All posts by William Stone

About William Stone

"No human being has the right -- under ANY circumstances -- to initiate force against another human being, nor to threaten or delegate its initiation."

Dimension X: The Martian Chronicles

Tales From SYL Ranch – 2017-06-04

Tales From SYL Ranch
Sunday, May 28, 20:00-22:00 UTC

This week, we’re taking a break from the Old Fan’s Commentary.  Don’t worry, it will return.  We’ve already got several episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series and The Animated Series recorded.  We’re holding back Superman for its 40th Anniversary. Close Encounters Of the Third Kind will be along soon.

Question Mark
?

There’s also a Commentary for ▥▥▥▥ ▥▥▥▥ ▥▥▥▥ ▥▥▥▥▥ ▥▥ ▥▥▥▥ ▥▥▥▥ ▥▥▥ ▥▥▥▥▥ coming up.  We’ve no idea when.  We’re just making it up as we go along.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy returns after a two-week hiatus.  It’s S02E03 of Zaphod Beeblebrox‘s psychotic episode.

Otherwise, we’re going full Old-Time Radio with a Martian twist.

Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury

We’ve also gone a with decidedly Ray Bradbury emphasis.  Two shows are adaptations of The Martian Chronicles.  The third is an experimental 1973 re-mounting of X-Minus One.

The tracklist for the week:

Setting the Stage
Times Square At Night, 1950
Times Square At Night, 1950

The earliest episode, “The Martian Chronicles,” originally aired on August 18, 1950.

In 1950, nothing we’ve come to take for granted existed.  There was no entertainment of the kind we’ve come to expect.  There was radio, movies … and that was all.

Audio recordings were unknown because the only reel-to-reel tape recorders were physically huge and prohibitively expensive.

The only computers in existence were the size of warehouses.  The phone in your pocket can do more, and billions of times faster.

Typical 1950 TV signal.
Typical 1950 TV signal.

Television was a nascent industry, and entirely black-and-white.  Some homes had TVs, but never more than one.  They produced a grainy, low-definition, analog, broadcast-quality picture.  The signal could be destroyed by all manner of nearby electromagnetic activity.  Running the vacuum cleaner would obliterate the picture.  Nearby storms would do the same.  If you were too close or too far from a station’s transmitter, the picture would become filled with static.

Arvin Table Radio, Model_480-TFM
Arvin Table Radio, Model_480-TFM

Radio was king, however it suffered from the same problems as television.  Sound quality would be unacceptable by modern standards.

As with modern television, networks provided shows to local affiliates.  These shows were exactly the same as today’s TV.  There were news programs, daytime soap-operas, dramas, situation comedies, cop shows, detective shows, and science fiction.  They had similar stories, told through sound rather than video.

There were advertisers as there are today.  In two of Sunday’s episodes, the advertisements are included.  You’ll immediately recognize one sponsor that’s still in business.

Of science fiction, there were two undisputed kings:  Dimension X and X-Minus One.

Dimension X aired 50 weekly episodes from April 8, 1950 to September 29, 1951.  X-Minus One aired 126 weekly episodes from April 22, 1955 to January 9, 1958.

X-Minus One Advertisement
X-Minus One Advertisement

X-Minus One was essentially a re-mounting of Dimension X with many of the same production personnel.  One can almost speak of both series in the same breath.

Both featured half-hour adaptations of the best science fiction short-stories then published, from the premiere SF magazines of the time:  Astounding and later Galaxy magazines.

Famous names include Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, H. Beam Piper, and a host of others.  I strongly encourage you to listen to both series.  All episodes are in the public domain and are easily-accessible on the Internet Archive.

Most stories are of excellent quality.  As nearly all originate with the best authors of the day, stories hold up well and can easily be translated to modern times.

Audio quality varies.  Some episodes only survive because someone with a wire recorder captured from the radio speaker itself.  On Tales From SYL Ranch, we try and bring you episodes that survive from the studio masters.

Mars Of 1950
Mars in 1950
Mars in 1950

Until telescopes improved and probes sent to Mars, some of the best scientists of the day thought that Mars might be habitable and/or inhabited.  Until the mid-1960s, many serious science fiction stories about a habitable Mars were written.

It’s little-known, but Gene Roddenberry‘s 1965 pitch for Star Trek limited the Enterprise‘s explorations to “planets approximating Earth-Mars conditions, life and social orders.”

Arguably the the most famous Mars story is Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles.  To attempt to describe it is impossible.  We strongly recommend that you read it.

While the locale of Mars has long-since been rendered problematic, the story holds up well.  If one simply substitutes an extra-Solar Earth-like planet for Mars, the plot and story could be written today.

Chesley Bonestell's Mars Rocketpad
Chesley Bonestell’s Mars Rocketpad

Some projections of technology are also now problematic.  It’s worth noting that Bradbury predicted the Smart Home, though in a more esoteric fashion than we see today.  As always, one must remember that writers were projecting forward from 1950s technology.  They could never have dreamt of the technological wonderland of 2017.

