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Archive for August 2018

Star Trek TOS, Season 1: “Balance of Terror,” part 1

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Before watching, this episode, I wasn’t anticipating finding it to be anything special. I knew that the emphasis was on a space battle, and there have been so many space battles shown on screen with so much better special effects, I went in with low expectations, but now I see why this is generally considered one of the top five TOS episodes (with the other four being: “The City on the Edge of Forever,” “Amok Time,” “Mirror, Mirror” and “The Trouble with Tribbles”).

This episode definitely has the feel of short movie rather than an episode in a TV series. It begins with Kirk conducting a wedding ceremony in the chapel on the Enterprise. (There’s a chapel?) Immediately I have a very obvious foreshadowing that one of these two people getting married is going to get killed. Instead of ruining anything with this very obvious portent, it has the opposite effect of making the whole episode feel darker and more serious.

In pretty much every Star Trek episode where someone dies, that someone is very unimportant to us. “Another guy in a red shirt dies, too bad so sad, no one knows his name anyway, let’s carry on.” But here, Kirk’s consoling of the grieving fiancée at the end actually brought tears to my eyes. This is the only TOS episode that manages to make you feel sad that someone was killed. And unlike in the typical TOS episode where the death occurs at the beginning of the episode (as a plot device to build tension), here the death happens at the end.

Space combat in this episode is modeled after WWII submarine combat. It’s a very slow drawn out affair, with the senior officers discussing how they can find the hidden Romulan ship. I can’t imagine that a science fiction space battle will ever be portrayed like this again. Audiences want more action, and technology exists to give it to them with fast and furious special effects.

Yeoman Rand is still in this episode, and it’s so cute when she embraces Kirk right before the Romulan energy weapon is about to hit the ship. Rand’s presence will be missed, even though I don’t think that Grace Lee Whitney is an especially good actress.

This episode’s pacing and building up of tension (without having to kill a guy in red shirt) is as perfect as Star Trek ever gets. Perfect enough that I forgive this episode for having space, science and technology stuff that doesn’t make any sense, and a really cheesy looking Romulan bridge where everything looks like it’s made of Styrofoam. Which it surely was. If you’re waiting for the TOS episode where they finally managed to make everything look good by modern standards, it’s never going to happen.

In the second part of this review, I will discuss what I consider the three most important philosophical and moral issues presented in this epsode:

1. Kirk’s decision that the correct and necessary response to the Romulan attacks on Earth outposts is to destroy the Romulan ship. I feel as though this wouldn’t have happened in a modern Star Trek series. In Star Trek Discovery, everyone was too goody two-shoes to end the war with the Klingons by destroying the Klingon home planet.

2. The bigotry that Lieutenant Stiles feels for Spock. In 2018, we all know that racism is really bad; is there anything to learn from a TV episode from 1966 that’s obviously preaching against racism? The answer is yes.

3. Why the Romulan captain is depicted the way he is: war weary, following orders he disagrees with, and generally an enemy who you are supposed to view sympathetically.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 16, 2018 at EDT pm

Posted in Star Trek

Catholic Church gay priests child abuse

with 21 comments

Although I don’t believe in this Jesus stuff, I’ve for a long time supported Protestantism as the better religion than Catholicism.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 16, 2018 at EDT pm

Posted in Religion

Was the NY Times trolled, or is this for real?

with 21 comments

Most likely explanation is that the person who wrote to the columnists was writing a parody to see if the columnists would fall for it.

However, if the columnists could fall for it, then it’s possible that someone out there could actually sincerely write it.

It’s also possible that the columnists made up the letter/email because it’s something they wished someone would write. In fact, the column, at least the online version, offers no way to contact the columnists, so maybe all of their letters are made up?

What do you think?

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 16, 2018 at EDT pm

Posted in News

Heat much more expensive than air conditioning

with 30 comments

This is something I never realized (I guess because I get free heat from my landlord, and before that I lived in Phoenix), but according to this energy blog Americans spend more than four times as much on heating than they do on cooling.

