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Journal Journal: Carnegie Mellon's digital library exceeds 1.5 million books

Most slashdotters are probably familiar with Google's book scanning project with several major universities. But Google may have been beat to the punch this time -- about a decade ago, Carnegie Mellon University embarked on a project to scan books into digital format, to be made available online. Today, according to new reports, they now have a collection of 1.5 million books, the equivalent of a typical university library, available online. Of course, on the downside, most of the books are in Chinese, so I hope they don't get blocked by the great firewall of China.

Journal Journal: Flash Gordon: What's wrong with the Sci-Fi Channel? 1

Ok, so I admit, I actually watched the first two episodes of the new Flash Gordon television series on the Sci-Fi Channel. I guess I thought it might actually be like the 1980 movie,... that actually was pretty good for its time. And I guess I had high expectations that Sci-Fi might actually be able to pull off a pretty good, action-packed series, given their recent success with Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, and Firefly. After watching the first two episodes (the pilot, and episode 1), I'm not so sure,...

As a matter of fact, I'm not sure sure if I'd even call this 'Flash Gordon',... it seems more like 'Smallville II'. The characters are rather unconvincing and the plot is rather weak (and nothing like the movie). Basically, 13 years ago Flash's father (a professor at the local university) invented some kind of rift which transported him to another world (Mongo). To Flash & his mom, he died. Now, in the present, Flash is probably about a 25-year-old momma's boy, living in his mother's basement, when aliens from Mongo start coming back through the rift. His high school girlfriend, Dale, is now engaged to some cop, and just started a new job working at the local TV station as a reporter. The story seems to shift between earth and mongo quite frequently, with travel made easy and convenient by these "RiftBlaster" devices. Two episodes later, and Flash has still spent 90% of his time on earth -- WTF? Flash needs to let his balls drop and start exploring Mongo (I don't care if he's looking for his Dad, or trying to kill Ming -- just get off your fracking ass!).

The characters are rather unconvincing and bland. First, you have Flash, as I've said, is some 20something momma's boy, who's not a Football star (as in the movie), but a marathon runner, which, while somewhat impressive, not nearly as "heroic". He also comes across as kind of a wimp, and not very much of a man -- more like an overgrown teenager who has trouble taking care of himself (I keep wondering if his mommy dresses him in the morning and does everything for him).

Then, you have Dale Arden, who is probably one of the "better" characters in the series (which sadly isn't saying much). She's reasonably attractive, smart, dated Flash in high school, went off to Yale, came back, got a job as a reporter,... yada yada yada. So far, she's more impressive than Flash -- they should probably rename the series? Of course, she's also engaged now, to a local cop. I'm still not sure what this has to do with the real story -- her fiance doesn't seem to be doing much of anything, as most of the story focuses on her running around with Flash investigating these new alien sightings and crimes. Plus, it's not all that realistic -- a cop investigating a crime scene is giving way too much information to a news reporter?! Yeah, right! I think the whole fiance thing was added to show Dale as having 'moved on' in her relationship with Flash, but now she's around him again and falling in love again. Ok, whatever,...

Dr. Zarkov is a disappointment. Supposedly, he was working with Flash's Dad on the rift project when he disappeared 13 years ago. Not sure what he's still doing 13 years later, but he still looks like some geeky grad student, hasn't aged a day, and living in his mother's winnebago (probably because the basement is full of his old comic books). The guy doesn't look very competent -- he can't even build a ray gun to blast more than one shot at an alien -- the real Zarkov would've had a ray gun that could incinerate a legion, fry their brains like eggs, and then eat them for breakfast. This guy couldn't fight his way out of a paper bag.

Ming? The Merciless? Ruthless Dictator? Ha! Ha! Ha! Think again. This guy looks more like an ad executive or an accountant than a dictator. He looks far too, ... "human", and comes across as too much of a nice guy. Though at least he still went ahead with the execution he ordered in the second episode -- there were times I thought he was going to back off. His daughter is fairly attractive, but she seems more like a valley girl than an evil dictator's princess.

The whole set used for the planet Mongo looks kind of cheap -- the set used in the 1980s movie was several orders of magnitude better, which is not what I expect from something produced almost 30 years later. Of course, we haven't seen much of Mongo, so this **could** get better. Still -- where the frack are the hawk men?!?!

So in the end, I'm just not impressed. About the only thing this has in common with the 1980 movie is the name, 'Flash Gordon'. But I still think 'Smallville II' would be more appropriate -- they should rename it, sell the whole thing to News Corp., so that they can show it on Fox and market it to the teen drama queen myspaced crowd, who'll probably eat something like this alive,...

I really hope that this isn't a new trend for Sci-Fi. Between this, ECW (what in the heck is wrestling doing on sci-fi?), and Painkiller Jane, I'm beginning to think that the network is going the way of TechTV,...

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