Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Heroes: All that Shape-Changes Remains the Same?

Episode 3.21 of Heroes last night ... featuring all four Petrillis in two threads, and Danko and Sylar in another.

All three were compelling, but the Danko and Sylar was the most surprising, and carried the important lesson that true evil cannot easily outgrow itself - that is, if Sylar isn't carrying out some sort of complex deception...

As it is, we see Sylar and Danko first clashing, but then joining forces to bring down a shape shifter. Sylar outwits the shape shifter, and ends up (of course) taking his powers. Even more important, Sylar seems to be joining Danko in the campaign to eradicate all the heroes. Will the contest then come down, in the end, to Sylar vs. Danko?

Likely not, since Sylar and Danko, powerful as they are, won't succeed. Mama Petrilli is drawing her family together, and Nathan and Claire are about as close as they've ever been.

Not to mention that Hiro has regained at least one of his powers, and there's still the third Ali Larter sister out there somewhere.

It's been a good season for Heroes - a lot better than last year's - and it will be fun to see how it's wrapped up...




See also Heroes Gets Lost ... Heroes 3 Begins: Best Yet, Riddled with Time Travel and Paradox ... Sylar's Redemption and other Heroes and Villains Mergers ... Costa Nuclear ... Hearts of Gold and the Debased ... Seeing the Future Trumps Time Travel ... Superpowered Chess with Shifting Pieces ... Villains and Backstories ... The Redemption of Sylar ... Thoughts on the Eclipse, Part I ... The Lore of the Comic Book Store ... Hiro's Time Traveling Closure ... Augmented ... Shades of Recalibration ... Baby, Rebel, and Last Fantasy




For Liberty Ron Paul Documentary Trailer - I'm Quoted about Media Misundertanding of the Constitution

Trailer for the For Liberty - How the Ron Paul Revolution Watered the Withered Tree Of Liberty documentary by Chris Rye & Corey Kealiher about the Ron Paul 2008 Presidential campaign, due out in August 2009. I appear at 1 min 26 seconds into the trailer, saying "The media are almost incapable of reporting and even understanding the Constitution..."



My New New Media book, also due out this summer, will have an in-depth discussion of Ron Paul's coverage on the Web versus mainstream media.

More details about On Liberty over here.

Monday, March 30, 2009

24 Season 7 Hour 16: Prions and Posses

Another top-notch sizzling hour of 24 - Season 7 Hour 16 - tonight, with a big twist that I guessed (but that's ok) and some bad news which I know will be ok, and I'll explain why.

First, the bad news - Jack's been infected with the mad-cow disease prion pathogen. He's still not showing any symptoms, but coming attractions for next week show him collapsing. I predict he'll be ok - 24 won't kill off Jack Bauer - but not before he's in pretty bad shape, and we'll probably see Kim again. But he'll survive, and I think this will be the way: Jack was in Sengala, where the pathogen was developed. He was exposed there to a little of it, and developed some antibodies, and those will kick in at the last moment. (I know the prion isn't a bacterium, but, hey, we don't really know how our bodies might react to some slight, initial exposure - maybe we can build up some kind of immunity.) In any case, though, and for whatever reasons, Jack will survive.

Now the twist: Hodges' man Seton kills the guard who's about to kill Tony, and tells Tony he thinks Hodges has gone too far, and must be stopped. The whole ensuing government attack on Starkwood is based on this information, and on Seton's precise identification of where the WMD is being held and prepped - which turns out to be false. Of course, it was - with eight hours to go, getting the bad guys couldn't have been that easy. And we were given a few good clues - mainly, that Hodges didn't seem too worried when he was told the FBI attack force was just a few minutes away.

Other good beats in Hour 16: President Taylor is willing to send in the Navy Seals, even though it violates the posse comitatus prohibition about U.S. military deployed as a police force on domestic soil (without a court order). Given the imminence and immensity of the threat, that was the right call.

And, it was good to see Renee moving closer to Jack. She thinks that Jack did the right with the security guard last week, and is deeply affected when she learns Jack has been infected....

Eight hours to go!







See also: Hours 1 and 2 ... Hours 3 and 4 ... Hour 5 ... Hour 6 ... Hour 7 ... Hour 8 ... Hour 9 ... Hour 10 ... Hours 11-12 ... Hour 13 ... Hour 14 ... Hour 15






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sarah Connor vs. Death in Two Forms

In the Terminator 3 movie, we learn that Sarah Connor died of cancer (leukemia) in 1997 (after the original Judgment Day). In Episode 1.2 of the alternate-timeline current television series, Cameron tells Sarah that she died of cancer in 2005 - Sarah, John, and Cameron have time leaped from 1999 to 2007...

Episode 2.20 focuses, in part, on whether Sarah has not only leaped past her death, but left it in the past. Her body, in the first place, succumbed to cancer. But perhaps the trip through time changed something in her bio-chemistry, some subtle change in her generation of cells which bypassed the cancer. Her stress level has certainly been high after the time jump, but it was high before. No difference there. But could there have been some healing effect in the time travel itself...

Sarah discovers a lump in her breast. This brings her closer to Charley Dixon - Sarah has brought John there for some safety - but the lump turns out to be a tracking device...

Which brings us and the story back to the death that hunts not only Sarah, but John, Cameron, Derek, and everyone trying to stop Skynet, every minute. Charley once again becomes part of this fight. He heroically fights off of a Terminator attack long enough to save John...

