Sunday, May 31, 2009

At the End of May

Now that may is drawing to aclose, I can look back on it with some relief. As I said in my first post for may, it used to be my favorite month of the year because it was full of anticipation for a fun summer to come. These days, it holds so many nasty anniversaries regarding my health collapse, I dread going through it.

May 2009 marked the fifth anniversaries of several events that I can claim without a hint of drama destroyed my life as I knew it. They say time heals all wounds. I am not certain if that is true so much as time just brings in new crap to distract you from the old. But that is my cynical nature talking. I am going to attempt a better philosophy here.

I am still a young mn. Five years is a huge chunk of time in my perspective. Five years ago is ancient history, particularly when life was so radically different then. In truth, is not everyone’s life radically different at 32 than at 27? Obviously, it was been tremendously more disappointing than what I had ever braced myself for even in my most fatalistic moments, but no one is really doing things the way they really want them done.

I am battle scarred and world weary, but I note I am virtually unencumbered by the past. Not that I do not believe the present is bad enough, mind you, but at least old ghosts are no longer stalking me. That is progress, no?

Take it away, Alanis:
Abbas: Obama Committed to Removing Jews

Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas is confident Barack Obama will work for the removal of the Jews from Judea and Samaria:
"Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday told reporters in Cairo that he is convinced that US President Barack Obama is firmly committed to finally ejecting the Jews from Judea and Samaria.

Abbas spoke to the press after briefing Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on his visit to the White House late last week, during which Obama apparently agreed with his guest that existing Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria must not even be allowed to experience “natural growth.”

“When the American administration talks about Israel's duty to stop the settlements - including natural growth - it is a very important step,” noted Abbas.

Following their meeting last Thursday, Obama said that he also told Abbas to make a bit more of an effort to halt what he described as isolated and sporadic anti-Jewish incitement in Palestinian schools, mosques and media. Documentation by Israeli and international watchdog groups shows that the incitement is far from isolated or sporadic.

Meanwhile, Israeli officials cited by Ha’aretz decried the Obama Administration’s stiff demands that no more houses be built for Jews beyond the pre-1967 borders.

They noted that under former President George W. Bush, Israel reached understandings that the natural growth of existing towns would not subject to Israel’s commitments to halt settlement activity (commitments many Israelis see as null and void anyway since the Palestinians have failed to honor their reciprocal obligations).
Obama is the most anti-Israel president we have ever elected, so this would not surprise me if true. Disappoints me, yes, but not surprise me.
Tragedy: George Tiller & Fundamentalist Christian Insanity

I have described myself as a pro-life advocate who stops just short of firebombing abortion clinics, so I have to assume there are some curious how I feel about the murder of abortionist George Tiller this morning in the lobby of his church. Actually, you probably do not give a rat’s behind, but what good is having a blog if you cannot write something controversial that makes people mad? Long story short: we got rid of an abortion doctor and a murderous fundamentalist Christian. I cannot say I approve of the murder, but there are two less despicable men roaming the Earth tonight.

I am a Christian. A very conservative one who generally feels more comfortable with as literal an interpretation of the Bible as possible. Many Christians take that too far. I am sure I have, too. The biggest problem with Christianity is the Christians themselves. In particular, fundamentalist Christians.

I absolutely despise fundamentalist Christians. It is hard to define what one is, but you can identify one shortly after he opens his mouth. I am sure you know what I am talking about. One who hears God “calling’ to him regardless of what the Bible says on any given issue. Remember: when you talk to God, it is prayer. When God talks to you, it is schizophrenia. Especially if “He” tells you to kill an abortion doctor.

In short, if many of the more fundamentalist Christians ever read the commandment Thou shalt not murder, they either missed the implication or believed the rules did not apply to them. Neither would surprise me. In the slightest. I would like to think God’s standards in choosing messengers is no where near that low.

So I certainly do not advocate vigilantism in God’s name, I do not have a whole lot of sympathy for abortionist George Tiller. His clinic was one of the few in the country that performed late term abortions. Tiller personally performed 60,000 of them himself. Think about that. Sixty thousand is the population of a decent sized city. That is genocide anyway you look at it.

You should read La Shawn Barber’s post about Tiller. She talks about Tiller’s frank discussion of his abortion practices, including performing one on the day before a woman’s due date. Caution: Barber posts some graphic pictures towards the end of her post. I am not a big fan of appeals to emotion when arguing a position, but not enough to keep from linking. Just be cautious about scrolling down.

This has been a harsh post, but I am trying to show how conflicted I am about the situation. Both tiller and his killer obviously claimed to be Christians. Neither of them appeared to follow Christ’s teachings. It is terrible they did not. Nothing good is going to come of this incident.

The worst part about all this is that reasonable pro life Christians are going to have to pay for the murder of a man by someone who does not represent them. The pro life movement has been set back over stupid fundamentalist Christianity, just like always.
The Word on Sonia Sotomayor

I have scoured the usual suspects for interesting political issues to blog about, but the only topic anyone seems to care about is the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Come on, guys. Law school was five years ago. Do you really have to make me think about this stuff again?

The blog chatter is running on two sides of the same coin. Sotonmayor is obsessed with racial issues in general and the perceived oppression at the hands of whites in specific. The left finds this a fine example of the highly prized among liberals characteristic of empathy. As near as I can tell, empathy means the ability to decide when “helping people” surpasses the valid interpretation of the law. The right claims Sotomayor is a racist, Hispanic nationalist. I have no idea how to elaborate on that one, since then general retort is, “You’re from racist South Carolina, aren’t you? Voted for McCain, too, I’ll bet.”

Somewhere in the intellectual middle, Sotomayor is being criticism as an intellectual lightweight by those more interested in jurisprudence than politics. Pro-life activists are crossing their fingers she is secretly chomping at the bit to overturn Roe. Keep dreaming, folks.

I suspect Sotonmayor is about the best we can expect Barack Obama to choose. Considering his has what amount to a rubber stamp Senate, I am not so sure we should not consider ourselves fortunate. Whether Sotomayor is a racist, idiot, or a nut, it will come out in her confirmation hearings. Something like that cannot be hidden no mtter how many RINOs try to cover for her. If she does fall, Obama will have to be even more careful in choosing a replacement.

Word is the view on Sotomayor is going to change tomorrow when blogger Andy martin plans to hold a press conference revealing the ’truth” about Sotomayor. He has implied she will probably want to resign if Obama does not rescind her nomination after the public hears what he has to say. I always brace myself when when I hear rhetoric like that. Whenever someone claims they are about to smack someone down like that, you can be certain they are about to embarrass themselves. But we shall see.
Star Trek--"Who Mourns for Adonais?"

Like in “Return of the Archons,” Trek safely takes on the death of religion, this time while dealing with the Greek pantheon. It would be easy to notice the fate of Apollo is a commentary on humanity’s outgrowing of religion even if the final exchange between Kirk and McCoy did not beat you over the head with it.

A giant, green hand grabs the Enterprise and holds it fast. A being claiming to be the Greek god Apollo. He threatens to crush the ship unless a landing party meets him face to face. Kirk beams down with McCoy, Scotty, Checov, and an anthropologist named Carolyn Palamas. She will, of course, catch Apollo’s eye.

Apollo claims he and the other gods once traveled to Earth. There they reveled in the worship of the people. But soon, people stopped believing in them, so they began to lose power. They eventually headed out to deep space to wait until people started worshipping them again. It never came to pass, so all dispersed themselves but Apollo. He remained, impatiently waiting.

