My Town Mondays: The Ascent

If you look at the skyscrapers that have sprung up over the past decade in Northern Kentucky, they all look like… Well… Skyscrapers. Not that Cincinnati can brag. The PNC Tower and the Carew Tower are two classic icons of the Queen City skyline, but the rest are somewhat bland. The new Queen City Square tower will be a welcome addition to both sides of the river.

And then there’s The Ascent, anchoring one end of the Roebling Suspension Bridge.

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It’s the strangest looking building on the Ohio River in Greater Cincinnati, an example of building as scultpure.

[More My Town Mondays posts with Travis]

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Since I Have Homework, You Have Homework

I’ve decided to resharpen my scifi chops after a loooooong absence.  There are two reasons for this.  First, there are more paying SF markets than there are crime markets.  So one is for credit, the other is to pay off the new heat pump I have to buy for the former Rancho Winter.  (I hate being a landlord.  Stupid housing market!)  Second, I’m sick of explaining to people I went to high school with that I’ve been doing crime fic for the better part of a decade.  (They also seem puzzled that I’m more into Garbage and The Foo Fighters now than The Beatles.  Hey, I kept all my Led Zep albums, too!  Doesn’t that count?)

However, let’s be honest here.  My science fiction chops came from Star Trek, Star Wars, 2001, and Terminator.  I could have probably spun some decent tie-ins for Babylon 5 or done one or two episodes of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica.

But aside from a couple of Robert Heinlein novels and John Scalzi’s output, I am utterly clueless as to written SF.  Here’s where you come in.

I need a list of 1.) classics every SF reader should know and 2.) which modern practitioners are must reads.  Some restrictions.

  • John Scalzi is off-limits.  I’ve read all his work, including the novellas (well, almost all of them), and it’s a forgone conclusion I will be pre-ordering The High Castle as soon as Tor begins teasing us on Amazon with it.
  • Heinlein:  He’s a given, so let’s just assume I’m going to be pulling two or three of his off the shelf.
  • No fantasy.  If I wanted to read fantasy, I’d go back and reread Harry Potter (which is really science fiction when you think about it.  The magic has rules and is so technobabble-laiden one wonders if Rowling isn’t one of Scotty’s ancestors.)
  • Hard SF:  I’m not really a fan of hard SF.  I read fiction for the stories.  I read it for the characters.  I do not read it for someone’s dissertation on the gravitational effects of supermassive blackholes.  It’s not that I don’t find it interesting.  I read A Brief History of Time, and that was interesting enough without Hawking pretending he could spin a yarn.  “Here’s the neat stuff I make my living studying.”   Blathering on and on for the entire length of a story about some scientific theory or discovery and calling it “fiction” is kinda like calling Ann Coulter’s books philosophical studies.  (Exception:  “They’re Made of Meat.”  The whole point of that story was irony.  Me digs irony.)
  • Media tie-ins.  Read them.  Some were good.  Most sucked.  And I’ve already seen all the Star Treks and Star Wars movies.

That’s it.  Have at in the comments section.

MTM Cincinnati: The Roebling Suspension Bridge

One of Cincinnati’s oldest landmarks was built between 1855 and 1865.  However, it was a banking scare, not the Civil War, that nearly scuttled the project.  In fact, fear of the war coming to Cincinnati and a need for solid transportation between Cincinnati and Kentucky after the war, which ever side Kentucky ended up on, forced its completion.

That would be the Roebling Suspension Bridge between downtown Cincinnati and Covington.

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At 1057 feet long, it was the longest bridge in the world until another Roebling-designed bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge, was completed in the 1870’s.

[More My Town Monday posts with Travis.]

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OMFG! That Frakking ROCKED!

Abrams calls this a prequel, the sneaky bastard.  And it most certainly is.

But it’s also a sequel.  Or rather, it picks right up where Nemesis left off, then promptly fraks with Trek continuity.

Within Trek continuity.

Yeah, don’t try to think about that too hard.  You’ll go cross-eyed like Austin Powers in the second movie.

Anyway, without getting into specifics, that effing rocked my nuts off!

Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto were pitch perfect as young Kirk and Spock.

Quinto manages to say “Live long and prosper” and make it sound like, “Eat shit and die.”  And yes, that’s exactly what Spock meant when he said that.

Simon Pegg and Karl Urban nail Scotty and McCoy.

I was glad to see Uhura and Sulu get fleshed out a little more, including getting first names.  Uhura’s name is a running gag to torture Kirk for the first half of the movie.

