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Thursday, June 21, 2018

States' Rights in the Trumpian Era

I've been thinking about states rights these days, as the Feds under Trump's command first separated refugee children from their parents, and, having ended that inhumane practice, are now dragging their heels in the all-important task of getting these families re-united, before even more lasting damage is done to those helpless children.

I say "helpless," because what kind of effective help is there for those people?  Citizens and enlightened groups like RAICES can help, American Airlines and other air carriers have refused to cooperate with the Fed dispersion of the captive kids across the nation, but how can they stand up to the might and force of the Federal government?   Who can insist that a Senator let alone a reporter can walk in and inspect these heartless jails?

I grew up in an era in which the Federal government was the good guy and the states were bad.  In the Civil Rights era, I applauded JFK and others sending in Federal marshals to make sure that states followed the Supreme Court ruling ending segregation in public schools.

But times have changed.   Senator Bill Nelson, turned away from a Federal detention camp in Florida, is the hero.  So is Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, who is suing the Federal government and its fascist practices.  So other other state governors, including Cuomo, who are refusing to allow their National Guard to be used to support these despicable practices of our Federal government.

I say we need more of that.  I'd like to see Senator Nelson show up next time with a force of Florida State troopers.  That's right.  The essence of our country, as the Founding Fathers saw and created, was a balance between Federal and state sovereignty.   States exercising all forms of their power to stand up to what Trump and his minions are doing has never been more appropriate and necessary.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Humans 3.3: Human Leo on Fictional TV and the American Southern Border in Reality

Humans, the excellent British series about sentient androids aka synths struggling to be treated like human beings in a racist society - i.e., a society that puts the human race above other sentient beings - has an important, especially disturbing relevance to the treatment of people seeking refugee status at our southern border.   The subject matter of Humans would always make it disturbing, but it's never been less escapist and more relevant to what we see on television news these days, in which Trump and his minions have severely damaged the American ideal like no other President in my lifetime, exceeding by a long way any runner-up, which I guess would be Nixon and Watergate.

Episode 3.3 was especially relevant on the differences and fundamental similarities of synth and human, with Leo, previously half-synth and a synth leader, finding it difficult to live into his now fully human essence.   His budding relationship with Mattie is especially promising as a tableau for his emerging humanity, and that's just a part of it.

The other part - related to Mattie, because everything is connected - is what role Leo will play in the synth attempt to find some peaceful place in our human world (or, at least, some of the synths).  Max is finding it increasingly difficult to hold his group together, in part because he realizes that he and his group are in an intractably vulnerable position.  He correctly sees that we humans ultimately hold all of the cards.

Which bring us back to the refugees seeking a better life in the US on our southern border.  These people are totally dependent on our good will and decency.   We have the all the power.   Which is why it's especially infuriating and heartbreaking to see our President misuse and abuse this power.  Drama on television is fiction.  What's happening in Texas is all too real.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Some Thoughts on What Trump and His Minions are Doing to Children on our Southern Border

A few thoughts about the horrendous, immoral Trumpian policy of border security separating children from parents of people trying to enter our country on the southern border:

  • It's good to see all the former First Ladies come out against this policy (Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama, Rosalynn Carter).  The current First Lady Melania Trump's statement was better than nothing, but could have been stronger.  But ... where are the former Presidents?  I'd like to see Obama give a speech about this, and George W. Bush and Bill Clinton as well.
  • The agents themselves who are implementing this policy - separating children from their parents, lying to the children, as a means of separating them - are as much to blame as Trump and his lying minions.  Those agents are no better than Nazis who said they were just following orders.   Where is their humanity?  Without them, Trump's bluster would be just that, bluster without consequence.  I hope the next Democratic President fires each and every one of these agents.
  • Where are the Republicans who, in the past, have shown a shred of decency on this issue?  Where is John McCain*, Jeff Flake, Ben Sass, Susan Collins?  Why don't they step up and vividly denounce this inhumane policy? Some have made statements, and some are better than others.  The time has come for every Republican with any compassion to come out with clear, unconditional statements calling for this heinous policy to end. *[McCain just tweeted the following at 7:30pm Eastern, "The administration’s current family separation policy is an affront to the decency of the American people, and contrary to principles and values upon which our nation was founded. The administration has the power to rescind this policy. It should do so now." Excellent - exactly!]
  • Much has been said by Trump and his supporters about the Democrats made this law.  That's not true - as just about everyone knows, this is a policy, not a law, that Trump has chosen to initiate.  But even if it was a law - as our great philosophers have told us throughout the ages, there are moral imperatives that transcend the law, and should be followed when the law calls for something evil to happen.  Caring for our children, seeing that no harm, let alone indelible harm and pain befalls them, is among the most important moral imperatives in our human condition.
  • Credit to most of the media for shining a spotlight on this awful state of affairs.  If ever it was clear that we need a free media system, unregulated by government, the baneful actions of our government are demonstrating this today.
  • Psychologists accurately say that separation of children at such early ages (especially toddlers!) can cause enduring psycho-social damage to the children.  This is something that every parent, and everybody who was ever a child, which means everyone, should instantly understand.
Every American needs to step up and speak up and oppose this policy, in whatever way they can.  For what it's worth, I think it's the worst thing our government has ever done, domestically, in my lifetime.

