Sunday, March 31, 2013

Spearhead from Space - "What are you a doctor of, by the way?" "Practically everything, my dear."

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - Spearhead from Space - Details

Season 7, Story 1 (Overall Series Story #51) | Previous - Next | Index

3 freshens up for a new decade in vivid, living color!
Image via the wonderfully named Dirty Whoers

I love Jon Pertwee. I sometimes wonder if I'd happened to see his Doctor first, before Tom Baker's, if he'd be *my* Doctor. This introduction to Jon's somewhat pompous, earthbound Doctor remains a favorite to this day. The mix of comedy and action works well and Pertwee's flamboyant Doctor is at once larger-than-life and yet so grandfatherly ... surprisingly enough ... he's never off-putting despite his arrogance. This reaction may be a result of my being a child of the 70s, born the year this story was broadcast, and having a hale grandfather who'd served in WWII and was an engineer with Pratt & Whitney. I'm only realizing now that Pertwee was the perfect actor in the perfect role to appeal to a grade school kid who looked up to and was little intimidated by his granddad. (If you fused the Brigadier and Pertwee's Doctor into one character, you might get fellow just like him, actually.) I guess your mileage may vary.

While I'm waxing nostalgic for my grade school days and remembering my late grandfather, I should probably also disclose that I'm so fond of Nicholas Courtney's Brigadier that I named our strutting little dark-haired chihuahua after him. It's all but impossible for me to separate my memories of watching these shows in my grandparents' living room from the experience of watching them now. These Pertwee and early Bakers are like home cooking, nobody else ever gets it quite right in quite the same way.

Our newly regenerated Doctor is exhausted and a bit erratic as he recovers in a hospital bed. His doctor and nurse even wonder if there might be a bit of brain damage. But once the agents of the Autons come to abduct the recuperating Time Lord, he's ready for action, making a daring wheelchair escape from their clutches.

Shortly after, recovering now from his escape and a scalp creasing bit of friendly fire, we learn this doctor has a cobra tattoo on his forearm. Well, we don't reckon it's canon, just a bit of Pertwee's drunken past from the Royal Navy that nobody bothered to try to conceal during his shower scene. If it doesn't tell us anything about the Doctor, it gives us a bit of insight into Pertwee that you can't help but admire him for. That scene is pretty hilarious, especially how he hides his face while showering to prevent being recognized.

In addition to being a must-watch for being Pertwee's first story, and just for being fun, it's also our first time encountering the Autons/Nestene, who'll return in "Terror of the Autons," and again in the first episode of the new Who. They're genuinely creepy in a way that's effective, in stark contrast to the similar menace implied by the wi-fi soup we live in that played a role in the "The Bells of Saint John". Watching that new story, I couldn't help but think the recent ubiquitousness of wi-fi wasn't as successfully made unsettling the way the Nestene did similiarly new-ish (in 1970), weird, and ubiquitous plastic.

Fashionably ascot-clad auton will mess you up.
Image via Flick Philosopher
You really could do worse if, new to the classic series, you started here and watched some of the best of the Pertwee stories before moving on to the Tom Baker years. The list given by the Dirty Whoers strikes me as fairly spot on. I typically recommend younger folks exploring the classic series after getting lured into fandom by the new series start with Tom Baker stories, but watching this one again reminded me how winning Pertwee could be. You mightn't want to try to get through them all, the stories can drag and they don't all hold up as well as this one. (Being shot on film certainly helped this one, it's visually distinctive for this era of the show.) One also wouldn't want to think to hard on what sort of sense it made for the Nestene to preserve in a wax museum the human general they copied as part of their plot of infiltration.

As an aside, it was this story that made me have to look up the word, "gurning." Gurning, as in, Pertwee's gurning while in the grasp of the Nestene is a wonder to behold.