He now demands the Enterprise crew worship him. Apollo offers them a peaceful, happy life if they do so, but is an arrogant, petulant tyrant Apollo uses his powers to punish disobedience as though all should cater to his whims. Apollo represents the stereotypical argument against the Christian God, even down to the humorous idea God uses lightning bolts as punishment. As the atheist perspective goes, God demands you unequivocally love Him or He will make your life miserable on earth, then send you straight to hell.

Spock and company onboard the Enterprise eventually figure outr Apollo’s temple is the source of his power. When he is in a weakened state because of the landing party’s rejection, Spock destroys the temple. Apollo has to disprse himself across the stars just like his brethren. I assume we can take from that if we stop believing, we can destroy brainwashing churches, and the bonds of theism will be released, allowing human progress. At least that is what kirk says when he notes Apollo’s fate was sad, but necessary, because humans do not need him anymore.

It is not a terrible episode, but it does not break any new ground, either. We already know the philosophy of trek is that religion impedes progress. “Return of the Archons” did the plot better, in my opinion. It will not be the last time the idea is dealt with, either. The portrayal of Palamas is also insulting. She is an intelligent, strong academician just like McIver in “Space Seed.” But like McIver she falls hard for the biggest macho jerk she has ever encountered. Surely women like those two would have higher standards. Come on, guys do not alwaysfall for the bimbo. why should the women? Is it too much to ask to break the mold a bit?

Rating: *** (out of 5)
Teri Hatcher in a Bikini

She is not in her Lois Lane prime, but Teri Hatcher is looking quite MILFy swimming this week in Miami. I have kinda forgotten about her over the years. even though I am a devout comic book geek, I paid little attention to the Moonlighting in Tights antics of Lois & Clark. There is no way I can bring myself to watch Desperate Housewives, either, so i am going to haveto settle for the occasion tantalizing glimpse.

Yes, they are real--and they are spectacular!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Is Obama Guided by Christian Faith?

No, and as far as he is concerned, you better not be, either.
Star Trek--"Amok Time"

By the end of the first season, Spock was becoming the break out character. He was the cool philosopher type the counter culture dug at the time versus the space cowboy Kirk. There are rumors the subtle rivalry between Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner was so tense, Shatner counted lines in new scripts to make certain he had more dialogue than Nimoy. One assumes, if the rumor is true, the pair must have greatly enjoyed the famous fight sequence in the climax of “Amok Time.”

This is the second script penned by science fiction great Theodore Sturgeon. I am pleased gene Roddenberry decided to hand over the duties of creating the Vulcan mythology to someone else period, much less someone as talented as sturgeon. "Amok Time" is the second , final, and best of his filmed scripts for TOS, earning a 1967 Hugo nomination.

Before I go into the meat of the review, understand I think one of the many detrimental effects on Trek inflicted by ENT was how it cheapened ’Amok Time.” I liked the idea the Vulcans kept their rituals to themselves. It did not strike me as odd in the slightest no one on the Enterprise knew what pon farr was. It is logical for Vulcans to have kept that sort of intimate process to themselves. With that in mind, it isa testament to the friendship Spock feels for Kirk that he revealed the truth to his captain. Of course, Kirk disobeys orders to save his friend because there are higher principles in play. But ENT made all sorts of revelations between humans and Vulcans a century beforehand, including marriage rituals. The continuity screw up is irksome.

On with the show. Kirk does risk his career by diverting theship towards Vulcan and Spock’s cosmic booty call. Surprisingly, the two wind up in ritual combat over the manipulative T’Pring, Spock’s betrothed who actually has the hots for another Vulcan. This is the first and only time a woman chooses Kirk without having any romantic interest in him. She runs a pretty big risk here. She is hoping if he wins, he will have no interest in her, but Kirk is a horny little devil who goes after androids and green skinned slave girls. Her logic might have proven flawed if not for McCoy’s quick thinking to fake Kirk’s death by Spock.

it was all an elaborate ruse by T’Pring to free herself up. Like I said above, she hoped Kirk would have no interest in her if he won and Spock would release her from marriage over the stigma of her having challenged the union. Well, the plan did eventually work. Spock lost all interest after he believed he had killed his captain, although raging hormones a few minutes previously had not given him pause about killing his friend. At least everyone got a happy ending, including Spock.

“amok Time” has been mercilessly parodied throughout pop culture, from Stargate SG-1 to Futurama to The Cable Guy and well beyond. The duel between Kirk and Spock is the most famous sequence in Trek history.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Now, because T‘Pau was a character featured in this episode and I really like the song, here is 1987‘s “Heart and Soul’ by one hit wonder T’Pau:
Jessica Simpson Pitches New Reality Show

In last month’s issue of Vanity Fair, Jessica Simpson gave a frank and, by her standards, an intelligent interview regarding the mistakes of her recent past. Those mistakes include two straight to DVD movie flops, a dead on arrival country mucis career, and weight issues. Her tone in the interview gave the impression she was about to turn a new leaf. Perhaps she would even shed the dumb blonde routine I suspect she has been promoting since her teenage debut.

I was being too optimistic, it would appear. Simpson’s next venture is being touted as a reality television, the last refuge of the has been star. What is worse, she does appear to be taking a stab at a more serious tone, but is failing miserably.

Simpson has been pitching a show idea around to networks called The Price of Beauty. She and a friend will travel around the world examining the lengths women will go to for the perfect body. There has been no indication who her BFF traveling companion will be, now has any network picked the show up as yet. Probably because she has described it as a cross between a documentary ad Fear Factor. presumably some of the starving models she meets will eat grub worms for a copy of Call of duty IV for Xbox or something.

I am confident this idea is in response to the negative press Simpson received during the last few weeks of her country music career when she started wearing mom jeans on stage after plumping up a bit. It does seem awfully strange for Simpson to now care about women suffering for their body image considering her history. To wit:

Here she is during her early pop career. She is a young teen, touting her virginal Christian values while teasing males fans by showing off her slim, body.Later, she moved into a movie career in which she tried to play the sex kitten. The photo at the top of this post comes from her turn as Daisy Duke in the truly awful Dukes of Hazzard remake. The photo below is also from around that time. You will note she is not exactly sport the ordinary woman boy type.
Finally, here is a photo from a couple months ago at the country music concert. You can see a good portion of Tony Romo’s salary as the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback has gone towards chilidogs and Chuny Munkey. So does her weight bounce mean she has earned the credentials to tell the story of how women are killing themselves to look good or is she just gearing up to go back to fit, firm, and ready to sell a diet plan as seen on TV?

(Part of The Other McCain's Rule 5 Sunday.)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Phil Spector Sentencing: Nineteen to Life

...for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson. Considering he is 67, that sounds about right. (Link.)
Karen Gillan is the New Doctor Who Companion

Scottish actress Karen Gillan has been cast as the new Doctor Who companion. She will join the Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, for the fifth season starting in the spring of 2010. Gillan previously appeared in the fourth season as a soothsayer in "The Fires of Pompeii."
There is more about Karen Gillan's casting from The Daily Telegraph.
Star Trek--"Operation--Annihilate!"

I have received a special request to tread gently on this episode. It will not be a tough Task. In spite of some absurd moments--flying, plastic barf attacking Spock--”Operation: Annihilate” is one of the most solid episodes of TOS. What is more, you can imagine Kirk is certainly still in pain over losing Edith Keeler as hefaces the terrible death of family members by the parasite infecting the planet, not to mention the risk of his friend Spock going blind because of the cure.

