Battle-sequel Galacti-cash

I feel like a bit of a fraud because I haven’t seen the original Battlestar Galactica. Who knows how I’d feel about the 2004 remake if I’d watched the first iteration before checking out the new one. About the remake though: what a show — perhaps one of my top five in terms of favourites.

It was perfect. I’ve read that some people thought the plot got a little convoluted in the latter half of the show, and that the ending was a little lame and didn’t tie up a few loose ends. I can understand those arguments, and I won’t attempt to counter them. I absolutely love the show, and that’s good enough for me.

I wasn’t pleased when I found out there were efforts underway to reboot the Battlestar Galactica franchise. Good lord, could you imagine the outcry if someone tried to reboot Firefly with different actors? Of course, reboots are sometimes called for. Star Wars, in my opinion, was handled well, and The Force Awakens reignited passion among the older generations and gained legions of new fans. Star Trek was in dire need of a kick in the rear. The trailer for Star Trek Beyond makes it look like the director wanted to suck the soul out of the franchise and create an action film with space lasers and space explosions, but this new set of movies has got people interested in Trek again, and that’s fantastic.

Did people like Star Trek: Enterprise? I’m not sure, since I know very few people (if any) who love the franchise like I do. I loved the show, but it easily could have been a forgettable swan song for the franchise — it wasn’t something that attracted very many new fans (if any) to Trek.

So, a new Battlestar Galactica movie? The 2004 show was perfect, or as close as can be. You don’t mess with that sort of greatness. At best, I suppose, you create something very good and create new life for the franchise. At worst, you end up with Airplane II: The Sequel or the American version of Oldboy, neither of which I’ve seen — the former because the original Airplane is arguably the greatest comedy ever written, the latter because I’m not a masochist.

You know what, though? I’ll still end up watching any new entries in the Battlestar Galactica universe because I’m a sucker.

Star Wars: A New Trope

Can a movie review truly be free of spoilers?

Even if the plot isn’t spoiled, then the experience of watching is. If you’re told by multiple people that a movie is great, you’ll see it with different eyes.

So, um, spoiler alert.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens features a protagonist, Rey, who lives a tough life on a barren planet. She is a scavenger who has no friends or family. A chance reunion with a droid gets the ball rolling. By the way, she’s Force-sensitive. Sort of like Luke Skywalker, who’s from a desert planet, whose parents are nowhere to be found and whose journey begins after he meets a couple droids. By the way, he’s Force-sensitive.

The main antagonist is Kylo Ren, who wears impractical-looking black armour, not unlike Darth Vader’s armour, though the latter’s armour kept him alive. Like all baddies in Star Wars, Kylo Ren is driven by rage and a desire to rule the galaxy. He doesn’t seem totally bad – perhaps he’ll toss Supreme Leader Snoke, his boss, down a reactor shaft in Episode IX, then die in the arms of his as-yet-unnamed chosen-one son. Snoke, played by go-to-mocap-baddie Andy Serkis, is sort of like Palpatine, minus the charisma, powers, evilness, motivation, wrinkles and hair.

We’ve also got a few returning characters from the original trilogy – Leia, Han, Chewie, R2, C3PO and Luke. Why develop new characters when everybody loves the old ones?

In terms of new characters, there’s the aforementioned Rey, who is pretty, street smart and innocent, and shows the ability to master the Jedi mind trick in seconds without any training. There’s the aforementioned Kylo Ren, an emo villain who’s not as cool as Vader and is terrible with a lightsaber. There’s Finn, a Stormtrooper who develops a conscience and isn’t too bad with a lightsaber, at least compared with the villain. There’s Finn’s pal Poe, a rebel pilot with no personality. There’s also BB-8, a droid everybody loves because it’s cute and rolls.

In terms of plot, the good guys want to blow up a giant space ball that has planet-busting potential. Of course, there’s a shield or something, so they need to blow up a key installation so the death sphere will also blow up. Sort of like in Episode VI when the rebels blew some stuff up on Endor so they could later blow up that movie’s giant space ball.

Wait, what’s the Millennium Falcon doing in Episode VII? Well, it was stolen from a guy who stole it from a guy who stole it from a guy, then it was put into the movie for no other purpose than to make fans squeal with glee.

OK, so why was Leia in the movie? She was the rebel general, though she didn’t do much. She was also nobody’s favourite character from the original trilogy. I suppose she had to be there, since her brother and old flame both made appearances.

Cowboy Han Solo came back for one last ride into the sunset. After he got predictably impaled after stupidly confronting his boy Kylo Ren and trying to talk the dark side out of him, Chewie got mad. On a scale from one to 10, he was definitely a seven. He got a new co-pilot for the Falcon in Rey, so that pretty much made up for losing his best friend of several decades. No Han Solo? No problem – the Millennium Falcon rides again!

