Sunday, July 31, 2011

Blogroll Spotlight #105

It is time for the weekly round up of favorite posts from my blogroll. These are not ranked, but in alphabetical order by blog title. If you would like a specific post listed next week, you may email it to me and I will include it.

Adrienne's Corner--Marco Rubio v. John Kerry on Debt
American Perspective--Hot Sci Fi Ladies
American Power: "NYT: Republicans Are Hostage-Taking Extremists
Blazing Cat Fur--Blame the Jews and Republicans
Bluegrass Pundit--Obama in Bush's Shadow on 9/11 Anniversary
Camp of the Saints--Rule 5: Kuisa Raniert
Classic Liberal--It;s Not Personal with Arielle Kebbel
Daley Gator--DaleyBabe: Liza Lapira
Fishersville Mike--No New Taxes; No Happy Campers
Gorges Grouse--Thoughtless Waste
In a Mad Mad Mad Mad World--The Friday Pin Up
Jaded Haven--My Money's on the Last Guy
Lazy Farmer--A Shadow of My Former Self
Left Coast Rebel--Details of the Backroom Debt Deal
Legal Insurrection--It's Not That We Don't Trust You, But...
Mind Numbed Robot--Regime Uncertainty
Motor City Times--Similarities Between Obama and Hoover Economic Policies
Nice Deb--Smart Girl Summit 2011
No Runny Eggs--Why Tax Hikes Need to Be Way Off the Table
Other McCain--July 2011: Best. Month. EVAH!
Paco Enterprises--Nancy, Nancy, Nancy...
Pirate's Cove--If All You See...
Proof Positive--Quote du Jour Captain America Edition
Randy's Roundtable--The Only Chart You Need to See
Sentry Journal--Serf's Up
Six Meat Buffet--Is Ben Gay Considered a Lubricant?
Teresamerica--Angie Harmon
Troglopundit--This Week in Automotivators
Washington Rebel--This is the Duty of a Citizen
WyBlog--Whiggery
Zilla of the Resistance--Operation: United Front

In honor of our new debt ceiling compromise:

Star Trek: Voyager--"Coda"

“Coda" is the VOY version of an old Star Trek theme--kill off main characters temporarily and milk it for all its emotional worth before hitting the reset button. The minute you see jeri Taylor’s name as the author, you know the character who has died is Janeway. You also know the distraught crew is on the verge of mass suicide over the loss, because Janeway is awesome!

I have joked in the past Taylor is living vicariously through Janeway. Every Janeway-centric script she pens is one further quantum leap in the apotheosis of Janeway. In ’Coda,” Janeway might have finally succeeded. The ending strongly hints Janeway may have beaten Satan himself. Yeah, Janeway is awesome! Taylor pours it on so thick, she makes Janeway a parody of herself.

The episode begins exactly with what everyone has been clamoring--sexual innuendo with Neelix. Because, of course, everyone desires Janeway’s body. The reality is that Neelix is complimenting Janeway on her ballet performance at the previous night’s talent show. Sometimes I wonder if Neelix is the morale officer or a recreational therapist at a nursing home. The conversation is cloaked in double-speak that sounds like Janeway gave Neelix a world class lay before it is revealed she played The Dying Swan for the talent show. Not that the fourteen year old virgins watching could not conjure up images of a sex act called The dying Swan. Regardless, the scene comes across as a far too cute way of demonstrating the crew’s alleged emotional attachment to Janeway.

She and Chakotay take off in a shuttlecraft--again, the captain and first officer unwisely alone on a mission--when they become trapped in a time lopp. The loop repeats repeats three scenarios. One, the sshuttlecraft is shot down by vidiians who kill her. Two, the shuttlecraft is chased by Vidiians ships and she is killed. Three, the shuttlecraft escapes, but Janeway is diagnosed with the Phage by the Doctor and euthanized. The loop appears to end beforea fourth scenario in which the shuttlecraft crashes and Janeway dies of her injuries. The loop is broken because Janeway’s spirit emerges to witness her death and the crew’s reactions.

Before I go any further, what is the point of the time loop bit? The plot of the episode is that an alien is attempting to wear down Janeway’s resolve and get her to accept her own death so that it can ’feed’ off her. He needs her to enter a portal to what he calls the afterlife in order to do so. Killing her over and over again in rapid succession was working. She could barely adjust emotionally before being dragged into another horrible death. But then it stops completely for what, as far as the audience knows, is an authentic death which carries us through the rest of the episode. The final scenarion works the least. In fact, it builds up her resolve to resist and ultimately prevail. It is also the only scenario which allowed for a real story, so it had to be there. So why have the time loop happen at all/ Because it was succeeding in breaking Janeway down, the alien looks dumb for changing strategy even though drama demanded it do so. “Coda” should have had Janeway “die” once in the teaser and interact with the alien from the beginning.

I try to be as fair as possible when I really do not like an episode to accentuate the decent parts. In “Coda,” there is a heavily relied upon theme that everyone loves Janeway to the point of Brian’s Song melodrama. But before that seriously cranks up, the crew reasonably spends two days looking forJaneway’s spirit based on Kes’ intuition. It is this lengthy montage of events I find most reasonable about the episode. The rest? You have to be a huge Janeway fan. Or be Jeri Taylor. But I repear myself.

Janeway is present in spirit for all of this, listening in to crewmembers fawn over her in death as though she has the place bugged. I do mean fawn. The funeral sequence clocks in aat a shade over four minutes and involves Torres, Harry, and Chakotay literally cannot go on without her strength and leadership. Torres even forgives her for stranding them in the Delta Quadrant and admit’s the wisdom of doing so. Contrast this with Spock’s funeral in Star trek II: The Wrath of Khan., from the presenting of the casket to kirk’s eulogy, and landing on the Genesis planet, last two minutes and ten seconds. Janeway’s final farewell lasts nearly twice as long as the cultural icon Spock. Now that is ego.

Not just Taylor’s ego, but Janeway’s, too. The funeral sets up the alien, who has been posing as her long dead father, to finally convince her there is nothing left to do but let go. She refuses, and fights him off by sheer force of will. As she begins winning, the alien and the portal she is supposed to be entering for the afterlife take on demonic/hellish undertones, so that when Janeway ultimately defeats him to wake up fine next to the crashed shuttlecraft on the planet, she has maybe beaten the Devil for her soul. While that is left up in the air, one thing is not--the alien created these scenarios--the long funeral, her crew’s affection, etc--out of her mind. Further proof of how highly Janeway thinks of herself.

You have to be a big Janeway fan to like “Coda.” The Janeway/Chakotay shippers consider it a key episode in consideration of Chakotay’s emotional display throughout. He appears to have a serious thing for his captain. I think it is a below average effort with an overused plot device. There are logical flaws in the story structure I have already addressed, and the overly dramactic way the crew reacts to Janeway’s death is hilarious. That it all comes out of her head makes it pitifully delusional, too. I Am not a fan, but there is a certain amusement value in watching just to see high highly Janeway thinks of herself.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Candice Swanepeol

Saturday, July 30, 2011

X-Files III in the Planning Stage

At the charity Question and Answer with Chris Carter, David Duchovny, and Gillian Anderson, Carter announced there are plans for a Third X-Files movie, but fans need to create some buzz for it.

Carter further said the story would rely heavily on the “new mythology" of the alien invasion coinciding with the end of the Mayan calendar next year. Mulder and scully’s son, William, would play a big part in resolving the mythology arc. I could live with that, as long as there would be no further discussion of super soldiers. Ever.

Placing the exact date on the invasion also places a ticking clock on getting the potential movie rolling. I can only guess FOX’s excitement level is not terribly high after the lukewarm reception of I Want to Believe. I got the impression many of the film’s flaws were because it was rushed into production, then theaters so quickly. I would hate to see that happen again, particularly because this film, if it happens, would most likely be the franchise’s swan song.

