Thursday, December 31, 2009

Good Riddance, 2009!

We have already established 2009 was awful because the grim reaper worked overtime, but the year was rotten all around. My blogging proves it. Certainly bad news tends to be the only news, but did we ever have a case of it in 2009.

It goes without saying I have a difficult tie with our current political leadership. I have actually been in the political doldrums since the summer of 2008 when the nominations of Barack Obama and John McCain were set in stone. Their race for the White House was the most secular and amoral in modern times.

Forget the dog and pony show of the Saddleback Forum or the silly controversy over whether Obama is a Muslim look at the deeper issues. McCain could barely fake an interest in the Christian conservatives he needed to win--not that anyone thought he could. I still maintain Obama is an atheist or at least uninterested in in politically incorrect faiths. But even if he is a man of faith, it has been influenced by twenty years of indoctrination by the racist, anti-Semitic Jeremiah Wright.

Along came Sarah Palin, whom I do not believe McCain ever wanted as running mate. She isa true Proverbs 31 woman who was and still is brutalized for it. The candidate I most identify with and trust is also the most hated. It does not fill me with confidence the culture is fond of me, either. Hope and change applies to doing away with those who think like us.

H. L. Mencken once said, “the urge to save humanity is always a false front to rule it.” truer words have never been spoken about the progressives who have been ruling over us for the last year. I waver between whether they are greedy and short-sighted or dangerous true believers who see this as their last chance to turn the united States into an alleged progressive utopia.

Obama has a serious case of the latter. The rhetoric of his past speeches regarding rolling back the ocean tides and healing the planet was not just the overzealous whims ofa young speechwriter. Obama genuinely believes the whole of human history has culminated in his presidency. He has to come down to reality at some point when all but the most progressive realize the emperor is naked. When he has nothing left but his progressive base--everyone else will be branded racist--he will be at his most dangerous. It will happen over the next year.

The Age of Obama has not started off anywhere near as gloriously as he and his supporters had hoped. Our culture is just as whiny and narcissistic as our president with no moral compass to guide it beyond public acceptance. Is it any wonder the first thing Rod Blagojerovich did after he was removed from office was seek out a reality show to join? Winning public approval by being entertaining will buy a whole lot of forgiveness. Just ask David Letterman, Roman Polanski, or Charlie Sheen.

The year was nothing but cynical times all around. I do not know what lay ahead in 2010, but my personal cynicism does not see a light shining anywhere in the next twelve months unless we light one ourselves.

My Predictions for 2010

I did well enough last year to put my neck in the noose for 2010. Here are a few predictions:

1. The economy will still be in the dumps all year long. Barack Obama’s approval ratings will continue to sink as he opts to spend the country’s way out of it.

2. Some red state Democrat senator up for reelection hoping to score points with voters will change his or her vote on ObamaCare on its second time through

3. Israel will attack Iran’s nuclear sites. Obama will go cross=eyed trying to figure out what to say, much less how to respond.

4. Hillary Clinton will resign as Secretary of State in anticipation of either challenging a weak Obama for the nomination or that his low approval ratings will compel him notto seek reelection at all.

5. Janet Napolitano will resign.

6. The Lost series finale will not satisfactorily answers the questions posed over the last six seasons.

7. Democrats inexplicably try to push illegal immigrant amnesty. It will be a diaster for them.

8. The Republicans will win the House, but not the Senate.

9. Nevertheless, Democrats Chris Dodd and Harry Reid will lose their seats..

10. Sarah Palin will continue to draw the ire of the left as she increases her prospects of getting the GOP nod in 2012.

11. Iron Man II will be the big ht of the year.

12. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie will split up.

13. Sometime tomorrow, my Sitemeter will record my 500,000 hit. Thanks to all my visitors who have made it possible.

Scorecard for My Predictions for 2009

I madke a list of predictions for the upcoming year. How good were my prognostications last New Year's Eve? Not bad, actually:

1. The economy will remain the dumps all throughout 2009.
I called this one.
2. Partly because of the bad economy and partly because some journalists will tire of the fawning attitude of their profession towards him, the honeymoon between Barack Obama and the press will be gone by the spring.
The press is beginning to see the emperor has no clothes, but it has taken much long than i thought it would.
3. It may be thwarted by Homeland Security, but we will at the very least learn there was a significant terrorist attack planned for US soil in order to test Obama. If fortune smiles upon us, the act will not come to pass.
This one happened on Christmas Day. Just under the wire.
4. Obama’s days in Chicago—probably Tony Rezko—will haunt Obama just like the Arkansas days haunted Bill Clinton.
His Chicago buddies have been an embarrassment, but as yet, they have not been as detrimental as Bill Clinton's Arkansas associates.
5. Caroline Kennedy will not replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate.
I called that one.
6. George W. Bush will quietly retire to Dallas and be forgotten by all accept the most hardcore liberals who want to try him for war crimes.
Progressives still blame him for everything but Barack Obama's dandruff.
7. The press will continue to brutalize Sarah Palin as it becomes more obvious her grassroots appeal is growing for a 2012 presidential bid.
Indeed.
8. Gay marriage will be instituted in California.
Chalk this one up to my lack of faith in my fellow man to do what is right. or my Bob Jones influenced paranoia, whichever you prefer.
9. In an unrelated note, Tony Romo will marry Jessica Simpson, probably because she is pregnant.
I blew this one, too. He dumped her some time ago.
10. The New York Yankees might make the playoffs with all their new, expensive acquisitions, but they will eventually lose out to the Boston Red Sox and their superior farm team.
Oops. The Yankees bought another world championship.
11. J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek remake will be the biggest hit of the year.
It was a hit, but the highest grossing film of the year was Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.. Depressing, I know. At least it was not Twilight.
12. Network television will remain on life support Jay Leno five nights a week will not be a huge hit.
Other than giving Jay Leno more faith than he could justify, spot on.
13. It will be a lousy year for rock and roll…again.
Sadly, yes.
14. Paterson Joseph will be announced as the Eleventh Doctor.
Like everyone else, I had no clue who Matt Smith was or why an unknown would follow David Tennant.
15. I will continue to cynically chronicle the downfall of Western Civilization.
That one was easy.

Busy Year for the Grim Reaper

I wrote 28 obituaries in 2009, far more than in any other year since I have been blogging.

What an awful year.

Star Trek: The Next Generation-- "Attached"

I am not much of a ‘shipper period with it comes to TNG. Romantic relationships have generally been dealt with on such an immature level it is next to impossible to take many of them seriously. There is an added issue with Picard and Crusher. She has always had this semi-attachment to him even though he is responsible for her husband’s death. I have cut some slack about this in the past because there is a military tradition of adopting a fallen comrade’s family with which I am only vaguely familiar. Perhaps blossoming into romance from there is not that strange.

But it is strange for these two. I remain skeptical of Picard’s credentials as a ladies man even though he has loosened up in recent seasons. Chalk it up to Gene Roddenberry passing on. There was a desire way back in the first season’s “Arsenal of Freedom’ when he and Crusher were trapped together to hint at a previous relation. Roddenberry, lacking any desire for character development, nixed the idea.

As for Crusher, episodes centering around her and romance have so far been twisted at best. It will only get worse later on as she hooks up with a ghost. Previously, she has gone after Picard while suffering from the intoxication disease, fell in love with a Trill worm, and a wacky scientist. None of them have been glorious moments. Outside of “Suspicions,” there has been nothing of note for her period, much less in the romance department.

“Attached” is a chance to resolve all that awkwardness while giving the Picard/Crusher relationship a mature story to develop in. but it cannot quite pull off the task.

The two are kidnapped in mid-transport while heading to a planet divided into two factions warring with each other. One side wants to join the Federation. This is a neat idea never dealt with before. Every other federation world we have seen has been unified by a single planetary government. But the issue is not dealt with at all. The plot is only a backdrop to get picard and Crusher to be honest about their feelings about each other.

Of course, the only way they can do that is to have interrogation devices implanted in their brains by their captors so they can read each other’s thoughts. Because being willfully open about their feelings towards one another might lead to something real and meaningful. Forcing out deep secrets against their will is best way to go, of course.

