Steven L. Taylor
Tuesday, September 28, 2021
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective.
He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog).
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Hope you all have a great day. Silly neuropathy out here on the left coast leaving me time to ponder the mind that brought us Thunderbirds and Supercar… JohnSF?
@Flat Earth Luddite: And Space: 1999! I love that show, despite most everything about that show.
This type of news always bring me joy and dread simultaneously.
‘Babylon 5’ Reboot in Development at The CW From Original Series Creator J. Michael Straczynski
Hey Kathy — Wondering if you’ve had a chance yet to see the first couple of episode’s of Apple +’s Foundation…
@Scott: I truly love B5, so have the same feelings.
I am definitely intrigued by the idea of JMS getting to re-tell and re-tool the story with modern effects and not on a syndicated show’s budget (although the CW is a kind of odd home). There is also not having to adjust the story on the fly due to actor issues and the constant threat of cancellation.
I do think a lot of people who won’t watch the original because it looks too cheesy are hopefully in for a treat.
@Steven L. Taylor: Last year I binged the series again and it stood up for me, even the special effects. The last season was bit of a mess because of all the budget/production issues.
Follow on series like Crusade and the movies were so-so which makes me worry that lightning may not strike twice.
I just hope fun characters like Londo and G’Kar are created and, more importantly, great characters actors like Peter Jurasik and Andreas Katsulas are allowed to just chew the scenery.
Hope the budget is substantial and stable for however long the story arc will be.
One of the fun things about the original series was that JMS participated in a fan website at the same time writing about the process of writing and producing the series. It was interesting to read how plot cul-de-sacs got resolved and how plot lines were advanced. Kind of educational for a total layman like me.
And, oh my gosh, just looked it up that that blog/website is still available. http://www.midwinter.com
@Scott: Recently rewatched the original. It holds up well, and the re-rendering of the CGI makes it easier to watch.
@Scott: @MarkedMan: I rewatched the series not that long ago, and it holds up for sure. The only thing that doesn’t quite do it for me is the telepath stuff in season 5 (which is partly owing to the production issues you noted).
Crusade had a ton of potential. I still lament the loss of more Galen (the Technomage trilogy of novels was quite good, as I recall).
And oh yes, I did love the Lurker’s Guide!
@MarkedMan: I have watched a few of the newly rendered episodes and they definitely look a lot better.
Not yet. I think I’ll wait until it’s all out.
@Flat Earth Luddite:
Nostalgia central for a English kid from the mid-60’s to mid-70’s!
Let’s see, there was Fireball XL-5, Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet; then the live actor ones from the 7os: UFO and Space:1999.
Recently they had 1999 repeated in the SciFi channel, and I caught a couple of episodes
So cheesy it should be served up on toast, LOL.
Some imagination there; albeit basically a rehash of Star Trek.
Only worked by completely ignoring physics and astronomy, so perhaps a bit shoot-yourself-in-the-foot for SF, even on TV? But atmospheric in parts as well. A Space Oddity!
A re-boot of UFO might work, though, given some effort; maybe a mashup with The Invaders. LOL
@Steven L. Taylor:
There are many flaws in the original B5, which would be dealt with better today. In part it’s because B5 was pioneering in its time as regards the story arc. In a way, it still is. Story arcs are common today, but more for a single season than for the whole series (with exceptions like The Good Place). So this is largely about being first.
Then, too, there was the number of episodes. IMO, a new retelling would benefit from fewer eps per season, say 12 rather than 25 (see Discovery and Picard).
BTW, the threat of cancellation looms in streaming as much as it did in pre-streaming days. It’s only the metrics used that change. Ask JMS himself about Sense8 on Netflix.
@Kathy: Agreed on all counts. I would much rather see shorter, arc-heavy B5 seasons than ones that feel the need to provide “TKO” (ugh) as filler. IN fact, I think that what prevents some newcomers from getting into B5 now is that they don’t want to navigate the filler (of which there was a decent amount in S1 and S2 in particular, although a lot of the arc stuff was woven into a lot of those stories as well).
And, indeed, on cancellation threats. I am just guessing that if anyone is going to come to JMS and say, “we want to reboot B5” that they are at least initially going to be more prone to give it room than was the case in the syndicated markets of the 1990s. But nothing is guaranteed, to be sure.
I was about to derail the thread on risk assessment and realized this was better posted here. According to this article (I cannot vouch for the source but this seems to match what has been true in the past), the US spends a bit less than 1% of our budget on foreign aid: $43B. Of this, at least $7B is essentially money to Israel and the surrounding countries to protect the balance of power there. I don’t think most people think of Israel as needing foreign aid in the same way that a developing country does. Of course, a good chuck of that $7B is military aid, which is also not what most people envision when discussing foreign aid. The linked article indicates that the military share of that entire $43B is $7B. Just taking a SWAG, my guess is that non-military/non-Israel aid is something like $35B. And of course, some of that is related to Iraq and Afghanistan.
When we get to what most people think of as actual aid, not much is for things like fighting hunger directly. Although there is $2.5B in food aid, 75% of this is really just a way to dispose of the excess crops created by farm subsidies. How does that play out in the real world? When I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana and I found myself sitting in the Lorry station waiting for my Tro-Tro to depart, I was happy to be able to buy a very inexpensive small loaf of white bread for my lunch. But that low price was because the US was “donating” the wheat, which in turn depressed the market for the local grains (wheat doesn’t grow well in Tropical Africa). The bread didn’t really relieve hunger, as it was mainly eaten by people in the cities where hunger wasn’t much of a problem, and it depressed the prices the rural people, who actually did experience hunger, got for their crops.
