Thursday, June 30, 2011

Episode #18

Well, the Adama’s child was killed. That’s the end of future Battlestar . . . I’d apologize for ruining the series but they just did that. The mob killed the Adama child but has since ceased hostilities with the Adamas. The Goitroi, no, don’t check your thyroids, this is the name of the leader of the mob, feels that any past wrongs are righted. That’s mobster math for you. Love DNE. Unfortunately, while betraying his adopted sons, the goitroi hadn’t counted on being betrayed by his daughter. This is why mob family trees are easy to draw – long and thin.
Meanwhile, the monotheist terrorists are planning on using suicide bombers in order to bring more believers to an artificial heaven. This is a syllogism with the middle part missing. It is now up to the professor, on the run from the law as he was labelled a terrorist, to personally stop this. To be fair, it sure looks like they’re terrorists: shifty eyes, going everywhere quickly, wearing sunglasses. Fortunately the professor and his wife are able to shrug off this label by commandeering military hardware to kill those bystanders (actually terrorists). More than just a lesson in stereotypes, this episode helps us understand that it literally takes 2 people to change a planet. But lessons don’t stop there. Apparently responding to violent terrorists in kind comes only with rewards.
Progress happens in the last four minutes. It takes this long to show the proliferation of cylons and the glimmer of humanity and subsequent resentment of those who would define humanity differently that prompt the assumptions behind the first ‘battlestar galactica’.

Episode #17

In a desperate attempt to unify his family one last time the professor has enlisted the help of someone schooled in the intricacies of computer programming and procedural etiquette: some mob guy. Things start looking up when they find out he can ride a horse. Yes, these are the complicated skills set necessary to free a sentient program from it’s virtual world. The end goal has also changed as it turns out that the virtual daughter of the professor and his wife has become a witch. The parents explain that the virtual daughter is just reliving memories of her favourite childhood book: ‘dragon fighters of Cobol’. My favourite childhood book was probably something by Bill Peet, Robert Munsch or Dr. Zeuss. Is this a good time to start a conversation about poor parenting or is this implicit in the intro I gave? But no time for that, we have a finale to set the stage for…
The Adama brothers have been found out! Just like the [shift + 1] command on my computer!! As he tries to kill the Adama he keeps mentioning that ‘it’s nothing personal’. I beg to differ. I would consider it a ‘personal’ act if my life were threatened – something which definitely infringes on my personhood. Unfortunately the hit man they send out is not as tough as the live-in grandmother in the Adama household. She also knows enough about the customs of getting ‘whacked’ (I believe the adjective is ‘whacking’ in the parlance) to prevent immediate vengeance.
Meanwhile the nun, using a similarly subtle technique, has decided that the sensitive nature of her betrayal by the professor’s wife requires a little B & E. As it turns out, the quintillions of 0’s and 1’s moving through a DSL line can easily be interrupted and controlled with an electrode. If you’re keeping track, that would be technical college:1, university engineering:0. The professor and his wife, being too distracted by dealing with their virtual child, don’t notice the break-in, this works well enough for the would-be intruders as their Faberge-egg intricate plan requires that not a single thing go wrong. Indeed, a lot can be learned from this and applied in life: shoot high and don’t plan for contingencies. As it stands, only the former can fit on a bumper sticker. Hijinx continue as the criminal savants attempt to break-in. . . uh-oh, one of them’s one fire, what will they do next. Checking the books around a robot? What could happen? . . . and then it does.
Seventeen episodes into the series and I think I’m coming to terms with blogging. It’s nice that it’s a one-way medium in the sense that nobody can point out the hypocrisies of calling a television show selfish from the unanswered viewpoint of one person. In the meantime, I’m on the home stretch: one more episode remains.

Episode #16

The back and forth ‘I-found-you-now-your-gone’ game performed by the professor with his daughter is nearing its’ zenith. Fortunately, this equal opportunity emotional manipulation brings the professor and his wife together – solid foundations make for solid marriages. At this point in the series the writers have to know that their show has been cancelled, they have to know that the only thing they can give their viewers is closure. Unfortunately, the writers seem to have been educated by watching daytime tv. One of the characters asks his superior a question about this problem to which she replies: ‘ problems are only problems if you want to solve them.’ Do you get to a point in your fine arts degree when you even start making no sense to yourself? Do you get published de facto or do you need to rinse off your patchouli before submitting quasi-existential rhetoric?
Next up in Caprica, emotional turmoil has spoiled one of the first scenes with an active robot army presence. To a lot of people, a highly armed robot does not mean ‘identity crisis’. To the writers of Caprica it means a chance to explore the intricacies of control and human nature. Congratulations, you’re like the contributor who adds a 5-page addendum to the 3 page review.
Finally, a new character has been added to complicate the life of the Adamas. I’m just going to make a prediction online here that characters involved in the end scenes of the show rarely make it to said ending. To make matters more predictive she seems to be trying to undermine the secrete plans of the Adamas using the powers of passive aggressive defence mechanisms – but you wouldn’t be interested if I told you about that.