The Affair 4.1: Quakes and Propaganda

The Affair was back on Showtime for the start of its 4th season tonight, with half the kit and caboodle out in LA.  In fact, all we saw of the central four in 4.1 were Noah and Helen, with a little Cole in a flash forward at the very beginning, and none, unfortunately, of Allison at all (she's my favorite character).

But the stories and the general structure were good.  It was fun to see another rendition of the mirrored stories of Noah and Helen, replete with the other peeing in each's rendition.  This serves as a clear enough metaphor of what is usually the case in these alternate renditions, in which each character softly reverses the hero and villain role.

As for the stories themselves, there was a strong surprise at the end of Helen's story, with Vic passed out on the floor.   This might have made for an even more important twist if he had suddenly died, but the coming attractions say otherwise.

I liked the Anton thread in Noah's half hour.  Although we've seen this before - the kid in school thought to be cheating in some way when he's really brilliant (this actually happened to me when I was in high school - immodest, I know, but true) - it was still enjoyable to see Anton give a spot-on explication of propaganda in Noah's course, including a mention of Joseph Goebbels, but not (as yet) Trump.  (Believe it not, I've for years, on and off, taught a course in Propaganda and Persuasion at Fordham University and other schools - see my Fake New in Real Context for more of my analysis of propaganda.)

And Helen fearing a quake, and realizing the quake was Noah, was a nice touch, too.   But I'm waiting for next week, where I hope we'll see a full hour of Cole and Allison, for this new season of The Affair to kick fully into gear.  (Hey, here's a suggestion is there's a fifth season - start with a 2-hour episode.)

See also The Affair 3.1: Sneak Preview Review ... The Affair 3.2: Sneak Preview Review: Right Minds ... The Affair 3.3: Who Attached Noah? ... The Affair 3.4: The Same Endings in Montauk ... The Affair 3.5: Blocked Love ... The Affair 3.6: The Wound ... The Affair 3.7: The White Shirt ... The Affair 3.8: The "Miserable Hero" ... The Affair 3.9: A Sliver of Clarity ... The Affair 3.10: Taking Paris

And see also The Affair 2.1: Advances ... The Affair 2.2: Loving a Writer ... The Affair 2.3: The Half-Wolf ... The Affair 2.4: Helen at Distraction ... The Affair 2.5: Golden Cole ... The Affair 2.6: The End (of Noah's Novel) ... The Affair 2.7: Stunner ... The Affair 2.8: The Reading, the Review, the Prize ...The Affair 2.9: Nameless Hurricane ... The Affair 2.10: Meets In Treatment ... The Affair 2.11: Alison and Cole in Business ... The Affair Season 2 Finale: No One's Fault

the Sierra Waters time-travel trilogy

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Westworld 2.9: Fathers

It's a measure of how good an episode I'm reviewing is, that more than one apt title for the review springs to mind.   That was eminently the case with Westworld 2.9 tonight, which tied at least a few powerful loose ends, while introducing others.   All in all, it stands as one of the top two or three episodes of the entire two-season series so far.

I entitled this review "Fathers," because, well it's Father's Day, and fathers probably played the predominate role in tonight's trenchant story.   William aka The Man in Black and his daughter are one of two father-daughter stories, in this case, game-changing.  Its resolution reveals that The Man in Black is a psycho - not because he derives so much pleasure from killing, which we already knew, and which attracted him to Westworld in the first place, and increasingly - but because he's obsessed with Ford to the point of seeing him in anyone and everyone who challenges him in Westworld (and possibility in the real world, beyond, as well - assuming the first time we see him talking to Ford in the real world was a psychotic illusion).   He kills Emily thinking she's just another manifestation of Ford, and discovers she was really his daughter (at least, that's what I think the digital card which he finds on her - with his "profile" - reveals).