Bottom line, Americans are not especially generous when it comes to foreign aid. Even domestically, we are not especially generous. 28% of our donations went to religion, which primarily serves as a social society and the donations should really be considered dues to a private club, 15 % went to education, primarily wealthy universities, so most does not benefit anyone in need. 5% went to arts, which, starving artists aside, is not really helping the needy. So almost half of our giving, right off the top, is not going to the needy. Even if the other half is going o human, environmental, and humane causes (and that is truly generous and those donating deserve all the plaudits they get) it is worth noting that a good deal of that is to cover costs that in almost all other developed countries are simply not charitable causes, such as medical or psychiatric care, or shelter for the homeless.
@Steven L. Taylor: When B5 was created, TV show episodes were almost universally stand alone. I often marvel at how skillfully the creators changed that paradigm while satisfying the fans who hadn’t figured out how to use those new fangled VCR’s with built in timers to record the shows they missed.
It was noted Diane Feinstein missed the vote on the CR + debt ceiling yesterday, making this the 20th Senate vote in a row she’s been absent from.
Will be peak DNC if this all comes down to a reconciliation bill that fails 49-50 because the DNC leadership thinks letting senile people pretend they’re still Senators is more important than actually getting things done.
@Gustopher: What’s interesting to me about it is that I love Supercar and the others, am ambivalent about Space 1999, but have an almost active dislike for Dr. Who. I find myself puzzled at what makes the difference.
@JohnSF: Yeah, I recall liking UFO better than Space 1999, but prefer bagels to toast for the cheesiness.
“ones that feel the need to provide “TKO” (ugh) as filler”
Can someone provide a translation for the part of the audience that doesn’t geek out on this stuff?
@Stormy Dragon: Where the h3ll is she? I’ve always found missing votes to be one of the more inexcusable behaviors of legislators, especially important votes. If they’re hiding, they’re cowards and don’t deserve to be reelected. The only real excuses are death of a loved one or extreme illness/medical issue.
@Just nutha ignint cracker: “TKO” was the title of what was almost certainly the worst episode of B5, and was clearly filler in season 1.
@Steven L. Taylor:
I kind of liked the elderly alien who presided over the fights. Other than that…
It was also a nod to the then-current martial arts fad. It’s bad when a show goes faddish. Other filler eps, like the one with the striking workers, served to develop some characters. Eps that seem like filler, like the one with the Green and Purple Drazi, worked to illustrate long-term Shadow influence (and it was funny, “You’ll all look stunning in purple.”) Besides, that was when the Technomages first show up.
And then there are eps like Gray 17 Is Missing. Something important to the story arc took place, involving Delenn, Neroon, and Marcus, but that was almost overlooked by the horror movie on what should have been the D story.
Speaking of Technomages, the trilogy by Jean Cavellos was very good. I must have read it four times or more. It’s worth noting, too, that aside from fleshing out the Technomages, the trilogy also adds some details about the Volrons and Kosh.
Is there some mechanism that would get rid of her? She is not going to vote for her own expulsion. And, there likely are others who would not want the precedent.
@Stormy Dragon: What, exactly, do you think the DNC can do to convince Feinstein to retire?
People have been noticing her debility for a while. This column from last winter:
@MarkedMan: Precisely nothing.
If they find something that works, apply it to Justice Breyer as well.
@CSK: Oh, yes. Definitely. She’s clearly on the decline and IIRC we extensively discussed her issues when she asked the same questions to the exact same witness immediately after he’d answered the question.
I want to know literally where she is. If she’s going through this obnoxious charade of running for reelection, her staff had better dang well have her in her seat for every important vote.
@Kathy: TKO is one of a handful of eps that I skip when I rewatch the series.
There are a few others not written by JMS that are skippable (Like David Gerrold’s “Believers”), but there is nothing inherently wrong with them. Or GROPOS in season 2 has some interesting character stuff about Dr. Franklin, but I find the ep itself so-so.
You are certainly correct that even some of the ones that are filleresque have a lot of character development and/or arc content in them. I won’t mind more efficient use of time in the re-boot.
And yes, the Technomage trilogy was great (as were the PsiCorp and, especially for me, Peter David’s Centari trilogy (and I do love that episode, and worth it alone for Elric’s prophecy–and it has a lot of plot stuff in it, really).
They do mention in the first episode that a magnetic explosion on the dark side of the moon because of stocked nuclear waste doesn’t fit the known laws of physics, so I think they have themselves covered. The known laws are simply incomplete.
Not sure how it didn’t shatter the moon into a billion pieces that then rained down on the Earth. Or how the moon achieves relativistic speeds in interstellar space and then slows down to interact with some planet and then speed back up.
But the costumes and the sets…. Amazing.
Also, Stargate: Destiny is pretty close to the story pattern, without being so offensive to the science. They’re stuck on an alien ship they cannot control which is traveling at warp speeds (so, only normal offense to physics), which drops out of warp for short periods near useful planets.
But it lacks the 1970s futurism.
Someone should introduce legislation that after a certain age, all Congress critters and Executive branch office holders must prove mental competency at least once a year. Over an even higher threshold or with known factors in play, twice a year. Don’t listen to screams of age discrimination because the truth is EVERYONE starts to slow down a bit as they get older and if we’re gonna have octogenarians running the place, The People deserve to know they’re functional as they were when voted in.
After all, age is legally required factor in eligibility for federal offices according to the Constitution. The Framers had zero problems telling us all youth shouldn’t be allowed to run since they weren’t “wise”; they only lacked an upper age limit because they rightly assumed back then a 90 year old wasn’t gonna in charge if they could still get around. As age keeps getting pushed back, however, we see bodies still moving but minds going or functioning at limited capacity. The government deals with world-changing complex ideas – if we’re gonna work with “youth is too inexperienced to know better”, we need to get used to “the elderly are going senile and need to be checked”. It will definitively hurt some egos of the “I’m old and fine!!!” crowd but that status can change quickly and decline manifest rapidly.
