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The Royal College of Arms has guidelines for how to impale one's coat of arms with one's spouse's within a same-sex marriage. Gay feudal lords rejoice!

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Review: Star Trek Beyond

So, the alternating pattern continues, as the abysmal “Into Darkness” is followed up by... hell, probably the best Trek film since Undiscovered Country? The reboot finally steps out of the shadow of the original series, and is all the better for it, finally feeling fresh and exciting. Hell, that's practically one of the movie's themes, letting go of the past, and I can only hope that carries through from now on.


Spoilers and specific comments below:
Read more...Collapse )

The title is still terrible and means nothing, though.

The Grand Safari

Uploaded the better pictures from Africa to imgur, if you're interested, difficult as it was to cut down several hundred elephant pictures to a representative handful.
 

- Swakopmund and Surroundings

Odd little town; still firmly German in character and language. Streets and buildings named after Bismark or Kaiser Wilhelm are side-to-side with those named after modern African leaders. Quaint central German architecture will sit on one side of a road, while on the other, desert sands stretch out to the horizon. The nearby town of Walvis Bay is similar, if slightly larger and with British influences taking the place of the German, and with a harbor full of seals, dolphins and pelicans.

The desert and mountains are spectacular; in some places very reminiscent of central Australia. Also home to the welwitschia plant, an unusual species described by Charles Darwin as the 'platypus of plants' due to its unique combination of traits rarely seen together.
 

- Etosha National Park

Dry, almost a desert in many places, the giant national park is nonetheless filled with animals, and staying here made for some of the most satisfying days of our holiday. We saw giant herds of elephants, zebras, kudu, springbok, impala and wildebeest, alongside jackals, warthogs, ostrich, and rhino. We were even lucky enough to spot a pair of lions at the waterhole, and a leopard one night!

We suspect because of the dry season and the current drought, animals were clustered around the handful of waterholes in greater numbers than usual. Whatever the reason, it was absolutely magical seeing a herd of at least thirty elephants, from elderly animals with worn tusks to tiny babies only a month or two old hiding beneath their mothers.
 

- Okavango Delta

Another highlight, even in the dry season. Accommodations were wonderful, with elephants and other animals visible from the balcony of our rooms! As water flows south-east from Angola, birds follow, so we saw great flocks of cranes and eagles feasting on the fish of the river, alongside graceful lechwe antelope.

They proved only a sideshow, though, compared to the real stars, the hippos! At least thirty rose from the water as we came around a bend in the river, surfacing, snorting, and submerging again, occasionally stopping to challenge us with a threatening 'yawn'. It is rather intimidating being eyed by several dozen half-submerged hippos, any one of which could easily overturn our boat if they grew aggressive.
 

- Chobe River and Zambezi River

Sadly, we only had a single night here before crossing the border and reaching Victoria Falls, but it was delightful! Like the Okavango, the Chobe River flows from Angola – where it's known as the Cuando – before flowing south-east through Namibia and Botswana. Much of its length is protected national parks, and the countries that control it have been surprisingly good about managing its water in a sustainable way.

We sailed down part of it at sunset, taking in the view and the diverse wildlife. Hippos, though not as numerious as at Okavango, alongside giraffes, cape buffalo, various antelope, any number of birds, a handful of baboons, and a great many basking crocodiles!


- Victoria Falls (Mosi-oa-Tunya)

Our final stop saw us cross the border into Zimbabwe, and the great falls more than lived up to their reputation! They were almost full when we visited, so mist and spray blocked much of our view, but really, that just added to the sense of size and power. We got drenched – a welcome relief after the arid stretches of Namibia and Botswana.

Like everywhere else we visited in Africa, the Falls had their fair share of wildlife. Baboons crossed our path at the Falls themselves, while near our hotel, we were treated to the sight of whole families of vervet monkeys and banded mongoose. Finally, on the hotel lawn itself, we ran into a small group of warthogs, who seem to have found a niche as lawnmowers.

 

All in all, an excellent holiday, and I recommend everywhere we went. If I went again, probably instead of doing the overland tour from the coast, I'd fly direct to Windhoek and then travel direct to Etosha and stay there for a few days, then return, fly over to Maun and from there go to the Okavango Delta and spend as much time there as I could afford. Both were the absolute highlights of the trip, and I heartily recommend them to anyone looking to visit southern Africa.

If you do want the full overland experience, though, we booked with Nomad travel, and they provided an excellent service. Accommodation and meals were much higher quality than I expected, and while the pace was hectic, I never felt like we were being rushed from one attraction to another – the driver was always willing to stop and give us as much time as we wanted if we spotted something interesting.

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet

I'd like to thank whoever it was at Qantas who decided to add Alien to their list of in-flight movies. Because, really, when stuck on a plane for 10+ hours, nothing's more relaxing than claustrophobic horror...