Crusher discovers Picard’s love for her. He is quite frosty about it. Ultimately, I do not feel like anything advanced. Picard never seemed to have a special connection with her afterwards. Change some dialogue and Crusher could have been replaced by virtually anyone. Heck, that might have been more interesting.

Once the two are rescued, the government is denied membership in the federation until the planet is unified politically. No surprise there. In fact, it should have been an automatic disqualifier for membership consideration. I count that as a knock against the episode. There should have been a better effort to set up the exploration of the Picard/Crusher relationship than something so contrived. Neither story worked in the end. I cannot even say the paranoia of the warring governments has any new resonance post-9/11 even though--from a progressive standpoint, at any rate--it should be dead on.

“Attached” was Nick Sagan’s first script for TNG. Nick is, of course, theson of Carl Sagan. He will go on to write some better scripts for VOY ater this less than auspicious start. He will be more in his element there with science fiction concepts than the sociopolitical and romantic themes of “Attached.”

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Reese Witherspoon

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Rush Limbaugh Hospitalized with Chest Pains

It has not taken long for progressives to salivate over the prospect of his death. Practically chirping with glee, in fact. Keep in mind those who are wishing for his death are the same ones who want to be in charge of your healthcare. Comforting thought, no?

Best wishes for a speedy recovery for Limbaugh.

UPDATE: Limbaugh is said to be in serious condition. that is not necessarily a reason to get upset. all heart problems are going to be considered serious. You really want it to be that way, too.

Limbaugh has probably suffered an early warning sign of an impending cardiac problem. it is best to assume it was caught early. Heart attacks, when fatal, do not dawdle around around waiting for the paramedics to arrive.

UPDATE II: If you want the details from a more respectable news site, here you go.

Weak on National Security Barack Obama Beset from Diverse Places

The media is currently focusing on Dick Cheney’s comments that Barack Obama has an immature philosophy on fighting the war on terror. They are doing so not becauseCheney has clout as an elder statesman and former vice-president, but because he is easy to demonize, at least in the progressive mindset. For anyone honestly assessing the situation--and that includes Maureen Dowd, of all people, now--the assessment of Obama is a valid one.

But progressives will dismiss Cheney’s words as quickly as any conservative would ignore cries of racism from Al Sharpton. They would certainly dismiss any complaints from other Republican leaders who echoed Cheney as a wing nut. They might even dismiss blue dog Democrats like Joe Lieberman as gadflies. Buthere are two points here that are telling.

One, Congressional Democrats are largely silent on the issue. They know the public does not trust them on national security issues, preferring the hard line touch Republicans utilize. The progressive base often wears pink undies when it comes to national defense anyway, so they risk alienating their base which is already angry about the public option being removed from ObamaCare. Start talking about increased security measures, Gitmo remaining open, and perhaps military eventual action in Yemen and they might choke themselves chewing on their love beads.

Second, there is one democrat speaking up. Diane Feinstein said today there should be no more transfers from Gitmo to Yemen, which is essentially declaring Gitmo needs to stay open with more precautions taken about who gets released period. Feinstein is a progressive, but she does not have a reputation as a wonk or gadfly. She is not known for saying stupidly liberal things like her fellow California Barbara Boxer, for whom conservative blacks are not black enough and tea paryy protestors are too well dressed for…well, whatever she thought they were too well dressed for. The point is, it is hard to ignore Feinstein.

In the midst of all this, you have to admit Obama has been lackluster. It took forever for him to comment on the matter at all. He had to do so again yesterday because his first effort was so poor. Janet Napolitano has showed her incompetence consecutive days and her only job is to fight terrorism. She should have been on the unemployment line before the holiday weekend was over. Someone in the administration needs to start paying attention or find someone who will.

Nate Silver Misses the Point on the Odds of a Terrorist Attack

Nate Silver correctly points out that in the last decade, there have been six attempted terrorist attacks on U.S. commercial flights. There have been in that time, 99,320,309 flights. Ergo, your odds of being on a plane that is the target of a terrorist attack are currently running around one in 16,553,385. But that is not the whole story.

We accept a certain amount of risk in life. That is why our cars are not built like tanks, nor do we walk around in plastic bubbles to avoid germs and injury. We also do a lot more dangerous things than fly with Muslims everyday of our lives. But let us not simplify things too much.

What we are talking about here is increased security. An added full body scan is a simple addition to security procedures far less costly and therefore more reasonable than preventing injury and illness by creating tank cars and personal plastic bubbles.

It comes down to a cost/benefit analysis. We are not losing anything by increasing security scans even if the odds a terrorist is going to blow up a certain flight is minimal. I do not sympathize with privacy advocates who are dead set against it either, unless their doctor has never seen them naked. If that is true, seek theraputic help--unless that is a violation of your privacy, too.

I have to reiterate virtually all the hand wringing over the inconveniences of added security could be cut out immediately if we could just admit these terrorist acts are being committed by young, Muslim men and start racially profiling them rather than shaking down granny before every flight. But I am not optimistic we are mature enough to do that without feeling racial guilt.

Star Trek: The Next Generation-- "Dark Page"

There has not been a single episode revolving around Lwaxana I enjoyed. “Dark Page” is not the first. The powers that be were trying to make her edgier here by revealing a deep, dark secret she has been hiding for decades. It did not work for me. She has been too flighty in the past and will resume her frivolous attitude in a subsequent DS0 appearance without any hint of growth from this episode’s events. So why bother?

I will give the episode some kudos. There is a consistency in her character’s desire to cultivate a relationship with children and the revelation she once had another child who died. Earlier, it was Alexander. Here it is some one off aliens she is teaching to use telepathy. She is so dedicated to doing so, she falls ito a coma when using her telepathy even after being advised by Crusher whatever neural chemicals Betazoids use for telepathy is running dangerously low.

Troi enters her mother’s mind to pull her out of the coma. We wind up with a lot of strange, dreamlike imagery much like the previous episode. Bad scheduling of episodes, methinks. This does make an attempt to tug at the heartstrings than the previous. Troi encounters her dead father ian and the sister she never knew she had, Kestra. I never liked the character of Troi, so it does not resonate for me like was intended.

When Lwaxana confesses she blames herself for Kestra’s death, so she kept the secret from Troi, she comes out of the coma. A cliched, Hollywood medical miracle. Decades old guilt can put you I a coma. Confessing immediately pulls you out without any lasting damage. It is too corny and pat for my tastes.

“Dark Page” is a bad episode all around. I do not care about the Trois. I do not think the deep, dark secret was convincing, particularly when Deanna was as easygoing about it as could be. The whole snapping out of the coma because Lwaxana’s guilt was assuaged was too easy a way out of the situation. This story was neither well thought out, nor executed.

If you do find yourself watching ’Dark page,” look for a very young Kirsten Dunst as one of the children learning telepathy. She was sweet, innocent, and had not become a drunk at that point. Savor the moment.

Rating: * (out of 5)

Abby Elliott

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Moneymaking Ability Buys Hollywood Forgiveness for Charlie Sheen and Roman Polanski

CNN has an article about Charlie Sheen which tells usthe obvious: his current domestic abuse incident is not going to effect his career at all. The sad thing is the argument’s rationale. Evidently, when one has a bad boy reputation already, no one cares how much one escalates it, even if that means threatening one’s wife with a knife.

I just figured Two and a Half Men is making a ton of money, so all would be forgiven the same as it has been for Roman Polanski since he is an award winning director. Polanski said recently he has been overwhelmed by letters of support in hopes he will beat the rap of drugging and sodomizing a thirteen year old girl. Moneymaking talent buys a lotrt of forgiveness in Hollywood.

Sheen is fortunate in that regard. His talent is marginal at best. It took another drugged out wacko Oliver Stone to bring out the only decent performance out of him. But Platoon was 23 years. That is a long time to coast, even in an industry where, like Washington, it is possible to fail upwards.