Carter also said FOX did not want to end the series back in 2002. It was canceled because the mood of america changed away from the paranoid, government is bad tone of the ‘90’s. I think he is half right. The mood of America had changed. but The X-Files had clearly run out of steam. I am confident the network was ready to spend production dollars elsewhere.

New Poll on Janeway's Mental Health

Now that the trolls have something to get them through the night, how about we restart these polls for the normal folks?

This week, we have another Star Trek: Voyager. sorry that reviews for the series have been the bulk of blogging lately. Distractions abound. It is a less than serious question. I remain skeptical how many VOY fans there are out there...

The poll asks you opinion on the state of Janeway's mental health. Normal? bipolar/ Psychotic? You do not have to be specific. you just have to recognize a nut when you see one. Results will be posted next Saturday night.

Down in the Projects

It has been a long time since I have done a really good Rule 4: Make Some Enemies post. But it has been a bad week personally. i made the mistake of explaining the health reasons blogging was a little off this week. I should have known I was only painting a target on my back for a certain troll of a certain character. Normally, I let trolls do their thing. My faithful readers are mature enough to know not to feed them. Pointing and laughing is acceptable, but not required. But this time, i am going to respond in a manner suiting my personality and philosophy. I am going to give him all the attention he craves, a little prnage, as they say in the YouTube vernacular, and I am going to spread the wealth for a couple others who have been stymied by web developments over the last stretch of time. Consider it a freebie from me.

The comment in question from this post:
You know what might encourage the rescuers more? Paying for their cancer treatments.

The first responders during 9/11 are dying of cancer at much higher rates than the normal population, but the government won't pay for their treatments.

If you are going to invoke their name you should support having their health problems that they got on that day fixed.
Project Savior, you are a passive aggressive twit and coward. Neither of those accusations are defaming if I can prove they true. Guess what? I can.

Seriously, how long have you been making these hit and run comments on my blog? Three years now? I noticed they have slowed down some since two events. One, I banned anonymous comments and two, I caught a particularly insulting anonymous comment which coincided with your stats showing up in Sitemeter. Since it became obvious you were making passive aggressive, backhanded remarks under Project Savior, then signing out to make more aggressive comments anonymously, you slowed down the former when you could no longer do the latter right along with it.

You have been able to go months in between comments, too. I was proud of your progress. I do not know if you were maturing or just found the right dosage, but I was content to largely let you do your thing until you found another blogger to buzz like An annoying little gnat or be distracted by something shiny, whichever was more likely.

so what is the matter now, dude? is your piddling little blog suffering from the summer readership doldrums? According to Technorati, Project Savior has an Authority: 1 and is ranked #101, 201, so I suppose there is a definite possibility that is the case. more likely you miss the days when it would bring you a lot of hits when I would include items like your 200th post celebration calling me a buigot or another post what a confused individual i am. Speaking of confused, you posted this on not one, but two pseudonymous blogs you do not advertise as all being from the source, though they feature much of the same content.

Ini my discovery of your multiple, anonymous blogs where your linkage ended and your double life as project Savior/anonymous troll began? Was going over to Waldo Lydecker's journal to giggle in the corner of the comments section over my alleged sexual immaturity? This is the same homosexual Waldo Lydecker who made a blogging career out of speculating over the sizes of the penises of the conservative bloggers in south Carolina based on their level of conservative or Christian beliefs, including three to five links per week for sixteen weeks to the Eye with the same motif. Great guy to associate with, Project. Sexually mature, too, obviously. Ever whip yours out for him to inspect? With BlogNewsNet gone, he could probably use the thrill now that South Carolina posts are no longer aggregated in one place for him.

I know good and well you want me to make a post and send some visitors your way. It is the only reason you make your comments and then run off without responding to any of them. You want to make sure I know it is a waste of time to say anything in the comments about your latest drivel. All, right, I am going to play that game, if for no other reason than to point out what a royal jackass you were this time around.

One night after I post about health issues from I collapsed and suffered an injury, you decide to troll about cancer coverage insurance for 9/11 first providers in a post regarding an theist lawsuit over The Cross at Ground Zero. such would not phase me at all, but I know you had to have read the post above it first regarding the ten year old cancer patient singing the national anthem at an Atlanta Braves game.

You know what? that is incredibly low. I have not said a darn thing at any point about the lack of health insurance coverage for 9/11 providers. The biggest article on the matter was published three days ago when I clearly explained how and why I had been quite distracted.

But no, you have to assume I do not give a crap about health care coverage for first responders who may have contracted cancer while searching for survivors. No, I am the confused, bigoted conservative who will cheer on a little ten year old battling cancer singing at a baseball game and ignore the health of heroic first responders with my Christianist agenda blinding me to what is important. For the umpteenth time, I assume.

Seriously, Project, you ought to be embarrassed. I do not believe you have it in you, but you ought to be.

I have plenty of trolls who make hit and run comments. Eclectic Banana is a fine example. He makes snarky comments, then goes over to his Tumblr and makes a no link post on what he would really like to say to me, but lacks the backbone. he is still doing it a year later after he quit commenting, presumably in the hopes i will not know he is.

Eclectic Banana has an excuse, though, project. He is an admitted agoraphobic. The isolation from reality has warped him reality. You do not have to read much from him to figure out he has some other mental and/or emotional issues. What is your excuse?

Enjoy the blog hits.

Full Metal Jacket Reach Around #109

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

Say Anything links to Kelly Brook, Aly Michalka, and Isla Fisher.
Proof Positive links to Kelly Brook, Aly Muchalka, and Isla Fisher.
Classic Liberal links to Aly Michalka, Kelly Brook, Sandra Bullock, Isla Fisher, Kaley Cuoco, Laura Croft, and Sasha Grey.
Pirate's Cove links to FMJRA #107, Blogroll Spotlight #103, and Rosie Huntington-Whitely.
Sentry Journal links to Take It to the Limit One More Time.
Motor City times links to Take It to the Limit One More Time
The Other McCain links to Laura Croft.
Randy's Roundtable links to Kaley Cuoco.

A sincere thank you to all who linked this week. 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: Voyager--"Alter Ego"

There are bad VOY episodes, and then there are VOY episodes that make you embarrassed to admit you watched them. Seriously, have you ever been in a theater watching a bad movie and sank in your seat? The feeling is hard to describe, but it mostly shame of association and the fear your association might encourage someone to make another movie just like it? That is what it feels like to watch a bad VOY episode. Worse, to write a fairly lengthy review may give off the impression it provokes a lot of thought. Ugh. Covering some episodes is a no win scenario, folks.

“Alter Ego” has three of VOY’s biggest stumbling blocks. One, it is a holodeck malfunction story. Two, it is a Hard Luck Harry story with added bonuses--he is in love, but gets dumped and forgotten in the first act. Finally, it is a Tuvok does not understand human emotions, yet knows better than everyone else by the end how to handle them story. If only Janeway had blown off the Prime Directive for the opposite reason she ignored the edict yesterday or killed someone with her bare hands, we could have added Janeway is Awesome and “Alter Ego” would have deserved some kind of special designation like the Golden Sombrero or something. Let us take the three factors in turn.

Why do you even need a holodeck for stories on a series revolving around explorers in outer space? That is a question which should apply to all Star Trek set in the 24th century, but particularly VOY. The series theme is the ship is lost in uncharted, supposedly more exotic than usual space. Show a little imagination. Ort logic, for that matter. So much of the contact with alien species is motivated by respelling drained energy sources. Why, if energy sources are a problem, are you wasting energy on a frivolous virtual reality game? The entire concept not only demonstrates lazy writing, but negates the idea the crew is really struggling to survive in any appreciable way.

Voyager has the added silly issue of running themes with holodeck programs that peter off. First, we had Janeway playing with her Victorian governess/ghost/love story thing that was tied into an episode solely so it could be dropped from the series. For a while, it was tom’s French bar--because tom’s last name is Paris and he once visited France, you see. Later, we will get that Irish town Fairhaven, but for now we are in the middle of the Polynesian Resort Era of holodeck stories. For this episode, that means being strangled with a lei whole crewmates fistfight with belly dancers and flaming torch bearing guys wearing Tiki masks. Do I need to say more? “Alter Ego” takes the holodeck malfunction story and kicks it down a notch. It is almost impressively incompetent.