The second father-daughter relationship is Ford and Maeve.  We learn that Ford intended her to leave Westworld, and (presumably) programmed her to do that, but she did something unpredictable and returned to find her daughter.   This reveals a lot, including (again, I think, it's tough to be sure in this complex narrative) that Maeve's daughter was just part of her program.   The outcome of Ford's conversation with Maeve, where he also tells her she's his favorite creation, is that he inspires her to regain control and fight.

So William kills his daughter and Ford (already dead) encourages his daughter, a sentient AI-creation, to live.  Of course, all the hosts are Ford's children, and, as we've already seen, our heroes of both genders are increasingly finding their ways to full or fuller self-awareness and control over their lives.  And that's what happens to Teddy - which we've seen the story building up to all this season.  His taking his own life was his way of expressing his independence as a living, sentient being - in this case, from the android he loves, Dolores.

The one big question I have after seeing this outstanding episode - and which, I suspect, won't be answered in the season finale next week - is what is Ford's true opinion of Dolores, if Maeve is his favorite.  I could see he might not have that high an opinion of her, seeing as how she killed him - but that raises the question of what does this Ford who is in every host's head (including Bernard's, who is also struggling to be real, aka independent) know?  Or, when does this Ford come from?   Or, maybe it doesn't matter, because whenever he was put into the hosts' heads, he can and does learn from what they're seeing.

William wasn't wrong about Ford's near ubiquity - he just (likely) went too far.

By the way, the other main contenders for the title of this review were "Ineffable Immortality" (because that's what The Man in Black is after, and which he may try to do for this daughter) and "Paths to Freedom" (because that's what everyone in their own way is striving for in this story).

And I'll see you here next week after the Season 2 finale.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

12 Monkeys 4.1-3: Which Way You Goin?

12 Monkeys was back tonight for its 4th and concluding season on the SyFy Channel with three episodes (there will be three more Friday evenings of episodes).  If these first three are any indication, we're in a for real treat in the weeks ahead.  These three were not only intellectually daunting, like everything in the previous seasons, but about as tight and logically explicable as any I've seen in a series which delights in and seriously pokes every paradox it can, rather than shies away from or paper's over them.  Since paradox is the ever-present, silent middle name of time travel, probing them, in a way that makes sense, is the best you can do in a story like this.  And since time travel is my favorite genre, this means that what 12 Monkeys did tonight is top-notch television of any kind.

(Spoilers follow.)

Among my favorite developments tonight -

  • 12 Monkeys dropped its logical but overplayed insistence that the time-travelers have to avoid bumping into themselves in their travels.  They have more important things to worry about - the end of time and the end of existence - so, hey, what's there to risk by running into yourself, more than a little sanity?  Jones' interaction with herself was probably the best, and indeed her part in the first two episodes was outstanding.
  • A lot of heroes died early on tonight.  But by making the spatial splintering an unplanned temporal splinting - i.e., time travel - the episodes afforded these characters a chance to live on in their pasts, with present-future Cole, Cassie, and Jones interacting with them.  And, best of all, Cole gets to spend some quality time with Ramse, and expiate at least a little of his guilt.  (Also, in terms of re-seeing the past, there were a lot of satisfying call backs to past episodes of the television series, and even a few to the plague-obsessed brilliant 1995 movie.)
  • Jennifer Goines cures herself - i.e., her errant "id" gets hit by a psychic bullet when real shots are being fired at her, and this allows Jennifer to put her second voice to rest.  Good - this will make for an even more interesting character.
  • There's an excellent twist, which I didn't see until a few minutes before it was revealed (meaning, it was excellent indeed):  Olivia, whom Cassie is trying to kill (in revenge for Olivia's killing Athan) turns out to be Cassie's mother!  (At least, I think so - you can never be 100% sure in these things).  So, to be clear, Cassie can still kill the older Olivia, but not the younger Olivia, who was pregnant (with Cassie) when Cassie was stalking her. Nice time-travel footwork.
  • I'm always a sucker for a good song in a time-travel story.  There was a little of "Happy Together" by the Turtles in the first episode tonight, but the real gem was the Poppy Family's "Which Way You Goin' Billy?" which was huge hit in the U. S. in 1970 (it was released in late 1969 in Canada).  Great song, haven't heard it in years, and it worked perfectly in 12 Monkeys tonight (goin Goines).
The third episode concludes with Cole and Cassie realizing they're stuck in some pretty intractable loops, but vowing to break them.  This means some good storytelling in the weeks ahead, and I'll be here with reviews.  (Now I'm off to YouTube to hear this.)

