Saturday, January 24, 2015

That old Digg magic?

Empeopled | Home

Reddit without the dubious underbelly? A chance to recapture some of that old Digg magic? Maybe, maybe not. Too soon to tell, but I'm liking the clean design and the user-driven philosophy behind its governing principles. Needs more users submitting and voting on stories though, so here's your invitation.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

“You’re a tyrant to the Constitution!”

So why don’t [State legislators gung-ho for open carry everywhere else] allow guns in the state capitols where they work? Surely they could arm themselves and all the staff and kill the bad guys before too many of them got killed just like the scene they paint of your average gun altercation in any other workplace. But then they would personally be in danger wouldn’t they? ... Here’s a South Dakota legislator explaining why he needs to be protected from guns but his constituents don’t:
“We have the most contentious issues being debated in public policy, affecting people in irate, angrily ways and affecting millions and millions of dollars,” Hickey says of the copper-domed capital in Pierre, where he sponsored a bill that allows some teachers to carry firearms in schools but opposed one that would let law-abiding citizens bring them into the statehouse. “This is different than when you go work at the bar,” he says. “This is different than you working at the bank.” 
That’s so true. There are very few irate angry arguments in bars. And money is irrelevant when you work in a bank. 
In which states can Gun Totin' True Patriots carry firearms in to watch their legislators in action?

"At least 12 states allow citizens to bring firearms into capitol buildings, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In Idaho, an open-carry state, armed visitors to the capitol can just walk in; and in Texas, concealed-carry permit holders use a separate entrance lane to bypass metal detectors. In Wisconsin, guns are permitted in some areas of the capitol in Madison, including the floors of both legislative chambers and in the viewing gallery of the assembly. Indiana allows legislators and judges, but not citizens, to carry firearms in the statehouse." [Bloomberg Businessweek]

It's better this way ...

Police typo proclaims love for dogs |

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BBC News - Saudis 'to review' flogging of blogger Raif Badawi

Wednesday, January 14, 2015 is go

Not since the Triptych Cryptic days has this blog been on its own domain; but, since google integrated blogger into their hosting service, I took the plunge and bought today.

Here's hoping that doesn't break anything apart from the g+ comments. (Which were already broken in terms of the counter not working anyways.) Old comments are lost. And I'm a bit sad about that. Still, it's a new age and you can leave new comments.

No need to update your bookmarks, the old blogspot address will redirect here. Allegedly.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Monster of Peladon - "No, it's not your precious Citadel at all. It's another rotten gloomy old tunnel."

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - The Monster of Peladon - Details

Season 11, Story 4 (Overall Series Story #73) | Previous - Next | Index

It was the early 1970s, Mary Tyler Moore was fighting these battles, too!
Not embarrassed, though maybe I should be, but I rather like this one. I shouldn't and I know it. Things have been pretty dire for a while at this point, and the recycling of material by Terry Nation leading up to this sets it up for failure. Yet, there it is. "Monster of Peladon" is ranked very near the bottom in virtually every poll or list you'll find. Like io9's 229 ranking. Or this 2009 Doctor Who Magazine poll having it 179 out of 200. Polls aren't necessarily the best way of getting after which stories are really the most accomplished though, so if we turn to old standby Mr. Sandifer for his assessment, we find he heaps blistering scorn on it. The inclination leap to this story's defense dissipates as I realize the points he makes are reasonable, well-argued, and are based on a greater knowledge of the real world labor conflict that informed the story.

When it comes down to it though, and falling back on personal taste, I just didn't find this one tedious the way so many others have. What it gets wrong with its politics, I'm able to forgive by making allowances for the fact they were trying to get them right, even though they ended up being patronizing and -- at worst -- dopey and clueless. Ultimately, the miners were right, they were getting screwed. And Sarah Jane is right, the Queen doesn't need to defer to her male Chancellor because she's "only a girl." Sisters gotta do it for themselves. Sure, it makes us cringe watching it, but we're cringing because we know this never should have been something any woman would ever have to explain to another. The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution didn't become law until 1920, a mere fifty three and a half years before this story was broadcast in the U.K. When Chancellor Ortron makes disparaging, sexist comments, the look on Sarah's face is priceless. Lis Sladen is never anything less that delightful, doing far more with her expressions than Brian Hayles (or Terrance Dicks) managed to do at the typewriter.

"The Curse of Peladon" wasn't exactly calling out for a revisit, especially not a few short years later. That this is, at best, redundant, strikes me as a fair assessment. But, considering it's basically the same story as the first time around, and has Lis Sladen going for it -- making the very best of some ham-handed writing -- certainly doesn't hurt. The Ice Warriors get a raw deal here, reduced to mere villains after much better treatment in "Curse," but this turn is at least lampshaded by the ones we meet here being a rebellious faction, not representatives of official Ice Warrior policy.