But back to the issue of Sheen’s bad boy reputation not being a detriment, I am surprised. Even by Hollywood standards, Sheen’s history is breathtaking. He has had multiple arrests for drug and alcohol problems, was the only celebrity name made public on Heidi Fleiss’ list of hooker clients, and shot Kelly Preston. This is not the occasional DUI and stint in rehab in order to rehabilitate one’s image. This is pattern, irresponsible behavior that often results in violence. But it is okay because of Sheen’s bad boy image.

He has no reason to adjust his behavior. Why should he? He is guaranteed $ 850,000 per episode for three more seasons of Two and a Half Men as well as percentage of the syndication money worth tens of millions for years to come. Add in that he is essentially playing himself. What does he have to lose?

I am sure the CNN article is correct. His bad boy reputation has and will serve him well. But he is 44 years old. As pathetic as it is to appreciate bad boy appeal (such that it is) period, but at one point does it become so pathetic even Hollywood cannot go along with it?

Where are the women’s rights groups in both matters? Polanski raped a girl and Sheen threatened violence with a knife. There ought to bean outcry against both. The prevention of sexual assault and other violence against women is a cause even those who are not behind the feminist movement still support. Yet the silence is deafening.

Star Trek: The Next Generation-- "Phantasms"

Earlier, I claimed there were three big problems with the seventh season of TNG: it was no longer the favorite sibling, there was too much wish fulfillment, for creators and actors and it was too existential. “Phantasms” is a fine example of the third problem. I have mixed emotions about it. Many fans are disturbed by the weird imagery and/or creeped out by the invisible parasites. Those two points do not bother me much.

But what does is that data has yet again gone bonkers with the result that once it is all over, no one really cares it happened yet again. Twenty-fourth century humans are forgiving souls. That is really nice. But come on. Should someone not be considering some safety precautions regarding how easily Data can flip out?

“Phantasms’ is the worst because there is no explanation offered as there was in “Brothers” or ’Descent’ where he was overtly under someone else’s control. Here he is acting out his dreams by stabbing crewmembers in areas he believes are infected by parasites only he can see. There is no distinction established whether he is acting in earnest or having awaking dream or how he could be having a dream without his program operating since he has to turn it on. In other words, Data’s dream program is used just an excuse to use all sorts of strange imagery in the story.

Boy, do they ever. La forge decides to hook Data up to the holodeck as he “sleeps” so he and Picard can walk through his dream. Sigmond Freud shows up, Crusher sucks through a straw on Riker’s head, Troi is a cake data is carving up--Cellular peptide with mint frosting--and railroad workers smash through a conduit. I found it amusing Picard warned the blind la Forge to be observant for any subtle symbolism. I am sure he will get right on that, captain.

Apparently he does, because they figure out how to destroy the invisible parasites by using some sort of sonic wave. Data somehow subconsciously knew that would work.

The Enterprise picked up the parasites on a new engine part on their last stop for repairs. They had infected the ship and most of the crew. These parasites destroy the cellular structure of anything they get attached to. We learn everything is going to collapse into a pile of glop within a few hours in they are not stopped, but they are all killed within five minutes of the revelation, so there is no time to build up any drama. In fact, no one gets emotional about it at all. Hence, the episode is nothing more than an excuse to see how surreal a situation the cew can be put in.

That is all anyone remembers about the episode, other than Worf’s declaration the troi cake has mint frosting and his reluctance to care for data’s cat once the android is confined to quarters. It is al amusing, but not enough to complete the package. If everyone is on the verge of death, there should be a much more dreadful mood. There is not. In fact, the sequence where Data stabs Troi in order to kill her parasite is mre disturbing than the idea everyone is about to die. The scene skewers perspective.

I could take or leave this one. There is not much to recommend it, but it could be considered another of those car crash episodes you do not want to look at, but just cannot help yourself. I am a Data fan, but I consider this the worst of the episodes focused on him outside of "The Schizoid Man," but is it not unfair to compare later episodes to the first couple seasons?

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Sophie Marceau

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Question About My Reviews

Just to prove I am acting in good faith, here is our first anonymous question:
Would you ever consider reviewing other shows such as, say, SG1 or Battlestar Galactica? I've really enjoyed your Star Trek reviews.
I havecovered the new Battlestar Galactica. I am not fond enough of the original series to take a crack at it, but then again, it lasted only 26 episodes. That is a drop in the bucket compared to shows I have already run through. I may get the whim. Not enough time has passed for me to run through the remained series for afresh perspective. The Plan was supposed to offer a twist on the whole shebang, but it was a let down.

Never could get into Stargate Sg-1 I have tried, but the illogic of the whole plot is too much for me. Aliens give technology to the ancients in order to builda gateway, then wait thirty years for them to complete it? If you will pardon the pun, that is bad right out the gate.

As for definite plans, I am going to cover the ten movies right after TNG. Until someone definitively defines where 2009’s Star Trek fits in, I am skipping it. I am still at a loss as to whether it serves as a complete relaunch with Leonard Nimoy’s Spock added in as an escape route if it failed at the box office or if it will be folded into the ’real” Trek universe once J. J. Abrams is bored of playing in it. I liked it decently enough, but it certainly was not the Trek i have been fond of for years.

I will more than likely cover DS9 afterwards, if for no other reason than I would like to have an excuse to watch it again with a post 9/11 perspective. The show was the most realistic, if not outright conservative, of any trek series. Going at it from that angle would be interesting.

The only concern I have is that feeling of nearing of burnout when reaching the TNG finish line. I have been writing about the show on a daily basis since July, save for a few injury days in November. I covered TOS for nearly three months prior. Deep Space Nine reviews would entail a six month commitment, but there show is worth it.

That is as far into the future as I have planned.

Six Points to Ponder About the Flight 253 Bombing Attempt

The attempted bombing of Flight 253 Christmas Day quite a few failures of the Obama Administration’s handling of terrorism. Let us discuss them, shall we?

First, the miracle working Cairo speech notwithstanding, militant Muslims still do not like the United States and no matter how many times Obama bows to the Saudi king, that fact will not change. Polishing his Nobel Peace Prize conspicuously is not ging to do much, either. words are not going to do it. We are going to have to hunt these terrorists down and kill them before they kill us.

Second, the alleged bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalah (“UFA”) was born ito wealth and privilege, so forget the notion poverty breeds militant Islam. That rot should really have never been started since Osama Bib Laden was also born into wealth, but I suppose progressives are so steeped in moral relativity, they cannot help themselves but blame on social causes what can best be explained by pure evil motivations.

Third, I will blast the Bush Administration here just to be fair. Two of the alleged planners of the failed attack were former Gitmo detainees released in 2007. So Bush should not have let many of them go and neither should Obama. Gitmo needs to be a permanent fixture to remind militant Muslims some ’victories” come at too high a price. It is said the entire Muslim world hates thevery thought of Gitmo. Good. They are supposed to.

Fourth, fire Janet Napolitano as the Secretary of Homeland Security. She should have been gone the minute she declared white, Christian, male gun owners were the real enemy. Her stupid statement was the first clear sign she did not know whiteheads doing. The security failures from the TSA on down are just the latest proof. Mapolitano just got around today to recanting her previous statement the system worked. She needs to go before we actually do lose 200+ innocent people in a terrorist attack that could have been prevented at any number of points along the way.

Fifth, racial profiling. It is not little old ladies from Rancho Cucamunga plotting these terrorist acts, folks. It is young Muslim men. Can the political correctness and devote resources where they ought to be utilized.

Finally, it is the passengers that stopped UFA, not any authorities, which goes to prove ordinary Americans are willing to fight a war against terrorism our government appears either unwilling or unable to do. In some ways that scares me, but it also swells me with pride. I will assume you can figure out which does what.

Got a Question for Me?

Good news for all you trolls out there who are not satisfied with me allowing anonymous comments. Now you can ask anonymous questions, too!

Go ahead--ask away and do not say I never give you anything.

Star Trek: The Next Generation-- "Gambit, Part II"

I said yesterday “Gambit, Part II” is only a marginal improvement over part one because of it weirdness factor. This is true. The conclusion is like a horrible car wreck. You do not want to look, but you feel compelled to do so.

First, Picard and Riker join up with the pirates in order to discover what they are up to. Their undercover roles involve attacking and eventually boarding the Enterprise as hostiles.