Two more episodes left in Season 2 of The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and it's getting better with every episode.



See also 2.1 Cameron's Back ... 2.2 Firing on All Cylinders ... 2.3 Who, Truly, Is Agent Ellison? ... 2.4: Meet Allison ... 2.5: Unpacking the Future ... 2.6: Terminator Mom, Human Daughter ... 2.7: The Saving Robbery and Cromartie ... 2.8 Perspectives and Death ... 2.9: An Idiot's Guide to Time Travel in The Sarah Connor Chronicles ... 2.10: Riley Lashes Out at Facebook ... 2.11: Cameron Meets A. E. Housman and Andre Bazin ... 2.12 Sarah Connor Chronicles in Triple Time ... 2.13: Space, Time, and Blogging in The Sarah Connor Chronicles ... 2.18: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and the Life of Riley








The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Friday, March 27, 2009

Obama's Missed Opportunity at Online Townhall

I enjoyed Barack Obama's online townhall meeting yesterday - the first ever, and a good thing for democracy, as have been so many other innovations in new media communication initiated in the Obama campaign and continuing now in his governance. (See my New New Media book, due out in September from Penguin/Pearson, for more.) But I think Obama missed a significant opportunity when he joked about the question about legalizing marijuana and the impact of that on the economy, and answered definitively "no".

To be clear, I'm not saying that Obama should have answered "yes," or that he was wrong to smile when he answered the question. But I am saying that I think this is a serious, significant issue, which deserves careful consideration.

Billions of dollars a year are spent on enforcing anti-marijuana laws, and billions of dollars could be made via taxation of legalized weed. Money is certainly not the only issue here, but that's a lot of money, especially in these times.

And then there's the deepest issue, in my view: does the government have the right to tell a consenting adult what to do with his or her own body? Why is prohibition of cannabis ok, while prohibition of alcohol or tobacco or caffeine is not?

For those who are interested, by the way, the only one of the above I ingest several times a day is caffeine, in the form of tea. I have a glass of wine every now and then, and have never smoked - weed or tobacco. I don't like smoke. I like my mind just the way it is, for better or worse.

But who cares what I like or don't like? What counts, if you are a compos mentis adult, is what you like - as long as you don't impose your likes on anybody else.

And it's equally wrong for the government to impose such laws on adults.

Barack Obama should take another look at the benefits of legalizing marijuana - ethical as well as financial.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lost 5.10: The Impossible Cannot Happen

A taut, perilous episode 5.10 of Lost tonight, in which we retrace some of the key elements of Sayid's life - including the first flashback of the season, showing us Sayid as a boy, flexing his killing muscles on a chicken in Tikrit for family dinner - and concluding with Sayid sprung from Dharma-ville prison by Ben as a boy, after being sentenced to death...

Sayid back in 1970s Dharma-town has caused problems for Sawyer, who doesn't want to kill Sayid. But his Dharma colleagues do, and Sawyer therefore tries to spring Sayid - who refuses -

But that's not the really perilous part, which arises when we and Sayid fully realize the reason that he's back in this time and place. Boy Ben sets Dharma on fire, a distraction to allow Ben to free Sayid, in return for Sayid's agreement to take Ben to the Hostiles (Ben thinks Sayid is one of them). Sayid agrees. Why would he do that, after refusing Sawyer's offer?

We can see the answer coming, like a slowly, inexorably moving Mack truck though time. Sayid is going to kill young Ben - to nip all of this insanity and horror in the bud. Except, Sayid apparently doesn't know, realize, or care that, if he kills young Ben, then Sayid could not be there to kill Ben in the first place, since Sayid is there with gun in hand as a result of what Ben as an adult did to Sayid and everyone else.

In other words, Sayid's killing Ben would pitch Lost into a paradox of enormous proportions, that would change the life stories of just about everyone we know on the show.

Choice 1: At the instant of young Ben's death, most of the people we know - Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Juliet, etc - change into Jack2, Kate2, Sawyer2, Juliet2, etc. In this time-altered world, Dharma is not destroyed by Ben. Oceanic 815 might crash, but the survivors will be dealing with Dharma, not The Others. Juliet might be brought to the island, but not due to Ben ...

It's an intriguing possibility, but Choice 2 is far simpler and easier to comprehend: Young Ben is not killed.

Tonight, however, we see Sayid shoot young Ben at point blank range.

We'll find out more next week, but I'm guessing the impossible won't be allowed to happen on Lost - young Ben will survive the wound... (either by normal medical means, or, who knows, maybe via some kind of resurrection like Locke)...

One more thing about time travel: Did Oldham, the Dharma torturer, remind you a little of Faraday - an older version of Faraday? Nah, couldn't be...

PS added March 26, 2009
: It occurs to me that, if anyone dies as a result of Sayid's shooting of Ben, it could be Sayid. He's lost the love of his life, and has nothing left to live for. He's struggled all of his life to control his killing, and he gave into it when he shot Ben. Sayid might take his own life. Or, Dharma will go ballistic if they catch Sayid after shooting Ben - they have no idea what Ben has in store for Dharma. Even Sawyer won't be able to protect him.







