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A new feature? Indeed yes, we’ll give it a shot.

Star Trek Voyager: Mortal Coil (Season 4, Stream here). I figured I’d start with an obscure choice. After all, Voyager was never even remotely hip, and very rarely tried anything too dangerous (or interesting) with the Star Trek formula. But this episode is a definite exception from the show’s most solid era, spanning the fourth and fifth seasons. Mortal Coil is a Neelix episode, which should be a further strike against it. But this is one of the rare times they used the character well–they kept trying to make him like Quark from Deep Space Nine, but the character always had too much of an edge to play that kind of role on the show, and this show makes great use of that edge for sure. In brief, this episode is just about the best exploration of faith and spirituality that Star Trek ever did, and might well be the best and most sympathetic treatment of atheism in the medium’s history (this might have something to do with the small sample size as well, though). In brief, Neelix dies early in the episode, is revived, but rather than feeling fortunate or lucky, he’s deeply angry about it, especially about having been “unnaturally” revived by Borg technology. In time we learn that the real reason he’s angry is because the one thing that kept him going after his entire family died in war, and throughout his entire life in fact, was this spiritual belief in an afterlife where he’d see them all again. Now he’s died and seen that there’s no such thing, and the episode is unsparing as he veers from anger to deep depression, trying to figure out how to deal with the loss of something so central to how he saw the world. Shockingly, Chakotay’s mystical religious thoughts do more harm than good, and he spirals downward. The ending nicely wraps up this story–ultimately, after all of this, you just have to go on living. Surprisingly sensitive and thoughtful for Voyager, or really for anything.

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Lev filed this under: ,  

I’m not really sure how they could have brought Twin Peaks back without him, honestly. Well, I guess they did try, sorta, with Fire Walk With Me. It suffered for that.

The spousal unit and I have been watching the show on the new Blu-Ray transfer. We’re now in the middle of the second season, just finished up the notorious “James On The Road” stretch. Those execrable scenes aside, it’s an interesting watch. What’s most clear is that there was no hand guiding the tiller at that point of the show, otherwise they might have, say, cut back on one or two of the half-dozen comic relief subplots running at once. But it is pretty amazing that the show managed to cycle from near-perfect to completely lost to near-perfect again two whole times during such a short run. I can’t wait to see what they do next.

Lev filed this under:  

Violence is bad. Violent censorship is deplorable. So is bigotry, and if you are in the habit of making conclusions about a group of over one billion people based on a couple of violent lone nuts (and don’t engage in the practice when, say, Eric Rudolph does his thing), then that’s what you’re doing by definition. Then again, it would also be bigoted if you were to conclude Christianity is fundamentally violent/evil based on Rudolph or McVeigh, but at least it would be consistent.


Pretty much the only thing that can be said of the Feinstein/Boxer two-and-a-half-decade tenure is that Boxer had the liberal voting record but not the PR smarts, while Feinstein had the opposite. This is why Boxer had reasonably close calls her entire career, electorally speaking, despite a mostly solid record, while Feinstein romped every time despite clearly being stuck in 1978, politically.

I’ll just link to this post, which a couple months ago speculated about this very eventuality. We’ll find out soon enough who’s interested in the job, but my guess for who wins would be Harris > Garcetti > Chiang > the rest. If only one of those three gets in, they’re the frontrunner. If more than one do, then you have my guess on how they’ll finish. If none do…I’d be pretty surprised. Not particularly worried about a tech executive or Newsom winning–California has historically not gone for the inexperienced businessperson for high political office (nor for House members usually). And Gavin Newsom just seems like a spent force to me.

Also, for the life of me I don’t really understand why progressives are turning Newsom into the second coming of Cory Booker. For one thing, he’s not nearly as conservative as Booker. I mean, we can do better, but he’s no supporter of school vouchers. For another, there’s no real reason to think he’s an especially strong force in California politics at the moment. He’s been on ice for a half a decade, his statewide victory was for an office nobody else really wanted, and in terms of personality and baggage he has real downsides. Anything can happen, obviously, but the guy seems pretty second-tier to me. It would appear that dubious apps aren’t the only things that can be hyped up when “Silicon Valley Money” is mentioned in conjunction with them. But as a longtime California politics watcher, money is not the only determinant of success here. It may seem like it given how essential paid media is in a state this big, but having a substantial enough base and great statewide connections matter much more, and the business candidates tend to fail because you can’t build these overnight. Newsom doesn’t really seem to have either of these, and didn’t exactly fundraise to beat the band when he ran for governor in 2010. Maybe he’s improved, but he might well be the most paper of tigers.

I’ve no idea how one would go about proving this, but I’ve often wondered how much a pure “Silent Generation” explanation of modern conservatism would get you. If you just assume those folks have on the whole always been reactionary, it sort of makes sense: the late ’40s and ’50s were when both were just starting to show up on the radar; gradual increase until they became the fat center of the population curve in the 1980s, followed by a palpable dip in influence in the 1990s before they became old folks and reasserted themselves (because old folks vote, you know). This is about as oversimplified as it gets but it does happen to fit the facts. It would be surprising if this wasn’t a part of the story of conservatism, the question is, how much a part?

If this was/is a big part of the story of conservatism, then it basically has two implications: (1) that the tough-on-crime, hawkish, neolib DLC pivot was completely hopeless and trying to solve an unsolvable math problem, and (2) that within a decade we’re going to see some interesting changes in the political outlook here.

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As we wait for the most horrible Congress ever to get onto the business of making us all grit our teeth, it’s worth going over to the font of all knowledge to be reminded exactly how few states have same-sex marriage bans left in action. This is genuinely unusual in a political environment where issues seem to never actually go away, let alone ones that a decade ago were considered by many to be basically life-and-death. Now they fall and nobody really cares. The Right basically gave up on this from the top-down, and the Left has come to regard all this as a foregone conclusion, so the individual bans going away is merely a formality.

What’s interesting to me about this is that it shows just how powerful the conservative media is in GOP politics. Their power of emphasis is so strong that, a decade ago, they managed to convince huge numbers of people that Western Civilization depended on these bans. And with a complete withdrawal of that emphasis, that same issue can become politically irrelevant. This is why I’m really interested in seeing what a presidential run by an absolutist on this like Mike Huckabee will do to this calculus. After all, ignoring the subject has worked well for elite Republicans who want to mix in gay-friendly circles, but it’s far from clear that there’s no constituency left to oppose SSM. Will Republicans be forced back into a more active opposition by having him (and perhaps others) out there on the hustings? Will that have a negative impact on the GOP’s image? It should be interesting to watch.

Pictured: NY Times Columnist Ross Douthat. He once wrote that the Times Square Mosque opponents had a morally correct case. People, for some reason, continue to take him seriously.

Earlier last year, I was wondering if 2014 was going to have another “9/11 Mosque” and what it might be. Remember that? Remember that supremely critical issue that Republicans made an enormous deal out of right up until the day after the election, where all interest in it petered out? I thought ISIS was initially going to fill that gap, but no. It was ebola, which truly has to qualify as just about the stupidest overreaction to a nearly nonexistent health risk ever. Until the election ended, at which point, the efforts made by qualified professionals became perfectly adequate, no need to fear.

As always, attacking the “mainstream media” needs to be done with some care, as there are still plenty of people in that apparatus doing fine work. But a systematic view shows an alarming susceptibility to right-wing fearmongering that Democrats need to confront at key times. Unfortunately there are still far more Bruce Braleys in the Democratic Party than Elizabeth Warrens, i.e. people who seem to have Sorkinian views of the media outnumber the pragmatists. But that’s changing.