Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"The Killing Game, Part I/II"

Normally when there is a two part episode, I review each individually unless the story was originally aired as a two hour movie. “The Killing Game, Part I/II” throws me a curve. It was originally two episodes aired back to back on the same night. I do not recall whether UPN was struggling with cancelled shows and had to do that or if they realized the stoory for ’The Killing Game” was one episode’s worth stretched into two, but the latter circumstance helps make the decision to review both episodes as one. Believe me, you are not getting short changed by the combining.

We hit the ground running and have to figure things out as we go along. The Hirogen took over Voyager three weeks ago. They implanted neural thingamabobs in each crewmembers’ head so that he or she believes whichever holodeck simulation he or she is a part of is real. With the safety protocols cut off, the Hirogen have been hunting, shooting, stabbing, and otherwise maiming the crew for the duration. They have have mmade Harry their bee-otch--naturally--by forcing him to not only keep the holodecks running, but expand them to cover every inch of the ship. The Doctor is also active in repairing the wounds as best as possible before sending the hapless crew back into the holodecks.

The Hirogen are running two programs: a Klingon battle which gets little airplay and a World War II simulation involving the French Resistance--the original Maquis, composed mostly of Starfleet officers, ironically enough--sabotaging the Nazis to pave the way for the American invasion. The bulk of the action takes place in the World War II simulation. As a World War II history buff, I go for it. As one who is amused by the absurdities of television, I am amused the main SS officer assisting the Hirogen is actor J. Paul Boehmer from Ohio. I am also amused the stolen German weapons the resistance are using are American made are M1 Grand and Colt 1911. In all fairness, this was post D-Day. Germany was scraping the bottom of the barrel for men and materiel.

The main reason I have combined these two episodes into one review is because of the structure. The first episode is literally the crewmembers, convinced they are fighting Nazis, acting out the simulation. It is only at the cliffhanger when the doctor and harry have disabled the neural thingamabobs on Seven and Janeway the story shifts gears towards a resolution. Even then, it barely does. The second part is a spectacle not unlike the climax of Blazing Saddles in which the characters spill out into the real world of the filming studio. In the case of “The Killing Game,” it is French Resistance, American GI, and Klingons battling Hirogen and Nazis on the streets of a French city and the corridors of Voyager. There is not much substance to it, but it is neat to watch. The production values are generally fantastic, though some Cgi is clearly choppy 1998 era stuff.

Up until this point, we have been forced to accept Voyager was taken over off screen while spending time watching a holodeck simulation that we know has no real consequence. We even know, even though main characters are becoming graverly wounded far more often than normal, they will al survive. It is difficult to find any entertainment value beyond the mindless spectacle. The meager attempt to put some meat on the skeleton of a plot does not help.

The leader of the Hirogen has forbidden his men to hunt the crew outright. Instead, he orders them to play along with the simulations in order to study how humans survive perilous situations. He has an ulterior motive. He believes his people are hunting themselves into extinction by their nomadic hunting existence. He wants them to learn from humans how to survive and evolve against the odds and also convince them to settle down on a planet, rebuild their civilization, and use holodeck technology to simulate the hunt so they do not have to spend their entire lives engaged in one. You have to figure he was unaware of holodeck technology before taking over the ship, so he had to have had this change of heart and developed this plan to save his people in just a few minutes after conquering Voyager. In other words, this part of the plot feels thrown in without much forethought.

It gets worse. Once Janeway figures out his plan, she offers him holodeck technology. You may recall she did not want to do that when the kazon were also constantly attacking and killing her crew. You could argue she is in a tougher spot here, but the episode eliminates that argument for you. The Hirogen second in command, who was on board with the whole build a civilization and simulate the hunt bit, gets the master race pep talk from the Ohio Nazi. He become convinced it is the hirogen duty to hunt down inferior races. He continues the battle after janeway and his superior have called a truce. He kills his superior, so janeway kills him personally. Finally, it has been a while since she personally murdered someone. The deal is the third in command is ready to honor the truce and leave. He has no idea that Janeway has agreed with his now dead superior to hand over holodeck technology, so when she does, he does not want it. But she--wait for it--talks him into taking it anyway! She was completely off the hook, but decided to screw the prime directive and hand over technology to completely change the Hitrogen civilization--technology she said she would die before giving to the Kazon a couple years prior. That is Janeway for you.

There is not much to be said about “The Killing Game.” Its purpose is to be a mindless action episode. As that, it succeeds. It is a lot of fun watching the crew play different characters while fighting mismatched battles in different settings. The production values and sets are quite impressive. But the plot is embarrassing dumb. There is too much glossed over to make this a classic. Janeway changes her mind from a previous position that drove major plots for two seasons without any explanation and, for good measure, carries out her agreement even though she no longer has to do so. Of course, there is the Magic Reset Button. Voyager is severely damaged from battle, but will be perfectly fine at the beginning of the next episode.

I recommend ’The Killing Game.” It is fun to watch just for the juxtapositions. You will have to switch off you brain in order to enjoy most of it. Just follow Janeway’s lead in that regard. Fortunately, we will not see the Hirogen en masse again until the seventh season when we learn--surprise, surprise--Janeway giving them holodeck technology has lead to them killing each other. Maybe that was her plan all along. Her blood thirst is nigh unquenchable.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Christina Ricci

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Does Ketchup Go Well with Crow?

I have been saying Sarah Palin is not going to run for president, but she is heading to New Hampshire after her speech in Iowa this weekend.

West Memphis Three Supporters Not So Supportive After All

I have already written about my skepticism over the West Memphis Three’s innocence in recent days, but I want to throw this in while the story still has some relevance. In other words, before the WM3 either fall into obscurity or murder three other kids, whichever is more likely. Hope for the former, but do not dismiss the possibility of the latter.

A few nights ago, I was searching YouTube for the documentary which prompted the whole WM3 are innocent meme. There are a whole lot of fan made videos out there in support of the WM3. Of particular interest was West Memphis Three: The Time for Truth. it appears to be from the official website, though considering its weaknesses, I am surprised.

The video exposes the ’truth’ in some surprising ways, such as how the defense team has made a career out of giving lectures on the holes in the prosecution’s case. My personal favorite is the German pathologist who examined photographs of the wounds on the victims’ bodies sixteen years later and determined the forensics experts who examined the actual wounds were wrong to conclude there were numerous knife wounds. Dr. Strangelove concludes they were snapping turtle bites. I used the name dr. Strangelove deliberately, because there is such an air of old Nazi scientist about him, you wonder if the defense team did not find him clutching a swasista flag, muttering to himself in some fleabag hotel in Argentina..

But that is not the part I want to which I want to call attention. That would be the section on celebrity support for the WM3. It makes a twisted sense that a movement which began with a highly biased documentary convincing viewers of the WM3’s innocence would weigh that innocence by the number of celebrities who assert they did not murder the three young boys. Call it the cool factor of being involved in the matter.

There is a brief segment featuring clips from an interview between Larry King and Damien Echols. Echols is the oldest of the WM#. He is the one who was institutionalized prior to the murders for his violent mood swings due to a delusional view of reality. King asked Echols if he appreciated the attention celebrities had brought to the case. Echols replied that he did, but when asked if he had communicated with them, he squirmed uncomfortably and admitted he had only spoken with Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam.

Do appreciate this. Henry Rollins, the Dixie Chicks, Hank Williams III, Johnny Depp, et al have performed concert benefits, released a CD to raise money, and have spoken out in public on behalf of the WM3. Natalie maines of the Dixie Chicks has gone so far as to publicly call out the person she thinks committed the murder, resulting in a defamation lawsuit. But out of all these celebs with all their effort, the only one who has even bothered to speak to the WM3 is Vedder.

What is the deal/ I suspect these celebs are just like the former legal defense team--they are making a name for themselves off the case without caring about it. (Johnny Depp is a weirdo dead set against America and its institutions. Maybe in his warped mind, he cares.) Supporting the WM3 is the cool thing to do and it keeps a artist relevant. As relevant as Henry Rollins, Dixie Chicks, and Hank Williams Ii are these days, at any rate. In my last post on the subject, I quipped these celebs supported the WM3 even though they would refuse to share an elevator with them. Now I have been presented confirming proof. It is hilarious.