Aside from that, one simply has to use one’s imagination a bit more.  Good Old-Time Radio shows let the listener follow the action via sound effects.  Mediocre and bad ones (with the exception of Dragnet) narrated.

The only narration Sunday is in “The Martian Chronicles.”  That’s forgivable given the impossible task of reducing multiple short-stories and novellas to a half-hour show.

A family gathered around their radio.
A family gathered around their radio.

So sit back and transport yourself to another era where radio was king.  Imagine sitting in the living room, the family crowded around the radio, listening in earnest to The Martian Chronicles.

Update, Sat Jun 3 17:58:46 UTC 2017:

As a consequence of the following videos, I’ve added a libertarian rant.  It cost me three of the regular tracks, as time was very tight.

Listen for Gun Control Kills.

Forbidden Planet Opening Title

Tales From SYL Ranch – 2017-05-28

Tales From SYL Ranch
Sunday, May 28, 20:00-22:00 UTC

The Old Fan’s Commentary On

Forbidden Planet

Forbidden Planet is a somewhat different film in terms of a commentary.  It’s arguably the best science fiction film of the 1950s.

Sturgeon's Law: 90% of Science Fiction is crap.
Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of Science Fiction is crap.

The 1950s was in some ways similar to the 1980s.  Following Star Wars, science fiction exploded in films.  However, Sturgeon’s Law held, and 90% of it was crap.  Most were consigned to the ashbins of VHS.  Some have been re-released on DVD and Bluray for a niche market that likes terrible movies.

The 1950s were similar.  The Atomic Age brought with it the idea there would soon be a massive breakthrough in power.  They assumed that some day soon, your home or even your car would be nuclear-powered.  This triggered an avalanche of science fiction films.

Sturgeon's Law: 90% of Science Fiction is crap.
Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of Science Fiction is crap.

Sturgeon’s Law was as true then as today.  90% of it was crap.  A lot of them haven’t survived at all.  The ones that did seem incredibly primitive by today’s standards.

Forbidden Planet was one of only two or three stand-out films of the 1950s.  This was in no small measure because it was produced by MGM.

At the time, MGM was among the premiere film companies in the world.  It didn’t lend its name to half-baked projects.  If MGM made a musical, it was a brilliant musical.  If MGM made a western, it was a brilliant western.

Leo, the MGM Lion
Leo, the MGM Lion

MGM would never produce Plan 9 From Outer Space, nor giant insects, nor 50-foot-tall women.  If MGM was going to lend its name to science fiction, it was going to be brilliant science fiction.

The result is Forbidden Planet.  It was glorious.  Cultural conceits and technical limitations aside, its ideas and plot still hold up today.

Monsters from the Id.
Monsters from the Id.

The special effects, while somewhat dated today, were landmark at the time.  Even today, some hold up.

The science behind the technology of the film was extremely well thought-out.  It looks somewhat dated today but even now it’s very well thought-out.   Where it needed technobabble and Hand-Wavium, it was reasoned technobabble and Hand-Wavium.

As always, to set the stage:

This time you have to back farther than me.  I first saw Forbidden Planet at the Rigel IV convention in Lincoln, Nebraska.  The convention marked my entrance into Star Trek fandom.  Until that time, I’d been an individual fan with a bare understanding that fandom existed somewhere.  After Rigel V, I was in it for life.

However, I was born in 1965.  Forbidden Planet was released in 1956, nine years before.

It was a different world, and one I can only imagine.  My only exposure to American culture of the time were my parents’ occasional stories, fictional movies and TV shows, and my own observations on the changes in culture since my birth.

As near as I can determine, this was the world in 1956:

There was nothing that we think of as entertainment.  There was television, radio, phonograph records, and personal pastimes (reading, involvement in local sports or organizations, etc).

The commercialization of television was just getting into full swing.  Imagine the Internet in the late 1990s.  No one but the fabulously wealthy could afford more than one TV.  The picture was grainy, low-definition, analog broadcast.  The vacuum cleaner could obliterate the picture, not to mention storms.

We actually had to do this. I'm not kidding.
We actually had to do this. I’m not kidding.

To receive TV signals, you needed an antenna (think of it as a low-tech satellite dish).  By the time I was born, these antennas dotted the roof of every home and apartment complex.  In 1956, one often used a much smaller, less effective interior portable antenna.

The picture still sucked.

There were only three networks (four if you were charitable and counted PBS — which no one did).  They didn’t run 24-hour programming.  It was typically only 6am – midnight.

TV was black-and-white.  Commercialization of color wouldn’t come for another ten years.

There was one phone, a land-line to the house. Sound quality anywhere but in your local town or city was terrible.  International calls were spotty at best — not to mention fantastically expensive.

Nothing we take for granted existed.  Not even air conditioning had reached the average home.  Indeed, air conditioning was a major selling points of movie theaters of the day.

(Ask my kids about the time we went to Blonde Ambition just to get away from the oppressive heat of July in the Upper Great Plains.)

