Review: Altered Carbon

{Ed. note: Another thing languishing in my Drafts for multiple years.  Maybe I thought I’d be expanding it?  Clearly I won’t, so here it is.}

I’ve finished all of (season one?) of Altered Carbon, and have reached the conclusion that it is decidedly … adequate. It’s so-so cyberpunk and so-so noir, desperately trying to be distinct from Blade Runner while simultaneously desperately wanting to be Blade Runner.

Spoilers below the fold.

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My manifesto

{Editor’s note: This has been sitting in my Drafts since early 2017 but seems as appropriate now.}

You want an ACTUAL political revolution? You want to take back our democracy or “make America great again”? Then here are the vitally important but unsexy changes you should be advocating:
* minimal obstacles to voting
* true, non-partisan, proportional redistricting
* adequate — no, expansive — funding of research organs of government, to give legislators advice and education independent of corporate lobbying
* meaningful enforcement of anti-monopoly and anti-monopsony laws, at all levels of the economy
* effective isolation of legislators (and aides) from lobbyists and corporate interests — no taking their money in office, no taking a cushy job after being in office.

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Doctor Who Season 9 Episode 10: Face the Raven

Spoilers abound, so if you, like me, are watching this over a year late {ed. note: now more like seven years}, be warned.

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Family Values

{Editor’s note: Whoof, this is an oldie that’s just sat in my Drafts for — seven(!) years, for no good reason.}

As predictable as the rising of the Sun, a figure on the right has assailed same-sex marriage equality as an “assault on families”.  I am so tired of this.  You know what undermines families?  Thirty years of

  • trade policies that eliminate high-paying middle class jobs
  • immigration policies that create a permanent underclass in fear of the law and unable to resist demands of their employers
  • education policies that destroy public schools and public universities to trap people in low-paying jobs.
  • labor practices that eviscerate unions and the power to bargain collectively.
  • economic policies that force parents to work two or three jobs to provide basic necessities for their children

You know what doesn’t undermine families?

  • Allowing two people who love each other to join their households with the sanction of the state.
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Strange New Worlds: All Those Who Wander

A bug hunt.  How I hate bug hunts.

Spoilers for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1 Episode 9 “All Those Who Wander”.

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Strange New Worlds: The Serene Squall

What can I say?  They can’t all be winners…

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Sixteen years

Still going.  I’ve been writing this blog on and off — really, mostly “off”, but hey — since this date in 2006.  That’s weird to think about.

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Strange New Worlds: Spock Amok

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds continues to impress. “Spock Amok” has all the ingredients for an epic disaster, yet…

(spoilers ahead, Captain!)
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More inanity from the author of “Ending Online Church”

This piece (7 Thoughtful Reader Responses on Ending Online Church, NY Times, 2022 Feb 6) reeks of the same dismissive (and unimaginative) hubris as the first. With obvious great reluctance, the author admits – halfway through and fleetingly – that whole swaths of people are necessarily and deliberately left out by in-person worship. It’s nice to see that acknowledged, rather than blithely downplayed (“churches have been dealing with the homebound for centuries”), but the author is clear to inoculate her arrogance by first showcasing a convenient “we’re immunocompromised but agree 100%” story that gets paragraphs, before tucking away the counter argument in a short bit sandwiched between two “you’re so right” pieces. Seven insightful responses but only one that can be read as disputatious. But what struck me the most was the “insightful” response that the author chose to emphasize by putting first and at length:

I am 76 years old … [and] not frightened by Covid, whose main harm is that it causes increasing community isolation

7 Thoughtful Reader Responses on Ending Online Church

Its main harm is increasing isolation? Its main harm? There are roughly 900,000 (and counting!) dead Americans who might disagree with your analysis, doctor, not to mention the literal millions who are “isolated” from their loved ones by having seen them die from this disease.

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Crossing timelines: Revisiting the Sixth Season of Doctor Who

Watching “A Good Man Goes to War” led me to re-watching “The Wedding of River Song“, and of course that led back to “The Impossible Astronaut” and the start of Season 6. So it’s out of order — so what? It’s a show about a time-traveling big blue police box. Watching it doesn’t have to be linear.

I think Season Six is my favorite season, and Matt Smith is my favorite Doctor. They’ve all been great but Smith’s Eleven is the one whose Doctor seems to be having the most fun. Eccleston‘s Nine is haunted and gloomy, and Tennant‘s Ten is much too the wounded bird. I like Capaldi‘s Twelve but let’s face it — Clara Oswald drags him down, down, down the rankings. Not his fault but you can’t really separate a Doctor from his/her companions. Whittaker’s Thirteen is sharp, too, but just sometimes feels like she’s trying too hard, or rather the writers are — and Chibnall simply doesn’t have it together as much as Moffat (and let’s face it, Moffat was madly juggling plates thrown in the air by Davies).

But Smith is having fun, and his Doctor is having fun, and Steve Moffat is beyond doubt having fun — he’s the showrunner/writer who most gets that this is a show about time travel and it doesn’t have to make sense but it all has to hang together (if you know want I mean).  Sure, a lot of the plot of “The Impossible Astronaut” / “Day of the Moon” doesn’t quite hold up and the motives and actions of both the aliens and the humans are slightly askew.  But some of the plot holes (like, why does the Silence keep letting Amy escape) turn out later in the season not to have been plot holes at all.  And the romance between the Doctor and River Song is, quite literally, one for the ages. (I know, I know, it’s a broken base issue but I like it.)

I have to admit, though, that the coolest bit of “The Impossible Astronaut” / “Day of the Moon” — cooler even than the Moon landing or its use within the show — is, without a doubt, Canton Everett Delaware III. Alright, the name could’ve used a tweak, but the character is played by Mark Shepard and that pays for all. Mark Shepard is the link among dozens if not hundreds of sci-fi and genre shows, and he’s always something to watch — from Badger on Firefly to Jim Stirling (like the machine gun, not the engine) on Leverage. Heck, I’d probably watch Mark Shepard read the phone book.

Actually, let me amend. Mark Shepard is the second-coolest bit. The coolest bit — and this runs throughout the whole season — is the score. Murray Gold hits it out of the park and into orbit. It’s extraordinarily listenable and memorable, even divorced from the particular episodes. Not many original scores can achieve that. Once you know the soundtrack, watching the episodes is even richer. In the moment, the score is subtle (usually), hovering in the background. But at the crucial times it soars, and Gold captures in audio exactly what adventuring with the Doctor would be.

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