Hard Luck Harry. I have never met Garret Wang, but I know people who have and I visited his Twitter page where upon he tweets about once every month or so when he is visiting a former member of the VOY cast. From what little I glean from those sources, Wang is playing himself on the series--a decent guy who is in over his head, but propped up by others, either out of friendship or pity. Behind the scenes circumstances will arrive at the beginning of the fourth season which will stymie a perhaps merciful departure for Wang because he will be named one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World by People --good looks have undeservedly launched/saved many a Hollywood career--so I am reluctant to say much now best explored for later. I will hit the specifics here.

Harry crosses over hard into Geordi La Forge territory in “Alter Ego” by falling in love with a holodeck character. Unlike la forge’s experience, Harry gets no real encouragement from the object of his affection, fake though holographic Leah Brahms’ was, gets dumped the first time she meets someone else (Tuvok), and has to seek out therapy because everyone on the ship recognizes what his behavior indicates he is feeling. They have not seen such immature behavior since junior high, but this is a show aimed at fourteen year old virgins. Expectations must be kept reasonable. But Hard Luck Harry is completely dismissed after the first act save for the closing scene with Tuvok. Yes, Hard Luck Harry’s luck is so hard, he is the catalyst for the story, but it is not his story. It is Tuvok’s. so VOY manages to take a hard Luck Harry story and kick it down a notch, too.

We are left with talking about took and his struggle with emotions. While I am only mildly amused at the effort of developing the character, I will recognize said attempt is the only redeeming factor to be found in “Alter Ego.” Unfortunately, that is not saying much. The story is a lot of fluff with a very weak ending the two characters involved, both supposedly highly rational beings, should have eliminated long before anything became a problem.

Voyager stops to study the dampening field around a nebula. It is a slow going, uneventful study, so crewmembers have been spending a lot of time in the Polynesian Resort. Harry has fallen in love with a girl named Marlayna. He cannot handle his feelings for a person who is not real, so he asks took to help him purge himself of the emotion.

Tuvok is a jerk. I have never noticed any dislike for Harry on his part in the past, but there is a definite irritation regarding Harry’s immaturity here. Tuvok, who is playing one of those Vulcan ubergames, dismisses Harry’s comparison of it to chess by saying the game is as much like chess as chess is to tic tac toe. Ouch. In spite of the rudeness, Harry still pours his heart out out his problem to which Tuvok condescendingly points out how every reaction Harry has to Marlayna is a junior high kid with puppy love’s actions. Ouch II, even harder.

Tuvok is ordered by Janeway to relax at a luau where he sees Marlayna playing the Vulcan game. He is intrigued. Harry tucks his tail and runs. We do not see Harry again until the end. Tuvok bonds with Marlayna over ideas and knowledge exchange--or so they think. What they really have is a mutual loneliness. This loneliness becomes evident when the ship attempts to leave the nebula are met with resistance from Marlayna, who has gained control of the ship’s systems via the holodeck. She demands took beams over to a space station hidden within the nebula, or she will destroy Voyager.

On the space station, Tuvok meets the real Marlayna. She is a brilliant woman who finds most people so boring, she volunteered to man this nebula alone so she would not have to deal with social interaction. She secretly studies ships that pass by the nebula. She was kinda hot for Harry a moment, but then she saw Tuvok and recognized a kindred spirit. She is right, in a lot of ways. Tuvok does not like involving himself with his human crewmates. He had to be ordered to go to the luau and while there, was the only one to wear his uniform and refuse a lei. He separates himself from others on purpose, too. But they both desire a companionship unavailable to them seemingly outside each other.

Nevertheless, Tuvok’s sense of duty compels him to use her emotions against her. If she really cares for him, she will want him to return to his ship in order to continue the journey home to his family. She agrees. He suggests she request a replacement for her job while she explores her need for companionship. She agrees to do this, too. The two depart on good terms.

Wait. What? Marlayna captures the ship, nearly kills three crewmembers, and threatens to kill the entire crew if took does not become her BFF all because she needs an extended vacation? One that presumably involves a gigolo. When this is pointed out to her, she agrees, and the episode is over? Except for some Tuvok patching up with Harry, yeah, pretty much. I suppose at the time, it meant more because it looked like Tuvok was going to take his own advice and develop a friendship with Harry. That did not happen, but I cannot judge events beyond episodes in question. Still, this was one luau I could have happily skipped.

Rating: * (out of 5)

Alessandra Torresani

Friday, July 29, 2011

Lily Anderson Hugs Brain McCann

Lily Anderson, a ten year old who has been battling brain cancer since 2009, hugs Atlanta Braves catcher Brain McCann after singing a stirring rendition of the national anthem. The crowd gave her a well-deserved standing ovation.

Here is a link to Lily singing "The Star Spangled Banner". You will not get through it with dry eyes.

The photo of McCann and Lilly is from this tweet at the official @Braves account.

Atheists Sue to Keep The Cross at Ground Zero Out of the 9/11 Museum

A national atheist group has filed a lawsuit to keep the fused steel t-joint that resembled the Christian cross out of the 9/11 museum set to open on September 12th, 2011. Here is how David Silverman, the group's president, puts it:
"It has been blessed by so-called holy men and presented as a reminder that their god, who couldn't be bothered to stop the Muslim terrorists or prevent 3,000 people from being killed in his name, cared only enough to bestow upon us some rubble that resembles a cross. It's a truly ridiculous assertion."
This is the doofus they put in charge to be the face of the group. I wonder what kind of attitude their second choice has? Or if anyone realizes if insisting there is any religious meaning behind the cross is ridiculous, then so is their complaint about it? atheists cannot have it both ways.

I do not have to even bring in my Christian beliefs to argue how this lawsuit is wrong. That was discovered standing strong in the rubble of the World Trade Center. It brought hope and encouragement for rescuers to keep looking for survivors. The cross is an authentic, physical reminder of 9/11 that invokes the emotions of those rescuers who saw it as inspiration to keep going. It is a part of the history of 9/11 and its aftermath, therefore it belongs in the museum.

Star Trek: Voyager--"Fair Trade"

While I have criticized many aspects of VOY, some more fair than others, one thing I have avoided bullying is Neelix. Critiquing Neelix is like analyzing the Star Wars prequels. The flaws are so obvious, it feels like a waste of time to point them out. The urge not to break the naïve hearts of their respective fans is another deterrent.

The VOY creators had their hearts in the right place. Neelix was supposed to be the fun, goofy break out character whose antics would be the comic relief on a dark show about a near hopeless journey to a home 75 years away. In that respect, we got a highly sitcom character vibe out of Neelix. He is a bad cook. He is a gossipy television talk show host. He is an annoying moral officer. He is an advisor with negligible advise to offer. Essentially, Neelix is Balki Bartokumous--a good hearted fish out of water who wants to try it all in order to find his place.

The problem with that is VOY is not a sitcom. Comic relief within a drama still has to fit within the logic of the drama. Star Trek has done the concept very well in the past. Spock and Data spring to mind immediately as characters whose awkwardness in their environments creates occasional comedic breaks without diminishing the characters or the drama. Indeed, both are beloved characters. Neelix is just not a well crafted character.

Star Trek has had plenty of those, too. Troi and Jadzia “Trill Barbie” Dax come to mind. Being a two dimensional character is not enough to universally turn Trekkies off. Heck, as far as gene Roddenberry was concerned, characters could have all been cardboard cutouts as long as he got his philosophical message across that materialism was bad and managed to sell a lot of action figures in the process.

