Friday, September 30, 2011

Al Qaida Leader Anwar al-Awlaki Killed by US Drone in Yemen

Progressives are having predictible coniption fits over an American born terrorist being killed without due process, but the strike on Anwar al-Awlaki was the right thing to do. We are fighting a war, not a crime spree.

We should kill plenty more like him before it is all over.

Star Trek: Voyager--"Relativity"

Whenever VOY is struggling, it does one of two things. Either it features the doctor in a bittersweet episode wherein he has a human experience or there is a time travel story. The fifth season has now done both within the span of three episodes, so rest assured the series is having trouble. Fortunately, “Relativity” is a fun romp. It ignores any and all continuity and logic, but it is highly entertaining.

Seven--who else?--is recruited by the returning Braxton from the 29th century to locate a time bomb placed on Voyager at some point in the near past. The bomb is set to wipe Voyager completely from the timeline. Braxton removes her from the timeline a split second before the bomb explodes so she can go back in time to find the bomb.

Seven takes a total of four trips. We only witness her last three. The first two ended in her death. She poses as a crewmember while Voyager is still in dry dock, again two years later during a Kazon attack, and contemporarily just before the bomb blows. It is during the Kazon battle she learns the one who planted the bomb is a future version of Braxton who has gone insane because--you will never guess--repairing the timeline from Janeway’s frequent meddling has taken a toll on him. Seven puraues Braxton into contemporary times where she captures him. His first officer then brings janeway into the 29th century with orders to catch Braxton in the past before he can set the bomb in the first place so as to preserve the timeline.

Got all that? It really does not stand up to scrutiny. Future Braxton claims his mental troubles began when he was stranded on Earth from 1967-1996 in the “Future’s End” two part story, but at the end of it, he said he told Janeway he never experienced that timeline. So why does he have problems with it if it when he was never stranded in the past? Why set a bomb that is not going to go off until five years after Braxton planted it? The bomb is going to wipe Voyager and its crew out the timeline completely. We learned from Annerax such a move has vast repercussions, but here, it is just a matter of saving the crew from death. Janeway activates the EMH in dry dock to test him out even though it has been established he was never activated before the ship entered the Delta Quadrant. No one knew Braxton was the culprit, but after his first officer arrests him for future crimes and seven brings in his counterpart from the far future, it is said there are three of them in custody. Where did the other one come from? What did he do and when did they have a chance to capture him? Janeway catches one to make it four in custody. When Torres runs into the time traveling Janeway, she does not notice her hairstyle is completely different even though when Kate Mulgrew is reenacting those scenes in the past, she is wearing a very bad wig to mimic the past style, so an effort was made to get the hair right.

So there are some definite problems with continuity and logic. No matter, though. “Relativity” does not take itself seriously, so neither do I. some of the bits were hilarious. Braxton’s hatred of Janeway fort never minding her own business reminds me more of Yosemite Sam’s “Oooo…I hate that rabbit!’ towards Bugs Bunny than Ahab’s hatred for Moby Dick. It is probably her escapade in the series finale that sends him over the edge. It nearly did me. I also love how the whole time travel/bomb/restoring the timeline is about to be explained to her through techno babble, but Janeway dismisses it and just asks for instructions on what to do to get to Braxton in the past. Is this the first time there has been a refusal to listen to a made up pseudoscientific explanation on this show? It is about time. Jeri Ryan looks nice in a Starfleet uniform, two. Much better than in those exploitive catsuits you have a difficult time imagining anyone would make her wear while on duty.

Braxton has his own amusements. He has been replaced by Bruce McGill. McGill was revealed to be some sot of figure who may have been manipulating Sam Beckett’s time travel in the Quantum Leap finale. There were rumors, probably completely fan based, that Braxton might turn out to be Future Guy on ENT. If so, then McGill would be manipulating Scott Bakula’s time travel yet again. Now we know Brannon Braga and Rick Berman had no clue who Future Guy was, so throw that out the window. It would have been a cool cross science fiction reference if it had panned out.

“Relativity” is flawed, but there is too much to like here for complaints to matter. Do not think about the plot holes too hard, and it might wind up one of your favorites. It is at least a top ten entry for me. I think there is a vibe among the actors the material is poking fun at the show, so they are playing it that way. Think about it. Janeway’s disregard for the rules is the catalyst for the plot. The Doctor has an appearance when he is not supposed to just to spice up the episode. Seven is in the foreground even in the past while the rest of the crew is irrelevant. Chakotay is the only crewmember to disappear in the first act and never return. No one wants to hear the techno babble. ‘Relativity” is completely mocking VOY. The show deserves it.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Damon Lindelof: "We Made Up Lost As We Went Along." Me: Yeah, But the Women Were Hot

Damon Lindelof, showrunner for Lost, reveals what we already knew--the show's series arc was made up as they went along:
Damon Lindelof and JJ Abrams] threw in lots of wild elements just because they never expected it to get on the air.

One of the main calling cards of the show — the flashbacks to characters’ lives before they crash landed on the island — was simply a way to cut away from the same old tropical locale.

If it seemed like the writers were making things up as they went along, by the way, they often were. And also? Lindelof tried to quit the show, again and again.

“‘There should be a hatch on this island! They spend the entire season trying to get it open. And there should be these other people on the island,’” Lindelof recalled Abrams saying. “And I’m like, ”We can call them The Others.’ And he’s like, ‘They should hear this noise out there in the jungle.’ And I’m like, ‘What’s the noise?’ And he’s like, ‘I don’t…know. They’re never going to pick this thing up anyway.’”

He said he agreed with critics who said the show could never last more than a season.
It figures. there were other reasons to watch, namely:

Evangeline Lilly:Elizabeth Mitchell:Emilie de Ravin:Maggie Grace:

Yunjin Kim:Michelle Rodriguez:Sonya Walger:Rebecca Mader:So you can see watching Lost was not a complete waste of time.

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

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Al Qaida to Ahmadinejad: Dude, Where's My Credit for 9/11?

In its constant battle against 9/11 truherism, Al Qaida takes on the craziest truther this side of Charlie Sheen:
In the latest issue of the al Qaeda English-language magazine “Inspire”, an author appears to take offense to the “ridiculous” theory repeatedly spread by Ahmadinejad that the 9/11 terror attacks were actually carried out by the U.S. government in order to provide a pretext to invade the Middle East.

“The Iranian government has professed on the tongue of its president Ahmadinejad that it does not believe that al Qaeda was behind 9/11 but rather, the U.S. government,” an article reads. “So we may ask the question: why would Iran ascribe to such a ridiculous belief that stands in the face of all logic and evidence?”…

“For them, al Qaeda was a competitor for the hearts and minds of the disenfranchised Muslims around the world,” the article says. “Al Qaeda… succeeded in what Iran couldn’t. Therefore it was necessary for the Iranians to discredit 9/11 and what better way to do so? Conspiracy theories.”
All this dispute really does is prove al Qaida is a CIA front meant to give a pretense to invade Iran and seize it oil or something. Or is it to build that oil pipeline that was supposed to go through Afghanistan but never materialized? I do not know. Ask Charlie Sheen. He is supposed to have a handle on these things.

(Via: Hot Air)

Occupy Wall Street is a Dismal Failure by Its Own Existence

In all this hoopla over alleged police brutality during the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests--some obnoxious hippies got pepper sprayed while loitering about--are you aware of the message of the protestors? Their message is that Wall Street is awash in corruption and greed it can spread around money for absolute political power and utilize the vast institutions in which it has influence to cover up these facts. In so doing, it is destroying people’s lives. Replace “Wall Street” with ’Democratic Party” and you will not only have an accurate statement, but evidence why the protests are falling on deaf ears even among progressives.

Let me admit I do not protest. I have never been to a Tea Party event and never will go. It is not that I do not agree with Tea Part tenets or goals. I generally do. Heck, I am about one step away from advocating the bulldozing of abortion clinics, but have refused a half dozen invitations to protest clinics during law school. (It is a Regent University thing.) I just do not see the value in it because I think mainstream, institutional efforts work are far more effective than populist revolts. Doubly so when you consider Americans are generally too comfortable in their lives and ambivalent about what the powers that be do to maintain a populist revolt. That Day of Rage deal a couple weeks ago could not get off the ground because sleeping in until time to watch college football on television was more important than smashing capitalism. Besides, Google tracks your searches, so looking up how to mix a Malatov cocktail might get you in trouble.