Die horribly, they do. The scene in which Kirk’s sister-in-law dies is often butchered in the syndicated version because it is considered so disturbing. I would say “Operation--Annihilate!” is the grand pappy of the science fiction/horror genre of alien ifestation movies. Depending on how much you value substance over style, you mat consider this the best version of the theme, since it relies heavily on suspense and a sense of tragedy over gory special effects.

Theesense of tragedy is palpable. The kirk children are orphaned, the colony is devastated, and Spock runs the risk of becoming blind even if McCoy’s plan to expose the parasites to radiation work. It is enough to make me overlook the absurdity that McCoy is skilled enough to come up with a soution to kill a parasite in a matter of hours an entire colony was not able to get rid of for months, yet he is unaware Vulcans have an inner eyelid which will ultimately save Spock’s eyesight., I guess in exobiology, the philosophy is to not sweat the small stuff.

A minor nitpick: Spock’s refusal to wear protective goggles as he is being exposed to the radiation because the colonists are not going to have any in unnecessarily self-sacrificing and melodramatic. Perhaps he was secretly relying on his inner eyelid to save him, but if so, it is odd he would not mention them to McCoy. Do Vulcans have a secret penchant for drama? It looks like Spock does.

I liked the episode, so rather than end my review on a nitpick, I will note that George Kirk, of whom we only get the briefest glimpse after his death, was played by William Shatner sporting a slightly different hairstyle. This is the only time in TOS he played a different character other than Kirk outside of any alien doubles, androids, or split personalities, of course.

“Operation--Annihilate!” is a worthy end to the first season of TOS. In sum, it was an uneven batch of episodes. Tomorrow, I will start covering the secnd season. I believe it is the best of the series desite a couple duds. My favorite TOS episode aired during the second season, too, but we shall get to that one in about a week and a half.

Rating: **** (out of 5)
Kristen Bell in a Bikini

I approve. Whatchoo think?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Local Laws Suppress Bible Study Group

Pastor David Jones of San Diego has been leading a dinner and Bible study group at his home for the last five years. about fifteen people regularly show up. A recent complaint regarding parking negatively affecting the neighborhood has lead to the possibility Jones will have to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a permit or stop holding his study:
A local pastor and his wife claim they were interrogated by a San Diego County official, who then threatened them with escalating fines if they continued to hold bible studies in their home, 10News reported.

Attorney Dean Broyles of The Western Center For Law & Policy was shocked with what happened to the pastor and his wife.

Broyles said, "The county asked, 'Do you have a regular meeting in your home?' She said, 'Yes.' 'Do you say amen?' 'Yes.' 'Do you pray?' 'Yes.' 'Do you say praise the Lord?' 'Yes.'"

The county employee notified the couple that the small bible study, with an average of 15 people attending, was in violation of county regulations, according to Broyles.

Broyles said a few days later the couple received a written warning that listed "unlawful use of land" and told them to "stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit" -- a process that could cost tens of thousands of dollars.
This is not a dispute over parking issues, folks. Parking may be the excuse, but it isa matter of hostility towards Christianity.

(Via: Gateway Pundit)
Obama's Tactics with the Hostile Press

This is more funny than serious, but Secret Service agents carted off a press credentialed, self-proclaimed Catholic priestess who wanted to give a letter to Barack Obama urging him to defend traditional marriage.

The incident does not mean nearly as much as Drudge is hyping it up to, but I do have to wonder how her forced removal would have played out in the press if she were trying to give Bush 43 a letter urging him to fund embryonic stem cell research instead of a religious conservative woman presenting her position against gay marriage.

At the very least, Keith Olbermann would pop a blood vessel in his brain during a special commentary on the matter.
Star Trek--"The City on the Edge of Forever"

First things first: I am ahuge Harlan Ellison fan. I first noticed him when he had a segment on Sci Fi Buzz back in the glory days of the Sci Fi Channel before it became a place to dump cancelled NBC Universal shows and bad straight to DVD movies. I loved his wit and attitude. I have tried to put as much of it as I can into the Eye. Over the years, I had seen his episodes of The Outer Limits, read some of his comics, and had seen this episode before I knew who he was, but I developed a newfound appreciation for him that compelled me to scour used bookstores to find his written work. When it comes to ellison, I am partisan, which is why much of this review is going to talk about the decades old controversy surrounding the script.

But let us talk about the episode itself. “The City on the Edge of Forever” is the most unique episode of TOS. The drama is the best of the series because the ethical dilemma is not as black and white as the moral questions usually are. Such would be the caswe even if kirk had not fallen in love with Edith Keeler. That element just adds an extra pain to it. Kirk has to let an innocent woman die in order to preserve a history in which 46 million people are supposed to die in world War II. There is no good option there.

I like the exploration of the significanse of an individual. “tmorrow is Yesterday” played with the idea, but there was an underlying humor to to trying to erase all evidence of the Enterprise’s presence in the past that the seriousness of the consequences of tampering with history were lost. “The City on the Edge of Forever” corrects that error beautifully. Through doomed, good hearted Edith Keeler we learn that even the best of intentions can cause unintended harm. We, wedo hurt other people by our mere existence, not just our more proactive moments. Cynical, but a fact of life.

I also think Kirk’s romance with keeler is the only meaningful one of the series. There are a couple of subsequent cases one can argue--’The Paradise Syndrome” comes to mind-- but they just do not resonate quite like Keeler. I will confess it might be a personal touch that pangs me. But I would rather not go into that. Suffice to say, sometimes an episode of television can be like a song. The writer may have his own ideas about its deeper meaning, but once it is out there, it is yours to feel about it as you please.

In an earlier review, I said the moment an agonized kirk clutches McCoy as Keeler is fatally struck by the car is the most painful moment in TOS. It bears repeating here. I cannot think of any other moments as heart wrenching for me.

With that out of the way, the best means I can talk about Ellison's dispute over the original script is to comment on the 1996 book he wrote about it. The book is trademark Ellison fury, searing every page.

For more than forty years now, controversy has raged over the fan favorite TOS episode, "City on the Edge of Forever." Here, Ellison gives us the story of his script, how it was written, then rewritten numerous times, finally to the point where he disavowed it, trying to put his nom de plume, Cordwainer Bird as author.

The book, which starts as an interesting piece of, if not Trekker lore, television behind the scenes, quickly becomes a (likely justified) character assassination of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. Plenty of evidence is presented to prove the claims of dishonesty by Roddenberry against not only Ellison, but other creators. "City" is not the first tome to assert Roddenberry's credit stealing or lack of writing ability (although it has never been put so succinctly as when Ellison says Roddenberry, "couldn't write worth sour owl poop.")

In three separate interviews printed here, Roddenberry claims that Ellison's script was unfilmable for two reasons. One, he had several crewmen acting out of character and two he was over budget. Taking these one at a time, Roddenberry was actually quoted as saying, "He [Ellison] had my Scotty dealing drugs!" Scotty does not appear on the script anywhere. Several times Roddenberry had apologized for his mistake, but he never seemed to stop making it.

Although Scotty was not dealing drugs, another character created just for this episode, Lt. Beckwith, is dealing in Jewels of Sound, a sonic narcotic. Roddenberry objected to having any of his perfect crew showing such poor character. Perhaps this was Roddenberry's complaint, and not defamation of Scotty, but Starfleet officers in general, whom Roddenberry never wanted to show with conflicts or flaws.