From the Sears Catalog, Spring/Summer 1958
From the Sears Catalog, Spring/Summer 1958

Fashions were radically different for both men and women.  Men wore suits and hats.  Women wore dresses and rather complicated undergarments.  Jeans were becoming acceptable on pre-adult males, but no one over the age of 18 would be found at a job without his suit and tie.

It was certainly a more prudish culture than we think of in 2017.  Sex outside of marriage was actively discouraged even by other women.  A skirt with a hemline above the knees marked a woman as a slut.

Men were expected to be bread-winners.  If one relied on one’s wife for any source of income, a man was shamed by other men.  Taking hand-outs from the government, or charity of any kind, was seen as a character flaw.  Such a man was a bum, pure and simple.

Religion played a much larger role in American life.  Where some 30% of Americans now identify as atheists, the number in 1956 was so low as to be statistically insignificant.

That’s the most I can tell you about the era.  I wasn’t there.  All I can rely on is history.  To my knowledge, that’s what things were like in 1956.

If you’d like to follow along with the commentary, a DVD-quality stream will be available during the live show.  After that, you’re on your own.

The URL for the stream is:

Mark Hamill was just in a car accident and they were covering up recent cosmetic surgery. It's not his fault he looks like a mannequin.

Tales From SYL Ranch – 2017-05-21

Episode III:
The Old Fan’s Commentary On
The Star Wars Holiday Special
The Star Wars Holiday Special
Bill hopes that the Holiday Special is like the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal.

My brain hurts.  Just watching this was a chore.  I’ve now seen it five times in my life, which was five too many.  I can’t even introduce it properly because it’s terrible in ways that are beyond description.

Carrie Fisher was out of her mind on blow.
Carrie Fisher was out of her mind on blow.

I wouldn’t watch it in advance, despite the fact that I’ll be streaming it from a YouTube version that’s been available for years.  In this case, I strongly advise that you pay attention to my commentary rather than the Holiday Special.

It’s really bad.  It’s not so bad it’s good, it’s just bad.

Mark Hamill was recovering from a car accident that severely injured his face.
Mark Hamill was recovering from a car accident that severely injured his face.

Vogon poetry may be the third worst in the universe, but The Star Wars Holiday Special is the worst thing in all of time and space.

It was bad when I first saw it in 1978.  It only aired once and never again.  It has never been released on any form of home video or official streaming.  It survives because by 1978, people were starting to buy VCRs.

The Holiday Special is so bad that George Lucas has disowned it, saying:

“If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it.”

I have no idea.
I have no idea.

Fortunately (or not) for posterity, the Internet means that it will never die.

This commentary is about my feelings when seeing this bizarre monstrosity for the first time.  It’s the only kind of commentary I can make.

I’ll not be playing The Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy this week.  The Holiday Special is about 1:40.  I was faced with the choice of either leaving in H2G2 and stretching this madness into two weeks; or save your sanity by bumping H2G2.

I chose to save your sanity.  H2G2 will be back next week.

Next Week: The Old Fan's Commentary On Forbidden Planet
Next Week: The Old Fan’s Commentary On Forbidden Planet

Also next week:  the Old Fan’s Commentary On Forbidden Planet.

To set the stage:

It’s 1978.  Everything we’ve come to take for granted didn’t exist.  There was no streaming, no Blurays, no DVDs, no CDs, no personal computers of note, no Internet, and even the telephone was only a land-line to your house.  VCRs were beginning to hit the market.  Cassette tapes had become the medium of choice for personal music.

Star Wars had hit a year before and changed everything.  There were no summer blockbusters before Star Wars.  There were no gigantic merchandising enterprises before Star Wars.  There was no science fiction of note except very, very infrequently before Star Wars.

Star Wars changed everything.

Art Carney gives Chewbacca's father, Itchy, some porn. Really.
Art Carney gives Chewbacca’s father, Itchy, some porn.  Really.

When the Special aired around US Thanksgiving, Lucas was at work on the sequel to Star Wars.  I don’t recall if he’d named it at that time.  I’d been actively in fandom for at least a year, having joined Star Base Andromeda by then.

While we thought it odd that there would be a holiday-themed special in Star Wars, it could work.  The notion of a Wookiee Life Day — if fleshed-out — could be a parallel to Christmas.

What we got was incomprehensible.  There were really only two good things about it:

  • The entire main cast was in it.  According to Harrison Ford, it was stipulated in their contracts and they had no legal way out.
  • The cartoon introducing Boba Fett.

Beyond that, it’s a bizarre attempt to fit a variety show into Star Wars.  To call this an epic fail would do a disservice to all other fails.  It has, among other things:

  • Carrie Fisher is obviously out of her mind on blow.
  • Mark Hamill is recovering from a car accident that severely injured his face.  They put a ton of makeup and a wig on him to (unsuccessfully) hide it.  He looks like a cardboard cutout.
  • Chewie’s wife is named Mala — but his son is named Lumpy and his father Itchie.
  • More than half an hour of un-subtitled Wookiee noises.
  • Harvey Korman in multiple roles.  The worst is some guy in the Mos Eisley Cantina who pours booze into a hole at the top of his head.
  • Art Carney as some kind of rebel sympathizer who’s around primarily to translate the Wookiees.  That, and to give Itchy some VR porn.
  • Bea Arthur as a singing bartender at the Mos Eisley Cantina.
  • Jefferson Starship
  • The Wazzan Troupe
Harvey Corman knows.
Harvey Korman knows.