But that is my view in the broadest sense. I am happy there are people willing to protest, particularly on issues I feel strongly about. I think they are largely spinning their wheels, but there is value in public spectacles in a culture that is obsessed with such things. Call me cynical if you wish. Call me even more cynical when I admit I enjoy progressive protests the best. They are the dumbest, most ineffective, and generally resort in violence anyone with two brain cells to rub together, which does not include many of said protestors, could have predicted long before. I laugh my butt off at the old fashioned, hippie @$$ whuppings, with all due credit to Chief Wiggum.

Do these Occupy Wall Street protestors know the scorn the Democrats have for them? The Democratic Party is an institution. It embraces my philosophy that the only way to get things done is through an institution. Camping out on blankets in front of the Golden bull and chanting Rage Against the Machine lyrics is not only wasting time the protestors could be helping get democrats elected, it is making progressive ideology look ignorant and out of touch with mainstream America--and I love every minute of it.

I love it almost as much as when the police start arresting the neo-hippies for dong something stupid. Which is an accomplishment considering showing up in the first place is profoundly stupid. Do you remember the G20 summit in Toronto last year? The Canadian government and the Toronto city government speny hundreds of millions on security measures like riot police and crowd control measures. Yet protestors never figured out that much money is not going to be spent on security measures unless they are--wait for it--going to be used. Surely it is logical to be a pain in the butt then,? The protests certainly had an impact on G20 policy, right? Heh.

Let me put aside my Archie Bunker routine ands get serious. Wall Street currently loves the Democrats. It is the Democrats who have been bailing them out with taxpayer dollars for their own incompetence. Barack Obama was their man from 2008 until Mitt Romney starting showing promise. While Romney is getting more wall Street dollars now than Obama, which is why he is going to be the Republican nominee and next president, Obama is not terribly far behind. Neither are quite a few other friends of Wall Street within the Democratic Party. Do you really think either cares what so self-righteous, dumb kids think about any of it? Watch this if you do:Your message is not getting through, kids. It is because the medium you are sending it through it stupid. It does, however, amuse me to no end. So there is that.

Star Trek: Voyager--"11:59"

Do you folks remember thr Millennium Bug? Civilization was supposed to crumble as computers all were to malfunction at the stroke midnight, January 1, 2000? Down here in the Bible belt, there was millennial anxiety of another kind. My roommate and I were traveling on New Year’s Eve from Columbia halfway across state to Greenwood for a former college classmate’s party. Literally every church we passed along the way was packed with people. I had heard a teacher once claim entire countries converted to Christianity in 999 over fear the Rapture would occur in 1000. Forget computer issues. I was surrounded by people with more ancient concerns.

Which is appropriate for “11:59.” It is a very small, subdued story about the clash of philosophies between those who respect the past and those who look towards the future. It is the most unusual VOY episode of the series. There are no aliens, explosions, techno babble solutions to extraordinary problems. Egad, Seven does not even learn anything new about humanity. It is all about Janeway talking about an ancestral hero of hers and learning she was just an ordinary person.

Because of that theme, I could not help but think of the end teasers of Welcome Back, Kotter in which Kotter would tell his wife some obviously untrue story about a fictitious relative of his just to set up a corny joke. Of course, Janeway would have to be more sinister.

“Chakotay, did I ever tell you about my caveman ancestor, Bok?” Janeway asks.

“No, Captain. I don’t believe you have,” Chakotay replies with a smile.

“He invented human sacrifice.” There is a long silence during which Chakotay waits for the punch line. When it does not come, he prods Janeway.

“Aren’t you going to finish the joke? I’m expecting a big payoff.”

“No joke,” Janeway replies. “Just telling you how the family business got started.”

Dead silence. Literally. The woman has racked up a body count in the thousands through her actions in the Delta Quadrant--and does not care. Do recall “Hope and Faith.”

I am playing around with the review for “11:59" because there is not much here. It is a 400 year flashback in which Janeway talks about her ancestor, Shannon O’Donnel, and brilliant engineer and childhood hero. O’Donnel’s car breaks down in the small town of Portage Creek, Indiana, which is not to be confused with carbon Creek, Pennsylvania. According to Star Trek writers, every other town in 20th century America has “Creek” in its name. O’donnel agrees to work in an independent bookstore owned by Henry Janeway, also staying at his home, in order to earn the money to repair her car. O’Donnel learns a corporation wants to build a futuristic community called the Millennium Gate. The townspeople are eager, but Henry is the lone holdout. He refuses to sell his bookstore. If he does not sell by 11:59, December 31, 2000, the deal is off.

Thus sets up the conflict between O’Donnel and Henry. She is a forward looking person who embraces new technology as progress. Henry appreciates the past and thinks it should not be dismissed so easily. Unfortunately, their debate is not over those who forget the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat them. Henry is instead a semi-Luddite who believes man creates technology, then has to spend too much time fixing all the new problems it causes. He is a sympathetic character well played by Kevin Tighe, but at not point are we to ever get the impression he has a point. The episode loudly sings the praises of gene Roddenberry’s idea that advanced technology means social progress for humanity.

It is not so, even superficially in a society in which one junior high kid will murder another for his iPod. How anyone believes the prospect of efficiently exploring space because of warp drive engines will change human nature is beyond me. Soon, there is going to be no one left alive who walked on the moon. No one really cares. No one really cared then, either, other than the desire to win the space race. You certainly cannot call competing with the Soviets uniting humanity in a project to explore space. Nowadays? Even if a kid wants to be an astronaut, I imagine his teachers discourage him because there is no space program of which to speak. So much for advanced technology advancing the human race along with it. The ironic part? Roddenberry signed off on the Borg, a n alien race obsessed with integrating advanced technology into themselves, but without a hint of virtue. In fact, they were terrifying for a long while there. I guess Roddenberry was too business cashing the checks to notice the contradiction.

I got off on an unintended rant there. The thing is, I sympathize with Henry in a lot of ways. I am something of a Luddite myself. I need compelling evidence new technology has value before I will learn how to use it. Many times I discover I like it, but I always have that fear not only is technology getting away from us, but we are losing something valuable in the process. It is not just the notion that we should forget the barbaric past in favor of a brighter future--I vehemently disagree with that--but things lack henry’s bookstore and books in general disappearing in favor of Kindle, etc. I keep my melancholy largely to myself. As a politicall conservative Christian, my ideas are dismissed as a yearning for a mythic vision of the past at best and a new dark Ages at worst. Why bother explaining myself when I have to work against those bad assumptions?

There is a review for “11:59” somewhere here, I promise.

The problem with “11:59” is its lack of heart. So much of it feels scripted rather than natural. The minute you hear Henry’s last name is Janeway, you know everything that is going to happen. It all happens by the book, too. In spite of their differing viewpoints, O’Donnel and Henry hook up. It all happens suddenly, too. Henry changes his mind to sell the bookstore without any real build up to it. O’Donell bites into a chocolate chip cookie and decides she is too connected to Henry and the Millennium Gate, which she is conveniently offered a job working on, to ever leave. A to B to C, solely because that is what the plot demands. It is difficult to buy into it because events do not flow naturally.

An odd bit is that Tom, who has been listening to Janeway’s talk about o’Donnel as some major presence in history, has never heard of her. Convenient that he is such a history buff for 20th century events. I am sure you know lots of people so well versed in 16th century lore they can tell you some random person you name was not a Renassaince painter as you claim. Janeway does more research and discovers o’Donnel was a minor player in the Millennium Gate and future projects. The discovery is not a revelation a childhood hero has feet of clay, but seemingly one that you cannot trust history. The conclusion does fit in with the episode’s misguided message.

At least “11:59” acknowledges the new millenium began on January 1, 2001. Other than Ray Bradbury’s fustrated attempts to get the message through, there were not a lot of mainstream sources promoting that fact. It was too tempting to promote a nice, round number like 2000 as significant. Stuff like that is how history gets revised. I really despise the mixed messages this episode sends.

Nevertheless, I still like it. The powers that be were willing to try something different. Not many shows are willing to experiment in such a way. A lack of writing talent kepps it from being great. The episode has not aged well. It is through no fault of its own. As I noted above, there was not a notable millennium craze. The computers did not fail. The Rapture did not occur. Do you remember anything special about that time/ I do not. Worse yet, any hope for the future was dashed by 9/11. It is hard to think we are advancing when a group of cave dwellers in the desert successfully destroy prominent symbols of modernity like the world Trade Center. Hope for the new millennium when medieval barbarism dominates the first decade of it? Hardly.