As for the second issue, budget reports reprinted here show Ellison did go over budget $66,000, which is a negotiable amount. Ellison proved he was willing to rewrite to accommodate expenses; he did so three times without pay, something that is against the rules for producers to ask writer's to do, according to the Writer's Guild of America. Roddenberry's claim of being $300,000 over budget is ludicrous and, I would hope, just a result of bad memory and not a willful lie.

No one else is safe from Ellison's legendary wrath, either. He recounts an incident with William Shatner, who had requested to be the absolute first to read Ellison's completed script for "City". Ellison invited Shatner into his home (after Shatner wipes out his motorcycle showboating in his driveway.) to examine the script. And examine it he does-for several hours. Thus we had the first request for a rewrite, because Shatner had counted the lines he had, and realized that Leonard Nimoy had a handful more. Such were the egos involved here.

What exasperates the point to almost unbearable levels is that the original script, unfilmed and owned exclusively by Ellison, won a Writer's Guild of America award, while the filmed version ("a thalidomide baby version of my script", according to Ellison) won a Hugo in 1967 for Best Dramatic Presentation, the only teleplay ever to do so. Ellison accepted the Hugo award in "memory of the script they butchered, and in respect to those parts of it that had the vitality to shine through the evisceration."

One is compelled to ask, then: Is the script really that great? In a word, yes. As a piece of writing, the original "City on the Edge of Forever" is a touching story. I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of a legless World War I veteran named Trooper who becomes a tragic hero, so important and yet, unimportant. He is a very poignant character I would have liked to have seen added to Trek lore.

Ellison's original script has an officer, Beckwith, dealing in drugs and then escaping to a nearby planet. Beaming down after him, Kirk and crew discover the Guardians of Forever, who watch over a beautiful ancient city. As in the filmed version, a portal shows the crew events from Earth history, but Beck with is the one to jump through to escape, not McCoy. He is also the one who saves Edith Keeler and changes history.

The love story between Kirk and Keeler is played up, and becomes all the more tragic as Kirk honestly contemplates sacrificing for love the future, as it should be. In the end, Spock must grab and hold Beckwith as Keeler is killed, there by setting the time stream right again. Beckwith jumps back through the portal and lands in the heart of a sun and is forced to repeat that cycle forever.

This book is worth a read through, particularly just to have a copy of the original script. A good seventy pages is nothing but an angry rant by Ellison that true fans of his will enjoy, but others will think is just fussy and unnecessary. Because of this episode's status in the hearts and minds of fans everywhere, the battle to claim credit for it may never cease. Ellison, however, makes a fine case here.

Rating: ***** (out of 5)
Eve Myles

Because Torchwood: Children of Earth now has an air date set for July.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sonia Sotonmayor Ended 1994 Baseball Strike

I do not recall it being mentioned at all yesterday, but Sonia Sotonmayor was the Federal District Judge who ended the 1994 baseball strike.

I am not surprised I had forgotten that, but two things about being reminded did. First. Sotonmayor was appointed a Federal District Judge by Bush 41, thereby offering compelling evidence Clarence Thomas was the only wise judicial appointment he ever made. Second, George F. Will, baseball fanatic, failed to mention it.

I have mixed emotions about Sotonmayor in this regard myself. I like baseball and I wanted the labor dispute resolved quickly so the 1995 season would not have to be scuttled like the previous World Series. But it was a labor dispute between millionaire players and billionaire owners. I have no ax to grind about the wealthy, but it is still ridiculous to sympathize when either plead financial difficulties when all parties are clearly better off than 99.9% of the world’s population. That they reached such lofty status by playing a kids’ game renders the disputes doubly insulting.

The thing is, Sotonmayor’s ruling strengthened the Player’s Union and prevented the owners from instituting a salary cap like the NFL has. I neither like unions, nor think allowing the players to destroy the competitiveness of baseball with their outrageous salary demands is a good thing, but I did get baseball back in time for the 1995 season. I am probably not the only conservative baseball fan who is torn. Perhaps that is why Will neglected to mention Sotonmayor’s role in the strike.,
Bush v. Gore Lawyers Against Prop. 8

Now this is an interesting turn of events; Theodore Olson and David Boies, attorneys for George w. Bush (later his Solicitor General) and al gore during the 2000 election, have joined forces as a project of the American Foundation for Equal Rights to represent two same sex couples in a federal challenge of Proposition 8.

There is a strange bedfellows joke just screaming to come out, but I cannot bring myself to make it.

The pair are seeking an injunction against the enforcement of the Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage under federal equal protection laws. Reading between the lines, I gather they do not expect to win. The press routinely mentions gay marriage advocates have been reluctant to take the case to federal court because of an abundance of conservative judges appointed by Bush.

But that really does not matter. The whole purpose of bringing the case to federal court is to lay the groundwork for a confrontation at the Supreme Court. As I have said before, the issue is becoming too ripe for the SCOTUS to ignore much longer. If not this case, then another will appear on the docket next session. It is virtually guaranteed.
Star Trek--"Errand of Mercy"

“Errand of Mercy” marks the first appearance of the Klingons. Other than that, the episode is largely unremarkable. Call it blasphemy if you must, but I am not particularly impressed with TOS Klingons compared to their 24th century counterparts. Od, since several TOS Klingons will make appearances in a couple of DS9 episodes. Regardless, I find Klingons at first to be cruel barbarians with little character to make them interesting. It is particularly bad here, although kor does make a formidable villain. But so do the Borg and they all have the personality of a moon rock.

Much like in the Superior ‘Balance of Terror,” the federation finds itself on the verge of a massive war that has not even been remotely hinted at up until this point. The klingons are massing war materiel in a secotr of space in which there is one independent planet, Organia. Should Organia fall, the balance of power will tilt towards the klingons. Kirk and Spock go undercover in order to compel the Organians to fight the Klingons. Nothing they do convinces the pacifist seemingly Organians to do anything.

What follows is a number of TOS staples which are done much better in subsequent episodes, particularly the third season’s “A Private Little War.” One retrospective element is the organians are actually beings of pure energy far advanced than humans or Klingons, whom they consider--surprise, surprise--complete savages far beneath them. Cue the Thespians, Metrons, whatever the heck Trelane and his parents were, Gary Mitchel, etc. The organians halt all ability to use weapons and force the Federation and Klingons into an uneasy peace

There is nothing exciting here, nor was there anything to take away from the episode. If the Origonians were supposed to represent the virtues of pacifism versus the ready for battle Federation and Klingons, it failed. The Origanian wound up enforcing their will more harshly than either of them. Even the implied off screen torture scene does not resonate much squeamish feeling, since Spock just brushed it off like it was an uncomfortable, but thrilling roller coaster ride. It kind of took the sting out of it. Actually, there was not much sting about anything. A very forgettable episode.

Rating: ** (out of 5)
Amy Adams

Just because.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

California Upholds Proposition 8

The California Supreme Court has upheld Proposition 8’s ban on gay marriage, but will allow all previous gay marriages in the state to remain valid. The court specifically ruled Proposition 8 did not violate equal protection laws.

I am confident the decision went against many, if not most, of the justices’ personal political opinions. At least they were able to cast those prejudices aside and look at the question on its legal merits. Double kudos for ignoring the other state corts like Iowa’s that legalized marriage presumably with the hope of providing persuasive authority for SCOC to do so.

The fact is gay marriage is still a controversial issue with states coming down on different sides of the issue. It is a matter ripe enough for the SCOTUs to take up soon. I would wager lawyers are colliding with each other right now on their way to petition the SCOTUS to review the SCOC’s ruling right now. At the very least, some Gay marriage case is going to hit the docket, probably next session.

