely not all that amused when a she asked a BA employee where to go and he just scratched his head, pretending he’d never heard of Qantas! Eventually he directed her to the BA counter where I met her, just as she was told (to our great relief) that we had made it in time.
There was just one problem. We had booked separately because I was claiming frequent flyer miles, and the plane was full, so there were no more seats together. We were still just thankful to be on the flight at all, but the lady at the desk started to see if she could work something out so we could sit together. It was at this point that Lotte let it slip that we were going home to get married. The lady was on the phone for about 5 minutes in total, and then just reached over with our boarding passes and said: “Sometimes it pays to be late. You’re going to be flying Business Class today”. Lotte literally jumped up and down on the spot and blew her kisses. I just stood in stunned silence, before giggling my head off. Needless to say the flight was absolutely amazing. The level of comfort is just unbelievable, and I remember thinking to myself “how could there be another class even higher than this?”. By chance we got seats right at the very front of the flight deck, directly behind the cockpit. It was like the flight was entirely for us, because we basically didn’t see anyone other than the pilots and the doting flight attendants. The seats recline to be as flat as beds, so we slept about 85% of the time, waking up only to eat the (really really good) meals. We figured out how much the bill for such extravagence would normally be: just under £9000: just under $A20,0000 AUD (you read that right). And yes, I got my flight on frequent flyer miles. Our saving? $A18,188.29.
The cringeworthy coverage of Paris Hilton’s every silly move has got to stop somewhere, but news services complain that they’re just giving the public what they want. Of course everyone knows these same services are the ones that set the agenda, carefully cultivating our tastes and then cashing in on them later. Which is why I loved this video segment so much. Yesterday MSNBC’s Morning Joe news anchor Mika Brzezinski decided she was not going to lead the news with Paris flouncing out of prison, and ends up tearing the story up on camera. Someone give that woman a medal. Watch here: MSNBC anchor tears up Paris script
So my wish has come true. Battlestar Galactica is now available for download on the iTunes Music Store. Now if they only made video content available to countries other than the US, they would have something just as revolutionary as Bittorrent, but completely legitimate. And a whole new way of making money through online distribution without the huge cost. I hope the studios figure that out quickly.
So now I will turn my attention to something far more interesting, and certainly more enjoyable. The new Battlestar Galactica. Season 2 is now upon us. At least, if you are in the US or have access to recordings from the US. There is no indication that any of the Australian free to air networks have picked up Season 2, despite (or perhaps due to) Network Ten’s botched airing of the first series down under. So local BSG fans have no idea if or when it will arrive here.
Enter peer 2 peer networks like Bittorrent. Newspapers are reporting that Australian TV viewers are increasingly turning to downloading episodes of series like BSG out of frustration. Speaking hypothetically of course, if I was to engage in any bittorrenting, I know I would still be keen to watch a series like BSG on free to air TV. I’m a big enough fan to even go to the expense of purchasing the entire series on DVD. I’m already planning to get the first series on DVD and I’ve watched that through a couple of times now. Just about all the other BSG fans I know are similarly committed to owning the series on DVD. It might just be a BSG thing, I don’t know.
What it says to me is that networks will be increasingly under pressure to air series that enjoy international success more quickly. It just can’t be sustainable for Australian networks to withold episodes for 12 months or more when your average 10 year old can download them from the US the day after their release. Sure it’s a hassle to download, and it’s bandwidth that you pay for, but if the alternative is waiting indefinitely, people will do it.
Anyway, all that being said, I am really enjoying Season 2 of BSG. Not only is the plot in this series more involved than the last one, the characters are being revealed in more detail, which is the most engaging thing of all for me. I heartily recommend it to anyone, even if you have no interest at all in Sci Fi. Suffice to say that the issues explored are very relevant to today’s headlines, and also include the sort of timeless themes of a real masterpiece. I just cannot speak highly enough of the writing, the direction and the acting in this show. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, track down the New Battlestar Galactica mini series in your local video shop — it’s easy to find and it watches just like a movie. You’ll be hooked.
Last week I’d pretty much decided that it was time to get a digital set top box to improve our reception at home. Our antenna was blown off the roof soon after I moved in and for various reasons (long story) we’ve never replaced it. Of course, those little rabbit ears only go so far. Then I learnt that JB Hi Fi was selling set top boxes for $99, so yesterday I went out and got one (a Soniq DVB12). Took 5 minutes to plug in, and it works a treat. Crystal clear TV, with program guides and all. And at that price, you can’t go too far wrong.
I seem to be waning on the blog entry side of things. No excuses! Instead I’ll give a quick update on as many things as possible. First, the building work on our house continues apace. I can hardly believe that I have failed to document the entire process with pictures, but I’ll try to get some tonight. Of course, pretty much all there is to see now is a bunch of freshly painted walls looking extremely nice, but anyone who visited our place prior to the repairs should see the improvement. We’re both delighted with the quality of the work. They are clearly using very good quality materials and doing the hard stuff like the details as well as the more obvious stuff. They’re even repainting walls that didn’t need to be repaired at all so that everything matches exactly.