C3PO walked around and had a line or two, I think. I can’t remember, since he served no purpose.

Luke’s purpose was to turn around in dramatic fashion, much like the dramatic prairie dog on YouTube.

R2D2 was in hibernation mode for most of the movie due to sadness or something. BB-8 was safeguarding a flash drive with a map supposedly containing the super secret whereabouts of Luke, who ran away after messing something up in Episode VI.V. Why was there a map? Well how else would anyone have found him? So, after doing nothing for most of the movie, R2D2 wakes up and just happens to have the missing piece of the map, revealing Luke’s whereabouts. The D in its name must stand for deus ex machina.

I’m not trying to pew-pew the movie; I like that there is more Star Wars. I also liked the explosions, space battles and lightsaber fights.

Therefore, I give this movie the lowest score I can give a major Star Wars film: 7/10.

Forget hockey – baseball’s on

The Toronto Maple Leafs lost 1-0 in an exhibition game to the Montreal Canadiens yesterday.

In other Toronto sports news, the Blue Jays celebrated clinching their first playoff berth since 1993 with a 10-8 victory over the visiting Tampa Bay Rays and champagne showers.

Hockey is and always will be my favourite sport. I will never cheer for a professional sports team based outside of Toronto. As a Toronto sports fan, I don’t know what it feels like to root for a championship team, or even a team that is consistently competitive. I’m sorry, Argonauts, that was not the championship we were looking for.

Success drives interest – the 2013-14 Raptors were proof of that. Their first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets brought the city closer together than the Leafs’ 2013 first-round series against the Boston Bruins did. Sure, Toronto is and always will be a hockey town, but I’d take #WeTheNorth over the #SeaofBlue any day. Though Kyle Lowry missing the game-winning shot was heartbreaking, his reaction even more so, the city was proud. Their first-round defeat at the hands of the Washington Wizards was a setback, but the team earned a lot of love the year previous. It was romantic, in more ways than one.

Baseball is perhaps the romantic sport. You can stash the film Moneyball in the evidence locker. The Blue Jays were essentially playing .500 baseball until the All-Star break, but what has transpired since then has been magical.

All sorts of storylines have contributed to this special season. Talk of ’92 and ’93, and perhaps 2015 topping them. All sorts of records shattered, personal and franchise. Josh Donaldson’s MVP bid. Three players with at least 30 home runs and more than 100 RBIs. LaTroy Hawkins, the oldest player in the majors, and Roberta Osuna, the youngest. The league’s most potent offence by far, an incredible defence, a solid rotation anchored by a legitimate ace, and a vastly improved bullpen with one of the top rookies in the AL as the closer.

And as we approach October, we get set for a few things in Toronto: playoff baseball, a chance for the Raptors to prove 2013-14 wasn’t a fluke, and yet another kick at the can for a Leafs team that has an all-star front office but is again destined for the league basement.

I know what I’ll be watching.

Things I’m scared of because of the X-Files

  1.  Light
    Is that a government helicopter surveilling me? A top-secret aircraft on a test flight? Aliens looking to harvest some humans?
    The light inside that room is awfully bright. What insidious experiments are taking place within?
  2. The absence of light
    Honestly, who isn’t afraid of the dark, at least to some degree? Where better to hide than in the dark? Well, in plain sight, I suppose.
  3. People
    You can’t trust someone you don’t know. And once you get to know them, you’ll probably find reasons not to trust them.
  4. The absence of people
    Empty diners have already creeped me out, but after watching the first few seasons, I have decided to stop taking strolls through abandoned warehouses and power plants.
  5. Holes
    Holes in ceilings, holes in the ground, holes in walls. Any number of critters or mutants could be lurking within, just waiting to sink their teeth into my yummy-tasting liver.
  6. Cigarettes and men who smoke them
    He was here, wasn’t he? WASN’T HE?
  7. Cars
    You see that car? Do you know who’s in that car? Exactly.
  8. Doctors
    The tools at their disposal, the things they’re capable of, how is everyone not afraid of these people?
  9. Children
    Nobody suspects children because they’re so little, young and allegedly innocent. That’s what allows them to act with impunity.
  10. Old people
    They have nothing to live for except to see their work completed. They’ve lived a long time, and have seen things. If what they know were to become public, the world would be thrown into chaos.

Working on New Year’s Eve

In just over 66 hours, it’ll be 2015. In the new year, I resolve to have the best 2015 ever.

The end of December also roughly marks my eighth month in Saint John and at Brunswick News. I remember my first day. I remember how little I knew in those first few months. It sounds trite, but I can’t believe how long I’ve been here.

Eight-hour shifts melt away when your mind is being kept busy, and weeks melt away when you work at night and sleep during much of the day.