Really.  It’s all in there — and more.  It’s rather indescribable, hence the commentary.

We’ll be streaming the video via YouTube, so feel free to follow along.  Again, I advise not watching in advance, nor listening to anything other than my commentary.  It’s quite possible to go mad attempting to figure this out.

If you want to follow along, the video is right here; or you can see it at:

Tales From SYL Ranch – 2017-05-14

Tales From SYL Ranch, Sunday May 14, 2017

Episode II:
The Old Fan’s Commentary On Star Wars

The Old Fan's Commentary On Star Wars
The Old Fan’s Commentary On Star Wars

Just in time for the film’s 40th anniversary, Tales From SYL Ranch presents Episode II of the Old Fan’s Commentary On Star Wars.

Tales From SYL Ranch can be heard live Sundays on //aNONradio.net// 20:00-22:00 UTC. The station is listed on iTunes, TuneIn, and other streaming services.

Archives are available at //aNONradio.net// and the Internet Archive.

As usual, I’ll have The Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy and topical music by Maestro John Williams sprinkled throughout.

Star Wars original title crawl.
Star Wars original title crawl.

As with last week’s Episode I, I’m streaming the film if you wish to follow along. I wouldn’t ordinarily do that, but I’m commenting on The Despecialized Edition.

The Despecialized Edition is a fan restoration that lovingly returns the film to nearly the theatrical version. Every shot has been color-corrected, as LucasFilm has never gotten the color right. All scenes added after 1977 have been removed. The original Fox logo and fanfare, original LucasFilm logo, and the original title crawl have been restored.

Han shot first.

Han shot first.
Han shot first.

My HD copy is as close as you can come to a pristine copy of the film reels on opening night.

I’ll not be streaming in HD, nor will the stream be available except during the live show. If you want it (and I highly recommend it) ,find it it the way I did. Bittorrent is your friend.

Tales From SYL Ranch can be heard live Sundays on //aNONradio.net// 20:00-22:00 UTC. The station is listed on iTunes, TuneIn, and other streaming services.

As always, to set the stage:

It’s 1977. Everything we’ve come to take for granted didn’t exist. There was no streaming, no MP3s, no Internet, no personal computers of note. Powerful computers were the size of a warehouse and were only owned by governments, universities, and very large businesses.

Even phones were radically different. There was only one kind: the land-line to your house.

I was 12 years old — the precise target demographic of Star Wars.

I first saw Star Wars a few days after it opened. One has to recall that this was before Star Wars was a phenomenon. Where today one might spend all day in line for an opening, no one knew anything about Star Wars.

I don’t remember much about that first screening because it was totally eclipsed by my second.

The first screening was in an average-sized theater in Omaha, Nebraska. Theaters at that time were generally converted from live theaters and seated several hundred people at least.

The theater was jam-packed. By then, word-of-mouth had spread and people were coming back for additional showings.

One must remember that at that time, there was no home video nor streaming. Films were released for a limited run, and then never again. If you wanted to see a movie, you saw it in a theater or not at all. This partly accounts for Star Wars‘ success. It was so much fun that people flocked back to the theaters rather than miss seeing it a second, third, fourth, or fifth time.

I don’t know how many times I’ve watched Star Wars in the last forty years. It may well number in the thousands. I’ve watched it multiple times every year.

Star Wars is my favorite film of all time. Despite being a Trekkie almost from birth, Star Wars is a film that I can watch my entire life and never get bored.

My first screening of the film completely astonished me. This was totally brand new. There had certainly been space-opera adventures before, but nothing like this. The special effects were simply groundbreaking. The story is probably the perfect Hero’s Journey and never gets old.

As I say, I remember little from the first screening other than being completely blown away. I watched it with my father and best friend and remember walking out of the theater saying to my friend:

“Wow. That was way better than Logan’s Run.”

Keep in mind that pre-Star Wars, there was very little science fiction, neither in films nor television. Star Wars changed everything. After that, there has been a non-stop torrent of science fiction. Logan’s Run was the most recent SF film of note, also with groundbreaking special effects.

They couldn’t hold a candle to Star Wars.

However, my first screening became irrelevant after my second. I watched it at the Indian Hills Theater in Omaha, Nebraska. Sadly, it was demolished in 2001. It’s now a hospital parking lot.

In 1977, it was still in its heyday — and it had a CinemaScope screen.

A CinemaScope theater.
A CinemaScope theater.

You’re probably unfamiliar with CinemaScope. It was a very short-lived widescreen format which had a huge curved screen. The effect was the create a more immersive experience by attempting to cover the viewer’s periphery.

Boy, did it ever.

The interior auditorium of the Indian Hills was circular in shape and seated 810 patrons, with 662 on the main floor and 148 on the balcony.

