setsuled: (Mouse Sailor)


Mitt Romney, many prominent Republican politicians, even both former presidents Bush (though not in as direct language), condemned Donald Trump's words and insensitivity. His failure to immediately condemn and distance himself from his white supremacist and neo-Nazi supporters seemed at best like a cynical calculation and at worst like an implicit endorsement of their views. Trump's tweets and statements were routinely laughably stupid or frightening and vulgar. All of the brightest, funniest, most intelligent, and respected voices in the media were united in condemning, ridiculing, and refuting Trump. It was September, 2016. Maybe some of you are old enough to remember.

To-day, what's different? Well, there's no looming presidential election. No chance to hit a day of revelation where we found out how impotent or possibly disingenuous those voices were.

Sites like 538.com gave the odds of Trump winning the election as slim to none. Hillary Clinton lacked charisma but she was obviously far more qualified for the job than Trump and her worst scandal, e-mails stored on a private server, paled in comparison to the mountains of scandal that had accumulated around Trump for decades, running the gamut from sexual assault to misappropriated charitable donations. Surely, anyone voting for him, even if they didn't approve of most or all of what Trump said, demonstrated they considered these things acceptable. Because Trump promised nothing that could possibly make up for that.

When you look at Breitbart.com, a leading voice of the alt-right, you don't see articles that explicitly endorse white supremacy. The general lack of articles analysing or condemning demonstrations of white supremacy ought to be a disturbing enough indicator. Instead, though, you see headlines like, "NEVER SATISFIED: PRESS DEMANDS MORE, BETTER CONDEMNATION OF CHARLOTTESVILLE". "DALLAS MAN PUSHES TO RE-BRAND FREEWAYS NAMED FOR DEMOCRAT KLANSMAN".

Who are these articles targeting? They're not stridently championing white supremacy. They don't seem to be advocating a philosophy of their own so much as punching holes in the left's rhetoric. Considering the left is busy condemning Nazis, making the left seem wrong or foolish ought to be a hard thing to do.

At the other end of the spectrum, to-day on Huffington Post there's an inconspicuous article about how Senator Al Franken is returning to appear on Bill Maher's HBO show. It was only a few months ago that social media was united in condemning Bill Maher for referring to himself as a "house nigger" in reply to a bizarre comment from a Republican politician suggesting Maher should work in the fields. I didn't think Maher ought to have used the word, but I was surprised when I saw how strident and universal the condemnation of Maher was on social media. Huffington Post ran an article called "Bill Maher is a Dangerous White Man".

Is he?

Maher, who seemed starstruck when he interviewed President Obama last year--Obama claiming at the time that he watched every episode of Maher's show. Maher, who not only routinely mocks Trump but whose show, long ago, brought to public attention the political savvy of the likes of Al Franken and Arianna Huffington, who once co-hosted a regular segment on Maher's show. When we have neo-Nazis marching in the streets, is this really the time to be calling Bill Maher a "dangerous white man"?

And that's exactly the left's problem.

Maybe you're saying I'm splitting hairs. Maybe you're saying I'm a curmudgeon who's still sore because Peter Davison was branded a sexist because he thought there might be some drawbacks to a female Doctor Who even as he enthusiastically supported Jodie Whittaker. But maybe you wouldn't be saying that if we had an election yesterday.

The idea in leftwing media seems to be if people don't take seriously a small problem of rhetoric or an imperfect understanding of civil rights then a bazooka needs to be applied. And that's what makes it all the easier for Trump to say to the millions of disenfranchised, "Look, they're trying to manipulate you and they're insulting you."

Trump is wrong when he says the left is just as bad as the right. Because the right's problem is institutionalised greed and bigotry while the problem with the left is that it's playing into Trump's hands.
setsuled: (Default)


I took this photo moments after the gentleman in the stripey shirt had been down on one knee proposing marriage to the woman with the "bullshit" shirt. I don't think her acceptance was bullshit. This came at the end of a Klingon fan fiction stage play starring the Stranglehold Klingons, their 24th annual performance at Comic Con, and the first one I'd seen.



I guess Paramount hasn't figured out yet how to legally alienate Trekkies in the medium of the stage play, as busily as they are suing the filmed fan fiction for being better than what they've been cynically producing themselves. That's not to say what the Stranglehold Klingons put together was a masterpiece, but these folks were clearly having fun doing what they loved, which is always nice to see. The plot involved a Klingon crew encountering a Starfleet ship from the mirror dimension. A lot, but not most, of the dialogue was delivered in Klingon. I would have liked it better if the story wasn't quite so tongue-in-cheek and there weren't so many references to the 1980 film Airplane.



But the players put a lot of personality into their characters, I particularly enjoyed a couple alien villainesses--an Orion and a Cardassian.

I wonder what the Stranglehold players think of the new Klingon designs for Star Trek: Discovery.



It kind of lacks the rough and tumble quality of any of the classic Klingons. On the Starship Smackdown panel I saw on Sunday in Room 6A, the same room where I saw the Klingon play, one of the panellists, Daren Dochterman I think it was, said the new Klingon design looked like the Lectroids from Buckaroo Banzai.



That panel also referenced Airplane a lot for some reason.

The Starship Smackdown panel was the last panel I saw for Comic Con this year, one of the last panels of the Con, which is why I unwisely left with the main crowd. I went into 6A not knowing what panel was in there, just wanting to sit down a moment and seeing there was no line for that room I was happy to get a chair and listen to whatever was going on. I didn't intend to sit through the whole panel, especially since it was scheduled for two hours, but it was so much fun I couldn't leave.



Hosted by Mark A. Altman, the panel, which has appeared at different conventions as well as previous Comic Cons, features a varying roster of industry professionals who take on the role of "shipologists", nominating different fictional starships and debating and voting on which is best, each with different fictional captains. The panel at Comic Con this year consisted of Jose Molina (writer for tv series The Tick and Agent Carter), Ashley Miller (screenwriter for the films Thor and X-Men: First Class), Kay Reindl (writer for the tv series Dead of Summer), Steven Melching (writer for Star Wars Rebels and Clone Wars), Robert Meyer Burnett (a filmmaker who has worked for Paramount as a Star Trek consultant), and Christian Gossett (artist and writer for the comic The Red Star) in addition to Dochterman (an illustrator and set-designer for films including Master and Commander and The Chronicles of Riddick).



I don't remember all the ships and captains who were nominated. The winner (spoilers) at the end of the panel was Buck Rogers captaining the Moon Bullet from Georges Melies' 1902 short A Trip to the Moon (end spoilers). The main fun was in listening to the panellists talk shit about the ships they weren't voting for. Ashley Miller ended up being particularly funny. Everyone seemed really happy to dump on the design of the Discovery from the new Star Trek series, though someone argued that the holes in the saucer everyone else was making fun of could be used to thwart attacks when the phasers of enemy ships would pass right through them.



Kay Reindl and Jose Molina seemed like they were sincerely going to walk out on the panel when Altman questioned whether the TARDIS qualified as a starship at all--Reindl, in all sincerity, seemed to construe this as sexism, though the panel ended up assigning the TARDIS with a male captain (I forget who). Reindl and Molina seemed to misunderstand Altman when he repeatedly tried to reassure them "The TARDIS is in!" and were almost at the door before apparently remembering the meanings of the English words Altman was using. Even in this nonsense panel, politics were a sensitive issue, particularly feminism. Personally, I am really happy to see so many female protagonists, but it was clear on a lot of panels I saw that people were jumping on the bandwagon because it seemed like an easy way to score points for their mediocre shows.

Also in Room 6A this year I saw two good comedy panels. I haven't seen People of Earth but the comedic talent assembled onstage piqued my interest.



Oscar Nunez, who plays a priest on the series, was particularly funny deadpanning a completely false tease about his character exploring a physical relationship. He concluded with a completely straight faced "You're in for some surprises" while his co-stars were cracking up.

Well, I think that's about all I have to say about this year's Comic Con. Unless I remember something else in which case I'll eventually write about that too, probably.
setsuled: (Doctor Chess)


A little historical perspective isn't too painful, is it? To-day's new episode of Doctor Who, "Eaters of Light", did something I wished the show did more often--it incorporated aspects of history into its plot and argument in a way that also potentially educates the viewer. This was part of the original series concept, after all, back in 1963, and I never thought it was such a bad idea. Although the writer for to-day's episode, Rona Munro, just barely qualifies as a classic series writer--she wrote Survival, the 1989 final serial of the classic series--"Eaters of Light" definitely felt like old Who in ways I really liked.