Program Alert: BBCA Doctors Revisted features Pertwee's 'Spearhead from Space' tonight (3/31/2013)

Spearhead from Space (TV story) - Tardis Data Core, the Doctor Who Wiki

I'd love to stay up and write a reaction post for this story, but it's on too late considering I've got work in the morning, dark and early. So just going to point at this and say, "Hey, y'all, good classic Who on TV tonight! Get some."

Pertwee, as I recall, is genuinely funny and brilliant after recovering from his regeneration. His Doctor gets compared to Bond, another British icon celebrating its 50th anniversary, but it's not really fair. Pertwee, while more ready for action than a Doctor before or since, isn't exactly a Bond, and Bessie is no Aston-Martin -- though the Whomobile (not in this story) is nifty and daft. If you come to this story new, expecting a Bond-type action thriller, you're going to be disappointed, but if you expect just a bit more fisticuffs than you've seen in other Whos, and a Doctor who's a bit more Steed than Bond, I think you'll be in the right frame of mind.

The Bells of Saint John - "Run, you clever boy, and remember."

The Bells of Saint John - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Season 7, Story 6 (Overall Series Story #232) | Previous - Next | Index

Who is Clara Oswald? What does the Doctor need to remember? Is it Clara reminding the Doctor of something, or is there another agent behind her mysterious nature?

This wasn't a great episode, apart from re-examining it for clues, and for those moments of chemistry between the Doctor and this newest iteration of Clara, I'm not sure what it has going for it in terms of re-watchability? It's full of set up, reintroducing the mystery Clara, re-establishing their dynamic, hints to things from the past that may have portent for the near future ... but because I'm posting this pretty soon after first airing, I'm going to hide the rest of my notes behind the spoiler barrier. (The fact that I'm looking for clues to the bigger story though, and not really discussing this episode as a story in and of itself, should be all you need to know about what I think is wrong it.)

"Summer Falls," by Amelia Williams via omnisam

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Empire (Avenue) Strikes Back

Empire Avenue has upgraded and redesigned a bit recently. Not enough, some have argued, but incremental improvement is a good sign and there's still plenty of untapped potential there. It's just a matter of whether Dups and the team can get it in better shape for mobile and continue making improvements to the mission system & communities before it runs out of steam.  (You can learn more about the game, if it's new to you, by visiting the site, of course, or by reading past posts on it here by clicking the tag below.) Since it's free to play, it makes sense to me to continue supporting it and wagering the time I'm putting into it that it's eventually going to make the leap and really catch on.

That said, I feel like if it's going to get be a game that's worth continuing to play in the short- to mid-term, I'm going to have to act with a little more focus now and put some of my playing time into the communities.

Now, unfortunately, the early returns on my investment into communities are not encouraging. Still, if the game is going to more that just earning eaves to run missions, it's the interest communities that offer the best chance of networking with like-minded players with whom there'll be higher likelihood of some mutual benefit within, and outside, the game. That communities were the recipient of a recent redesign indicates to me the EA team is moving down the right path to grow the game.
I've been a member of Atheists United for a while, and am as guilty as any of neglecting the community in recent months; so, I'm making a concerted effort to get some activity going in there. If I find it's too moribund to be revived, I'll flip the switch* to turn on my own community focusing on secularism & game play, and administer it in a way that rewards engagement. That untapped potential I mentioned above, it's here, where the game rewards engagement. The communities only have to be built well enough to not frustrate users who are trying to converse in order to unlock that potential. At this point, with the relatively low level of engagement in the communities I'm in, it's hard to tell how they'll handle high traffic. We'll see, I hope.

I'm also joining some other communities and engaging a bit in those. The EAv Gangstas are active and I've had a few visitors here from there -- thanks, folks! The Doctor Who community I joined looks like it's been quiet for a few months, so going to make an effort similar to what I'm doing on the AU page to stir it up and draw players back. Hmm. Make that two Doctor Who communities I've joined.

* The switch is flipped. My Active Secularists community is live.

Join "Active Secularists" on

Friday, March 29, 2013

Welcome, Droney!

