Rewatch – Earth: Final Conflict

I grew up loving Earth: Final Conflict, so when I decided to start rewatching shows that I grew up with, this was naturally one of the first. Many years later, it still holds a lot of complex feelings about what it meant and especially what it could have meant if it wasn’t utterly sabotaged from season 2 onwards.

Like most people who claim to love this series, I loved season 1, and I barely tolerated the other 4. TV was different back in the late 1990’s, you generally stuck with a show until it ended simply because there was nothing better on, and that’s not saying much. The best episode, Sandoval’s Run, happens half-way through season 1, and that’s never a good sign. The show was based on some notes found after Gene Roddenberry passed away (you know, Star Trek’s Gene Roddenberry), and brought to fruition by his wife, Majel Barrett. Roddenberry’s plans clearly ran out when season 1 ended, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The show starts three years after a seemingly benevolent alien species (the Taelons) make first contact with Earth. They have improved almost all facets of our lives, from agriculture to medicine, though some still doubt their sincerity. In this sense, the series walks a middle line perfectly. The Taelons seem to have Humanity’s best interest a heart, yet they also have difficulty comprehending Humanity in general, like our need to explore the stars. “Why risk your lives when we can simply give you the information you seek?” You can see how that rings altruistic, but also with a hint of “What are they hiding?” The Resistance, on the other hand, surely must have our best interests at heart, yet they’re also lead by a “by any means necessary” extremist. An online marketing campaign at the time, even had you sign up for an account and newsletter either with the Taelons or the Resistance.

The star of the show is undoubtedly Leni Parker as Da’an, the Taelon Companion to North America. She brings the character to life in way that I have never seen before nor since. To this date, it is the single greatest portrayal of a humanoid alien I have ever seen on screen. She plays the androgynous character, who is referred to as male throughout, with an incredible feminine grace that is just slightly not human enough to be uncomfortably inhuman and yet incredibly comforting at times. The little things, like how they modulate her voice down for English, but let her natural voice shine through for the Taelon language is incredibly captivating. And for an alien race that generally does not show emotion, she often manages to convey profound sadness, anger, and fear from underneath that facade, many times outshining the rest of the cast. I can’t really come up any further description that does her portrayal justice, so I suppose you’ll just have to watch at least the first episode, it’s worth it.

The second best actor on the show is Von Flores as Ronald Sandoval, attache to Da’an. There’s an impressive conviction to his role, but he’s also the only character in all 5 seasons of the show. Technically he’s one of the villains, but this leaves the viewer in an odd position of following his story more closely, because he’s the only one you recognize throughout, and that just sort of highlights where the problems start.

Kevin Kilner as William Boone wasn’t the strongest actor on the show, but he was the lead for season 1, and he did provide a compelling narrative and almost a noir detective feel. Rumor has it that the studio didn’t renew his contract, so he was killed off-screen between the finale of season 1 and the premier of season 2 (I know, right?!), replaced by Robert Leeshock as Liam Kincaid, a far less engaging, far less mature, and I guess far younger character, but more of a “man of action.” He existed mostly to drag you through whatever was left of the plot. But, Kilner wouldn’t be the only departure. Throughout all 5 seasons, all of the main cast of season 1 left, except Flores. This wasn’t Game of Thrones either, most were not killed off for story or character development reasons, they just ceased to be on the show.

Rumor has it that Majel Barrett left after Kilner’s departure, which left producers scrambling to construct their own idea of where Roddenberry’s story went from there. They did not do a good job. Season 1 left us with a feeling that the Taelons needed us for something, and that we would need them to protect us against an terrifying cosmic force that even they feared. What we got were the Jaridians, a generic military alien that just didn’t like the Taelons, and we were in their way apparently for some reason, shrug. It was all downhill from there, gone was the intrigue of questioning whether or not the Taelons really were benevolent or malevolent. One of the main Taelon characters even launches a plan to steal all of the Earth’s gold “by any means necessary.” Remember when we didn’t know if these were the bad guys or not? Sigh. If you thought it stopped there, don’t worry, the Taelons and Jaridians merge and become vampires that feed off of the humans in season 5. Welcome to rock bottom.

This could have been such a great a show, the intrigue between the two factions was incredible, and the performance of the Taelon characters was captivating in a way that I have seen no other humanoid alien portrayed since. Yet when studio money took the forefront, all good things were lost, and it simply became disappointing and a constant reminder of what we could have had. I wish I could have seen this show fully conceived by either Gene Roddenberry or Majel Barrett, but that will simply never happen. Instead, we got proof that studio heads are a poor substitute for both.

Earth: Final Conflict is available for free on Amazon Video for Amazon Prime subscribers. Season 1 really is worth it, and I hope you love it as much as I did, just like I hope you’ll heed my warning to stop there.

Batman v Superman: Accidentally Perfect?