Would have saved us so much grief is this was in play when TFG was around…..
@Steven L. Taylor:
I found the best part of GROPOS to be Dodger, especially a few seasons later when she shows up again in Day of the Dead (which itself is maybe the best season 5 ep).
@Steven L. Taylor:
I’d be more interested in someone else taking a crack at it, honestly. JMS told his story, and it was mostly good. Letting him do it again has a heavy risk of just not being different enough to be interesting.
The Battlestar Galactica reboot was good not because it had better effects, but because it used the framework of the original to tell an entirely different story.
@Gustopher: This is a fair point. I guess since B5 is JMS’s story in a way almost unique (and perhaps fully unique) in shows like this, his involvement seems appropriate.
Having said that, letting Ron Moore reboot B5 would be quite intriguing.
If I were a Hollywood writer, I’d be insulted. The business is sending a very clear message that original ideas from Hollywood writers are shit. Remake the work of past writers? Sure. Spin-off the work of past writers? Sure. Adapt a book author’s work? Sure. Come up with an original idea? Hah.
@Michael Reynolds: The CW in particular seems home to a lot of reboots: Roswell, New Mexico; the 4400; Melrose Place; Dynasty; Charmed…
Well the big thing would have been to support a primary challenger in 2018.
As for now, make it clear she’s persona non-grata: take away her committee assignments, no campaign funds, etc.
Indeed, there’s FAR too many DNC pols who need to come to grips with their own mortality. In the meantime, the Senate shouldn’t be used as a theater for their personal psychodramas; it should be doing the country’s business.
I have a vague notion I’d like to throw to the wolves here and see if it survives. It’s this: in terms of climate change all that really matters is Co2 emissions. Paper vs. plastic is beside the point. Endangered species are beside the point. I like whales, but sorry, their survival is not relevant. People need goal, singular, not goals multiple. To the extent we hand out virtue points for things like paper straws we’re undercutting what should be our focus. To the extent that we give people a menu of things they must do, we render the problem unwieldy and push people to shrug and figure why bother.
If climate change is the life or death issue, that should be the focus, and to hell with everything else. Big targets first, which seems to me to be mostly about direct energy use (cars, planes, appliances, bitcoin) and indirect energy use (beef, the 24 hour delivery cycle, overconsumption). It’s still complicated, but we should probably settle on a Top 5 list of stuff you can actually do that might make a difference, as opposed to Top 10 lists padded with 5 things you can do that’ll make you feel good but have no real effect.
But, like I said, vague.
At LGM Paul Campos has a post, SCANDAL FATIGUE, WEALTH REDISTRIBUTION, AND THE MEDIA quoting in it’s entirety a twitter thread from Mark Jacobs, previously an editor at the Chicago Tribune. He explicates how the asymmetry between the parties makes the surface fairness of bothsides, he-said-she-said, journalism so unfair and destructive.
Campos’ additional comments are very much on point. Republicans have taken to heart the adage that “It’s not the crime, it’s the coverup.” by eliminating the coverup.
Once or twice a year I waste a few minutes telling NYT they shouldn’t be partisan, but should support truth, as Jacob explains so well. (If that favors Ds, so be it.) And Campos explains why they continue to do what they do.
Mitch McConnell will continue to refuse to participate in governance and threaten to destroy the economy with the debt ceiling and the supposedly liberal MSM will continue to report it as a horse race story.
When you say “planes”, does that mean the people flying multiple times a week will cut back to maybe once a month, or (as I suspect) does it mean I can’t go on vacation once a year because I’m now a serf who can’t leave my home village without permission while my feudal lords continue gallavanting all over the planet.
Because I’ve literally only flown twice in the last decade, once for a business trip to Texas, and once for a vacation to Colorado, and I’m getting kind of pissed at people who seem to be flying constantly trying to shame me because I’d like to visit Seattle next year.
She had a ton of challengers in 2018. California has a “jungle primary” where everyone runs in the same election regardless of party.
Yeah, but not a realistic challenger that the party was unified behind.
I think one of the most significant things I’ve absorbed over the years is that our planet is indeed a system of interconnected things. We don’t always know/understand the impact of every creature/plant/component, so I’m wary of blanket statements.
Focusing on CO2 is clearly important. But that doesn’t mean that species survival wouldn’t also have some impact–the most obvious one is bees. No bees, and crops suffer even more than they are with a hotter planet. Less food + climate refugees=wars over resources.
The return of wolves to Yellowstone (American Wolf was a fascinating book) and the increased awareness of the role of fungi (Entangled Life, also a good book) have me thinking more in the terms of interconnected systems rather than a hierarchical approach.
@Stormy Dragon: Keeping in mind that I think she should have retired and not run in 2018 (and should retire today, since she didn’t back then), I am wondering as to the scenario you are envisioning wherein “the party” is going to be all-in against its senior Senator? (Especially since “the party” has no central hierarchy).
@Steven L. Taylor:
Yeah, I realize hoping our societal leaders will actually lead is a fool’s errand. But hope springs eternal. =)
Dude, I dropped out of high school to fly away. I committed crimes to fly away. A huge part of why I work is to be able to fly places. And I intend to go on flying. But, that said, I do now limit flying when reasonable, and if I fly to Europe and spend a few months tooling around, I can choose a clean train over a dirty plane going from Paris to Nice.
You sound like someone who would enjoy Willodeen, by Katherine Applegate, who, entirely coincidentally, is my spouse and whose bank account I share.