Formspring Question #236--Janeway is Crazy, Vol. # 3,556 Edition

Do you honestly think Capt. Janeway is crazy?
I am going to offer you two answers here. The first is the one I firmly believe. Take it to the bank and deposit it, assuming you can find one that has not failed yet. The second is an attempt to rationalize her behavior for all the Janeway fans out there.

No, I do not think Janeway is intentionally meant to be crazy. She is a product of bad writing and the politically correct need to make the first female lead on a Star Trek series a feminist success. When I say poor writing, the biggest issue I have is the extreme positions Janeway will take, often in polar opposite directions, and frequently in back to back episodes with no indication she has learned her decision in the opposite direction was unwise. She literally makes decisions based on what side of the bed she woke up on that morning. She has even mimicked the behavior of past villains whom she condemned for doing exactly what she is now. Chalk that up to no one at VOY keeping a tight rein on characterization.

As for the feminist aspect, there is a running theme that Janeway is always right. To challenge her, in the progressive mindset, is to assault the ability off all women to be in charge. It is like charges of racism against the critics of Barack Obama.. In the progressive mind, claiming Obama is a bad president is the same as saying no black person could ever be a good president. It is an absurd, but so is progressivism in general.

If I may beat a dead horse whose carcass keeps getting dragged out with these form spring questions, this is why Chakotay is such a weak character. There is no way a second in command man can be assertive, powerful, or even correct much of the time or else he runs the risk of undermining the feminist captain. As we have already established, he would not be solely undermining Janeway, but all women who aspire to or are in authority. I do not want to analyze Chakotay here, but if you have read my reviews, then you should understand that he is about the wimpiest Beta male ever. Again, I do not much blame Robert Beltran for venting.

As for the second answer, think about this. The Federation is trying to hold a bad peace treaty together when the Cardassians are not interesting in holding up their end of the treaty. The Maquis and the Cardassians have been fighting escalating battles for a while, but there is not much news of it getting out there. Sisko is sitting on their backdoor step, yet he only hears of the Maquis from his friend Cal Hudson. It is not said, but you have to assume the Federation is suppressing information out of the DMZ in order to maintain the illusion the treaty is working. Think about it. While I am positive the government hides things, we learn that a helicopter full of Navy SEALS was shot down in Afghanistan. We learn of the accidental deaths of civilians when a mistake is made. We know about Abu Garib. People find out about stuff like that unless it is actively and well hidden.

Starfleet wants the Maquis problem eliminated before they pull off some attack that cannot be covered up. They want someone in command who will do anything it takes to end the menace and clean up all traces. Starfleet chose Janeway. She certainly fit’s the bill of someone who eliminates problems rather than seeks diplomatic solutions. In this regard, she is not crazy. She is just out of her element. If that were more obvious, it might have made VOY more interesting. She has to be more diplomatic, but does not know how. A learning curve could have been a big part of her arc. I hasten to add that the remained Battlestar Galactica had Adama go from an old warhorse who hated Cylons to one who eventually allied with them to settle on earth, and that was masterfully done. It is not out of the question.

Alas, I do not buy into the idea Janeway was assigned the job because she is a loose cannon, then was forced to be something else when she got stranded in the Delta Quadrant. There are two many poorly executed elements to VOY for me to believe anyone associated could plan something like that out. As proof, note that Michael Piller and Ronald D. Moore (BSG again), the two writers most capable of pulling off such a character arc, were run off by Jeri Taylor and Brannon Braga. So do not put a whole lot of faith in the second answer. It is not likely true.

Star Trek: Voyager--"Retrospect"

Hossanah! We have reached the halfway point of VOY reviews! The finish line is now on the horizon. We celebrate in typical VOY fashion--a misguided moralization written by Lisa Klink which involves a subject matter she has all good intentions over, but clearly does not know a thing about. At least it is unique in that Seven is the catalyst for the story, yet she is not the focal point. From here on out, those roles will more often than not be reversed.

Seven is still on restriction from last episode’s incident in which she saved everyone’s life against Janeway’s humanitarian objection on behalf of something that is not human. Janeway has been giving her temporary reprieve whenever her expertise has been needed, so she is feeling exploited. Those feelings become quaint when she is ordered to assist an arms dealer named Kovin install new weaponry on the ship. Seven is uneasy about working with him. She met him before while shopping for weapons and does not like him. He is a jerk, and a particularly rude act prompts her to break his nose.

In sick bay, the Doctor discovers Seven is suffering from heightened anxiety and believes some suppressed memories from her time as a Borg may be emerging. He has been playing with pop psychology lately and thinks he can bring those memories out through a techno-hypnosis thingamabob. That is not to be confused with a techno-hypnosis thingamajiggy. Those are two completely different items. I cannot stress that enough.

During the procedure, Seven recalls heading to kovin’s lab where she was alone with him for two hours. She suddenly remembers being shot, strapped down on an operating table, and Kovin extracting Borg nanotech from her in order to use in developing new weapons. She remembers another man strapped down on a table beside her being injected with the nanotech and becoming a Borg himself. The doctor is convinced the incident really happened to her. Kovin must have violated her, then erased her memories through device that is neither a thingamabob, nor a thingamajiggy. The Doctor’s examination of Seven’s arm reveals that is a distinct possibility.

What you have here is the allegory of an overzealous psychologist helping a patient “recover” suppressed memories of past abuse which are then thrown in the face unquestionably at the alleged abuser. Recovered memories are not well accepted within psychology circles, but I am not versed in psychology enough to write intelligently about it. It is generally not accepted evidence in legal cases and when it has lead to a conviction at the trial level, appeals courts have struck down those convictions. That is language I can understand, so I appreciate the skepticism involved in the validity of repressed memories. The thing is, I cannot tell if Klink is making a commentary on the absurdity of repressed memory use to convict a person of a crime or if she is carrying out the allegory of a false sexual assault accusation to it fullest extent. It is difficult to ignore the latter.

Kovin’s defense is that a weapon he was working on went off accidentally. It injured seven’s Borg tech, which he repaired under her instructions. He says nothing else happened. In fact, Seven was cooperative and unfazed by the incident. Kovin is upset because the mere accusation he has done such a thing will inhibit his ability to legitimately do business. The incident is clearly a he said/she said situation. The heat intensifies as evidence seems to support seven’s story. Kovin, fearing the worst, escapes to avoid prosecution.

Evidence emerges that Kovin’s repair work on Seven’s arm has the same reaction as would surgery to remove nanotech. With his story supported, Voyager seeks him out to inform him of the culpatory evidence. When they find him, he thinks it is trap and attacks the ship. The attack overloads his ship’s system, causing it to explode. Case closed.

Well, not quite. Take a journey down memory lane with me. We do not have to go far. Just to yesterday’s episode. Janeway is upset that Seven’s actions to preserve the lives of the crew killed off a mortal enemy. She punishes Seven by relieving her of duty. Janeway must have awakened on the other side of the bed this morning, because when the Doctor requests she remove the program elements that allowed him to expreiment with recovering suppressed memories because it lead to an innocent man’s death, she refuses. Her rationale is literally that mistakes happen, but the doctor is too valuable to the crew to have his program limited in any way. If you are keeping track, that means if you kill an enemy to save your crew, you get punished except for when Janeway absolutely must have your expertise, but kill an innocent man in your haste, and that is just a simple mistake. Could happen to anyone. Carry on, because you are just too darn valuable. Janeway is crazy.

There are fans who maintain Kovin was guilty. They believe the rationale that Seven was recalling past assimilation she has participated in is not any more plausible than Kovin’s story of repairing her arm after accidental gunfire. They have a point that both explanations are less than credible. That is what you get with a Klink script. But I fall on the side that Seven is remembering past assimilation. There is too much in the “repressed memory” sequence that feels like the assimilation process.