5-min podcast review of Lost 5.10




More Lost - see
: The Richard-Locke Compass Time Travel Loop ...

and Lost Returns in 5 Dimensions and 5.3: The Loops, The Bomb ... 5.4: A Saving Skip Back in Time ... 5.5 Two Time Loops and Mind Benders ... 5.6 A Lot of Questions ... 5.7 Bentham and Ben ... 5.8 True Love Ways ... 5.9 Two Times and a Baby ... 5.11 Clockwork Perfect Time Travel






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Obama's Press Conference: Speaking When He Knows What He's Talking About

I thought the high point - in terms of communication policy - of President Obama's press conference, just concluded, was his response to a jibe from CNN's Ed Henry about why Obama took a few days to express his outrage over the AIG bonuses. Obama's response: "It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak."

Good for Obama - refreshing in a President and a politician.

Obama also showed an admirable sensitivity in his answer about adult vs embryonic stem cell research: he takes no pleasure in stirring up controversy. If and when science can provide through adult stem cells, what it currently can through embryonic, then Obama would be happy to go the adult stem cell route - as would everyone.

As for the economy, Obama stood his ground about not sacrificing health care, new energy sources, and other key steps to a better America, on behalf of keeping spending down.

And, although Obama didn't explicitly say this, I will: balancing the budget is not the most important goal of the Federal government. Instead, as FDR and John Maynard Keynes realized, and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman has been repeatedly urging, the goal should be to spend as much money as needed to reboot the economy. Once that happens - as Obama did say - then all the other financial problems, including the budget deficit, will be more easily resolved.

The United States of America, after all, is neither an individual nor a company. Not even a municipality. We have never gone bankrupt, nor will we - unless we allow the country to get browbeaten by pursuit of balanced budgets.

Heroes Baby, Rebel, and Last Fantasy

An unusually sensitive and personal Heroes 3.20 last night, which featured Matt Parkman's baby and his superpower, the identity of Rebel, and the fate of Matt and Daphne.

Matt's baby is great - he has "touch and go" power, as Hiro puts it, and he can use it to turn on television or Hiro's lost power over time. The scenes with Hiro, Ando, and Matt's baby were one of the best in the series, crackling with great one-liners from Hiro, along the lines of "heroes are supposed to change the world, not diapers".

And in another well-played family moment, Tracy meets her nephew, Mica - who turns out to be Rebel. A very nice touch. Mica makes Tracy see that being out for only herself is not the way to go, and she sacrifices herself to save Rebel. Her ice-self is shot point blank by Danko (Željko Ivanek - he of at least four current or very recent series, Heroes, Big Love, True Blood, and, last year, Damages). But she winks after being shattered - and there's always the third sister - so, one way or another, we'll be seeing more of Ali Larter on Heroes, which is all to the good.

But the denouement of 3.20 is sad. Daphne is rescued, seems to recover from her wound, and parts with Matt. But that's not the sad part. He goes after her. Tells her he can fly ... shows her. But she realizes Matt has put this story in her head as a way of making her last minutes happy. In reality, she dies.

But this was a great if sad way of ending their story, and Heroes continues to carve out a deeper groove in our emotions and imaginations.



See also Heroes Gets Lost ... Heroes 3 Begins: Best Yet, Riddled with Time Travel and Paradox ... Sylar's Redemption and other Heroes and Villains Mergers ... Costa Nuclear ... Hearts of Gold and the Debased ... Seeing the Future Trumps Time Travel ... Superpowered Chess with Shifting Pieces ... Villains and Backstories ... The Redemption of Sylar ... Thoughts on the Eclipse, Part I ... The Lore of the Comic Book Store ... Hiro's Time Traveling Closure ... Augmented ... Shades of Recalibration




Monday, March 23, 2009

24 Season 7 Hour 15: Broken Rules and Bio Weapons

Hour 15 of Season 7 of 24 brought some more great action, and significant developments for Jack -

1. He's been exposed to the bio weapon - is he infected? No way they'll kill Jack ...

2. Jack also - likely under the beneficial influence of what happened previously with Renee and Dubaku's girlfriend - breaks his own rules, and backs up someone when the better move would have been to focus on the mission of getting the bio weapons away from the bad guys. Tony tries to talk him out of it. I'll be glad, if Tony doesn't pay for it.

3. But Tony's captured, and in the custody of Hodges' (Jon Voight's) Starkwood (Blackwater). We know Tony won't break - but how will he break out?

4. One positive development is Moss is apparently believing Jack - evidence at the late Senator Mayer's home, and when the CDC team arrives, they'll confirm that Jack's been exposed to the WMD.

I'm still bothered by the fact that no one other than Renee seems to remember that there may be another terrorist attack. But they'll recall soon enough.... Meanwhile, the President's daughter is cutthroat indeed, Ethan (one of those who should be recalling the country's still in danger) is out, the First Gentlemen is surviving, and let's get Chloe back in action!







See also: Hours 1 and 2 ... Hours 3 and 4 ... Hour 5 ... Hour 6 ... Hour 7 ... Hour 8 ... Hour 9 ... Hour 10 ... Hours 11-12 ... Hour 13 ... Hour 14 ... Hour 16






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Big Love Season 3 Finale: Bigger Love

An at turns breathtaking, heart rending, heart warming, and mostly highly satisfying finale to an outstanding Season 3 of Big Love last night on HBO.

The two things I liked most -

1. Sarah's engaged to her love, and Bill (and more or less Barb) will not stand in the way. Sarah's always been one of my favorite characters on show. She's been a through a pregnancy and losing the baby this season, and I'm glad to see her putting her life together. I assume we'll be seeing a little less of her in subsequent seasons, if she and her husband don't live with Bill and company, that's ok. Good job Amanda Seyfried!

