Oct 04

Buffy lives

I won’t post any spoilers about the Buffy season premiere, but I don’t think anyone will be surprised to hear that (a) it revolves around Buffy’s return from death, and (b) magic is involved. We all knew that ahead of time; the question was, how would this be handled? Bringing back dead characters is a very tricky business that can undermine the credibility of any show if it’s done wrong. Dallas ran afoul of this hazard back in the ’80s. The problem wasn’t that Bobby was resurrected, but the way he came back. Declaring an entire season of the show to have been a dream was a cop-out and a cliche, and Dallas never really recovered.
So I was curious to see how Buffy would avoid the pitfalls of raising its main character from the dead. Very well, it turns out. The spell that brought her back had so many conditions and qualifications that I’m sure we’ll never see it used again: it was only possible because Buffy had been killed by mystical forces, it was extremely dangerous for the caster, its material component was a rare and irreplaceable artifact, and it has severe consequences for everyone involved (which we’ll see next week). Nicely done.

Oct 04

Looking down

The Enterprise titles begin with some lovely pictures of the Earth from orbit, which demonstrate how far Star Trek has come in 35 years. Remember when the original series depicted the same thing in episodes like “Miri” and “Tomorrow Is Yesterday”? It looked like a globe: continents and oceans, but no clouds. That’s understandable, because manned space flight was only five years old at that point, and a meeting of everyone who had done it would have fit comfortably into an ordinary conference room. Orbital photos of the Earth existed, but they were grainy black-and-white images that didn’t come close to conveying the breathtaking reality that cosmonauts and astronauts saw.
Nowadays, Star Trek doesn’t have to guess what Earth looks like from orbit, or use visual effects to simulate it. They just use a photograph of the real thing.

Oct 04

Bumper stickers

Traffic on I-40 was exceptionally horrible this morning, leaving me with plenty of opportunities to read the messages on the back of other people’s vehicles. As usual, most of them made me say “huh?” For example, this one is my pick for Most Unnecessary Advice Ever: BE AS YOU ARE. And can someone explain to me what A COUNTRY BOY CAN SURVIVE is supposed to mean? But I liked the upside-down one that said IF YOU CAN READ THIS, PLEASE TURN ME OVER.
The most baffling bumper sticker I’ve seen recently was not on a car, but stuck to the inside of the sneeze shield at a food court serving line. It said “GOD” BLESS AMERICA. Apparently “God” is not His real name, just a pseudonym.

Oct 03

Pioneers

Who are those astronauts that appear in the titles of Enterprise? I’ve been having fun trying to identify them. The title sequence includes these shots:

  • A test pilot in front of his plane, walking toward the camera. His face isn’t terribly clear, but it could be Gus Grissom. (On the other hand, this may not be an astronaut at all. Maybe it’s Chuck Yeager. Hard to tell.)
  • A close-up of a smiling astronaut wearing the characteristic “Snoopy cap” of the Apollo program. I’m almost certain it’s Alan Shepard, suiting up for Apollo 14.
  • An Apollo crew during launch. The helmets make faces hard to identify, but I believe the one closest to the camera is Jim Lovell. He flew on two Apollo missions, but in this shot he’s in the commander’s seat, and that means Apollo 13.
  • A fully suited Apollo crew walking down a corridor on their way to the launch pad. It’s impossible to make out faces, but I’ll bet this is the crew of Apollo 11.

Update: At least one of these guesses turned out to be wrong.

Oct 02

Hello, world

Welcome to Scribings, my Web journal. I won’t bore you with a long-winded explanation of this page’s mission, because it really doesn’t have one. Apart from letting me write about whatever I want to — and letting you read the results, if you’re so inclined.

Historical note: “Scribings” was this blog’s original title. It was renamed in May 2002, and again in May 2007.