Nero:  Khan amped up on meth with a kernel of sympathy.  The perfect villain.

There is a reference to every single Original Series movie, including the much-despised Star Trek V, and (Surprise!) Galaxy Quest.

Leonard Nimoy’s elderly Spock seems almost like a whimsical Jewish old man.  As befitting a character played by a whimsical Jewish old man.

This movie rocks!

Oh, and to anyone who mewls about a heretofore never-filmed romance between two major characters, I will require documented evidence that you and your mother do not live in the same house.  Failure to provide such evidence will permit me to tie you to a chair and force you to watch the Shatner “Get a life!” skit on a loop for 24 hours.

Don’t think I won’t do it.

Since Today Is Trek Day, Let’s Look At Them From Best To Worst

Today, JJ Abrams reboots Star Trek.  I hear some geek whining that Spock is not emotionless in this one.  (Um…  Have you ever watched the show?)  And complaints that some pet assumptions go out the window.  Wonder if Abrams will get the “as established in fanfiction” letter.  And will he laugh maniacally at the poor fool sending it?  Or sick a team of Paramount lawyers on him for writing such  a stupid letter.  I, for, one am pleased to see new lift breathed into the old story.

And this time, Starbuck is not a woman.

Yes, I’ve seen every Star Trek movie to date.  I’ve also seen almost every episode of The Next Generation and Deep Space NineVoyager did not motivate me to ask people to tape it when it wasn’t on the air in Cincinnati.  And Enterprise?  I burned out fast.

But the movies I’ve seen each time in a darkened multiplex, except for Nemesis, which I watched on DVD.  So what was the best to the worst?  My answers may surprise you.

  1. First Contact – I am perfectly willing to argue with you over Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, if only because it would probably warrant going back and watching both of these back to back.  But First Contact took the whole Moby Dick scenario and amped it up.  PIcard trashing his Ready Room when he realizes he has to ditch the Enterprise in order to save history.  Data making a deal with the devil (with his fingers crossed behind his back).  The coolest Trek space battle to date.  And the Borg, especially Alice Kriege’s repulsively sensual Borg Queen.  Creepy and fun at the same time, and all tied up in a bow by James Cromwell’s performance as a drunken Zefram Cochrane.
  2. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – And Khan comes in at #2 only by a hair.  Again, let’s argue.  You buy the beer.  I’ll rent the DVD’s.  The roosters all come home for the swaggering Captain Kirk, now an admiral.  He’s old.  He has a grown son who hates him.  And he has to fight Khaaaaaaaannnnnnn!!! One of the truly classic movie rivalries with a climactic battle that honors Run Silent, Run Deep and paves the way for The Hunt for Red October.
  3. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – Time travel and humpback whales. How can you go wrong?  Well, there’s enough plot holes in this one to drive an H1 through, but director Nimoy went light.  This was the fun Trek movie and one shot for everyone.
  4. Star Trek III: Te Search for Spock – This movie should not have worked.  It has the dumbest premise of all the Trek movies, and yet somehow, Leonard Nimoy pulls it off and makes even the most skeptical audience member cry when Spock returns.
  5. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country – A fitting farewell to the original cast.  I can also see the new cast doing a remake.  Nick Meyer returns for one last spin as director.  And before she was an aging slut on Sex and the City, long after she howled with pleasure in Porky’s, Kim Catrall played a Vulcan racist in this movie.
  6. Nemesis – It was okay, not the coda I’d have expected for the NextGen crew.  Would have been an interesting TV movie.  And Data’s sacrifice at the end was completely pointless.
  7. Generations – Kirk and Picard meet in a story that would be fair to middling on most fanfic sites.  I’m not kidding.
  8. Insurrection – Empty calories.  I forgot most of what this movie was about before the final credits rolled.
  9. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier – This movie is awful only if you take it seriously.  Well, okay, it’s awful if you don’t, but it’s also more fun if you don’t.  It’s at the bottom of most people’s Trek film list, but not here when you factor in the MST3K appeal of  it.  Which is more than I can say for…
  10. Star Trek: The Motion Picture – They spent the 1979 equivalent of $100 million on this?!  Next to Insurrection, it’s the most boring Trek movie ever filmed!  I want my money back.  What?  I watched it on HBO at Dave Harr’s house when I was 14?  I want Dave’s parents’ money back!

As you read this, I will be making my way across the Ohio River to the AMC theater in Newport, Kentucky, to see the new Star Trek. I’ll let you know what I think.