2. Nikki reconnected with her 14-year old daughter, and both will be living with the Henricksons. This is an important development. Bill said last week that something deep inside Nikki was "broken," which he didn't know how to fix. It may well be that what was most undermining Nikki's life and sanity was her guilt about abandoning her daughter. Their reunion, and Bill's taking them both in, should make a big difference. Fine performance Chloë Sevigny!

Otherwise, Roman's dead - killed by Joey. I don't mind that (though I'll miss Harry Dean Stanton). But the story skipped a bit too quickly from Roman having a gun on Bill on the road, and then Roman showing up on the compound and Bill at FBI offices ... So, how did Bill get away from Roman?

But that's a minor quibble to great finale of a great season of Big Love! Bill Paxton was great Bill H., Ginnifer Goodwin as Margene, and Jeanne Tripplehorn as Barb! I'm looking forward to Season 4 of this series, which manages to make a guy married to three women as truly much the same as the couple living next door.




5-min podcast review of Big Love finale

See also: Big Love, Season 3 ... 1. a 4th ... 2. Two Issues Resolved, Two Not So Much ... 6. Exquisite, Perfectly Played








Special Discount Coupons for Angie's List, Avis, Budget Rent-a-Car, eBags, eHarmony, eMusic, Nutrisystem












The Plot to Save Socrates



"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Sunday, March 22, 2009

French Review (with English Translation) of Twice Upon a Rhyme

Here's a French review of my 1972 album (2008 CD Korean re-issue) Twice Upon a Rhyme ... in The Strange Experience of Music ... with mp3s of 4 songs from the album.

Don't read French? Here's my daughter's translation -

Praised by a circle of initiates, Twice Upon A Rhyme profits at last from a reissue, worthy of its status as "hidden treasure." Having at our disposal until now a digital version with sound quality more than average, this production, signed by the Beatball label, is irrefutable proof that a music-lover should not be satisfied with a rip made at home.

Written and recorded between 1969 and 1971, Twice Upon A Rhyme saw the light of day in 1972 on the label HappySad Records, founded by Paul and Ed Fox. Only distributed in the country of Uncle Nixon, the album limited itself to secret sales.

It is only 40 years later that the album is reborn from its ashes with the dithyrambic column of a Japanese journalist in the magazine Record Collector (Japanese edition). The most attentive readers immediately put themselves on his trail and word of mouth quickly overtook the borders of the empire of the rising sun.

Paul Levinson is today a professor and a writer, without doubt he was the first one surprised by this buzz around his album. But how to resist his songwriting at the same time twisted and jingle-jangled, his tightrope walker's interpretation, and his universe so unique. An album to discover or rediscover.


More on Twice Upon a Rhyme ...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Notes on McLuhan: More Unseen in the Rear-View Mirror

Marshall McLuhan's "rear-view mirror" metaphor has long been one of my favorites - "we look at the present through a rear-view mirror, we march backwards into the future" (McLuhan & Quentin Fiore, The Medium is the Massage, 1967) - by which McLuhan meant that we first understand the future by relating it to the past. The danger of such initial perceptions is that we can miss and misunderstand important, unexpected impacts of new media. A radio is much more than a wireless (telegraph or telephone) - it brought into being the simultaneous mass audience, and was a powerful tool for good and bad political leaders ranging from FDR and Churchill to Hitler and Stalin.

But I realized this morning, on a panel at the Lunacon science fiction convention, that the rear-view mirror not only obscures or distracts from the future, but does the same for the deeper past.

Think about it. All we see in the rear-view is what we immediately passed - not what we passed on the previous block or in the previous hour. Similarly, if we engage new media, technologies, and events by only their immediate predecessors, we lose sight of the deeper history from which they emerge.

Radio was not only not just a wireless, not only a simultaneous mass medium, but was a kind of public speaker's corner which went much further back in our history than the telephone and the telegraph. McLuhan did talk about these retrievals of the deeper past in his "laws of media," but they also have a role in what is unseen in the rear-view mirror.

Something to consider - how do our new technologies relate to the deeper past that stretches out far beyond and before the rear-view mirror...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Battlestar Galactica Superb Series Finale: Not Goodbye But See You Around

Well, the two-hour series of finale of Battlestar Galactica was in most respects wonderful, profound, satisfying, and spectacular, and just what I want in the best of science fiction. I'm especially pleased to review it here in what is my 1001st post in Infinite Regress.

As many viewers suspected for years now, the people and Cylons we have been following are 150,000 years in our past, and one of them - Hera - is our mitochondrial Eve, or the ancestor of all of human viewers of Battlestar Galactica, include me, and, presumably, you.

But what of the Earth that was in post-atomic ruins, that we and our heroes were gazing upon earlier in the story? Apparently that was an earlier version of our Earth, after which our Earth was named, by the humans and Cylons in tonight's finale. That works ok - but I thought the previous Earth was in the same place in the galaxy as ours? Maybe not - maybe it was just a third planet from a sun in some sector completely different from ours. This could have been made a tiny bit more clear, but ok.

Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" is heard again - on our Earth at the end of the finale. So this means ... our Bob Dylan somehow tuned into this cosmic song which was heard 150,000 years ago, and Kara and the Cylons who did not know they were Cylons for most of the story were also keyed to. Ok, that makes some sense, too.