Episodes #15

The Adama brothers are getting promoted: that’s right, they’re getting ink done. In order to move forward in any criminal organization you need to practice subtle criminality which is best exhibited by a tattoo on your face. Flashbacks from the childhood of the Adamas shows a family tightly knit by allegiance: ‘family ties are principal, second only to personal honor’. It’s unfortunate then that this attempt at keeping the family together ends up pushing the boys into the mob and perpetuating the cycle. One of the Adamas states that ‘there’s blood in the soil’ – I guess that’s how you grow violence.
On nun news: the professor’s wife, having infiltrated the nun’s polyamorous abode, is now working with the police in order to help indict the nun. Before you google ‘polyamorous nun’ and spending the next few hours deleting internet history keep in mind that she’s only a front-nun for a terrorist cell. The unfortunate part of this subplot is that the nun has her own informant in the police office (yes, the only police office which the planet Caprica has) who happens to be the chief. I’d say the nun has a cardinal position, but that seems too convent-ional.

Episode #14

Good news: space ships. Bad news: they’re attempting to recreate the children’s crusade. Good news: slight deviations in environment give me reason to repress this idea. Bad news: they’re bad at being subtle. Good news: the monotheist crusaders are getting robots. Bad news: Christians using firepower as a means of instituting dogma is a theme that’s just a little too historically true for comfort.
The mob has infiltrated corporate Caprica. It’s interesting how easily they seem to fit in. The only difference seems to be that the mob is honest about what they do.
Creation of an artificial intelligence is the preoccupation of the professor in this episode. As he attempts to create his perfect, albeit artificial, wife, his obsession with recreation ironically takes him further and further from reality. That might just be a clever coping mechanism as his business partners have planned on assassinating him.
Ultimately, this episode concerns itself with the development of the robot product line and the impetus behind non-human combatants. In this age of drone warfare, I’m not sure it’s an alien concept. Is having one robot army designed so as to fight another robot army laziness or the logical endpoint of dehumanization of violence?

Episode #13

This episode was called ‘false labor’. I’m interested in seeing how Braxton Hicks can become a metaphor . . .
The professor’s wife’s behaviour has become increasingly erratic. Several weeks ago she attempted suicide, stopped eating, lost interest in normal activities, increased her sleep, was consumed by feelings of guilt and had considerable psychomotor agitation. This week she seems to have feelings of gradiosity of position, decreased sleep, and has taken an interest in pleasure seeking activity. If you’re keeping track of your SIGECAPS and your GSTPAID you’ll know that her behaviour is enough to warrant lithium and an antipsychotic rather than subject herself to increased social stressors.
The professor’s relationship with his wife has hit a bit of a snag. He’s been working on a substitute version of his wife in order to create an artificial sentience: the only problem being that he recreated a copy too accurate. . . she hates him too. For a man who ‘lives for a family’ he’s remarkably proficient in destroying it – bonus marks for consecutive summative failure.
The professor states that ‘it’s the littlest rules that are hardest to break’. Is it those little rules that help us remind us who we are? Is it the relatively low risk:benefit ratio of these rules which help or is it a concrete part of one’s life one can claim to order? Apart from the iniquity to one’s ethic of choosing which parts are fit to maintain, what if the littlest rules that have a more formative effect? More than that, though, how does the professor put himself in a position of ‘chooser of rules’ if they are truly formative? If I make the rules which make myself is there room for God? A question which can fortunately be avoided if we put ourselves before all else. This brings one back to labour pains: creating ourselves (aside from an awkward gestation) is a false labour. Enter Mr. Hicks.

