Tag Archives: top 5

Star Trek: The Original Series – Top 5 Favorite Episodes

tos_classic_images_a_r01My love affair with the original Star Trek series began on the shag-carpeted floor of my grandparents’ house in the early 80’s, watching syndicated reruns with my uncles before family dinners. This being the 80’s, and me being an impressionable young grammar school nerd, I was acutely aware that Trek was dumb and old, and Star Wars was awesome. I also had an action figure-obsessed cousin who took every opportunity to convert the kitchen linoleum into the frozen surface of Hoth, all while ridiculing his dad’s scale model Enterprise.

fancy a drink with Lt. Noel and Dr. Van Gelder?
fancy a drink with Lt. Noel and Dr. Van Gelder?

The passage of time has allowed me to appreciate Star Wars for the wild west space fantasy that it is (and, let’s face it, two good movies), while more fully embracing Gene Roddenberry’s vision of our future and the timeless relevance of his ever-expanding Star Trek universe. It all started with this show, in 1966. And now, years later, I’m able to watch these episodes in all their technicolor glory and recall the wide-eyed, partially terrified impressions from my youth. The melodrama, mystery, and mini-skirts. The iconic sound effects and styrofoam soundstages. I’m all in. It’s impossible for anything of this sort to fully withstand the test of time, and many moments have since crossed over into camp, but the sum is certainly greater than its parts.

Having said that, of course, I’m going to pick five individual episodes that stand out. There are plenty of best-of and favorite episode lists out there, and narrowing down my own proved more difficult than I anticipated. I’m just glad I opted for The Original Series, because choosing just five episodes from the seven seasons of either The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine would probably be far more difficult. I’ll let my cohorts struggle with those choices (and then rudely comment on the ones they missed). The following episodes are listed in airdate order, not preference.

Andrea and Ruk operate the android making machine
Andrea and Ruk operate the android making machine

“What Are Little Girls Made Of?”
Season 1, Episode 7 (1966)

This early Trek episode provides examples of some of the classic conventions that we’re all familiar with: red shirts dying first, Kirk’s problem-solving fisticuffs, and discovering that space is full of beautiful women. It’s also a reminder that, as wonderful as this original cast is, sometimes the guest stars steal the show. Gene Roddenberry’s wife, Majel Barrett, is back as Nurse Chapel, a role she became more and more comfortable with as the seasons progressed (and the role I’d prefer to remember her for, as opposed to Lwaxanna Troi from Next Generation). The great Ted Cassidy (Lurch from Addams Family) plays the hulking Ruk. And the gorgeous Mini-Skirt Mobster Sherry Jackson, as the android Andrea, teaches us a thing or two about programming. In the middle of all this is a meditation on humanity’s quest for youthfulness, and the ever-pertinent question of Man or Computer. Continue reading Star Trek: The Original Series – Top 5 Favorite Episodes

Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary

star-trek-original-series-season-2This month, one of the world’s most beloved science fiction franchises is celebrating its 50th anniversary. On September 8th, 1966, NBC aired “The Man Trap” and audiences were introduced to Captain Kirk, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, and the rest of the crew on a five-year mission aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise. Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek was immediately popular, and, despite only three initial seasons, soon developed a cult following during the years of syndication, since evolving into a pillar of popular culture as well as the preeminent sci-fi saga of our era (sorry, Star Wars fans). In the five decades since Star Trek premiered, Roddenberry’s vision of our future has expanded into six television series (with a seventh forthcoming), thirteen feature films, and hundreds of novels, comic books, and games, as well as countless fan-driven celebrations ranging from conventions to stage plays and drag shows. There are plenty of ways to get in on the anniversary action. Here are five of the items on my to-do list.