Second, Data has a tough time commanding the Enterprise, mainly because his decisions do not suit Worf. the conflict is a repeat of the one Data had with his temporary first officer in “Redemption, Part II’ with the exception of Data taking less crap here. He chews out Worf for questioning his orders in front of the bridge crew. Instead of ripping the android’s arms out and beating him with them Woookie-style, Worf capitulates and apologizes. You see, filthy aliens always know they are wrong compared to both humans and humanois creations.

It made no sense Data did not appoint la Forge first officer anyway. The two work muxh better together. Is la Forge so much an engineering whiz he is indispensable down there or is the lack of promotion another hit in his hard knock life?

Third, NBA star James Worthy plays a Klingon who is supposed to meet up with the pirates. The appearance makes more sense than the Rock on VOY, but not much more. So far, we have had physicist Stephen hawking, astronaut Mae Jemison, and now NBA player James Worthy. Odd man out in that crowd, no?

Finally, Picard and Riker find a Vulcan who claims to be an undercover agent mixed in with the pirates. Considering Vulcans supposedly never lie, it is strange to discover they have secret agents. She really is not one, though. She is the one who wants the final, assembled doohickey which channels negative emotions into a weapon. She is something like Sybok from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier in that she is into Vulcan’s violently emotional past.

It is cool to see Vulcans playing a bigger part in TNG. Even though they are a founding member of the Federation, wehave not seen much of them in the series. This episode is the first time we discover for fact Vulcan was a founding member of the Federation. I think they had to throw in that bone to remind us all these shenanigans do not mean this is not still Trek.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Kristen Bell

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Max Baucus Drunk on the Senate Floor

In his defense, the Democrats did say they were filled with the spirit of Ted Kennedy. I am guessing 90 proof:Maybe he is having trouble with the girlfriend he tried to nominate as US attorney.

Note he takes some shots at my own Sen. Jim Demint's Waterloo comment in between the President of the Senate trying to get him to sit down and stop making a spectacle of himself.

Andrea Mitchell Likens Sarah Palin's Appeal to George Wallace's

Andrea Mitchell claimed on Meet the Press this morning Sarah Palin's appeal reminds her of George Wallace's and it has herquaking in her stylish pumps.

Mitchell's comparison continues the meme that Palin is a racist for no other reason than there is a strong possibility she will be the GOp presidential nominee in 2012. you may recall a few weeks ago Chris Matthews randomly asked a guest if he agreed palin was the poster girl for segregation. the response was, of course, in the affirmative.

Look for plenty more of this. it serves a dual purpose. one, to brand Palin a racist even though there is zero proof she is one and two, to scare off any other potential GOP candidates wary of unfairly being labeled racist, too.

Brace yourselves, because the situation is going to get far worse as 2012 draws near, particularly if Barack Obama is till floundering at that point. The race card will be played by everyone on the left, not the least of which will be Obama himself.

Doctor Who "The End of Time, Part II" Videos

I was underwhelmed by part one of David Tennant's swan song as the Doctor, but here is the trailer for the second part, due to air New Year's day. It does look more exciting. Timothy Dalton is about four shades of awesome as a Time Lord:Here is a clip from the episode. It features the Time Lords as a sinister cadre of tyrants. They remind me of the Jedi as presented in the prequel series: pretentious twits who are supposed to be great defenders of truth and justice, but are so unconvincing, you cannot tell the difference between them and the Sith. You can even catch a hint of Palpatine rallying the Senate when Dalton is addressing the assembly of Time Lords.

I am having a tough time differentiating these bozos from the Daleks. I imagine that is supposed to be the point, but considering they are mortal enemies, there ought to beat least a dime's worth of difference between them.

Blogroll Spotlight XXV

It is time for the weekly round up of favorite posts from my blogroll. As usual, these are not ranked, but in alphabetical order by blog title.

The pickings were a little slim this week because of the holidays, so here aresome of my favorite Christmas posts. Next week, we shall get back to the usual round up:

Amusing Bunni's Musings
Audacity of Logic
Camp of the Saints
Classic Liberal
Daley Gator
In a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
Jaded Haven
Large Regular (Babe Ruth plays Santa Claus. Neat.)
MAinfo ("A Soldier's Silent Night")
No Sheeples Here!
Other McCain
Right Wing Extreme
Teresamerica
Three O'Clock AM
Troglopundit

Star Trek: The Next Generation-- "Gambit, Part I"

The “Gambit” two parter is probably the most awkward story I have had to review. It is most certainly the most un-trek story of TNG’s run. Most fans do not care for it because of its awkward elements. I sympathize with that attitude. It does feel horribly out of place. In spite of its oddities, however, I have to give it some kudos. There is much weird fun to be had.

The opening scene features most of the bridge undercover in an alien bar inquiring as to the whereabouts of Picard. When I first saw this, I immediately thought this was an homage to the Mos Eiseley Cantina from Star Wars, albeit more subdued. You cannot compete with the Star Wars Cantina, people Considering I have yet to hear anyone associated with TNG own up to creating this as an homage, so either I am reading too much into it or they want to cover up the fact the mark was missed.

The crew discovers Picard was in the bar sometime ago. He was asking around about archeological sites being looted. He got into a fight and was apparently vaporized by a pirate’s gun.

Stop for a moment to think about this. Picard has inexplicably left the Enterprise to go off on some undercover mission to find stolen, ancient artifacts and wound up apparently being killed in a bar fight. When did Picard begin acting so recklessly? It is completely out of character. Picard is just not that so much of an adventurer he would go off on some rogue, personal mission like that. It is doubly strange when discovered he has joined a pirate crew in order to discover why they are robbing archeological digs.

Chalk it up to that wish fulfillment problem I wrote about earlier in regards to the seventh season. Patrick Stewart wanted more sex and guns for Picard, so now he is a pirate.

Pirates are, by the way, a violation of Gene Roddenberry’s nutty vision of the future. His edict was for there not to be any because their existence would violate some idealistic sense of 24th century morality, which just goes to further demonstrate Roddenberry’s ignorance about human nature. As long as there are valuables to be stolen, there will be pirates.

Riker is just as incredulous Picard died in a bar fight as the rest of us, so he decides to continue the captain’s investigation in order to hopefully find some meaning in his death. He winds up a prisoner of the pirates himself after a heated phaser battle. He discovers Picard on board the ship under an assumed identity of Galen. An odd choice for an alias, considering “Galen’ is associated with medicine and healing.

Afteradvocating they kill Riker--and expressing no relief they do not take him up on the suggestion--he informs his former first officer the pirates are looking for parts of some weapon or such. He says they should both join the crew to find out what this weapon is all about.

Meanwhile, we revisit an aspect of “Redemption, Part II” as Data has assumed command of the Enterprise while not seeming all that fit to do so because of his lack of emotion. Problems associated with that will explode next episode when everything else blows up, too. Sit tight until then. It only marginally improves over the first part, but it is so out of the ordinary, it is still worth watching.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Paris Hilton

In case you wanted herpes this Christmas.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Life Imitates Art for Charlie Sheen

Charlie Sheen plays Charlie Harper on Two and a Half Men. His character is a dumb, emotionally shallow drunk who bounces from cheap woman to cheap woman, often hookers, while blowing the showbiz money he has obtained with his marginal talent.

Sheen himself is a dumb, liberal conspiracy theorist (He wants Barack Obama to investigate 9/11 as an inside job.), former drug addict and alcoholic who lost his first wife, Denise Richards, because of his porn habit and the lingering effects of spending most of the late- ’80’s and early ’90’s frequenting Heidi Fleiss’ hookers whilw blowing his showbiz cash obtained by his marginal talent and famous last name.

So, yeah. Life imitates art.

Yesterday, Sheen was arrested in Aspen, Colorado on domestic abuse charges. His wife, Brooke Mueller, did not have to be transported to the hospital. Perhaps since she was legally drunk, she just did not feel a thing. All this happened on Christmas Day, which makes one wonder what kind of lovely memories of the holidays their two children will have to cherish in the future.