But Kara's resolution is the least complete and the most complex. She vanishes on our Earth, 150,000 years ago, right in the middle of a conversation with Lee. Which means ... she's an angel, like the angelic Six and Baltar, who also vanish in and out? But the angelic Six and Baltar have no impact on real, tangible objects - only indirectly by influencing each other's minds - so how can Kara be an angel? She also is seen by everyone, not just Lee ... but that's less of a hurdle to her angelic essence than flying vipers and all the other crashing, slashing things that Kara did.

So leave Kara a somewhat unanswered question. But the series wrapped up beautifully in many and most other ways, including Laura and Bill (beautifully if sadly), Helo and Sharon, Six and Baltar, and much more. We were treated to some spectacular battles in this finale - I thought the Cylon on Cylon action was especially cool - and then we and our heroes were treated to some soft, green Earth. It felt good.

This series brought science fiction on television to new levels of philosophy, ethics, and metaphysics. And it's not really over, either. April showers will bring a DVD with a Caprica movie, and next Fall we'll have a special on how the Cylons emerged - from the Cylon perspective.

I have a feeling we're seeing the beginning of something much bigger, and eternal, in this Battlestar Galactica finale - something a lot like Star Trek. After all, it's happened all before...







More Battlestar Galactica - see: Battlestar Galactica, Final 1: Dee, Ellen, and Starbuck ... Final 2: Baby and Mutiny Make Three ... Final 3: Galactica Alamo! ... Final 4: Shout-Outs to Lampkin, Lee, Tyrol ... Final 5: (Almost) All Explained ... Final 6. The Necessity of Hyrbrid ... Final 7. 'Since I Died in Your Arms' ... Final 8. Father of a Million ... Final 9. 'Every Man and Woman Over the Age of 15'


5-min podcast review of BSG finale






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Thursday, March 19, 2009

In Defense of the Syfy Channel

The Sci Fi Channel has been getting a lot of flack for daring to change its name to the Syfy Channel, effective this July 7. I thought I'd be pop in to say, I have no problem with the name change at all. Here are five reasons why:

1. Words don't mean anything intrinsically - one of their great benefits is that, with the tiny exception of onomatopoeia (as indicated in the word "buzz"), words have no necessary connection to what they describe. This allows us to talk and write about vast and complex things very economically - indeed, to communicate about things that don't exist at all (can anyone take a photograph of "concept"?).

2. As philosopher Karl Popper pointed out, it's not usually worth the time arguing over definitions - or, what words attach to what meanings. What counts are what the labels are describing. Of course, if someone is deliberately using a word incorrectly - calling Barack Obama a Muslim, for example - then that should be pointed out. I often also point out that Obama's policies are in no sense "socialist". But, in the end, all that really counts is what Obama's policies are, and whether we agree with them or not. Applying this to the Sci Fi -> SyFy Channel, all that really counts is what it broadcasts.

3. Sci Fi itself is a name not very beloved by science fiction fans. The last time I referred to my writing as "sci fi," to another author, I was politely advised not to use that term, and instead speak of "sf". That was about 25 years ago.

4. Science fiction is itself not such a great term, even though every time I hear it my ears still perk up. Hugo Gernsback created the name in the 1920s, but it was something of a misnomer even then. H. G. Well's The Time Machine (1895), for example, is surely science fiction, but it has much more philosophy and social criticism than anything resembling science.

5. When I was President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, 1998-2001, I noticed that one of the least productive debates among writers was whether a work was science fiction or fantasy. Again, all that really counted was whether the work was good, and/or, for the less idealistic among us, whether it sold and made money. (Of course, if a work has nothing to do with either science fiction or fantasy, then giving it either label would be misleading.)

Which brings us back to the Sci Fi Channel. Call yourself whatever you like. I'll keep watching you, as long as you keep putting on series like Battlestar Galactica, which I'm looking forward to seeing the two-hour finale of this Friday.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lost 5.9: Two Times and a Baby

You gotta hand it to Lost - I certainly do. Tonight's episode 5.9 was as different from the earlier Los Angeles based story this season as Los Angeles was to the island episodes of the past seasons, and tonight's all-island episode was another complex gem. What we really having going on are three distinct epics of Lost - the original island and flashbacks, the Los Angeles and island and flashforwards, and now just the island, in two different times.

The feel and flavor is appropriately different. We're in 1977 Dharma ville, and Sawyer is head of security, living and in love with Juliet. Jack and Kate and Hurley would have a hard time surviving, without Sawyer figuring out how to integrate them. But the result is demoting Jack to a position far inferior to Sawyer's. He and Jack have a confrontation of sorts tonight, and it's clear that Sawyer has no intention of ceding any authority, even secret authority, to Jack. Another fine Lost conversation.

The biggest question that emerged tonight is why Sun, Ben, Frank the pilot and most of the passengers of the newly crashed plane did not go back in time - in contrast to Jack, Kate, Hurley, and Sayid, who did. That splitting of the passengers has to have some explanation that provides keys to the deeper mysteries.

And the biggest threat is coming, once again, from Ben. Not Ben as adult, smacked in the head by Sun with a shovel in the present. No, the threat is coming from Ben as a boy in 1977. He brings Sayid a sandwich in Dharma town, but the real message he's carrying - for us, the viewers - is that he will soon wipe out Dharma in an alliance with Richard.