flos_one_sheet_fm2_for-printingTake in a movie.  
J.J. Abrams and Justin Lin’s Star Trek: Beyond isn’t the only Trek movie in theaters this year (although it may be the only one worth springing for IMAX 3D). Adam Nimoy, son of Leonard Nimoy, started working with his father several years ago on a documentary that would explore the character for whom Leonard is universally recognized – the Enterprise’s first officer, Spock. When Leonard passed away last year, the film shifted focus slightly, and began to incorporate more biographical background on the man behind the pointy ears, including an incredible perspective on mid-century Hollywood. The resulting film, For the Love of Spock, is a touching tribute to Adam’s father, as well as a love letter from a planet of Trek fans to that most endearing of Roddenberry’s creations.
Continue reading Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary

Tunes of the Month – August

Yesterday I woke up for work before the sun did. Traffic guards are back on duty at every corner and the local roving Pokemon trainers seem to be going to bed at a reasonable hour. I’m two weeks removed from the last disappointing Hollywood “blockbuster” I’d care to spend money on, and I’ve attended my last outdoor festival of the year (jury’s still out on you, Treasure Island). Summer is officially over.

But not before we queue up one more quick hit of tunes. August’s Tunes of the Month features recent songs from five leading ladies that call to mind beach bonfires and late dawns, winsome smiles and ten-week crushes, and all the speaker crackle and headphone buzz that energize us every summer.

Ette – “Attack of the Glam Soul Cheerleaders (Pt. 1 & 2)”

Seems like nobody knows how to turn overcast skies and marine layer mist into sunshine and fun better than a Scottish pop band. Ette’s debut LP, Homemade Lemonade, is a welcome successor to similarly upbeat charmers by the likes of Teenage Fanclub and Camera Obscura. This track is the lead single from the album, and figures to get a lot of L-O-V-E on all my future summer playlists. Lead singer, songwriter, and keyboardist Carla Easton has a great interview on the Bandcamp blog, including an anecdote about discovering an inspiring collection of Cookies hits at a record shop in Edinburgh. Continue reading Tunes of the Month – August

30 Years of Dark Horse Comics

250px-Dark_Horse_Presents_01In 1986, at the vanguard of the black & white comics boom, Mike Richardson launched Dark Horse Presents #1 and Dark Horse Comics was born. Thirty years later, still publishing from Milwaukie, Oregon, Dark Horse has weathered the rise and fall of hundreds of publishing rivals to stake an impressive claim on comics shop real estate alongside “The Big Two,” as well as fellow upstart independent publisher Image Comics. This Saturday is Dark Horse Comics Day, and comic shops around the around the country will be joining in the celebration.

Although the company’s bread & butter has been its excellent licensed property-based series, such as Aliens, Buffy, and, until recently, Star Wars, there are a wealth of creator-owned gems in the DHC catalog. This weekend, when you’re out perusing the racks, look for some of our favorites.

concConcrete by Paul Chadwick
Chadwick’s Concrete made its debut in that very first Dark Horse Presents, and his short stories appeared in a number of that anthology’s issues over the next few years. These are the stories of -, a political speechwriter whose brain was transplanted into the body of a hulking stone-like giant. The genius of the comic, and the reason it became such an important breakthrough for the medium, is that every story follows a genuinely human response to this one bizarre character development. What would it really be like if you were suddenly seven-feet of near-indestructible alien construct. How would the MaureenConcworld, completely unaccustomed to things like billionaire weapons designers with flying exoskeletons or the unexpected effects of radioactive spiderbites, react? How do you live? How do you love?

Chadwick’s art is some of the most affecting, tender linework you’ll ever see. And the fragile beauty of his brushstroke underscores the guiding premise that we often take for granted our most human of actions and reactions. Speaking of fragility, if you need one collection to get started, check out Concrete, Vol. 3: Fragile Creature, which collects the mini series of the same name, as well as some of his earlier short stories.

Continue reading 30 Years of Dark Horse Comics

The Immortal Iron List of War Films

Cinema was made to tell war stories. Theater dominated the artistic cultural landscape for three millennia, and stories of war and strife were among the most popular. Think of Shakespeare, who has an entire category of works called his “Histories,” no surprise though that nearly all of them are about war. That’s what history is, a record of conflict. The Greeks, inventors of theater, fancied war plays as well. The confounding Lysistrata, Aristophanes’ play about a woman who decides to refuse her husband sex until he stops his warring ways, has somehow found relevance today with Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq, which applies the same premise to Chicago’s south side.

