Month: July 2016
Favourite Season Finale Cliffhanger!
This is easy.
Best of Both Worlds ended season 3 of TNG on an incredible note. Captain Picard had been captured and assimilated by the Borg. The Borg ship was on its way to earth, intent on wiping out humanity, and the crew of the Enterprise had one chance to stop them. Commander Riker gives the order to fire… And To be Continued appears. Pure television gold.
Before I begin in earnest, lets post the conversation I had over at a site called ‘Stefs Cave‘.
My posts will be in green, theirs will be in pink.
Linda had waited with baited breath outside the small hotel that she and David had called home for the past few days, not at all certain that the promise of $30,000 would convince the owner to get her a truck. It was then a great surprise to see such a vehicle trundle down the beaten up road toward them, and better yet, it wasn’t simply some old, rusted contraption, but instead a clean, red lorry. The hotel owner had even organised a large trailer (probably wants to impress me).
The driver waved a hand at her and Dave as the truck came to a stop. Unlike the man in the hotel, he was clean-shaven, with short black hair and a look of pure delight to be in the company of westerners, which became all the more obvious when he jumped down from the cab.
“Greetings, I am Hassan! Wherever you need to go, whatever you need moving, I will do.” The young man took Linda’s hand and shook it vigorously, before doing likewise with Dave.
Linda smiled. “We need to go here.” She slipped her map from the pocket of her khakis, pointed to a spot in the desert. “About fifty miles south of here.”
Hassan turned his chocolate eyes upon her with a view of confusion. “My lady, there is nothing there but scorched sand and rock.”
“I have some friends out there who need something moved, no questions asked. Can you help us?”
Wariness replaced enthusiasm on the man’s face. “I don’t handle drugs or weapons.”
“Don’t worry, it’s neither of those. It’s an archaeological dig.”
“I don’t know this word, my English… it’s okay, what is, archaeological?”
“We look for bones.” Said Dave.
“Ah, I see… wait, why does he have a gun?” Concern re-entered Hassan’s voice.
“For protection. If it helps…” Linda took a wad of dollars from a pouch on her waist. “Will this serve as enough danger money?”
The promise of hard currency on top of whatever cut he was getting from the hotel changed the look on Hassan’s face once again. “Yes, yes, that will cover any risk.” Linda grinned. He hadn’t even counted it, though there was roughly $2,500 there.
“Can we leave right now? My friends are anxious to load something up and move it on.”
“Yes yes, please, get on board, I have cold drinks!”
To Linda, with the sun rising higher as midday approached, that was going to be a godsend.
Mark felt reasonably confident that the specimen could now be moved, but he could feel himself shaking. He wanted to keep it concealed as much as possible, but sooner or later, this discovery would go global, and he knew what would happen.
Studying the pictures as best he could on the small display of the camera, Mark had come to realise that his first conclusion was shaping up to be correct. The little ‘device’ the remains held was no mere stone or rock used by a primitive ape. There were criss-crossing lines and circles all across the surface. Symbols of some kind.
Closer study of the skeleton had changed his outlook still further. The large skull, the small body yet long arms and legs… it seemed absurd, it was absurd, and yet, the more he looked, the more his brain made the connection.
Jeremy had not yet figured it out. He’d loaded the jeep up and was now sat in the driver’s seat, eating a sandwich. If he’d been bored before, he was positively weary now.
Right now, Mark’s greatest fear was someone else arriving to claim the discovery for their own. The site wasn’t unknown for intriguing finds of human civilisation, so there was always the chance someone might show up, stumble upon Mark and Jeremy, reach the same conclusions and make a grab for the prize. Mark was therefore spending half his time keeping an eye on the horizon, whilst willing the phone to ring.
“I guess this thing is pretty fragile if we need a truck to move it.” Remarked Jeremy. Mark didn’t reply. Statements of the obvious annoyed him.
Thankfully, he didn’t have to worry about an awkward silence. Jeremy took another bite of his sandwich and carried on looking into the distance.
Time seemed to move slowly. It always did when things needed to happen urgently. Mark resisted the urge to return to the remains, instead drinking some more water. It never ceased to amaze him that even on the edge of the Sahara one of the most inhospitable places on earth, humans had managed to build lives for themselves.
“Professor, over there!” Jeremy’s voice punctured his thoughts. Following Jeremy’s finger, Mark saw in the distance a trail of dust and dirt, that almost certainly signified an incoming vehicle. He was about to get Jeremy to hide their find, when his phone started to ring.
“We’re on our way, not too far out now. Switch on your GPS and we’ll zero in.”
“Got it. Jeremy, switch on the GPS please. Linda, do you have us?”
“We have you. See you soon.”
“Jeremy, do you mind driving the jeep? I need to stay with the specimen.”
Jeremy’s eyes lit up. “Not a problem Professor!”
“Drive carefully Jeremy. It’s not a sports car.” Mark could almost hear his eyes rolling in response. “Are we all packed?”
It took a few more minutes of waiting, but the arrival of the bright red truck (that seemed to direct yet more sunlight straight at Mark) and a big, spacious white trailer was very welcome. The big rig seemed to snarl as the driver slowed down and stopped, and then one of nature’s greatest miracles stepped down from the cab.