When will that happen? Hard, exactly, to say. But Horace and Amy's baby - now identified as Ethan (we knew the baby would have to someone significant) - presumably has to first grow up a little ... Unless someone saves him...

Of course, he'll be killed in the much later future, anyway (by Charlie), just as Radzinzky, whom we met tonight (great to see the younger versions of these characters), will commit suicide. One other thing about Lost - a least, according to Faraday (presumably also still in 1977, though who knows where) - is that nothing can be changed. Unless...






5-min podcast review of Lost 5 Hr 9








More Lost - see
: The Richard-Locke Compass Time Travel Loop ...

and Lost Returns in 5 Dimensions and 5.3: The Loops, The Bomb ... 5.4: A Saving Skip Back in Time ... 5.5 Two Time Loops and Mind Benders ... 5.6 A Lot of Questions ... 5.7 Bentham and Ben ... 5.8 True Love Ways






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


more about The Plot to Save Socrates...

Get your own at Profile Pitstop.com



Read the first chapter of The Plot to Save Socrates
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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Unsolicited Advice about the AIG Bonuses

Here's some unsolicited advice to the Obama administration about the AIG bonuses:

Whereas, if a company goes bankrupt, then it need not and often cannot honor its contracts, especially those for bonuses,

And, the only reason AIG did not go bankrupt is that we the people, in the form of the Federal government, bailed them out,

Therefore, AIG is in quasi-state of bankruptcy, and need not honor its contracts for payment of bonuses, especially if the government says they should not.

The upshot (to get back into more modern parlance) - contrary to what Larry Summers said over the weekend, the bonus contracts need not and should not be honored. Since our government has already given AIG the money, our government should sue AIG - take them to court - to compel AIG not to let the bonuses stand (if AIG can't recoup the money from the bonus payees, then AIG should return an equivalent amount of money to the government).

Let the case go to the Supreme Court, if necessary, where Republicans and Democrats are well represented.

Kings Alternate History Debuts

I caught up with the two-hour debut of Kings on NBC last night (aired on March 15). From my science fictional perspective, the series feels like an alternate history, which is always welcome, especially on television. The kingdom exists in the present - there are cellphones and talk of the Internet - in a country called Gilboa and a city called Shiloh, which looks like a mix of New York and Washington. The history is ours to some unspecified point - Liszt, the 19th century pianist and composer, is explicitly mentioned, as David Shepherd, one of the lead characters, plays his music. All of this detail is enjoyable indeed.

So is the story, which thus far is a retelling of King Saul and his successor David. This puts Kings in the fine tradition of Richard III (real King, Shakespearean historical character, appearing as a circa World War II character in the riveting 1995 movie). King Silas rules like a Biblical king - no parliament - in a state that seems like Israel, in terms of size and proximity to its enemies (Gath, in this case). David is a hero who stands up, literally to a Goliath tank, and saves the King's son. He's brought to the capital, lionized, and is falling in love with the King's daughter Michelle.

Fine acting all around - especially Ian McShane (of Deadwood fame) as King Silas, and Christopher Egan as David, who looks like a young Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, and a touch of Heath Ledger. Allison Miller as Michelle was also appealing.

So we've got some attractive, compelling ingredients and possibilities in this blend of political intrigue, soap opera, alternate history, not to mention a third major character on television with the last name of Shepherd, joining Dr. Jack on Lost and Derek on Grey's, though David comes by it naturally given that the Biblical David was a shepherd. I'm looking forward to more.












The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Monday, March 16, 2009

24 Season 7 Hour 14: Kicks to the Solar Plexus Surprises

Whew ... Anyone who thinks 24 hasn't come back must be in a coma ... I'm flat out saying that if this isn't the best season of 24 so far, it's moving at lightning, pounding speed close to it. Hour 14 - after some incredible hours of the White House under attack - and we're still being dealt surprises like kicks to the solar plexus.

Tonight's was Senator Mayer, Jack's mealy-mouthed inquisitor in the Senate hearings. He was deriding Jack even as the White House was under siege, and both were held hostage. Jack arrives at the Senator's home tonight, to get some clue as to who is behind the White House attacks and who knows what else. Turns out it's a Blackwater-like organization (another rebuke to those who still think that 24 = George W. Bush). Jack and the Senator talk. A great scene in which Jack says the thing he most regrets is that the world requires people like him... Jack lays out what he knows of the still impending danger. And does the Senator believe enough of Jack to help? There's a knock on the door. It's the police ... Jack has to think quick. The Senator says let me help you.

And Jack believes the Senator ... amazing enough. The Senator opens the door - and is shot dead by the black-op, Voight operative who killed Ryan Burnett last week.

I didn't see that coming - a much appreciated rarity for me.

Other good stuff tonight: Did the President's daughter leak info to the press to hurt Ethan? She seems pretty convincing that she did not - I'm about 50/50. And Larry Moss, ace ass, has had Renee locked up, and pressures Morris O'Brian (if he wants to help Chloe) to help the FBI find Bauer.

Morris caves, as he did last year ... Morris, Morris ... well he loves his wife and child, so it's hard to be too angry at him ... But by telling the FBI where Jack was, which led to the FBI putting out an APB on Jack, which the Senator's assassin was able to hear, Morris was responsible for the Senator's murder...

If you're in the market for adrenalin, you can't get any better than this story... (I still think Janis is up to something no good.)

And speaking of Jon Voight, a heart-chilling stone cold villain on 24 if ever there was one, here's something you may enjoy ...