Theater though, could never fully capture the horrors of war, often choosing instead to focus on how war affects those who are left behind, or those who return from war broken and alone. The invention of cinema offered a chance to show war for what it really is, hell. D.W. Griffith was among the first to try this approach with his controversial masterpiece The Birth of a Nation. Though Griffith’s film suffers greatly from racist portrayals of black people, as well as idolizing the KKK, it does show the reality of war as it always deserved to be shown, as an ugly, dehumanizing nightmare.

The purpose of this list is not to posit five films as better than their war-themed counterparts, but rather to highlight films that show war honestly, and without undue glorification. Also this list is not necessarily even a list of great films; some are masterful, others simply average, but what each film says and shows about war are required viewing for discerning cinephiles.

Cold Mountain

Cold Mountain is a fine example of a decent film that contains several unmissable war scenes. The film follows a confederate soldier who abandons the war effort when victory seems all but lost. Of course this being Hollywood our hero owns no slaves, and fights only against what he sees as a conquering army approaching his quaint town of Cold Mountain. Anthony Minghella isn’t an average director though, and uses this romantic story to show some of the most horrific Civil War era scenes ever put on film. The “Turkey Shoot” scene shows how fickle war can be. Cannons bombard Southern troops, sending soldiers running for their lives. The Union Army soon gives chase, but crashes right into their own cannon-created hole, giving rightly pissed Confederate soldiers a chance to shoot them while they crush one another trying to climb the wall of mud. The scene is horrifying, and stands out for showing an honest portrayal of a conflict so often reduced to “good Union” bad “Confederates.” Continue reading The Immortal Iron List of War Films

Tunes of the Month – May

These last few months have been spent reminiscing over fifteen years of list-making, CD-stomping, and favorite music lobbying, while revisiting lots of Idle Time-approved bands in the process. As luck would have it, some of those artists have made recent returns to the studio, and our early working lists of favorite recordings has us partying like it’s 2004. May’s Tunes of the Month is a rousing Welcome Back, featuring new songs by veteran bands, some of whom have been riding the wave from cassette mixtaping to CD playlist-burning through online Mixcloud streaming. The more things change, and all that…

Speaking of Mixcloud, bookmark Idle Time’s new page, future home of all of these playlists, from the five-track Tunes of the Month mini-jams to the LP-length Playlist By Committee compilations.

The Thermals – “Hey You”

OB-GD17-001.pdfThe new Thermals’ LP, We Disappear, is their best since ’06’s The Body, The Blood, The Machine and one of my favorite releases in the young year. This single, taken from the album, is major standout, and it even got a sweet 7″ release for Record Store Day (the B-side is killer too). And, by the way, kee-rist. Y’all are one of the best punk bands of our generation. Put out some more seven-inches fer crying out loud. Continue reading Tunes of the Month – May

Steph Curry’s Historic Unanimity

Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors took home his second consecutive NBA Most Valuable Player award the other night, and, this time, the vote was unanimous. This was the first time in NBA history, as a matter of fact, that an MVP award has been awarded by unanimous vote. This season Steph has shattered his own ridiculous three-point record while leading his team to a 73-9 record, the best single-season mark in NBA history. The Warriors push ever closer to their second straight trip to the NBA Finals, and their humble lead-by-example point guard continues to mystify opponents with impossible shots and an unmatched desire to win. Hell yes, he’s the unanimous choice.

But, because this is sports, much like Harden’s ridiculous whining a year ago after finishing second to Curry, a celebrated occurrence like this unanimous decision allows former stars to say ridiculous shit in attempts at garnering some remember-me attention. Sorry, T-Mac. Open your eyes. If anyone doesn’t think Curry has deserved either of these two MVPs, he or she simply isn’t watching basketball.