Why Drones Could Be Coming To A County Near You | WUNC

Drone news give me an opportunity to reuse my
This Modern World-based Cartoon Challenge panel.
North Carolina wants to be at the forefront of the coming drone boom. That has some folks excited, and others worried.

NC's Burr reveals ignorance of the Constitution, concept of inalienable rights in Q&A about gun rights, same-sex marriage, etc.

Debra Morgan: Sen. Kay Hagan came out today in support of same-sex marriage. Where do you stand on that issue?
Sen. Richard Burr: I believe that marriage is a function of state law. It has no place in Washington D.C., and I think that as the Supreme Court considers the case in front of them, I think there's a likelihood that the Supreme Court will say, 'We should never even consider this because it will infringe on states' rights. I believe that 50 states would be required then to make a determination then on what the definition of marriage is in their states.
Why state law? Why not city law? County law? Federal law? Imagine a scale of legislative bodies, starting at a hypothetical world government level and sliding all the way down to the smallest municipality capable of passing an ordinance and ask yourself: where would it make the most sense to regulate the institution of marriage?

People all over the world get married, right? People get married in the same faith tradition in different countries, and people get civil marriages and unions without a faith tradition, but it all is -- or should be -- the same. Across the warp and weft of government and religion, marriage is a contract entered into by two adult persons to make a commitment to one another, define obligations to one another, and to enjoy certain rights and privileges thereby. Sure, if you want to treat married couples differently in terms of the benefits your level of government provides, go ahead and do so, but treat all marriage the same, as a marriage. Period.

If your concern is about religious marriage, then consider this, we don't all share *your* religion. Marriage, for better or worse, is a civil institution as well as a religious one. Go ahead and do your religion your way, but don't pretend your religion gets to make the rules for the rest of us. Not a Muslim? Do you think you should have to abide by Sharia law? No? Good, then we agree that when it comes to matters of law and civil institutions, there is no place of religion. (See, my Christian friend, you're a secularist and you didn't even know it!)

If you only care about marriages in the U.S., what damned sense does it make to give one state the right to decide whether another state's marriages are valid are not? Do you get Connecticut married or Mississippi married? No, of course you don't, not any more than you get straight married or gay married. You get married married. The idea that marriage is properly an institution decided from state to state (or city to city, or town to town, or subdivision to subdivision) is laughably stupid.

Was slavery an issue properly decided at the state level? No. Slavery is an issue of liberty and equality -- it's a question about human rights and is answerable at the universal level. Slavery is wrong; it is a violation of human rights and it is right and proper that it be outlawed universally. Likewise, because marriage is an institution that affords couples certain rights and obligations in our society, therefore equal access to the institution is a matter of equality. We are all equal under the law. That is what makes us, to the extent we are, civilized. When you advocate for denying a class of citizens right on the basis of something beyond their control -- such as skin color, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference -- you are advocating for barbarism.

Senator Burr, you reveal yourself to be profoundly ignorant of the concepts of equal protection and human rights when you result to the idiot's argument of  "states' rights". I get that you believe marriage is between a man and a woman. Fine. Nobody is going to make you marry a man. Don't tell anyone else they can't marry the person they love simply because that person happens to be the same gender. It's bigoted and unfair -- and more the point: unconstitutional.

Also, if you really thought marriage was an issue best left to the states, you'd be a proponent of repealing DOMA. If you're for states defining marriage, and for DOMA, you're being hypocritical.