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Boldly Going...

Huh. My flight to Namibia is flight number 1701.

I've got a good feeling about this holiday. :)

Crackpot Star Wars Theory #328: R2's Origin

Let's talk 'droids'. Short for 'android', literally 'in the form of a man'. And plenty of droids are roughly humanoid – C3PO, 4LOM, IG-88, battle droids, those pit droids in the Phantom Menace that somehow got their own puzzle game...

But there's also 'droids' that aren't humanoid at all, most notably R2D2.

Now you might just say 'droid' is just a generic term for any robot and doesn't have to refer to literal androids... but it got me thinking. After all, there's plenty of non-humanoid aliens in Star Wars too, and presumably they'd build androids in their own image...

 

Max Rebo. Remember him? The blue elephant guy from Jabba's Palace? Did you know he wasn't meant to have arms? The limbs he plays the keyboard with were meant to be his legs, and that was all he had. The original prop designs make this a lot clearer.

Short, only one set of limbs, blue... Sound like anyone we know?

I'm proposing then, that Max Rebo's people designed R2D2, and he is a true 'droid', built in the form of an Ortolan!

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Where's My Pith Helmet?

Guess who just booked a holiday to southern Africa?!

Guess who just nearly went mad trying to find connecting flights to southern Africa?!

(Seriously, a two hour flight from Johannesburg to Namibia should not include two other stops and a six hour layover...)

Fun at Customs

You know, it's not that I want to spend more time at airport checkpoints, but I do think it defeats the point of searching my bag if you're just going to take my word for it regarding what's in the boxes in there.

Nope, nothing suspicious here, just a bunch of opaque containers. Next!”

A New Universe of Obsessive Detail!

While checking the names of various characters from TFA, I was pleased to see that while the old Expanded Universe is gone, its tradition of leaving no detail unexplained lives on, as spin-off materials are already providing background characters with more backstory than they probably need.

My favorite is learning that Captain Phasma's armor is salvaged from the hull of one of the Naboo cruisers from the Phantom Menace that had once been owned by Palpatine! Nothing says pulp space adventure like knowing the history and manufacturing process of a specific suit of storm-trooper armor!

I fully expect to see Tales from Maz's Cantina on shelves soon.

Force Awakens: Full Review and Thoughts

So, general thoughts? I'm not exactly disapointed, but I can't help but be reminded of the quote about someone's work being both good and original, but the parts that are good are not original and the original parts are not good...

Alright, maybe that's a bit unfair, but the movie really struggles when it's not following A New Hope beat for beat.

The Good, the Not-So-Good, and the Baffling (Contains Spoilers)Collapse )

Force Awakens Initial Reaction

Look, I told myself I was going to keep an open mind, I said I didn't care about the old EU going away, I wasn't going to be one of those fans who just complains about how things aren't the way they used to be, but some things... somethings are just beyond the pale.

[Spoilers follow]Collapse )

One Less Thing to Trouble Me

Alright, so this has literally bugged me for years. In the TNG episode, “Best of Both Worlds”, Picard has this line, the night before the battle, wondering if the last Roman emperor had realised the empire was going to fall ‘when he saw the Visigoths come over the seventh hill’.

And for years, it’s annoyed me that the line references Romulus Augustus, because while he was technically the last Roman Emperor, Rome had long since fallen, he was half-German himself, reigned for less than a year and was little more than a puppet for his father. And normally I’d accept historical errors in TV shows as errors on the part of the character (Captain Sheridan, I’m looking at you…), PICARD SHOULD AND WOULD KNOW BETTER!

And then the other day, I watched the episode again. Picard doesn’t say Romulus Augustus, he says Honorius. Flavius Honorius, emperor during the sack of Rome of 410. Whose name doesn’t sound anything like Romulus Augustus. I don’t know how the hell I misheard it.

I am sorry I ever doubted you, Jean-Luc.

(Though, technically, Honorius would have been in Ravenna when the Visigoths came over the seventh hill, but I’ll allow Picard the poetic license…)

A Very Belated Happy Birthday!

Appologies, sunnyskywalker - I wished you a happy birthday on your birthday, but I only just noticed my dreamwidth account isn't crossposting to livejournal automatically any more, so it never showed up here!

Hope you had a great day!

RIP Christopher Lee

Damn. I mean, he led a more than full life, but I just figured he'd keep going at least a little longer... he was still preparing for another film. Die with your boots on indeed.

I do find it a little darkly amusing that his family kept the news confidential for four days though - they say it was to privately inform his extended family and friends, but honestly, I can't blame them for waiting three days... just in case.

Stuck in a Quagmire

Continuing my overseas adventures around the Pacific rim, I thought it'd be fun to visit Vietnam. Unfortunatly, it seems all the flights I can find are either extremly expensive, involve twelve hours or more layover at Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, or both.

