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Archive for March, 2011

Second time’s the charm

I decided to have another turkey-meatball hoagy for dinner tonight, in hopes of achieving it successfully this time.  I used several of the modifications I proposed in my earlier post: I toasted the bun more fully, I put the cheese on the bottom bun so it wouldn’t get soggy from the red sauce, and I kept the bread out of the microwave (after putting the cheese on the bun, I put it in the toaster oven for a bit to soften in the residual heat).  And this time it actually worked as a sandwich that I could hold in my hands — though a fair amount of sauce, onions, and peppers fell out onto the plate or my napkin (both times, I’ve made sure to have a napkin tucked into my collar to protect my shirt).  And it was a good sandwich.

But I think maybe I ate too much too fast or something, since now I have the hiccups.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

I need better bread!

I’ve been getting some very good news lately on the writing front, and hopefully the contracts will come soon so I can tell you about it all, but anyway, it’s prompted me to do a little shopping lately.  So yesterday I happened to be in a big grocery store I haven’t visited in a while, and came across a product I haven’t had in a while: precooked, frozen turkey meatballs.  So I decided to buy some as well as the fixings for meatball hoagies (aka subs).  I couldn’t find hoagie buns there, though, and I forgot to get provolone, so I made a trip to the local grocery store this morning to remedy those.  So for lunch today, I made a hoagie — I heated up seven meatballs and some pasta sauce in the microwave and lightly sauteed some onions and green peppers, and put them on a lightly toasted bun with provolone on top, then put the whole thing in the microwave for an extra 25 seconds to melt the cheese.

And then when I tried to eat it, I discovered the bottom was too soggy and flimsy for me to pick the thing up.  I’d forgotten that the problem with pre-cut, store-bought buns is that they always make the lower half inexplicably thin, often to the point of near-uselessness.  I’d brought a spoon along for scooping up anything that might fall out of the sandwich, but the sandwich was so structurally unsound that I ended up having to cut it up and eat it with the spoon!  It tasted good, but I can’t call it a success as a sandwich.

So what are my options for the future, assuming I’m stuck with the hoagie buns I have until I use them up?  Maybe toasting the bun longer would help, or maybe I could put the cheese on the bottom so the bun doesn’t soak up as much moisture from the sauce.  And I should probably remember to take the cheese out of the fridge sooner so I don’t need to put the sandwich in the microwave to melt it (since microwaving bread makes it soggy).  But probably the simplest option is just to use the buns upside-down.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

I have my crossword puzzles…

Apparently all I had to do was log out and log back in again.  I still haven’t heard from their help department, but I decided I might as well try that, and it worked.  So yay, I still have my puzzles.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Hub: Back in the, uh, Russian Federation

Well, the Russian SF magazine ESLI has reprinted my second Hub story, “Home is Where the Hub Is,” in its March 2011 issue:

Esli cover 3/11

 

This time I didn’t get my name on the cover, it seems, but at least my copy arrived intact in the mail.

The Russian version of the story is titled ТОЧКА ВЫХОДА, which apparently transliterates as Tochka Vihoda and means “Point of Exit.”  I guess a literal translation of the title wouldn’t have meant much in Russian; maybe they don’t have that saying over there?  Still, it seems a bit… prosaic.  And the illustration (by a different artist this time) doesn’t capture the characters as well as the first one did, though it is more comical in tone.

I want my crossword puzzles!

Grr… for some reason, even though I still have six months left on my yearly subscription to the New York Times Crosswords online, the site is sending me to the “subscribe now” page and not letting me access the puzzles!  I sent an e-mail query through their Contact Us page, but there’s been no reply, and I probably can’t expect one on a weekend.  So I’ll have to go at least three days without my crosswords.  Argh!  Not that I don’t do that regularly, since the Monday through Wednesday puzzles are too easy for me to bother with, but in this part of the week, I expect to have puzzles available.  And if there isn’t a new puzzle to challenge me, I can access the NYT archives and download some old ones.  And at least in that case, I know there will be a puzzle available for me later in the week.  Now, without knowing what the problem is, I don’t know how long it’ll take to fix.