Morgan: After the Sandy Hook shooting, there was a lot of talk about gun control. That's pared off a little bit. Where do you stand on gun control and what do you think Congress should do about gun control?
Burr: I think Congress should attempt to make sure the background check data that we have incorporates enough information to make an educated decision. Today, there's no health care data, there's no mental health data that's found in a background check. So really, all we're looking to see if somebody who's purchasing a gun has a record, maybe was convicted of a felony that might deprive them of that Second Amendment right. There's no attempt on the Hill to try to incorporate medical records. So to get at the heart of the problem at Sandy Hook, we're not on that pathway. I'm committed to make sure that the Second Amendment is not infringed on in any way, shape or form. And I don't buy the president's argument that an assault weapon was made to hunt. No, an assault weapon was made to allow an American to defend themselves and their property – the exact reason the Second Amendment was created by our founding fathers. They didn't create the amendment for us to have the ability to hunt. And anything we would do to limit the American people to have that right protected would be an infringement to the Second Amendment.
Reminder: the Second Amendment is explicitly worded to make it, not a matter of an individual's right to have whatever weaponry they deem fit, but possible for the state to maintain a well regulated militia. It's worth repeating, "a well regulated militia". The peoples' right to bear arms is expressly about a civic duty of the people: the duty to defend the state. You can be sure the Founding Fathers had in mind the defense of the state against an enemy like the monarchy from which we we had recently broken free.

Yes, yes, I'm very familiar with recent perversions heaped on the Amendment by an incompetent, malevolent Supreme Court; so, fine, we all have to live with those ridiculous decisions until the Court can get it right -- which won't be the Roberts Court, that's for certain. So spare me the lecture about your side of the argument has successfully twisted the Constitution into shape it was never intended. I get it. The Court says you have a right they made up for you because bloodlust. Congratulations. But let's get back to the matter of whether that "right" is limitless.

It is not. You can't park a tank on your lawn. You can't go out and acquire fissionable material to make a nuclear bomb in your garage because you feel menaced by the secularists up north. We all agree, even you (unless you are a lunatic), that it is right and proper for the state to regulate what weaponry a private citizen can own and carry around with them. So let's not pretend the Second Amendment is something it isn't, shall we?

Senator Burr, when you say that the "exact reason" the Amendment was created was to allow for defense of self and property you are, either willfully or ignorantly, getting it exactly wrong. What part of "well regulated militia" don't you understand? Your job is to legislate and regulate, and to legislate and regulate well. Do. Your. Fucking. Job.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

It's sentences like these ...

A Plea for More Male Nudity on Game of Thrones -- Vulture

Ned Stark getting Littlefingered O_o
For all its tough, complicated women characters, Thrones is rightly perceived as too much of a sausagefest. The producers could change that perception by adding more sausage.
A normal person reads this article and smirk-laughs when reading the line quoted above. The insecure paranoid, our nation's dominant political/oligarchical archetype, who fears that women and "the gays" will ruin their beloved culture, reads it and reaches for his wallet to double down on funding politicians and PACs supporting Prop 8 and anti-abortion laws.

'Stand On Zanzibar' is worth reading, regardless how you rate Brunner's "uncanny" predictions ...

The Millions : The Weird 1969 New Wave Sci-Fi Novel that Correctly Predicted the Current Day

My copy of 'Stand On Zanzibar' 
Brunner’s work stands out as the most uncanny anticipation of what would actually change — and what would stay the same — in the decades following its publication. Certainly, there are many details, large and small, that Brunner got wrong. But even when the particulars don’t ring true, the overarching theme of Stand on Zanzibar, which is the hidden cost of our obsession with human perfectibility, is just as relevant today as when Brunner wrote his novel.
But, it's a little misleading to give him credit for predicting a President Obomi. In the novel, Obomi is the President of an African nation, not the U.S. So the "Nate Silver himself couldn't have done it," breathlessness is a bit overwrought. (And, no, it's not Kenya either, if that's what you were wondering.)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The c-i-e Thirteenth Blogiversary Extravaganza!

Thirteen years in, I'm no less eager to keep pressing keys and sharing the resultant output when I think about the things I read, hear, and watch that engage my interest. If the last year of blogging was heavy on the politics and gun control, there's likely to be a greater emphasis around here on Doctor Who in its 50th Anniversary year. Building out the Episode Index has been fun and I've got a long way to go on that front. Not to say I won't continue the political and secularist postings, I certainly will, but I've got a feeling geekier content will dominate for a while as my disappointment with the Obama administration continues to smolder.

A couple of other big events are also on the horizon: Kim Stanley Robinson's next book is due later this year; and, I've got it in my head that *this* is the year I finally go to the annual Yo La Tengo run at Maxwell's -- at least some of it, the timing of the holidays this year is problematic. Between the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, a new KSR book, and Maxwell's looking a Bucket List tick off in the making, my personal triptych of arts and pop culture fandom looms large in my imagination -- each section likely to get more pixels devoted to it in the months ahead.

If you're new here, lured by the chance of chance of winning a kindle (more on that just a bit further down), you might be wondering, "If I'm not into Doctor Who, Kim Stanley Robinson, or Yo La Tengo, what reason might I have for coming back?" It's a fair question. Below are links a few posts, which have dropped off the front page, that I hope are illustrative of the mix of things I'm inclined to post about outside those topics:
  • Words fascinate me. New words, old words, whatever the word there are few things as satisfying as finding the exact right word when you really need it. For example, I was using cyberpragmatics all the time without knowing there was a word for them.
  • You don't have to be a foodie to post every so often about food. My food truck reviews probably are much use to anyone outside the Raleigh/Durham area, but they might inspire you to get adventurous with the options in your city? Or, I can teach you the proper way to eat Cheetos.
  • Interested in video games and philosophy at all? Then you will feel like a genius when you solve the occasional riddle.
  • Yo La Tengo isn't the only band I follow. All the Fugazi news you didn't know you were missing, I'm on the lookout for it for you. 
  • If you're interested in history, especially those people and events that bend the arc of justice, we almost certainly have something in common.

Now that you newbies have got the lay of the land ...

Let's get to the fun stuff!

I gave away a kindle-sized gift card last year to one lucky reader and it felt so good I'm bringing the contest back. I'm going to use rafflecopter again; this went pretty smoothly last time and nobody complained about it so, hopefully, it'll be a painless experience.

Please note, the prize is a $69 Amazon gift card that you may use towards a kindle and I encourage you to do so because I love mine; however, you are free to use the Amazon gift card towards whatever you like.

+Joseph Riker, as last year's winner, you're disqualified from this year's drawing; but, I'll only make winners sit out one year after winning, so you'll be able to enter again in 2014.

Thanks for visiting. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The End of the World: "Mind you, when I say 'the great and the good,' what I mean is 'the rich.'"

The End of the World (Doctor Who) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Season 1, Story 2 (Overall Series Story #158)

After all those years waiting for "Rose," we only had to wait a week for "The End of the World"! How cool was that?  Good times.

So, at the end of "Rose," we saw the Doctor was willing to negotiate with the Nestene, or at least give it a chance to leave Earth before resorting to force. It was important for the series to re-introduce him as a hero who believed in talking things out first. But, early in this episode, he did something, I think, even better in terms of illustrating his character: he made that crack about the rich I quoted in the title of this post. Now we know that, while he taunted Rose while inviting her aboard the TARDIS with that bit about the alternative being eating chips and watching telly, he's on the side of (to use the current parlance) the 99%. Like I said, he's the Doctor we needed, and still need. By bringing Rose to an event that only the snooty super-rich could attend, he's democratizing it and sending them up. Plus, at the end of this one, he and Rose go out for chips.

Gotta love that at a party to view the end of the world, they're listening to Soft Cell's "Tainted Love"? This, as much as anything we'd seen in the first episode, told me Davies was the right man to bring the series back. (We'll just gloss over the inclusion of Britney Spears's "Toxic".) Also, love the way Eccleston starts head-bopping as the "iPod" starts playing. I don't get why people aren't more fond of him.

what are you going to do moisturise me?

If we learned in "Rose" that the Doctor will give the opposition a chance, we learned "The End of the World" that he won't give a second chance when the first is squandered. Rose is inclined to help Cassandra after everything, but the Doctor is content to let that bitchy trampoline explode. He's the last of the Time Lords (for now), and "last human" is going to get what's coming to her.

