WWJD (What Would Jack Bauer Do)?

Lego

We had an interesting discussion last week while watching Flash. They had to get Killer Frost to betray someone in order to save their friends. They talked and talked and talked and finally got the info they needed, but time was of the essence. I expressed the opinion that they should have shot her in the arm and then kept smacking it until she gave them the info. My husband said ‘You’ve been watching too much 24. That’s what Jack Bauer would do.’

Which brings me to the point of this post: Rules of War. Should there be any? If you are civilised enough to worry about rules of war then you’re civilised enough to sit down and sort out your differences without resorting to violence. Like no bombing civilians. Why not? Because they didn’t sign up for it? How are they less deserving of violence than a conscripted army who also didn’t sign up for it, or an army made of people who only did sign up because there were no other jobs available to them? It was put very well in the DS9 episode, In the Pale Moonlight. Sisko wants the Romulans in the Dominion war, on the Federation’s side, and reluctantly approaches Cardassian ex-spy Garak for help. Garak arranges a Romulan ship to blow up and for the Dominion to be implicated. Naturally the Romulans sign up immediately, but Sisko is horrified at the price.

“That’s why you came to me, isn’t it captain? Because you knew I could do those things that you weren’t capable of doing. Well, it worked. And you’ll get what you wanted: a war between the Romulans and the Dominion. And if your conscience is bothering you, you should soothe it with the knowledge that you may have just saved the entire Alpha Quadrant, and all it cost was the life of one Romulan senator, one criminal… and the self-respect of one Starfleet officer. I don’t know about you, but I’d call that a bargain.” – Garak

Garak knows that as long as it is war, there should be no boundaries.

War, historically, has been down to honour culture which (at least among males) has been dominant. Honour equals physical domination so there was no incentive not to go to war. In medieval Europe war was baked right into the culture. The entire noble class, that was what they did. If you didn’t make war on each other, you went on crusade and made war on some foreigners. But we’re better than that now. We understand that honour does not derive from the ability to beat the tar out of the other guy. So why do we still go to war? I suppose it must be that we like it. Or at least certain people like it. The military industrial complex likes it, but I’m sure the civilians who get bombed have differing opinions, as do mothers who send their sons off by the planeload.

 

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Pretty Little Wizards

little wizards

It’s probably not a good thing that before I caught the first episode of The Magicians last week, I was already predisposed to the fact that I wouldn’t like it. I’d read about half the book before I bailed. None of the characters were likeable and I didn’t see the point carrying on when I didn’t care what happened to any of them. However my husband thought it looked cool from the commercials and I thought it might be better in a different medium, so we recorded the first two episodes. It is better, but only just.

Now, to be fair, is it is visually beautiful. The costumes, the set dressing, and the locations are all very well done. But the characters are just as obnoxious as they were in the book. If you are not familiar with The Magicians, imagine if JK Rowling’s books were all set in the US, Hogwarts was a university instead of a high school and Harry and his friends were all colossal douchebags and you pretty much have it. While nothing exists in a vacuum, it is highly derivative of Harry Potter. And Narnia. And Star Wars. I’m sure all of these criticisms were bandied about when the books (I believe there’s more than one) first came out.

The idea of Brakebills (the magic school) being a university is actually quite an interesting one. I often wondered why, in the Harry Potter Universe, magical education stopped when you left high school and then continued on some sort of ad hoc apprenticeship basis. Wouldn’t Hermoine or Snape (or even the Weasley twins), with their innovative, theoretical minds, have benefited from four more years of actual education? (Wouldn’t magic have benefited from it? The magic in HP seems written for maximum quirkiness and a wilful blindness to modern society.

But the flaw in The Magicians are the characters, who seem to be the people you tried to avoid in high school, ultra cool stuck-up types who tend to look at you as if you were something unpleasant they stepped in. Even the MC, who is ostensibly supposed to be sympathetic, is unlikable. I guess, looking at it realistically, being able to do actual magic is going to give you a bit of an attitude, so it might not be that surprising. Still, I plan on watching in hopes it will grow on me.

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Bromance of the Week

bromance

Just when I thought Gotham couldn’t get any better, Edward met Oswald. These two are each fantastic on their own, but together they’re really something special. I loved the interaction between them on the most recent episode and I look forward to more of it. A lot more of it.
The show itself has just gone from strength to strength. The design decisions and the cinematography are spectacular. The characters are great. The non Penguin/Riddler actors are fantastic, especially Sean Pertwee (Alfred) & Camren Bicondova (Selina Kyle – where did they find her!?!). I am not a DC person, I’m not really a comic book person, but for a show I intended to just casually glance at for a few weeks, I really can’t say enough about this show.

 

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Don’t mention the war

ice cream

There was a teeny bit of internet outrage a few weeks back over a question at the Miss Italy pageant. Apparently a contestant was asked in what year she would most liked to have lived and she said 1942. Her great-grandmother had told her stories of her time during the war and she thought it sounded interesting. Needless to say she was piled upon by the twitterati who told her she didn’t know what she was talking about.
No one doubts that WWII was a horrible time for most of the people involved. But you do hear stories of people, mostly on the home front which is where I assume this woman’s great-gran would have been, who had the time of their lives during WWII, and who found life quite boring and stifling once the war was over. Who is to gainsay this woman and say she didn’t enjoy her war experiences? And clearly she passed her interest and enthusiasm on to her great grand-daughter
To be fair, I doubt that there’s any time and place she could have chosen that wouldn’t have pissed someone off. There is literally no good answer to this question as by any measurable standard people, especially women, have never had it so good as we do now. Any period would involve a diminishment in lifestyle, and certainly in lifespan. My bestie is a huge Jane Austin fan and frequently waxes poetic about how great it would be to live back in Regency times. She is not an idiot. She knows that women were utterly at the mercy of the men in their lives and bartered like cattle, and even that limited world portrayed in the Jane Austin novels only applied to a certain class of society. But still she wants the unflattering dresses and competition for her very own Mr. Darcy. For myself, despite my consuming interest in the middle ages, there is no way you could induce me to live back then.