Energy use per se isn’t the issue.
Cut the CO2 and you can blaze away on nukes and geothermal (at least until atmospheric waste heat becomes a thing, (which won’t be for a long, long time). And with solar power even that ceases to be an issue.
Among my least favourite people at the moment are those idiot German (and Belgian) Greens who have pushed the shut-down of their nuclear plants, and accepted the expansion of lignite burning, arguably the most CO2 intensive power generation there is.
A bunch of utter pillocks.
I’m not a sci-fi fan, and know nothing about Babylon 5. BUT…. Michael Straczynski created one of my more favorite recent Netflix series, “Sense*”, which I thought was brilliantly produced. I was sorry to see it cancelled after two seasons, but glad they gave it a final film to tie up loose ends. A fun series to binge. Not for conservatives, FYI. Lots of gay sex, and a transwoman as one of the leads. But, to me, a brilliant, enjoyable series.
The lowest hanging fruit of energy is electricity generation.
Second is transportation.
Trickier, but doable.
Third is domestic direct heat.
Bit of a bugger, take longer, but can follow on from the first two.
Crack those three and the remnant (industrial direct heat, mainly, and non-energy emissions) are small potatoes; you can deal with CO2 fixing, of various forms.
But you can get benefits from other ameliorative measures, eg forest conservation tc.
There’s certainly no downside to preserving whales etc; and believe me, you don’t want a trophic cascade collapse in the oceans.
Bad news blues.
@Steven L. Taylor: Wow, that you are a B5 fan goes a long way to illuminate how I find you, uh, sympatico.
I think, as a viewer, you’re going to have let go of many desires to have the “same thing” over again. Andreas Katsulas was in a once in a lifetime situation where his prosthetic makeup made a guy who’d spent his career being kind of evil and menacing looking look handsome instead. This had, according to him, a huge impact on his performance.
Now, I have a lot of confidence in JMS. He’s a good writer, with good ideas. It’s a reboot, so lots of stuff could be, and probably will be, different. Bear in mind, I’m probably gonna be disappointed with a few choices, but meh. They don’t have to ask my permission to change. I’m just kinda worried that some of the hard-core long-time fans are gonna get cranky that things are different.
@Michael Reynolds: I am very familiar with your spouse’s wonderful and amazing work, but missed Willodeen, which does indeed look to be right up my alley! Thanks for sharing that link, I’ll definitely pick up a copy. 😀
@Steven L. Taylor:
I regard that as one of the major asymmetries between the Parties. The RNC and DNC are weak. But the GOPs have the Federalist Society and, for lack of a better term, the Kochtopus. Both act as coordinating agencies. Some months ago I read a history of the Federalist Society. A fawning, but unconsciously revealing, history. It was quite explicit about forming a network of like minded lawyers. This provides mutual support, but also a level of, shall we say, coordination. The Kochtopus ties together major donors and a network of “think” tanks and operatives. It enforces the ideological uniformity of the Party and directs money where it feels it will do the most “good”.
There are a number of stories about the coordinated charm offensive the Trump family launched on Justice Kennedy and his son. It’s reasonable to assume others were working behind the scenes, flattering , persuading, cajoling. Perhaps identifying a few profitable investments or a good deal on a beachfront property or a job opportunity for one of his kids or grandkids?
Ds lack similar large scale coordinating agencies, but surely some sort of persuasion could be brought to bear on Feinstein, and Breyer.
A Tunguska sized airburst destroyed Tall el-Hammam a Middle Bronze Age city in the Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea
In her forthcoming book, Stephanie Grisham reports the following tidbits:
1. Trump underwent a colonoscopy in 2019 and refused to speak of it for fear of being the butt of late night jokes. (Was the pun intentional?)
2. Trump cuts his own hair with a huge pair of scissors.
3. Trump was so affronted by Stormy Daniels’ revelation that he has a wee mushroom-shaped penis that he called Grisham from Air Force 1 to tell her that he does not, in fact, have a small toadstool-like penis.
I for got to add that the White House had a “Music Man” (Max Miller, Grisham’s one-time boyfriend) to play show tunes to calm Trump down when he got enraged. Trump’s fave was “Memory” from Cats.
@sam: Coincidentally, I just listened to a short podcast on the end of the Bronze Age called 1177 BC, The Year Civilization Collapse. Didn’t mention this incident but you got to wonder whether a catastrophe 400 years prior set off a chain of events that led to 1177 BC.
What Happened After Civilization Collapsed
Thinking furthur about it, I don’t think it’s the DNC’s place to take a position on challenges to incumbents, it would be getting out of line if it did.
That would not have worked anyway, the top two finishers in the “jungle” primary proceed to the general, DiFi has too much name recognition to not be one of them.
Several years ago AZ voters defeated a ballot initiative to take AZ to a “jungle” primary like they have in CA, LA and maybe one or two other states. If it had passed we would be truly hosed with Krysten Sinema.
Yeah, that was a bad time to be in that part of the world. The Thera destruction took place around 1600 BCE. Some speculate that this was the origin of the Atlantis story in Plato’s Critias.
I mean, the actual problem with climate change is that it’ll make the planet inhospitable to human beings. Saving the whales was never about climate change, as far as I’m aware. That’s an animal-rights initiative, which can be umbrella’d with climate change under “environmentalism”, but they’re not really the same thing. As far as I’m aware, the only actual life forms that climate change is really concerned about are factory-farmed livestock and trees and human behaviors.
The paper vs. plastic stuff was always dumb. Killing trees to reduce dependency on oil doesn’t work for fixing climate change. Even metal straws aren’t a great idea, but they’re better than either just on the sheer value of reusability.