This is why Florida is such a poplar retirement destination! It’s less expensive to live there because you rarely need to turn on the heaters.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 16, 2018 at EDT am

Posted in Science

Cuomo says America was never that great

with 66 comments

Of course this is what liberals and SJWs believe, America was an evil country that discriminated against transvestites, but until now major politicians have been smart enough never to say stuff like that.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 15, 2018 at EDT pm

Posted in Politics

Manafort defense calls no witnesses

with 46 comments

Presumably, if Manafort took the stand, and actually told the truth as he would be required to do, he would have to say “yep, I cheated on my taxes,” so there’s no benefit to calling him as witness.

It’s very compelling when a defendant testifies that he didn’t do it. I was once watching a rape trial, and the defendant took the stand and told a story about how the sex was consensual, and the jury bought it. He would never have walked if his defense attorneys never called him as a witness in his own defense.

The jury will probably find Manafort guilty, but who knows? A jury let O.J. Simpson (who also didn’t testify) get away with murder.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 14, 2018 at EDT pm

Posted in Law

Hanlon’s Razor

with 52 comments

Never attribute to malice [which includes conspiracies] that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Why am I repeating this? Because there are so many comments alleging conspiracies and hidden agendas for cases that are adequately explained by stupidity (plus virtue signaling).

This is an offshoot of Occam’s Razor, which states that the simplest explanation is usually correct.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 14, 2018 at EDT pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Star Trek TOS, season 1: The Corbomite Maneuver

with 34 comments

Star Trek update: I will skip “The Menagerie” because I don’t feel like watching a two-parter that mostly recycles footage from the pilot which I already watched, so for readers who want to follow along, the next episode to be reviewed will be “Balance of Terror,” because from now on, I will watch the first season in production order rather than the air-date order used by Netflix. Also “Balance of Terror” is said to be a top-five TOS episode, so looking forward to re-watching it! After “Balance of Terror” I will watch “Conscience of the King” and then “The Galileo Seven” (an episode which focuses on Spock).

UPDATE 2: Yes, “Balance of Terror” is possibly the best of all TOS episodes, will be writing a review in the near future.

* * *

Although the tenth episode to air, it was actually the first episode filmed after the two pilots, and there are still aspects of this episode that are different from future episodes, such as the lighting on the bridge and the camera angles used, Uhura is wearing a gold uniform instead of a red one, Spock is still shouting on the bridge like he did in the second pilot.

This was obviously intended to be the first episode to air. The purpose was to introduce all of the major characters: Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Yeoman Rand (yes, Rand was originally intended to be a major character), Sulu, Scotty and Uhura. And to have a plot that wasn’t too intellectually demanding, and also set the tone of the show in various ways. Why wasn’t this episode actually the first to air? My speculation is that NBC was against Spock because they thought he looked like the devil and would scare away advertisers in Christian markets in the South and the Midwest (for real!), and this episode featured a lot of Spock, starting out with him in charge of the bridge while Kirk is sickbay.

The very first scene with Kirk shows him without a shirt taking a stress test in sickbay. When Kirk leaves sickbay, his shirt is draped around his neck, so we see shirtless Kirk walking around the hallways and riding the turbolift. The message here is that, if you keep watching, you will see a lot more of William Shatner’s bare upper torso. Did this really attract any female viewers to the show?

There is also a scene with Kirk sharing a drink with McCoy, very much like the scene in the first pilot where Captain Pike’s doctor makes him a martini. For some reason, Gene Roddenberry thought it was important to show the Captain and the ship’s doctor drinking together. And then he changed his mind in the 1980s and replaced alcohol with synthehol in The Next Generation.

The most important tone-setting exercise is to show that the Enterprise is on a mission of peace, and that Kirk’s goal is to make peaceful contact with aliens, not shoot at them with the ship’s phasers, and not to get mad and give up on diplomacy even when they pretend that they are going to blow up the Enterprise and kill everyone. I think everyone on the ship took that too lightly. How would you feel if someone held a gun to your head and told you that you had ten minutes to live before he kills you? And you really believed it. I don’t think you would so easily forgive that. Our laws would put that guy in jail for violent acts. But Kirk just says “Oh, so you convinced us we were all going to die, and captured our ship against our will, but you mean it was just a good-natured test of our character? Ha ha, cool. Let’s be best friends! You can even keep our screw-up of a navigator as a token of our goodwill.”