Rating; *** (out of 5)

Kaley Cuoco

Thursday is Kaley Cuoco Day!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Formspring Question #266-The Future of Idiot Box Reviews Edition

Since you refuse to review Enterprise, what are you going to do next?
Nothing is carved in stone, but my current thinking is to run through two or three short lived series to finish out the year. I would like to do that for the sake of variety. The VOY reviews are going to end sometime around Thanksgiving, so I might even double up there towards the end. I am not sure which series I care to watch again or in what order, but if you can think of a few iconic, but short lived science fiction series, you will have a good idea the ones from which I am choosing.

I will statt another 100+ episode series at the beginning of the year. Babylon 5 would be my choice, but since the idea of me reviewing a series I have not seen before has some popularity, I may give that a shot. If so, Farscape and Stargate SG-1. I am not certain my friendships can survive me borrowing a season set of the latter ever twenty days for 200 days, but I shall endure the sacrifice if necessary. The caveat with Farscape, which I have seen maybe five episodes, and Stargate Sg-1, which I have seen fifteen or twenty, is that what few episodes I have seen have not hooked me. Low enthusiasm level means lackluster reviews.

It was once suggested I should run through the original Doctor Who series. That is a tall order, particularly for a daily basis. Some of William Hartnell’s stories are twelve episodes long. Those early seasons have a lot of missing episode. I would have to review whatever recreations have been made of them, which would mean audio recording over still photographs and the occasional animated short. (The latter are kind of cool, by the way.) I would not count on this one until I can work out a comfortable groove. Still, it is tempting. There are large chunks of the Third, Sixth, and Seventh Doctor episodes I have not seen yet. My geek education is incomplete.

One thing that is not going to happen is a rewatch of the updated Battlestar Galactica or Lost with the whole series in perspective. Not enough time has passed for me to feel nostalgia for those shows. Having the entire series in perspective may lead to my opinion on certain episodes changing. As sure as the world, there will be a ton of complaints that I have changed my mind about certain episodes. I do not want to go through all that static.

Like I said above, none of this is carved in stone other than the definite noes, but some variation of the above is going to happen for the foreseeable future. I am considering a non-science fiction show at some point. I may throw in a new discovery somewhere along the line just because I really like it and want to write about it. Whatever the case, the reviews will continue. Something is bound to interest you at some point.

Formspring Question #265--The Nature of Being Edition

Are you for real?
I pass DeCartes Cogito Ergo Sum test, but since that is my perception only with no outside evidence, I have no cogent proof I exist. What is your opinion on the issue?

Star Trek: Voyager--"Someone to Watch Over Me"

“Someone to Watch Over Me” is a sweetly humorous episode that I enjoy far more than my cynical nature should allow. The only elements of VOY that are consistently working are Seven and the Doctor. It seems natural the two of them should be paired up as often as is reasonably possible. The powers that be will still manage to screw that up in the future, but not now.

The episode is an homage to My Fair Lady or Pygmalion, depending on how far back you wish to carry the allusion. Seven has developed an interest in dating rituals. She has gotten a little too close to Tom and Torres’ intimate relations, so the doctor offers to teach her the finer points of dating. Tom discovers what the Doctor is up to and concludes it is a matter of the blind leading the blind. The two make a wager whether seven will have a date for an ambassador’s reception the following weekend.

Hilarity ensues, of course. The doctor is earnest, but not experienced in the subject matter of love. Seven’s blunt nature steps all over Harry’s feelings when he tries to date her. She sprays lobster all over her first date, a nebbish engineer, before tear a ligament in his shoulder slow dancing. Slowly but surely, the doctor takes a more hands on approach and finds himself falling for Seven. They communicate easily with one another and share common interests. Seven, however, never sees this.

She does accompany the doctor to the ambassador’s reception. She is all about refining her social graces rather than romance. Tom, rude as ever, blurts out the doctor has won the bet. Seven is hurt at the idea the doctor helped her for personal gain, not out of concern. The doctor, who is full blown infatuated at this point, attempts to patch things up. It works, but when it wants to tell seven how he really feels, she she tells him first there is no compatible mate on board the ship. She leaves him with a thank you gift and a broken heart.

The B-story involves the ambassador from a n uptight, Puritan race discovering rich food and alcohol while being escorted about by Neelix. He becomes a drunken, oversexed lout, culminating in an obnoxious outburst and passing out at his own reception. It is so over the top that it does not complement the main story well at all. The ambassador is played by Kids in the Hall Scott Thompson. I never was big on that show. British humor I can handle. Canadian humor does nothing for me. If he is playing a variation on one of his characters from the show, which I assume he is, the novelty of it is lost on me, too. I think the entire plot was a drag on the main story, but I am willing to concede a Kids in the Hall fan may think differently.

Otherwise, “Someone to Watch Over Me” is a really good character piece. Credit where credit is due--VOY more often does these bottle show fillers better than DS9 does. The problem is how often they remain inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. The growing relationship between between the doctor and seven is no exception. Subsequent episodes will fall far below this one in quality. She will wind up with Chakotay, of all people, instead of the Doctor.

There are a couple points that make the episode. One is its subtlety. The relationship between the doctor and Seven grows solwly, naturally, and does not address sex. As I have noted numerous about such episodes before, Star Trek believes romance and sex are synonymous. I blame it on the numerous fourteen year old virgins who tuned in every week back in the day. The second point is the issue of whether the doctor is sentient and can literally have romantic feelings is ignored. Under certain circumstances, my skeptical, nitpicking nature would hate that, but the question would bog down “Someone to Watch Over Me” while robbing it of emotion. I am glad the powers that be skipped out on any existential questions, if only this once.

I recommend “Someone to Watch Over Me.” There is no alien menace. It is all often bittersweet humor that works well because Robert Picardo and Jeri Ryan clearly like each other. It shines through in their characters. I could have done without Scott Thompson’s antics. They might have cost the episode a star in the ratings. Otherwise, I think the episode is one of the best of the season.

Rating; **** (out of 5)

Alyson Hannigan

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Formspring Question #264--Parental Guidance Not Suggested Edition

What do you think of the idea liberals view the government as mommy while conservatives think of government as daddy?
There is merit in the analogies. Progressives view the state as a caregiver, nurturer, and provider, with the latter certainly not considered in a paternal sense. It is difficult to visualize progressivism defining anything in masculine terms. Conservatives like to view the government as a stern, powerful figure that enforces the rules and fight wars and such. I think these two concepts are not mutually exclusive. Progressives can be very authoritative in enforcing its will and conservatives will often meddle in social issues for the “common good,” whatever that is.

The analogies further fall apart under scrutiny because they assume the government considers citizens its children. Government actually considers citizens its subjects. The United States has never been a monarchy, but Americans are still prone to not question government authority as a general rule. Progressives believe the government ought to provide every social service imaginable while conservatives give the benefit of the doubt to any and all police or military actions. Neither side generally questions any of it, and if any do, the government acts to quell it. Generally speaking, the government does not have to apply much pressure, either. How many people avoid supporting the tea Party because they fear being called racist by Barack Obama and his supporters? A considerable number, I would imagine.

As much as I hate to said conspiratorial, I think the government as parent analogy is promoted in order to divert attention from the real view government has of it citizens. Not that I think people would really care. They would be angry for a moment someone has insisted the government has absolute control over them, and then they would forget all about it go back to watching Dancing with the Stars. In the United states, at least, we are too comfortable to care what the government does.

Formspring Question #263--Archimedes is as Close As I Come Edition

Do you watch Leverage and, if so, do you like it?
No, therefore I do not know.

Star Trek: Voyager--"Juggernaut"

The Captain Planet-esque villains the Malon are back, even though they should be 25,000 light years behind Voyager. Does this show not have a story editor maintaining continuity, or do the powers that be just not care anymore? Whichever the case, the Malon’s return is the catalyst for a generic race against the clock story against the backdrop of Torres’ anger management issues.

A Malon toxic waste transport malfunctions. The leaking radiation kills most of the crew. The transport is going to explode in a few hours. The explosion will spew toxic waste across three light years of inhabited space. Voyager responds to the survivors’ distress call. The crew offers to help. Torres is the expert on the away team even though she is struggling with anger management issues. There is lot of crawling, running, and jumping through the severely damaged transport. There is a villain revealed towards the end--a Malon dying a radiation poisoning who wants to blow up the ship in revenge. Torrs tries to reason with him, realizes that will not work, and then cuts loose on him. The day is saved. Torres is conflicted because she has been told to keep her emotions in check, but it was her violent impulses that saved the day. As much angst as VOY writers can manage ensues. She is television friendly naked during said angst so you will not notice the lackluster presentation of emotional turmoil.

The above summary is short and punchy because that is the nature of the episode. It is a pure point A to B to C story that is not elevated beyond typical action movie scenario by Torres’ anger issues. For one thing, it is difficult to sympathize with torres at this point. The character progresses and regresses with her emotional problems as the current episode requires. Where is the character growth? Why should I care how she is dealing with her problems when they are going to disappear next week only to reemerge the wekk after, only worse and--ooh--side boob! Nice. Um…where was I?

You get the idea.

I am not a big fan of the Malon, either. The Captain Planet analogy is apt. The cartoon villains the hero faced were one dimensional maniacs who polluted the environment just to be evil. Contrary to lefty fantasy, real polluters do not affect the environment out of pure villainy. It is negligence or corner cutting. The Malon dump their toxic waste because they do not care about anyone else and have demonstrated a willingness to attack anyone attempting to stop them. I have difficult time getting into them because I do not accept they would really do such a thing. I cannot even chalk their actions up to an alien rationale because the VOY writers clearly mean for the malon to represent corporate polluters.

It is not good storytelling to introduce a villain in the final act, nor is it very original to have said villain seeking revenge for his impending death because of his exposure to toxic waste,. At least he is not the mustache twirling villain the rest of the Malon come off as. He has some motivation for his actions, insane though it may be. Given the four writers credited on the script and his seemingly last minute involvement in the resolution, I suspect he is a late rewrite inclusion. Oft rewritten scripts rarely turn out well.

What is “Juggernaut” about? I have no idea. The environmentalism plot is so paint by numbers, it says nothing about the issue of toxic waste disposal. If that is supposed to be secondary to torres’ inner conflict, it does not fly. Is torres supposed to cast her anger aside and be more diplomatic/ if so, then why have her loss of anger succeed where her diplomacy failed/ I will concede the writers probably hope the contradiction is dramatic and will generate audience sympathy for her. On a show with better writers, it might, but since Torres is going to be completely in control until another story requires or not to be, it is difficult to care.

Call this nitpicking if you wish, but Neelix goes along on the mission to the transport to serve as a field medic in case the radiation for which the away team has been inoculated has any unexpected effects. Why Neelix/ Because tom, the regular field medic, is in a romantic relationship--by Star Trek standards, at any rate--and might serve as a calming influence on her. It is manufactured drama made worse because…well, it is Neelix as his replacement. Like the episode can afford to lose anymore credibility.

“Juggernaut” is Sandra Bullock’s Speed 2 meets Adam Sandler’s Anger Management. The two do not go together like chocolate and peanut better. There is a lot of eye candy on screen--atmospheric sets and special effects, not just Roxann Dawson with no shirt--but style over substance cannot carry cannot carry an hour of dramatic television. This one is for the cheap date torres fans only. Which is a shame. She is a highly underused character.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Jeri Ryan

I have been stingier with Jeri Ryan than I was Gillian Anderson, but I have no less love for Jeri, so here you go.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Formspring Flagging and Cyber Bullying

The formspring question regarding Jon Huntsman and the Tea party was flagged as potential hate speech by the site. I am still puzzled as to why. It is the third question I have been asked which has been flagged. out od those, there is only one I did not answer. I explained why in this post.

Long story short, it was obviously a troll making a bigoted assumption about my viewpoint on an issue as though it was a fact. The flagging of the other two questions has been a mystery that will likely stay that way. form spring has taken a cue from YouTube and opted to never explain its enforcement of community standards so as to control “troublemakers” as it sees fit. One cannot clean up his act when one does not know what he did in the first place, no?

I am bracing myself for things to get far worse. This weekend, a fourteen year old kid named Jamey Rodemeyer committed suicide after being cyber bullied through form spring. Rodemeyer’s death gained a lot of attention when it was revealed he tweeted to Lady Gaga shortly before killing himself. She dedicated a song at a concert to him. Rodemeyer, who was gay, has become a symbol for the “It Gets Better’ and No H8 campaigns against homophobia.

A key point has arisen that Formspring’s method of allowing anonymous contact is under fire because it is a perfect tool for cyber bullying. Formspring has been courting celebrities to sign up as a way of interacting with fans. Some of the younger set have, but one assumes their clout within it gets better and No H8 might pressure form spring to change its policy. Of course, if that happens, Formspring will also lose its main appeal.

There is also a rumbling for a Jamey’s law to hold perpetrators accountable for cyber bullying. Always fear proposed laws born out of the emotionalism surrounding tragedies involving children. That is all I will say about that.

I am curious to see how form spring will react, if at all. Perhaps anticipating a major change in the anonymity of its users is blown out of proportion. Myspace, for one, was the source for a number of cyber bullying related crimes and suicides, but none lead to the site’s downfall. It took years off persuasion before the administrators swept through the member pages to delete all the registered sex offenders befriending children. Formspring may consider Rodemeyer a tragedy that is not their fault. I would not argue with that, either. A kid who reaches out to a celebrity before ending his life rather than someone actually close to him had serious emotional issues a social media website cannot be held accountable for.

As the only blogger around who uses Formspring, I assume it is not popular enough for anyone to much care, but I am going to keep an eye out for how the site reacts, if it even does. Changing the anonymous feature would probably already kill the relatively low trickle of questions I get, but we will see what the future holds. As I said above, the site already has some odd standards regarding what is considered offensive. Who knows what they will do next?

Star Trek: Voyager--"Think Tank"

No matter how brilliant the man, he can always be mesmerized by a pair of breasts. Even Janeway’s. I like her smug look. Yes, they are real--and they are spectacular!

“Think Tank" is the "special” episode in which Jason Alexander made his first big acting appearance after Seinfeld took its final bow nearly a year before. Alexander is known to be a Trekkie. I think it is generally neat when famous fans make a guest appearance. That said, I am not a big fan of Seinfeld, so the novelty of heorge Costanza as an alien is not going to be a factor in my review. I thought it would be wise to get that out of the way.

I have mixed emotions about “Think Tank.” I appreciate it because it is different. The Think Tank itself is a genuinely weird creation rather than some typical alien species with a ship comparable to Voyager to battle. Their appearance sets up an intriguing concept by offering Seven a chance to change her life completely in a far better way than by serving as the Borg Queen’s lackey. There is even a hint of nostalgia for how much the plot feels like a TOS episode. But “Think Tank” falls apart in its implausible resolution and glaring continuity errors along the way. I do I rate a cool concept that is rife with errors and peters out towards the end? It is a tough choice.

Voyager comes under attack by a species of bounty hunters known as the Hazari. The ship is completely surrounded, and the crew has no idea how to escape. Salvation arrives in the form of Kurros and the Think Tank. They are a bunch of misfit geniuses how offer solutions to problems in exchange for unique items. Janeway is skeptical, but she is eventually won over once she realizes Voyager cannot escape without their help. The Think Tank sets its price. It is mostly recipes and various cultural items they have never seen before, but janeway nixes the deal at their biggest request--Seven.

The scene between Kurros and Janeway is unintentionally funny if you have been following my view of Janeway. When she learns the Think Tank wants seven, she calls the whole deal off. But Kurros asks her if she ought not check with Seven to see if she would like to join the Think Tank willingly. It apparently never occurred to Janeway Seven might appreciate the opportunity because she is so accustomed to controlling every aspect of her crew’s lives, but Seven’s in particular. It is hilarious to watch janeway suddenly realize she cannot speak on behalf of Seven on such a matter.

“Think Tank” looks like it could take an interesting turn when the plot seems to shift to Seven’s decision. As Kurros points out, she is doing little more than tedious errands for ship’s operations on Voyager when she could be working through challenging problems whose solution could have huge impact. She is intrigued by the prospect, but turns Kurros down because she now feels like she belongs on Voyager. I would like to have seen her contemplation drawn out more. Honestly, the eccentric Think Tank feels like a better fit for her personality, but seven gives the offer virtually no thought.

The plot degrades from there as we learn the Think Tank orchestrated the whole plot with the Hazari in order to force seven to join them. Once the ruse has been uncovered, Voyager and the Hazari team up to con the Think Tank so they can all escape with seven still safely a member of the crew. The big problem here is the con job is not that clever--Seven pretends to join so she can disable the Think Tank’s shields and gets beamed out before the Hazari attack. The concept is to outthink the Think Tank by cheating, but surely they could have seen that coming. What kind of geniuses are these guys? Answer--the kind created by Brannon Braga and Rick Berman in a preview of the idiocy that will be ENT.

