Hasslein Blog: April 2015


Hasslein Blog

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Revisiting Red Dwarf, Part Three: Fun, Fun, Fun... (Series V-VI)

Guest blogger Joe Bongiorno continues his re-watch of all ten seasons of Red Dwarf. (View part two here.) Here's his smeggin' review...

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By Joseph Bongiorno

Series 5: Again, a bit of upgrade in the quality of the production, and the writing is through the roof. With one exception, these are some of my favorites episodes, and I think this whole series represents the best of what this show was striving to attain:

"You make love like a Japanese meal:
small portions, but oh, so many courses."
"Holoship": This episode is good because it's not only funny and conceptually interesting (a ship of hologram people who have different sexual mores than humans), but it continues the Rimmer arc, particularly in that it furthers the evolution of the show to the more serious character-focused episodes we're going to see in Season 7. Rimmer starts off watching Casablanca, and mocking the idea of love and romance; yet when he meets a hologrammatic woman who sacrifices her life for him, he rises to the occasion and puts her life and well-being over his own. It would have been easier for the writers to go for the joke and simply have Rimmer be the Rimmer of the first season and take advantage of her sacrifice to advance his career and standing in life; that they don't do that, and instead go for the character moment, is so much more interesting and exciting. And it's where the show needs to go. Those who only proclaim the first two seasons as worthwhile generally don't care for the depths of the writing that's there from day one and just want an endless stream of punchlines. But I don't know that I see those people as a legitimate fanbase.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Revisiting Red Dwarf, Part Two: There's No Kind of Atmosphere (Series II-IV)

Guest blogger Joe Bongiorno continues his re-watch of all ten seasons of Red Dwarf. (View part one here.) Here's his smeggin' review...

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By Joseph Bongiorno

Right off the bat, Season 2 looks better, and it pretty much continues where it needs to with wonderful episodes like "Better than Life," which is a kind of predecessor for what's to come in terms of Rimmer's dysfunction and neuroses. There's a book written by the Naylor and Grant that extends the events of this episode, which I haven't yet read, but am looking forward to.

The only dwarf as enjoyable as Tyrion Lannister.

"Thanks for the Memory" is also brilliant, and up there with "Polymorph" for one of the best episodes of the first three seasons. I love the whole set-up to it, including the beginning where they're all drunk on the planet and rocking out; then it turns into a mystery—and mysteries, when not done right, can be disappointing. But Naylor and Grant prove what great writers they are because the reveal at the episode's end is fantastic and doesn't let anyone down.

"Queeg" is also great, but in a different way. It's the first of several "fake-out" episodes (where what you think is happening isn't actually happening the way you think), and very well done. It's essentially a Holly episode and a great one at that. Norman, who I'll call Holly I to help distinguish from Hattie Hayridge's Holly, is at his best here, and I like the overriding lesson here about not taking the people in your life for granted.

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Roots of a Swampy Fan

By John Boylan

"The spirit is a message of hope... that, despite incredible adversity and personal tragedy, we can triumph. It is the spirit of the lonely outsider. To be alone and watch life go on around him."

—Tim Moriarty, Famous Monsters Filmland #183

I have been a collector most of my life. I started with toys and comic books as a child, and then moved on to records as I got older. I circled back to collecting comic books when I got out of college, and eventually, I began to focus my collection on one of the great, underappreciated comic book characters: Swamp Thing.

Through research and keeping up with current events regarding Swamp Thing, I've come across numerous fan sites that share my excitement toward the character. All of the sites are fun and informative, but for a long time, I sought a definitive list of Swamp Thing appearances and collectibles that fans could use as a reference tool. I couldn't find that list, so I built one.

That list has taken the form of a website, RootsOfTheSwampThing.com, which I've been cultivating for over a year now. A large part of why I love to collect is tracking and cataloging. It's fun to learn about each piece by the details and unique information they provide. Are their variants? Production errors? Why are the serial codes different depending on production year? RootsOfTheSwampThing.com provides me a venue to explore just such questions.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Revisiting Red Dwarf, Part One: It's Cold Outside (Series I)

Guest blogger Joe Bongiorno recently re-watched the first ten seasons of Red Dwarf and offered his perspective on each season as a whole, as well as each episode in particular. His insights are fascinating, and you may be surprised by some of his observations. Take it away, smeghead...

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By Joseph Bongiorno

After getting a copy of Paul Giachetti's two phenomenal Red Dwarf Encyclopedias, published by Hasslein Books, and being blown away by the quality, writing and level of detail he incorporates into these books, I was motivated to watch a show that I'd adored, but hadn't seen in years. In fact, I was first introduced to the show by writer/publisher Rich Handley and Paul, so I was in the company of experts even back then. For this round, I would be watching it with a good friend who'd never seen the show before, and that was a bonus! I had seen Series (which in the U.S. would be called "seasons," but we'll go with the proper British designation) 1-8 and Back to Earth, but forgot most of the latter two. Series 10 would be the first time I'd be seeing it and I was looking forward to that.

I had had major issues with the first episode when I saw it the first few times. I find it overly long and a little dull, with too many punchlines that ended with references to British pop-culture that had no meaning to me—a self-professed anglophile) here in the U.S. I also found the washed out grey on grey color palette is conducive to the general feeling of boredom that the episode gives me. Now, I owned but never saw the remastered versions, and had been duly warned about them, but I wanted to see if they could improve things.

In my opinion, they did.

Unlike many fans for whom the CGI effects in the remastered versions were anathema, the replacement of bad practical effects with bad CGI didn't bother me; in fact, it barely registered at all. The effects have never interested me, and I find that part of the humor comes from how silly things sometimes look. At the same time, I understand creator Doug Naylor's frustration with the effects and his desire to make the show look a bit more believable. One of the things that's brilliant about Red Dwarf is the fact that, despite being a comedy, the writing and production were things the creators really cared about. And it shows in the development of the characters and storylines, as well as the increasing attempts to improve the look of the show. This is what made Red Dwarf so much better than other sitcoms of its time that didn't have that kind of passion and drive behind it. Red Dwarf wasn't empty or formulaic.

The biggest improvement for the first episode was the editing; getting rid of long speeches that were unfunny and went nowhere; removing some of the "British jokes for British people," and just a general tightening of the story suddenly gave it a life and vigor and urgency that it never had in its broadcast version. This was my fourth viewing of this episode, two prior times were attempts to get others to watch this show (which ended in failure due to their impression of the first episode), but the first time I actually liked it! Bravo remastered version!

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Indiana Groans and the Temple of Bigotry

Hasslein Publishing proudly sells books to anyone, whether gay, straight, bisexual or a bigot from Indiana. We don't discriminate. Whoever you choose to date, we'll sell you a book—and even a second one for your boyfriend or girlfriend. If you're a homophobe from Indiana who refuses to read books sold by companies that sell books to non-straight people... well, heck, we'll STILL sell you a book—and we'll even sell you a second one for your favorite fellow bigot, to bring to your next government meeting. So in the name of equality, open-mindedness and all-inclusive geekdom, come on down to Hasslein and order as many of our titles as you'd like. We don't care who you sleep with, who you fall in love with or who you treat unkindly because of an aspect of their personal lives that is none of your damn business—all we care about is what you read.