Will this incident sour anyone on the character of Charlie Harper? Sheen is, as noted above, essentially playing himself on the hit series which has been renewed already for three additional seasons. Probably not. Like David Letterman, bad behavior will just make him cooler in the eyes of those who enjoy the lowbrow level of entertainment for which Two and a Half Men is famous.

Come to think of it, the show is on CBS just like Letterman’s. There must be something in the water at the network.

Gallup Poll: America Less Christian Than Ever?

I have seen this Gallup poll counting 78& of Americans as Christian posted in several places in the last couple days. They have roughly the same headline, something along the lines of “United States is less Christian Than Ever.” I have to comment on a few things there.

First, it is really tacky to publish this survey on Christmas. It is the day Christians have designated to celebrate the birth of Jesus even if it is also the pagan celebration of winter solstice. Publishing the survey and bloggers crowing about the decline of Christian belief is a poorly timed knock on believers. I am not saying the survey should never have been done or that unbelievers ought to get in their jollies about the religion they hate so much before being condemned for eternity in hell. Just that the timing is tasteless.

Second, We are not, nor have we ever been, a Christian nation. We are a nation that happens to be Christian. The distinction is one of character. There may very well be fewer professing Christians now than ever before, but the foundations of our nation’s character are founded in Christianity, not secular humanism of which the bloggers I mentioned above are tacitly celebrating the rise. Christian ideals are not being replaced by that empty philosophy.

Third, this is a fallen, sinful world. Of course Christianity is going to be on the decline. We will not ultimately win until Jesus returns. That said, even within the downward trend, there are peaks and valleys. Revival can come atany time, either through epiphany or strife. The latter is why praying for revival is such a tough thing to do. Celebrating or cursing the numbers as they change is missing the point. Christianity is a spiritual battle fought internally and individually , not by sheer force of numbers

Finally, 78% is still the largest number of any industrial state. Even in the rest of the modern world, talking about religious faith can get one branded nutty. Not so much here, although I do fret the last presidential race marked the most secular race in our nation’s history. Neither john McCain, nor Barack Obama appeared to care much for religious faith. When Sarah Palin declared her devotion to Christ, she was and still is vilified by the same folks excited over this Gallup poll. However, I note she is likely to fare the best out of all three in the long term--a further indication that our national Christian character still stands strong regardless of what the numbers might say.

Full Metal Jacket Reach Around XXVIII

It is time once again to round up all the bloggers gracious enough to link to me this week.

Proof Positive links to Ray Stevens' "We the People."

The Other McCain links to snow babes.

The Classic Liberal links to snow globes, Elizabeth Mitchell, and Kate Hudson.

Fishersville Mike links to Darth Vader on Wall Street.

Troglopundit recalls the anniversary of the Bill of Rights.

A sincere thank you to all who linked. If you linked to me in the last week, but I do not have you here, you unfortunately fell through the cracks of Technorati, Google Blog Search, and Sitemeter. Please drop me a note in the comments and I will update with your link.

Star Trek: The Next Generation-- "Interface"

If you were clamoring for further proof la forge is the unluckiest man in Starfleet, here is the first of several parting shots the seventh season landed on the poor guy. This one cuts deep. Not only can he not establish a romantic relationship with the opposite sex, he loses his mother in a freak accident.

La Forge’s mother was the captain of a ship inexplicably lost on a survey mission. He has to cast the pain of his loss in order to use a new interface device which allows him to virtually explore an area too dangerous for people to visit. His mission is to search for survivors on another crashed ship. He cannot use the device log because it causes brain damage with extended use.

Take a survey of all this. First, he has lost his mother in a ship crash and cannot do anything about it. Second, he has to explore another ship crash which only adds to the painful irony of his situation. Third, he has to use a device invented so actual people can avoid going into areas where they will certainly die. In a few episodes, Troi will have to order, in a holodeck program, but still, la forge to repair a conduit in an area floded by deadly radiation. Finally, he is about to suffer brain damage from the effort.

See why he is so unlucky/ the man’s life is a Greek tragedy.

During the interface, he sees what he thinks is his mother. she says her crew istrapped on the planet’s surface. La Forge wants to use the interface again in order to communicate further, but Picard and Crusher refuses to allow it. Against his better judgment, Data helps his friend hook up the device so he can find his mother again.

It turns out not to be his mother. It is an alien who killed her and her entire crew inadvertently while trying to communicate. The only reason it can communicate with La Forge safely is because of the interface. The alien is trapped and needs LaForge’s help to get home. La Forge does so. He realizes this means his mother is truly dead.

This episode sticks out in my mind because most of the time when people are said to be trapped, they get rescued somehow even if everyone suspects they are dead and gone. It is rare to have such a downer ending and insult to injury that it happens to La Forge. As I have said several times already, the guy cannot catch a break.

Nifty bit of trivia: Levar Burton, Ben Vereen, and Madge Sinclair all previously starred in Roots sixteen years prior.

In spite of la Forge serving as an undue punching bag, this is a decent episode. It is the last time la Forge gets the spotlight. And it is the best of episodes centered around him. Of course, La Forge episodes are generally weak, so that is faint praise.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Katee Sackhoff Joins 24

The erstwhile Battlestar Galactica hardcase will play CTU's New York City branch computer nerd alongside Keifer Sutherlan's Jack Bauer this season.

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

Friday, December 25, 2009

Doctor Who "The End of Time, Part I"

Meh.

I am supposed to feel more enthusiasm for David Tennant and Russell T. Davies’ swan song, but it is impossible to do so when they are just phoning it in. Davies is particularly guilty here. Most of the story did not make much sense.

It starts off well enough. The Doctor arrives on the Ood home world where he had been summoned some time ago. He is reluctant to answer the call because Ood sigma prophesied his death was soon to come. The Ood are having nightmares about the end of time itself with the master’s face overlaid. The doctor realizes Lucy Saxon, the Master‘s widow, is the key and rushes to find her.

She is in prison for killing her husband. Conveniently, she has been taken out of her cell at the moment the doctor is headed her way by what appears to be a cult ready to sacrifice themselves so the Master can be reborn. How they remember who he is since the Doctor reversed time after his defeat or know how to bring him back is unexplained, as is the notion that Lucy knew all about the plan, was biding her time, and stops it before the Master can fully be reborn., sacrificing herself.

By the way, Alexandra Moen has a certain yuppie attractiveness to her. She looks like a young prime minister’s wife. Pretty hot. I am guessing the skimpy outfit she was wearing was to distract from the plot holes. It almost worked. Maye if she had been in her underwear. I dunno. That the problem with Davies; he likes boys, but he does not know what boys like, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

Obviously, the Doctor is too late to stop the Master’s rebirth, but he does find him shortly thereafter in a gravel quarry. Maybe it is just me, but the scuffle the two of them have in two separate, extended scenes that drag on reminded me of the battle between Clark Kent and drunken superman in Superman III. When that is the best allusion that pops into one’s mind, your show is failing.

I will say this; John Simm is playing the heck out of the half crazed Mater who is floating between life and death. I thought he really hammed it up obnoxiously back in the third season story arc, but I had not seen anything yet. Maybe it because the material is so absurd. His mugging for the camera, insane laughter at the sound of drums in his head, and his inexplicable need to devour food like some wild beast in more than one scene--did we really need that gross out more than one? Seth Brundle only barfed on his food once in The Fly and we got the message--are all so over the top, they make William Shatner looked subdued.

The master is eventually captured by Joshua Naismith. Who is that? Beats the heck out of me. He is apparently some rich businessman who is also some sort of self-help or think and grow rich guru. It is not made clear which, but people feel compelled to buy his book the same way the Master made them vote him into office, so I guess there isa connection. Or Davies is just phoning it in.

Naismith has captured an alien device from Torchwood. It is a medical device that can heal planet wide. Naismith wants to use it to give his daughter, who is apparently brilliant, but strikes me as more like Paris Hilton, immortality. Hewants the Master to repair the thing. He does, then uses it to change every person on Earth into a copy of himself. He calls them--wait for it--the Master race.