When I arrived for my second showing, the house was already packed. There was absolutely nowhere to sit except dead-center of the front row.

In modern theaters, one avoids such seats due to severe parallax distortion. The Indian Hills, however, had a significant distance between the front row and the screen.

I saw in the front row, dead center …

It was an experience I’ll never forget. The curved screen made it completely fill my field of view, including my periphery.

The experience was barely describable — which is part of why I’m making the commentary. I actually became nauseous during the Trench Run.

To follow along with the amazing adventure of a 12-year-old watching Star Wars in CinemaScope, go to:

Be aware that the link for Star Wars: The Despecialized Edition will only be available during the live show.

Listen in and follow along to hear what it was like for a 12-year-old fan to see Star Wars for the second time — in CinemaScope!

The Old Fan's Commentary On Star Wars

Tales From SYL Ranch – 2017-05-07

 Tales From SYL Ranch, Sunday May 7, 2017

Episode I:
The Old Fan’s Commentary On Star Wars

The Old Fan's Commentary On Star Wars
The Old Fan’s Commentary On Star Wars

May the 4th be with you!

Just in time for the film’s 40th anniversary, Tales From SYL Ranch presents Episode I of the Old Fan’s Commentary On Star Wars.

Tales From SYL Ranch can be heard live Sundays on //aNONradio.net// 20:00-22:00 UTC.  The station is listed on iTunes, TuneIn, and other streaming services.

Archives are available at //aNONradio.net// and the Internet Archive.

Internet Archive.

As usual, I’ll have The Hitchiker’s Guide To the Galaxy and topical music by Maestro John Williams sprinkled throughout.

This time around, I made a very conscious effort to speak in my General American accent.  Additionally, in the immortal words of my Junior High drama teacher, I have “dropped my jaw and enunciated.”

Hopefully this will make for a better listening experience.

Star Wars original title crawl.I’m also streaming the film if you wish to follow along.  I wouldn’t ordinarily do that, but I’m commenting on The Despecialized Edition.

The Despecialized Edition is a fan restoration that lovingly returns the film to nearly the theatrical version.  Every shot has been color-corrected, as LucasFilm has never gotten the color right.  All scenes added after 1977 have been removed.  The original Fox logo and fanfare, original LucasFilm logo, and the original title crawl have been restored.

Han shot first.

Han shot first.
Han shot first.

My HD copy is as close as you can come to a pristine copy of the film reels on opening night.

I’ll not be streaming in HD, nor will the stream be available except during the live show.  If you want it (and I highly recommend it) ,find it it the way I did.  Bittorrent is your friend.

Tales From SYL Ranch can be heard live Sundays on //aNONradio.net// 20:00-22:00 UTC.  The station is listed on iTunes, TuneIn, and other streaming services.

As always, to set the stage:

It’s 1977.  Everything we’ve come to take for granted didn’t exist.  There was no streaming, no MP3s, no Internet, no personal computers of note. Powerful computers were the size of a warehouse and were only owned by governments, universities, and very large businesses.

Even phones were radically different.  There was only one kind:  the land-line to your house.

I was 12 years old — the precise target demographic of Star Wars.

I first saw Star Wars a few days after it opened.  One has to recall that this was before Star Wars was a phenomenon.  Where today one might spend all day in line for an opening, no one knew anything about Star Wars.

I don’t remember much about that first screening because it was totally eclipsed by my second.

The first screening was in an average-sized theater in Omaha, Nebraska.  Theaters at that time were generally converted from live theaters and seated several hundred people at least.

The theater was jam-packed.  By then, word-of-mouth had spread and people were coming back for additional showings.

One must remember that at that time, there was no home video nor streaming.  Films were released for a limited run, and then never again.  If you wanted to see a movie, you saw it in a theater or not at all.  This partly accounts for Star Wars‘ success.  It was so much fun that people flocked back to the theaters rather than miss seeing it a second, third, fourth, or fifth time.

I don’t know how many times I’ve watched Star Wars in the last forty years.  It may well number in the thousands.  I’ve watched it multiple times every year.

Star Wars is my favorite film of all time.  Despite being a Trekkie almost from birth, Star Wars is a film that I can watch my entire life and never get bored.

My first screening of the film completely astonished me.  This was totally brand new.  There had certainly been space-opera adventures before, but nothing like this.  The special effects were simply groundbreaking.  The story is probably the perfect Hero’s Journey and never gets old.

As I say, I remember little from the first screening other than being completely blown away.  I watched it with my father and best friend and remember walking out of the theater saying to my friend:

“Wow.  That was way better than Logan’s Run.”

Keep in mind that pre-Star Wars, there was very little science fiction, neither in films nor television.  Star Wars changed everything.  After that, there has been a non-stop torrent of science fiction.  Logan’s Run was the most recent SF film of note, also with groundbreaking special effects.

They couldn’t hold a candle to Star Wars.

However, my first screening became irrelevant after my second.  I watched it at the Indian Hills Theater in Omaha, Nebraska.  Sadly, it was demolished in 2001.  It’s now a hospital parking lot.