Episode #12

The professor’s wife has begun infiltrating the nun’s world – an interesting role reversal given that she had her own life infiltrated by the nun. Starting to limit the number of potential safe interactions any character can have given that most permutations have already been soiled.
Unfortunately, the two girls, both stuck in a computer program, have started attacking eachother for one’s membership in the group. The professor’s daughter, however, won’t fight back. She states that this is an act of contrition. Unfortunately she is caught in a virtual world wherein neither can die. This makes for a complicated environment in which to exact revenge . . . or really uncomplicated. I guess it depends on where your views of ‘just war’ theology lie.
In the meantime the friend of the trapped girl has been kidnapped following her fealty to the losing side of the terrorist cell civil war. The ‘winning side’ of a terrorist schism being a bit of an indistinct term. She’s locked in the attic of a suburban home. How many suburban homes are built to be holding cells? My childhood attic was infiltrated by pigeons. Pigeons.
In a final act of submission, the man who would have taken power from the professor
(but subsequently failed) kills himself by stabbing himself in the heart in the professor’s home. Is that even possible? Would you have the motivation or the energy for a final dramatic statement? He did. Priorities. But I suppose that’s what this episode was about – lack of regard for the destructive consequences of one’s actions in order to achieve that final goal. The would-be terrorist exploded, the nun isolated her family, the professor pushed his wife away, the police officer ignored his commanding officer – all so that their end goals could be enacted. Is this the mark of a hero, a coward, or decisively thin character development?

Episode #9-10: Robots are Real: a syllogism

In the last two episodes you find a progression you only see in shows that take themselves too seriously while simultaneously firing writing staff. It’s not poorly done, it’s just really into itself.
This second half of the show also runs the risk of breaking the ‘no-takesies-backsies’ rule: it features the professor’s wife jumping off a bridge . . . but she’s fine, the robot/daughter exploding . . . and now she’s a ninja, and the lawyer coming to terms with his daughter’s death . . . and now he’s a mafia overlord. If you continue to plot wolf, nobody’s going to continue to believe your denouement is actually a plot peak.
The professor, ever fastidious, has found the weak link in his enemy’s chain: street drugs. Having recently lost his company to the man who threatened to take his company and having recently lost his wife to the solitude of a cabin he seeks the help of the mob to secure his way back into re-establishing a robot/daughter. Ever the conscientious father, he takes the time to systematically destroy his former business associates in order to see the robot program restarted.
The nun, in the meantime, has returned from the headquarters of her order in order to unify her sect. Unfortunately, ‘unify’ consists of corporal punishment. In the nun’s battle against Barnabus you see, at a most conservative level, an apocryphal story.
The progression of the story at this point is similar to drywall mud. Every layer you add it looks a little bit better . . . but every level you add the lower your standards become. So the question remains: do I want these characters to fulfill their telos’ or did I start empathizing with their reality? This, then, is really what the series is about: the question of reality of a human. Can the essence of an individual be trapped in anything but a corporeal body? Does a robot count? It might, if it would be so cavalier as to reassert itself as a 1-ton military endeavour. It might count a lot. How much of the reality of human essence is imposed upon us as others? How much is that imposition is tailored by popular decision? How much popular decision does it take when a giant robot is involved? Very little. Syllogism solved.

Episodes #8-9: Halfway

These episodes do a good job teasing you with hints of plot extension. The girl trapped in the robot hints that she might give herself away while the girl trapped in the game seems to elude all attempts at identification. Before the robot can free itself, however, it seems as though trouble with the parents may make it run away. While truancy in a 1-ton killing machine may not be the impetus behind it’s capture, it sure does extend the series past any hope of cylon uprising. This raises an interesting issue, do we watch prequels to fulfill an inevitable environmental creation or do we watch them so as to question assumptions seen in the original? In this instance, and the vast majority of others, we watch because they are available. Good cinema makes you want more at the end of a show, good marketing makes you look for it in different places.
Competing interests are arising between two factions within the terrorist monotheist organization. One led by a nun and another by a man named Barnabus. If you’re familiar with your biblical aetiology then you know this is stupid. These groups are able to sustain themselves with a grassroots bicycle mechanics consortium. This is because, in the future, bicycle mechanics will comprise the most critical of all the industrial sectors. If you haven’t already done so, make sure to buy stock in 3-in-1 and short pants.
An interesting thing happens in the second of these episodes: an action sequence. Before you get too excited it’s a car chase involving a Sienna. Counterpoint: it’s the most fuel efficient chase on the sci-fi channel. I’ve begun to realize that this is the halfway point in the series. At this point we’ve gone from daughter to computer program to daughter-controlled robot, daughter to computer program and son to thug. Where we need to be is robotS, robot and admiral, respectively. High hopes.