*Rimshot*

Bernard Cribbins reprises his roe as Wilf, but he is window dressing and comic relief. He drafts his friends into finding the Doctor because they have been having dreams about the Master, too. It appears he is going to play a bigger part in the next episode. He took a gun with him and is supposedly destined to kill someone. But for now, it is odd for the Doctor to carry around an 82 year old man into a certain battle with the Master.

Donna returns, too. She is the only other person besides the Doctor and Wilfto not become clones of the Master.

With the alien device known to heal planet wide, you can guess gallifrey has return inadvertently thanks to the Master. They have his evil edge and are bent on destroying time. They are lead by Timothy Dalton, no less. I supposed destroying time is a step up from battling Joe Don Baker and Wayne Newton as James Bond.

There were two separate references to Barack Obama as the savior of the world during a global economic depression. Somehow, I doubt Davies meant that to be a satire of Obama’s messianic ego, but you never know. This episode was written after he had embarrassed the united Kingdom by unceremoniously shipping back the bust of Winston Churchill, gave Gordon Brown a box of DVDs that would not work in his region, and violated protocol by touching the Queen, so it could be.

I was disappointed, especially after how much I liked "The Waters of Mars." This was a terrible step down from the quality of that one. there was no real drama. The plot did not resonate. Too many holes in the plot, too.

Part two is next Friday. I am going to watch it for the sake of completion, but I am not excited about it. I am mostly curious about the regeneration into the Eleventh Doctor, assuming that comes in the episode. It would be a cop out if it did not.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Star Trek: The Next Generation-- "Liaisons"

Presets have been opened and turkey devoured. Now that everyone is either grunting over their full bellies or playing with their new loot, I shall sneak back into my study and cover today’s TNG episode. Luckily for you, I did not get a red Ryder BB gun, so I still have my lone peeper with which to work. Too bad “Liaisons” is the episode I have to write about.

“Frame of Mind” was the first in a trend of stories that will continue on through ENT of an odd twist at the end of an episode changing the entire perspective. We are not talking o’ Henry here, either. Or even the more low rent of Rod Serling‘s installments of The Twilight Zone . Sometimes it works. ’Frame of Mind” is a fine example. Many times, it did not. When it fails, I feel doubly cheated; first for what I thought the story was about and second for what it turned out to be. “Liaisons” is more the latter, but that still makes it disappointing.

The crew is serving as part of a cultural exchange with a newly contacted alien species. Picard is to travel to their planet while two of them will visit the Enterprise. Things go badly from the start. Picard’s shuttle crashes for the fourth time in the series on a remote planet. He is rescued by a woman who has been stranded there for seven years. She immediately falls in love with him although he protests she is just a nut from being alone too long.

On the Enterprise, Riker and Troi are assigned to escort two ambassadors. Riker’s refuses to work with him and demands Worf instead. If there is any redeemed aspect to the episode, it is poor Worf’s patience stretched to its limit. The ambassador does everything imaginable to exasperate him. Finally, when he is caught cheating at poker, Worf can stand it no more and utilizes his unique diplomatic skills as pictured above.

Surprisingly, the ambassador is pleaded to get his rear end handed to him. The real plot is then revealed. The aliens are there to study raw human emotion. Picard’s scenario was staged to study love, Worf’s was to study anger, and Troi’s to study pleasure.

We do not see any of Troi’s experiences, but a throwaway line says she was annoyed at how much fun her ambassador demanded to have. Frankly, I cannot imagine Troi being all that much fun. Nor can I figure out how, as an empath, she could not sense deceit on the aliens’ part. Perhaps that is why we do not see any of her travails. The plot hole would become obvious. Still, that missing aspect of the story is conspicuous.

When it is all said and done, Picard, Worf, and Troi decide the cultural exchange was all worthwhile. I am not sure why. Being manipulated in such ways has to begalling. But that is enlightened 24th century people for you.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from Jessica Simpson and me!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Star Trek: The Next Generation-- "Descent, Part II"

We have arrived at the first episode of the final season of TNG. Before delving into it, I have to say a few words about the season. We I started covering TNG, I said it was going to be rough going for the first couple seasons, but there would be a rise in quality up until three-fourths orso of the sixth season before it would slide back down again. Welcome to the downhill slide.

Do not get me wrong. The seventh season is not as awful as the first. There are still some enjoyable episodes. If someone told me I had to sit through either the first or seventh season, I would gladly pick the latter. There are certainly more gems in the final than in the inaugural. But onestill has to ask--what is wrong with the seventh season?

I have boiled it down to three problems. First, to echo Jonathan Frakes observation about budget cuts in “The Chase,” DS9 was getting all the production attention at this point. Personally, I was more interested in DS9 by now, too. Second, the season was too existential. Several episodes really stick out in my mind, like “Masks” and “Emergence,” that boggle the mind how such weirdness ever made it on the air. I am all for pushing the envelope, but the powers that be missed the mark virtually every time here. Finally, the powers that be asked, “Wouldn’t it be fun if?” too many times. Hence, we get some silly romance between Worf and Troi, the ship giving “birth,” Picard as a pirate, and so forth. This is the stuff of junior high kids fantasizing on a lazy Saturday afternoon, not professional writers on a television show.

Nevertheless, there are some good points to the season and I will get to those. But first, “Descent, Part II.”

Unfortunately, it is a lot like the first installment. There is not much there to make it exciting. As if you needed any more proof the show is running out of steam. Lore reveals his plot--turn everyone into a machine. He starts with the unluckiest man in Starfleet, la Forge, who somehow manages to survive several treatments even though it is assured he should not.

I am tainted as a Doctor Who fan with this plot. The Cybermen have had the same motif for decades. They take living organisms, remove the brain, and put it in a robot body against the victim’s will. It turns them into emotionless soldiers ready to follow Cyber leader unquestionably. The process is every bit as terrifying as Borg assimilation. Lore’s plan and method of converting biological entities to machines is lacking in comparison. The tension just is not there.

Speaking of lacking tension, the side story of a skeleton crew of ensigns and other junior officers running the Enterprise while under Borg attack is also upwelling. Maybe because it is a dereliction of duty for Picard to leave the ship in such a situation or that they so easily defeat a Borg ship that was terrorizing an entire sector of space with impunity earlier. Destroying theship with a trick maneuver concocted by an untested officer and the CMO acting as captain is hard to swallow.

There was one nifty touch, though. The Enterprise uses the shield invented in “Suspicions” in the plan. James Horan plays a lieutenant skeptical of whether the shield will work. Horan also played J’Obril in “Suspicions,” the alien who tried to hide the fact the shield did work. Horan also played Future Guy in ENT, but do not hold that against him.

The overall story of “Descent” violates a cardinal rule of storytelling by reintroducing Hugh and his renegade Borg well into the second episode rather than foreshadowing him earlier. Unless you want to count trio’s awkward mention in the previous episode. I consider that a clunker. It is neat at this point to note that when Hugh explains to Riker and Worf why they followed Loreas long as they did, Hugh comments that when things are bad, you will follow most anyone who promises change. Including a Kenyan Marxist.

I keed, I keed. Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.

I have blasted the episode pretty much to bits here, so are there any good points? Brent Spiner is about it. I have to appreciate what he is doing here. It is hard enough to play two characters at the same time even when one is psychotically evil. Now add in that Data also has to play psychotic, yet distinctly from Lore’s evil nature. That is not easy to do, but Spiner pulls it off convincingly. Data eventually resists Lore’s influence as Hugh and his merry band o’ free Borg serve as a cavalry to save the day.

Both events result in some odd continuity problems. Ore is deactivated in a manner reminiscent of Hal from 2001: A Space Odyseey. Then he is taken and completely dismantled. But wait. In “The Measure of a Man,” it was ruled Data was a sentient being who had the right to refuse to be taken apart. By extension, Lore has that right of refusal, too, since he is the same as data. Yet he was destroyed without any tria or concern for his rights. Even if he was a criminal, he should have been shown the same respects for his rights as Data. But he winds up the victim of vigilante justice.

As for Hugh and his free Borg, who knows. They are never seen or heard from again. Perhaps Picard finally took heed of Nechayev’s order about utilizing any opportunity to destroy the Borg and handed them over to Starfleet for intelligence purposes. Who knows? One throwaway line would have clarified, but we get nothing’.