In 1977, it was still in its heyday — and it had a CinemaScope screen.

A CinemaScope theater.
A CinemaScope theater.

You’re probably unfamiliar with CinemaScope.  It was a very short-lived widescreen format which had a huge curved screen.  The effect was the create a more immersive experience by attempting to cover the viewer’s periphery.

Boy, did it ever.

The interior auditorium of the Indian Hills was circular in shape and seated 810 patrons, with 662 on the main floor and 148 on the balcony.

When I arrived for my second showing, the house was already packed.  There was absolutely nowhere to sit except dead-center of the front row.

In modern theaters, one avoids such seats due to severe parallax distortion.  The Indian Hills, however, had a significant distance between the front row and the screen.

I saw in the front row, dead center …

It was an experience I’ll never forget.  The curved screen made it completely fill my field of view, including my periphery.

The experience was barely describable — which is part of why I’m making the commentary.  I actually became nauseous during the Trench Run.

To follow along with the amazing adventure of a 12-year-old watching Star Wars in CinemaScope, go to:

Be aware that the link for Star Wars: The Despecialized Edition will only be available during the live show.

Listen in and follow along to hear what it was like for a 12-year-old fan to see Star Wars for the second time — in CinemaScope!

Tales From SYL Ranch – 2017-04-30

The Old Fan’s Commentary On Space: 1999

The Old Fan's Commentary On Space: 1999
The Old Fan’s Commentary On Space: 1999

There’s an Old Fan’s Commentary On Space:1999 this week on Tales From SYL Ranch!

Tales From SYL Ranch can be heard live Sundays, 20:00-22:00 UTC on //aNONradio.net//

We hadn’t planned to do this, but we’re using a new rig and providing additional streaming.  Rather than risk it falling to pieces during the Old Fan’s Commentary on Star Wars (Sunday, May  7th and 14th), we decided to test it first on a known disaster.

We’ll only be commenting on one Space: 1999 episode: S01E01 – “Breakaway.”  It’s a wonderful example of the show getting many things very, very right — while simultaneously being the dumbest premise ever conceived Spoilers.

Space: 1999 is so schizophrenic that it’s unlikely there will be future commentaries.  It’s noteworthy for a few reasons, the most obvious being the then-state-of-the-art special effects.  Some Space: 1999 model and effects artists later worked on Star Wars and were part of ILM‘s founding team.

Variations on the Eagle's pod
Variations on the Eagle’s mission-specific pods. This is something the show did very, very right.

Space: 1999‘s Eagle was extremely detailed and featured a practical, modular design.  It’s one of the things Space: 1999 got very, very right.  To this day, the Eagle is one of the most revered (and outright coolest) spaceship designs ever imagined.  It often appears in the background of other films as an Easter Egg.

Eagle on the launchpad
The Eagle with a passenger pod on a Moonbase Alpha launchpad. Note the docking mechanism on the left and a parked moonbggy on the right.

A always, the Old Fan’s Commentary will attempt to focus more on what was happening in science fiction fandom at the time rather than interesting tidbits about the film.

As always, we’ll have The Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy and topical music sprinkled throughout.

To set the stage:

It’s September of 1975.  You’re ten years old.  You’re a huge Star Trek fan.  That in turn led you to SF literature, in particular Larry Niven.  In 1973, Niven adapted one of his short-stories, “The Soft Weapon,” into an episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series.

You quickly discovered that “The Soft Weapon” is part of a much  larger Known Space universe.  Because Niven is a stickler for scientific accuracy, you’ve learned to demand it.  In 1975, all science fiction fans demanded it.

Other than Star Trek: The Animated Series,  there’s been no science fiction of note — neither in TV nor film — for over five years.  There’s a burgeoning Star Trek fan community in the US that’s just finding its legs.

That fan community constantly butts heads with Old Fans.  The Old Fans grew up with nothing but literature.  They find filmed science fiction to be banal and insipid by comparison.

This absolutely includes Star Trek.  In 1975, there was a clear delineation between “real fans” and “Trekkies.”

Through the grapevine, you hear about a new show, Space:1999.  It has known stars in the lead roles.  Martin Landau and Barbara Bain had starred in Mission: Impossible.  Barry Morse had spent four years chasing Dr. Richard Kimball in The Fugutive.

That all sounds good.  Production stills begin appearing in certain magazines, and those look good.  The models look good, the sets look good, the space suits all look good.

The premise of the series is patently ludicrous.  Even a 10-year-old knew that Spoilers.

Those are the things in your mind as you tune in (on low-def broadcast TV).

We’ll be trying a couple of experiments this time around.  In addition to the podcast stream of the commentary, we’ll be making a low-res version of the episode available for streaming — but only during the show!  If this works, we’ll do the same to the next two weeks’ Old Fan Commentary On Star Wars.

