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I received word today of the passing of longtime Stargate Special Effects Supervisor Wray Douglas.  It’s shocking and sad when someone so young leaves us, but doubly so when it’s someone as gentle and even-keeled as Wray.  Despite the occasional onset chaos or the rigorous demands of his job, he was always the calm in the eye of the storm – precise, professional, and infallibly pleasant.  I remember finding it ironic that, even though he specialized in pyrotechnic displays and visual spectacle, Wray was actually a very calm, quiet and fairly shy guy. Whenever I’d see him on set, I’d have to engage him in conversation first but, once we started talking about what he had planned for a certain scene or shot, his eyes would positively light up, that big smile of his would appear, and he’d happily chat until he was called away – usually to blow something up.  He loved what he did and it showed in his work and his attitude.   If you needed something from him, he would deliver in a big, big way, consistently surpassing expectations.  He was, without a doubt, the very best at what he did.

One of my favorite Wray stories came via former Stargate Co-Executive Producer Damian Kindler who was on set one day to oversee production on one of his episodes.  That particular afternoon called for a fairly intricate series of explosions – again, Wray’s specialty.  The director yelled “Action!”, the scene played out, and the SPFX team triggered the charges.  The series of explosions were nothing short of astounding and left everyone in attendance absolutely stunned.  And, as cast and crew stared, dumbfounded, Damian glanced over and spotted Wray and his long-time partner in onscreen mayhem, SPFX Master Scott Stofer, standing off by themselves, giggling in delight.

And that’s what I’ll always remember most about Wray Douglas: that almost childlike delight and palpable love he had for his craft.

The last time I saw Wray was back in September of 2010.  He was as relaxed and happy as ever, looking forward to a new, more relaxed, less explosive charge-laden chapter in his life.  And in that day’s blog entry, I’d written:

“Today, we said goodbye to Special Efffects Wiz Wray Douglas who rides off into the sunset after a dozen+ years spent sparking, flaming, dropping, ratcheting, and generally blowing all manner of shit up here on Stargate. You’ll be missed, buddy.”

And he will.  Big time.

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It NEVER gets any easier.  Inevitably, the jubilation of convening with your fellow writers and hashing out a terrific story is extinguished by the prospect of having to actually write the damn script.  You sit down, type FADE IN and then…What?  Oh, you know what the scene is going to be (You just broke it the other week) and you can imagine the great version (Not the actual words, mind you, but the reactions of people who read it or watch the finished product.  Best Scene Ever!), but actually realizing it to its fullest potential…now that’s where things get sticky.

I once worked with a writer who would force out a first pass, no matter how half-assed, just to get something down before returning to it for countless rewrites, revisions that – in theory – would develop and improve on what he’d written. Sure. And I once worked with another writer who’d always tell me: “Shit don’t take a good buff.”  In other words, you can polish that half-assed pass all you want but, in the end, all you’ll end up with is a polished half-assed pass.  Which is why, when I sit down to write a script, those first few lines have to be tight.  I’ll work through a variety of false starts – a dozen, often more – before finding the right opening exchange, then develop the scene from that promising beginning.  I’ll pace (or drive or shower or eat or feign interest in the conversations going on around me) and run the scene in my head, over and over, building the beats, the dialogue, the set-ups, the pay-offs until, satisfied, I’ll finally sit down and actually, physically, start writing.  And, once I have it all down, I’ll re-read and reconsider and revise and rewrite and, once I’m satisfied, I’ll move on to the next scene and repeat the process.  Then, the next morning, I’ll start from the top: re-reading, reconsidering, revising and rewriting – all the while reflecting, with a certain wistfulness, on how nice it had been to sit in company and create something.

So, today I completed the Tease of episode #2 and I’m at the point where I’ve gone over it so many times I can almost recite it by heart.  I pushed ahead and wrote the first two scenes of Act I, hitting and surpassing my “5 pages a day” target.  It’s interesting how the characters seem to take on a life of their own on the page.  It’s early and, as much as I struggle to maintain quality equality, I already do have my favorites.  I think the key, as I progress through this first draft, is to find those unique instances of humor in each of the crew members because humor, I’ve always felt, goes such a long way toward humanizing characters, making them a little vulnerable and, thus, so much easier for the viewers at home to connect with them.  I think back to my time on Stargate and characters like Jack O’Neill, Vala Mal Doran, Rodney McKay, Eli Wallace – even Teal’c, Ronon Dex, General Hank Landry, Todd the Wraith, and Richard Woolsey.  All funny in their own distinct way.  It’s just a matter of finding, and drawing out, those distinct instances in each.

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What do you think?  What humorous instances endeared you to a particular Stargate character?