Episode #7: Limbo

This episode introduces an alternate game-based reality called ‘new cap city’ wherein no rules apply. It’s telling that in a world mirrored on classical Greek society an alternate hedonistic society would develop – cue Dionysus. Is it a reaction to an overly orchestrated life or is it true desire? The answer, of course, is neither: ‘prevent nerds from positions of power.’ Unfortunately, if we follow through with this Alberta Liberals may struggle to find leadership necessary to falter. . . too soon?
It turns out that the professor’s wife’s breaking point for opium use is a single call from a girlfriend. This is interesting as her breaking point for denouncing her daughter as a terrorist was a single home movie. I wonder if it’s technically a character flaw if it’s necessary for the plot to move forward? Either way the conversation’s moot as it turns out that the professor’s wife suffers from severe psychosis. A good reminder both for the prevalence of mental illness and the danger of psychotropic medication. In her stupor she states that ‘surviving is the punishment for leaving things unsaid.’ I wonder how true that is? Do we create a world of limbo in order to live with past decisions? Do our actions predict our ability to see? Does this make third party guilt professionally unattainable?
On the robot front, progress is being made. . . hopefully no obstructive relationships will develop. In regards to the latter – it already has. Cue romantic robotic relationship. Shoot.

Episodes #5-6: Character development

In these episodes a theme of adolescent angst seems to be pushing character development rather holding it back as per normal. One of the characters, still stuck in a robot, is now met by another adolescent stuck in a computer program. As with any internship, she finds herself at the mercy of a world stacked against her. Unlike an internship she seems to be able to find remuneration. These stresses have placed both of these stuck characters’ fathers into self doubt and guilt – pushing them, predictably, towards internet gaming.
The professor states that ‘I have agreed to give up my most profitable product but there’s a consequence’. Who knew. Notable quotations continue as one of the IT guys states that ‘[there are] twelve planets and nobody wants to go out with me’. Fortunately, this serves only to pander to the target audience.
In the meantime the nun’s mysterious actions seem to be hinged around a desire to immortalize herself. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that … Given that means and ends don’t seem to contradict she proceeds to inebriate the mother of one of the trapped girls in order to get information to that end. While she herself seems to be on the wrong end of an opium pipe. . . is there a right end?
These two episodes serve to introduce a not-too-subtle villain: a man who threatens the professor telling him that their competing interests make him angry and violent. Unfortunately, veiled threats such as ‘I’ll destroy your company’ and ‘I’ll take everything you love’ are unappreciated by the professor thus committing us to another malady-aux-cosby for the foreseeable future.

Episode #4: Gladiators and Facebook

The episode starts with a statement from one of the protagonists: “people don’t want answers, people want contrition”. I guess that’s why we have gladiators and facebook. Other things learned include the fact that the word ‘street’ = cool. I’m street’s ahead.
The more that happens in these people’s lives means the less robot development that occurs. The denouement of this act came when they taught a robot to dance – unfortunately that too promoted a romantic relationship . . . between the robot girl and a programmer.
Flip phones, 2 cycle motorcycles and dot matrix printers – come on! You can’t just take the best parts of today and the worst parts of the 80s. That’s like putting an MP3 player in a Pinto.
Did you ever see an episode of the Cosby show where the complications could be avoided by one protagonist admitting the truth to another and being frustrated that that hadn’t happened. Imagine if that was stretched out over 4 episodes and prevented you from seeing more robots. This is a frustrating segue. Heathcliff!!!!

Episode #3: Paint Drying

I’m starting to believe that my brevity re: actual plot content is less important now that both Steve and Scott narrate the shit out of each episode. This is good for two reasons: 1) sci-fi doesn’t do nearly as much educating as it used to and 2) this blog will never be printed. If anything, the disgust of the robustness of the other’s comments should convince nerds to plant trees.
Shocking revelations in this episode include a brief tutorial on how to turn your young nephew into a hooligan and the fact that, in the future, we will bring back videotapes and old russian cars. Is this a dystopia? Probably not, odds are that I don't know what that word means.
This might be nitpicking, but how hard is it to make a house look decrepit. I do know that If a nice motorcycle sans headlamp and gas tank were on my yard it would make my house look like it had potential.
The plot continues with the gradual initiation of a lawyer's son into the intricacies of an underground syndicate. The lawyer himself seems to have fallen into the same trap. I would have thought it would have been harder to corrupt a lawyer...
Unfortunately, this episode does not extend beyond setting the stage for the development of tension between the audience and the teacher, hidden child in robot, and the professor - something that was accomplished in the previous episode and something aspired to in any other soap opera. Come on robots, you don't have to build tension. You are robots, you can release it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Scott: Episode 2

I’ve got an idea for the worst drinking game ever, every time someone smiles during a Caprica episode you drink. Not only would you never get to drink, but you would realize how painfully depressing this show is.