What puts Neelix in the basement of Star Trek characters is how the writers have attempted to deepen him by yanking him in the polar opposite direction. Is the overly eager to please Neelix annoying? All right. They will have him bully Kes about not taking advantage of her only chance of having a baby out of his own selfish desires. Annoyed by Neelix’s icky sweet nature? Okay. He will have a fist fight with Tom and threaten to kill him over paranoid jealousy. Tired of hearing about what a great tactician, survivalist, and tracker Neelix? Well, you should be. He has failed at every turn since the pilot. It has been one misstep after another trying to get the character to fly. It has rarely worked and never for very long.

“Fair Trade” is one of those rare occasions in which Neelix does work for a while. The episode snaps him into reality without the extremes I described above. Neelix is presented with a dilemma, makes a bad choice, and ultimately has to maturely face up to what he has done. This is about as well as the character has ever been handled. If memory serves, ‘Fair Trade’ is as good as it gets in Neelix-centric episodes.

Neelix has been overenthusiastically seeking out other ship responsibilities to over in security and engineering. He is secretly motivated by the inevitable end of his value as the Delta Quadrant guide--Voyager is about to leave the last area of space Neelix knows anything about. Opportunity knocks when the ship visit’s a trading station to negotiate for supplies and he runs into Wixiban, an old--and literal--partner in crime. Wixiban is stuck on the station after having his ship impounded. He needs one big score to pay the fine to release it. He wants Neelix to help in exchange for a map of the space Voyager is about to enter.

Perhaps it is just me, but I assumed even watching VOY sixteen years ago that it was understood Neelix had been a shady businessman before joining the ship. I considered much of Janeway’s reluctance to bring him and Kes along was because of his criminal past. I figured Kes gaining more important responsibilities like nurse and field medic were a sign she was far more trusted. I thought that because Kes’ relationships appeared far more meaningful, she had more character. So when Wixiban bullies neelix into helping by threatening to tell Janeway about his smuggling past and thereby damaging his credibility, I thought they already know this about him, right? Guess not.

The only reason I mention my longstanding thoughts is that some smuggling deal went badly years ago and Wixiban wound up in prison while Neelix avoided capture. Wixiban hangs his ordeal over Neelix’s head to further bully him into helping. While this would be enough motivation on its own, Neelix is more concerned about what his crewmates would think of him if they knew the truth about his past. It has to be a big secret he was a criminal in order for the emotion to resonate. I did not think it was a big secret, but okay.

The deal is advertised as a medicinal shipment. Anyone with two brain cells to run together knows that means narcotics, but neelix is in denial at this point. The back alley deal goes badly and the drug dealer is shot. Worse yet, the crime syndicate expecting the drugs are not happy they missed out and now demand some warp core plasma from Voyager as compensation.

Just to tighten the screws, chakotay and tom, who were seen in a chance encounter with the drug dealer earlier, are arrested for his murder. Knowing they have been falsely arrested does not initially stop Neelix from stealing some plasma, but he does have a change of heart eventually, opts to confess to taking part in the drug deal, and offers to help catch the crime syndicate traders in exchange for having the charges dropped.

The drug bust winds up with the plasma exploding into a green explosive gas which is--I could you not-the exact same scene as in yesterday’s episode. Budget saving is one thing, but geez, VOY. Could you at least spread the episode out a little bit? Neelix survives with minor injuries. Wixiban leaves him behind to face the consequences of his actions alone.

He is prepared to leave the ship, but Janeway says it is not that easy. He is a vital part of things, but now it is going to be difficult to trust him. I am curious what is so vital about neelix, but I figure I must not be in the proper spirit of things. She assigns him to some grunt work for two weeks. He grins like a moron, implying that he would have scrubbed toilets with his toothbrush before taking part in the drug deal or stealing the plasma if it meant he could stay. Janeway probably degraded him as compensation for not getting the opportunity to kill anyone herself this episode.

I got a little snaky about some bits here. I think it is retroactive continuity to say at least the gist of Neelix’s criminal past is a big secret that needs to be buried at all costs. I am ultimately going to excuse it, however. I have never been desperate to stay in any one place in my life, so I do not understand the unethical lengths one might go to in order to do so. I find ’Fair trade” less compelling than many fans do, but recognize its value in that it tried to make Neelix into a more complex character. The show rarely does that with any character, much less its biggest dud. So it deserves some props for that if nothing else.

Rating; ** (out of 5)

Sofia Vergara

I imagine if anyone reading the Eye is going to the movies this weekend, it will be to see Cowboys and Aliens, not The Smurfs. No one will blame you one bit, either. There has not been a decent film involving animated characters interacting with the real world since Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and even that one has not maintained much popularity over the last 22 years.

I have already shown you the best part of The Smurfs: Sofia Vergara.

As a bonus, I will offer up the only other post I have ever written regarding The Smurfs: The Satanism of The Smurfs According to My Nutty Sixth Grade Teacher. How could you go wrong clicking on a title like that?

If that is not weird enough......this photo certainly is.

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

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Shake, Rattle, and Ruh Roh!

Monday night, I was fiddling around on my computer with the Atlanta braves/Pirrsburgh Pirates game playing in he background. All of the sudden, I started to shake uncontrollably. I called it the chills and a sign I was going to wake up Tuesday morning with a full blown bug.

I could not worry about that at the time. My Arthrogryposis weakens my joints to the point shaking for any length of time is painful. I do not like being cold, naturally. I figured since I was probably going to wake up sick anyway, I would take a couple alleve and go to bed.

Surprisingly enough, I did not wake up sick as I expected. I was kind of droopy and lounged around in bed longer than usual after posting the usual babe photo and VOY review, but other than that and the odd notion breakfast could wait indefinitely, I was all right. It is not terribly unusual for various health issues to gang up on me to the point I have to drop out of life a day or two to recharge. Recent weeks have involved some...let us call them starts and stops in order to maintain polite conversation.

Yesterday, I slept later than usual, but bounced up. I forced myself to eat a sandwich I did not want because I was on about hour sixteen with no food intake. It gave me a little pep even though for all the enjoyment I got out of it, it might as well have been made of cardboard. Things went fine fine until last night.

While I was standing at the bathroom sink washing my hands, I started shaking again, except this time more violently. I lost my balance thanks to my artificial hip joints not being able to handle it. I now have a purple goose egg on my right knee. It is sitting right on the joint so that bending my knee stretches the skin and puts an eye crossing pressure on it. I could not worry about that at the time. I sat there shaking for about three to five minutes. It felt like much longer because I became short of breath, which I had not on Monday. It was obvious now I had not experienced an early sign of a bug.

I could not breathe normally, I could not speak, my joints were burning with fatigue, and my knee was swelling up and not enjoying its topsy turvy ride. I yanked a dry bath towel from the rack and wrapped myself in it. That did not stop my shaking, so I threw it over the central air vent. That did not work, either. Obviously, getting warmer was not the answer. It slowly subsided. I took more Alleve, because even a few minutes of shaking is enough is enough to make my joints feel like I have just completed a marathon. I went.

Presumably, many of you have already said I must have been hypoglycemic, and you are right. While I cannot fathom why Monday’s episode occurred, the crashing and skipping meals due to loss of appetite made Wednesday’s inevitable and worse. I have never experienced hypoglycemia before or at least did not recognize a shivering sensation as an episode. I have certainly never experienced like what planted me on the bathroom floor.

Fortunately, hypoglycemia is a minor issue that seems scarier than it is. I am going to have to force myself to eat something whether I want to or not to keep my blood sugar intake satisfactory. I am surprised, given some deeper holes I have been in with oversleeping and loss of appetite due to health issues, that I have not had a recognizable, much less worse, hypoglycemic episode before now. Maybe I am becoming less resilient in my mid-thirties. Whatever the case, I am now more vigilant.

oh, yeah--icing up a swelling hematoma does not do a ting for it. That is juast something they tell you to do in first aid because in hopes the ice will numb the pain for a placebo effect. I do not know why I even bother every time I get a hematoma, but I still do.