Look for the culture war to heat up unmercifully then. In the interim, watch perez Hilton pop a gasket while gay militants don their stylish pumps and march against the ’bigoted’ blacks, Mormons, Christians, and various other ordinary folks who do not share their vision reversing 5,000 years of jurisprudence.
SCOTUS Nominee: Sonia Sotomayor

Well, it could have been worse. Sonia Sotomayor is liberal enough to cause some opposition with republicans in the Senate, but not so much her confirmation to replace David Souter would be a disaster. Her opinions probably will not be too far to the left from his. Plus, Sotomayor has already been confirmed to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. She has already made it past a confirmation hearing. Barring the revelation of any scandals--not out of the question, but unlikely--she should be confirmed with little problem.

Or Barack Obama could just be choosing a moderate now to make up for the liberal, loony tune activist he is bound to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg with next year. Time will tell.

What is more irksome than another liberal justice who thinks strict constructionism is only for house and skyscrapers is the immediate inclusion of race into the mix. Look, Stomayor is a graduate of Princeton and yale law with a distinguished career on and off the bench. Regardless of how I feel about her judicial philosophy, she is qualified enough to be considered a SCOTUs pick. There is no reason that her Hispanic ethnicity needs to be considered factor in her nomination, nor does there need to be any speculation whether Republicans will have to vote for her or risk charges of racism.

I have yet to read a news item that did not speak of her ethnicity as a deciding factor for her selection before spelling out her academic and professional credentials. It is pretty clear what the left values in a person even if they are extremely intelligent, experienced, and happen to not bea white man. The first two traits fall far behind the latter in importance.

How is that not insulting to Sotomayor?

UPDATE: TNR:"She's not that smart and kind of a bully on the bench... Her opinions, although competent, are viewed by former prosecutors as not especially clean or tight, and sometimes miss the forest for the trees."

UPDATE II: Bench Memos:"Judge Sotomayor is a liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important that the law as written. She thinks that judges should dictate policy, and that one's sex, race, and ethnicity ought to affect the decisions one renders from the bench...

She has an extremely high rate of her decisions being reversed, indicating that she is far more of a liberal activist than even the current liberal activist Supreme Court."

UPDATE III: A law clerk speaks, via Prof. David Wagner, my former Constitutional Law professor, at Ninomania:
Not all the former clerks for other judges I talked to were skeptical about Sotomayor. "I know the word on the street is that she's not the brainiest of people, but I didn't have that experience," said one former clerk for another judge. "She's an incredibly impressive person, she's not shy or apologetic about who she is, and that's great." This supporter praised Sotomayor for not being a wilting violet. "She commands attention, she's clearly in charge, she speaks her mind, she's funny, she's voluble, and she has ownership over the role in a very positive way," she said. "She's a fine Second Circuit judge--maybe not the smartest ever, but how often are Supreme Court nominees the smartest ever?"
Talk about killing with faint praise.

UPDATE IV: what is up with this "South Bronx representin'?" Stacy McCain and Co. would like to know. If I had to guess, I would say a Bronx cheer and a baseball bat to the Constitution in the name of eliminating oppression and helping people.

Yes, I shudder at the prospect, too.

UPDATE V: Four big reversals on appeal. show Sotomayor's judicial incompetence. Okay, I take it back. The Democrats are touting her ethnicity because they cannot crow about anything else. They do need to be obsessed with race here.
Star Trek--"The Devil in the Dark"

As the story goes, stuntman and designer James Prohaska, who had previous appeared in costume as two of the Talosians’ zoo specimens in “The Cage,” crawled into Gene Roddenberry’s office wearing his newly ed Horta costume. Rodenberry was so impressed, he wrote “The Devil in the Dark” in four days in order to utilize it. Thus was born a Trek classic and one of my favorites.

One of the reasons I enjoy it so much is that it has a message of wildlife stewardship without going over the top with animal rights activism. Considering Roddenberry’s zealous idealism and the short time he supposedly wrote the script in, it is a miracle the message is so reasonable. There is hardly a Hollywood writer today who could resist the urge to turn the story into a weepy, guilt ridden diatribe on man’s destruction of the earth.

But see reasonably ‘the Devil in the Dark’ plays out. The Horta are peaceful creatures doing there own thing. They do not mind humans mining their planet up until the miners inadvertently destroy Horta nests full of eggs. The Horta are unable to communicate, so they defend their nests by force. The horta are hunted asdangerousanimals until communication can beestablished, at which point the dispute is cleared up and all parties reach an agreement to cooperate with one another in mining.

One might complain the solution was pat since both sides suffered deaths in the conflict, but I am willing to chalk that up as tragic losses on the rocky road to peace. The solution that the Horta will help the miners by digging tunnels themselves safely around their nests is a much better solution than the defeatist idea of the miners leaving the panet in disgrace as some sort of genocidal savages while the Horta remain behind quivering victims who need to be spared from any further barbarism save for the humans building some memorial to the fallen to perpetuate eternal guilt for their mistake. I can see clearly how that sort of ending could have come about, particularly in this day and age.

To guage how close the story could have come to being over the top, look no further than the mind meld between Spock and the Horta. It is the second most dramatic moment in the series, right behind a distraught Kirk clutching McCoy to keep him from saving Edith Keeler. the sequence could have easily been a corny exercise in maudlin anguish, but it was done perfectly. Consider it a testament to Leonard Nimoy’s strengths as a gifted actor.

I only have one criticism of the episode. Why is the planet called Janus VI? Like Lazarus in “The Alternative Factor,” the name serves as a allusion with no pay off. Lazerus never had anything to do with resurrection in ’The Alternative Factor” and there was no two-faced deceotion in ’The Devil in the Dark.” I do not think was an ignorant man by any means, but dropping these allusions into scripts without a payoff gives the impression he is trying to appear intellectual but revealing he does not know much about their true meaning. More care would have been nice.

Rating: **** (out of 5)
Phoebe Price in a Bikini

Just because.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Doctor Who Spoof

The following video is a short segment featuring John Barrowman, David Tennant, and the winner of a contest to portray a villain in a special segment of Doctor Who. It is a bit lackluster, but any Doctor Who is better than no Doctor Who.
Star Trek--"This Side of Paradise"

So what is Trek’s position on drug use? Harlan Ellison remains angry today a plot point about drug use was cut out of “The City on the Edge of Forever” in favor of McCoy’s delirium serving as the story’s catalyst. Twenty years later, TNG took another stance against drug use when Picard decided to end the drug trade between a supplier planet and another planet of addicts. But before both of those, we have “This Side of Paradise‘ which just might imply smoking pot is not all that bad.

Considering the title of this blog, which is mostly a bitter joke on my blind eye. But still a reference to one of my favorites, The Odyssey, it would be intellectually dishonest to not draw parallels between this episode’s story and the Lotus Eaters. The lotus eaters were a Northern African people who used to eat a plant which induced apathetic, peaceful sleep. Heavy winds blew Odysseus and his men to their home. The men took part in munching on the plants and promptly lost all interest in the journey home. Odysseus had to round them up to get them back on the ship.

With the added science fiction element of the plant spores protecting the colonists from radiation, that is the basic plot of “This side of Paradise.” the entire crew, save for Kirk, are infected by spores from silly looking plants and it is suddenly the Summer of Love two months early and dozens of light years from San Francisco. As usual, kirk is immune because his duty to the Enterprise supercedes all other urges. It isup to him to rescue the crew.