Not that I recommend you watch “Retrospect” to find out for yourself. It is a terribly heavy-handed attempt to make a moral point that never becomes clear. The sequence wherein Seven recalls the suppressed memories runs an entire act. The Doctor plays his part so over the top, you already know he is wrong. Kovin flies off the handle at the accusation far too plausibly, too. Trying to destroy Voyager instead of examining evidence that says you are probably innocent is really dumb. Accidentally killing yourself in the process calls for a Darwin Award nomination. If you are a big Seven fan, by all means, watch. If you are a womyn who thinks Kovin was guilty and got what he deserved, this is all for you, too. Otherwise, skip it.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Lucy Pinder

Monday, August 29, 2011

The 2012 Candidate Narratives

Are you ready for the standard narrative the media is going to present for the presidential candidates right on through election day 2012? You may as well be, because they have been firmly established fourteen months out. To wit:

Barack Obama took command of the Hurricane Irene situation after someone, who knows exactly who, finally convinced him to cancel his vacation and look presidential just in case there was Hurricane Katrina level damage. By Katrina level damage, I mean both physical and political. It obviously took a while to convince Obama he needed to at least put up the appearance of concern, so his handlers and friends in the media have their work cut out for them. It is that difficult to get the president to cooperate.

The best part of the Obama narrative for 2012 is not his faux crisis management skills, but that he is going to have to be called a war president. The death of Osama bin Laden is fair campaign fodder for however much steam it possesses, but watch the media twist and turn to give credit for the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi to Obama with a straight face. Bonus points are awarded for his war president status alienating the only part of his political base that still cares--those on the farthest left.

Michele Bachmann made a joke that that last week’s earthquake in Virginia and Hurricane Irene were god’s way of sending a message to Washington about about its excessive spending. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together knew she was kidding, but the media, who are either paranoid about Christians in general, or believe Bachmann is so stupid, she genuinely believes what she said, has been in a tizzy over the impending theocracy that will overtake America under a Bachmann Administration. So bachmann is the crazy fundamentalist Christian with a stupidity cherry on top.

As if the line on Bachmann were not unoriginal enough, progressives are recycling their Bush is Dumb jokes to use with Rick Perry because the guy is outspoken about his conservative beliefs. I am waiting for Bush 43. 2 comparisons to seriously take shape in the hopes Bush Fatigue will get rid of Perry. If he continues leading the pack, look for it sooner rather than later.

Perry is nutty Christian just like Bachmann, too. For some reason, the left has a huge problem with mainstream Christians even though the vast majority of the country are also mainstream Christians. Bachmann is a Lutheran. Perry is a Methodist. But what you mostly hear about the is their belief in Dominionism. Sounds scary, but it simply means they think the world is better off with Christians in positions of influence. I cannot argue with that one. Anyone who does is probably doing something wrong they do not want you to know about. I am also curious to know why a candidate’s support of Intelligent Design is such a disqualifier for public office. Is there some biology pop quiz one has to pass before implementing public policy?

The amusing thing is that mitt Romney has virtually nothing. He is an afterthought these days. I am turn between deciding whether it is because he is so dry and boring there is nothing to smear him with, so he has to be ignored or if progressives are laying off him because he is the preferred opponent for Obama. The latter sounds too conspiratorial for mt tastes. It is well know Obama has a strategy of destroy Romney early and brutally, so perhaps that is the motivation. Do not knock Romney out of it.

Of course, if the strategy from the left was to promote the weakest candidate, they would be propping up Sarah Palin instead of engaging in purple faced rage over her mere existence. Let us face it, John McCain would have been a one term president under the best of circumstances, so a vote for him in 2008 was a vote for Palin in 2012. It did not fly then, and she has not done anything lately to think it will fly now. It is a safe bet that if she does jump in, she will also be a dumb, nutty Christian theocrat.

It is going to be a long fourteen months, folks.

Did LeAnn Rimes Get These Boobs on Purpose?

Did LeAnn Rimes get the worst boob job ever? Seriously, has she layered up for a medical malpractice lawsuit or did she do that on purpose? She has already stolen a man from his wife and child, so the point of installing those water balloons to attract the attention of drooling idiots is irrelevant. Unless she is hedging her bets, that is.

On the bright side, it looks like she has eaten a chili dog or two in the last few months. Her skeleton no longer looks like it is trying to burst through her skin and make a break for it. I guess that is something. So is this; gravity makes her look better:But not a whole lot. She should make that at least three chili dogs a month. Throw in a milkshake, too.

Formspring Question #235--Belting Beltran Edition

Robert Beltran once remarked in an interview that Voyager was "punishment for everything in my life up till that point. Thanks, dear Lord for the... uh, Star Trek gig," which prompted Kenneth Biller to tell the press "I think Robert Beltran should stop whining and do his job... print that if you want!" does knowing there was friction on the set with Robert Beltran change your opinion of him?
Not really. As I remarked back in this post, I do not have much of an attachment to VOY, so there is no fire in my belly over criticism of the series. Robert Beltran thinks Chakotay is a weak character, and so do I. It is not very classy to run to the press and complain about it, but if I were making a list of tacky things I have seen Hollywood types do, this would not even qualify as an afterthought.

I am curious if you are the same person who asked the previous question. If so, why the interest in my criticism or lack thereof of Beltran? Are you eager to read some poisoned pen commentary on the guy? It is not going to happen. It just is not in me. I have not criticized any VOY actor personally, for that matter. I have my hands full with their characters alone.

Formspring Question #234--Rock Me Like a Hurricane Edition

A hurricane is coming- Do you evacuate your home as advised by the police, or stay and hope for the best/wait for death?
I evacuated when ordered from Hurricane Floyd in 1999 in South Carolina and Hurricane Isabel when i lived in Virginia Beach in 2003, so I will leave when necessary.

Interestingly enough, we were not ordered to evacuate Hurricane Hugo in 1989, but wound up suffering more damage than either Floyd or Isabel, but escaped bodily harm. It just goes to show difficult it is to predict these things.

I lived further inland when Floyd hit. I think there was a better safe than sorry attitude by the state government, but their handling of the hurricane was a death blow to gov. "Diamond" Jim Hodges, who was already on thin ice for breaking campaign promises that had surprisingly put a Democrat in the governor's mansion. It sounds like a minor issue considering the incompetence involved after Hurricane Katrina--regardless of whom you blame--but it burnt down here through the 2002 election.

Star Trek: Voyager--"Prey"

The Hirogen return for their third of nine appearances. The first two have not exactly set the woods on fire, but “Prey” more than makes up for the lackluster start. It remains my favorite of the Hirogen episodes. The mood is dark and claustrophobic, with the right amount of action versus the patented Star Trek moral dilemma. More episodes of VOY should have been done in such a manner.

“Prey” begins with two Hirogen on the hunt for a species that is not revealed until the teaser’s end--one of Species 8472 left behind after their defeat by the Borg six months ago. The Hirogen appear to have killed the critter, but when Voyager encounters the Hirogen ship sometime later, they discover it survived, killed one Hirogen, severely wounded the other, and escaped. Sensing a chance to patch things up with the Hirogen, Janeway brings the wounded one on board for medical treatment.

As you can tell by the above photo, which is one of the neatest special effects shots of the series, Species 8472 invades Voyager. the crew is overwhelmed attempting to track it down through a deck in which it has destroyed life support and artificial gravity in order to safely barricade itself. The Hirogen hunter offers to hunt it down for the crew. Janeway is not thrilled with the idea, but with three other hirogen ships arriving soon, she has little choice. At this point, she believes the alien must be destroyed and the only way to avoid a hirogen attack is to let them complete their hunt.

As I said above, there is a very dark, claustrophobic mood as the Hirogen joins with spacesuit clad crewmembers in order to hunt Species 8472 through the damaged corridors while not knowing where it is or when it will attack. Things change quickly when Species 8472 forms a psychic link with Tuvok and informs him it no longer wants to fight, just go home.

Janeway locks the Hirogen hunter behind a force field in sickbay to keep him from killing Species 8472. She decides it is the humanitarian thing to do to send the alien home, even if it means fighting a battle with the approaching Hirogen ships. In order to send the alien home, she needs seven to use her Borg implants to open the portal. Seven refuses, saying not handing over species 8472 will compel the Hirogen to destroy Voyager. she will not be a party to that. Janeway angrily dismisses her of duty. Torres attempts to open the portal instead, with little success, as the Hirogen begin pounding Voyager. Seven is called back into action when Species 8472 seems to recover from much of its wounds and needs to be tranquilized by Borg nanoprobes. The Hirogen is sickbay has escaped and resumes the hunt. He and Species 8472 battle one another as Seven makes the decision to beam them both to a hirogen ship. With that done, they call off the attack on Voyager. seven is relieved of all suty as punishment for disobeying orders and condemning Species 8472 to death.

If there is a flaw to “Prey,” it is that very little attention is paid to the moral conflict between Janeway and Seven. Janeway is being a humanitarian in a situation in which her good deed would not only not be reciprocated if the roles were reversed, but dooms her crew, as they clearly cannot fight off the Hirogen ships. Seven was thinking in terms of their survival. Species 8472 had attacked them, therefore it forfeit any right of protection. Giving it up to the Hirogen who were about to destroy them is a prudent act of self-defense, even if morally dubious. Does anyone really want to die for this alien that was just trying to kill them a few hours ago? Are all their lives worth sacrificing for it? Seven has a better point than does Janeway. These are aliens without human values in the first place. Both are willing to kill everyone in their path. Let them kill each other instead and space us all. Janeway does not agree, but there is not much offered up to argue her point. Seven even gets in the last word--I saved the ship we you could not, and that is what is why I am being punished. Her rationale does not seem far from the truth.

“Prey” is a good episode. One of the best in the fourth season thus far. I am still not a fan of the Hirogen, but this is about the best they are ever going to be presented. Later, they are nothing more than a shallow hunter/gather species nearly hunting itself to extinction. One even wonders how they developed the high technology they have being such hunting obsessed nomads without so much as a home planet. Species 8472 was far more interesting here than its previous appearance, as well. Things will not get much better with them, either. Savor the good stuff while you can.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Minka Kelly

Minka Kelly recently split with Derek Jeter, so she is back on the market. Good luck trying to win her over.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Blogroll Spotlight #108

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--Top Three Common Myths About Capitalism
American Perspective--Irene from Space
American Power--Progressives Go Nazi on Katy Perry's Support for Israel
Amusing Bunni's Musings--This Little Guy Does a Better Job Than...
Blazing Cat Fur--Mark Steyn on the BBC
Bluegrass Pundit--Al Gore Blasts Idea Climate Change is About Money
Camp of the Saints--Catla Ossa
Classic Liberal--Hayek's Ghost Haunts Julianne Hough
Daley Gator--Halle Berry
Essential Mr. Bill--Unemployment Numbers
Fishersville Mike--Why People Go Out Into Big Storms
Grandpa John's--Libyan Rebels Find Qaddafi's Porn Stash
In a Mad Mad Mad Mad World--The Friday Pin Up
Lazy Farmer--The Non-Condensed Version
Left Coast Rebel--Why America Doesn't Embrace the Left
Maggie's Notebook--Olivia Munn
Mind Numbed Robot--The Irrational Fear of the Tea Party
Motor City Times--Radical Environmentalists Are Fans of the No Growth Economy
Nice Deb--Why is the Obama Administration Targeting Gibson Guitars?
Other McCain--The Politics of Fear
Paco Enterprises--Maxine Waters: Stupid and Evil
Pirate's cove--If All You See...
Proof Positive--Obama: Bush Unpatriotic for Adding $ 4 Trillion to National Debt
Randy's roundtable--Holly Weber
Sentry Journal--Is Sarah Palin Organizing the Conservative Community
Teresamerica--Question on Ron Paul
Troglopundit--Your NFL Question of the Day
Ward World--Bar Owners Ban Lawmakers
We the People--Gun News
WyBlog--Whoops! There Goes Your Employer Sponsored Health Insurance
Zilla of the Resistance--Darkness

Star Trek: Voyager--"Hunters"

“Hunters“ is another VOY episode that suffers greatly from the Star Trek motif of requiring an A and B story in every episode. The two are very uneven. I much enjoyed the letters from home aspect, though there were some overly dramatic moments. The other half involved the first physical encounter between the crew and the Hirogen. It feels like the Hirogen were thrown in there just to have a generic battle with a villain. Still, they have to be introduced somehow. I guess this is as good a place as any.

Voyager is still hanging around the communications relay when Seven detects a large incoming message from the Alpha Quadrant. Starfleet has contacted crewmembers’ families and given them the opportunity to write letters. They can only trickle in thanks to some techno babble issue, so it is a slow going process that adds drama as crewmembers wonder if they have been remembered by someone from home.

There is a running gag about Hard Luck Harry waiting on pins and needles to see if his parents care enough to write him. I have joked quite a bit about harry’s frequent misfortunes, but there is a big difference between constantly being kidnapped, beaten by aliens, or infected with various illnesses and creating an estranged family for him. It is not until the end of the episode we find out his parents did write him. So basically the writers are putting harry through the emotional ringer just to please the audience’s notion that nothing good ever happens to Harry. Garrett wang already knows he was on the verge of being fired a few months ago, so his character does not mean much to the series. This whole waiting for a letter that may not come bit is cruel both in the real world and the show.

The shortcoming is made up by other letters. Chakotay learns the Maquis have all been killed by the Dominion. He shares an unusually genuine emotional moment over their deaths with Torres. Of course, this means the Maquis/Starfleet conflict on board the ship will become even less relevant than it has been as of late. It seems to exist only in the differing command philosophies of Janeway and Chakotay. Nevertheless, at least it receives a good send off.

Janeway’s reaction to her letter is another fine moment. She receives a letter from her fiance, Mark. I should say former fiance. He informs her he got married to another woman some time ago, so good luck with that whole making it back to the alpha quadrant. Do not call me, and I will not call you. I actually felt a lot of sympathy for her, but Janeway so quickly shrugged it off, I had to go back to thinking what a mentally disturbed woman she must be. She eventually became an admiral, so she obviously did not kill mark and his new wife upon her return--or did she?

Took is a grandfather. He took the news the same way as if you told him he can have the last dinner mint.

The final moving moment is between Torres and Tom, though it is open to interpretation. The only person who might possibly write to Tom is his estranged father. Tom is not excited about the prospect. His father rips him for being a constant disappointment. Torres informs him that she is downloading a letter from his father. That is when he reveals he does not expect anything good out of it. In the end, torres personally delivers Harry’s letter and informs Tom the one from his father is lost, but he expressed his love and pride. Here is the question--did Torres lie? I think so. Either the letter was lost, and she made up its content or she read it, realized tom’s father is every bit the jerk tom says he is, and destroyed it to make up something else. It just feels more right that torres was lying to spare Tom’s feelings. Personal hunch, that.

The B story involves Tuvok and Seven on a shuttle mission to boost the communications relay’s power when they are captured by the Hirogen, who are not happy their gizmo is being utilized by someone else. The Hirogen are established as brutal hunters who want to carve up the two in order to keep their bones as trophies. Janeway takes out her frustration over Mark on them, destroying three ships and rendering the entire communications relay. She definitely knows how to make friends. It is amusing Seven taunts the Hirogen that their large size is the only thing which makes them formidable. As it turns out, this is true. They are forgettable villains, after all. Is it not interesting the Borg have never heard of them, too?

As I said above, the episode halves are uneven. I would have been satisfied with a bottle show dealing with the letters from home and their aftermath. Why the episode had to be bogged down unnecessarily with the Hirogen incident is beyond me. At the very least, the hirogen encounter should have been paired elsewhere with a more complementary main story. Still, “hunters” is one of the more interesting episodes. It is one of the few episodes to make a real effort at personalizing the main characters.

Rating; *** (out of 5)

Kate Beckinsale

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Doctor Who--"Let's Kill Hitler"

The back half of Doctor Who series six resumed today. Like just about everyone else, I was nervous by the goofy title. Killing Adolf Hitler is an old, boring plot that the audience already knows cannot actually thankfully. Thankfully, the title reveals only the catalyst for a much better story. I think the mid-series premiere is better than the series premiere.

Amy and Rory reunite in the present day with the Doctor by creating a crop circle to get his attention. I guarantee some Wholigans will be out in the fields of England tomorrow giving it a shot, too. The doctor has not yet found the infant melody. The reunion is interrupted by Mels, a childhood friend of Amy who hooked her up with rory and for whom Melody is named. Mels insists at gunpoint the three go back to 1938 in order to kill Hitler.

In reality, the TARDIS inadvertently prevents Hitler’s assassination by a robot manned by operatives from a Justice Department. Mels is fatally wounded in the incident. To everyone’s surprise, she regenerates into River Song. This gets the Justice Department’s attention. She is wanted for murdering the Doctor. River has been sent by the Silence to kill the doctor. She blows several attempts, but finally succeeds by smooching him with poisoned lipstick. She makes her escape, subsequently wreaking heaven all over prewar Berlin.

I assume you all want to see this:Alex Kingston is 48, believe it or not.

The Justice Department winds up confronting River after picking up Amy and Rory. They do not want to see their daughter killed regardless of what she has done, so they wind up in danger with the Justice Department themselves. At this point, the dying doctor shows up. He is too weak to help, but his struggle inspires the otherwise amoral river to intervene on her parents’ behalf. In the end, she gives up all her future regenerations in order to preserve the Doctor’s life. Her, in turn, drops her off at a hospital to be cared for in spite of the fact she is going to successfully murder him in a few weeks as seen in the sixth series premiere.

There is some nifty continuity stuff here. The Doctor leaves an empty diary for River by her hospital bedside as a gift. She uses it throughout the series. River died for good saving the Tenth doctor because she had no regenerations left. When looking for strength to resist the poison, the Doctor calls on holograms of rose, Martha, and Donna, all of whom he reveals guilt over ruining their lives. The Silence are a religious order, not just the big headed, suit wearing aliens we have met so far. They believe the Silence Will Fall when a specific question is answered, but no one knows what the question is. One assumes the answer is 42, no? Everyone is Team TARDIS now knows River is going to kill the Doctor shortly.

I am relieved Hitler only plays a small part in “Let’s Kill Hitler.” the episode is quite good without the minor Hitler bit. There are some funny bits, though I think they were trying a little too hard with Rory punching hitler’s lights out. We got it. Rory is not the wimp we all thought he was early on. His punching the Doctor last season was no fluke, either. Thanks, but could you try something new next time? Other than “killing” him again, of course. “Let’s Kill Hitler” has a lot more action than usual, as well as heart. It is very well done. I am a sucker for World War II era stories. Ever River is starting to grow on me.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Full Metal Jacket Reach Around #113

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

Proof Positive links Bar Refaeli, Gabrielle union, and Kristen Bell.
Say Anything links Bar Refaeli, Gabrielle Union, and Kristen Bell.
Randy's Roundtable acknowledges The Eye as a top referrer. Randy also links to Anne Hathaway and Jayme Langford.
Sentry Journal links to Sarah Palin May Run Anyway.
Pirate's Cove links to FMJRa #112, Blogroll Spotlight #107, and Annabeth Gish.
WyBlog links to Kristen Bell.
The Other McCain links to Petraa Silander.
Classic Liberal links to Misguided McCain. On the babe front, Classic Liberal links to Naryeve DuFault, Flavia de Olviveira, Jayme Langford, and 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--"Message in a Bottle"

Ugh…Andy Dick. It is like the powers that be at VOY made a conscious effort to lower their standards even more than casting Sarah Silverman as a guest star. Dick is a disgusting guy, and her was back in 1998 as well. Why anyone thought his making an appearance in Star Trek would be a highlight is beyond me. Oh, well. As with all of VOY, I review what I have to work with, for better or for worse.

Voyager runs across a message relay station seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Because it is in the middle of nowhere, the crew assumes it is free for general use by travelers. Seven manages to contact the Alpha Quadrant where she discovers a Federation ship. The effort to send a clear message fails, but somehow sending the Doctor’s entire program is easier. Figure that one out. In spite of the absurdity of the equivalent of a program being more easily sent than an instant message, the Doctor makes it to the Alpha Quadrant when the IM does not.

Unfortunately, he finds himself on an experimental vessel called the Prometheus which has been stolen by Romulans. The Doctor needs to commandeer the ship and take it back to Fderation space in order to inform Starfleet Voyager was not destroyed four years prior. To do that, he activates the ship’s EMH. Ugh…Andy Dick.

I was not a huge fan of NewsRadio period, but Dick was by far the worst element. I just do not get his shtick. I get him even less now that he is attempting to supplant tom Green in the obnoxious, gross out comedian department. He has recently gotten in legal trouble in Charleston. We tend to throw the book at people with attitudes like his, so south carolina may be responsible for putting him away for a while. If so, you are welcome in advance, America. More to the point, his brand of humor, subdued, but still present, is the worst part of “Message in a Bottle.”

Thankfully, it is not the biggest element. The episode wham moment is not any of Dick’s routines, but when the Prometheus shows what it can do--split into three, battle ready parts. The fight with attacking Romulan war birds is a CGI extravaganza. Such battles are something that have already become a huge part of DS9. I still cannot beat the impression the whole Prometheus bit was promotion for a new toy or feature in a computer game. The former never materialized, but the ship may very well have appeared in a game. I do not know.

The two Doctors defeat the Romulans, help Starfleet retake the ship, and gets into contact with headquarters to inform them of Voyager’s status. The Doctor returns to the Delta Quadrant with news they have reconnected in spirit, if nothing else. In the interim, the crew has learned the message relay belongs to an alien race called the Hirogem. They are not happy about sharing. Much more on that later.

Are there problems besides Dick? Yep. Roxanne Dawson’s pregnancy is not hidden very well. The Mark II EMH is supposed to be based on Bashir. Why is it not? I would have preferred Alexander Siddig to Andy Dick any day. Why has the Doctor never heard of the Dominion? The Jem Ha’dar had encounter Sisko seven months before Voyager was lost. Is it not dumb to send your only doctor away when he may be lost? It would be an unhealthy sixty years journey without him. How come we never see the Prometheus or anything like it again? Is not the Romulans stealing it an act of war? The answer to these questions is VOY is generally lazy about continuity. Just go with it, I guess.

“Message in a Bottle” is surprisingly weak for a Doctor-centric episode. Not that Robert Picardo is not great as usual. He is dragged down by dick’s unfunny clowning around. I imagine the powers that be were aware of this by some point, because the trifecta of Prometheus doing its thing, the introduction of the Hirogen, and the reconnection of Voyager to Starfleet all occur rapidly in the final act as a distraction from all that has gone on before. It is not entirely successful inflicting amnesia, but it will do.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Reese Witherspoon

I could without the tattoo, but I still think she is attractive for a woman pushing 36.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Waking Moments"

“Waking Moments,” like so many VOY episodes, is only good if you do not think about it and just go with the flow. Otherwise, blood will splurt out of your nose as you attempt reconcile all the implausible scenarios and downright silliness. ’Waking Moments” is all about aliens who control dreams. Star Trek has never done the concept well.

“Waking Moments” begins with us viewing what appears to be routine activities for the bridge crew, sans Chakotay. We learn quickly they are actually dreaming. What dreams, too. While Tuvok and tom have typical nightmares of naked in public and dying in a vehicle accident respectively, Janeway and Harry have far more amusing night terrors. Janeway enters the mess hall to find her crew has died of old age. It is supposed to represent her fear of never getting the crew home, but you just know she is actually afraid they will all make it to a ripe old age without her killing them herself. As for poor Harry, he dreams Seven is making out with him. Seriously, folks. Harry fears a beautiful woman. He is as gay as a French horn. In the morning, our dreamers discover that not only has everyone suffered a nightmare, but there is a common element--the same green alien appears in every dream.

(The alien watches Seven and Harry make out and Tuvok get dressed. He is a pervert, one assumes.)

Several crewmembers, including harry, cannot be awakened in the morning. His make out session must have turned into a crazed lovemaking session. For Harry, terrified of his own erection, it must be torturous. The rest of us can only…well, dream of a night with Jeri Ryan. Surmising the alien in everyone’s dream must be real and inflicting all this on them, Chakotay offers to use some Native American artifacts he happens to have even though he originally beamed over to Voyager with nothing but the clothes he was wearing, to lucid dream in order to communicate with the alien. The alien interrupts derr hunting with a spear to explain to Chakotay he is part of a species that sleeps all the time while living in a dream state. Many enemies have found their sleeping bodies, so they now take the initiative to subdue waking species.

Here is where we get into the try not to think about this stuff too hard bit. How does a constantly hibernating species evolve? Eat? Keep hydrated/ Procreate? Develop technology? Develop anything, for that matter? While we do not get any explanation for how these aliens have survived so long, much less invented the technology they use to maintain their dream world, they deliberately point out that the permanent hibernation will be a problem for the crew because they will dehydrate in a few days. But this is not the worst bit about the aliens. More in a moment.

“Waking Moments” quickly becomes inception twelve years too early as we learn Chakotay is having a dream within a dream. While he is trying to decide what is real, the rest of the crew are in the aliens’ dream world wherein the aliens have taken over the ship. We know they are all having the same dream because the doctor points out their brain patterns are all identical, which would not actually happen, but all right. The Doctor forces Chakotay to stay awake and search for the aliens’ physical bodies while Janeway figures out if the crew engages in lucid dreaming, than can resist the aliens. Meanwhile, Chakotay finds the aliens, wakes one of them up, and channels Janeway by threatening to torpedo the cave killing them all if the crew is not released. The alien complies. The episodes ends with everyone suffering from insomnia.

You know what the big problem is? The aliens have no motivation. Chakotay had to look for the aliens hibernation cave on a distant planet. There is no way Voyager would have stumbled across them, much less been a threat. What is the point of taking over the ship in a dream? They gain nothing. They do not even awaken their physical bodies to take over the real ship or murder the sleeping crew. So what is the point? Near as I can tell, it is alleviating boredom. Why else watch naked people dressing or couples making out or play pirate commando or whatever the heck it is they are when taking over Voyager. The aliens’ intentions are not that well thought out. Then again, they are never given a name, either, so they are not well thought out period.

I have criticized “Waking Moments” for being dumb, but as I said above, it is entertaining if you do not think about it too hard. It is very moody. The aliens are neat looking even if they are nameless and dumb. A few of the nightmares are very amusing. There is even one big slip up in which a very pregnant Roxanne Dawson’s belly is unintentionally prominent. This is one of those episode in which the flaws are so hilariously bad, their entertainment value outweighs the detriment. “waking Moments” is not competent, but it is fun to watch.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Miranda Kerr

Part of The Other McCain's Rule 5 Sunday.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Formspring Question #233--Quiver of Arrows Edition

What's your secret weapon?
A bitterly sarcastic wit. It is not really a secret, though. What good is possessing a devastating weapon if no one knows you have it?

Formspring Question #232--Where About 2-5% of Men Have Gone Before Edition

David Foster is pitching a new Star Trek series starring an openly gay main character. Excited?
Ambivalent. I am not particularly excited about Star Trek period. The inclusion of a homosexual character would not influence my opinion one way or the other.

Formspring Question #231--Erickson v. Radke Edition

What's your take on this whole RedState/Dan Riehl/Jamie Radtke blog war? I think it weakens the already damaged Radtke.
I have been little more than a casual observer, so take my view with a large grain of salt. It is kind of like the continuing conservative photosphere v. Charles Johnson conflict. I am not a big enough part of the community to have a stake, even if I am not a fan of Johnson’s.

Near as I can tell, red State’s Erick Erickson was a supporter of Jamie Radke because she was a conservative Tea Party candidate. Red Sytate sent the word to Erickson they were supporting her primary opponent, George Allan. Why Erickson went so far in the opposite direction by claiming Rradke embarrassed herself with a drunken speech at the Red State gathering in South Carolina is beyond me.

For what it is worth, I cannot find any posts from either conservative or progressive bloggers from South Carolina regarding the incident. We go for blood down here in the Palmetto State, particularly our few outspoken progressives. They can do little else here but criticize conservatives with poisoned pen. If there are rumors floating about the political consultant/pundit/blogger class in South Carolina, they are well hidden. The South Carolina left, who gleefully toss about the term “teabagger” and racist without regard to accuracy, would not resist spreading such a story if it was true. More than likely she is a political novice who rambled on too long because giving speeches is something new for her.

It does not surprise me that Red State prefers George Allan. I think they were big on his presidential prospects prior to his macaca moment, too. While I have not been an observer of Virginia politics since my exile there ended in 2004, I believe the general consensus Allan can beat tim Kaine, but Radke cannot is valid. Based on the opinion of pundits I respect.

Will it weaken Radke? Presumably. Strong candidates do not threaten law suits for defamation. They turn attacks into a political advantage. The perception she is being unfairly attacked might rally her supporters, but I suspect Allan has far more and far more powerful allies. Besides, it is not like he is a RINO. He most likely is the best conservative candidate to defeat Kaine. In that regard, this whole bruhaha looks like a unnecessary conservative on conservative battle that is not doing anyone any good.

Dan Riehl? I do not get how he is involved. He denies being a player on his blog.

Star Trek: Voyager--"Mortal Coil"

I have to give credit where credit is due. Voyager is not famous for its thought provoking episodes. Nor is it well known for making good use of Neelix Making him into a likable character, at least. “Mortal coil” manages to do both in a subtle, but highly entertaining way. It is no surprise the episode was written by Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller.

“Mortal Coil” features Neelix’s internal struggle after he is brought back to life by Seven’s Borg implants eighteen hours after an accident kills him. He has a crisis upon the realization his religious beliefs about the afterlife are invalid. He expected to meet family and friends who have passed on in paradise, but there was nothing. The thought of a happy afterlife had been a great comfort to him, but now he is forced to wonder the point of his existence.

It is not often Neelix is presented as a subtle, reflective character. He is usually the guy full of absurdly powerful, often inappropriate emotion and dumb ideas. Mostly the latter, but do not discount the annoyances of the former. It is a good change of pace to see him genuinely explore a serious subject in a serious manner. I cannot discount how much more complex and well written other characters who are pivotal in Neelix’s soul searching are written. Chakotay, whom I have heavily criticized in recent days, is a prime example. For once, he utilizes native American spirituality as a plausible aid rather than some politically correct multicultural experiment when he counsels Neelix during a vision quest and, eventually, is the one to bring him off the literal ledge. Seven, too, shows more concern than normal. She is a very limited character, particularly in her early episodes, but a skilled writer can help the audience look passed the tight catsuit and see a real person. No small feat, that.

Neelix’s despair leads him to eventually decide suicide is the option. He plans to beam himself off the ship into space. He is talked down by Chakotay, of all people. But it ultimately convinced to resume his life by his goddaughter, Naomi. The conclusion we are to draw is that Neelix has a family in his life of which he is a vital part, so there is little need to worry about his other family in the afterlife. The story leaves it open ended as to whether Neelix’s belief about the afterlife is correct or not, but I have a hunch Fuller’s script leans towards the atheist view.

No matter. ’Mortal Coil” is the best neelix-centric episode yet. If memory serves, it is the best we will ever get, but I am prepared for the unlikely feast of crow should the next three months--gasp--bring a surprise. ’Mortal Coil” is full of surprises. It turns the annoying Neelix sympathetic. It makes Seven more than boobs and sharp, curt dialogue. It allows Chakotay to be more than a bad stereotype. A near death experience is presented as much more than a journey down a dark tunnel towards the light. Spirituality is not presented as something the enlightened Starfleet crew consider cute in lesser species at best and flat out evil at worst. “Mortal Coil” stands out above a large number of VOY episodes. It is a definite must see, if for no other reason than to demonstrate what the show could have been with a competent writing staff.

