Saturday, May 28, 2005

Some reasons why Senator McCain will lose in 2008

Given all of the attention and praise being lavished upon Senator McCain this week, including a major profile piece in "The New Yorker", I think its time for me to go on the record with a few thoughts about the Senator's presidential chances. My impression is that he is destined to lose a presidential bid in 2008, either in the primaries or in the general election. These thoughts might illustrate why his presidential campaign is going to have some serious problems to overcome.
  • The obvious problem for McCain in 2008 is The Deal. Whether or not McCain's deal with the Democrats is a good or a bad thing to happen to the Republican Party, there are still a lot of Republicans out there who believe that McCain stabbed his party in the back. There is still another complication from the Deal for McCain: the Republicans only need to replace two of the seven Republican Senators to be able to regain use of the nuclear option. If McCain runs for president and appears likely to be replaced by a anti-filibuster Republican, the Democrats could attack McCain for betraying them.

  • Another problem for McCain is that he is something of a political chameleon. McCain's media presence tends to emphasize his small-government ideology, but he is not above backing big-government solutions when they make him look good on TV; remember that McCain was a champion of the settlement with Big Tobacco during the Clinton administration, for example. Even liberal rhetoric (i.e. the system is broken, anything would be an improvement, we must have reform NOW or the special interests win, etc.) comes naturally to McCain when his precious campaign-finance reforms are under debate

  • By the way, will Republicans really want the leading champion of campaign-finance reform running for president against a party that couldn't wait until the ink was dry on the previously enacted reforms before searching for loopholes?

  • For those of you who believe that Senator Clinton will be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008, McCain's campaigning style has already proven itself to be easily beatable by her. If you were watching Rick Lazio's 2000 Senatorial campaign in detail, you would know that he adopted McCain's signature tactics against rival candidate Hillary Clinton. When Lazio's "mainstream express" and campaign-finance reforms completely backfired, his adviser on loan from the McCain campaign convinced Lazio to adopt a strategy of ridiculous, unprovable smears such as the contention that Hillary Clinton was responsible for the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole. The end result of Lazio's McCainism was an easy victory for Clinton and a humiliating end to his political career.

  • On the topic of the 2000 elections, recall that it was only the open structure of many of the Republican primaries that kept McCain's insurgent campaign going as long as it did. Given a reasonably conservative, reasonably loyal Republican alternative in 2008, the Republican base might repeat their mass defection from McCain in the 2008 primaries.

The Ark of the Covenant

Sometimes I wonder how WorldNetDaily comes up with these things. Today they are reporting about "a modern-day explorer and teacher and the true inspiration for the Indiana Jones series" who has inferred the location of the lost Ark of the Covenant.

Yeah, right. One of the details in the report that gives that game away is:
Now Jones is convinced that with the help of ancient documents found in Qumran, he has pinpointed the location of the Ark.
Whether the contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls truly contain new information about the Ark is a question for archeologists, but on skeptical grounds alone one can doubt whether a community founded in the Late Second Temple Period could possibly have any information about an artifact that had disappeared nearly 500 years earlier. Of course, dropping the names of mysterious ancient locations is also a great way of adding an ersatz authenticity to one's fables.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Vacuum Energy rating: no stars (on the Bowman scale)
Background information about Star Wars Episode III is available at the Internet Movie Database.

Any explanation of Episode III has to start with a single question: What was Mace Windu thinking?

As readers of my blog are aware, I've long believed that the Jedi council is run by idiots. This judgement is only confirmed in Episode III when Mace Windu launches what can only be considered the most inept coup d'état in cinema history.

In hindsight, the necessity for a Jedi coup is starkly apparent in the first moments of Episode I. To refresh your memory, Episode I begins with two Jedi ambassadors, the Master Qui-Gon Jinn and young apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi, arriving on a starship of the Trade Federation to resolve its trade dispute with planet Naboo. Despite the expectations of practically everyone with knowledge of the Jedi mission, including the Naboo government, Naboo Queen Amidada, the Jedi ambassadors, Supreme Chancellor Valorum, and the Trade Federation leaders themselves, that the Jedi delegation could not possibly fail to resolve the crisis, the Jedi delegation utterly fails to resolve the crisis. With their ability to use the Force diminished by the Dark Side and the Galactic Senate applauding their failure on Naboo, the Jedi council apparently decided to immediately send one of their members (the infamous Sifo Dyas) to planet Kamino to begin preparations for the secret formation of a clone army.

With considerable sangfroid, the Jedi council allows a Jedi Knight that had not been recuited to the conspiracy to investigate their plots even though all available evidence points directly to the council's involvement. When Obi-Wan discovers planet Kamino, the Jedi council activates their double agent Jango Fett (i.e. the Lee Harvey Oswald of the Star Wars saga) to cover-up their involvement by throwing the blame for everything on Darth Tyrannus. Given the utter ridiculousness with which this cover-up would have been viewed by the only non-conspirator in a position to know the real facts, we can only assume that Obi-Wan was recruited for the coup attempt sometime after the battle of Genosha in Episode II. Given Anakin's orders to stay on impossibly romantic planet Naboo with the beautiful Senator Amidala (who is also the object of Anakin's idée fixe) and do nothing, as well as the events of Episode III, we can assume that Anakin was never intended to know about the conspiracy.

By the beginning of Episode III, the success of the Jedi coup seems inevitable. Chancellor Palpatine's conduct of the Clone War has been steadily eroding his political support, the Jedi have followed Yoda's example and assumed operational command of the clone army, and all that remains is for the Jedi to "pull the trigger" and take over the Republic.

