Assorted links

by on January 21, 2009 at 10:50 am in Web/Tech | Permalink

1. An interpretation of new and old BSG: is this for real?  Or is it satire?

2. Anti-baby-theft devices.

3. The long lags of fiscal policy.

4. Marty Lederman, torture critic, to join the Obama administration.

5. Links arguing for bank nationalization.

John Voorheis January 21, 2009 at 11:39 am

In re: #1

Its for real. Dirk Benedict really is that big of a d-bag.

Careless January 21, 2009 at 12:08 pm

We had a baby last year and they stuck a baby anti-theft device on her ankle. It made it a real hassle to go from one place to another in the hospital (to breastfeeding class, for example). Oh, and it fell off while she was sleeping. Great technology.

John Voorheis January 21, 2009 at 12:45 pm

If by legitimate points you mean “wah wah wah” I guess so?

Neal January 21, 2009 at 1:08 pm

by legitimate points i think he at least raises awareness at the fact that television has increasingly gone the Joss Whedon way of “only women are competent and powerful” and BSG’s “re-imagining” is no exception. Don’t get me wrong, I love the new show and from what I’ve seen wouldn’t really enjoy the older one, but at the same time, that comes from the fact that our worldview of gender roles HAS shifted exactly as he describes, and IS driven by creative talents’ attempts at social engineering AND the “Suits” increased sophistication in the marketing aspect and how to gauge what will be successful. The demographics of TV series’ ratings successes suggests that the emasculated sort of pseudo-philosophy with powerful female figures, gender role “reversal,” etc, makes bank, and it sucks from the perspective of trying to have a healthy separation of gender identities in a given society.

Given that the stated goal of a lot of creative talent to erase that identity in favor of a more feminised, emasculated, passive, malleable personality in the interests of “reducing violence, etc” it’s a legitimate point that Dirk Benedict raises, just not one that is taken seriously by intellectuals because they’ve drunk the genderf*** koolaid of academia.

d.cous. January 21, 2009 at 2:40 pm

I have to admit that I’ve only seen one or two episodes of the old BSG, but what I’ve seen is terrible. It’s really weird to me that a show that begins with humanity being nearly wiped out of existence is so ridiculously cheerful.

I don’t really agree with Benedict’s gripes about the new show trying to undermine masculinity, or whatever he’s really complaining about. Pretty much all of the characters on the show are conflicted about something (including Starbuck).

My guess, if that blog post is real, is that Benedict is getting old, and as happens to many people when they age, he has begun to idolize a past in which men were men, women were women, children did what they were told, and unicorns delivered sunshine and cinnamon rolls right to your doorstep every Sundee mornin’.

Bill Kaminsky January 21, 2009 at 2:58 pm

Ummm, I don’t want to sound like some aggrieved fanboy, but keep your culture and gender wars away from my beloved Battlestar Galactica and Whedonverse!!

More seriously (well, more seriously modulo the fact we’re talking about genre fiction), I think one would have to take a highly selective view of the new Battlestar Galactica and Joss Whedon’s shows to say they operate under a rule of “only women are competent and powerful”.

First of all, in regard to Whedon, three words: Captain Malcolm Reynolds. Now that’s a man John Wayne would be proud to ride with. Sure, Mal’s most competent sidekick is a woman, Zoe. And sure, Zoe “wears the pants” in her essentially comic-relief marriage with Wash. However, Zoe pretty much always defers to Mal’s tactical judgment. Mal’s always a man’s man… as well as a woman’s man (Kaylee idolizes him, and Inara, despite being jaded with respect to the whole male sex due to her calling, can’t help falling in love with him). Hell, in terms of being a “lovable rogue”—to use Dirk Benedict’s phrase—Firefly’s Mal blows old-BSG’s Starbuck or the A-Team’s Face completely out of the water. Mal’s a big ol’, capital-M Manly Man. In comparision, old-BSG Starbuck and Face are just smirking pretty boys.

[Yes, yes, I know I'm ignoring River, the pretty little waif who can face down hordes of Reavers bare-handed. But she's essentially a mutant. I have trouble imagining a lot of Firefly viewers do the full hero-identification thing with River in the sense of wanting to be River. On the other hand, lots of Firefly viewers dream of being Mal.]

Second of all, yeah new-BSG’s Admiral Adama is tortured by loss and moral dilemmas, but who isn’t in the new BSG?! With the exception of Admiral Cain, all those tough, ball-busting female characters in the new BSG are depicted as greatly respecting Bill “The Old Man” Adama for being, well, the archetypal “Old Man” wise-and-weathered-by-adversity father figure (most notably, Roslin who falls in love with him and Starbuck who views him as a father).

Finally, it seems to me that one can just as well make an anti-feminist case for the current spate of heroines as a feminist one. Their allegedly emasculating courage and competence always is wrapped up in absurdly sexy packages not too far removed from the stereotypical stiletto-heeled, bodice-busting eye candy heroines of classic comic books. This is true even when we remove ourselves from the waif/seductress age group: Laura Roslin and Ellen Tigh are a hell of a lot better looking than their male counterparts of Bill Adama and Saul Tigh. [[Insert favorite Edward James Olmos pockmarked face joke here.]] I’m sure many feminist critics of pop culture don’t view Buffy, River, Starbuck, Caprica 6, etc. as an improvement over, say, Cagney and Lacey.