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While we’re on the subject…

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SUPER DIMENSIONAL FORCE MACROSS

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ANDROMEDA ASCENDANT

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STARBUG

firefly-serenity-e1387241089451

SERENITY

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THE BATTLESTAR GALACTICA

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SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO

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VORLON CRUISER

Moya

MOYA

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STAR DESTROYER

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ASGARD SHIPS

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THE BEBOP

500px-Ancient-Aurora-Class-battleship1

ANCIENT AURORA CLASS BATTLESHIP

captain_harlock_feature

THE ARCADIA

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THE USS SULACO

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THE MILLENNIUM FALCON

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THE DESTINY

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USS ENTERPRISE NCC-1701

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THE NOSTROMO

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KLINGON BIRD OF PREY

valdore-screen

ROMULAN WARBIRD

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Wait.  What trilogy?  Oh, THIS trilogy: http://www.gateworld.net/news/2014/05/stargates-return-mgm-announces-new-movie-trilogy/

Yep, I’d heard rumblings – and they’ve finally been confirmed.  20 years after the original movie, Devlin and Emmerich will be rebooting Stargate for the big screen.

I continue to be amazed by the franchise’s staying power and continuing evolution, from a Devlin-Emmerich feature film that grossed 200 million to a television juggernaut that, under the stewardship of Brad Wright and Robert Cooper, helped establish SyFy, built MGM’s television division, and generated close to a billion dollars in revenue for the studio, and now back to the big screen.

Last year, I wrote an entry about the future of Stargate, https://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/september-12-2013-whither-stargate/, outlining my take on the various possible scenarios.

My conclusion?  At the end of the day, it all comes down to one thing: Pleasing the fans – new fans AND established fans alike.  [P.S. Wouldn't a brief cameo by Samantha Carter or Rodney McKay or Dr. Nicholas Rush be truly awesome?].

Everything (not that old) is new again!  I look forward to seeing the gate in action once more.  Very exciting!

I notice fandom response has been mixed.  What do you all think?

Well, thanks to everyone who took the time to take yesterday’s lateral thinking quiz.  You all did very well.  In fact, much better than I did.  Check out all the answers, and more brainteasing questions, here: http://www.kent.ac.uk/careers/sk/lateral.htm

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So, I finished re-reading A Feast For Crows today and have A Dance with Dragons sitting on my night table.  I’ve been holding off on reading it because I want the story fresh(ish) in my mind for when I eventually sit down to read the sixth book in the series, The Winds of Winter.  Of course, there’s no telling when that sixth instalment will come out.  Given the fact that the fifth book was released six years after the fourth (coincidentally, mere months after the premiere of the HBO series), I may want to wait just a tad longer.  Alternately, I could opt for a more leisurely reading pace.  At one page a day, it should take me a little under three years to complete A Dance with Dragons – which sounds about right.  By my calculations, The Winds of Winter should hit bookshelves by the summer of 2018.  And the seventh and final book, A Dream of Spring, not longer after in the spring of 2027.

Hey, check out what Akemi made for the dogs today…

1Yep.  Sushi.  For them.  And for us…

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Completing our Stargate: Atlantis re-watch with…Enemy at the Gate!

1I loved the last ten minutes of this episode.  The previous thirty…a little bumpy.  As usual, my opinion doesn’t really matter.  Let’s find out what Akemi thought…

Surprisingly (or not) she felt pretty much the same way.  ZPM’s, super hive, travel between galaxies, wormhole drive…yadayadayada.  I caught her surreptitiously checking out Angry Birds on her cell phone at one point.  However, the episode did draw her attention long enough for her to offer the following running commentary…

Das!  She’s joined the fan club.  On Todd: “He’s become so lovable!”  And: “he looks less pale!  More healthy!”  Yep, he’s clearly been taking care of himself.  Although: “He need to wash his hair.”

When Todd is imprisoned and given a change of clothes: “Why new outfit?  Looks like cosplay.”

On the other hand, when Teyla appears in her leather ensemble: “Finally, a nice outfit for Teyla!  Remember that rainbow top?”  The latter a reference to the final scene in 38 Minutes.

When Ronon is killed: “Oh my gosh!”

And then when he is revived: “Nobody ever die.”  Technically, he DID!

At various points throughout this episode’s spectacular visual effects sequences: “Beautiful!”

Overall however: “I felt a little too long.  I prefer SGU’s ending.  This is a happier ending though.  Yeah, I guess so.  Too good to be true.”

And on the series in general: “Even though I like SGA characters too, I like SGU more.  But I like Todd even though when he smile he’s creepy, all teeth and gums.  And he always pokerface.”

And: “It’s funny the fact that it’s other planets and everyone speaks English, but not Chinese or Japanese.”

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An update to a story I brought you last week concerning that french bulldog stolen from a local Vancouver tattoo shop – and it was all caught on camera.  A happy ending as the dog was finally reunited with its rightful owner:

http://www.petsearcherscanada.com/found-and-safe-stolen-french-bulldog-in-vancouver-do-you-recognize-this-woman2-updated/

Apparently the theft was the result of an ownership dispute over the dog (although, according to the police, the victim of the theft was the legal owner).  The fact that Chloe the bulldog was found “roaming a residential neighbourhood” speaks volumes about who had the dog’s best interests at heart.