Is there some major holiday in the region in late June I'm not aware of that would explain this, or am I just horribly unlucky with air fares?

You Always Get What You Asked For

Babylon 5 headcanon:

Catagia was probably the most popular Emperor in recent Centauri history. Oh, the nobility hated him, and there were always dark rumours coming out of the palace – but for the average Centauri, there wasn’t anything remarkable about that. The nobles were always feuding and killing each other, after all. To most Centauri, the important thing was that the Narn had been brought to heel, and the Republic, so long in decline, was once more a great power in the galaxy. But it was more than that – Cartagia felt like a real man of the people compared to his predecessors. Wearing his hair short enraged the aristocracy but endeared him to the people, and they loved his eccentricities and the way he ignored the rituals and traditions of the old guard.

Needless to say, given his popularity, the suspicious circumstances of his death fuelled speculation. Nobody believed the official story that he’d died of a heart attack, and rumours abounded on the streets of Centauri Prime over who was really responsible for his death. The Narn, of course, were popular targets. Old aristocrats jealous of his success were often blamed. A few conspiracy-minded Centauri liked to place the blame on an obscure Minbari cult known as the “Anla-Shok”.

In time, a new theory began to gain strength - that Catagia had never died in the first place, that death had been faked to legitimise a palace coup while he was off-world. In the dark days that followed the coronation of Emperor Mollari II, the idea that Catagia could return and undo the humiliations the Centauri had suffered proved popular among the common Centauri. New rumours spread; that Catagia was living in hiding, disguised as a human on Earth, that he was gathering support among the League worlds to retake the throne, that he had made it to Vorlon space and was preparing to return with an armada that would unite the galaxy under his rule.

For a long time the Centauri government ignored these rumours as peasant superstitions. But when a rebellion broke out on the colony world of Davos, sparked by whispers that Catagia was about to make his move, the Centaurum realised something needed to be done to put the story to rest. It was a junior member of the body that ended up suggesting the solution: Why not revive the old tradition of deifying deceased emperors? An official Temple of Catagia would provide a safe, controlled way for the common people to show their affection for the dead emperor, and it would make spreading rumours of his survival not just treasonous but blasphemy against the God Catagia himself!

According to several members of the royal court, the only time they ever saw Emperor Mollari overcome with laughter during his reign was when he was presented with the legislation to ratify it – though some admit they were not sure if it was laughter or tears that overwhelmed him.

While far more popular than his predecessor, many Centauri were somewhat offended that Emperor Cotto seemed to go out of his way to avoid entering temples of Catagia during his reign…

The Ultimate Crossover

Was thinking about Star Trek 5 – because somebody has to, right? And it occurred to me – why is it a terrible Star Trek movie? Because it’s actually a Star Wars movie!

Think about it. Who’s the villain? Well, he’s a renegade from the group of powerful psychics who repress their emotions and avoid strong attachments. He’s been cast out because he delved into ancient forbidden philosophies, and decided to follow a different path, one all about gaining strength through embracing pain and revelling in emotions. Using this power, he gains power over the minds of the weak-willed and forms an army to carry out his monomaniacal obsession.

The plot draws everyone inexorably to the desert planet with the city full of scum and villainy that is somehow both a total backwater and also the most important location in the galaxy. Everything’s sort of worn out looking and broken down – even the good guy’s ship is a malfunctioning, unreliable hunk of junk.

There’s a lot of weird mystical babble going on as our heroes fly across the galaxy. The villain tries to tempt the good guy psychic into joining him, but fails, even after a contrived family relationship is revealed. Eventually, however, the villain sees the light and sacrifices himself to save the heroes from the real evil, who at the time was busy shooting lightning at everyone.

The movie ends with our heroes celebrating as night falls over a Californian national park, and a childish song wraps up the adventure!
"And then, the moment arrives—the moment when the movie spreads its wings and reveals its truest self: Noah gives Claire a gift. A first edition of the Iliad."
- In Jennifer Lopez's The Boy Next Door, The Trashiest Moment is a Real Classic, slate.com
 

A first edition. Of the Illiad. It's... pfft... heh... BWAHAHAHA!

Is it signed by Homer?

You know, I have to say I'm pretty impressed by the new Star Wars trailer. I'd thought with the demise the old expanded universe, source of such wonders as the lightsaber-whip, the lightsaber-pike, the extendible lightsaber, and that guy with lightsabers in his knees, we'd never again see such absurd attempts to create 'cool' new lightsabers.

And then Disney/Abrams comes up with an all new lightsaber varient that's just as absurd as anything Bantam or Del Ray could have created! Well done! A lightsaber crossguard! It both looks ridiculous and is completly and utterly impractical when thought about for more than five seconds!

Yeah, I've got a good feeling about these movies.

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