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Nostalgia Review Video

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.

Categories
Technology Video

Product Placement in Syndication

I have always been a proponent of product placement. It doesn’t interrupt a show like commercials do, and if done tastefully, it serves to further ground the story in reality. What’s more real to you, a lead character drinking a Coke or a “Cola,” or a family a stopping for food at a Subway or “Sandwiches?” Real products make shows real, and they provide real money to the content creators who then either increase production or consider running fewer commercials.

The problem with product placement is that it’s not viable for syndication. Ford isn’t going to pay for your lead character to drive a car that’s four years out of date, and Subway isn’t going to pay for the camera to swing by a billboard for a sandwich they stopped making three years ago. What if the car and the billboard could be changed?

A company called Mirriad is seeking to do just that, and if the technology takes off like it rightfully should, we could be seeing a future filled with commercials replaced by a future of constantly updating product placement. We deserve a future with uninterrupted shows on regular TV, and content creators deserve to be compensation for their work’s on-air lifetime. Product placement with something like Mirriad’s technology could make both happen, and that’s pretty cool.

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General Music

Non-Distracting Distractions

I have been working on a presentation of sorts regarding distractions as an essential part of a daily workflow, and it occurred to me that I might as well just share it with everyone, so please enjoy my ramblings.

I’m not what people would call a “show off” in my job as a Happiness Engineer (customer service) for Automattic (primarily WordPress.com), but this is kind of important for the overall discussion, so let’s just say that I do a comparatively large amount of work. Some of my colleagues jokingly call me a machine, but I am far from that. I have tried plenty of times to sit down for 8 hours a day and do absolutely nothing but my work with no distractions, but I always accomplish much less than my average, and I’m often incredibly frustrated by the time I’m done. I’m not a machine, I’m a human, and I need distractions.

In my non-scientific opinion, there are two types of distractions. Those which provide a short and meaningful escape from the rigorous routine of the day and may last a few minutes or seconds, but never demand continued attention, and those which I refer to as “traps,” which provide a captivating escape that draws you into a seemingly never-ending web. Two perfect example of traps are YouTube and Wikipedia. Sure, you meant to only watch one five-minute video on YouTube, but with so much more content at your fingertips, how could you not spend just a few more minutes there? And, don’t get me started on Wikipedia’s famous in-article links. I just wanted to learn a bit about the early history of the violin, but now I know everything about the history of Baroque music, and I still can’t sleep.

When utilized properly, distractions are an important part of concentration. Think of the bells of a monastery, the brief respite of tea time, and the music of a string quartet. Distractions have been with us throughout the centuries, yet we don’t regard these with the same disdain that we regard distractions today. Distractions simply provide a way for you to re-focus your mind and to avoid traps when your mind wanders.

So, what are my distractions? When I’m feeling unfocused in an average work day, I don’t fight a losing battle. I give in, but I avoid traps. If I need just a brief break from what I’m doing to collect my thoughts and break through the “frustration fluff,” I’ll go to The Verge or Quartz, not to read, but to collect articles of interest for later reading via Instapaper. If I need more, I’ll put on some music from iTunes or Spotify while I work. Yes, music is a distraction, think about it. If I still need more and just can’t keep my head from succumbing to the frustration of the day’s routine, I’ll grab my iPad and bring up a show from my childhood via Netflix.

Yes, sometimes I need to watch TV while I work to keep my productivity up. When I’m that far into the frustration of the routine, I could either just stare at the screen and get nothing done (see comments regarding “machine” above), or have something playing in the background that can stimulate my brain while waiting for pages to load. As a reminder to the nay-sayers, “I do a comparatively large amount of work.” If you’re curious, this year’s viewing has so far been Transformers.

With all of that said, what I do may not work for you. I have certainly had my fair share of disapproving looks when I mention my reliance on TV for productivity, but it works for me. Maybe it’s because I was raised in a musical family and did most of my homework while watching reruns of Knight Rider, The Incredible Hulk, and Highlander, but music and TV are my distraction bread and butter. Without them, I’m just another machine.

We aren’t machines, we’re humans, and we need distractions. I strongly encourage you to experiment with distractions in your workflow, but please avoid traps. You may find that all you need for a huge productivity boost is a distraction or two to rejuvenate your mind and get you back on track.

Categories
Nostalgia Video

The Incredible TV Hulk

There have been many adaptations of the Hulk, but only one really stands out as truly incredible, perhaps even giving the comic itself a run for its money. No, I’m not talking about the recent movie, the one before that, or even the animated series. I’m talking about The Incredible Hulk, a 5-season TV series running from 1977 to 1982, staring Bill Bixby as Dr. David Banner and Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk.