Lazy Luddite Log

30.6.10

Cannot Miss

Some recent conversations I have been privy to have reminded me how much we tend to deride the political processes and institutions we have and I have been inspired to pen a short drawing room play exploring the topic somewhat. Here it is - a conversation between life partners Lidia and Stephen over Sunday brunch at home...

Lidia: Have you seen the news sites this morning darling?

Stephen: Been too busy re-jigging the look of my website babe. What's the latest?

Lidia: The Prime Minister has temporarily assumed the powers of the President, and she's suspended the coming election till the national emergency is over.

Stephen: Well, our vote never gave us any power anyway.

Lidia: We do live in a marginal seat.

Stephen: Sure, but both major candidates are always so damn centrist it makes no difference.

Lidia: That's true. May as well just give the job to whichever one has the best IQ or something.

Stephen: Exactly! What is needed is a bit of intelligence in politics!

Stephen wanders over from his desk to where Lydia is sitting on the couch with her laptop, plants a kiss on her forehead, then asks her if she would like a cuppa. She asks for a peppermint tea, which Stephen goes to fix for her, and comes back in with it and his own coffee.

Lidia: I'm looking at local news now, and apparently those Emos who get in the way down at the station have been sent away to Happy Camp to be given a new perspective on life, all expenses paid by the government.

Stephen: Wow, their parents must be chuffed, to be free of the kids at no cost to them.

Lidia: Yes, but they cannot send away the ones who are adult, and a 'spokesperson' for the Emos says that this is an abuse of their rights.

Stephen: Rights? Ha! What rights do any of us have? There's never been a bill of rights here, so who can say we have any. We've always been at the mercy of corporations and the media telling us how to live and what to consume.

Lidia: You're so right, hon, besides, I'm not sure that there is such a thing as "the right to be Emo".

Stephen: The "right to be negative and whiny all the time" more like.

Both Lidia and Stephen notice a commotion in the street outside their apartment, so Stephen walks over to the window to take a look outside.

Lidia: What is it, sweetie?

Stephen: Oh, just more of those black-shirts jack-booting down the street.

Lidia: They worry me, sweetheart, they are supposed to make us feel safe, but something about them gives me the creeps.

Stephen: I know, babe, but there's the national emergency, and besides, we've always lived in a police state if you look at how things really are. Remember how the cops used to be at some of the rallies we attended?

Lidia: I suppose you're right. Oppression has always been the norm and freedom is just a word.

Stephen: Yep. You cannot miss what you never had.

It seems to me that too many of us see things in black-and-white terms. We are aware of and critical of the many flaws in our polity and so we should be. But sometimes this perspective is so overpowering that it obscures any shades of grey. We overlook the worthwhile aspects of what we do have and forget how atrocious things could be. If we assume something is worthless we may never notice if it is eroded till it truly becomes the thing we have long imagined it to be.

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22.6.10

Silurians

I once looked at some Silurian Period sediments but never saw a Silurian itself. This may be because the species name is a misnomer. Or it may be because they are a fictitious Doctor Who monster. But sometimes fictional concepts have a power over us and this is definitely the case here.

The Silurians recently returned in a new Doctor Who two-part story (The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood) and I was excited. For most of my life I had loved these creatures and the concepts behind them. Introduced originally in 1970, the Silurians are a classic science fiction concept. If we contemplate that the Earth is well over four billion years old, and if we also consider that humans developed in only a few million, then there is the tantalizing what if that at other times in that long history intelligent life might have evolved. The Silurians are a product of such speculation, a race of intelligent reptiles who ruled the Earth long ago and then had to hibernate in bunkers to escape a natural disaster (itself a classic SF concept that I will pass over here). While they slept we evolved and now human actions (such as mining) wake our predecessors.

Good SF explores more than just amazing natural or technical speculations. It also examines ethical considerations and Silurian tales do just that. They may look like aliens but they are as Terran as we are. Who has the right to rule Earth now? Can we share the planet? Can differences between reptile and ‘ape’ be reconciled. I think these issues were well explored in the new story. I will review that story here while keeping the longer history of the Silurians in mind.