Data keeps his emotion chip, but does not use it again until Star Trek: Generations. I love that la forge offers to keep it for him, then gets captured and tortured because the first time Data uses it, he becomes helplessly terrified. Poor La Forge. No good deed goes unpunished.

I could take or leave the entire “Descent” story. It is just blah. Fortunately, it is not the last time we will see the Borg battle the TNG crew. Doubly fortunate that every episode between “The Best of Both Worlds” and then is completely ignored. ’Descent, Part Ii” is pretty indicative of the seventh season as a whole. It is not awful, but you wonder why they bothered to make it in the first place.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Carrie Underwood

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I am Ahead of This Particular Curve

Conservatives and liberals are now squabbling over the sociopolitical significance of Star Trek: the Next Generation in light of National Review's Michael Potemra note that Patrick Stewart is about to be knighted.

I have been writing about the show since July, thank you very much. I am quite the Bible-thumping, Sarah Palin loving, Jeffersonian agrarian, too. So there.

(It was Proof Positive who pointed out the Patrick Stewart article to me earlier this morning.)

Jim Clyburn is a Corrupt Idiot

You probably already knew that even if you are not fortunate enough to be from the great, sovereign state of South Carolina, but if not, have a look at comments regarding vote buying in the ObamaCare scrounging for votes:
“Rather than sitting here and carping about what Nelson got for Nebraska, I would say to my friends on the other side of the aisle: Let’s get together and see what we can get for South Carolina,” Clyburn said.
Democrat Ernest "Fritz" Hollings used to essentially run on the same campaign pledge that he was corrupt, but he brought home the pork...er, earmarks...um...I mean funding for local projects, so vote for him anyway. Before Jim DeMint came along, many Palmetto Staters did.

Here is the best part. Clyburn managed to get $100,000 for a one room library in Jamestown, a speck of a town in his district. it was twice as much as the librarian asked for. But in his haste to get the appropriation into the trillion (!) dollar spending bill, hesent the money to Jamestown, CA instead. The California town does not even havea library.

It is one thing to be crooked. It is something else to be so dumb you cannot even pull it off correctly.

Star Trek: The Next Generation-- "Descent, Part I"

I must acknowledge an appreciation for the sixth season as a whole before delving into the finale. There were far fewer low points than usual for a 26 episode season. The highs were higher on average than normal, too boot. While Tng is a classic anyway, I daresay it should have ended after six. Certainly, I would have liked for it to go out on a better story than “Descent” managed to be, but in hindsight, I would prefer that than most of the incredibly odd seventh and final season. But one takes what one gets, for better or for worse.

Back in the pre-internet Dark Ages, a fan had to rely on magazines for spoilers. Those were often from the production company’s public relations department, so you never got good stuff. These days, you know everything about the season finale before you open your Christmas presents thanks to the world wide web. Even the Atlantic Ocean is no enough of a barrier to keep Doctor Who stuff a secret. So a couple weeks prior to seeing “Descent, Part I,” I stumbled across a tabloid article touting the appearance of Stephen Hawking, the most special effects laden sequence in the show’s history, and the return of the Borg. Knowing all this stuff beforehand was a totally cool experience back then.

As if you needed any further proof why the science minded fans hates the humanities oriented ones, I do not care about Hawking. I appreciate the novelty of him being on the show. He is a fan and, to date, is the only person to ever play himself on any Trek. I appreciate his theories about the beginning of the universe, but am perpetually irritated how God fits well within them, yet he refuses to acknowledge God as the Uncaused Cause. For what it is worth, I think more highly of Hawking than the purple faced angry fundamentalists types from Bob Jones university and Regent University I have encountered over the years.

I will also grant how they included him as neat. Data decides to gather the greatest physics minds in history--Hawking, Albert Einstein, and Isaac Newton-- on the holodeck for a poker game to see how they interact socially. The great John Neville plays Newton. The sequence is full of subtle jokes, so as Hawking noting Einstein is wrong several times--a nod to how Hawkings has proven a number of Einstein’s theories incorrect. They also throw in the false belief that Einstein could not do simple math. Folks, that isan urban legend. Einstein was a mathematical genius and always was.

Next, the most special effects laden sequence of the series. Yes, it was indeed cool for a television series. The Enterprise responds to a distress call out an outpost only to find it has been attacked by the Borg. They wind up in the biggest phaser battle perhaps in all of trek. These Borg are different. They are individuals rather than part of the Collective and highly vicious.

In the midst of the battle, Data is attacked in hand-to-hand combat. He gets visibly angry and breaks the Borg’s neck. When the batte is over and the Borg have fled the scene, he is still standing there. The android has experienced his first emotion. It is unsettling.

The next scene is the weakest of the episode. It is the obligatory conference room meeting where all the necessary exposition is laid out. The dialogue is so stiff and stereotypical, it would not pass muster in a Scooby Doo cartoon. Riker notes these new Borg have individual names. Troi pipes up that only Hugh hasa nameandthey gave it to him. Well thanks for adding that. Picard says that if the Borg are no longer interested in assimilating technology, since they left all equipment alone on the outpost, then they have to find out what the their new intentions are. Uh…you think? For a few minutes there, I though Maurice Hurley might be back to pen the episode.

Tha previous weak segment is almost made up for by the next. Admiral Nechayev finally confronts Picard about his dealings with the Borg. If you have been reading my reviews for awhile now, you will know I have been perplexed by how willing Starfleet wa sto allow Picard to go back to his role as flagship captain after his time as Locutus without any concern he might still be under their influence. My bewilderment was only exasperated when he discovered the Borgthe crew would eventually name Hugh, nurse it back to health, and send back to the Collective rather than hand him over to Starfleet intelligence for study. The admiral finally chews him out for wrestling with his conscience rather than making the concerns of the Federation in priority. I would almost call it too little, too late, but there you go. She still puts him in charge of dealing with the Borg, so obviously Starfleet command ignores its concerns on up until Star Trek: First Contact.

On a side note, the admiral names a number of ships flying to the area to join in the Borg hunt. One of them is the Gorkon. Gorkon was the name of the Klingon chancellor assassinated in Star Trek VI: The undiscovered Country. But it is a Federation ship, not a Klingon vessel. Chalk it up the TNG’s weird liberalism to name a ship after an enemy leader who ended a cold war. Would the United states name a ship the Gorbechev? I have doubts.

The Borg attack the Enterprise and one is captured. It is all part of a ruse to get to Data. The Borg, Crosis, uses a device to create emotions in Data. This illuminates another couple points I think are weak. One, Data has admitted to Troi he not only felt anger, but pleasure at killing the Borg who attacked him. No one gets freaked out by this. Two, during the attack on the outpost, the Borg expressed concern over their fallen comrades. Yet one of them had to be sacrificed in data’s rage. It is contradictory. Of course, the anger over the fallen is just thrown in to emphasize these Borg are different, so the whole sequence is a sign of bad writing.

Data helps Crosis escape. They disappear through some trans warp hole in space thingy. The Enterprise eventually follows and winds up 6,000 light years away or a distance it would take six years to travel, if you prefer. They come to a planet where Dataand Crosis have landed. You may recognize it as the same area the TOS episode “This Side of Paradise” was filmed. This is one of the extremely rare instances both TOS and TNG filmed in the same remote location.

Picard, la Forge, and Troi investigate what looks to be an abandoned building, but are soon surrounded by Borg. The mastermind of the operation is revealed to be Lore, with data, now eaten up with negative emotions fed to him. The two plan to destroy the Federation.

To be continued…

“Descent, Part I” has some serious weak points as I have noted. They distract, but do not necessarily ruin the episode. Still, I would label it the weakest cliffhanger of the season finales to date. I appreciate the classic ending. How many villains want to conquer the good guys completely? It is like the plotline of taking over the world. We are so cynical about the way things are, it is impossible to imagine some megalomaniac wants to take over. But still, it is just mediocre. Bonus points, oddly enough, are awarded to Crusher for being the first woman left in command of the Enterprise. It only took 27 years for it to happen. Yay, women’s liberation!