I mentioned glaring continuity errors. When talking about the Think Tank’s past good deeds, he says they cured the Phage. But the Vidiians are 40,000 light years away at this point. How did the Think tank pull that off? If they can travel that distance in far less than forty years, why does it not occur to Janeway to ask them how they pulled it off? Or ask for some other solution to get back to the alpha Quadrant? When speculating on who might have hired the Hazari, Chakotay suggests the Malon or Devore. However, Voyager has traveled some 25,000 light years since encountering either one. Just how far does their space expand? Or are we just throwing continuity out the window these days/ it is a well known fact Braga and Berman do not care much for the concept.

A final verdict is difficult to reach. “Think Tank” ought to earn a low score for it missed opportunities and errors any marginally astute fan could identify. The Think Tank is not all that bright if they can fall for Janeway’s “cheating” them. For that matter, have they really done enough to merit implied deaths at the hands of the Hazari? Janeway thinks so. You really should not mess with that woman. Death is her middle name. Yet in spite of all these issues, “Think Tank” is highly entertaining. I am not entirely certain why. Whatever its appeal, I recommend the episode. It is not great, but in spite of its careless flaws, it is not bad, either.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Taryn Manning

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Blogroll Spotlight #112

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--Marxism and the Churches
American Perspective--Solyndra Sales Pitch
Amusing Bunni's Musings--Zombies Among Us
Blazing Cat Fur--Mark Steyn: Global Economy Getting Ready to Blow
Bluegrass Pundit--Obama Does Not Expect or Want His Jobs Plan to Pass Congress
Bride of Rove--New to the Lexicon or New to Me Because Now I Understand: Palinized
Camp of the Saints--Rule 5 News
Classic Liberal--Jenn Brown: Corporate Raider
Daley Gator--80 Year Old Woman caught Selling Crack
Essential Mr. Bill--Troy Davis: Did Georgia Get It Right?
Fausta's Blog--Market Freefall Today
Fishersville Mike--Pay Your Fair Share
Gormogons--Hey, Kim Delaney: STFU
Grandpa John's--The Kind of Science That Started the Global Warming Hoax
In a Mad Mad Mad Mad World--The Friday Pin Up
Jaded Haven--Dying on the Cross
Lazy farmer--A Totally Hypothetical Situation
Left Coast Rebel--Warren Buffett Can't count
Maggie's Notebook--Let That Light Be the Light of Peace
Mind Numbed Robot--A Little Texas/New Jersey Solidarity
Motor City Times--Cluelessness Running Wild in DC
Other McCain--Dear Bill Kristol
Paco Enterprises--Sunday Funny
Pirate's Cove--If All You See
Proof Positive--Rookie Mistake
Randy's Roundtable--Priscilla Monroe Rule 5
Sentry Journal--2012 is When Conservatives MUST Nominate a conservative
Teresamerica--Obamacare: Sterilization and Contraceptive Insurance
Three beers Later--If NASA's Falling Satellite Had Hit Los Angeles
Troglopundit--Brett Favre Coming Back to Football
Vodkapundit--Jumping the Shark and/or White House Fence
Washington Rebel--We Are a Divided People
Wyblog--One of These Guys is Going to Be Our Next President?
Zilla of the Resistance--CRAPTASTIC Bastards Disable the ANTI-CRAPTASTIC Page!

Star Trek: Voyager--"The Fight"

There has been a noticeable change in VOY’s fifth season, but I have avoided mentioning it because I knew "The Fight” would be the best opportunity to point it out. Chacotay has been seriously marginalized all season long. The character has been relegated to spouting off hand comments and techno babble which could easily have been spoken by other characters. No episode has featured him prominently, and any that comer close have still focused heavily on another character. Chakotay has “died” twice this season and neither time was the key emotional moment of the respective episode.

To understand how unusual this is, think back to other first officers in ;Star Trek history: Spock, Riker, Kira, and T’Pol there are not many episodes of their shows in which they did not play strong, assertive roles even when they were not the central character. (I am being generous with T’Pol for you ENT fans silently weeping in the corner. She was a Playboy bunny with pointy ears at most all times.) Chakotay has not been as fortunate. It has been an issue from the beginning. Even in episodes in which the character is explored, he has often comes across as a shallow, politically correct Native American stereotype at best, a complete jerk at worst. Episodes that are not Chakotay-centric frequently feature him gelded by Janeway. She enjoys hanging his testicles on a chain around her neck.

Robert Beltran was becoming more publicly vocal about his distaste for the show. In spite of the tight control paramount public relations kept on the smiley face that was supposed to represent the Star Trek production office, certain writers fired back. One can only imagine the tensions that were really going on. One assumes the marginalization of Chakotay is a direct result of Robert Beltran’s behavior. I will note two points in his defense. One, this is around about the time speculation grew that Janeway might be killed off because Kate Mulgrew wanted out. Yet she stayed until the end without her character ever being noticeably diminished. Two, “The Fight.” while Chacotay gets the stuffing knocked out of him the entire episode, it is quite a good script for Beltran. Written as an attempt to bury the hatchet, perhaps?

Note I call it a good script, and not a great one. It is written by Joe Menosky. He is about as avant garde as a television writer can be. “The Fight” is a prominent example. It is a weird, existential story that often comes across as style over substance, but its heart is in the right place. I suppose there is some satisfaction watching Chakotay getting punched in the face through much of it as well. I cannot say it does much for me. Surprisingly, I am not that sadistic. Go figure.

Voyager becomes trapped in a random phenomena called chaotic space in which the laws of physics do not apply. Shades of the Delphic Expanse, there. The aliens who live in chaotic space have no desire to harm those who get trapped, so they attempt to communicate with anyone who does to let them know how to escape. This time around, they can only communicate with Chakotay because he has an hereditary gene for senility. It was a gentic defect repaired before he was born, but it has always hung over him like a shadow because he watched his great-grandfather die a crazy old man.

His mind cannot handle the stress of listening to the loud cacophony of voices, so to deal with it, he keeps visualizing the conversation as a boxing match he recently fought on the holodeck. The *ahem* Maquis Marauder has a never before mentioned and hereafter completely ignored interest in boxing. It is supposed to visualize his fight against losing his mind, but it is tough to do that when the surreal sequence is crazier than a Keith Richards fever dream.

The fight is done in roughly the same style as the visions characters have when communing with the prophets on DS9 but far more manic and chaotic than the symbolic imager of the former. It has less impact as well, but I can see why it is done in such a hyperkinetic, quick cut manner. That is the way an intense boxing match is supposed to go. So it makes sense. It just does not translate well to television. The communication is successful, and chakotay follows the instructions to get the ship out safely.

“The Fight” has two prominent guest stars. Ray Walston returns as Boothby. He plays Mick to Chakotay’s Rocky. Walston was suffering from Alzheimer’s at the time, so there is an added poignancy to Chakotay’s fear of becoming senile like his great-grandfather. Speaking of, the great-grandfather is played by Ned Romero during a vision quest. Any hoary Native American you have seen on television or in movies is played either Romero or Graham Greene. They have both had long careers beginning in the days when westerns ruled television.

‘The Fight” is not a great episode by any stretch. It stands out for two reasons. One, it is incredibly weird. Two, it really is the last time in the series Chakotay has an episode all to himself. He figures prominently in others, of course, but he shares the spotlight with Seven. As we all know, Seven dominates any episode in which she has the spotlight for any length of time. I want to like it more than I can muster because of those reasons. As it is, one should watch “The Fight” merely to marvel that something as strange as its premise ever got on the air.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Anne Hathaway

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Doctor Who--"Closing Time"

I have always had a penchant for the Cybermen since discovering their heyday during the Second Doctor’s reign and again since their revival in the mid-’80’s. I am not certain I can say I like them more than the Daleks, but they are a refreshing change every now and then. Seeing their return in ‘Closing Time” was potentially exciting, but I have mixed emotions after viewing. The episode is highly entertaining, but not so much because the Cybermen were involved. It was all about the interaction between the Doctor, Craig, and Alfie.

The Doctor, knowing he is about to be killed, goes on a farewell tour the way the Tenth Doctor did before his regeneration. He stops by to visit Craig, whom he once shared a flat. Craig and his girlfriend Sophie have now moved into their own house and have a son named Alfie. The Doctor swears his is a social visit, but he becomes reluctantly intrigued by electrical power outages nearby that are centered on a department store.

The Doctor gets a job at the department store to investigate. Craig seems eager to help, partially because the Doctor’s ability to understand Alfie has kept him from being overwhelmed at babysitting all weekend while Sophie is out of town and partially because he suspects something is wrong with the Doctor emotionally. The interaction between the three is the heart of the episode. It provides for some sweet comedy gold with James Corden, a comedian with whom I am not very familiar, carrying on with what I assume is his usual antics. I think the moments when the Doctor is alone with Alfie were more amusing.

The two wind up capturing a Cybermat, but are forced to battle it yet again at Craig’s home. It is largely played for laughs. Some scenes in the short battle reminded me of Critters. Lord help me for that. Why do they call those things Cybermats, anyway? They should be called Cyberats. That is what they are. The Doctor reprograms the Cybermat to locate its masters. It does.

This is the point where the episode lags. The Cybermen have crashed centuries ago under the spot the department store was eventually built. The six of them have been biding their time building up strength to when they will conquer the Earth. Craig bursts in on the confrontation between them and the Doctor, and winds up in the conversion machine. He is fully turned into a cyber men, but rejects the conversion after hearing Alfie crying. So a father’s love for his son conquers the emotionless Cybermen. Call me cynical, but that is too corny for words. No other high emotion has helped any resist conversion in the past. While Craig’s emotional reaction fits in with the episode’s theme of him becoming a better father, I really wish it did not involve the Cybermen. They are tougher to defeat than that. Or at least they ought to be.

Two points tie ’Closing time’ in with the series story arc. One is the Doctor’s discovery amy is now a model for a print perfume advertisement. He has expressed concern that everyone around him is worse off for him being there. Amy’s obvious success without him confirms it, as he ducks out of the way when he sees her coming so she will not encounter him. The other is the set up for the Doctor’s murder, as we see the Silence and it allies kidnapping river Song and placing her at the lake in a space suit so she can kill the doctor as seen in the series premiere. We will catch all that in the series finale next week.

In spite of the lackluster way in which the Cybermen were dispensed with, “Closing Time” was entertaining. It was far more of a personal episode rather than an adventure. It might have been an improvement if some new aliens, or at least less prominent ones, had been used instead of the Cybermen. That would have taken away the only disappointing feature of the episode for me. Regardless, I have little to complain about. “Closing Time” is one of the best of the sixth series installments.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Formspring Question #262--Not in the Hunt-sman Edition

Jon Huntsman's economic policy is very conservative, but most tea party members hate him based on his pretty centrist social policy. Can the tea party still brand itself as economic-based movement?
The tea party does not like Jon Huntsman because he does not like the Tea Party. A quote from an appearance on This Week a while back:
“Right now, this country is crying out for a sensible middle ground. This is a center-right country; I am a center-right candidate. Right now, we’ve got people on the fringes.”
Why would the Tea Party support a candidate with an open contempt for them?

Huntsman is not a fiscal conservative anyway. As governor, he supported excessive environmental regulations and a cap and trade policy, He also supports the healthcare mandate forcing Americans to buy insurance. He may be proposing some conservative ideas while campaigning for president, but he is just pandering. The proof of how he would govern the country is to look at how he governed Utah. An economic conservative does not what his brand of state governance to go national.

Oddly enough, Formspring flagged this question as potential hate speech. Were they considering any mention of the Tea Party potentially hateful, or thinking the tea Party might be insulted? I do not know, because Formspring does not explain it flagging beyond labeling a question potential hate speech, but i thought it was interesting to note.

Full Metal Jacket Reach Around #117

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

Proof Positive links to Sasha Grey, Jessica Simpson, and Eve Myles.
Say Anything links to Sasha Grey, jessica Simpson, and Eve Myles.
Pirate's Cove links to FMJRA #115, Blogroll Spotlight #111, and Jessica Simpson.
Paco Enterprises links to Jessica Simpson.
Mind Numbed Robot links to Pat Robertson is Wrong Yet Again
Randy's Roundtable adds the eye to his FMJRA and links to tiffani Amber-Thiessen.
Teresamerica links to Jessica Simpson.
The Other McCain links to Scarlett Johansson, Hacked Photos, the FBI, and...Gillian Anderson?
Sentry Journal links to Pat Robertson is Wrong Yet Again.
Classic Liberal links to Heidi Montag, Abby Cornish, Natalie Portman, Eve Myles, and Kaley Cuoco.
Motor City Times links to Astroturfing.
Life Beyond Survival added the eye to it blogroll.
The Gormogons links to the Greta Van Susteren v. Tucker Carlson fued.

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--"Course: Oblivion"

There are not many episodes of VOY which merit a sequel. On that very short list, “Demons” is no where to be found. The very concept of an environmentally hostile planet creating duplicates of the ship and crew which can survive in that environment is one of those ideas so far out there, it is a bad on the surface. Yet said episode not only exists, but someone decided merit’s a second go around.

For the first act, we only have suspicions something is up. It features the wedding of tom and Torres--pant, pant, you shippers out there--and tom eventually wears lieutenant pips, not ensign, so he has not been demoted like the real Tom. The ship begins to literally deteriorate, which could arguably be the plot of a regular VOY episode. It is not until Torres grows ill and dies we learn something is up. Upon her death, the crew discovers they are the duplicates.

They are faced with a decision that does not seem so tough--go home, or proceed to Earth as planned. The former means salvation. The latter is certain death. Janeway, who suspects the crew will not survive the nine month journey back to the Demon Planet, presses on towards Earth. She faces a near mutiny as the crew begins to accept who they really are. They may have the memories of the real McCoys, but they belong on the Demon Planet. The crew begins dropping like flies, but Janeway does not yield until Chakotay keels over dead. Only then does she decide to turn around. Eventually, she succumbs herself, leaving Harry and a skeleton crew in charge. In a stroke of luck, they discover the real Voyager, but completely dissolve before help arrives. Okay, so it was a stroke of Harry’s hard luck, but luck nevertheless.

I have no idea what the point of “Course: Oblivion” is. From Janeway’s inexplicable obsession with continuing towards earth even though she and everyone else knows they will die if they do to the grossly cynical ending, I do not know what to make of it. It looks like it is nothing more than an excuse to show off the melting wax figure make up jobs on the actors as they slowly deteriorate. Those are impressive, mind you, but they qualify as window dressing. There needs to be something to say, or at the very least some action to satisfy viewers. All I got out of it is that janeway’s duplicate is even more homicidal crazy than she is. I hope that is not what I was supposed to get out of it.

There are other issues. It was a major plot point in “Demon” that duplicates could not leave the planet. So how are they traveling in space? If they are plotting the same course to earth as the real Voyager, how come they run into it while backtracking? Never mind that Voyager is twenty thousand light years ahead of where it should normally be thanks to the Borg warp coil boost. Perhaps ’course: Oblivion” was meant for earlier in the season, so the last issue might have been a moot point, but the fact is a problem is created by the episode order as aired. In better episodes, such can be overlooked. But not here.

I will grant that “Course: Oblivion” is marginally better than “Demons,” but that is not saying much. The make up work is impressive, but not enough to merit sitting through the episode. I was not even amused by Janeway’s even more than usual unhinged behavior. This is just a bad episode all around.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

A Chemically Inconvenienced Karen Gillan

I think tonight’s episode of Doctor Who is light on Amy and Rory, if they appear at all, but next week’s river song-centric episode requires an Alex Kingston photo dump. Ergo, the best Karen Gillan photo I have either goes up today or collects virtual dust on my hard drive until 2012. So it goes here and now.

Gillan has been tarrying at the vine a little too long here, for those of you with a drunk girl fetish.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Formspring Question #261--Primary Political Principle Edition

What political issue is most important to you?
Smaller government. I am supposed to say unemployment at the moment, but I do not have much faith in government action to save or create jobs other than by easing the burden of taxes and regulation on businesses so they can expand and hire new workers. So unemployment can best be solved with less government.

Less government is a myth, however. Leviathan grew even under Ronald Reagan’s watch. It did not expand as much as under some other free spending presidents of both parties I could name, but it still grew and always will. It is a melancholy feeling to know the option of shrinking government is forever off the table as a solution for boosting the economy. It is the best solution for boosting the economy.

I can appreciate if you were expecting me to answer with a social issue like abortion. Cultural issues are a hearts and mind problem. You have to change people on a personal level to cut down on the number of abortions, racial issues, and such. It is difficult for more to become enthusiastic anytime the government weighs in on such an issue even if it comes down on the my side of it. I cannot say any of them are a top political priority. They are personal and spiritual instead.

Formspring Question #260--DC's Blunder Edition

Action Comics #1 was first published in 1938, and got all the way to issue #904 before the blockheads at DC decided to restart numbering at #1. Isn't this the dumbest thing? After 73 years, they couldn't wait another 8 to reach issue #1000. If #1s sell [sic]
The rest of your question was cut off, sorry. There is a character limit on Formspring.

I think DC;s relaunxh with new #1 issues is dumb on two levels. First, it is a stunt attempting to convince fans they have a lot of chances to buy some highly collectible new comics, because first issues are coveted among collectors. Considering the slow death comics have been facing over the last decade, that is not a very good proposition. Second, there are 52 first issues at $3.99 each. Hardly anyone would buy an appreciable number of them even it they were not so expensive. It is overwhelming.

The real kicker is that Marvel tried this back in 1998 after the Heroes Reborn/Heroes Return stuff. Fans got upset about the new numbering as issues #500 came up for a lot of older titles, so they eventually switched back to the original numbering. It still was not the same for old school fans. I bet DC will do the same thing eventually, but fans will every bit as upset as we marvel Zombies were that things were screwed up in the first place.

Star Trek: Voyager--"The Disease"

“The Disease” is one of those truly awful VOY episodes in which I wish I could have sat in on the pitch session so I could see for myself whether the powers that be genuinely thought this was a good idea or if they were trying to kill the show so they could move onto a better project. The episode’s plot can be summed up in four words which should never be strung together: Harry gets an STD.

Casting aside for a moment the sheer stupidity of that idea, I have have two major objections in addition to it. One is the inspiration for the episode. It originally aired in late winter 1999. This is shortly after the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal wound down with Clinton avoiding a conviction on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. There is no direct commentary on the scandal in “The Disease,” but the timing is certainly not a coincidence. The other reason is the backdrop of the story. Voyager is aiding a generational ship, which is a fascinating staple of science fiction ripe with story ideas. But the generational ship has to take a backseat to Harry contracting a venereal disease. It is kind of like the writers said, “Let’s come up with a really good idea, then toss it aside in favor of a Porky’s movie.”

The voyager crew has been helping a xenophobic alien species known as the Varo with rebuilding their engine on their ship. The varo have been traveling for four hundred years. In that time, they have built onto their ship as needed in order to house their growing population. For whatever reason, they decided to add on in a a straight line, so cracks are also starting to form under the pressure. Or so it seems. There is actually a separatist group at were who is tired of living isolated lives, so they have manufactured a synthetic virus to eat away at the ship in strategic places in order to break it apart in separate ships so everyone can go their own way. But do not concern yourself with all that static. The episode is not about the illogic of xenophobia or allowing freedom of self-determination. It is about you know what.

Harry has fallen for a Varo named Tal in the two weeks he has been working on the ship. One night, in the heat of the moment, they sleep together. All of the sudden, it is a serious violation of the rules for a Starfleet officer to engage in a relationship with an alien even though it has been done numerous times before, including several times on VOY with impunity. Where did this rule suddenly come from? Wherever it originated, Harry knows of it and tries to cover up his affair, but cannot because the symptoms of his STD become too obvious to conceal.

By the way, this is the girl with whom Harry slept, Musetta Vander:He has taste, I will give him that.

The doctor is required to report the disease to Janeway. She comes down hard on him with an official reprimand and an order to break off the relationship. Both Harry and tal know their relationship will last only a few days anyway. They have a conversation about how they are going to go their separate ways regardless of their love for each other. In spite of that, Harry has a childish tantrum at Janeway for ordering him to break off the relationship. What right does she have to control his romantic relationships/ Well, according to Starfleet regulations, total control. She enjoys wielding it, too.

Tal turns out to be the leader of the separatist group, so all of harry’s insubordination--and there is more than one incident after the first sexual encounter--is all for naught. She forgets him and heads off to perform the formerly forbidden task of studying nebulae. (I looked it up. Spelled right, darn it.) Harry mopes, and Seven learns a lesson about love by indifferently observing his pain. *Sniff* It is so beautiful.

What an awful episode. Kenneth Biller writes yet another cellar dweller. There is absolutely nothing about this that explores Harry as it was obviously intended. He comes across looking like an immature teenager rather than an edgier man now that he has disobeyed orders over a woman. Even after that, I think the biggest sin is the wasted generational ship conflict, which probably would have made for an interesting episode itself, was an afterthought to break up the whiny Harry and his social disease saga. What a waste of time. This is why Garrett Wang stayed, but Jennifer Lein had to go? Seriously?

Rating: * (out of 5)

Jennifer Aniston and the Politics of Hollywood Marriage

Here is an interesting lesson for you on the sanctity of marriage, the justification for divorce, and the public relations surrounding both in Hollywood. Our star players in the sad drama are former It Couple, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston.

Brad Pitt gave an interview last week to Parade in which he spoke of his five year marriage to Jennifer Aniston. He told the magazine he was not living an interesting life at the time. He said he was tired of pretending his marriage was something it was not. The Pitt/Aniston pairing was considered the only Hollywood romance outside of alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger’s, which was going to last forever. Neither did, but the image is nice, right?

Pitt broke up his marriage with Aniston by cheating on her with his then costar of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Angelina Jolie. There was added knife twisting because the plot of the movie and the promotional campaign surrounding it had Pitt and Jolie as husband and wife spies and since Jolie was more popular than Aniston at the time, there was not exactly a unanimous outcry over the very public adultery.

Which brings us to where the whole sordid affair to where it really matters--the court of public opinion. Aniston’s people contacted Pitt’s people and demanded an apology and clarification. Aniston was not upset over the airing of their past dirty laundry, but of the risk Pitt’s comment about his marital boredom might be misinterpreted as implying Aniston herself was boring. Being boring is a much bigger crime these days than exposing one’s private life to public scrutiny. Mindful the cost of the boring label and probably Aniston’s emotional instability--she did buy a $ 5 million house after her dog died in order to escape the memories--Pitt obliged:
“It grieves me that this was interpreted this way. Jen is an incredibly giving, loving, and hilarious woman who remains my friend. It is an important relationship I value greatly,” Brad said in a statement.

“The point I was trying to make is not that Jen was dull, but that I was becoming dull to myself - and that, I am responsible for,” he added."
“Sorry, Jen. It’s me, not you. Can I promote my new movie, Moneyball, opening in theaters everywhere on September 23rd, now?”

Interestingly enough, “dear friend” is Hollywood speak for someone who is going to make you a lot of money. Draw whatever conclusions from that you can. I would guess bad publicity damage control. Moneyball has a baseball theme. What is the last baseball themed movie you can think of that made a lot of money? A League of Their Own? That was eighteen years ago. Moneyball needs all the help it can get.

So what have we learned, folks? Pitt cheats on Aniston with jolie causing a split in their allegedly faerie tale marriage. It is all right, though, because Jolie is on pace for sainthood due to her international charity work and the fact she is so darn hot. Aniston bounces from one weird relationship to the next. Each man dumps her and complains to the press she is clingy, needy, and otherwise kooky on her best days. In Aniston’s defense, that does not exactly sound boring. Then again, Jolie’s habit of picking a two year period of United Nation Security Council terms and adopting a kid from each member state with a GNP below $ 600 does not exactly sound like an exciting life for exciting so much as seeking out a justifiable reason for suicide. Maybe that is why they help each other keep up appearances.
To avoid any lack of equal time/"Ew...Jennifer Aniston is an over the hill butterface" issues, Angelina Jolie:(Part of The Other McCain's Rule 5 Sunday.)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Dark Frontier"

This is my lucky day--”Dark Frontier” is the first two hour episode in the history of Star Trek that is not a premiere or finale. Before anyone gets their panties in a wad, I consider DS9’s “The Way of the Warrior” a premiere because it adds Worf to the cast while shifting the emphasis of the series away from Bajoran and Cardassian religious/political strife. Supposedly, the airing of “The Killing Game, Part I/II” last season was so successful, the powers that be decided to film a movie. The truth is likely an attempt to shore up VOY’s sagging ratings and UPN’s falling fortunes by reintroducing the Borg and especially the Borg Queen.

Take you pick which rationale you think is the most likely, but ’Dark Frontier” throws in every popular notion available to the VOY creators. It could very well be subtitled The Last Temptation of Seven . The are huge, special effects laden battle sequences and borg settings. The Borg Queen is back for the first time since 1996. I cannot forget that Janeway is back and crazier than ever. Hypocritical, too. With the exception of some quite laughable budget saving bits, “Dark Frontier” is the ultimate VOY story.

The episode begins with a bang--literally. Voyager encounters one of those Twinkie shaped Borg ships and destroys it by beaming over a torpedo during one of the shield remoulations. Janeway decides to beam over the wreckage to see if anything can be salvaged. There is a treasure trove of technology and tactical data, including the exobiology notes of seven’s parents. When the tactical data identifies a borg sphere limping home after suffering damage in an ion storm, Janeway hatches a plan to attack the sphere and steal its transwarp core. With tramway technology, the crew can shave decades off their journey home.

I would not be doing my job here if I did not mention that Janeway is being a hypocrite here. She has punished members of her crew for hatching plans to use alien technology and power sources on more than one occasion. She has also risked everyone’s lives because she has refused to share their technology with the Kazon. She and Leonardo Da Vinci have risked themselves in order to recover technology stolen from Voyager. In many of the instances I just mentioned, the situation was dire, so Janeway either sacrificed more than is reasonable to maintain her principles, or recklessly took risks to recover stolen technology. Here, neither of those is true. She just tosses her principles to the wind and decides to steal something that will help them get home faster, but at a greater risk than any other time the issue has arisen. Ergo, she is hypocritical and crazy.

In the midst of the planning of the Ocean’s 11 caper, Seven sorts through her parents’ data on the Borg. Scattered throughout “Dark Frontier” are continuity busting flashbacks of the Hansens studying the Borga full decade before Q flung the Enterprise into the Delta Quadrant for the first encounter. (Do. Not. Mention. ENT. “Regeneration.” Thanks. This old comic book geek can only handle so much retroactive continuity without Roy Thomas to write a reconciliation of the inconsistencies. Kudos to anyone who gets that reference.) continuity issues aside, the flashbacks are effectively tense, as we know what tragic event they are moving us closer to viewing. They are very well done, right up there with the best of Lost.

Janeway runs her away team through holodeck simulations in order to get the robbery down pat. She worries because seven appears uncomfortable and hesitant. In a situation like this, that can get them killed. Janeway has good reason to worry. The Borg Queen has been secretly communicating with Seven. Bnow she has been given an ultimatum--rejoin the collective, or Voyager will be assimilated. Janeway, who is not aware of any of this, takes Seven off the away team. Seven, who still does not tell Janeway the whole story, argues until she is reinstated.

Remember I said there were a couple laughable budget saving moments? The first comes during the actual mission on the sphere. The exact same footage, which is not even redubbed with different dialogue, from the holodeck training scenario is used for the real McCoy. Star Trek reuses effects shots all the time, but entire sequences, dialogue included? I supposed it is supposed to indicate the away team is a well oiled machine, but still. The audience knows the real reason. New footage begins when, as Janeway is about to successfully flee with the transwarp coil, Seven opts to stay behind to rejoin the collective. The away team has no choice but to leave Seven behind. They are allowed to escape per the borg Queen’s agreement with Seven.

It is at this point “Dark frontier” really becomes interesting. The borg queen offers Seven--no pun intended--the best of both worldss. She can return to them, but keep her individuality intact. She is more valuable to the collective that way. But seven has sacrificed herself for the sake of saving the Voyager crew she feels a loyalty to them--a loyalty which is not being returned, by and large. Torres has gone through her personal logs to learn how to install the transwarp coil and is nonchalant about the personal violation because she has already written seven off. Neelix suggest shutting off Seven alcove to conserve energy. Chakotay essentially shrugs and says he always figured she would leave at some point. Indeed, it has only been recently Seven would avoid the Borg if given a choice. Now she is in a spot where she can go home, have pretty much the best way possible, but she is pulled by loyalty to a crew who does not give a crap about her. Joke is on her, too. The audience is the only one who knows how the Voyager crew feels.

I do not believe the writers intend for the crew to be so cold. Rather, I think the story is meant to be about the relationship between Janeway and Seven. It looks to be Janeway is the only one who cares seven is gone. We would not care about that as much if the rest of the crew were bummed, too. Of course, they do come across looking like selfish jackasses, but there you go. A lot of fans consier the Janeway/Seven relationship to be a surrogate mother/daughter one. I have felt more likr Seven was a personal project for janeway instead, but I am going to cast aside my cynicism over the issue for one thing--Naomi.

Naomi insists upon seeing janeway. She has become very attached to Seven, so has devised a rescue plan that actually has some merit, since it involves tracking Seven’s implants. Precocious kid. Janeway proves for the first time she actually possesses maternal instincts by honestly dealing with Naomi, assuring her Seven is not going to be abandoned, and allowin her in on the initial planning of the rescue. It is sweet and genuine, not a strained, emotionally fake encounter with a child like Picard would have. Or even Sisko, who is a father, but would still sternly demand Naomi be realistic about the situation. Seven could be halfway across the Delta Quadrant by now.

She is, by the way. The Borg have built on impressive city in space for the sake of…well, having a city in space. The Borg Queen has noticed seven’s less than enthusiastic response to rejoining them, so she sets up an assimilation scenario in which Seven will have to take part, even in the most superficial way, in order to survive. The borg attempt to assimilate a species of 200,000 people. Seven has to improvise a shield modulation in order to survive the initial attack. She cannot bring herself to aid in the actually assimilation. In fact, she helps the lone four survivors escape. This is the other busget saving bit. None of the four utter a word during the entire rescue sequence even though seven has a string of dialogue directed at them. Are they too frightened to speak? Nope. It is solely because if they have any dialogue, SAG rules says they cannot be paid at the lower level extras are. Heh.

Back on Voyager, they have managed to use Naomi’s idea to locate Seven and hook up the transwarp coil to the delta flyer in order to get there faster. They have even hooked up some techno babble shield Seven’s father used to get up close and personal with the Borg undetected. Chakotay warns the Hansens were assimilated because they got overconfident. Janeway replies tish tosh. She is just going to take the delta flyer into the heart of their territory, invade their biggest, most well defended city, fight her way to the queen’s throne room, rescue Seven, and get back out again. No over confidence there.

I guess there truly is not, because the plan works. In the throne room, Seven is faced with the choice of staying with the Queen, who has brought in her assimilated father to sweeten the deal, or Janeway, who is barking orders at her to leave with her. It sounds like seven is scrwedc either way. The tipping point is the Borg Queen’s intentions for seven. She is to help manufacture a slow acting nanotech plague on Earth which will slowly assimilate humanity. By the time the people figure out the plan was stolen from the Drakh on Crusade, it will be too late for Warner brothers to sue Paramount for plagiarism. Er..I mean humanity to save itself. Seven chooses to let Janeway boss her around, so they all escape safely. For good measure, the ending is Janeway ordering Seven to regenerate against her will. You made the right choice, Seven.

As a bonus, the transwarp coil works only just enough to shave twenty years off the journey before it burns out and can conveniently never be used again. So the risk was worth it, but we can still have two and a half more seasons because it will only work once. Pat the course for VOY.

“Dark Frontier” has some definite flaws. Janeway’s behavior is inconsistent with how she has acted before and will act in the future. The Hansens’ knowledge of the Borg ten years before anyone could have known about them is a big continuity glitch. The spectacular special effects scenes like the space battles, the Borg Queen assembling herself, and the city in space are impressive, and their obvious expense actentuates the cost cutting measures in several other scenes. Truth be told, the whole ending rescue has to be rushed because of timre constraints, so it stretches credibility to the breaking point with how easy it is to pull off successfully. seven never mentions saving her father would be nice, nor is she reunited onscreen with Naomi, which would also have been a nice touch. Whatever happened to that Drakh plague plot, too? The Borg never used it. Warner Brothers legal department must be quite resourceful to have reached into the Delta Quadrant.

Forget the flaws, though. “Dark Frontier” is really good in spite of them. Credit where credit is due, it does offer a solid exploration of Seven. I was a bit snarjky at times, but her inner conflict over who she is, who she wants to be, and where she belongs is the best we are going to get in the series. There is a goos mix of action and drama, as well. There is a lot going on, with a lot of different storytelling techniques--flashbacks, dream sequences, special effects shots, and reams of dialogue. At times, the episode feels overly kinetic, but it is still a cannot miss.

Rating: **** (out of 5)