Hal Ashby interviews JON VOIGHT

When:
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
10:00 PM to 12:00 AM EDT

Where: blogtalkradio.com/moviegeeksunited






See also: Hours 1 and 2 ... Hours 3 and 4 ... Hour 5 ... Hour 6 ... Hour 7 ... Hour 8 ... Hour 9 ... Hour 10 ... Hours 11-12 ... Hour 13






The Plot to Save Socrates


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"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Sarah Connor Chronicles and the Life of Riley

Catching up on The Sarah Connor Chronicles on Fox, and reporting on Episode 2.18, the first of a two-part story, and excellent indeed.

The big news, that sets all of kinds of dangerous things into motion, is that Riley is dead. Jesse's killed her - in partial self-defense - and I gotta say that Jesse's becoming more and more of a villain. She lies to everyone, was mercilessly manipulating Riley, and when the two started fighting, and Riley was getting the upper hand, Jesse point blank shoots her. I'd have had a little more respect for Jesse if the gun had gone off while the two were struggling. (I suppose other viewers might take something else out of this scene - Riley was hitting Jesse with some kind of weapon, and I suppose she could have desperately been thinking her life was in danger, but was still wrong for manipulating Riley in the first place.)

Meanwhile, Sarah suspects that Cameron killed Riley. John's not sure, and in the last scenes he examines Riley's hands in the morgue, and no doubt sees the signs of struggle - a struggle that Riley almost certainly would not have had against the metal Cameron.

But Cameron, unsure of her own wiring, has given John a way to instantly kill her...

So the stakes are high indeed as we wait for Part 2 next week.

There's also a good back story which tells us how Jesse in a submarine confronted Skynet - making her a little more sympathetic. There's a possibility for some interesting time travel loops here, if future Jesse tries to warn Jesse in the past....

But here's my prediction: Derek's going to find out the truth about Jesse - what she did to Riley, and how's trying to control John's actions. He'll confront her, they'll fight, and he'll do to Jesse what she did to Riley...

See also 2.1 Cameron's Back ... 2.2 Firing on All Cylinders ... 2.3 Who, Truly, Is Agent Ellison? ... 2.4: Meet Allison ... 2.5: Unpacking the Future ... 2.6: Terminator Mom, Human Daughter ... 2.7: The Saving Robbery and Cromartie ... 2.8 Perspectives and Death ... 2.9: An Idiot's Guide to Time Travel in The Sarah Connor Chronicles ... 2.10: Riley Lashes Out at Facebook ... 2.11: Cameron Meets A. E. Housman and Andre Bazin ... 2.12 Sarah Connor Chronicles in Triple Time ... 2.13: Space, Time, and Blogging in The Sarah Connor Chronicles








The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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George Clooney and Eriq La Salle Back on ER

Here's a rarity in Infinite Regress - a review of an episode of ER!

The long-running NBC series - which began in 1994 - is coming to an end this year, with a sequence of superb, heart-warming episodes that bring back some of the original, long-gone characters. My wife and I watched the show religiously until about five years ago, when 24, Lost, The Sopranos, and what I call the new golden age of television pulled us away. (Hey, I watch an enormous amount of television - but I have to leave a least a little time for writing....) 1994 was a long long time ago for popular culture - not only was there no blogging, the Web was about a year away from becoming a phenomenon.

This week, ER had a perfectly written, wonderfully acted show that brought back two of its all-time major characters - Dr. Doug Ross (played by George Clooney) and Dr. Peter Benton (played by Eriq La Salle).

Ross was Clooney's break-out role in the 1990s, and remains one of the best doctors ever on television. He was pediatrician who cared more about his patients than the hospital rules, and in that sense was a precursor of House. But Ross was the complete antithesis of House in the charm and way with people Ross easily had, and in the commitment Ross had to his patients (House is more committed to solving the medical puzzle).

Often when stars return to their television roles in special appearances, they smile or scowl and say a few words, and that's it. Ross actually had a wordless reappearance about nine years ago. But Ross had a major role in Thursday's episode, which required all of his empathy (it was also great to see Clooney acting with Susan Sarandon).

Peter Benton was a very different kind of doctor - a tough, brilliant surgeon in the Ben Casey tradition. As a black man who fought hard for everything he attained, Benton had little in common with John Carter (played by Noah Wylie), rich, white, and his fourth-year medical student. Benton drove Carter mercilessly, all ostensibly in the name of giving Carter a good education.

Benton was back this week to help with Carter's kidney transplant (that is, the kidney that Carter needed as a patient). Eriq La Salle has aged a little, and he invested Benton with that mellowness which worked just right for the character. Benton is still tough, but his humanity, and his concern for Carter, are finally, after all of these years, out up front. It was gratifying to see.

There are a few more episodes of ER coming up, with more old friends returning. This week's episode convinced me completely that, after the series goes off the air, Ross and Benton and all of those great doctors and nurses will continue their daily struggle to save lives. If only there was someway I could get through the television screen, and thank them personally...







Friday, March 13, 2009

Battlestar Galactica Final 9: 'Every Man and Woman Over the Age of 15'

I can't recall if this was ever mentioned on Battlestar Galactica before, but in tonight's Final Episode 9, adulthood on Battlestar Galactica was clearly defined as "every man and woman over the age of 15". This makes sense, given the shortage of adults, and all human beings, in that desperate age. And, actually, I think it makes some sense in our age, too - as does Dennis Kucinich, who said at the Democratic Presidential in Dartmouth in September 2007 that the voting age should be lowered to 16 (I think it should be lowered to 14).