Spoilers after the screenshot



The season long theme of colonising and people oppressed based on race or nationality takes a form surprisingly resonant with to-day's politics in this new episode. Here we have racially diverse, sexually liberated Romans invading the lands of the all white, rural Picts, and the two of groups need to set aside their differences to confront a threat to the entire universe. Whether it was intended or not, one could see this as reflecting the politics of relatively affluent liberals versus poor conservatives--Londoners versus people outside the city who voted for Brexit, in other words, or in the U.S., educated liberals versus ignorant and out of work Trump voters. And the realisation that all these people need to work together if we want any hope of addressing the threat of climate change. As a being that eats light--something that foils enlightenment--the episode's monster could be seen as a manifestation of a compulsion to avoid empathy. This really does feel like a natural evolution of the political themes in the Seventh Doctor era.



There's even something very Seventh Doctor-ish in the off-hand way Twelve (Peter Capaldi) explains the crows who can talk. Though maybe Peter Capaldi is more appropriate for this story because he's a Scotsman with Italian ancestry. Well, either one would have worked. I love Capaldi's performance this season, his understated grace is a long way from the stupid peevishness in "Robot of Sherwood".



I love how Munro used the TARDIS translation circuits to say something about what the Doctor does. In all the analysis of the Doctor as a character that's endemic to the new series, it's not until now we have this very simple thing--the ability for the TARDIS to automatically translate language facilitates communication. Suddenly the Romans and the Picts can talk to each other on the same footing. It seems a small thing, but it's essential to the Doctor's characteristic strategy of assuming anyone can be met as a fellow sentient being.



I could quibble that Bill (Pearl Mackie) ought to've known the basics of Roman culture if she was so well read on the Ninth Legion. But her discovering the different perspective on sexuality among the Romans is a nice way for younger viewers to be introduced to the idea that such perspectives have a very long history. And I'm not sure why the Doctor's argument about his greater lifespan is invalidated because the humans got brave. But it's still a pretty sweet idea, Romans and Picts united forever and a ghostly music forever being heard from the hill.

A Comey Day

Jun. 8th, 2017 06:23 pm
setsuled: (Mouse Sailor)


Despite he and Trump having had a "thing", James Comey didn't do Trump any favours to-day. What was the "thing" Comey quotes Trump as alluding to in one of their now infamous private conversations? Comey speculated in his testimony to-day, at the insistence of John McCain, about the "thing": "I concluded at the time, in his memory, he was searching back to our encounter at the dinner and was preparing himself to say I offered loyalty to you, you promise loyalty to me. All of a sudden, I think his memory did not happen and he pulled up short." I guess this is different from a trial where a lawyer would stand up and say, "Objection--speculative!" Speculation is fair game, it seems. It's weird how often Comey was asked to speculate, anyway.

Now, if I were to speculate about "the thing", I'd say it was Comey's announcement about investigating Clinton's e-mails shortly before election night. At the time, that was widely seen as a show of Comey's loyalty to Trump and, wouldn't you know, Clinton's e-mails were made an important part of the committee testimony to-day by Republicans who continually, awkwardly tried to steer back to the issue. Most strikingly McCain, who was so incoherent as to seem physically unwell, insisted there was a double standard simply because Comey had concluded one investigation while another was ongoing.

Of course, now it doesn't seem likely Comey was being a Trump loyalist when he made the critical announcement about the investigation of Clinton's e-mails. But everyone at the time figured he was--certainly everyone on TV. We know Trump mainly keeps himself informed on everything through cable news, much to the consternation of his National Security Advisers. So the "thing", I believe, is this narrative that Trump bought into.



For those of us who don't want the country controlled by a dimwitted creep, Comey having previously seemed to be on Trump's side may be a blessing in disguise, and I think Republicans recognise that and that's why they're trying so hard to re-write history now. Because, with these two investigations, Comey really and truly does look impartial. You can see this is what Republicans are desperately afraid of and that's why they put out the hastily assembled, bizarrely campaign-like attack ads on Comey which seem to say little more than that Comey is politically biased. And has always been biased. Well, fortunately this isn't 1984 and you can't make people forget the narrative from six months ago with a hokey piece of propaganda. At least I hope not.

The Republican loyalty to Trump is really strange at this point. There's something more to it than partisanship. With all the Republicans who came out publicly against him before the election and what, one would think, is the more attractive prospect of a Pence presidency--and the political capital to be gained from pursuing criminal charges against Trump and thereby seeming bipartisan--you'd think all the Republicans on the committee wouldn't be so lock-step. Particularly McCain who's been insulted by Trump and who has expressed words against the orange man. It makes the incoherence of his questions this morning all the more intriguing. I feel like McCain is being blackmailed somehow, if it isn't a medical issue.

Without a proper president right now, it occurred to me that the U.S. feels sort of headless. Then I thought, like The Headless Horseman--and Trump's the pumpkin.

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