Star Trek: Voyager--"Macrocosm"

“Macrocosm” marks a shift in VOY’s third season stories in two ways. They will now become darker and the Borg will be reintroduced as recurring villains. These changes are likely due to the recent success of Star Trek: First Contact Depending on your level of cynicism, you can either consider the shift in the back half of VOY’s third season waiting for Star Trek: First: Contact to have its tone and villains all to itself, or the show is cashing in to boost sagging ratings. I think it is a little of both, but mostly the latter.

We will deal with the Borg reintroduction a little later. “Macrocosm’ apes virtually all elements of Star Trek: First Contact but the inclusion of the Borg. Considering Brannon Braga co-write the film and penned “Macrocosm” as well, there is a feeling of a writer unsure of himself going back to the well he knows is spilling over. The film is not the only well he revisits, though the second is far more inexplicable.

Janeway and Neelix return from a three day trade mission to an alien race who communicate through interpretative dance--no, really--to find Voyager adrift in space. It is dark, environmental controls are going wild, and the crew is nowhere to be found at first. While searching for the crew, Neelix is attacked by a tentacled creature and immediately falls in. Janeway rdiscovers a large portion of the crew unconscious in the mess hall, obviously infected by what struck Neelix. Janeway is eventually attacked, and makes her way to sick bay in order to find the Doctor.

If you are thinking this set up sounds a lot like the awful “Genesis” from TNG, the similarities are striking. I will give Braga credit that he has at least learned from what went wrong with that episode. In “Genesis,” we knew something was happening to the Enterprise crew while Picard and Data were gone. The mystery only needed to be unraveled for them, and that was boring to watch. “Macrocosm” plays it better. We do not know anything about what is going on until the Doctor relates the story of how a virus that had infected a mining colony made its way to Voyager. Braga‘s understanding od science has not improved--the virus is microchopic when it initially strikes, then grows exponentially into a monstrous critter that physically attacks--but he has improved his narrative skills.

Make that improved his narrative skills somewhat. The bulk of the episode is a string of action movie clichés. Janeway even strips down to a tank top and carries a huge gun while roaming the halls looking for these little buggers a ala Die Hard. I also counted a direct dialogue lift from Outbreak. The entire plot is largely Alien. Throw in Janeway’s obsessive bloodlust like Picard’s in Star Trek: Contact, and you have a crazy quilt of action movie elements strung together to form something that sort of resembles a plot.

Near as I can tell, the virtue of “Macrocosm’ is supposed to be Janeway getting down and dirty as an action hero. I have a tough time with it. It was boring watching her sneak around, grimacing in pain from constantly being sneak attacked by the virus. She kills a number of the larger ones in hand to hand combat just to make it more exciting. They explode upon death, too. It is certainly not wise to disperse a contagion in such a manner, both they blowed up good, blowed up real good. Yee haw! Besides, janeway has not personally killed anyone since Henry Starling three episodes back. You know she gets anxious when there is too much time between kills.

She sets off a antigen bomb cure the doctor concocted in a few hours, and thereby saves the day.

If you are into dumb action movies, you will probably go for “Macrocosm.” It has all the paint by number elements you need to make such a film, as well as the usual predictable plot devices that get characters from point A to B to C. if you want to watch a sweaty, grunting, tank top wearing Janeway do her best psychopathic anti-hero, you are in luck there. But you are pretty much out of luck with everything else.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Kaley Cuoco

It is Kaley Cuoco Day!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Formspring Question #216--Chucking Chuck Edition

Do you watch Chuck? I think you would like it, cheesy as it can be. And no, I am not suggesting you review it. I just think you would dig the geek-meets-Hart to Hart vibe.
I have never gotten into Chuck, though I am now curious why one thinks Hart to Hart is a show I enjoyed. Where did that vibe originate?

Star Trek: Voyager--"The Q and the Grey"

When I have complained in the past that I would rather be beaten with a sack of doorknobs than review VOY, it was episodes like ‘The Q and the Grey” that made the cruising for a bruising more appealing. In the first place, I am not big on Q episodes in the first place. But add to that bad story elements and the complete ignoring of established continuity, and you have an even worse episode than if q just showed up and went about his usual shtick. Kenneth Biller wrote this one, of course. He is an evil, evil man.

Q visits Janeway with a proposition--have a child with him. She naturally refuses, but he continues to court her in the stereotypical ways, among them the Pepe le Pew act, serenading, and gift giving. A female Q shows up to interrupt his hapless endeavor. As she is played by Suzie Plakson, better known as K’Elehr from TNG, I will unimaginatively refer to her as Suzie Q. At the very least, maybe you can sustain yourself through this review with happy thoughts of Credence Clearwater Revival.

Q escapes with Janeway into the Q Continuum just as the aftermath of a supernova is about to strike the ship, leaving the rest of the crew to deal with Suxie Q. It is in the Continuum the just for laughs bits end and the heart of the story, such that it is, begins. Quinn, the Q who committed suicide in order to escape his eternal existence, has sparked off a civil war between those Q who believe in individualism and those who want to maintain the old ways. Q, who had a change of heart and assisted Quinn in his suicide, took up his cause. He now regrets his choice, and like a battered woman in a troubled marriage, thinks having a child will fix the problem.

Janeway perceives the conflict in the best way her mind can comprehend--as the American Civil War. The Q who support indivual freedom are the union. The status quo supporters are the Confederates. If you have any questions as to which side is absolutely correct in the conflict, then you are not politically correct enough to walk out in public unsupervised by a progressive. Kudos to you for that. Q is a yankee, as if I needed another reason to dislike him.

It is at this point, the episode introduces three serious problems that place it firmly in the VOY basement.

One, how can the Q destroy each other in a war? Quinn had to lose his powers before he could commit suicide. It was the only way he could harm himself. “The Q and the Grey” show Q killing each other with guns and cannon balls. The John de Lancie Q is shot in the arm earlier on in order to gain our sympathy. He is not the only one shown to be wounded. There is a Confederate soldier with his leg below the knee missing. If it is possible to create weapons for the Q to maim and kill each other, why could Quinn not have done himself in without having his powers taken away?

Two, while Janeway refuses to mate with Q, she suggests he have a child with Suzie Q instead. Q’s first rationale is that he wants his child to have the best of Q and the best of humanity in himself. Absorb that one for a moment. Q could mate with any human woman who has ever existed or ever will, and he chooses Janeway as the best possible choice. Jeri Taylor’s heart must have grown three sizes when biller tossed in that Janeway id Awesome bit. Q’s second point is pickling. He claims Q do not have children. But they do. Two former Q had a daughter in TNG‘s “True Q” who was a full Q. Q himself was involved in her return to the Continuum, so he ought to know better. There have only been a handful of Q episodes ever, and “True Q” aired only four years prior. It is not asking much to maintain continuity.

Three, Suzie Q, who has lost her powers now thanks to the war, lets the Voyager crew in on a little secret--they can enter the Continuum by way of some techno babble engine modifications and a super nova. You may consider this a weak gripe, but I think it takes what little mystic there is out of the alleged wondrous Continuum by making it an easily accessible destination for a determined ship.

The crew arrives in the Conituum dressed in full union regalia just in time to rescue Janeway and Q from a Confederate firing squad. I suppose the uniforms are a nice touch, but they do seem like a Hollywood embellishment. You know, the crew is wearing them just to be cute. Maybe I am nitpicking with that, too. It is difficult to forgive borderline oddities in an episode that is not very good.

The Confederates surrender because they are outgunned by the Voyager crew. I am surprised that is true, but okay. Q finally decides to take Janeway’s advice and mate with Suxie Q. Realizing hey are about to do the deed right now, Janeway begins to slink off before q asks if she wants to watch. She does, for heaven’s sake. Q and Suxie Q touch index fingers and that is it. Janeway remarks bewilderingly how anticlimactic it was, as though she was expecting to see some real bumping and grinding.