To play the episode, click here:

Sunday’s tracklist:

  • “When Twilight Falls On NGC 891”
  • Space 1999: “Main Titles”
  • Space 1999 – War Games:  “Armageddon”
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:  Primary Phase – Fit the Sixth (S01E06)
  • Space 1999: “Breakaway”
  • Introduction To the Old Fan’s Commentary On Space: 1999
  • The Old Fan’s Commentary On Space: 1999
  • Space: 1999: “Theme Montage”
  • The Star Wars Holiday Special
    “Can we air just twenty minutes of Chewie noises??”
    – Jack Packard

What were fans doing in 1975 when Space:1999 premiered?  Listen to Tales From SYL Ranch find out!

Tales From SYL Ranch can be heard live
Sundays, 20:00-22:00 UTC on
//aNONradio.net//

[Spoilers]
Why Space: 1999 Has the Dumbest Premise Ever Concieved

You can’t blow the Moon out of orbit.

Seriously, that’s it, right there: the basic premise of the show is ludicrously impossible.  Science Fiction fans are the most demanding viewers in existence.  If you screw up in such a flagrantly stupid fashion, you’ve probably lost your audience and don’t know it.

The Moon is not a billiard ball that can be knocked off its trajectory by something sufficiently massive.  You can’t put a rocket engine on it.  It’s so large as to be occasionally classified as a dwarf planet.

If you struck the Moon with sufficient force to knock it out of orbit, that’s not what would happen.  Instead, you’d start with a very deep hole.  It would get deeper until such time as the Moon itself couldn’t withstand the stress.  The Moon would then crack like a gigantic egg — the difference being that it would spew white-hot volcanic rocks the size of other planets’ moons.

If you were lucky, you’d wind up with a few big rocks and change.  With more luck, the rocks will stay in the Moon’s orbit, meaning we’d suddenly have pieces of Moon orbiting the Earth in roughly the same spot.

If you weren’t lucky, the rocks would be small.  You’d then have a nice, new asteroid belt around Earth in former Moon’s orbit.

In either case, risk of extinction by Moonrock becomes very likely. Regardless, there will be Earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, tidal waves, and tectonic/volcanic eruptions. The tilt of the Earth could change.

Worse is the location location of the explosion.  The writers keep referring to “the dark side of the Moon” as though that’s meaningful.  In fact, the “dark side” of the Moon isn’t dark.  It’s just the side of the Moon not facing Earth.

The Moon’s orbit and rotation are such that only one side of it faces Earth.  Until the Space Age, astronomers didn’t know what the other side of the Moon looked like.  They called it “the dark side” to indicate that it was a big blank spot on the map.

That means is that they were dumping nuclear waste as far from Earth as possible — which is a good idea from a radiation standpoint.  It was an idea that had been bounced around in science fiction since Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

However, if you hit the Moon with force sufficient to knock it out of orbit, you’re doing so on the face exactly opposite Earth. The aforementioned massive, white-hot volcanic rock would come spewing straight at Earth.

Earth-bound disasters are hinted-at in the episode, but not enough thought was given to it. People would die by the billions. Civilization might be reduced to the Stone Age or worse.

The idea of the Moon blowing out of orbit is galactically stupid.

That doesn’t even begin to touch the faster-than-light speeds the Moon would require to reach another planet every week.

Space: 1999 is very schizophrenic.  On the one hand, there are the many things it gets right.  Unfortunately, it’s in the service of a laughable premise; often featuring plots with no internal logic.

“It’s sci-fi, anything can happen, so who needs to explain it?” seems to have been the writers’ motto.


An Exclusive Look Inside SYL Ranch Studios

Always know where your towel is.
SYL Ranch Studios – 2017-04-28.
Always know where your towel is.

Tales From SYL Ranch – 2017-04-23

Doctor Who Fan Orchestra
Doctor Who Fan Orchestra

In celebration of the beginning of Series 10, It’s the day of the Doctor on Tales From SYL Ranch — though probably not the one you expected.

Tales From SYL Ranch can be heard Sundays 20:00-22:00 UTC on // aNONradio.net //

We’ll be playing a selection of Murray Gold’s excellent scores from the modern Doctor Who series.  However, it will not be an ordinary orchestra performing it — but rather the Doctor Who Fan Orchestra.

Doctor Who Fan Orchestra is a collaborative project by musicians all over the world.  They’re sent sheet music for their particular part and record it alone.  They never hear the finished work until it’s edited together.

If you want to join the Orchestra, visit https://doctorwhofanorchestra.blogspot.com/ and simply wait for their next call for musicians.  They need all kinds, including vocals.  If you’re a good musician, go to the site and sign up!

Tales From SYL Ranch can be heard Sundays 20:00-22:00 UTC on // aNONradio.net //

Today’s tracks are:

  • When Twilight Falls On NGC 891
  • Doctor Who (Original Theme)
  • DWFO – About the Doctor Who Fan Orchestra
  • DWFO -Tuning-
  • DWFO -1- -I Am The Doctor-
  • DWFO -2- -Vale Decem-
  • DWFO -3- -Doomsday-
  • DWFO -4- -Dalek Suite-
  • DWFO -5- -The Impossible Astronaut (Suite)-
  • DWFO -6- -A Christmas Carol (Suite)-
  • Doctor Who – Creating the Theme Radiophonic Workshop
  • DWFO -8- -50th Anniversary Suite-
  • Doctor Who Theme At the Proms 2010 (With Scream)
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 1: Primary Phase – Fit the Fifth (S01E01)
  • HardWire – The New Empire Howell Theme

Tales From SYL Ranch can be heard Sundays 20:00-22:00 UTC on // aNONradio.net //

Tales From SYL Ranch – 2017-04-16

This episode of Tales From SYL Ranch is dedicated to William N. Grigg.