This is not a kirk-centric episode, however. Spock steals the show as he falls in love with a girl for the first time. We get to see Spock’s inner turmoil over his half human/half Vulcan status. Kirk is actually the square in this one, as he not only ruins everyone’s buzz, but does so in the harshest manner possible. He has to make Spock angry in order to snap him out of his high. He does so by making all sorts of hateful remarks about Spock being a green blooded half-breed. Spock may be a fictional alien, but I still could not help wincing at the sequence. You have to figure there is some truth to the feelings Kirk is expressing, if not from him, then by the human population in general.

Regardless, once spock has recovered, he and Kirk use some mumbo jumbo sonic waves to anger everyone on the planet to snap them out of their haze. It works, but everyone is bummed. The hint fro most of the returning crew is they are bummed to no longer have their peaceful apathy. Spock is a little more bitter. His time under the spores’ influence was the only time he has ever been happy.

Tell me you do not believe the Lotus eater parallels are just plausible deniability for a pot legalization screed? Everyone who breathed in the spores was happy, amorous, and at peace. Kirk serves as the authority figure--the fuzz, if you will--who uses violence to bring the turned on, tuned in, and dropped out crewmembers back to reality. Timothy leary had just coined that phrase in September of 1966. It would have been well caught on among the California counter culture by the time this script was being written in 1967. It is difficult to deny the writer might have sneaked one in on us.

Rating: *** (out of 5)
Memorial Day

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Obama Youth Brigade Forbidden to Practice Religion

The Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and education act (GIVE) will require anyone receiving school loans to serve a minimum of three months in the Obama Youth Brigade. The brigade is supposedly a community service organization. Normally, I would grant you that it is. I am not one of those fiery reactionaries who thinks Obama is the next Hitler or the Antichrist. I just think he is an inexperienced idiot who should not have been let anywhere near the White House. but I may have to rethink what I thought was a reasonable position after learning of one of the bill's provisions:
"...he participants will be forbidden from "engaging in religious instruction, conducting worship services, providing instruction as part of a program that includes mandatory religious instruction or worship . . . engaging in any form of religious proselytization."
In other words, a member of the Obama Youth Brigade cannot attend church, prayer meetings, Bible camp, or even express their faith in any manner which might lead to converting someone else to Christianity. which is to say, they cannot speak of their faith at all. yes, i know the rule applies to all religion. I spoke solely of Christianity because that is the religion virtually every participant will practice, so it is safe to say it is Christianity that is specifically targetted.

Apologists for Obama may say the provision is to insure theseparation of church and state, for which I tell you there is not only no such animal, but the government cannot forbid the freedom of religion. Explain to me the logic of one being able to enjoy the practice of any religion he or she choose when they join the military to fight and perhaps die for this country while a volunteer may not? Good heavens, the former risks death so the latter can have that right in the first place!

I am beginning to come around to the belief Obama is not a believer in any religion. he was, after all, the first president in modern history to declare on the National Day of Prayer the United States was not a Christian nation. He appears quite blatantly to be eliminating any competing belief systems that might get in the way of the idea the government can save us all.
Star Trek--"Space Seed"

I am going to make what will probably amount to the biggest blasphemy in all of trek; “Space Seed” is not all that great an episode. Yes, Kan is the most interesting , fleshed out villain of the series, but much of his appeal comes from his appearance in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. I think that it is the best movie with the original crew, if not the nurseries, so I imagine its quality somehow elevates “Space Seed” to an undeserved height.

Do not get me wrong. It is still an enjoyable episode. The characterizations are perfect. You just do not get enough about the eugenics program to dig into the nuts and bolts of it. For example, just how are Khan and his men enhanced? They have increased strength, endurance, and intelligence allegedly enough to conquer the planet, but are defeated by a woman’s betrayal and a fistfight with kirk, albeit he did use a pipe there to finish him off. Khan does not offer up any decent arguments why eugenics is a god thing, either. He just spouts off a number of slogans.

I suppose you can rationalize that away with Khan’s arrogance. He does quickly adapt to the 23rdcentury. He takes itasa given he ought to be in a leadership position. Perhaps his betrayal comes because he is so arrogant, he cannot comprehend that Marla McGiver might ever turn on him. It is nice touch, by the way, for a woman to fall in love with an exotic man rather than the usual Kirk falling for some half naked alien.

The flaws I just mentioned have been recognized by subsequent Trek writers, save for the TNG episode “Unnatural Selection” in which the Enterprise visit’s a facility working with genetic engineering. The episode gets swept under the rug considering the issues surrounding Julian Basher’s genetic enhancement in DS9, the fugitive status of Arik Soong in ENT, and several novels, including a hint in one that escaped enhanced humans hid out in remote areas like the Alaskan wilderness. An accusation Will Riker might be descended from them is a stigma that gives him a sense of self-loathing, much less trouble in the rest of the novel. The latter is not canon, of course, but seeks to elaborate on the bitter feelings towards eugenics that still linger in the 24th century.

I find it implausible kirkwould simply maroon Khan after his defeat. He and his men are clearly every bit the threat to peace they once were, should they not be imprisoned or executed? It was just a handful of episodes ago theFederation was willing to execute Spock for violating the general order against contacting the Talosians, so they are not above it. Kirk had ordered Scotty to destroy the surface of Eminiar in the previous episode in order to save the ship. Surely executing Khan could be rationalized eve more easily.

An opportunity was wasted here, probably because the writer could not decide what the episode was to be about. Was it a allegory on the Nazis trying to build a master race? Not really. Was it a warning about science without morality? Aybe that was the purpose, but insufficient effort went into it if so. I am going to cut “Space Seed’ some slack, however. I am looking at it now as one who finds abortion, embryonic stem cell research, social Darwinism, and euthanasia as banes of our existence. Those practices are true science without morality and something I suspect Trek did not imagine were going to become, not increasingly accepted, but considered merciful today. reality has become more horrible than the fictional near future of Trek.

Rating: *** (out of 5)
Kim Kardashian Bikini Butt Shot

For those of you who believe Kim Kardashian to possess the Holy Grail of rear ends, here you go.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Swine Flu: Piglet Must Pay

I will probably feel bad about this one if the swine flu does turn into a pandemic that kills fifty million people like the 1918 flu pandemic. I promise to flog myself with a wet noodle unless you can convince Reese witherspoon to do it for me. she seems to have enough repressed anger issues to go for it. otherwise, this is hilarious.

Serious, folks, some perspective: the regular flu kills 40,000 people a year in the United States. As of yesterday, there were 6, 552 cases of the swine flu in the United States with only nine fatalities. You may view the facts here.

Take the same precautions you do in preventing the regular flu and you will be fine.
Star Trek--"A Taste of Armageddon"

What is the value of a “clean war” in which losses are incurred by the government, but society as a whole remains relatively untouched/ it might sound like an appealing concept. The characters in the novel All Quiet on the Western Front sardonically joke theircountryies respective leaders ought to meet on the battlefield individually to fight out their disputes with out regular soldiers. But the removal of the human element of war can make battle too easy a solution for disputes, as ’A Taste of Armageddon” demonstrates.

The two planets Eminiar VII and Vendikar have been at war with one another for five hundred years. The waris fought entirely with computers. Thecomputers calculate the amount of losses in each simulated attack. The casualties willingly march into incineration chambers as part of their civic duty. The Enterprise is considered destroyed while in orbit of Eminiar VII. Real conflict ensues when Kirk refuses to allow his crew to be incinerated.