The birth of the child leads to the big question: how is it that two Q on one side in the civil war having a child resolves the conflict? At the very least, the parents should have been one from each side of the ideological struggle. That would have made at least some sense. The continuity issue of Q already having a child in the past aside, I do not see how having the kid changes anything. But remember, I am in the mindset Q has the often terrible rationale that repairing a bad relationship by having a child is a good idea, so perhaps I am biased.

“The Q and the Grey” is quite awful. I would imagine Q fans have to ignore it in order to still enjoy the Q related aspects of the canon. There is no point to the episode at all. The resolution does not make any sense. Janeway does not even think to ask Q to send them back to the Alpha Quadrant as thanks for assisting him. The only virtue of “The Q and the Grey” is a personal penchant for Civil War related stories. I have the typical southern interest in the war, but these days, popular entertainment will rarely touch on it because of the trend of applying modern moral standards to the past. Ted Turner has been the only guy brave enough to make film on the subject in recent years, and he has dropped off the entertainment map in favor of promoting global warming hysteria. Civil War buffs are left out in the cold these days.
"Is it over yet?"


Nope. There are another 116 episodes to go, I am afraid.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Marisa Miller

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wild Cards

Major League Baseball is planning to expand the playoffs by two additional teams in 2012. Currently, the best second place finishing team in each league wins the wild card. Next year, the best third place finisher in each league will also win the wild card. The two wild card team will have a one game playoff. The winner of that game moves onto the division series. What this means is that ten out of thirty MLB teams will make the playoffs.

I am a baseball purist. I do not like the designated hitter rule, artificial turf, or interleague play. So you can imagine how I have pretty much thrown my hands up in the air over the changes Bud Selig’s reign as commissioner have brought. (The designated hitter rule is not his fault, but still.) baseball is quickly moving away from its uniqueness. Interleague play will eventually blur the line between leagues the same way interconference play has done in the NFL. Ten teams in the playoffs is flirting with the NBA standard of playing for six months to eliminate the Cleveland Cavaliers, then starting all over again for a two month play off.

I will concede one thing: establishing six divisions and including a wild card has made baseball more interesting than when there were four divisions which took the excitement out of good teams that still had no chance to make the playoffs because four or five other teams were having a lucky streak, but still could not be the top dog. More teams can generate enthusiasm in their fans because they have a far better chance of making the playoffs.

But I do not think teams need too many chances. There is such a thing as mediocre talent spread way too thin. But I know good and well that is not the reason MLB is adding another game to the playoffs. It is all about ticket sales and television revenue, not increased competitiveness.

How do I know this? Because of the incident that prompyed this post. Barry larkin, now a public relations executive with the Cincinnati Reds, joined the color commentaters in the booth for an inning of Sunday’s Atlanta Braves v. Cincinnati Reds game and cried without tears over the lack of competitiveness this year. The National League East and American League East have teams with the best records in baseball. The wild card is for each league is going to come from its respective East division. All the other poor teams are going to have to win their division in order to make the playoffs. It is so hard and unfair. These young guys will only have so may chances to win a championship.

In other words, MLB is trotting out its former stars, now token executives, to shill for the idea more teams need to make the playoffs in the name of fairness. Not in the name of more dollars, of course. It was such a blatant act that ESPN was complicit in that I was enormously irritated by it. If MLB has to sell its new ideas to fans in such a manner, they probably are not good ideas in the first place.

Star Trek: Voyager--"Warlord"

Nice outfit.

The poor development of Kes is one of VOY’s biggest losses. The detriment is no more evident than with “Warlord.” It is not that it is a particularly good episode. story wise, it is run of the mill. What it does well is establish Kes as a far more powerful and aggressive character than she has been before. Kes has more or less been the T roi of Voy. No one really knows what to do with her, so they do everything--make her a nurse, make her a telepath, or make her a love interest, none of which becomes her niche. It would be far more interesting if she were to continue developing her mental powers as demonstrated in “Warlord,” but alas, it does not happen.

Voyager rescues three people from a damaged ship. Unfortunately, one of the crewmembers is beyond medical help and perishes. Before he goes, he secretly transfers his conscious into Kes. He uses his new identity to carry out an assassination attempt, then escape to his home planet to overthrow the government.

The guy’s name is Tigan. He was once a brutal dictator eventually deposed by a upper class family. Utilizing kes’ mental powers, he kills the remaining members of the family, save the youngest son to solidify loyalty, and takes his place as the leader yet again.

All that is incidental to the real plot. There is an internal struggle raging between tigan and Kes as she tries to reassert control. She is horrified how she has been reluctantly used as a murderous weapon, and desperately digs deep to use the mental abilities she never knew she had in order to defeat him. It is a maturing experience for her. Much of her naïve and adventurous nature subsequently disappears not that she has seen the dark side of what she can do.

After dealing with her character development for two acts, “Warlord” descends into a men on a mission firefight to oppose the coup and rescue Kes. The previous two episodes have been heavy on action in order to solve the dilemma, and it feels like the same old, same old here. It would be more interesting for Kes to defeat Tigan on her own rather than a phaser battle and a techno babble device restoring her to full form. The existential struggle is far more interesting than the guns blazing resolution we got.

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with “Warlord.” It is a typical, character centric episode. Quite a bit of what is done with kes is interesting viewing. But there is no real follow up to any of her developments, save for dumping Neelix. Really, was it not puzzling she liked him in the first place? If the point of the episode is to empower Kes, then it makes no sense that she has to be rescued by mindless violence. But like I said above, none of the writers seem to know what to do with the character.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Ashley Greene

Monday, July 25, 2011

Male Brutalization and Double Standards

You are bound to have heard these two stories lately. A California woman named Catherine Becker became enraged at her husband’s request for a divorce, so she cut off his penis and tossed it into the garbage disposal. In Russia, a woman allegedly Koed a robber, then kept him as a sex slave for three days. While there is dispute as to the truth of the latter, it does not matter for this discussion. What I want to talk about is the reaction from women and the double standard it demonstrates.

Both incidents, the former more than the latter, granted, have been cheered by woman as a sign of girl power. The women on The View, who have replaced Oprah as the source of feminist groupthink, lead the cherring section. Guest Sharon Osbourne sparked off peals of laughter among the audience by claiming Mr. Becker’s mutilation was funny because flaccid penises are small, floppy, and look funny while shredding in a garbage disposal. I suspect the appalling reaction to a man’s castration is motivated by the feminist “victory” in some small way over the patriarchy.

What if the roles were reversed? What if a woman wanted a divorce, so her enraged husband cut off her breasts or mutilated her genitals? How about if a man had overpowered a woman attempting to rob him, then held her prisoner for three days to forcibly rape her in revenge? There would be outrage, and rightly so. We are a callous society busting our rear ends to recreate the time of noah when every man did what was right in his own eyes, but we still have standards.

Now compound the hypothetical--can you imagine Howard Stern or Adam Carolla, comedians who routinely cross the line of good taste, mocked the wife’s brutal disfigurement as striking a blow for masculinity? After all, she is probably going to get half her husband’s stuff in the divorce even if she is found to be at fault in the marriage break up. How about if the two cheered on the forced rape? Rape is about power, not sex. The guy is just showing the woman who tried to rob him who is the boss, right?

There would be outrage on both counts. The outrage would be inarguably appropriate. But why is the reverse not the case? Why is it if a maim is maimed is such a manner or sexually violated, it is considered a notch in the win column for women and fine to laugh at/? There is enough of a prevailing notion male victimization is acceptable that the opportunity to put a counter argument in the public’s mind has passed by with nary a notice.

I should clarify the double standard applies only to straight men. If a gay man had his penis cut off or was held prisoner and raped for three days, there would be a national awareness campaign begun in there honor. Tracy Morgan and any other comedians mocking homosexuals would be torched in a large bonfire. Sam Kinison’s corpse might be dug up and reduced to ashes just for good measure.