William N. Grigg
“The truth has lost another champion when there are so few left.”
– Jay P. Hailey

The libertarian community was saddened by the loss of William N. Grigg on Wednesday.

We thought about changing our programming. It would have been easy to do an entire show of his Greatest Hits.

But we know Bill wouldn’t want that.  He’d have told us not to bother on his account.

Rather than altering the songs, we’ve put them in an order we think that Bill would have approved.  That’s why it’s Shania Twain week on Tales From SYL Ranch: because that’s what it was always going to be.

A podcast can be many things.  Sometimes it needs to remind mourners to celebrate.  Not Bill’s death, of course — but rather the man that he was.

If there’s one thing Bill knew about, it was rocking this country.  He’d have rocked every country right out of this world, if at humanly possible — libertarian-style.

Shania Twain Farewell Tour
Shania Twain Farewell Tour, Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, Iowa, US

Tracks this week are:

  1. William N. Grigg Dedication (by Jay P. Hailey)
  2. Rock This Country
  3. Party For Two (with Billy Currington)
  4. Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)
  5. Love Gets Me Every Time
  6. You Shook Me All Night Long
  7. From This Moment On
  8. Man! I Feel Like A Woman
  9. That Don’t Impress Me Much
  10. Any Man Of Mine
  11. What A Way To Wanna Be
  12. Honey I’m Home
  13. Thank You Baby!
  14. Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under
  15. Nah!
  16. Ka-Ching
  17. In My Car
  18. I’m Gonna Getcha Good
  19. Come On Over
  20. Forever and For Always
  21. Up! Live In Chicago
Shania Twain Fans with phone flashes on.
Shania Twain fans with phone flashes on, Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, Iowa, US

Things to watch for this week, in addition to the dedication:

  • Program IDs change to be somewhat topical.
  • There’s the usual Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy BBC Radio series episode.  We’re only on S01E04, so it’s a good time to dive in.
  • There’s a faux-Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy entry by TTS voice “SYL Mike.”  It’s already been posted to YouTube, but we though it’s one of the better ones so far.  You be the judge.

Tales From SYL Ranch can be heard live Sundays, 20:00-22:00 UTC on // aNONradio.net //

Tales From SYL Ranch – 2017-04-09

Old Fan Commentary - STTMP Part 2
Old Fan Commentary – STTMP Part 2

Sunday on Tales From SYL Ranch: the conclusion of the Old Fan’s Commentary on Star Trek – The Motion Picture (the Director’s Edition).

Tales From SYL Ranch can be heard Sundays from 20:00-22:00 UTC at http://anonradio.net.

This week, we’ll be talking about what it was like as a teenaged Star Trek fan to see the film for the first time in 1979. We’ll also talk about fandom of that period and what it was like to live through it.

We’ll also have the usual episode of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy.  After all, you can’t listen to Bill talk for an hour without wanting to slit your wrists.

Tales From SYL Ranch can be heard Sundays from 20:00-22:00 UTC at http://anonradio.net. The station is listed on iTunes, TuneIn, and other streaming services.

Listen to Bill discuss the first Star Trek movie (the one people usually like to forget).

Tales From SYL Ranch can be heard Sundays from 20:00-22:00 UTC at http://anonradio.net.

(Feel free to pass around the poster.)

As promised, my Isher Artifacts Model A, SN A013.

Isher Artifacts Model A - SN A013
Isher Artifacts Model A – SN A013

Tales From SYL Ranch – 2017-04-02

The Old Fan's Commentary on Star Trek - The Motion Picture
The Old Fan’s Commentary on Star Trek – The Motion Picture

Sunday on Tales From SYL Ranch: part one of the Old Fan’s Commentary on Star Trek – The Motion Picture (the Director’s Edition).

Tales From SYL Ranch can be heard Sundays from 20:00-22:00 UTC at http://anonradio.net.

This week, we’ll be talking about what it was like as a teenaged Star Trek fan to see the film for the first time in 1979. We’ll also talk about fandom of that period and what it was like to live through it.

We’ll also have the usual episode of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy and a smattering of amusing bits throughout.

After all, you can’t listen to Bill talk for an hour without wanting to slit your wrists.

Tales From SYL Ranch can be heard Sundays from 20:00-22:00 UTC at http://anonradio.net. The station is listed on iTunes, TuneIn, and other streaming services.

Listen to Bill discuss the first Star Trek movie (the one people usually like to forget).

Tales From SYL Ranch can be heard Sundays from 20:00-22:00 UTC at http://anonradio.net.

(Feel free to pass around the poster.)