What constitutes a life? Is a toaster that feels a toaster? Can it be compelled to simply toast bread, or should it be allowed use it’s heating powers to heat other things. Is this a question of what fulfillment really is? These are the questions this episode poses.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Episode #2: Memorials and Parenting

Thanks to the tardiness of the previous post the fans have been pre-baiting their breath for this definitive analysis of the second episode. While a late post has lead to a loss in regularity it has brought a fresh perspective from someone very regular. That’s right, Steve is full of shit. Or as they say on Caprica: 'shrat'. I don’t have any particular criticism of his remarks but it does seem like a good time to introduce animosity into the conversation. Peristaltically, in the vernacular, onwards and outwards…
Things in this episode I have learned so far: poor people are angry, Taurons go to Tauron-school, monotheists wear dresses and are polyamorous, and aliens from planets without flowers become criminals. This episode features the struggle of a girl trapped within a cylon body. Interestingly, the father (ignorant of this fact) chooses to work on the cylon thereby freeing her instead of going to the memorial of his daughter. This juxtaposition is only really interesting when one looks at it from a parenting position: repression and betrayal beget development. Take that freud.
At this point in the episode another interesting subplot is developing. The apparently monotheistic teacher seems to be seducing a student with one of her husbands. However, she is confronted by her family members and does what any reasonable high school teacher would do - falls off the wagon. To be fair, there's not much apparent wagon to start with.
What this episode does get across is that parenting isn't easy, the best parenting needs to be internalized into the child. Specifically, within a robot.

Episode 1: Frak the Greystones


To round out our blogging sortie we have included the services of one who has not seen the critically acknowledged: Battlestar Galactica- of course since this is a prequel, that should work out just fine.  I will, however, have to ignore numerous inside references made for the benefit of all the Battlestar fans, and start working really hard to care about these characters I can only assume have a much more interesting role later on.

For now I must take this for what it is: a decently written sci-fi show with pretty good budget and just the right amount of glaring plot holes.  As with any futuristic space-ish show, a suspension of disbelief is absolutely critical to allow for any enjoyment.

The world of Caprica takes place on the planet Caprica, which is convenient for those of us bad with places and names.  We have some racial tensions between the people of Caprica and those of the 1950's Italian gangster planet Tauron, a self-made technology magnate trying to get his piece of the military industrial complex by building an army of kill-bots, a secret hedonistic virtual world for teenagers and other miscreants, and a terrorist attack perpetrated by some clearly dangerous monotheists.  Rounding it all out we have a virtual representation of a person, or an avatar, that manages to live on after the person it was based on has died.

This show has some potential, so long as it doesn't try to hard to answer the 'what is a soul' question it opened up by putting Zoey into a computer chip.  I have a feeling whatever they try to say about that will be stupid, kinda like Star Trek: The Motion Picture having a satellite crash into God and teach us things.  Stick with what you know: thinly veiled social commentary, cool gadgets, explosions, and saying frak instead of fuck.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Episode # 1 The invention of toasters


Do you ever wonder if the person who invented a toaster did it because he missed the touch of a daughter killed by terrorists form the planet Tauron?  Apparently the creators of Caprica do.  Personally, I think it's because he was tired of putting bread on a stick and holding it over the stove, but who knows?

This episode was not great.  The two fathers--Daniel Graystone and Joseph Adama, who lost family members in the terrorist attack on a train both make questionable decisions in order to download what's left of their daughters into a Cybernet Lifeform Node or Cylon (don't ask, because I don't know either).  After seeing a version of his daughter in some kind of holodeck, Adama decides she isn't real and wants no part of Graystone's goal to cheat death.  He tells his son, the great Bill Adama, they need to let go of the people they lost and move on.  I guess we're supposed to fear Graystone now, and root for Adama. Frankly, I don't care.  I just want my bread to be warmer, and crustier.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Episode #1: More science please

I'll start this by saying that we're going to try to review the discontinued series 'Caprica' in an armchair setting (hence coasters). We'll try to capture our feelings as we watch the episodes.

For a show about science fiction based on a show made famous in science fiction the first episode of Caprica lacks anything but passing remarks about other planets, tattooed off-world gangsters, and a holographic facebook. Aside from the gratuitous nudity, in fact, nothing else about this episode seems geared towards it's target audience: lonely men. Let me temper this last point so as not to anger other nerds - let's see more robots. A few other things about this episode bother me as well: 1) monotheists do not necessarily blow up all trains, and 2) physicians don't get nice offices. These assumptions border on the violent . . . which is ironic as this is something else this episode lacks.
That said, this episode definitely develops a theology which justifies a lot of what the cylons say later. A counterpoint to this is, of course: 'who cares'. To conclude: as is true in life, this episode shows how one daughter's love can directly power the killing power of autonomous robots.