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Reese Witherspoon

Say, I have not gloated over her dumping Jake Gyllenhaal,have I? I must be losing my touch.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Darth Vader Rings the Opening Bell at the New York Stock Exchange

Some geeky awesomeness for an otherwise dreary news day.

Voters Oppose ObamaCare by Wide Margin

Voters oppose ObamaCare 53%-36%, to be exact.

Not that it matters. Not only are Democrats ignoring the will of the people, Harry Reid is setting it up so it would takes a super-majority vote to repeal ObamaCare.

That is what you call salting the field upon destroying the private healthcare industry. It is also an undemocratic--note the bitter irony of the party pursuing it--and, for all intents and purposes, psychotic. seriously. there is no other word for it. ObamaCare is being forced on the people against their will and the Seante is making sure we can never get rid of it!

Rudy Giuliaini Will Not Run for the Senate in 2010

This news surprises or disappoints Republicans how exactly?

The not being a surprise part is easy. Rudy Giuliani just accepted a job as a security consultant for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. You know, the one Barack Obama humiliated himself trying to win for Chicago? The job caps off years of the former mayor making gangbuster money. Factor in he has already run for president, failing miserably at it, add in his enormous ego, and you have serving as a senator being beneath him in both money and power.

As for why be disappointed, while it is true he is probably the best New York Republicans could recruit, he is still one of those lousy moderates I wrote about yesterday. The Senate has away of shifting politicians leftward anyway, in particular up north and in the Midwest where Yankees have very little sense of the proper way of doing things. You know--the Jim DeMint way.

Besides, could you not picture Sen. Giuliani teaming up with John McCain and Lindsay Graham to do some real damage? I have no problem imagining it. Good riddance to Giuliani, I say. He might have made a fine Attorney General of the United states, but not much else.

So, What Does Washington Think of You?

The anniversary of the Bill of Rights came and went on December 15th. It is no surprise in this political climate that no one noticed. The rule of law is a darn inconvenient concept these days, particularly to a president with grandiose dreams of repairing a fundamentally flawed free market society and a Congress which can sell out any and all principles with your money.

Picture this: if I were to give Ben Nelson $ 100 million in order to vote the way I want, I would go to jail for years. But Harry Reid can give Nelson $ 100 million, some of which is my money, and that is considered another day at the office politicking. The whole transaction is out there in broad daylight for the world to see, too. No need for smoke filled backroom deals for that sort of thing. One shudders to think what kind of deals are being made in smoke filled rooms these days.

Or are the ACORN videos arranging funds for child prostitution rings indicative of that?

What we have seen over the last week is senators debating over a bill, drafted in secret, they have not even read, much less understand. They have been bribed in front of the entire country to support the bill they have neither read nor understand. To top it all off, it was voted on in the middle of the night, technically Monday, but for all intents and purposes 1 AM is Sunday a week before Christmas when everyone is distracted. That is your republic at work.

Just in case you were not feeling royally screwed, if ObamaCare is ultimately passed, it will not go into effect until 2014. But the numerous new taxes it levies--up to $ 1200 per year, per family--start the moment it is signed into law. I am surprised they are not retroactive from the last time you had a check up.

The pure, naked hubris of too much power with no accountability in all its ugliness. The Powers That Be evidently do not even think the voters will throw them out of office.

Star Trek: The Next Generation-- "Timescape"

“Timescape” is one of those episodes that demonstrates why the more science minded fans dislike the social science aficionados like me. The plot is extraordinarily theoretical and while the solution may or may not be rooted in valid science, it reminds me of sitting through mind-numbingly boring college lectures in order to fill an academic no one in their right mind would think a liberal arts major/future lawyer would ever need to know. Ergo, this ain’t my cup ’’java.

One aversion I have is how much the episode is like “The Next Phase,” right down to the Enterprise getting into trouble aiding the Romulans, characters going about their plans with the rest of the crew unaware of their existence, and even la Forge as one of the main characters. It does not help much I did not care for “The Next Phase.” I thought it wasa missed opportunity to explore 24th century views on life after death which were blown off much too quickly. There is nothing even potentially like that at all in “Timescape.”

It is all a straightforward techno babble solution to a strange problem no one could ever visualize happening.

Picard, Data, Troi, and La Forge are returning in a runabout from a science conference where they have spent the entire time in various lectures. These guys sure go to some fun places. At least they are grumbling about what an awful experience they had. time freezes for a second, indicating something is rotten in thestate of Denmark. When they reach the Enterprise, they discover it is frozen in time, too, with Romuans on board, and a war core breach in progress for good measure.

In reality, time is still moving, so the war core breach is still a problem La forge whips up a solution involving a modified tricorder which works, but not before we get to ooh and aah and the destruction of the Enterprise and watching Romulans walk backwards. A thrill a minute.

Like I said, not my cup of java. The mostly solid sixth season is rolling to the finish line on fumes. Tomorrow’s season finale marks the beginning of the entire series sputtering to an end. It was fun while it lasted, no?

Rating: ** (out of 5) .

Evangeline Lilly

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sheldon Whitehouse is a Bit Nutty

Which is kind of like saying the Pacific Ocean is sort of moist. Here is an excerpt from the Rhode Island senator's speech yesterday:
"Far from appealing to the better angels of our nature, too many colleagues are embarked on a desperate no-holds-barred mission of propaganda, obstruction and fear. History cautions us of the excesses to which these malignant, vindictive passions can ultimately lead. Tumbrils have rolled through taunting crowds, broken glass has sparkled in darkened streets. Strange fruit has hung from Southern trees. Even this great institution of government that we share has cowered before a tail-gunner waving secret lists."
If you do not have a dictionary handy, a “tumbril” is a cart that carries condemned prisoners to the gallows. The “strange fruit hanging from Southern trees” is an allusion to lynched black men. A tasteless allusion that dishonors their suffering and sacrifice by comparing it to opposition to a lousy piece of legislation Whitehouse has not even read.

His point, such that it is, is incredibly absurd. There is no legitimate reason to oppose ObamaCare. If you do not like it, you are a racist. Period.

Whitehouse’s speech begs the question whether this is the general liberal mindset or if he is trying to scare those who may be wavering in their support to shut up any objections and vote yes to avoid being labeled a racist, too. Neither would surprise me, but both are frightening comments on the political dialogue in our country today.

Our Laodicean Congress

If this disaster of healthcare reform, which is going to pass the Senate barring some Democrat facing the voters in 2010 suddenly realizes his neck is in the noose and his constituents are ready to punt the chair he is standing on, has no other valuable result, it has reinforced how much I dislike self-described moderate politicians.

I understand the emotional appeal of considering oneself a moderate. It is sounds enlightened, intellectual, and above the fray. But that is a load of poppycock. I have not met a moderate yet who was honest about what they actually believed. They leaned heavily to one side of the political spectrum or the other. They just hoped I did not notice. Well, I did and so does everyone else.

But those do not bother me a whole lot. Self-deception is an incredibly common pastime among people. What I really dislike are the kind of wet finger moderates we have seen in action over the last three days. Those that claim moderation to avoid partisan bickering, but are actually holding out to enrich themselves either financially or emotionally.

While I cannot say I respect a hardcore liberal, I can at least appreciate they are following their principles, skewered though they made be. But moderates just gross me out. They are unprincipled and undependable.

I liken them to the Laodicean Christians in the letters to the churches in Revelations 3: 14-22. They ran neither hot, nor cold, and Jesus spewed them out because of it. Jesus would rather you hate him and his commandments than fumble around halfheartedly, sometimes following the path and other times doing whatever the heck you want.

Certainly, politics is not as important as your eternal soul, but the Laoedicean principle applies in politics, too. I would rather Ben Nelson wholeheartedly support abortion from the get-go than abandon unborn children in a snap for a $ 100 million pack of goodies. By the same token, I would like to see Joe Lieberman have any principles whatsoever outside of relishing the spotlight of being a vocal cotrarian, then running back to the Democrats to ask if all is forgiven. Worse yet--the answer is always yes.

This disastrous healthcare bill is what happens when just a handful of people run lukewarm over something that ought to be adamant about one way or another. No wonder the Bible warns against the idea. Look what it is going to do to our country.