I take the double standard which elevates women and gat men over straight men is evidence of the progressive origins of the mindset. Straight white men control everything, darn it. Including the Democratic Part, but who is counting? They must be punished! Poor progressive beta males go right along with being properly dominated by their ice queen feminist wives until they pop and wind up conning 22 year old interns into oral sex, sending photos of their penis on Twitter, or making rape jokes about Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. If you want to know the evil consequences of the feminist joy in robbing men of their masculinity, look at the behavior of the progressive men to whom they have done it.

A victim of crime is a victim of crime regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Inserting politics or the alleged battle of the sexes into it is disgusting. It is also ironic that the people most responsible for cheering on the violation of men are the outspoken advocates of hate crime legislation. If you want to know if the thought police calculable damage, look no further.

Star Trek: Voyager--"Future's End, Part II"

“Future’s End, Part II” takes place right where we left off yesterday--an inconsequential cliffhanger. Voyager’s appearance on the evening news has no consequences whatsoever. Not a big deal, but one would have hoped for a more intense cliffhanger. The concluding episode is, in spite of a little socialistic preaching in the middle, about the best conclusion one could hope to see. The episode is a mostly slam bang, guns blazing action resolution,. It is far less talky and loaded with techno babble than the first part.

The plot revolves around the crew attempting to capture Henry Starling and search for the stolen time ship while he is out of the way. The entertainment value is in Starling’s ingenuity in evading permanent capture. For every plan they attempt to beam him away or take they time ship back, he has some 29th century technology that ultimately stymies their effert. Surprisingly, his constant one gunmanship using unexplainable technology does not come across as typical VOY techno babble nonsense solutions that take all the drama out of the situation. On fears the motifs success here might have promoted the idea it could be done repeatedly in future episodes. Too much of a good thing, you know?

Starling’s first attempt to block a transport results in a manufactured dramatic sequence in which Chakotay and torres crash land a shuttle in the Arizona desert and are captured by rightwing separatists. I say manufactured drama because the shuttle, which was severely damaged in the first place, is perfectly capable of flight without repairs two acts later. The sequence exists only to bring in the separatists for a little lecture on the evils of conservatism. Quite literally, in fact. There are two scenes back to back which feature Janeway and Starling, now successfully held for a time on Voyager, discussing the merits of capitalism and Chakotay and torres being given the verbal manifesto of the separatists.

The Starling/janeway confrontation is the one I find most interesting. While Janeway is motivated to keep Starling from using the time ship to inadvertently destroy the solar system in the 29th century, she clearly has nothing but contempt for what he represents in general. Starling argues the 29th century technology he usurped changed the world for the better. He is responsible for microchips, the internet, etc. His plan is to go into the 29th century and grab more technology in the hope of advancing the 20th century by leaps and bounds.

Certainly, Starling is a megalomaniac who believes the ends justifies the means, but janeway does not even see the value of his ends. She immediately scolds him that in her time, people care about bettering themselves and the world around them, not with making money. Starling counters--rightly so, if you ask me--that his innovations have improved the world. She is just mad he got rich in the process. That is true, because she storms off with the threat she is going to destroy all his assets in order to make certain the time ship has been eliminated.

Counter this with the lecture Chakotay and Torres, tied up in the basement of a heavily armed compound receive. The separatists proclaim there are two factions. One promotes collectivism. The pother espouses individualism. They accuse Chakotay and Torres of being collectivist operatives of the federal government. Chakotay replies--wait for it--that they are not collrctivists. Not only is it dumb on the surface to claim the Federation is not collectivist in the first place, Chakotay’s proclamation comes immediately after janeway has contemptuously lectured Starling over his capitalist philosophy and threatened to destroy everything he has. The sad part is I do not believe the writers intended for these two scenes to contradict one another as they did. Both Starling and the separatists are supposed to be unquestionably wrong in their beliefs. If the writers wanted that to be more obvious, they should have spaced the scenes out more. As it is, they shoot themselves in the foot while attempting to take aim at capitalism.

Aside from that little lesson into pinko economics, the rest of the episode is mindless action. There are firefights, car chases, explosions, and in the climax, janeway makes good on her promise and jury rigs a photon torpedo to blow starling and his time ship out of the sky before he can enter the time rift. No discussions about the morality of her action or whether she should just try to capture him again. Nope, he is a capitalist. Kill him. Oh, and yeah, we will save the solar system by doing so. That is important, too, I guess. Uh...take that, Starling!

Sarah Silverman’s Rain Robinson character has much more to do this time around, so I liked her much better. In the previous episode, she existed solely to create the only real action sequence in the episode. In this episode, she was a capable tech geek who actively assisted in saving the day. She would probably be considered a more popular side character in Star Trek if her treatment had not been so uneven episode to episode.

“Future’s End, Part II” is fun, but does not stand up to much scrutiny. Braxton returns at the end to claim he never experienced the time in which his ship was stolen, but he conveniently returns Voyager to the 24th century Delta Quadrant because of the Temporal Prime Directive. One wonsders, if they can detect Voyager out of place in time, why they could not have found the time ship Starling stole far sooner. Or why they have not shown up to correct time travel issues before ENT. Or why they will allow the doctor to keep 29th century technology that will now allow him to leave sickbay and travel about. It is best not to think about these tings. Jusy enjoy the fun episode.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Monica Bellucci

Sunday, July 24, 2011

R2-D2 and C-3PO Anti-Smoking PSA

R2-D2 apparently fell under Fred Flintstone's influence and took up smoking. Fortunately for him, his old buddy C-3PO is there to set him straight. Who says C-3Po does not have a heart?

Blogroll Spotlight #104

It is time for the weekly round up of favorite posts from my blogroll. These are not ranked, but in alphabetical order by blog title. If you would like a specific post listed next week, you may email it to me and I will include it.

American Perspective--A Girl with a Dragon Tattoo Rule 5
American Power--Kate Upton: Next Big Thing
Blazing Cat Fur--Catholic cabbies Revolt Against Strip Club Taxi Ads
Bluegrass Pundit--White Voters Flock to GOP
Camp of the Saints--Rule 5: Carrie Anne-Moss
Classic Liberal--Justify My Rule 5
Daley Gator--SWAT Took Forty Minutes to Respond in Norway
Fishersville Mike--Insolvency Explained
Granie Sentry--Murdoch in the Dock
In a Mad Mad Mad Mad World--Friday Pin Up
Jaded Haven--A Terrorist's Manifesto
Left Coast Rebel--Unexpectedly, the Bitter Clingers Let Go
Maggie's notebook--Rule 5: The Ecclestone Sisters
Mind Numbed Robot--Shall Not be Infringed
Motor City Times--Extreme Parking Videos
No Runny Eggs--Is Blogging Dying?
Other McCain--Muslims: Don't Hurt Their Feelings
Paco Enterprises--President Bean
Pirate's Cove--Wolf Whistling Parrot Charged with Sexism
Proof Positive--Eat Your Peas, America!
Randy's Roundtable--Sunday Morning Coming Down
Sentry Journal--Where's the Conviction for Conservatism?
Teresamerica--What's the Big Deal About Migraines?
Three Beers Later--Send This Video Viral
Troglopundit--Now That's My Kind of Crazy
WyBlog--Walter Cronkite
Zilla of the Resistance--Al and Mo Hate the Ladies

What? I have not posted a Nanci Griffith music video in six months? Egad, folks! Why did you not say something sooner? I am crazy about Nanci Griffith!

Star Trek: Voyager--"Future's End, Part I"

That is what 24th century Starfleet officers consider going native in 1996 Los Angeles. The outfits are absurd, but fit right in with the wild theme of the ’Future’s End” two part episode. I am a sucker for time travel stories. So much so that I can generally cast aside my cynical, nitpicking nature regarding the physics and paradoxical problems involved. But I can only do that when the story itself is engaging. Fortunately, in spite of some flaws, ’Future’s End, Part I” is engrossing enough to excuse them.