In future episodes, Kirk would go on to kill a lot of aliens. He kills the alien in The Man Trap even though it’s the last of its kind and didn’t pose a serious threat to humanity (it was just dangerous the way a hungry lion would be dangerous). He kills the robot alien in What Are Little Girls Made Of. I guess he forgot about the purpose of the showing being peaceful coexistence.

This episode is named after Kirk’s last-ditch efforts to avoid death. Kirk explains to the alien, Balok, a scary-looking dude who sounds like Lurch from the Adams Family, that the Enterprise contains a compound called “corbomite” that will destroy any ship that tries to attack it. I got the impression that the alien knew all along that Kirk was full of cr*p, and that the real reason the Enterprise wasn’t destroyed was not fear of “corbomite” but because Balok never intended to destroy the Enterprise in the first place. He later reveals that it was just a test to find out their true intentions. And the alien actually turns out to look like a little retarded kid with a squeaky voice, the scary-looking alien was a muppet.

None of the reviews I’ve read about this episode address the pointlessness of Kirk’s “corbomite” bluff. Maybe Spock’s logical way of doing nothing and just accepting the inevitable had more dignity? It’s even possible that Kirk’s bluff could have backfired, making humans seem more barbarous and thus more worthy of killing.

It’s my opinion that this episode has aged poorly and is no longer very interesting. There’s a lot of really loud and over-done music to build tension that isn’t there, because we all know the ship isn’t really going to be destroyed. I am surprised that reviews on the internet are nearly all positive. I didn’t like it. Although if you are a Star Trek aficionado, it’s worth watching because it’s the first post-pilot episode to be filmed. In retrospect, I should have watched this episode third, after watching the two pilots. Or possibly even, watch this episode first, and then work backwards through the pilots to see the evolution of the Star Trek idea.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 13, 2018 at EDT pm

Posted in Star Trek

This four-year-old makes more money than you!

with 42 comments

OK, a little bit of an exaggeration, I am sure the majority of my readers are making more money. But if her following continues to grow, she could easily be earning six figures by the time she’s six!

And of course it’s really her parents who are doing the work and earning the money. But the lesson is that if you have a photogenic daughter, the smart thing to do is turn her into an Instagram influencer!

Teaching your kid to play the violin and ace spelling bees, that’s for certain clueless ethnic minorities who don’t understand how the economy really works.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 13, 2018 at EDT am

Posted in Technology

Whatever happened to Ben Carson, 2018 edition

with 65 comments

More than a year has passed since I wrote the following:

Remember him? I thought for sure he’d eventually put his foot in his mouth and embarrass the administration. But the opposite has happened. He has pretty much been ignored by everybody. I guess there’s so much other stuff going on, the press isn’t interested in a guy who’s intentionally trying to be low-key.

Still no change.

* * *

Actually, reported today in the Wall Street Journal (but not anywhere else because the rest of the MSM chooses to ignore Carson),

The Obama administration took steps to encourage the development of low-income housing in high-income neighborhoods. In an interview, HUD Secretary Ben Carson said he plans instead to focus on restrictive zoning codes. Stringent codes have limited home construction, thus driving up prices and making it more difficult for low-income families to afford homes, Mr. Carson said.

. . .

The secretary pointed to Los Angeles as an example of how zoning rules stymie housing development. He said a large majority of the city’s parcels of land are eligible only for single-family home development, not larger projects that could house more people and help moderate price growth. “Of course you’re going to have skyrocketing prices that no one can afford,” he said.

This is the smartest housing policy I’ve ever heard! So I apologize for being so wrong about Carson, best Secretary of HUD in my lifetime. (Andrew Cuomo was the worst Secretary of HUD in my lifetime, Jack Kemp the most massively overrated by conservatives, and Mitt Romney’s dad the most traitorous.)

* * *

Also, Clarence Thomas is the best Supreme Court Justice. How can we find more of these smart common-sense conservative blacks and put them in government positions?

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 13, 2018 at EDT am

Posted in Politics

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