Rating; **** (out of 5)

Kaley Cuoco

Thursday is Kaley Cuoco Day!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The West Memphis Three Popular Myths v. How Our Legal System Operates

The West Memphis Three have not come up much at the Eye. A quick search finds only this post regarding Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks being sued for defamation by the stepfather of one of the murder victims because she publicly accused him of killing all three of the young boys. But the West Memphis Three has been a specter that has risen up in my life since law school because of that accorsed documentary Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. even more so than loose change, that documentary has convinced more impressionable people to be believe in something so far fetched, it is sad.

The second guessing of the West Memphis Three's guilt is based solely on the naive notion documentaries do not have an agenda and celebrities like the Dixie chicks and Johnny Depp, who had taken up the West Memphis Three's cause even though they be reluctant to ride in an elevator with them (each boy had a criminal record by the ages of 16, 17, and 18 respectively. The oldest had been institutionalized for violent behavior due to delusional thought processes.), cannot possibly be wrong. The bottom line here is that i have periodically run into the sales pitch the whole case against the West Memphis Three was flawed and how could i not see the truth?

The answer to that question is that I personally cannot. A further elaboration is that neither can my critic, regardless of how closely he or she--it has generally been a she--has viewed Paradise Lost. I have to be satisfied with the decisions of twelve jurers--granted, a gamble--and a string of various judges making a ruling based on the evidence at hand. For eighteen years, that evidence said they were guilty. Even now that they have been released, the evidence still says they are guilty. That is the plea they had to make in order to be released from prison and the case is officially closed. Any rumors the police are looking into the stepfather of one of the murdered boys as a suspect is a concoction made by those who have developed their strange attraction to the West Memphis Three. Arkansas knows they got their murderers.

I am not going to waste my time arguing facts or evidence. It is a safe assumption that no one’s mind is going to be changed at this point. There are plenty of web sites devoted to the case. There is also a sequel to Paradise Lost out there and another on the way that deals with their release from prison. There is a lot of gold in the West Memphis Three mine. What I will talk about is the two general misconceptions that have convinced so many people the case was botched from the very beginning.

One, few people really understand the concept of beyond a reasonable doubt. Very few criminal cases actually go to trial. The defendant is usually marched into a courtroom wearing an orange prison uniform, pleads guilty, and hopes his lawyer can negotiate a good deal for him. If a case goes to trial, it is because there is no smoking gun evidence. The prosecution presents its case. The jury has to make a decision based on it. While I have expressed bewilderment over many jury decisions in my admittedly meager legal experience, it is not a bad method of determining guilt or innocence. No, there is no direct DNS evidence that definitely links the West Memphis Three to the murders, but that does not mean they are innocent. A jury looked at all the evidence, then decided the totality of it pointed to guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That is a valid decision. That was a valid decision that has been confirmed a number of times over the last eighteen years. It still technically remains the verdict of record.

Two, mass hysteria outside the courtroom does not mean mass hysteria inside the courtroom. During the early days of the investigation, there were lots of rumors the three kids were murdered in a satanic ritual. The West Memphis Three, who were troubled teens with criminal records and/or a history of mental illness with a penchant for dressing in black and listening to heavy metal, fit the bill for what the locals thought satan worshippers were all about. Just because that belief is paranoid and off the wall does not mean the west Memphis Three are innocent. Nor does it mean jurors had any preconceived notions the West Memphis Three would murder kids in the name of Satan. Need I remind you of the public reaction to the Rodney King beating video versus the not guilty verdict the jury handed down/? Public perception and jury reality are two very different things.

I am most certainly inviting heavy criticism here, particularly by relating the first Rodney King trial verdict, but try to appreciate the general principles regarding beyond a reasonable doubt and public information v. jury information rather than nitpick over the specifics of the West Memphis Three case. Frankly, like Casey Anthony, I do not care if they are guilty or not, and neither do you. There are similar trials going on in courtrooms across the country everyday you and I could not care less about because the media has determined they lack sex appeal. But the general principles remain the same throughout. You should not ignore them because a riveting, but biased documentary and the opinion of the guy who played Capt. Jack Sparrow second guess them.

Megan Fox Suffers Bad Vibes Channeled Through Marilyn Monroe Tattoo

Megan Fox, the ignorant, bigoted, and far less attractive than most people believe actress has decided to remove the semi famous Marilyn Monroe tattoo from her inside forearm. Her decision is not motivated by the arguably sound idea that tattooing oneself up is highly tacky, but that Monroe, who was bipolar and suffered from various other personality disorders, could be promoting bad vibes for Fox. Because her stroke of recent bad luck could not be attributed to her condition of being ignorant, bigoted, and far less attractive than most people believe.

One has to marvel at the stupidity. Fox is literally likening mental and emotional disorders with some sort of New Age negative waves that must be transmitting from beyond Monroe’s grave. I guess she woke up one morning and realized she was not only married to Beverley Hills 90210 has been Brain Austin Green and e Michael Bay thinks giant CGI robots are better actors than her boobs. Surely one has to chalk that up to something bigger than oneself in order to get out of bed in the morning, but an explanation two steps away from blaming demon possession? I would come up with a better explanation, like maybe she is a no talent, impossible to get along with bitty.

Which she may actually realize, but is attempting to save face. If I recall correctly, she got the Monroe tattoo because she once believed she was going to be the next Marilyn Monroe. Maybe the reality of her prospects that struck us the first time we saw her onscreen have finally caught up with Fox. Still, she is treading on dangerous ground in Hollywood. Monroe is a beloved icon regardless of her emotional issues. Fox is a girl who has to take off her clothes to distract from her manly face and deformed thumbs. I do not think she picked this battle very carefully. I am also curious to see if mental illness is as politically incorrect a disease to stigmatize as AIDS? Something tells me if she were removing a Freddie mercury tattoo because his illness gave her the heebee jeebies, the reaction would be mass outrage in Tinsel Town.

Star Trek: Voyager--"Concerning Flight"

It has been said VOY is closest in premise to TOS than either of the other two Star Trek series set in the 24th century. With the ship stranded in the far off Delta Quadrant, the series should theoretically explore strange, new worlds and seek out new civilizations without being bogged down the the established political landscape of TNG and DS9. It has, for the most part, worked out that way, save for some absurd episodes attempting to prop up flagging ratings by reminding us VOY is still a part of Star Trek. from time to time, episodes have been very reminiscent of TOS installments, for better or for worse. A prime case in point is ’Concerning Flight” in which Janeway hangs out with Leonardo da Vinci. A little less embarrassing than encountering Abraham Lincoln floating in space, but not by much.

I think the big problem with “Concerning Flight” is the writers could not figure out what to do with da Vinci. Not to say that is unusual. Remember Janeway’s ghost story governess holodeck program which petered out rapidly until it was thrown into a main storyline just plausibly get ridd of it? Da Vinci gets a better send off, but it has to manufacture cute and funny scenarios in order to do it. The episode winds up adequate because of it. Talk about killing with faint praise, but there is so much typical VOY illogical elements, I have no choice.

Voyager is attacked by a swarm of tiny ships equipped with transporter devices that beam through the shields. Very convenient. The purpose of the transporters is to steal various pieces of high technology. Among the items stolen are the doctor’s mobile emitter and the computer core. I find the latter amusing. Take the hard drive out of your computer and see how well it works. Since the ship’s computer controls everything, it is a wonder Voyager is not completely crippled. In another great convenience, it is not, so the crew is able to track down all the stolen technology to a planet which is a hub of mostly black market commerce. You will never guess that they inconveniently cannot find all the stolen technology, nor can they simply beam it out due to some techno babble dampening fields. Typical VOY. Everything works exactly as it should to further the plot

I am not trying to nitpick here, but are these circumstances not irritating? Some two bit thugs have technology that can penetrate VOY’s shields. First, that is a ridiculously powerful ability for thieves to have. I imagine military powers have been working on developing such a thing for decades. It does not make sense they are not the ones to wind up with it. If they do have this technology, though, why so small potatoes? Beam the entire crew off the ship and take everything. They do not have to be killed. Strand them somewhere. Yeah, you see where this is going, right? We had to suffer through this silliness about swiping advanced technology for two years with the Kazon. Now it is all thrown in during the teaser just to set up the episode. I count the frivolous handling of the plot as a tacit admission the whole Kazon arc, such that it was, fell flat. As for the transporters not working through a dampening field or other interference, that happens so often, one wonders why the crew even bothers with it.