Categories: Uncategorized

Why I love ROBOCOP: THE SERIES

First off, good news: I hooked up my regular DVD player again in place of the DVD/VHS dubbing deck, and the glitchy RoboCop DVD plays perfectly on it.  So I guess I don’t have to worry about returning the DVD set.  It’s odd, though, since both players are 2008 Sony models, and the dubbing deck is, I would’ve thought, a more high-end piece of equipment.

I wanted to talk more about why RoboCop: The Series, which is generally discounted and dismissed, is my favorite incarnation of the franchise.  Part of it is that none of the other sequels and adaptations onscreen (I haven’t read any of the comics) were all that great.  I’ve just finished watching all three RoboCop movies more or less back-to-back thanks to Netflix streaming, and while the second and third films aren’t as bad as I suggested in an earlier post, they’re both very flawed, particularly the second one.  The original RoboCop is a classic; despite being more violent than I like, and despite having too many villains whose interrelationships are rather nebulously defined, it’s got a strong and effective core story and character and is a cutting satire of ’80s corporate and media culture.  But RoboCop 2 loses this; it does some good work with the RoboCop/Murphy character in the first half-hour, but then abandons that and degenerates into a graceless, crass exercise in excess, where satire is replaced with gratuitous ultraviolence.  (And it’s rather astonishing to say that of the two films, it’s the one by Paul Verhoeven that manages to be subtle.)  The third movie is an improvement, with more restraint and more heart, but too broad and cartoony in some respects, with too much effort to turn RoboCop into a walking toy with interchangeable accessories.

There was also a RoboCop: The Animated Series from Marvel in the ’80s, which I don’t remember well enough to comment on.  I recall it being decent but nothing special, notable mainly for being unusually dark for a Saturday morning cartoon, though still avoiding death; they even retconned the movie so that Boddicker’s gang was arrested rather than killed.  The second animated series, RoboCop: Alpha Commando, was rather silly and too great a departure in format; I didn’t watch it much.  And don’t get me started on the Prime Directives miniseries, which did a terrible job casting and executing the RoboCop character.  The actor they cast was too short for the costume and didn’t get any decent movement coaching, so he just flailed around in the suit and looked like a little kid in an oversized Halloween costume.  And I found the writing and execution of that miniseries so unpleasant that I gave up on it after, I think, less than two installments.

So RoboCop really hasn’t had much luck with followups.  Of all of the attempts, RoboCop: The Series was the one I find most successful.  I mentioned before that part of this is that I prefer the diminished violence of the show, but it’s more than that.  The essence of RoboCop isn’t the violence, it’s the character.  And I think R:TS is the only incarnation — including the original film — that really fulfilled the potential of RoboCop as a character.

RoboCop is intriguing to me because of what he is.  He’s not just Officer Alex Murphy in an armor suit.  Alex Murphy died at the hands of Clarence Boddicker and his gang.  Boddicker fired a bullet through his brain.  Much of what made Murphy is gone forever.  His brain, as explained in the series, was intended merely to handle his autonomic systems, something the human brainstem could do better than any existing technology.  His creators didn’t expect any of Murphy’s memory or personality to survive.  But somehow, perhaps because of the life support used to maintain his brain and the stimulation it received from being part of RoboCop’s cyborg systems, some elements of the dead man’s memories and personality began to re-emerge, and blended with the programming that made RoboCop a model law-enforcement officer.  And that synergy created a being who was neither man nor machine, but combined the best of both.

At least, that’s the series’ interpretation of the character, and it’s one that works wonderfully for me.  It didn’t really come through in the movie; once Robo remembers who he was, he’s basically acting like a man rather than a machine.  And the film sequels tend to follow that lead to a large extent.  But Richard Eden and the writers of R:TS did a fantastic job of creating a RoboCop character who was not Alex Murphy, who couldn’t pretend to be, but who retained the best qualities of Murphy blended with and enhancing the best qualities of RoboCop’s police programming.  This was a character who was instinctively good.  He couldn’t not serve the public trust, protect the innocent, and uphold the law.  But underneath the programmed prime directives was a very human conscience interpreting their letter in a wise and humane way.  To me, it made him a truly heroic character, a being who possessed great power but would never abuse it, never stint in his duty to do the right thing.  That’s so much more admirable than some cold-blooded killing machine like he became in RoboCop 2, or than the revenge-driven rogue cop he was in much of the first and third films.  Moreover, the series’ RoboCop was written as extremely intelligent, not just a gun-toting thug but a skilled detective and an imaginative problem-solver.