Even in long khaki sorts and desert camo shirts, and despite the intense heat, and even after being rattled around in a truck for the past hour or two, Linda managed to look radiant. Not a lock of her wavy blonde hair was out of place, and she looked beautiful. No time for regrets Mark…
“Welcome to the dig site.” He said, smiling. Behind Linda came ‘Dave’, and a young local man who he didn’t know.
“Nice to see it, would be nicer if I knew what the hurry was. This is Hassan, he drove us here.” Linda gestured in the direction of him and Mark stepped forward, shaking his hand.
“Thank you for getting here on such short notice.”
“My pleasure. Your colleagues have been pleasant travelling companions. We had an enjoyable journey.” Linda shot Mark a look that suggested the exact opposite was true. Dave just looked impervious to anything.
“So Mark, let me see what the fuss is about.” Linda was direct as always.
“Here, follow me.” Together they strode past the jeep and toward the little area marked off with a small barrier. Mark waved a hand at it. “Take a look.”
Welcome back Germany! Last season F1 missed off this iconic location due to financial disputes – in 2016, the racing returns to one of its most historic venues – Hockenheim.
The track itself is much-changed from its earlier incarnations. At one point the track was over 4 miles long, stretching deep into the forest, and the circuit was fast. Nowadays it retains only part of that original design, and some would argue it has lost some of its charm and challenge as a result. Nevertheless, Hockenheim is a welcome return to the calendar.
Coming into this Grand Prix, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has snatched the lead of the world championship for the first time in 2016, having won last time out in Hungary. Nico Rosberg, heading into his home Grand Prix, will be determined to halt Hamilton’s momentum. Meanwhile Ferrari will be looking over their shoulders at the onrushing Red Bulls, who are now only one point behind in the constructor’s championship.
Confidence is going to be key at this stage of the season. Rosberg will be all-too aware of what happens if Hamilton gets any wind in his sails, and Hamilton needs to build a buffer before he takes an almost inevitable engine penalty later in the season. The last time this race was held, Rosberg won from pole, whilst Hamilton, starting from the pit lane following car trouble, managed to climb back to third.
For a little while I used to regale my readers with ‘site stats’. Little updates and the like. I stopped doing this ages ago, but I thought it might be interesting to revisit the idea, at least once in a while.
Some interesting tidbits: In 2015 my site had 4,222 views. So far in 2016, it’s had 3,964 views. 2016 is shaping up to beat 2015 quite easily.
Per country, the majority of views are from the UK, with 1,376 views, with the US close behind on 1,332 views. In third place, but some way back, is Australia, with 374 views.
Not counting search engines, Twitter is the top referrer to the site, contributing 445 views. The WordPress viewer is next on 127 views, and Facebook is third on 55 views.
The most viewed page (if we don’t count the home page) is ‘Why Meerkats?’ on 139 views, with my page on Ayrton Senna second on 108 views, and ‘The Scary Side of Radical Feminism’ sits third with 70 views.
“Linda, is that you?” Asked Mark.
“Yes, it’s me, I was about to call you, you should have checked in twenty minutes ago.”
“Sorry, I was a bit wrapped up in something.”
Mark heard Linda snort. “You always are.”
“Linda, I’ve found something, or at least, I think I’ve found something. I mean, it might be the biggest find…”
“Mark, cut to the chase will you?” Linda was, as always, direct. It seemed so strange for such a soft voice to carry such a hard edge.
“I can’t talk too much over this line, I need you to get a truck and get it here asap.”
“Just like that?”
“Yes, just like that. Use my account if you have to pay the locals. Pay them whatever is needed.”
There was a brief pause. “This is big isn’t it?”
“If it’s what I think it is, yes. Linda, don’t tell anyone else about this.”
“I won’t. Switch on your GPS when I call you next, and I’ll find you.”
“Got it. See you soon.” Mark cut off the call, wishing the satellite phone had a more secure connection, but he’d been as discrete as he could.
“Jeremy, start loading the gear in the jeep please.”
Linda switched off the phone and looked up at the stuttering ceiling fan. Then she looked at the man seated behind the plain grey plastic desk, who looked very bored. He scratched at his beard and occasionally adjust his khaki shirt, and every now and then looked at her with a certain… resentment? Linda wasn’t too sure. He’d spoken barely two words to her since she, Mark and Jeremy had arrived in Marzuq, and not for the first time, Linda was grateful to the hired help – an Englishwoman, alone in a small Libyan town, was potentially inviting trouble.
‘Dave’ stood nearby, a tall, muscular guy who wore clothes that were always a size too small, thus showing off how defined he was. At first Linda had thought him a preening Alpha Male type, but he’d shown no interest in returning the affections of women who’d flirted with him when they’d flown out from Heathrow, and instead had diligently served his purpose – security. The Glock 17 pistol holstered at his left hip served as a reminder of this. Deep blue eyes scanned the room – and anyone who entered the little ‘office’ that doubled as the base of operations – carefully.