The weekend was quite relaxing. Lotte has been doing quite a few sleepover shifts lately while we save up for our trip, so Squigs and I had a couple of nights to ourselves towards the end of the week. I decided I needed to get a new game for the Xbox to while away those nights and went with a pre-loved copy of Medal of Honour: The Front Line on the recommendation of Thomas from Holland. Not a bad pick up for only $25 I thought, but I haven’t really had a chance to play for long yet. I’d like to try it in multiplayer mode but I doubt it would compare to BF 1942 (which rocks on the new iMac G5, by the way).
We went to lunch at Mum and Dad’s on Sunday. It was really great to see the famdamly and as a bonus Gran and Uncle Dave were there. Uncle Dave is the funniest uncle ever, I think, and he never fails to crack me up. It’s always fun to see Lotte’s reactions to his jokes because I know she’s thinking about the our particular family’s brand of humour. Anyway Lotte had to go to another sleepover shift and I had some time to kill before going to see the Cairo Club at Mayfields, so I went and saw an early evening showing of Star Wars III. The reviews are right. It sucks slightly less than the other two prequals. That’s about all I can say about it though. The lego version of the Star Wars characters are more human than these cardboard cut outs if you ask me. It’s just so disappointing. I’d vote for Ron Moore to remake the entire series if I could.
Speaking of which, I am really starting to miss Battlestar Galactica. I’ve tried to keep myself occupied by reading the Battlestar Blog (minus the spoilers) and watching the series again as it went to air. I even read Philip K. Dick’s The Simulacra, which I expected to be a good sci fi novel about human identity. It was not. It was a load of complete and utter drivel that I cannot believe is written by the same guy who came up with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which of course was adapted to become Blade Runner. I’ve read a few works now by Philip K. Dick, and some of them weren’t great, but none were as impressively ridiculous as this one. Does anyone out there have recommendations for better stuff by him? I’ll be interested to see the film version of A Skanner Darkly. It’s a pretty short story so I’m wondering how they’ll get a full feature movie out of it actually.
The plot summary of A Scanner Darkly says “Caustically funny, eerily accurate in its depiction of junkies, scam artists, and the walking brain-dead, Philip K. Dick’s industrial-grade stress test of identity is as unnerving as it is enthralling.” Yeah, maybe it’s eerily accurate because apparently one of my favourite sci fi authors was not unknown to illegal substances himself. That helps to explain why an awful lot of the character development in The Simulacra is along those lines. It’s not that it’s not accurately written, it’s just that it doesn’t seem to add much to the story. And there are so many little ideas that just don’t get followed up in the plot that it feels like a lot of things are happening but there just aren’t any real consequences. Even by the end I couldn’t really figure out who the main protagonists were let alone start feeling any kind of empathy for them. I’ve never gotten to the end of a novel before with the feeling like I hadn’t gotten to the main story yet. Maybe I’m just missing something. I’m sure I’ve just offended a lot of hard core sci fi fans, but maybe someone will explain why I’m wrong.
One thing that I must start writing more about here is the theme that seems to link a lot of my interests together: identity. I’ve noticed that this is the real area that interests me about my thesis, and the related themes about performance, constructing the self, subjectivity, and ontology are really just ways of investigating “the big issue” for me. Gameplay and educational issues like authenticity are definitely of less importance in terms of my interest. That’s weird I think because I’m an educational designer who loves games. I’ve mentioned that Blade Runner (whose main theme is human identity) is my favourite movie, and that BSG gets me for exactly the same reason. The same thing with Total Recall (another Philip K Dick remake as it happens). Clearly I’m not alone in finding this theme of identity compelling, but I do find it interesting to notice that my academic interests have come around to it as well. One of the things that Paul Gruba (co-author of Writing A Better Thesis) says is that you really need to take notice of where your passion lies. Well, I can’t write my thesis about Lindy Hop or cricket, so I guess this will have to do.
The whole Napster story is set to repeat itself in the digital video world. With the proliferation of broadband and peer to peer network technology like eMule and Bittorrent, the cat is out of the bag. With digital video services now providing simple, consumer level products that allow video content to be captured instantly, it’s not difficult to imagine the revolution that is now taking shape. What is called TV Piracy today is an opportunity for someone to make a killing tomorrow.
Apple Computer was the big winner in the original Napster story, with the development of the iPod and iTunes Music Store. Despite the fact that there are significant questions about the way Apple has introduced its Digital Rights Management system, there’s no doubting the successful introduction of ITMS has changed the music industry forever. A profitable music on demand industry was born.
There seems no doubt that the video on demand industry will follow, but what remains to be seen is what shape a really tenable digital video download service will take. Personally, I’d have no problem at all with paying a reasonable fee for the convenience of downloading video on demand. Providing the DRM is not too restrictive, of course. Following the music example, I much prefer the DRM-free subscription service offered by eMusic.com, but Apple certainly has the better range of choice from the main labels on the ITMS. My wish is that someone would come up with a really forward-thinking download service that has minimal DRM (maybe hooked up to a set top box solution like TIVO) that makes it more worthwhile to use the legitimate service than resort to peer to peer networks.