I worked on Christmas Day, which would have been terrible had I missed a family dinner or a get-together with friends. Thankfully, most of my family and friends are well over 1,000 kilometres away, so I didn’t have anyone outside of work to spend the holidays with. Wait…

I will also be working New Year’s Eve. Should be interesting, since one of our deadlines is quarter past midnight. Happy new year! Confetti falls. Copy editors wipe confetti off screens so they can get back to scrambling to finish proofing a newspaper that needs to be delivered to thousands of homes in a few hours.

In reality, I suspect we’ll all momentarily look up from our computers, mutter a pathetic “Happy new year” to anyone in earshot, and return to our screens. We are a very dedicated bunch. And there’s no one in the province with whom I’d rather spend New Year’s Eve.

Just your average Sunday night in Saint John

Funny how the universe works.

I was at work Sunday night and decided to stay an extra half-hour or so to get some extra stuff done. I could’ve left earlier or edited an extra story, but I didn’t. This was sometime past 1 in the morning.

Along my usual route home, I saw a police cruiser slowly approaching a house. As I got closer, a cop emerged. A bit farther off, I saw a car run a red, which I found momentarily amusing. Turns out it was another cruiser arriving with backup. Once I got to where he was headed, I saw the two officers arresting two men.

Just what I needed to end an otherwise work-filled day. Not that my job’s boring, because it never is. But I love when I witness or experience things that get into the paper the next day. It’s always a bonus when I get to edit the story myself.

Not counting sporting events, that’s happened to me twice.

The first time, I saw an officer tackle a suspect in the middle of the road. This was in the middle of the day, a weekday, with dozens of witnesses, including the ones in the cars that the suspect was inconsiderate enough to block while getting arrested.

That got into the paper.

The second time was for something considerably less exciting – the first annual Irving summer student/worker appreciation day. I was an intern at the time, so I was invited. It was something like a career fair for the young people in the organization, to let them know there are numerous career options within.

The event was covered in the business section the next day.

It’s always neat reading about an event you witnessed first-hand. I only hope more people get arrested while I’m walking by. For my amusement, these people should try to evade the cops so the police are forced to tackle them in dramatic fashion.

Fun on election day

New Brunswick’s provincial election was Monday, Sept. 22. I was looking forward to working that day and it didn’t disappoint.

I know and care little about politics, which I suppose is odd for someone who majored in political science. I also studied journalism (“What?! Shouldn’t you find all news interesting?”) of the sports variety (“Oh.”).

However, I knew the newsroom would be lively, and it certainly was; the anticipation and excitement was palpable. Nobody seemed to know what was going on, deadlines were missed and Elections New Brunswick had some trouble with addition, but boy was it fun.

I’ve never been a professional journalist, but I know that the moments which best allow them to shine, which are the most exhilarating of their careers, are usually big things like elections, major sporting events or large-scale tragedies.

The killing of three RCMP officers in Moncton earlier this year is an example of that. Nobody wants anything like that to happen, but when they do, journalists need to be at the top of their game to tell the stories that need to be told, and properly, and so they usually are.

As a copy editor, I get to live vicariously through the journalists who work under the Brunswick News umbrella. I don’t know how crazy it was on election day or night for them, and I’ve never been in a situation like that myself, but I personally can’t wait to do it again.

Of course, there won’t be another election for quite a while, so I’ll just hope for something big (but positive, or at least not negative) to happen.

Death and perspective

I thought it had only been one month since my last post. Well, the great thing about not having any readers is that there’s nobody to disappoint.

Today, Robin Williams reportedly committed suicide. He was 63.

One of the most beloved actors of this generation, he’ll likely be remembered as a brilliant actor and a comedic genius.

It was only now that I realized how important Williams was to my childhood. Thinking back to all the movies I remember watching as a kid (say, high school and before), many of them were Robin Williams classics. Some will endure as favourites, while others were critical and commercial failures. Nonetheless, I remember them fondly.

Hook, Jumanji, Mrs. Doubtfire,  Aladdin, Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting and Bicentennial Man are movies that had an impact on me.

Scrolling through the Internet, messages have been pouring in about how sad everyone is about Williams’ passing and how great he was in that film. It’s easy to forget he was a guy suffering from depression who worked as an actor for a living.

Famous people like actors or professional athletes act differently partly because of their wealth and the need to keep up appearances to the media and public, but when death or a brush with death occurs, suddenly they’re just another person. A person who got into an accident, or a person who suffered from mental illness, or someone who had a drug or alcohol problem.

It’s easy to idolize or shit on celebrities. Everyone wonders what it would be like to be famous and rich, but I wonder how many people think about what it’s like to be called horrible things on Twitter, or to be deified by mindless lunatics who don’t consider you a normal human and therefore won’t treat you as such when they meet you.