In other news, someone brought this to my attention: http://www.policymic.com/articles/88221/it-s-almost-impossible-to-choose-the-most-racist-moment-of-avril-lavigne-s-new-video

I was prepared to be outraged.  I sat down alongside Akemi (who is Japanese by the way) and hit play.  After watching the video, Akemi asked: “Why they say this is racist?”.  Hmmm.  Good question.  It’s a terrible song.  A terrible video even. But racist?  Judge for yourself:

http://jezebel.com/avril-lavignes-new-video-is-a-monstrosity-1566182297

It looks like a subdued takeoff on almost every KPop and Jpop music video I’ve seen.  Kyary Pamyu Pamyu anyone?  http://youtu.be/UoK8DaJRDaM

I had a half dozen of my Japanese friends take a look at the video.  Their responses ranged from amusement to delight to genuine bewilderment at the fact that it was deemed racist.

My favorite response comment to the policymic article comes from a Japanese poster who writes: “Hmm… A white man, who obviously never seen a single J-Pop video, deciding what is racist to a Japanese woman. Seems legit. It would seem a Harvard graduate would know to do a little bit of research before writing about something he knows nothing about.”

Uh oh.  Time to invest in a hard hat.  http://phys.org/news/2014-04-astronauts-reveal-sobering-asteroid-impacts.html

File this one under “Yeah, don’t even bother”.  “Dr. Jensen says that a trip to the gym for 30 minutes or an hour may not be enough to combat all the time spent sitting.”

http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2014/04/22/is-sitting-for-long-hours-at-work-the-new-smoking/

IO9 is asking: “What’s your favorite comedy episode of a dramatic t.v. show?” – http://io9.com/whats-your-favorite-comedy-episode-of-a-dramatic-tv-sho-1566582826/all.  Both 200 and Window of Opportunity get some love in the comments section.  Your thoughts?

Continuing our Stargate: Atlantis re-watch with…Vegas!

1Well, this just goes to show: you never know.  Akemi loved Robert Cooper’s previous script to screen epics, Malice and Time, so I figured this one would be a slam dunk.  Alas, no.  She was completely bewildered throughout and, despite my many attempts to explain the concept of alternate realities to her, she never got on board.

After the CSI-like tease: “Why am I watching detective show?”

After Ivon Bartok’s cameo at the dice table: “Why Ivon’s scene so small?”

She wasn’t a fan of the feature wraith (“Not so cute.”) but she was quite happy to see Todd again (“I like Todd the wraith.  Like seeing old friend again.”).

She did appreciate the AU versions of Rodney and Radek: “McKay looked so nice. So did Zelenka!”

Cons: “I didn’t like the music.  I didn’t like the fact I couldn’t follow.  I didn’t like to fast cut and choppy.”

Overall: “I guess I like more geeky stuff than action slash country-cowboy t.v. show.”

And finally: “Rob’s episodes always so confusing.  No consideration for second language people.”  Yeah!  What’s up with that, Rob?!

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Today’s inane conversation with my Japanese girlfriend:

Zombies In Cars Getting Brains (c/o Eloise J. Knapp)

Zombies In Cars Getting Brains (c/o Eloise J. Knapp)

As we pulled into the underground parkade…

Akemi: That looks like zombie car (indicating an old, tarp-covered sedan).

Joe: What’s a zombie car?

Akemi: A car that zombie hide in so it can eat people. (Obviously).

Joe: What do you mean?  They drive around offering lifts to people and then when someone gets in the car with them, they eat them?

Akemi: Of course not.  Zombie’s don’t drive.  They walk ten kilometers every day. That’s why so thin.  Try to be healthy I guess.

Joe: Also, their eating habits.  They’re on the paleo diet.

Akemi: Like Ivon.  Just fresh meat.

Joe: No processed foods.

Akemi: What about sugar?

Joe: No sugar either.

Akemi: That’s tough.

That’s the price of looking so good.

Bubba is practically back to his old self.  Akemi lent him her hair band to ensure he doesn’t scratch at his stitches.  Very stylish.  And he seems to like it!

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Continuing our Stargate: Atlantis re-watchwith…Identity!

1Ah, now this is one of those instances where past Stargate-watching experience paid off.  The second Neeva looks in the mirror and sees Keller’s reflection staring back at her, Akemi shouted: “The communications stones!”.  And then she was onboard for the rest of the fast-paced episode.

When Neeva comes across the framed picture of Jennifer and her father: “What the f*ck!  Carl Binder is Jewel’s dad!”

When Ronon Shoots Neeva, saving McKay in the puddle jumper: “Heh heh.”  Much excitement here.

On the gorgeous establisher of the city at night: “Wow.  Beautiful.”

As the magistrate delivers Keller’s death sentence: “Why accent?”  And, later, when he is overseeing her execution: “Why British people so evil?”

After Neeva outruns the Atlantis team in the forest and Ronon loses her: “But he is runner!  Not as good as Mike Dopud I guess.”

Although she didn’t like Keller’s outfit in Brainstorm, she had high praise for the one she wore in this outfit (actually Neeva’s): “I don’t know if it’s efficient, but very nice.  I like a lot.”

During the McKay and Keller moment at episode’s end: “Love.  I feel like I’m watching Disney movie!” ???

Today’s blog entry is dedicated to birthday girl Airelle.

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