“Dave, we need to head out, I need to get a truck and get to Mark and Jeremy.”
“Got it.” He replied with a clipped New York accent. He shot a glance to the man at the desk, who idly picked up the desk phone.
“You need a truck? When?” He looked at Dave when asking, no doubt a deliberate move to irk Linda, so Linda stood between them, forcing the man to look at her.
The man sighed lazily. “That won’t be cheap. $20,000.”
“Not a problem. If it’s fully fuelled and ready to go when it arrives, I’ll give you $30,000.”
The promise of extra money for little work made the man sit up. All of a sudden, he had more respect for the Western woman.
“I will make some calls and get it done.”
Day 27 is ‘best special effects’.
There have been a lot of FX in various genres that can best be described as mesmerising, albeit for different reasons. The work across the various Star Trek shows could be considered ground-breaking for their time, and the FX used on action shows like Spartacus deserves a mention for the way in which they managed to depict gruesome deaths without actually killing anyone!
In fact, Spartacus deserves a lot of credit here, for the show’s seemingly basic appearance defies deeper, more subtle work. A lot of effort has gone into some mightily difficult scenes, many of which are chaotic.
Likewise, Game of Thrones deserves a mention here. The huge landscapes, the dragons, massive fleets of ships and the Walkers are all incredible to look at, and represent how CGI can combine with good old-fashioned sets to create a living, breathing world.
I would actually go as far to say that Game of Thrones takes the crown today, for its incredibly detailed worlds.
Mark Bryant used the back of his hand to wipe the sweat from his brow and returned to using his brushes to carefully sweep the sand from the skeletal remains at his knees. The snake pit of nerves in his stomach seemed to churn faster as more of the bones were revealed and he had to compose himself, taking deliberately slow sips of water from his flask, lest he rush things and ruin the find of the century.
The desert sands were now in his shorts and in-between every one of his toes, and probably in places he hadn’t thought possible, but Mark didn’t care. Every new stroke of his brush revealed more of the revolutionary remains, and he would endure every discomfort thrown at him for this. Not even the intense Sahara sun could stop him, even if his previously white shirt was now a deep grey where sweat had soaked it.
“Can we excavate yet?” Asked his tired assistant. The younger man was holding up a shade, looking bored.
“No Jeremy. I don’t know how fragile the specimen is.” Mark replied, without looking up from his work. It was a struggle to keep the annoyance from his voice.
“Oh come on Professor, we can’t do all this just to leave it here!”
Mark closed his eyes, suppressed a sigh, then opened them again, looking up at the young man. It was a good thing Jeremy had his looks – one young woman had described him as a Gérard Butler/Tom Hiddleston hybrid – because his academic acumen needed shoring up.
“I don’t plan on leaving it here Jeremy. I plan on making sure it can moved safely, which means making sure we’ve unearthed all of it. If you’d spent more time at my lectures and less time as a fashion model, you’d know this.”
Jeremy harumphed but didn’t reply. Mark was grateful for the quiet; refocused, he continued to clear away and clean the skeleton.
Large cranium, big eye sockets and a small body. A missing link perhaps? The idea was an exciting one. To be the one who made such a discovery… Well, it would mean plenty of grant money at least, maybe a Nobel Prize…
The arms were next to unveil. The left arm was first, and it struck Mark has being quite long. He was wondering where the hand was, when he finally came across it.
Six fingers, weird… Mark stopped abruptly as the brush swept over something smooth and polished.
“What is that?” Asked Jeremy.
“I don’t know… Jeremy don’t!” Mark snapped. The young man had been reaching out for the item.
“It looks like a little metal ball.”
“I can see that Jeremy. What we most certainly shouldn’t do is touch it, not before we have some idea what it is.”
Jeremy looked suitably chastened and recoiled from the little metallic sphere. The sun glinted off it quite sharply, which yet another reason to consider it remarkable.
“Jeremy, fetch my camera please.”
After a few moments he’d returned with the camera, and Mark immediately started taking pictures, zooming in to get close ups of the thing in the skeleton’s hand. For good measure, he added to the photos he’d already taken of the skeleton itself. From the corner of his eye, he noticed Jeremy take a few snaps on his smartphone, but he didn’t mind – it wouldn’t hurt to have extra images.
“What do you think it is? A tool, like a rock that a chimp would use?”
Mark had already considered and disregarded that idea. His heart was racing, and he suddenly felt entirely out of his depth, but there was no point in alarming or exciting Jeremy.
“Maybe. Grab the phone would you please?”
Favourite sci-fi show!
Now we’re cooking. Where do I begin?!
There’s the venerable Doctor Who, with the mysterious figure of the Doctor and his adventures.
There’s Babylon 5, which delved into mythology in a clever way.
There’s Stargate SG1, one of my all-time favourites.
The winner though, is the Star Trek show that broke the rules – Deep Space Nine. What becomes the supposedly perfect society when its back is against the wall? How does a commander and his crew keep the peace and cling to their ideals when on a space station at the edge of the frontier, in a war-torn system, surrounded by others who don’t share those ideals? What is the professional and personal toll upon the crew in those circumstances?