Eden’s RoboCop didn’t have the emotional intensity of a human, and he tended to be stoic and robotic in his delivery, but you could hear the humanity underneath, sense the understated emotion, whether kindness toward others, sadness at his isolated state, or his moral conviction about doing the right thing.  Richard Eden did a better job than anyone since Leonard Nimoy at conveying emotional depth with the barest minimum of outward expression and affect.  (It’s also fascinating how soft-spoken Eden often is, a marvelous contrast to this intimidating metal giant.  It’s just one of the ways that Eden plays RoboCop far better than Peter Weller ever did.)

To me, no other incarnation of RoboCop handled the title character this well.  The second movie did well in its first act (introducing themes elaborated on in the series, though they aren’t in continuity with each other) but then marginalized the character for most of the rest of the film.  As for the third movie, I recall an article in which the filmmakers said they weren’t sure how to make RoboCop interesting and thus focused more on the ensemble cast around him; but although it takes nearly 20 minutes for Robo even to show up, I find they did a decent job with him, though they didn’t really add anything to his characterization or explore it as well as the first film-and-a-quarter did.  The Prime Directives miniseries and the Alpha Commando cartoon both reduced Robo to a generic wisecracking tough guy, losing everything that made him distinctive as a character.

But RoboCop: The Series embraced the character of RoboCop, this unique hybrid entity, and ran with it.  The first few episodes show the same tendency as the movie sequels to sideline Robo and focus on the surrounding cast, but as the series went on, they made more use of Robo, embraced his character rather than marginalizing him.  His wife and son were frequently featured.  His father and mother appeared in two episodes, and in “Corporate Raiders,” his father actually discovered who he was, leading to a poignant finale.  He gained a kindred spirit in Diana (Andrea Roth), the murdered secretary whose brain was secretly used to control MetroNet, the integrated system that ran Delta City.  Diana’s great power made her a somewhat literal deus ex machina at times, but she could relate to “Alex” (she was the only person who called him that) as no one else could.  The OCP Chairman (David Gardner) had an avuncular relationship with Robo, and was true to the more benevolent persona he had in the first film rather than the ruthless corporate exploiter he became in the second.  Detective Madigan was Murphy’s longtime partner, with more history with him than Lewis had in the movie (seeing as how he was killed on his very first shift in Metro West).  And so on.  There was a large ensemble, but most of them existed to interact with RoboCop and illuminate his character.

And yes, I’ve acknowledged that the first half of the season tended to be overly goofy and overly formulaic, but by the back half, they’d really found their groove and the stories got a lot stronger. While the series retained its campy villains and broad, biting satire, it also got deeper, richer, more poignant in episodes like “Heartbreakers” and “Corporate Raiders.”  There was more exploration of the supporting cast, with “Illusions” and “Nano” giving Yvette Nipar great opportunities to show what a fine actress she is, “Mother’s Day” focusing on Blu Mankuma’s Sgt. Parks, and “Heartbreakers” giving a featured subplot to Ed Sahely as Robo’s chief technician Charlie Lippencott as he met Diana in cyberspace and began a doomed romance with her.

And unlike so many series cancelled too soon, it had a great ending.  The finale, “Public Enemies,” reunited the three main recurring villains of the series for the first time since the pilot, had RoboCop save the President from their schemes,  and ended with a terrific, uplifting sendoff.  They must’ve known they probably weren’t getting renewed, and fortunately this was before serialization became an all-encompassing fad, so it was possible to end a series at any time without leaving a dozen unresolved story threads hanging.  So they were able to give this 23-episode series a finale that feels really satisfying.