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is not the greatest superhero film, that honor still belongs to Logan, but through a series of odd choices and behind the scenes happenstance, it became the perfect comic book film. Now I know a lot of you probably hated this film, so please bear with me while I explain. Also, I’m referring to the Ultimate Edition (the extended cut) throughout. It restores a lot of character development, and I absolutely agree that the theatrical edition is a waste of time.

The film opens on the traditional Batman origin scene, but that’s the only origin we get throughout the film, which is kind of odd for a film that also features Superman, and introduces Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor. Despite this, a lot of time has passed between that origin and the Batman in the film. It’s never explained why Wayne Manor is in ruins, or why all of the Bat-vehicles have two seats while Robin’s costume sits in memorial with “Haha, joke’s on you, Batman” scrawled on it. It’s safe to say that, despite seeing an origin for Batman, we are missing some critical backstory.

With Ben Affleck done as Batman, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see this backstory, or any further story featuring this Batman after Justice League for that matter. Similarly, though this is a sequel for Man of Steel, watching that film is definitely not a requirement. The ending of Man of Steel overlaps the beginning of Batman v Superman, this time told from Bruce Wayne’s point of view, as embedded below. Really, all you need to know is that Superman is fighting someone who’s probably just as strong as him, and people are dying because of it.

And, that’s kind of the point here, there isn’t much effort given to the backstories of these characters, and it’s not really needed either. Now if you say that sounds terrible for a film, you’re right, but this is exactly how we read comics! People who are drawn in suddenly by issue 37 on the shelves don’t rush out to buy and read issues 1 – 36, they just start with 37. “Who’s this character? I don’t know, but she looks important. Oh cool, she is important!” That’s what reading new comics is like, and this film accidentally invokes that!

Now we know that Ben Affleck is out as Batman, but it looks like Henry Cavill may be out as Superman too, which puts the whole franchise in jeopardy, so there may not be an ending, but that’s just like reading comics too! With the exception of random continuity reboots, these characters’ stories don’t end, you just stop reading them. So again, Batman v Superman has accidentally invoked the experience of reading comics.

Batman v Superman is not a great film, but by having little-to-no character backstories, and quite possibly no future prospects, it has perfectly invoked the experience of reading a comic book. In this way, it is quite possibly the perfect comic book film.

Space Command

About 7 years ago, I backed Space Command, an ambitious project from Marc Zicree to create a series of sci-fi films the feel large-scale, but on a small-scale budget with no major studio interference.

The first film is almost done, and all that remains is post-production on the last half, but you can watch the finished first half now. For such a small-scale production, it’s outstanding, plus it’s filled with all of those wonderful “Oh, that actor!” moments.

Space Command has been a wonderful project to follow, and if this all sounds great to you too, there are 6 hours left to back the second movie, so hurry! I hope you enjoy it just as much as I do, if not more. ๐Ÿ™‚

Update: The Kickstarter for the second movie is over, but you can always donate on the main site, and I’m sure there will be another Kickstarter for the next movie.

WordPress 5.2 Released

WordPress 5.2 has been released! Along with accessibility and privacy updates, and new blocks for the editor, this release introduces a new Site Health system, which will help you debug common issues and help you collect crucial information for support requests. PHP Error Protection joins the party to help you fix or manage fatal errors, such as those caused by plugin or theme installations and updates. As of this release, WordPress now requires PHP 5.6.20 or higher. This is a big leap from the old PHP 5.2 requirement, but considering that even PHP 5.6 reached its end of life 4 months ago, it’s definitely a necessary move.

327 volunteers contributed to this release, lead by Matt Mullenweg, Josepha Haden Chomphosy, and Gary Pendergast. At the time of writing this, WordPress 5.2 has been out for about 1 hour, and has already been downloaded 147,717 times!

All users can safely update from Dashboard -> Updates or download and update manually, though you should probably backup first just in case, unless you’re already using VaultPress, which you really should be.

If you run into any problems, stop by the known issues first, and please let us know if it’s not covered there!

Earth Day, 2019

Today is Earth Day, a day to reflect on our home, and a great day to start saving the environment for free and donating to The Conservation Fund.

While you’re doing that, please ways you can help the environment yourself with just a few changes, like using LED light bulbs, walking or biking to closer destinations, taking a train or bus whenever possible, planting a tree or two, and even something as simple as properly separating your recyclables from your trash.

Please spend some time outdoors, or enjoy this video if you can’t, and do your part to help our planet thrive.

A Search Shortcut For Any Theme

Sometimes you find a WordPress theme you love, like Twenty Nineteen, but it’s just missing something you really want, like a search bar at the top. I’ve covered my other Twenty Nineteen tweaks in an earlier post, but folks have asked about this too. Since it works for pretty much any theme, I figured a separate post would be more appropriate.

Since you don’t have a search bar in at the top of your site, you’re probably using WordPress’s built-in Search widget. The first thing you’ll want to do is right-click the widget’s title, choose Inspect Element (or similar, it depends on your browser) and copy its section ID. In my case, that is:

<section id="search-3" class="widget widget_search">

so, the section ID is search-3.