I am certain the theme of this episode resonated more when it originally aired during the height of the Cold War. You can see very clearly the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) which was a serious topic at the time. MAD was a nuclear war deterrant strategy which said any nuclear aggressor would be totally annihilated in response to any attack. What does not measure up is how MAD in the real world was out of the citizenry’s hands. If nuclear weapons starting flying, civilization ceased to happen. The citizens of Eminiar VII, however, went willing to their fate when they could have made a Logan’s Run escape, whether hopeless or not.

Their self-sacrificing is hard to comprehend. But that is the point. Becoming desensitized to war is a horrible thing. there is no way thewar would have lasted five hundred years if people actually had to run off, fight, and die in it. By removing the human face of war, it becomes no different than diplomacy in cost. Indeed, the two planets decided why bother with diplomacy at all when fighting isso easy?

There is a cautionary message their applicable even now that dirty bombs carried by a terrorist into a crowded area is a bigger concern than Russia orChina firing its arsenal in our direction. I am no peacenik. There are principles worth fighting for. Only the dead have seen the end of war. But the clical aspect of modernized war where someone can sit at acomputer and rain down death upon an enemy thousands of milesawaywithout ever looking him in the eye ought to give everyone pause. When it is that easy to remain distant from the horror of war, the criteria for what war is necessary to fight may become dangerously lenient.

In further historical context, “A Taste of Armageddon” had Vietnam War overtones. The annoucement of the numbers of projected dead was a statement on the body count totals read on the nightly news of the time. Robert Fox, the federation ambassador who defies the order to stay away from Eminiar VII because he wants a Federation port there, is probably a warped representation of the antiwar activist’s view of the pro-Vietnam War politicians. Fox’s incompetence embroiled the Enterprise in a war it should not have been in. It is only when he is captured and his death in a disentegration both is imminent that he understands the nature of the conflict. That Kirk is able to end a five hundred year old war and force the two sides into negotiation by destroying the means of fighting sounds like the “give peace a chance" mantra of the antiwar movement.

As far as canon sources are concerned, it worked. Eminair Vii is mentioned once in DS9 as a vacation spot and the transport ship ferrying the the TNG crew away from the crashed Enterprise in Star Trek: Generations is the SS Robert Fox. Several comic books and novels tell a different story. In “The Trial of Captain Kirk’ for DC Comics, peace talks broke down. A nuclearwarerupted instead which turned both planets into irradiated wastelands. Kirk’s responsibility for the war was in question. Subsequent novels in the Shatnerverse series of trek novels have also continued the idea a nuclear war devastated the planets. You should draw your own conclusions o which was the best ending depending on your own cynicism.

This is one of the better episodes of the season because it is thougt provoking. It was probably bad to air two episodes in a row in which a computer controls a society, but I think the idea was done with more intelligence here. At the very least, Kirk did not talk this computer to death with that extraordinary skill of his.

Rating: *** *(out of 5)
Elizabeth Mitchell is Not Lost

It is fairly well known among Losties, but it never hurts to reiterate: Elizabeth Mitchell will return for the sixth and final season of Lost in 2010. On any other show, falling down a deep well only to find yourself at the epicenter of a hydrogen bomb explosion would spell the end of your character, but Lost has its own peculiar habit of utilizing members of the choir invisible. Unfortunately, the cliffhanger did not give us a whole lot of clues as to how the character of Juliet Burke will fit into the upcoming season. Or how anything will fit, for that matter. Darn you, Lindelof & Cuse!

But do I have theories? Oh, yes, I have theories.

Part of the puzzlement over Mitchell’s fate next season is her casting in the remake of the ‘80’s science fiction classic, V. I posted the trailer for it earlier this week and remarked about the overt anti-Obama vibe. I invite you to click the link and see for yourself. It is only a minute and a half. It will tell you much more than any description I can write. Marvel, too, that the original series was an environmental morality tale that had the aliens stealing our water. They apparently resisted the urge to do the same herewith global warming.

Back to Mitchell. It is still fuzzy exactly how big her role is going to be or even how long the “limited engagement” of V is going to be. (yes, “limited engagement.” Whatever happened to calling these things a miniseries. Even if it is the pilot for a show, it is still a miniseries. But the bottom line any elizabeth Mitchell is good.(Part of The Other McCain's Rule 5 Sunday.)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Terminate Yourself

Make yourself into a Terminator here.
And the Dumbest Essay on Adam Lambert's Loss Is...

I have scanned numerous opinion pieces on why Adam Lambert lost American Idol attempting to find the stupidest one I could. I think we have a winner here. it should come as no surprise those geniuses at The Huffington Post blame Lambert’s loss on Christian induced homophobia. But the raving blogger Jim David goes into much more than that, which is why I gave the crown to his piece.

David makes two big mistakes. First, he misjudges what Ai is really about. Second, he completely misses the mark on the cultural issue which are actually irrelevant to Lambert’s loss. I will talk about each of these below.

American Idol, for all it is advertised to be, is a popularity contest, not a singing competition. Simon Cowell himself has lamented this fact in a number of interviews even though he is more than happy to make a fortune producing the album of whoever winds up the winner. Every week, voters for the most part stay loyal to the singer they want to stay in the competition regardless of whether their performance merit their support or not. In the end, when it is down to two contestants, viewers vote against whoever they dislike more.

But guess what/ That is the music business. Likeability sells. Sex sells. Talent/ marginal, as long as you can fake being cool or look good half naked. Jessica simpson gained a few pounds and had a hard time remembering the lyrics to her new country set. She is now a laughing stock with a career ruined. Why is that? Because her image as a sex symbol faltered. We cannot overlook her marginal singing talent when that happens.

David’s solution to the problem is to let the AI judges decide the winner rather than the ignorant masses. This is typically arrogant liberal thinking. It is the people, those who vote on AI, who are going to buy winner’s CD. They ought to be the ones to decide what they want. But no. the professionals must be the ones to choose what you get to have because they know better. If it is good enough for public policy, it is good enough for entertainment.

That is all the segue David needed to launch into an indictment of Christianity and conservative culture. I cannot imagine anyone with two brain cells rub together believes Lambert lost because conservatives wanted revege for their losses in November, yet that is what David asserts. The claim is similar to the stupid idea any policy disagreements with Barack Obama are rooted in racism. There is more to decision making than identity politics, lefties.

David believes that corn fed America fell for Allen’s aw shucks, all American Christian boy act because they could not stand Lambert’s artsy fartsy, sissy boy ways. If that were true, one wonders one, how did Lambert make it all the way to the finals and two, why did corn fed America not dump him after he turned Johnny cash’s “Ring of Fire” into an emo twinged vampire anthem? You cannot mess with Johnny Cash like that and hope to survive--unless, of course, conservative America does not have the ax to grind about weirdoes David thinks they do.

Here is where he misjudges American culture. Are there homophobes I America? Sure. Racists, too. That is their right. If you want America to have freedom of speech, to be the John Stuart Mill marketplace of ideas, you have to tolerate it. There is no room for the thought police here. But guess what? Americans listen to Clay Aiken, Elton John, and k. D. Lang. They watch Ellen DeGeneres and Wanda Sykes. They read Andrew Sullivan. Theyabsolutely despisefred fred phelps, theWestboro Baptist Chrch, and all its actions. Americans have no problem with differences. What they dispise is intolerance, right and left.