[Wow, I went off on a little rant there. I could go on, but I'm pretty sure I've already embarrassed myself with the length of this comment. So, back to work! Oy!]

Erotic Tangerines January 21, 2009 at 4:37 pm

1) The female characters on Battlestar Galactica (with the exception of 6) may be powerful, but for the most part are always wrong in their choices. I find it an interesting study on the negative effects of dogma; Adama and Rosslin have their view of the world and always act in accordance with it, but are generally in the wrong. Balthar and the ally Cylons have been the good guys even though the characters that are ostensibly the focus of the show often view them as enemies.

As for Dirk Benedict’s criticism that the show is too morally ambiguous, he’s dating himself. Clear cut, black and white morality is so 1980.

Franklin Harris January 21, 2009 at 4:46 pm

Yes, it’s for real, and, yes, Dirk Benedict is that bitter.

Lucas January 21, 2009 at 7:25 pm

I agree that Benedict is full of crap. I’ve only seen part of an episode of old BSG, but it was horrible. And it’s not that the women in new BSG are strong and the men are weak; everyone in the show is strong in various ways and weak in others (with the possible exceptions of some minor characters like Dr. Cottle). Starbuck is an emotional cripple who uses her toughguy persona to maintain emotional distance. Six in Baltar’s fantasies is pretty strong (though she is a fantasy or an angel from god), but Caprica Six was wooed away from the Cylon ideal by the love of Gaius. Roslin is completely nuts, and frequently on the verge of breaking down. Sharon (in all incarnations) has been wracked with self-doubt and self-loathing. Tori slept with Baltar and hated herself for it. Kat was addicted to stims and a drug dealer. etc.

Of course the same could be said about the Adamas, Baltar, Tyrol, Tigh, etc. But they are also portrayed as having admirable qualities. Admr. Adama especially seems very strong and wise, even if he’s conflicted and uncertain about interpersonal relationships. Doesn’t that sound like a real man?

Doc Merlin January 21, 2009 at 9:17 pm

I am a huge fan of scifi, so I will watch the new BSG regardless how bad it is as I will most scifi… but this show is extremely histrionic. Its like watching a bad soap opera… so much angst, so much crying… constant, constant crying. The sheer emotionalism of the show is hilarious I can’t help laughing through it.

The behavior of the individuals is pure emotionalism with no logical reasons… I guess its what people call good tv nowadays though.

It just reminds me of bad latin american soap operas.

Careless January 21, 2009 at 11:36 pm

First of all, in regard to Whedon, three words: Captain Malcolm Reynolds. Now that’s a man John Wayne would be proud to ride with
You’re calling the captain of Firefly masculine? Compared to heroes in Westerns? Are you serious?

Careless January 22, 2009 at 2:41 am

I feel like I should continue my previous post. The behavior of the captain of Firefly reminds me of no one more than my grandmother. The man would be wildly feminine in a western in previous decades.

Scrutineer January 22, 2009 at 5:07 am

Doc Merlin (on BSG)- … extremely histrionic … so much angst, so much crying… constant, constant crying … The sheer emotionalism of the show is hilarious … pure emotionalism with no logical reasons … it just reminds me of bad latin american soap operas.

A commenter at another blog wrote that BSG declined “because the writers suffered from ‘Lost’ syndrome and didn’t have anything to back up the appearance of a story background.” Disjointed melodrama isn’t a good substitute for coherence.

The intro miniseries and first season were great, though.

Tangurena January 22, 2009 at 9:06 am

The original BSG was a Mormon fable recreating the legend of how they got to Utah. And Benedict’s rant is a reprint – originally, it was published 5 years ago.

Sharper January 22, 2009 at 5:17 pm

I didn’t have a big problem with them coming out with a new SF series with the plot of the new BSG. What I (and Dirk) objected to was calling it BSG and pretending it as a remake. It’s not. The plot is different, the characters are different, the theme is different. There are a couple of superficial similarities in names. That’s it.

I was a fan of the original series (and of Dirk in the A-team, etc…), but I can’t stand to watch the new BSG precisely because it’s not BSG.

If you didn’t “get” the original BSG or didn’t watch it, it’s got typical special effects for the era, but it DID also have a plot/theme/culture specific to itself (based on the cold-war, the LDS religion, etc…) that made it true SF, not just a space-opera.

Now with the new BSG, they lost all of that (the best part of the old BSG), and turned the rest into a space soap-opera. Sure, it’s got an “updated” terrorist theme. Like I said before, that’s fine, but why call this new show BSG? That’s not what it is and it’s the mislabeling that prevents me from ever watching it.

d.cous. January 23, 2009 at 4:39 pm

@ Sharper:

I can understand your complaint: from what I’ve seen, the two shows are quite different (though I like the new one). On the other hand, if you made a show with the same basic premise, however different your characterizations might be, it would be called a rip-off. As is, they get to use some pre-existing ideas (like calling your killer cyborgs “Cylons,” and the show’s ubiquitous cuss word) and characters, change what you don’t want or what’s not relevant for a modern audience, and you have a remake. It seems only decent to do so.

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