Now, edit your site’s menu. Here you’ll add a Custom Link to your menu, enter only # followed by the section ID as the URL, in my case #search-3 and enter whatever you’d like for the Navigation Label. I went with a magnifying glass emoji ๐Ÿ” , and if you choose an emoji too, please enter “Search” in the Title Attribute field so folks with Screen Readers know what the link is for.

(Photo by Francesca Tirico on Unsplash)

WordPress 5.1 Released

WordPress 5.1 has been released! This release introduces performance enhancements for the new block editor (formerly referred to as Gutenberg), along with a handy new feature that makes sure you aren’t running under an outdated version of PHP and that you won’t install any plugins which require a higher version of PHP than you currently have. This is a big deal, because while PHP is the programming language that powers WordPress, even finding out what version of PHP you’re running is often a mystery for many. Surfacing this in the Dashboard will go a long way to making more folks aware of their options.

561 volunteers contributed to this release, lead by Matt Mullenweg and Gary Pendergast. At the time of writing this, WordPress 5.1 has been out for about 2 hours, and has already been downloaded 301,045 times!

All users can safely update from Dashboard -> Updates or download and update manually, though you should probably backup first just in case, unless you’re already using VaultPress, which you really should be.

If you run into any problems, stop by the known issues first, and please let us know if it’s not covered there!

The Shadow in the Archive

I’m a fan of The Shadow. I have seen the movie, I have read the comics, I have an awesome Shadow figure, I tracked down some episodes on Spotify, and I loved Masks. You get the picture, I’m a fan of The Shadow. I just love his straight-forward-yet-somehow-mystical approach to fighting crime, it’s perfectly balanced.

I’m also a fan of The Internet Archive. I wrote a whole series on it, you should check it out, and then send them a donation.

I wanted to see what I could find for The Shadow in The Internet Archive, and I found days worth of content! If you’re interested in immersing yourself in The Shadow too, you’ll love this archive of almost half of the radio dramas! If you’re more of the reading type, enjoy The Five Chameleons, The Black Hush, and The Shadow Scrapbook. If you’re more of the watching type, enjoy The Shadow Strikes, Return of The Shadow, The Missing Lady, and The Invisible Avenger.

If you’re interested in learning more about The Shadow, all of that free content should be more than enough to keep you busy for a long time. If you just want a quick look into The Shadow’s world, and you prefer newer things, the latest movie is still too new to be in the Internet Archive, but it’s available to buy and rent on many platforms. It won’t be the greatest film you’ve ever seen, but I think you’ll enjoy it nonetheless.

Overall though, I hope you enjoy The Shadow as much as I do!

Masks

The weed of crime bears bitter fruit.

Masks is a very interesting mini series from writer Chris Roberson and artists Alex Ross and Dennis Calero. The premise is basically “The Avengers, but with pulp classic heroes.” New York has become shockingly totalitarian, and the only ones willing to put a stop to it are The Shadow, Green Hornet, Kato, The Spider, Zorro, The Green Lama, Miss Fury, Black Terror, and The Black Bat.

The covers and the entirety of issue 1 are done by one of my favorite comic book artists, Alex Ross, of Kingdom Come fame. It must take him a long time to produce this level of photo-realistic art, so I can kind of forgive the fact that Dennis Calero takes over after the first issue. It’s disappointing to lose that level of art so soon, but it’s not a bad follow-up either. I can’t really put to words how great Alex Ross’s art is, so all of the images in this review are from his covers and pages.

The story by Chris Roberson is a bit of an interesting case, I can see why the reviews overall on this mini series are mixed. I’m a fan of old pulp serials and radio dramas, especially The Shadow, and that is exactly what this mini series reads like. Those old dramas weren’t really known for their deep characters, complex worlds, or believable plots, and to be honest, Masks won’t be known for that either. It feels like I’ve picked up a pulp serial from the 1930s, and I love it! I suppose you just have to be the type of person that craves that level of nostalgia.

I love the characters in Mask, I love the art, and I love the style of story it’s telling. It’s the perfect miniseries for me. I’d also love for it to be adapted into a film or a TV series, but the story will definitely need some changes for that to work with the average audience. If you love old pulp serials and radio dramas, you’ll love Masks too!

Happy New Year! the 2019 edition

2019 begins today, so it’s a great time toย start using some basic privacy tools,ย make sure your browser is up to date,ย update all of your passwords, andย setup two factor authentication wherever you can.

This site’s top five items last year were Cloudup: Free File Sharing from AutomatticModern Aircraft Accident Investigation Equipment and TechniquesFix for Stuck Health App (iOS 8), Custom Fonts Without Plugins for WordPress Themes, and Automattic Meetup 2018, so I guess those old items really do have some staying power. ๐Ÿ™‚

We’ll need more people sharing their voices and experiences this year, so please considering launching your own site with WordPress (and Jetpack) or WordPress.com, or start posting again if you already have one!

Now, let’s all have a great 2019!