While searching the planet for their missing stuff, Janeway and Tuvok learn da Vinci, whose program was running in the holodeck during the mugging, is out and about with the Doctor’s mobile emitter. He believes he has been kidnapped to America. He is unfazed by all the strange aliens for some reason. He has even earned a patron in one--the big boss who has stolen all the stuff from Voyager.

The episode becomes a caper at this point. Janeway and da Vinci do the whole mismatched buddy cop thing to track down the stolen technology and remove the dampening field so it can all be beamed away. Fish out of water hilarity ensues. Pointless fish out of water hilarity, however. There is no reason for janeway to keep da Vinci around. He has no special skill to offer and, particularly during the final chase from the villains, drags her down because he demands explanations for all the extraordinary things he seen. Chalk it up to the logic that exists solely on television and in movies that the hero must have someone to interact with for the sake of drama. In real life, no one would tolerate da Vinci’s confused foot dragging, but on television, we need him to successfully use his until now hanglider to help Janeway escape. To further the television/movie logic, the pursuing villains stop ten feet shy of the hanglider as it is taking off and decide to admire it in flight rather than shot at it with the huge rifles they are carrying. But, hey--it is not Will Smith and Kevin Kline soaring through the air, so that is a plus.

“Concerning Flight” is fun if you do not think about it much. That is difficult to do considering how dialogue heavy it is. Janeway and da Vinci that all amount to the same--yes, this is all extraordinary, but I do not have time to explain it to you right now. All that instead of just switching off the mobile emitter and resolving the whole episode in three minutes tops. The saving grace is John Rhys Davies as da vinci. He was fresh off his inglorious departure from Sliders and a welcome sight. Davies does bring a charm to da Vinci that someone less cynical than I might consider compensation for the his inexplicable continued use even when dragging janeway down in life or death situations. I have a hard time overlooking it and the two scenes featuring a cat suited Seven prominently displayed while learning lessons from Harry and the doctor on proper social interaction. Either the episode ran short or the T & A quotient had to be met. Take your pick.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Anne Hathaway

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Shaken, Not Stirred

I did not feel the earthquake down here in northeast of South Carolina even though major news sources say I must have. Considering my arduous three year exile in Virginia, I am only marginally sympathetic to the commonwealth. Overturned lawn chairs and spilled milk is too good for you, I say!

While I felt no aftershocks, I was hit with waves of amusement by how panicked Washington seemed to be over the whole ordeal. At the very least, it was fun to see the media, bored with presidential candidates for an election more than a year away, Barack Obama’s golfing, and the Whack a Qaddafi game going on over in Libya, making far more of the earthquake than was necessary. Do you know how many times I have heard the Washington Monument is tilting? Give it a Viagra and quit worrying about it.

I was anticipating Muslim extremists taking time away from threatening to cut out David Letterman’s tongue long enough to praise Allah for showing us infidels his power by giving everyone in Washington a half day off due to the earthquake. That will show us.

Do keep in mind Hurricane Irene is likely to be upgraded to a category 4 hurricane by Thursday and it is headed straight for my area. Forget the earthquake. That is a big deal. The last time I met face to face with a hurricane named after a female with a name starting with “I,’ I was in the commonwealth of Virginia enduring my accursed exile. Not a good sign, no?

UPDATE: I will backtrack on some snark. The Washington Monument has cracks and may be closed indefinitely.

UPDATE II: I cannot forgo all the snark, however:Photo shamelessly swiped from my friend and law school classmate Julie Warren. Do not stalk her, guys.

Formspring Question #230--It's a Miracle Edition

Do you think that the "writer's room" scripting of TW: Miracle Day is working better or worse than the "single author" scripting of the previous seasons?
Beats me. I have not watch Torchwood; Miracle Day since the first episode. As a general rule, nothing done by committee is as good as it could be, particularly when it concerns the creative process.

Formspring Question #229--Misguided McCain Edition

Meghan McCain outed herself as a sci fi geek on Twitter yesterday. Does that make you like her more?
Science fiction geekdom is 99% male and anxious for female attention. Take a wild guess why the desperate for approval Meghan McCain suddenly claims to be a part of it.

Star Trek: Voyager--"Random Thoughts"

Sometimes screencapping these episodes is more than half the fun.

“Random Thoughts” is an interesting, though flawed episode that brings up some interesting ideas, but cannot quite decide what it wants to be. In some ways, it is a commentary on the negative influence of violent images on a person’s psyche. In other ways, it appears to be a morality tale about the use of narcotics, or perhaps the futility of the drug war. Kenneth Biller wrote it, so you can be certain of two things. One, there is a profound message within and two, Biller is such a poor writer, you cannot find said profound message with both hands and a flashlight.

Voyager meets a race of friendly telepaths called the Mari. They are a bunch of pacifists who have largely expelled violent thoughts from their minds. It is a serious crime to think violent thoughts. Anyone caught doing so is given a specific kind of lobotomy which removes those particular thoughts. It does not seem plausible that the crew would risk beaming down to such a planet considering how uncontrolled the random thoughts of humans can be, but there you go.

A merchant named Guill senses some extreme hostility buried not too far from the surface in Torres--surprise, surprise--and sets up an ’accidental’ encounter between her and his buddy, Frane, wherein Frane steps on her foot to elicit a violent thought. Unfortunately, Klingon emotions are a bit too strong for the weak-minded Mari. The thought prompts Frane to beat a man to a bloody pulp. The head of police, played by B’Ehtor herself, Gwyneth Walsh, discovers the thought came from torres and prepares her for the line item lobotomy.

Tuvok, who has until this point been an admirer of the mari justice system, starts his own investigation. He eventually uncovers the plot point I mentioned above. There is a black market in dark thoughts in which Guill is a major player. Guill becomes fascinated at the prospect of experiencing the dark thoughts vulcans possess, but a mind meld proves those thoughts are too much for him. Tuvok subdues guill, exposes the black market trade, and saves Torres from having her memories wiped.

So what is ’Random Thoughts” about? It might be able how television and movie violence affect susceptible minds, particularly children. The mari are definitely a weakened lot if the stray thought that torres wants to punch a guy from stepping on her foot can prompt a man’s beating and later, an unintentionally hilarious bit in which an old woman stabs a merchant to death from dropping fruit she was buying. The mari are so hopelessly impressionable, using them as a commentary an the influence of violent images on people’s psyche is too over the top to be taken seriously. It could also be a comment on the futility of the drug war. The Mari have banned violent thoughts, so people trade in them illegally. The illicit trade prompts violent crimes. With Biller writing the episode, you have no idea which is the message, if either is. For all I know, “Random Thoughts” is a warning to respect other cultures and a remembrance of Rosemary Kennedy’s lobotomy. Joseph Kennedy was attempting to save face for his family by eliminating her antisocial behavior.

In all seriousness, the episode has flaws. The chief of police goes on and on to Tuvok about her enlighten culture wherein no one has aggressive thoughts, yet she becomes visibly angry on several occasions. The policemen dragging Torres to the lobotomy chair had to cuff her and fight her the whole way. Surely they were not thinking and sunshine and roses for the duration. Or that could be subtle commentary, too. The ruling authority can indulge in violent thoughts, but they subdue any citizen who does as well. It is just not that clear.

“Random Thoughts” is passably entertaining, but it wants to be far more. I would not bother looking for any deep thoughts within it, but it is a good outing for Tuvok’s Sherlock Holmes skills. Vulcan’s playing detective are a minor running theme in Star Trek. while spock has always done it best, Tuvok is no slouch. If you can figure out what the episode is about otherwise, do enlighten me.

Rating; *** (out of 5)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Formspring Question #228--JAG Edition

Hey, I was a Judge Advocate at MCAS Beaufort in the early 90's. Know any former Marine lawyers thte?
Not right off hand. I live in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina, so I am not very familiar with low country lawyers period. I know a handful of Army JAGs from Ft. Jackson, but if any lawyers I know are former Marines, it is a mystery to me.