I have no problem with his lack of mercy there. The only problem I have with this episode is the bit of mystical hoo-hah when he closes his eyes, the music swells, and he steps through the fan blades unharmed. If we were meant to think he had timed it perfectly, was in tune with the rotation of the blades, there were ways they could have shown that instead of suggesting ... some sort of miraculous luck? Whatever that was. That's the only demerit I can mark against this story. Unfortunately, it's especially irksome. Otherwise, the themes of appreciating that everything ends and the importance of living in the now, and of not being twat just because you're rich and think you're therefore entitled, all that worked really well for me.

via The Patient Centurion
Nine and Rose at the end of the world.

Rose - "Nice to meet you, Rose. Run for your life."

Rose (Doctor Who)

Season 1, Story 1 (Overall Series Story #157) | Previous - Next | Index

Nine meets Rose via
I've watched this several times since it was originally broadcast and it still brings back memories of when it was new, even all these years later while we're in the interregnum between Season 7a and 7b. What would the TARDIS interior look like? How much would it be like the classic series and how would it be different? From the opening theme, to the first appearance onscreen of Eccleston, to the first time we heard that distinctive TARDIS dematerialization grind ... it was all so welcome back, so familiar but new. New!

But "new" isn't a thing that lasts. It's 8 years later and if it were only a pleasure to watch because it was new ... well, that wouldn't do us much good. We've been through two more regenerations and the return of far more than just the Nestene: we've had Daleks, Cybermen, Weeping Angels, the Silence, and Vashta Nerada, and so much more. So, now that it's just familiar again, is this story, this season, still worthwhile?

It sure is.

Said it before and I'll say it again, we deserved more time with Eccleston's Doctor. Not that I'd take it from Tennant's time ... I guess I'm saying they made us wait too long for Eccleston's Doctor, we should have had at least three or four years of him in the role, then Tennant. Eccleston was so good from the start, with that Northern accent ("Lots of planets have a North!") and the way he transitioned from cold anger to a giant grin and back, he was alien, but an interesting alien. Clive's research having so many photographs and sketches of Nine, since he was freshly regenerated, it tells us he had lots more adventures ahead then what we ever saw in the Bad Wolf storyline. Would've liked to have seen those is all. I don't think many fans count Eccleston as a favorite, certainly not the way Tennant and even Smith have joined Tom Baker in the fans' collective pantheon of the best of the best, but I think his short run and the distance he's kept from the series since leaving have left many cold and prone to short-shrifting his Doctor.

Is it the ears?

On the downside, the incidental music is uneven in this episode, it felt a bit dated when it was fresh back in 2005. (My wife remarked during one of the running scenes that it is sounded a bit Wonder Woman-y and she wasn't wrong.) And Mickey's still a bit too cowering and unlikable, that he brings out a contemptuous side of the Doctor doesn't play well, but we understand why the Doctor doesn't invite him, and that he wouldn't have wanted to go, so it's at least coherent. (The character improves over time and I'm glad this wasn't the last we saw of him, it just wasn't enjoyable chemistry.) The Nestene invasion isn't much of an invasion, the killing of Clive feels a bit mean-spirited, and it all wraps up rather quickly. As far as plotting, mystery, interestingness of the threat, this episode doesn't offer much. But ...

But that's because it's all about meeting Rose. Billie Piper is perfectly cast and she's got great chemistry with Eccleston, that's what really carries this episode beyond the novelty of the return. She may be just a shop girl living with her mum, but she's both only that and a bright, brave young woman capable of so much more. That Billie Piper sells both parts of character is a testament to her skill and natural charm. Casting her was a master stroke at least equal to the casting of Eccleston.

So, despite my nitpicks, this is still a strong episode and a well-worth watching to get a sense of what this new Doctor is all about. While this Doctor may be capable of anger and indifference, his hallmarks are fairness and broad-mindedness -- he's a much needed character in an era of neoconservativism, rising inequality, and ascendant oligarchy. Whether he's the Doctor you think you want, he's the Doctor we needed.