No matter how deserving or appropriate, unanimous decisions tend to stir up controversy. Maybe it’s the Don’t Tell Me What To Think mentality that reacts against being told that everyone agrees on a particular decision. So, to properly ensconce Steph’s achievement in history, let’s take a look at five other great – albeit sometimes controversial – unanimous decisions.

On February 4, 1789, George Washington was elected the first President of the United States, and he did so by unanimous vote. All 69 Electors voted for the insanely popular war hero, and our country was treated to the start of a celebrated political career. Controversial? Not really. In fact, in the very next presidential election, Washington again won by unanimous vote, this time with all 132 electoral votes, despite pissing people off with a whiskey tax a year earlier. He stands as the only president to have ever been elected unanimously and (not going out on a limb here, especially as we shake our heads in horror at the clusterfuck that has become the 2016 election process), that is a distinction that will never be equaled.  Continue reading Steph Curry’s Historic Unanimity

Tunes of the Month – April

It’s no secret that Idle Time has a serious crush on Swedish music. And it was only a matter of time before our five-track Tunes of the Month feature propped up some new songs from that magical, shimmery land of pop perfection. I would seriously be fine blogging five new Scandinavian tunes every month, but there are other people round these parts who have a say, and, sure… other bands who can hold their own against the best Sweden has to offer. But, for now, Happy April, and more Swedes, please.

Listen to the whole eighteen-minute jam via Idle Time’s newly minted Mixcloud account, or stream the tunes individually below.

Continue reading Tunes of the Month – April

Game of Thrones Top 5: Back from the Dead

Season Six of Game of Thrones kicks off this weekend, which means, of course, it’ll be time to say farewell to a few more characters. And since some of the plotlines have either moved beyond or veered away from the source material, most of us have no idea who’s getting gutted, poisoned, or beheaded in the new episodes.

But regardless of which characters get killed off this season, it’s nice to know that the actors portraying said characters rarely have trouble finding new gigs and new ways to entertain us on television and the big screen. Here are five of my favorite GoT “rebirths,” so to speak – some from series and movies that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, and a couple from roles that I’m looking forward to.

pyp-10245. Pypar (Josef Altin)
Dies in Season Four, Episode Nine

Poor Pyp. Just when he thought he had a handle on the Night’s Watch job, he takes an arrow through the throat from that damn Wildling woman. This is a case of a character dying in the show before his time comes up in the books, which, unfortunately, means the character couldn’t have been that important to begin with. Hang in there, Sam.

The actor, Josef Altin, has made numerous television appearances both before and after Game of Thrones, but the best among those shows, by far, is BBC’s six-part crime drama River, starring Stellan Skarsgård. It’s a tightly woven detective mystery, but River also brilliantly explores loss, loneliness, and the conceit of our own memory. Altin plays a murder suspect who dies in the very first episode. He does however, make another appearance in the series (it’s been called “Wallander meets The Sixth Sense“). The show also features Owen Teale, best known as the not-dead-yet Ser Alliser Thorne, in a much more prominent role, and it’s available for streaming in the U.S. on Netflix.

Continue reading Game of Thrones Top 5: Back from the Dead

Tunes of the Month – March

When most folks think about DFA Records and 2016, there is really just one major news story that comes to mind. Hell, it might just be the music story of the year. And as excited as we all are to see James Murphy et al back in the studio and back on stage,  we can’t let that overshadow the fact that his record label is absolutely killing it this year. And it’s only March.

So for our Tunes of the Month, here are five recently released or preview tracks from the Brooklyn label that, incidentally, just like Idle Time, is celebrating its fifteenth anniversary this year.

Essaie Pas – “Le Port du Masque Est de Rigueur”

Essaie Pas is a French-Canadian dark disco duo comprised of Pierre Guerineau and the exquisite Marie Davidson. I pride myself on my passable linguistics skills, as well as the fact that I can converse in two different Romance languages. French, though? I can’t pronounce half the songs on their new album, Demain Est Une Autre Nuit, and I sure as hell can’t understand the lyrics. And I think that’s what makes it so damn alluring. I take my minimal dance music with a heavy dose of mystery, and this track is the spookiest.

Continue reading Tunes of the Month – March