So what’s my point in all this? I don’t know.

I think I’ll go watch a movie now.

10 things I’ve learned about New Brunswick

I’ve been living in Saint John for almost two months now, and though I pretty much haven’t explored the city at all, I have learned a few things about this province.

  • Literally everybody will hold the door open for you, even if you’re a few steps back.
  • People are friendlier, including fast food servers, cashiers at the supermarket, convenience store/kiosk employees and taxi drivers – quite different from Toronto.
  • Gallant is pronounced guh-LANT
  • Melanson is pronounced muh-LAHN-sin
  • Aunt really is pronounced AHNT and scallops really is SCAH-lips
  • Koreans seem to only work at Korean restaurants, Chinese people  at Chinese restaurants, Middle Eastern people at Middle Eastern restaurants, etc. If they don’t work at a restaurant, they’re probably a student.
  • Cars will stop to let you pass, even if you’re jaywalking.
  • NHL fans here cheer for the Leafs, Habs or Bruins.
  • There isn’t much World Cup buzz because everyone’s umpteenth generation Canadian.
  • Living in the most multicultural city in the world your whole life really skews your perception of what the rest of the world is like (i.e. significantly less multicultural)

I haven’t had any bad experiences yet, and I could really get used to living and working here. I do miss certain things about the big city, though. Like movie theatres. Seriously, I think there are only two theatres in Saint John.

Effects of the Moncton shootings

In sports j-school, we did an exercise simulating a New York newsroom environment minutes before the first plane hit on 9/11. That’s right, I paid attention in class. It was funny at the time (the simulation, not 9/11) because of the screaming and how generally clueless we all were.

One of the main things I took away from the exercise was how catastrophes can be good for journalism. As a human being, you’re scared, saddened and shocked by the chaos and suffering. But when disaster strikes, you’re a journalist first – there’s time for feelings latter.

When news first broke that three Moncton RCMP officers were shot and killed Wednesday, there was a bit of worry in the air, but more curiosity, at least to me. There were few details at the time. I’m never on Twitter at work, so I’m pretty out of the loop until I get home.

As updates trickled in, it became clear this was huge news. For the journalists in the province, and especially with the Times & Transcript in Moncton, I’m guessing emotions had to be quickly put aside because suddenly, a massive story with countless angles to pursue was unfolding. Probably every story originally on A1 for all three dailies in the province had to be moved deeper in the paper to make way for the breaking story.

This is pure speculation, but I’m betting a few journalists will look back on their work during this tragic saga and see not only some of the best work of their careers so far, but one of the most thrilling experiences of their journalistic lives. I don’t mean to imply there was any entertainment value. But suddenly, every last reporter is called in. Called in for possibly the most important work day of their lives yet. The situation is ongoing and nobody quite knows the whole picture. You’re on the front lines, tasked with piecing together clues, digging up stories and facts, knowing that this story has made international headlines and that the world is not only watching, but reading.

The emotions hit you later. The loss of three officers, the impact on their families and communities. Perhaps, like Viktor Pivovarov, who captured that stunningly clear photograph of the killer for the Times, you later realize how dangerous the whole thing was.

But during it all, I’m guessing there’s not much time for any of that because you’ve got a job to do.

Apparently, sports departments at newspapers are sometimes called the toy department because their news doesn’t “matter” like “regular” news. As someone with great interest in sports and sport, I don’t really have a problem with that label. The Los Angeles Kings just won 5-4 in double OT against the New York Rangers in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, but in the big picture, it doesn’t matter too much.

In my extremely young career as a journalist, I’ve been to a few sporting events. I noticed that when you’re in the press box, say, at the Rogers Centre for a Blue Jays game, you instantly stop feeling any attachment to the game. Whether the Jays – who I try to follow regularly – win or lose, I’m there to do a job. The Jays could hit a walkoff grand slam and the only thing I’d feel would be irritation because that means scrapping a good chunk of my story.

There was also that time I was in Ottawa for the women’s world hockey championship. Canada against the U.S., of course, in the final. If I was at home on the couch, I would’ve been devastated at the outcome. As I observed the Canadian loss from up high, I didn’t feel anything except nervousness for the interviews I would soon have to do. I didn’t care if Canada lost.

Compared to the Moncton shootings, baseball games and hockey championships are unimportant, of course. During those sporting events, I felt completely detached to the outcomes, even if my favourite team was playing. I’m wondering if I would feel that same detachment if I was a Times & Transcript reporter covering the shootings, or a New York Times reporter during 9/11. Would I feel anything aside from a strong sense of duty? Would it be wrong if I felt nothing at all until after everything returned to some semblance of normalcy?

I sort of hope I never get to find out.