Another thing I like about R:TS is that, unlike most TV sequels to movies, it’s not too hard to treat it as part of the same continuity as the original film rather than an alternate reality (though it does blatantly contradict the sequels, despite being made after them).  After all, its pilot was a rewritten version of the sequel script that RoboCop creators Ed Neumeier and Michael Miner wrote before being let go from the project (which is why it disregards the film sequels they were uninvolved with).   Sure, it made some changes.  For odd legal reasons, they were able to use the character of Murphy/RoboCop and the name Jimmy for his son, but couldn’t use any of the other character names from the films.  Sgt. Reed and Anne Lewis were replaced with Sgt. Parks and Lisa Madigan, Metro West was replaced by Metro South, the Old Man was called the Chairman (though sometimes addressed as “old man” as an epithet), etc.   Still, it’s reconcilable with rather little fudging.  In the film, Murphy had just transferred from Metro South to Metro West, so it’s easy enough to assume that Madigan had been his partner before Lewis.  And Parks is a very different character from Reed, far more avuncular, so it’s easy to see them as distinct individuals.  Perhaps in the 3-5 years between the film and the series (the date references are inconsistent), the Metro West precinct was torn down to make way for Delta City, and RoboCop was relocated back to Metro South.  The gentrification may have driven the poorer elements southward and turned Metro South into a more dangerous precinct than the original film suggested.  “Pudface” Morgan seems to have been based on Emil from the first film, his face deformed in a toxic-waste accident, but given the polluted corporate dystopia in which RoboCop takes place, it’s possible that Robo could’ve had two separate confrontations that ended in bad guys getting exposed to toxic waste.  As for Charlie Lippencott, there was no sign of him in the movie, but maybe he was in the background somewhere, just off camera.  Maybe he took over the job of supervising RoboCop after a series of corporate purges gutted the original team.   As for Murphy’s family, the film said they moved away, but maybe that just meant they moved to a different part of Detroit.  And Murphy’s wife wasn’t named in the original film, so her name Nancy in the series isn’t a contradiction (since I’m disregarding the film sequel where she was called Ellen in the script — though the name wasn’t stated onscreen as far as I could tell).

Even the different levels of violence between the first movie and the series aren’t that hard to reconcile, contrary to popular belief.  If you really take a good look at the first movie, Robo’s tactics in his normal patrol aren’t that much more violent than in the series.  In the convenience store robbery, he disarms the perp and tosses him through a glass case.  In the attempted rape, he uses a precisely aimed trick shot to disable rather than kill.  In the hostage situation, he pulls the guy through a wall and tosses him out a window.  At the gas station, he again uses precise aim to shoot Emil’s bike out from under him.  Sure, in the film’s more graphic interpretation, these would’ve more likely been crippling or fatal than in the show’s more cartoony reality, but then again, Emil didn’t seem too badly hurt by his bike crash, and Verhoeven’s exaggerated violence is just as cartoony in its own way.  Later, when Robo regained his memory and went after Boddicker in the drug lab, he was freer with the gunplay, but even there, he often took theoretically nonlethal shots to the shoulder, hip, etc.  And his level of violence can be explained as lashing out in retribution for what was done to him.  He attacks Boddicker and almost strangles him, but then remembers that he’s a cop, and so he chooses to proceed by the book, arresting Boddicker and letting the justice system deal with him rather than giving in to base revenge.  This is crucial: it shows us that RoboCop does not cavalierly throw away life, but, like any good cop, uses only as much force as he needs to.  Later, Robo is more violent against Boddicker’s gang, but they’re armed with weapons that could kill him, so it’s justifiable as self-defense.  Sure, he says he’s not here to arrest Boddicker, implying he intends to kill him; but he doesn’t actually pull the trigger when he has the chance, and when he finally takes out Boddicker, it’s unambiguously in self-defense.  As for his takedown of Dick Jones in the end, it seems excessive, since the R:TS RoboCop would’ve just shot the gun from his hand Lone Ranger-style.  But at this point, Robo’s targeting was damaged, so a kill shot was the only reliable way to uphold Directive 2, “Protect the innocent.”  Thus lethal force was justified.

So there’s really not that great a difference in the violence levels of the original movie and R:TS, just a difference of presentation and emphasis.  In both, RoboCop’s preference was to use nonlethal force when practical, as any police officer would be trained and required to do (and R:TS’s showrunner Stephen Downing, an ex-cop, certainly knew this).  When he went beyond that in the film, it can be seen as an aberration due to his turbulent psychological state (as in the drug lab) or an escalation justified by the circumstances.  Sure, his nonlethal tactics in the movie were harsher, more crippling, but it was just the OCP tough-on-crime programming guiding him at that point; as Murphy’s persona re-emerged and became integrated with the RoboCop program, it could’ve given him more of a conscience as time went on, made him more judicious in his use of force as seen in the series.