If nothing else, we ought to be able to at least agree that bringing Alpha Centauri back was fabulous, Eckersley was an effective and surprising villain and the miners' badger-esque hair-dos are insanely iconic, or something. Badgerlicious. Does this add up to a great episode? Oh, hell no. But it's not the outright stinker it's often labelled. When all is said and don I'll make my own ranked list, but I'm not ready to to do that for a while yet. This'll be in the bottom half, but not so near the bottom as those lists I've cited have it.

Death to the Daleks - "Human prisoner has escaped. I have failed. Self Destruct!"

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - Death to the Daleks - Details

Season 10, Story 4 (Overall Series Story #68) | Previous - Next | Index

This bit -- when the Doctor is solving a maze puzzle (Children's Level - Easy) posed by the living city on the planet Exxilon, and very near the end announces, "Yes I think we've got it," long after the path to the end of the maze is clearly in sight -- encapsulates the experience of watching Terry Nation recycle his previous stories with apparent indifference to anything like crafting an interesting narrative. Yep, it's got Daleks in it, so if that's a reason to watch a story, then you can justify it; but, if any story in Season 11 feels like it's running out the string, it's this one. (And the oft-maligned "Monster of Peladon" came next, so that's really saying something.)

How in the world was "Planet of the Daleks" not a clear enough signal to the producers that Terry Nation needed a new idea transfusion before being allowed near the series again? And yet, despite the ample evidence that he would deliver six episodes of drudgery and self-loathing Daleks unfit to scare even the most delicate of children into seeking cover behind a sofa, here he is again beating the same old drum.

The dads (in the 'skimpy-outfits-on-companions-are-there-for-the-dads' context) must've been crushed that Sarah elected to quickly find garb more suitable to the climate than her tastefully conservative swimwear. We can grudgingly, perhaps, admit this was the right thing for the character to do, but it leaves the remainder of the story absent anything like a thrill.

Well, at least we know next time out the history of the Daleks will be revised/enhanced to include Davros and some of these sins will be atoned for. It's worth imagining what Pertwee might have done had Nation delivered "Genesis of the Daleks" for him, how he would've played the scene with the two wires wondering, "Have I the right?" instead of pretending to be challenged by a maze ...

Planet of the Daleks - "You know, for a man who abhors violence, I took great satisfaction in doing that."

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - Planet of the Daleks - Details

Season 10, Story 4 (Overall Series Story #68) | Previous - Next | Index

Many of us will remember this one as Thals and the Grimace people vs. the Daleks.
The tenth anniversary season has gone full retro here, virtually remaking "The Daleks," with a just a few tweaks to the story. If you were so motivated, you could go round up everything grouse I've made about Terry Nation as a writer and they'd all apply here. Recycled criticism for recycled storytelling. Because I'm watching these out of order, and this is Nation's first return since "The Daleks' Master Plan", it's perhaps unfair to take this glibly dismissive approach -- Nation does, after all, have "Genesis of the Daleks" still in his future -- but it's hard to work up much excitement for watching or commenting on this one. (There is something satisfying though about the Thals we meet here having legends of the Doctor and his companions. Acknowledging previous stories and companions in this way doesn't excuse the dire storytelling here, but it at least shows how the series can honor its past and give a little fan service without alienating newer viewers.)

This is where I think we start to feel the tide turn on Pertwee's era. Season 7 is classic, improbably so, but an example of a broken format working better than the tired old legs it stumbled in on from the previous era. Season 8 loses some momentum, the limitations of the Earth-bound UNIT are masked by the limitations of the "The Master Has Got a Whopper of a Plan This Time" format and the fact that we love this Doctor, Jo, the Brigadier, Benton, and the Master thanks in large part to the talented actors working as an ensemble. Season 9 is probably a little stronger than 8 overall, but we're still struggling with what vision of the series this is. The tenth anniversay season starts out gloriously, and even into "Frontier in Space," this story's first half, gives us the illusion that things are better than ever and we're heading into a Golden Age.

But we're not. "Planet of the Daleks" isn't the worst thing ever, it's just not trying very hard. The Daleks are as unimpressive as molten ice. And, oh yeah, this is the one with molten ice (as dumb an idea as it sounds) and the massive army of tiny, toy Daleks. And these aren't even the worst failures of ideation or visualization on display.

The early going affords prolonged looks up into Three's capacious nostrils.
There's entertaining storytelling ahead in the Pertwee years, but not much of it. We'll meet Sarah Jane Smith next season, but she's not with her proper Doctor and things are going, generally speaking, to get worse before they get better. We'll take our glimmers of hope going forward and bide our time until "The Ark in Space" propels the series forward.

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