Frankly, the whales will probably be fine if the problem was just climate change. Unfortunately, the whalers will probably be the last to die as the seas boil over.
How hard is the dating on that event?
Because c. 1600 BC is the Thera/Santorini eruption that wrecked the Minoans.
If the date is within the estimate for the Thera event, I’d be inclined to put it down to eruption debris impact.
(Or else maybe there is a vengeful god who was in a bad mood with the Near East that century.)
Population. Nobody wants to talk about how population affects the solutions to climate change, or that population is THE reason we can’t have “nice things”. I have a vague notion we are dodging the tough issue.
There are a lot of reboots, spin-offs, extensions of franchises and so on, but also some new original content. Off the top of my head, that I’ve watched, there’s Final Space, Dispatches From Elsewhere, Disenchantment, and The Good Place.
Adapting books to TV is not bad, either. You may get some good books exposed to a wider audience who either doesn’t read or hadn’t come across some books before.
Agreed. I’ve often thought if the world’s population were today 2.5-3 billion, rather than almost 8 billion, there wouldn’t be such a problem with climate change, or it could be more easily solved.
@Kathy: Thanos would agree.
@Jen: I didn’t realize that Roswell, NM, was a reboot. Then again, I’ve never watched either version, so I guess it’s not that surprising. And I just looked up the series info on the innertubes and Wikipedia doesn’t seem to disambiguate the two (20 years apart) shows. Maybe they’re not recognizing it as a reboot.
@KM: “Someone should introduce legislation that after a certain age, all Congress critters and Executive branch office holders must prove mental competency at least once a year.”
Is “man woman person camera” enough?
@Jay L Gischer:
TBH, I am hoping that it isn’t the same thing. Indeed, my main concern is that it might be too much the same thing with prettier pictures.
Indeed/you know there will be a ton of the “Not MY Babylon5” types.
@EddieInCA: I have been meaning to watch that, in fact.
@wr: Just little reminder that the FDR ‘Pack the Court’ plan that never went anywhere was to appoint a new justice every time a serving justice turned 70.
@Michael Reynolds: “Endangered species are beside the point”
If “species” were things that existed independently of the state of the ecosystem, and if we weren’t dependent on the survival of species for our own survival, maybe you’d have a point. It could be like burning down the monkey house to save the zoo.
But whales are dying because the oceans are turning to acid and polar bears are dying because the ice caps are melting. It’s not like their fate is somehow removed — it’s a symptom of the larger problem, not a completely different one.
Your idea is like standing in a coal mine and saying “Sure, the canaries are dying, but we really shouldn’t waste our time with birds. Let’s keep digging!”
@EddieInCA: “Michael Straczynski created one of my more favorite recent Netflix series, “Sense*”,”
JMS is one of my least favorite human beings in the biz, which is why I’ve still never seen B5. But I thought Sense8 was so good it transcended my personal dislike for its author — and that’s a heavy lift!
(Also, for Doctor Who fans, the pilot features what I believe is still the only explicit scene of a former Companion having strap-on sex with a trans woman…)
Of course we should do all the right things, but humans is humans, poor dumb bastards. Give humans ten commandments and they’re lucky if they can manage three. (I’m down to not murdering. The other commandments, well…)
Messaging needs to be clear, with distinct calls to action. A call to action that says, ‘do these twenty things right’ is going to be – in fact, is – ineffective. It’s too much, too confusing, too easily sidestepped by picking out the one or two easiest bits. A call to action that says, ‘Do this one genuinely helpful thing,’ will be more effective. For example: a pledge to avoid all driving one day a week. Or a pledge to put up solar panels.
I know very little about volcano eruptions, but I’ve read quite a bit about asteroidal impacts and Browsing the Nature article @sam posted, the amount of nanodiamonds found at that tel jives with amounts of nanodiamonds at younger dryas impact sites.
The pressure and heat needed to create nanodiamonds at this city would likely have come from a cosmic source. Debris from the volcano would not have reached elevations high enough to come back down with that type of force.* And while volcanoes themselves can create nanodiamonds, the debris would have to have been incredibly rich in nanodiamonds to deposit that much at the site of impact.
In other words, I’m going with really fucking vengeful Gods.
*I hope there’s an amateur volcanologist here to correct me if I’m wrong.
@dazedandconfused: Every now and then I read a piece by someone happy that we ignored those Zero Population Growth zealots so everything is just fine and we haven’t had to adjust to the untold horrors of a somewhat different age distribution. IIRC even Matt Yglesias went there Along with COVID, it’s another example of failing to understand “exponential”.
In other exciting archaeological news, the Mayan city of Tikal is one of the most studied archaeological sites in the world. Scientists from UT Austin using LIDA just discovered a series of hills a bit out from the city was actually a thriving suburb.
Even better, it was modeled to look like Teotihuacan, which sits more than 1,300 miles away.
Tikal: the Mayan’s Las Vegas.
I think simple people need simple messages.
We bought a Volvo Recharge. (Not for me.) And we were immediately confronted by too-smart-for-their-own-good offspring with notes on all the other externalities of mining, manufacturing, unfair labor practices, etc… If every decision is fraught, no decision gets made. I think we’d do better with simple rules, simple calls to action, all directed at the most useful targets, and with no virtue freebees. ie. if I use a re-usable grocery bag, no, that does not balance off my pool heater, etc…
One other thing that bugs me as a story guy: what’s the happy ending? In the middle of WW2, with all hell loose on the planet, people still thought about after, about the United Nations and lasting peace, and all that. It’s hard to motivate people when the story goes, ‘Stop doing a bunch of things you enjoy, and maybe life will be slightly less miserable.’
@Neil J Hudelson:
My money’s on @Kathy.