The problem with RoboCop 2 is that it made RoboCop a casual killer, little more than a thug.  With one exception, where he lets a gunman live to squeeze him for information, every single shot he takes in the film is a kill shot.  That’s not what he did in the first movie, and that’s not what any plausibly portrayed police officer would do.  It’s just part and parcel of the second film’s gratuitous excess.  As for the third film, it toned down the violence for a PG-13 rating, so RoboCop doesn’t use much lethal force, but he rarely had the opportunity, and it does seem he would have if he could.   Certainly he’s more driven by revenge than law enforcement for much of the film.  (I doubt there’s a police-procedural justification for torching an office with a flamethrower.)  So really, RoboCop: The Series is truer to the original film’s portrayal of RoboCop’s approach to the use of force, and truer to legitimate police procedure.  Which is yet another reason why I think that of all the sequels and spinoffs, it’s the most faithful, legitimate continuation of the original concept.

Categories: Reviews Tags: ,

DVD woes

As I mentioned in the comments to my previous post about my RoboCop: The Series DVDs, one of the discs has a flaw that made it freeze up in the final minutes of one of my favorite episodes of the show (“Heartbreakers”), and had trouble starting the next episode on the menu.  I’ve been driving around looking for a way to get it polished, since my attempt with a polishing kit from the drugstore didn’t help, and I was told there was a DVD/game buyback place that had a polishing machine.  So I took the disc in there to get it polished, and they said they got it as good as they could, and indeed I could see no sign of the scratches I’d noticed earlier.  But it still glitches at the same place, just a bit less so at first.

On the other hand, it plays perfectly on my laptop.  Which is great, but I don’t want to watch it just on my laptop.  Maybe it’d play better on a different, newer DVD player, and I do have one, but it’s not currently plugged in, since the DVD/VHS dubbing deck is in its place.

So I’m not sure what to do.  Would it be worth it to complain to the dealer and try to exchange it for another set?  What if that set had a different defect?  The packaging doesn’t hold the discs very well, so scratches may be unavoidable.  Maybe I should just live with it — and use the dubbing deck to make a backup DVD of that disc’s episodes from my VHS tape, just in case.  (As it happens, the tape they’re on has better image quality than the first tape I attempted to dub before I found out about the DVD set.)

Anyway, I guess I shouldn’t be too upset.  One way or another, I have the complete series on home video now.  And the disc is playable on some machines if not others.  Maybe the problem is just with the dubbing deck.

And one good thing about this Canadian DVD set, for all its bare-bones content and non-remastered image quality and bad packaging and inexplicably altered subtitle — it has all the original source music.  All the episodes that had licensed songs still have them intact and unreplaced, which I gather is often not the case for DVD releases of TV series.  Now, there isn’t much source music in the show, and generally I care far more about the original instrumental underscoring for a show than whatever songs may be stuck in, but I am glad to have the episodes as they originally aired — and the ending of “Heartbreakers” just wouldn’t feel right without “I Only Have Eyes for You.”

Anyway, my trip to the DVD buyback store wasn’t a total loss, since once I got the DVD polished, I browsed around for used DVDs.  And I now own the first two Spider-Man movies, all three X-Men movies (I already had the first), The Forbidden Kingdom, and Galaxy Quest, all for under 20 bucks total.  Well, assuming they aren’t damaged.  They all got a polish before they were handed over to me.

And I was expecting something much gentler and precise for a DVD-polishing machine.  These were basically grindstones, and the clerks just put a finger in the center hole and held the DVD loosely against the wheel as it spun.  Seems a bit haphazard to my untrained eye.  And it defied everything I’ve read online about how DVDs should only be polished with radial strokes, outward from the center.  But it must work reasonably well, or I guess they wouldn’t keep doing it.

You know, I remember back when compact discs were still a new technology, and one of their selling points was that they were basically scratchproof because of the redundant encoding or whatnot.  I gather that DVDs encode the data more densely and so they’re more vulnerable to errors as a result of scratches.  Still, it’s an oddly vulnerable technology for something so “advanced.”  At least vinyl records just popped when the needle hit a scratch.  Well, or jumped a groove if the scratch was bad enough.