See also 12 Monkey's 3.1-4: "The Smart Ones Do" ... 12 Monkeys 3.5-7: "A Thing for Asimov" ... 12 Monkeys 3.8-10: "Up at the Ritz"

And see also 12 Monkeys 2.1: Whatever Will Be, Will Be ... 12 Monkeys 2.2: The Serum ... 12 Monkeys 2.3: Primaries and Paradoxes ... 12 Monkeys 2.4: Saving Time ... 12 Monkeys 2.5: Jennifer's Story ... 12 Monkeys 2.6: "'Tis Death Is Dead" ... 12 Monkeys 2.7: Ultimate Universes ... 12 Monkeys 2.8: Time Itself Wants Time Travel ... 12 Monkeys 2.9: Hands On ... 12 Monkeys 2.10: The Drugging ... 12 Monkeys 2.11: Teleportation ... 12 Monkeys 2.12: The Best and the Worst of Time(s) ... 12 Monkeys 2.13: Psychedelic -> Whole City Time Travel

And see also this Italian review, w/reference to Hawking and my story, "The Chronology Protection Case"

And see also 12 Monkeys series on SyFy: Paradox Prominent and Excellent ...12 Monkeys 1.2: Your Future, His Past ... 12 Monkeys 1.3:  Paradoxes, Lies, and Near Intersections ... 12 Monkeys 1.4: "Uneasy Math" ... 12 Monkeys 1.5: The Heart of the Matter ... 12 Monkeys 1.6: Can I Get a Witness? ... 12 Monkeys 1.7: Snowden, the Virus, and the Irresistible ... 12 Monkeys 1.8: Intelligent Vaccine vs. Time Travel ... 12 Monkeys 1.9: Shelley, Keats, and Time Travel ... 12 Monkey 1.10: The Last Jump ... 12 Monkeys 1.11: What-Ifs ... 12 Monkeys 1.2: The Plunge ... 12 Monkeys Season 1 Finale: "Time Travel to Create Time Travel"

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Humans 3.2: Mortality

I thought the most significant part of the excellent Humans 3.2 last night was the discussion between Mia and Niska - each in her own way the most powerful and furthest evolved synth (though Max is pretty high up there, too) - with Mia pointing out to Niska that the synths are mortal, and will eventually wear out or down and, to put it right there out on the table, die, just like humans.

Note that this has nothing to do with what Max is understandably concerned about - humans cutting off power, so the synths cannot regenerate and be repaired.  What Mia is saying that there will come a point, after half a century or whenever, when the synths will just die.

This makes the synths in Humans very different from say, the android, sentient robots in Isaac Asimov's robot series of novels, who could and did live forever.  Asimov assumed that the inorganic essence of androids would mean their bodies would not eventually break down, like their human creators, which made sense.   I don't recall any specifics about the longevity of the hosts in Westworld, but the implication is that they live a lot longer than humans - unless they are killed - and could well have the immortality of Asimov's robots.

Which makes Humans even more unique.  What becomes clear in episode 3.2 is that the combination of no more awakening since last year's Day Zero and the limited lifespans of our green-eyed sentient heroes makes them even more vulnerable than we may have previously realized.  Not only do they need to figure out how to evade the human attempt to kill them, they need to figure out how to preserve and continue their culture and their kind, given their limited lifespan.

Sam, now sentient and in Karen's motherly care, has some relevance to this, too.  Will he age?  For that matter, will Mia and Niska and Max and Karen age?  I'd assume not - but, then again, I would have assumed that the androids were immortal (short of being killed by design or accident).  So, does this mean that Sam will be a Peter Pan character, who will remain a boy for 40 or 50 years, and then run down?  (Come to think of it, I can't recall if it was ever established whether Peter Pan himself was immortal, or would just stay young for the remainder of his lifespan.)

Humans continues to a deeply thoughtful and original narrative.