@Steven L. Taylor:
Well, Mr. JMS could go for more of the original B5 timeline. For instance, had Sinclair stayed, it would have been Katherine who “died” in Zahadum (however that’s spelled), to come back after he’d gotten together with Delenn. Or so the buzz went online.
That’s not different enough, though in the original run it would have hit much harder. It’s not as if we knew Anna Sheridan from Melissa Gilbert, is it?
There’s a book called Parallel Asimovs, which contains different versions of some of Asimov’s works. One is the novella version of The End of Eternity. It’s almost identical to the novel, except Noÿs does die in the Reality Change, and Andrew tries to wreck Eternity because of that. It’s not bad, but it’s much weaker than the novel.
B5 was considerably above “not bad.” Therefore redoing the story with changes won’t be much, IMO.
Or we may end up with an Episode VII, which is essentially Episode IV with different characters and even less explicit politics.
Me, I’d add some Technomages to the mix, not necessarily Galen and Elric
I’d say you lost that bet.
I did read a piece on the Sodom Asteroid, if that’s what it was, but I know little about volcanoes. the only suggestion I have is to compare known volcanic eruptions to this site and see if anything matches.
I have seen the first two eps of FOUNDATION, BTW, and doubt I’ll watch a third. Slooooow. Slow and talky. And built around the fairly idiotic idea of psychohistory. I’d hope no one today would buy that nonsense, let alone people in the advanced, space-traveling future. I didn’t find the characters much more engaging than the script. There’s some expensive set design, but even there it did not grab me.
In this case I don’t even blame Hollywood. FOUNDATION TRILOGY was always said to be unfilmable, and for my money the conventional wisdom was right.
@Michael Reynolds: “I think simple people need simple messages.”
I think we agree on that, just not on how to convey it. Personally, I think “look at the adorable polar bear starving to death on ice cube” is a pretty strong visual. I think mass whale and dolphin deaths make for strong messages, too.
Not for everybody, granted. There are a lot of Trumpies out there who would look at the pictures and say “hell, God put them here for us to use, so who cares.”
I can’t imagine any single message that will reach every single person. But to find ways to translate this onrushing doom out of the realm of thought and into that of emotion is the only way to sell the message.
@Michael Reynolds: “It’s hard to motivate people when the story goes, ‘Stop doing a bunch of things you enjoy, and maybe life will be slightly less miserable.’”
Okay… but what IS the happy ending here?
I mean, if you’re trying to tell the people of Pompeii they should leave their homes because otherwise they’ll be swallowed by lava, do you put off the promotional campaign until you can figure out the upside?
@Michael Reynolds: “In this case I don’t even blame Hollywood.”
I’ve found it’s never fair to blame “Hollywood” when you’ve got David Goyer to blame.
That said, I’m a little more intrigued by you. Doubts about the story, but I’m getting enough pleasure out of the visuals and Jared Harris to keep me at least through episode three.
On the brighter side, I just tore through season four of Goliath in two days. I’ve really come to adore this show. It’s so weird and quirky — somehow it manages to turn its faults into virtues, which is really a clever trick.
Here’s a Twitter thread by JMS where he talks about why he’s doing the B5 reboot. It’s a pretty interesting window into his thought processes.
That is unfortunate (although I feel like I have read that before).
This is kind of what I expect.
I would be down with that. Maybe he can integrate stories we was going to tell with Crusade.
I loved the novels as a kid and reread them a few years ago now, and this was my fear. I don’t remember a ton of action in those books.
I gotta say the “put them in a blender” bit does not inspire confidence in me about this reboot.
Reboots can be good, if the people making it have in mind a specific concept of what the reboot will explore that the original didn’t. If it’s just “this worked before so maybe it will work again”, you invariably end up with something that just makes you wonder why you aren’t watching the original.
JMS’s thread does not make me think he has a specific vision for why the new Bab5 should exist and is just planning to throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks.
That describes the books just as Asimov wrote them. All his stories and novels are like that.
In the prequel, Prelude to Foundation, Seldon explains psychohistory as a means to determine the broad trends of the future in a probabilistic way. I don’t buy it, but it’s the central premise of the whole saga. I can suspend my disbelief that much.
Part of JMS’s problem may be that the worst thing that can possibly happen to an artist happened to him: he managed to create his magnum opus relatively early in his artistic career. While he’s done a lot of work since then, nothing has come close to the success of Babylon 5, and you have to wonder if this is about him going back to the well hoping to recapture the magic.
e.g. Like M. Knight Shaymalan spending the last two decades trying to remake The Sixth Sense
@Steven L. Taylor:
In the original trilogy and the two sequels, there isn’t much action past Golan Trevize being cornered up a tree by a pack of feral dogs. In the prequels there are three or four fight scences.
I’m sure the TV series will butcher Asimov’s work. Past attempts to translate his works to visual media were unmitigated disasters (I’ve yet to see the Will Smith vehicle I, Robot).
IMO, the only Asimov books worth filming are the first three Robot mysteries: The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, and The Robots of Dawn. They have zero action, but they are crime mysteries. I think these tend to play well when sold as “thrillers.”
Again, as long as you stomp on the CO2/GDP link, which CAN be done (see France) then population isn’t a terminal problem, as you can follow the increased living standards/state welfare routes to population stabilisation.
If you have the de-carbonised energy, most other problems are solvable.
Albeit not trivial: food and pulp demands are major drivers of deforestation in South America, Equatorial Africa and South East Asia, for example.
There are limits to stress levels that non-climate aspects of ecosystems can endure, and we may be pushing them in some areas; see fisheries collapse in some unregulated zones, and very worrying collapses in pollinator insect numbers in zones of intensive agriculture.