David misses this point, but he kills Americans with faint praise by applauding them for voting Lambert into the finale even if they were too homophobic to give him the top prize. Americans are all going to pat Lambert on the head for being a good (reluctant) gay icon, but just cannot have you win. What a condescending attitude which reveals more about the bigotry of “enlightened” blue state America instead.
Star Trek--"The Return of the Archons"

Gene Roddenberry’s secular humanism is well known, though at its heart unreasoned and often hypocritical. He never got to be as overt about his beliefs in TOS as he did in TNG because of the social mores of the day. Thus far, Christianity has been mentioned twice, both in passing. The first was the Enterprise chapel shown in “The Balance of Terror” and the second was the mention of Christmas in “Dagger of the Mind.” Both were innocuous mentions without endorsement or criticism. Now with “The Return of the Archons,” we begin to see the view of religion Roddenberry actually had, albeit disguised enough to not blatantly offend.

The planet Beta III’s population act like zombies following the will of a being known as Landru. They have no sense of individuality and their culture has stagnated. Outsiders are taken by lawgivers, men dressed as monks robes with a subtle hint of the Grim Reaper are taken to an absorption chamber where they are processed into these zombies. Ladru is actually a hologram projected from a computer that is running the planet. Kirk displays his extraordinary ability to talk a computer to death in order to free the planet. Everyone on Beta III, in spite of the only way of life they have ever known being destroyed, are much better off.

To me, that is a typical atheist critique of Christianity. Christians give themselves completely over to God represented here by the computer while taking order from Landru, a long dead being who is not actually there. The computer’s word is enforced with extreme prejudice by the clergy known as the Lawgivers. The lawgivers brainwash people into the religion. But the entire system can be destroyed by applying logic to the computer. The computer self-destructs and everyone is better off for it.

If case you had any doubts whether the population of Beta II would be better off, Kirk happily lectures Spock why he is wrong about the Prime Directive, which makes its first appearance here, applying. Kirk reasons the Prime Directive applies to functioning, vibrant societies. One in which the population dutifully follows a religious belief cannot possibly apply. Note the irony that Spock is using rationalism, a major tenant of atheist belief, in his argument, while Kirk dismisses it based on emotional prejudice. I did say Roddenberry was an unreasoned hypocrite in his secular humanism, did I not? This is another instance of a human lecturing an alien over the proper way of thinking even though said alien is more properly following actually humanist philosophy.

Forget the exaggeratedly negative view of Christianity and view the general principles. Beta III has a religious culture, no matter how they got it, and it works for them. There is a movement of ’free” men trying to change things and that is their right. If nothing else, it demonstrates the society is not stagnant at all since there is disagreement. Spock says the society ought to be left alone even though it is one the Federation would not endorse. Kirk says no. too many peoplearefollowing a religious idea that does not meet his standards, so it has to go. never mind that not only is he placing his opinion over an entire planet’s, but ignores how paralyzing it would be for the population to completely lose its way of life in an instant. But, hey, Christianity is just that evil. The cost of getting rid of it is irrelevant.

I have talked about this episode before with friends who assert the theme is not about religion at all, but a morality tale on modern man’s reliance on technology. I disagree, not only for the reasons I spelled out above, but because it is not revealed Beta III is run by a computer until the end. If “The Return of the Archons” was meant to caution us about dependence on technology, it squandered the opportunity by not playing its hand sooner. The argument is further weakened by the eventual introduction of the Borg. They are a much more pointed critique of dependence on technology. They are also an effective knock on communism nearly twenty years too late, but who is counting?

While I disagree with the overall message, I can appreciate how Roddenberry went about it. It isnot a bad episode, save for two major logical lapses. First, what was the point of ever mentioning the USS Archon? The ship disappeared acentury ago on Beta III, but was never really relevant to anything other than giing the episode its name. Second, there was never any explanation why the Festival occurred. Was it to blow off steam or just another critique of Christianity trying to make them look like hypocrites for indulging in periodic debauchery along with piety? We are left wondering.

Rating: *** (out of 5)
Britney Spears in a Bikini

Just because.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

American Distractions

A status update I saw earlier on Facebook expressed a hope that, since American Idol was over, people would stop slobbering all over no talent flashes in the pan and pay attention to the important things going on around us. Specifically, he mentioned the national debt having tripled since Barack Obama took office.

First things first. I find it humorous critics of America’s obsession with frivolity always use American Idol as their target of derision. The national debt has tripled? Nancy Pelosi lied? The banks have bee nationalized? Ah, who cares? Adam Lambert sure is talented, is he not? I am confident I have done it aftertimes myself. I am going to have to pick something more original should I ever critique the ignorance and/or apthy of Americans in such a manner again.

In the meantime, yes, I am aware the national debt has tripled since January 20. There is not much else I can say it about it other than, “I told you so!” See, I spent all last year logging about how Obama’s incompetence, inexperience, and liberal brainwashing were going to result in disastrous public policy. What do you know--it has!

But there is no much else I can do. I am certainly not interested in writing about it day in and day out. I did not vote for him, so there is no penance I have to do. Right up until I cast my ballot for Republicans in 2010, I can do little more than watch the circus. I have all confidence the country will survive Obama’s stupidity, but offering up a chronicle of it in the interim is a tedious and depressing affair.
Dick Cheney's Speech

I cannot find anything in it I disagree with.
Star Trek--"Tomorrow is Yesterday"

I have critiqued TOS episodes several times for originating concepts trek does poorly, like children, mad scientists, and nearly omnipotent beings judging humanity, but ’Tomorrow is Yesterday” offers a chance to praise TOS for starting a trend Trek does well: time travel. It has been done in every series and several of the movies. Even ENT managed to get it right once in “Twilight,” although that barely makes up for the previous effort in which Archer and T’Pol struggle with a drive through in 2004. I have blocked the episode title out of my memory for the sake of my own sanity. There were Xindsi, as I recall.

In stark contrast to the previous episode, ’The Alternative Factor,” the plot and theoretical science actually make sense. The Enterprise is thrown back in time to 1969. The damaged ship is spotted by an USAF fighter. The pilot has to be beamed aboard before he can fire at the Enterprise. Thus the dilemma becomes what to do with the pilot, John Christopher?

How the ethical problem is dealt with is my favorite part of the episode. Many fans prefer the humorous, fish out of water aspect of Kirk, Spock, and Sulu struggling to cover their tracks while dealing with “modern day” man, but I find the existential element much more satisfying. Kirk and Spock decide they have to keep Christopher onboard in order to protect the future. They believe they can do so because Christopher is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. That is until they discover his future son will be a famous astronaut to Saturn in the distant future.

We would all like to think we are more important than we actually are. The point was driven home to me six years ago when my mother died. Aside from the emotional legacy she left behind, she has been pretty much wiped from history. There is nothing physical that says she was ever here besides my siblings and me. I cannot measure our significance with any degree of precision. Maybe the only way any of us will matter is because of a lone great-great-grandchild somewhere down the line who does little more than push Edith Keeler out of the way of a speeding car. Maybe not even that much. One’s place in the universe is unknown until it is all said and done at the end of time. A heady thought, no?

Spock comes up with a too convenient plan to restore the timeline back to the way things were. The pat solution which wraps it all up in a pretty package with a nice little bow is the only thing preventing me from giving “Tomorrow is Yesterday” five stars. Ity is still one of the best of the season. It also has the strange honor of predicting the moon landing would take place on a Wednesday in 1969. It is one of the few future predictions Trek gets right.

Rating: **** (out of 5)