Travel plans for Seattle

Well, once again, reconnecting with the family means travel.  My sister in Seattle is getting married at the end of April, and I’ve just made my travel arrangements.  I looked into travelling by train, but it was too long a journey in a coach seat with no guarantee of a power outlet for my laptop, and I recall getting motion-sick on trains in my youth.  If money and time were no object, I might’ve been content to take my time driving cross-country, but on the other hand I think maybe two days’ driving in a row is my preferred limit.  So anyway, this means I’ll be flying — the first time I’ve flown since I went out to Los Angeles to pitch for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine back in 1996, so nearly 15 years.  I’ve long been afraid of flying, but after surviving several long freeway drives and being aware that I took some rather serious risks along the way (like driving in snow and fog), I’ve realized that if I can manage that, I should be able to manage taking a flight.  Still, I’m kind of nervous thinking about it.  Or maybe slightly terrified.

Luckily I’m in a good position to afford this trip thanks to the tax refund I’m getting and some writing income that I should hopefully be able to talk about soon.  The writing is why I don’t necessarily have time for a slower mode of travel.

So anyway, I’ll finally get to see Seattle.  My father visited there at least a couple of times in his life and always spoke highly of it, and my sister chose to live there.  I guess I’ll finally find out what all the fuss is about.  Although I don’t drink coffee and I don’t care for rainy weather, so it might be a tough sell.

And it turns out that part of making modern travel arrangements is that there’s a ton of e-mailed documents to print out.  Including a letter from the hotel, the e-mail with the flight information, and a huge booklet for the flight insurance.  *sigh*…  Too bad I can’t just e-mail myself there.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , ,

RoboCop has arrived!

Well, my DVD set of RoboCop: The Series arrived the other day, and I’ve been happily making my way through the episodes.  Not so happy about the packaging, though.  It was the kind where three discs are sort of semi-stacked atop each other in each tray and loosely held, so two of the discs had come loose and one had scratches on it.  I was worried about whether it would play back okay, but I had no problems with it.  Still, to be on the safe side, I decided to take advantage of some of the empty DVD cases I bought for my tape-dubbing project and transfer the discs to them for long-term storage.  That required a little surgery on the outer cardboard box, though; I had to pull open the bottom and retape it more loosely so it could hold the disc cases, which were a bit too tall to fit otherwise.  And just now, I scanned the cover of the original interior box and printed out cover inserts for the DVD cases.  Turned out reasonably well, considering.

For some reason, this Canadian DVD release is titled RoboCop: The Beginning, which is inexplicable and misleading, since it’s set several years after the original movie (5 years according to the pilot, 3 years according to a later episode).  Also, the cover uses the “Part Man, Part Machine” portion of the RoboCop tagline, but leaves off the conclusion of the formula, “All Cop.”

As for the image quality, it’s evidently not digitally remastered; the images are okay, but sometimes seem a bit faded, the contrast too low, at least in night scenes.  I’d thought that was just a problem with my faded VHS tapes, but there’s a bit of it here too.

So this isn’t exactly a prestige treatment of the series.  But after 15 years of waiting, I count myself lucky to have it at all.

Going through the episodes has reminded me of how repetitive they tended to be, particularly in the first half of the season.  RoboCop was constantly being damaged or taken offline in the early episodes, making him seem like a bit of a pushover at times.  An implausible number of episodes involved RoboCop/Murphy’s wife and/or son getting into trouble and Robo having to save them without revealing his identity.  But then, I guess that’s no worse than Superman constantly having to save Lois and Jimmy.  It’s just the way episodic television tended to work back then.  And I can excuse the contrivance because I thought it was a good way to humanize RoboCop, to explore his dilemma of being unable to be a father and husband to them yet still longing to take care of them.

Also, the early episodes made too much use of Gadget, the Resident Cute Kid, often contriving things so that she figured out solutions that all the grownups missed, even though she wasn’t portrayed as particularly smart.  But as the season progressed, they improved the treatment of the character, making her less a knowitall and more a vulnerable figure needing guidance and protection.  And Sarah Campbell was pretty darn cute, managing to be amusing and kind of sweet rather than annoying.