But those things are remediable, given the appropriate regulation and substitution.
Current projections are would be we’ll top out about 10 billion in 2100, which is probably half the number of the non-carbon determined hard limit.
If we dont:
@Michael Reynolds: Re: The Apple+ Foundation series. So far, I’m in. They are exploring different facets of the story than the books, which is totally appropriate. And easy to do. In the books, the Foundation doesn’t exist and then the next we see, it is set up on the edge of the Empire. How that happens could actually be a pretty good story. And no mention is made in the books about WHY the people traveled to Terminus, aside from the ones that had been condemned to do so. Here, they seem to be going into it.
I don’t have any problems with talky and slow, probably because I am talky and slow myself…
My one big gripe is why they took months of time in the book and compressed it down to something like 24 hours. It doesn’t seem to be about saving money by advancing the story as far as possible in each scene, because they change scenes in between major events of the story arc.
Hmm. If life were like your typical TV show or movie, every few days you would walk into a random room on the happiest day of your life, acknowledge that happiness with various friends/family, then four minutes into it another person/monster/catastrophe would show up and turn it into the worst day of your life. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Maybe my Euro-statist, demo-skeptic side showing through, but I believe that the co-ordinated actions of an enlightened state beat popular action 9 times out of 10.
France has a CO2/capita of c.5 tonnes/yr; compared to USA 16, Japan 9.5, Germany 9, China 8, Russia 12.
And that’s because the state consensus across the main parties, and in the managerial elites of the civil service and the corporations (these sectors overlap a lot) decided that nuclear power WOULD be pursued, and any and all objections swept aside.
Today 80% of electricity in France comes from nuclear stations.
Similarly, in Europe electric car sales are now 11% and rising fast, not primarily because of the “feel-good” vibes (though they don’t hurt) but because (UK figures, but similar elsewhere in Europe) petrol costs equiv. $7 a gallon, of which 60% is tax.
Feel good is fine.
This you WILL do often works better, though.
It’s always going to be TMI with Trump.
@Neil J Hudelson:
Just been skimming the Nature article that @sam linked.
Does indeed look like really bad luck/vengeful deity at work.
Maybe someone could re-write the old tale for a very unfortunate refugee from Minoan Crete:
Also, the Sodom link.
Looks up, sees incoming fireball, and says: “Well, sod me.”
In a weird way, I am counting on it.
I don’t know the happy ending. TBH I haven’t really engaged much with environmental issues until very recently. My interest has always been foreign policy, followed by the usual social issues. I’m engaging more now because, well, 24 year-old kid moved back home and future future future. . .
Jared Harris has an open invitation to chew scenery on any screen of mine. But man, he’s doing some heavy lifting here. The bigger issue for me is Asimov – a great writer beloved by every sci fi nerd ever, including me – but not really a good writer. Prolific as hell, though.
It’s fairly widely held that the Thera catastrophe destroyed the Minoan culture, and triggered the chaos that eventually ruined Mycenaean Greece and badly hit Egypt and the Levant, leading to massive economic/cultural systems collapse.
@Steven L. Taylor: “That is unfortunate (although I feel like I have read that before).”
I confess you have, which is why I didn’t go into detail. Thought it was important to make clear how impressed I was with Sens8…
Well, unlike @StormyDragon that Twitter thread got me more excited, not less. I mean yeah, you don’t know until you see it. And furthermore, sometimes I love stuff other people don’t love (Ang Lee’s Hulk comes to mind. I adore it.) I think he’s teasing what his actual ideas are, not that he doesn’t have any.
He is quite right to point out how many innovations B5 brought to television. (One of my personal favorite details was that the ships fly in a way that makes sense in space. The Starfuries simply spin around and shoot behind them!) He wants fans to know he’s still trying to drive that. Maybe the ideas aren’t that good, but he has enough of a track record to make me at least pay attention.
I think JMS has plenty of great work to his credit since B5. Sense8 has been mentioned. There are some good comic books he’s written, too. But yeah, it can always suck. Or maybe have moments of suck.
By the way, I agree with the idea that the intended plot was that Sinclair stays on, and Katherine goes to Zahadum.
Speaking of reboots. I trust we’ve all seen Good Omens (on Amazon Prime), or least have read the book. I was wondering the other day if somewhere in the back of his mind, Pratchett was thinking of the 1945 movie, starring Jack Benny, The Horn Blows at Midnight.
@Michael Reynolds: “The bigger issue for me is Asimov – a great writer beloved by every sci fi nerd ever, including me – but not really a good writer. Prolific as hell, though.”
He was a pioneer in SF, but he was never a great dramatist, and so much of what followed in the genre took pieces of what he’d done as, well, foundational, and now it’s really hard to see that it was ever once fresh. (That’s really true with those robot mysteries…)
That said, Foundation ain’t Dune. My sense there is that Villeneuve and company are really trying to follow the book. Goyer and Friedman seem to have decided that’s just not possible with the Foundation Trilogy, and they’re attempting to create actual human stories within the framework that Asimov set up. More like variations on a theme than a straight adaptation.
@Jay L Gischer:
I’m not saying JMS’s post-B5 work wasn’t good, just that it wasn’t so… transcendent.
@Jay L Gischer:
Actually, this kinda goes with my point about remakes. Ang Lee wasn’t making a Hulk movie just to make a Hulk movie; if you ever heard him talking about it, there were specific aspects of the Hulk story he felt had never really been focussed on (specifically, while everyone knows the Hulk is angry, no one ever really asks WHY the Hulk is angry) that he wanted to build the movie about.