Tragic Fan

I am a Doctor Who fan with a memory of the old show and a love of things like monster and spaceship design. As such I was concerned by the new Silurians. I feel it was too much of a departure from the older visualizations. The skull crests are still there but so much has changed. New Who is supposed to be a continuation of the original series but often feels like a reboot. However because it is a continuation the writers felt the need to have the Doctor say we were simply seeing a different tribal group. Nonetheless I feel the look is too altered and – frankly – too human.

Do I just say that because I am a tragic fan who wants consistency in my shows? I think there is more to it than that – I am interested in how effects affect the message of the story.

The face makeup reminds me too much of aliens from Babylon-5. It is excellent but it allows me to relate too readily with these creatures. I should find them alien and animalistic. I should have a natural inclination to be scared of them. Fear breeds hate and that is what the story needed. Give me distorted sibilant vocals and creepy snake-like pupils. I want to have to make an effort to accept that what is needed is conciliation with these monsters that want to take my world from me.

A few more comments on design however: I do like the attire and technology of the re-imagined Silurians. It combines the original organic look of Silurian technology with the retro-futuristic feel that defines much of New Who. The guns are a nice tip-of-the-hat to those of the marine relatives of the Silurians. The masks are a nifty way of making the Silurians more menacing while also giving them some useful sense enhancements. I never liked the ‘third eye’ of the original Silurians but now wish it could have been preserved in the form of an infra-red sensor on those masks. But back now to the story itself…

Humanitarian

So you can tell that I think the message of the Silurian concept has something to do with accommodating difference, which is why I want them to be monsters and then have us come to terms with that. I think that the new story definitely attempts this but that it is hampered by the anthropomorphic depiction of the Silurians. Yes – the military reptiles were suitably hostile but the civilians were just too nice. There have always been wise elder Silurians but never have they looked like a kindly grandparent. If that elder was offering his technology in return for human land he would never then undermine his ability to offer that by postponing the negotiation process for a millennium (during which any technological superiority may be lost).

Still it is difficult for me to assess the story because of my fannish background. What does someone new to the Silurian concept think of it? Were they challenged or moved? Did they want the humans to win or did they want an accord to be won? At any rate we know what the Doctor wanted – has always wanted – and this time he almost got it. This is good because the latest incarnation of the Doctor is an embodiment of compassion and deserves a happy ending every now-and-then.

There are a few nice touches in the story that show Doctor Who moving with the times and keeping fresh. One was recognition of gender differences among the reptiles and, along with it, a novel demarcation with females as military and males as civilian authority. The other, which was delicious, was seeing a human of Indian descent negotiating on behalf of all Humanity. Overall I enjoyed the return of the Silurians, changed as they are, and am happy that a whole new bunch of viewers have be introduced to these beautiful creatures.

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2.6.10

Peace Post

My blogging content has been kinda heavy lately so I’m moving onto something more fun (but with a kernel of significance to it). Back in 1989-1991 the world changed just a bit more than it usually does. The Cold War ended with a flurry of seemingly spontaneous and generally peaceful revolutions. Another lingering concern for the world – Apartheid – also ended. I was of sufficient age to appreciate it and - of more personal impact - I got to meet relatives estranged till then by the Berlin Wall. I also find that the vibe of those changes affected some of the music back then.

I will link to a few video clips of some songs I'm thinking of. They are nothing unusual for popular music of the time but I feel they all exhibit a sense of the times. There is a dash of the psychedelic in them (moreso in the imagery than in the music itself) as if to say that the desires of the late 60s had come to fruition. More importantly the words of these songs tell us of the fervent hope for a lasting change for the better. Here they are…

Beatfish: Wheels Of Love

Jesus Jones: Right Here Right Now


And from a bit later on…

Lenny Kravitz: Believe

All these songs make me feel good you dig? But history never ends. Wars still rage here-and-there and weapons of mass destruction hang over the fate of humanity. As always we are a work-in-progress. I will end this post with a push for Nuclear Abolition Day. Peace out!

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