But back on Galactica - there's a last call to arms, as Adama realizes that Hera the hybrid needs to be rescued from the Cavil Cylonic Cabal. We'll see the result of that next week, in what promises to be a breathtaking, maybe heartbreaking, two-hour series finale.

Tonight, it was refreshing to see a lot of Caprica before the fall. Everyone was happy except Laura, who suffered the loss of her sisters and father in a car crash. But Baltar and Six looked good together, even if Baltar was not yet committed to their relationship, and it was good to see Kara and Zack get a visit from Lee.

The obvious point that Caprica before the fall was in no way different from our current world was never more clear. No way different, of course, other than that there were Cylons among them, and just over the horizon.

But that world is gone, and the world of Battlestar Galactica will soon be, too, and we're due to find out the "truth" as the teasers say, as well as what the new world will be, next Friday.







More Battlestar Galactica - see: Battlestar Galactica, Final 1: Dee, Ellen, and Starbuck ... Final 2: Baby and Mutiny Make Three ... Final 3: Galactica Alamo! ... Final 4: Shout-Outs to Lampkin, Lee, Tyrol ... Final 5: (Almost) All Explained ... Final 6. The Necessity of Hyrbrid ... Final 7. 'Since I Died in Your Arms' ... Father of a Million






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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The Tudors Season 3: Hard History and Sweet Flesh

The Tudors returns for its third season on Showtime early next month. I've seen the first two episodes - thanks to a preview copy from Showtime - and the series looks to be as wonderful as ever, just the mix of hard history and sweet flesh we've come to expect from this drama about one of the most important eras in our past, a time when our British ancestors clawed and fought and loved their way into the modern age.

What's most new about this season is Jane Seymour, now Queen, and now played by Annabelle Wallis (Jane was played last year by Anita Briem). I like Annabelle's performance much more than Anita's, whose Jane was bland. Annabelle has a soft, engaging power, and reminds me, in terms of accent and looks, of Princess Diana.

There are other powerful performances. James Frain returns with a superb rendition of Thomas Cromwell, Alan Van Sprang is new in the court as the feisty, piratical Sir Francis Bryan, and Max Von Sydow and his expressive face is in Rome as Cardinal von Waldberg. Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII and Henry Cavill as Charles Brandon are as good as they've been, too - which is to say, quite good.

And there are some fine ladies in court. Look for Charlotte Salt as Lady Ursula Misseldon, and an outstanding nude scene, which made me glad that the FCC has not yet expanded its repressive rule to cable.

Censorship and the struggle for democracy is also very much in the air on The Tudors, where rebellion and religious intolerance serve as midwives to our ways of life. I'll be back with more after the season gets under way in April.




5-min podcast sneak-preview review of The Tudors


See also ...

Tooling Up for The Tudors and The Tudors: Transformations and Assassins ... John Adams Concludes, The Tudors Continues, The First Amendment Abides ... The Tudors and the Printing Press ... The Tudors Concludes and America Begins ... and links there to reviews of episodes from Season One.









Special Discount Coupons for Angie's List, Avis, Budget Rent-a-Car, eMusic, Mozy, Zazzle








The Plot to Save Socrates




"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


Read the first chapter of The Plot to Save Socrates
.... FREE!





Enjoy listening to audio books? Get a free audio book copy of The Plot to Save Socrates - or any one of 85,000 other titles - with a 14-day trial membership at Audible.com ...
 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Heroes Shades of Recalibration

Heroes continues to recalibrate nicely with Episode 3.19, moving from a tableau of strange wonder to almost a version of 24, with heroes in shades of black, white, and gray ("Shades of Gray" is the title of this episode) rather than Jack Bauer.

The grayist of the heroes - in terms of moral ambiguity - is Nathan. Last night he saved Matt, worked to overthrow Danko, and even flew Claire to safety by the end of the episode. He's well on his way to fully leaving the dark side of power.

Danko is not gray - he's about as black ops as they come, whatever Federal legitimacy he may have. Unfortunately, Nathan's move to get rid of Danko not only did not succeed, but led to Danko's outing Nathan via throwing him out the window, and forcing him to fly.

HRG is not that gray, either. He's refreshingly good - and his access to Danko may be one of the best cards the good guys have.

But back to gray, the Puppet Master may be showing some signs of decency - though maybe not, given his expression in his last scene - and Sylar is certainly moving down a less destructive path. He even stops short of outrightly killing his father, who definitely deserves it.

So where do we stand as Heroes goes into a little break? Nathan's back with the good guys - in fact, maybe better than he's ever been before. HRG is also about as good as he's been. But our own government - well, we might be moving into some real bad guy territory ... something Jack Bauer would be very used to...

See also Heroes Gets Lost ... Heroes 3 Begins: Best Yet, Riddled with Time Travel and Paradox ... Sylar's Redemption and other Heroes and Villains Mergers ... Costa Nuclear ... Hearts of Gold and the Debased ... Seeing the Future Trumps Time Travel ... Superpowered Chess with Shifting Pieces ... Villains and Backstories ... The Redemption of Sylar ... Thoughts on the Eclipse, Part I ... The Lore of the Comic Book Store ... Hiro's Time Traveling Closure ... Augmented ...




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