And like you, I think it’s an underrated movie (part of it I think it was a few years ahead of the technology in what it needed for the CGI to be believable). I do like that the MCU hulk seems to have deliberately been written in a way that the Ang Lee Hulk could be considered to have still happened prior to the Edward Norton movie if the viewer wants.
Is it weird that the only thing I know about that movie is from Jack Benny making fun of it constantly on The Jack Benny Program radio show reruns?
Thanos’s motivations were lazy writing. How can over-population be more than planet specific, and why assume all intelligent life was unable to identify and cope with the problem? Yet here again (like the Bible) a myth works to instill the notion that addressing the problem of population is inherently evil. Perhaps that’s why those seeking to avoid a climate catastrophe are careful to dodge the issue.
Because he was insane? It sure as hell makes more sense the original comic motivation of doing it to impress a goth chick who had spurned him in favor of Deadpool.
Of course, I got in soooo much trouble as a lad for pointing out that Hulk wasn’t actually the villain in the comic books. But given my tastes in movies (“oh, boy, a B- flick! Scenery chewing!!! Oh boy oh boy!) you’ll understand why I don’t get to pick movies for Movie Night at Casa Luddite.
@just nutha: Roswell, New Mexico is definitely a reboot of Roswell. Both are based on the Roswell High book series, but RNM takes the main characters and sets them in their mid- to late-20s, rather than high school. The male lead from Roswell (Jason Behr) had a multi-episode cameo, and the female lead (Shiri Appleby) directed an episode of RNM.
I was older than the target market for the first series, and I’m way older than the target market for the second, but I enjoy it. 🙂
Mandatory retirement ages make more sense that term limits at least. In the US air traffic controllers have a mandatory retirement at 56 because of concerns that mental decline will imperil plane traffic and lead to disaster.
Meanwhile politicians and judges make decisions impacting thousands or millions…but it’s all fine.
Seems more plausible to me. Deadpool is significantly more likable than Thanos. Witty, not so full of himself and has a better sense of humor.
In the past, I would have agreed with you, but I’ve recently re-read a little Asimov and one of Heinlein’s YA novels and they came across better than I expected. Heinlein in particular set the entire scene, including the personality, family situation, family business and economic station of his protagonist, and the shape of the future earth he lives in, without any exposition and in the first page and a half. Workmanlike.
Small world. I know one of the producers for both incarnations of Roswell.
@Kathy: I liked the Will Smith I Robot. I also liked the I Robot done on the first incarnation of The Outer Limits and Vincent Price in The Fall of the House of Ushers. The thing they have in common is that they are entertaining pieces in which the only connection they have to the original work is sharing the name with it. (Vincent Price is said to have joked that in all of the movies that had Poe titles, the budgets were so small that all they could afford to buy was the name, not the story.)
@Jay L Gischer:
IMO, the problem with a reboot of B5, is that it can’t be about the Shadow War if the Shadows and Vorlons are going to play the same role they did in the original. Do that, and there’s no mystery, no big reveal of what the series really is about well past the halfway point.
@Just nutha ignint cracker: Typo in line 2. I’ll let y’all guess where. My bad. [flop sweat emoji]
@Steven L. Taylor: Thank you. Even though I still don’t understand, I understand and my question is answered.
@CSK: Of course you do! The overlaps will never cease to amaze me. Hope to meet you one day!
Oh, believe me, I’m well aware. Katherine had a book adapted as a movie – a pretty good one, too – that was eaten by the pandemic and went straight to Disney +. She’s also got, I think, three other things in various stages of acquisition. We go to meetings. We are pitched. And then. . . nothing. And then something happens. . . but then stops. And no one tells us anything useful.
I had BZRK optioned by Mike DeLuca. Nothing. My Gone series had these two guys really interested, but, as one of them told me on the phone, they had a possible series with HBO, but if that wasn’t picked up, they wanted Gone. What series, I ask? Game of Fucking Thrones. Flash forward a couple years and a British company is very excited, love Gone, blah blah blah but oops, they suddenly had a really big project. What project, I ask? The fucking Crown. Kelsey Grammar was supposedly interested in this duology I wrote.
I have done the couch tour. There was a dude with little dogs. Some guy named McG was mad at me for like, a minute. Someone from Hunger Games was my new best friend for a while. And most recently, the Animorphs movie. Google Animorphs movie if you’re interested in how that went down. (Spoiler alert: artistic differences.)
When I was writing kidlit I could literally call an editor, send a one-page, have a deal signed a week later and a signing payment a week after that. Hollywood? (I hear @wr and @EddieinCA laughing) Jesus H. Christ. I wrote 150 books with zero meetings. In Hollywood the ratio is reversed: 150 meetings and fuck-all happens. I had two pitches with Disney+ for Gone, a series that would have been right for Disney in about the same way as Bobby Flay’s Pork and Bourbon Cook-out would be for Al-Jezeera. But, hey, I got to Zoom-meet some people who next week will be at a different streamer, and that streamer would have changed its strategy, and I’ll have forgotten their name.
And nothing ever happens.
Thanos’ motive makes no sense at all. It’s another example of failing to understand exponential growth. OK, the galactic sentient population is too large, so Thanos has to cut it in half, fine. Did he not realize it would start growing again? What’s the doubling time? For the U. S. the doubling time has grown to about 75 years. So Thanos destroys half the sentient life in the universe. (Do I correctly recall he didn’t destroy half the chipmunks?) Was he planning to come back every 50 or a 100 years to do it again?
Well, you know what they say. One out of 100 “properties” get optioned. One out of 100 options gets bought. Made? Don’t know the numbers on that.
Get a starred review in Publishers Weekly and 14 production companies will call your agent asking about availability. The first time it happens it’s exciting. The fourth or fifth…meh.