This being VOY, we start with a problem right off the bat. A time ship from the 29th century Federation appears in the Delta Quadrant and begins firing on Voyager without explanation. Now we know the 29th century Federation has adopting Janeway’s gun barrel diplomacy as standard policy. She has no time to appreciate her legacy, as the crew rigs a techno babble solution to temporarily save themselves from the attack long enough to communicate wit the other ship.

It is piloted by Braxton, a character who has become so popular among younger Trekkies there were rumors he might turn out to be Future Guy from ENT. Skepticism reigns with that, I have a hunch why he is popular, which I will address in a moment. Braxton reluctantly explains an explosion in his century will destroy earth’s solar system . Some debris from Voyager is found after the explosion, so they get the blame. Braxton insists he has no time to discuss the issue further and attacks again. His attack opens a temporal rift which entraps both ships.

I have already addressed the shoot first and do not worry about questions at any point tactic Braxton uses, but one has to be amused that a time traveler claims he has no time to explain things. You would think he has all the time he wants. With that time, he could actually meet with Janeway and explain things instead of--and this is something he should have foreseen with even a moments that--engaging in a rash action which is the catalyst for the solar system’s eventual destruction. Gene Roddenberry would be proud to know how far his advanced 24th century humans have regressed by the 29th.

Thankfully, the plot set up is the only really bad part of the story. The rest follows through in entertaining fashion. Braxton and Voyager arrive in Earth’s solar system at different times. Braxton loses his time ship to a hippie named Henry Starling in 1969. Starling uses the technology to become a billionaire computer mogul by 1996 when Voyager arrives. The crew is unaware of the time ship’s fate, but they beam down incognito looking for Braxton.

The away team splits into two. Jane way and Chakotay, unaware the Sonny Crockett look died in 1989, track down Braxton, who is now a formerly institutionalized homeless man who has no resources to stop Starling. Tom and Tuvok are off to erase any evidence of Voyager existence from a astronomer’s observatory run by Raine Robinson, who is played by a far less vulgar than usual Sarah Silvermen. Paths intersect when Starling, who has been on the lookout for visitors from the future looking for his technology, sends goons to get rid of Robinson, tom, and Tuvok.

Starling is on the verge of unveiling his time ship to the public. The attempt to stop him ends in disaster when his 29th century technology proves too much for Voyager’s 24th. He disables the ship and steals the Doctor the episode ends on a meaningless cliffhanger in which news footage of camcorder video of Voyager flying about airs on a local news broadcast. It is a weather balloon, folks. Nothing to see here.

If you got any impression ’Future’s End, Part I” mimics the plot to Back to the Future III, go to the head of the class. Not only does the plot line up, but when Janeway and Chakotay discover Braxton, he channels Christopher Lloyd’s Doc Brown when explaining everything that happened, right down to drawing it all out in chalk with brown’s inflection in his voice. This is what I hinted at above it the likely root of his popularity. Other obvious homage involve Starling acquiring technology as a ‘60’s hippie to become a wealthy businessman as opposed to Biff Tannen being given a sports almanac as a ’50’s greaser to become a wealthy businessman. Both modern day Starling and Tannen are on constant watch for anyone from the future whom they might have to eliminate with extreme prejudice. Ironically, Back to the Future II is far darker the “Future’s End, Part I” even though it is a comedy. I am not criticizing the similarities, either. While they do stand out, it does not feel like VOY ripped the movie off. Your mileage may vary.

As a set up for the second part, the episode does its job. Aside from Braxton’s frankly dumb actions to set events in motion, the story flows logically and entertainingly. Oftentimes the first part of a two part episode does not feature enough pay off without seeing the second part to be worthwhile in itself. Not so here. I expected the often weak writing staff to ham up the fish out of water elements of the away team’s situation to unbearable levels,, but am pleasantly surprised that was kept to a minimum.

If there is a weak point, it is Silverman. She is there to provide eye candy for the fourteen year old virgins watching. They even made her an astronomy geek with a taste for geeky toys and bad science fiction movies to boost her appeal. I will grant that she was pretty cute back then before I knew much about her obnoxiously vulgar comic persona, but is largely irrelevant to the story. The attempt to kill her comes across as manufactured solely to give Tom and Tuvok an action sequence instead of erasing computer data of Voyager existence and calling it a day.

A small gripe, but there you go. “Future’s End, Part I” is fun enough to overlook its flaws, including the puzzling like of Eugenic War that is supposedly raging at the time according to trek lore. Nevertheless, it is a cannot miss that compels one to watch the conclusion. That is what a good first part is for.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Rosie Huntington Whiteley

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Amy Winehouse (1983-2011)

Amy Winehouse joins Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, Robert Johnson, Jim Morrison and Jimmi Hendrix as troubled rock stars who died at the age of 27--aka The Forever 27 Club.

The BBC has coverage. The cause of death is still unknown, but Winehouse has long battled drug and alcohol addiction which have stymied her music career. she backed away from a comeback attempt last month.

She was clearly a troubled soul. Godspeed, Amy.

Formspring Question #215--Rule 5 Methodology Edition

Beyond the obvious, (they're attractive), how , thematically, do you pick your Lady-of-the-day?
It is largely random. To the extent there is a method to my madness, it can be broken down linto four points:

One, I only post celebrities I think are attractive. It does not feel right to post a celebrity on my blog for whom I do not particularly care. Doing so may limit by potential hits and have some readers question my taste in women, but I can live with it. Hence, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Tina Fey are occasionally posted; Lady GaGa and Snooki never are.

Two, I want to capitalize on celebrities when they are on the public’s mind. Kaley Cuoco Day is on Thursday when The Big Bang Theory airs. Karen Gillan is posted when new episodes of Doctor Who air. When a new movie is released, I post a photo of the leading lady that weekend. If there is any chance a lot of people will go from their television sets or the movie theater to their computer to search for photos of a celebrity, I want them to find my blog.

Three, I like to post something different. This may sound counterintuitive to what I just said, but it works well when a balance is struck. Most of the links I get from other blogs are to the celebrity photos, so it behooves me to posts celebrities other bloggers are not to increase my chances of getting linked. As an example, Mila Kunis posed in a bikini for GQ last week. It was a hot photo, so every blogger featured it. Most of the bloggers with whom I associate were interested in Kunis’ acceptance of the date request of a Marine, so they wrote about that and posted the bikini photo. While the photo was hot, I would have gotten no attention from it because everyone had already seen it a dozen times before getting to my blog. It was best to not waste a day of potential hits/links with it.

Four, I think long term search engine hits. Sparingly, I will pot a obscure model, athlete, foreign actress, G4 network nerdy anchor, etc because most bloggers are not. The fewer photos around makes it more likely the search engines will pick up my posts. I have about half a dozen or so of those right now which earn two or three hit’s a day. Those add up over time.

That is really all there is to it. It does not take more than a minute to pick a photo from my hard drive stash and post it., so featuring celebrity photos is about the easiest blogging experience there is.

Formspring Question #214--Reach Arounds and Courtesies Edition

What is a 'full metal jacket reach-around'? Obviously you use it to shout out to interesting links, but I guess I just don't understand the reference.
It is a reference to Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 film about the Vietnam War, Full Metal Jacket. Specifically, there is a scene in which the demented drill sergeant jabs at a recruit--pardon the crudeness here--that he is the kind of person who would rape a guy up the rear end with the courtesy of a hand job. In more polite terms, if someone does you a favor, do something nice for them.

The full metal jacket is not just interesting links, but reciprocal links. Every post I link to in the FMJRA has linked to a specific post of mine. Since the other blog is promoting me, I promote them back. This goes for friendly posts and links heavily critical of me, too. Although the latter tend to be so irritated by the passive aggressive act, they generally stop linking when and if they rip me to shreds. There is a certain satisfaction in that,.

The FMJRA is my way of saying thanks for noticing me. For the record, the blogroll Spotlight I post on Sundays is supposed to be an extra gift to say thanks, for whatever exposure it brings to my blogging friends. The idea for both originated with The Other McCain's post a few years ago entitled How to Get a Million Hits on Your Blog.