Aw, heck, I freely admit RoboCop: The Series isn’t brilliant television, but it was consistently fun, had a terrific cast and a terrific musical score, and was a damn sight better than any other RoboCop sequel I’ve ever seen.  (Well, maybe the Marvel-produced animated series was decent, if unmemorable.  But the two feature sequels and the Prime Directives miniseries were dreadful and the second animated series was rather lame and too great a departure in the format and Robo’s characterization.)

ALTERNATIVE COORDINATES is gone

I’ve just discovered that the Alternative Coordinates webzine has apparently gone completely dead, taking my story “The Weight of Silence” along with it.  Effectively, that story is no longer in print.  Hopefully I’ll find a way to get it back into print sometime.

I guess online fiction magazines are still something of a gamble, even though they’re increasingly common these days.  But it’s always a shame when one of them goes under.  I’m grateful to Jeff Cochran and the staff of Alternative Coordinates for publishing one of my stories, even if it was only online for 10 months.  I hope they bounce back in some form.

Having a good week

Well, I’ve been getting a lot of good news this week.  First I found that my long-awaited RoboCop: The Series was now available on DVD.  Then on Thursday, I got a check from the Russian ESLI magazine for the reprint of my second Hub story, “Home is Where the Hub Is.”  Then, when I deposited it in the bank, the clerk told me my credit card had earned enough reward points that I could get over $150 cash back.  Then on Friday, I had my taxes done and found out that I was due a nice hefty refund.  (Which is actually the last bit of my inheritance from my father, which I think I already knew I was going to get refunded because it was only withheld for some kind of technical tax reason, but I’d forgotten that.)

And then there was the best bit of news, which came on Thursday night, but which I’m not ready to talk about yet.  Hopefully soon.

Categories: My Fiction

RoboCop: The Series at last!

I am possibly the world’s biggest fan of RoboCop: The Series, the live-action TV series adaptation that ran for one season in 1994-5.  A lot of people consider it too goofy and toned-down, but I think people often miss the point that RoboCop was always intended as a comedy-satire.  As for the reduction of violence, I find that preferable to what was in the movies, and only responsible considering how popular RoboCop has always been with children.  It’s also more believable, since cops are obligated to use minimum necessary force.  Anyway, although it definitely tended toward goofiness and overused the cute kid in the early episodes, I think it was a fun, witty series with a great cast, great music, and interesting concepts of police futurism.  Richard Eden was my favorite RoboCop ever, including Peter Weller, and Yvette Nipar as his partner was breathtakingly gorgeous and an excellent actress to boot.

But for a long time, it was never available on home video.  I’ve had to rely on my VHS tapes from the then-SciFi Channel’s 1997-8 reruns, which are missing two episodes and which I’ve watched so many times that the image quality is badly eroded.  Now, last year I inherited my father’s VCR/DVD dubbing deck, and I’ve been meaning to get around to using it to archive my old videotapes in digital format.  I finally got around to starting that yesterday, and I decided to begin with my RoboCop tapes, because I wanted to get them archived before they eroded any further. So I got the first three episodes dubbed yesterday, and started on the fourth a little while ago.  But during a commercial break on the tape (which I don’t think I can fast-forward through while I’m dubbing), I wanted to remind myself what episode was next, so I went to Wikipedia to find the series’ episode list.  And while there, I noticed a notation that there had been a Canadian DVD release of the complete series last July!  It was so low-profile that I never heard about it.  Once I confirmed on TVShowsOnDVD.com that it was the full series and found that it is for sale on the American Amazon.com, I hastened to place my order — all while I was in the middle of dubbing an episode I no longer needed to dub.  Oops!  Well, at least I only wasted two DVD-Rs before I found out.  Still, I wish I’d thought to double-check its DVD availability before I began the dubbing.  Heck, I wish I’d known about this eight months ago.  This has been my home-video holy grail, and it’s been out there for a while and I didn’t even know.

But that’s okay.  RoboCop: The Series is finally on DVD, and I’m finally going to own it!  It’s a bare-bones set, no special features, but still — no more faded pictures, no more fast-forwarding through phone-psychic commercials from 1997, and I’ll finally get those two missing episodes I haven’t seen in over a dozen years.

And now, I must go.  Somewhere there is a crime happening.