[Update: I'm reading this post on "Rose" by Mr. Sandifer -- he's author of the brilliant TARDIS Eruditorum over in the blogroll) and it's making me think I need to step up my game. Not necessarily by going all Rose-asserts-her-narrative-nature, but by bringing more to table than gobsmacked fan gush.]

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Because lying to kids about science and calling it education is tantamount to child abuse.

Old Earth, Young Minds: Evangelical Homeschoolers Embrace Evolution - David R. Wheeler - The Atlantic

...  [W]hatever their reason for homeschooling, evangelical families who embrace modern science are becoming more vocal about it -- and are facing the inevitable criticism that comes with that choice. "We get a lot of flak from others for not using Christian textbooks," Warton says.
I added the "Trust, but verify," speech bubble after trying to cram in a response to the injunction on the wall in the background: "Trust in the Lord ... except when it comes to science, history, ethics and morality, or anything relating to matters of fact. But, apart from those things, knock yourself out."

Monday, March 11, 2013

No chance for a Cinderella in this bracket.

A tournament to determine the most hated college basketball players in the last 30 years - Grantland:

Before Coach K and the Cameron Crazies get too worked up about being singled out, let me explain the decision to turn part of this bracket into a mini-tournament of Duke hate. For starters, imagine the alternative. Think of all the Dukies who didn't make the cut: Carlos Boozer, Kyle Singler, Trajan Langdon, Brian Zoubek, Ryan Kelly, the Brothers Plumlee, Chris Collins, Thomas Hill, Alaa Abdelnaby, and many, many more. If Duke weren't confined to its own quadrant, half the athletes in the competition might be Blue Devils. And if they were peppered throughout all the regions, an all-Duke Final Four wouldn't just be a possibility — it would be a likelihood.
As much as I hate to admit it, they're like the Yankees in that the hatred they inspire is a direct result of winning. Relentlessly winning. Despite being such unlikable jackwads year after year.

As an aside, this post immediately called to mind fond memories of 1999, when knob-shining pundits were calling that year's tournament "The Duke Invitational," because it was a foregone conclusion they would win it all.

Hah! That was the greatest tournament ever.

"But, why Laettner of all the Dukies?" you might ask. Because 1990. Because Scott Burrell and Tate George took us to such great heights ... and then this happened.

Gerry Canavan

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Reviving Robert Ingersoll

‘The Great Agnostic,’ by Susan Jacoby -

Robert Ingersoll, image via

... Jacoby adds her suspicion that Ingersoll might have fared better had a rise in secularism, which he helped bring about, proved to be permanent. But it is wrong, she notes, to allow his stature to diminish as a result of the resurgence of religion that occurred after his death. “Intellectual history is a relay race, not a 100-yard dash,” Jacoby writes, in a nice turn of phrase. Reporting on the irreligion of many of the country’s founding figures, Ingersoll kept the ideals of secularism alive during his own era and passed them on to us. In particular, he championed the memory of Thomas Paine, whose rejection of religion had led to his being forgotten in Ingersoll’s time, despite the considerable role Paine played in turning the American colonies toward revolution. It may be hoped that Jacoby’s book does as much for Ingersoll as Ingersoll did for Paine.
Ashamed to say that if you'd mentioned Ingersoll to me before I'd read this article, I would've drawn a blank. Knowing now in what high regard he was held by the likes of Clemens and Whitman, and having read a little of his work since stumbling across this article, I'm intrigued and ready to read more ...

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Cory Doctrow on KSR's Pacific Edge

Locus Online Perspectives | Cory Doctorow: Ten Years On

The thing I loved about Pacific Edge is how good the people were, even as they got in each other’s way and fought with one another and made things miserable for each other. Robinson’s book is a tour-de-force character novel that is deeply compassionate about the way that people of good will and good faith can trip each other up. And it is ‘‘utopian,’’ in the sense that it is all set in a time/place where technology doesn’t threaten to get away from its creators and destroy them.
Cory's talking about how PE influenced his first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.

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