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Dear new Star Trek, please don’t suck.

tas

There’s a new Star Trek series coming in 2017. I do not care what era it is set in (though I would prefer it was not JJ’s alternate universe) provided it is good. Here are 7 things that the new series needs to do:

1. Use real science fiction writers. The original series did this and that’s why the stories are remembered fifty years later. In fact quite a few current SF writers were turned on to SF by Star Trek, so it would be nice to bring it full circle.

1a. If you’re using real writers, make sure one of them is Peter David. It’s long past time he was given a proper crack at the franchise.

2. Don’t rely on cameos from the other series. It draws in viewers in times of lean ratings but it’s a cheap gimmick and it’s weak. By all means reference them in passing, in dialogue, as the legacy of Kirk, Spock and Picard is epic in the Federation, but be your own show. Boldly go.

3. Stay true to the optimistic tone of Star Trek. I get it, post apocalyptic & grimdark is all the rage but one of the most popular things about Star Trek was that it saw hope for humanity. Surely there’s a way to write that for modern jaded palates that doesn’t come out twee.

4. Embrace new TV memes of evolving characters and universes. One of the hallmarks of Trek was the A to B to A evolution of individual episodes. There was the status quo, a problem presented itself, the problem was solved, and at the end everything was pretty much back to the way it was at the start of the episode. Now on TV, story arcs reign, characters develop and die, and situations change permanently. Star Trek needs this.

5. Cut back on the technobabble. I realise it’s got to sound a little futuristic, but don’t pepper everything with gibberish fuelled deus ex machina endings. Good writing will solve this.

6. Make it for Trekkies. If you make it good, word of mouth will drive viewership, whether people are Trekkies or not. But if you water it down to the point where it could be any generic SF show you will lose your core audience. Look at Battlestar Galactica. I would imagine only the smallest percentage of people who watched that show were fans of the original.

7. The universe is deep, explore it. There have been 4 series and 10+ movies that are considered canon. There’s enough material there to keep decent writers going for years. Don’t show us the same old same old.

I would also say that the thing they do not need to do is bow to political correctness for the sake of it. By all means have an LGBT character, but make it a part of their overall makeup as if it were *gasp* real life. Don’t have a black, trans engineer just to show us how hip you are.

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Feeding Vaal

Vaal

After a particularly trying week at work where I seemingly did nothing but input orders into the system (normally a very small part of my job) I was reminded of the original Star Trek episode The Apple. In that episode, the aliens of the week were in thrall to a machine, Vaal, which they spent all their time fuelling in return for food and shelter. If they were even a little bit late with their offerings the machine would cause thunder, lightning & ground tremors terrifying the populace.

Of course along come Kirk & co, blah, blah, blah, free will, and the next thing you know Vaal is dead and the aliens are freed to learn more of this Earth thing called kissing.

It occurred to me that Vaal is the perfect metaphor for capitalism. People must constantly feed the machine, which controls us all, in return for our daily bread and Kardashian gossip nuggets. Any slacking off is rewarded with dire economic predictions and terrorist threats in order to keep the proles in line.

Compliance will be rewarded, conformity is good. Consumption is king.

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The Cake is a goddamn lie!

halloween-blood-cake1

I once moderated a panel at a Star Trek convention that discussed the path our society needed to take in order to end up at the utopian society of the Star Trek universe. The panelist to my right said something to the effect that in order to achieve the Star Trek universe, both religion and nationalism had to go. Particularly irked were two Americans in the audience, one of whom suggested that anyone trying to take his religion could take it up with the business end of his semi automatic weapon. He actually said that. And these were fans. Discussing a TV show. (The panel only got more heated from that point BTW, and I was put off moderating for quite some time.) So I know it shouldn’t surprise me at this point that others take their respective hobbies so seriously, but it does.

I had to make a cake to take over to my mom’s. Now, I generally just use a cake mix, but this time I thought I would be marginally less lazy & make one from wholesome ingredients, so I scrolled through Pinterest looking for a basic white cake recipe. There were about a hundred possibilities on the first page alone but I followed a link to a site where a blogger was comparing three different recipes she had found online. She had baked three cakes and set up a taste test with family members. I read the post & the results of the taste test & found my winner. But in reading further on the site I found a thread where she had done a previous taste test which hadn’t gone so well. Apparently one of the recipes she had tested, which had come third of three, upset the originator of the recipe. A back and forth comment war ensued, down to such trivialities as the tester not having done the test in a heart shaped pan, which the recipe in question was optimised for. (With my cake mix level of baking skill, I can’t imagine what difference a heart shaped pan makes, but the recipe author was quite insistent.) No one threatened to pull a gun, but it was quite a war of words over cake. Cake.

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