Except Mace Windu completely bungles the whole thing. After the Chancellor uses his influence to place Anakin on the Jedi Council, the Jedi try to recruit Anakin to spy on the Chancellor by refusing to promote him to Master rank! Windu then waits until the second most powerful Jedi, Master Yoda, is on a planet far far away before launching the coup. Windu first goes to arrest Chancellor Palpatine (aka Sith Lord Darth Sidious) and manages to defeat the Sith Lord at the cost of only a few pathetic second-rank Jedi that he brought along for backup. Anakin, who at this moment is still somewhat loyal to Jedi, then stumbles across the victorius Windu holding Dath Sidious at bay with a lightsaber and prompts Windu to make a fatal error: changing his plan from arresting Sidious to insisting that Sidious be killed, thus prompting Anakin to kill him instead.

Anakin is inducted into the Sith as the new Darth Vader by a grateful Darth Sidious and proves his loyalty to Sidious by massacring the remaining Jedi. Those Jedi who are on Corruscant are all murdered in the Jedi Temple despite being ordered by Mace to "secure the Senate" while those Jedi who are off-planet are casually shot in the back by their own troops that are supposed to be commanding. The two remaining Jedi, Yoda and Obi-Wan, make a courageous bid to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, but ultimately fail to stop Darth Sidious' counter-coup and the formation of the Galactic Empire.

Thus, we see that the ultimate reason for the formation of the Galactic Empire and the basis for the events of the original Star Wars is that Mace Windu f**ked-up, big time.

Aside from the clownshow that is the Jedi leadership, Revenge of the Sith is basically Lucas' capitulation to his fan base. The film focuses on the lightsaber battles, Obi-Wan's action sequences and the largest capital-ship space battle to be seen since Return of the Jedi, which is presumably due to large parts of Episode II being compared to C-SPAN by critics. Anakin's turn to the Dark Side is based on the deep-seated Oedipus complex established in previous episodes to keep the psychoanalysis in Episode III to a bare minimum, although even these additions to the plot are obviated when Anakin kills a surrendered adversary in the first 15 minutes of the film. Finally, such galling offenses to the fan base as the "prophecy of the chosen one", Jar Jar Binks and the midichloriants are essentially written out of the saga. After all, only a Sith believes in midichloriants.

Friday, May 20, 2005


I saw Star Wars: Episode III last night, so a review is should be up by tomorrow night.

The first big surprise of the movie: Senator Amidala's Greedo-shaped pendant. Here's Greedo for comparison.

The Liberals win!

The Liberal Party in Canada held onto power by a single vote yesterday, thus handing a major defeat to the Conservatives and their allies.

In other news, Conservative M.P. Binks is reportedly very sorry for siding with the government on this key vote and has admitted that he would have supported the Conservatives if he had understood what they were really voting for.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Coming soon

Be on the lookout for a review of the newly released Star Wars: Episode III.

In the mean time, the world's first pro-Imperial Star Wars reviewer has a retrospective of the finally completed trilogy of prequels.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

And I thought that I was the only one...

who had a close encounter with the Monolith Monsters.


Captain's Quarters comments on a startling power play by the Liberal Prime Minster to preserve his party's hold on power (hat tip: Instapundit):
Paul Martin has bought the support of Conservative MP Belinda Stronach with a ministerial position, changing the balance of power in Parliament and possibly saving the Liberal Party's grip on power. Martin induced Stronach to cross the aisle this morning by making her the Minister of Human Resources:
Captain's Quarters also observes that:

MacKay won't respond to press inquiries at the moment, and who could blame him? The dissipation of this relationship could hardly have been more public and more embarassing for him. Not only did his girlfriend leave him, she left him on a moment's notice for Paul Martin, of all people, and for a cushy government position.

I think every American man can feel Mr. MacKay's pain. And despite the fact that Mr. MacKay is a member of the Conservative Party, I think that Americans of all political beliefs will agree that there is only one thing we can do to soften the blow.

You guessed it: we get Senator Bill Frist to lengthen debate on judicial filibusters in the Senate for a few days to keep a certain New York Senator heavily engaged in D.C., then send Bill Clinton to Ottawa. Give Mr. Clinton 6 nights and 7 days at a four star hotel, a extra $100,000 expense account and a "no questions asked" policy from the American media and I'm sure he can help Mr. MacKay get through these next few critical votes with a positive attitude.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Going off the map

Sometime in the next few weeks, posting to Vacuum Energy might decline from irregular to non-existent. I don't know when or if it will happen, but the chance that it does is very high. If you couldn't tell, I'm between the first and second stages of the graduate/drop off the face of the earth/reemerge pattern of college blogging.

Friday, May 13, 2005

There is no Vader, only Zuul

I wasn't going to mention anything else about Star Wars until I had seen Episode III, but after looking at Darth Vader's blog, I couldn't help myself.

So, here is another Star Wars heresy: there is no Darth Vader.

Well, of course, there is the big walking cyborg with what was left of Annakin Skywalker stuffed inside. But what I realized is that Annakin Skywalker himself did not turn to the Dark Side. He was enslaved by the Dark Side. Darth Vader is nothing more than a puppet of the emperor with the Annakin Skywalker slave trapped inside. Essentially, the Emperor is Darth Vader. Keeping Annakin alive as a slave trapped within Vader is just the Emperor's way of making everything hurt more when Luke comes around.

This interpretation does have some evidence in its favor, although I can't rule out something horrendously contradictory in Revenge of the Sith as of yet. It certainly gives Return of the Jedi, and thus the entire Star Wars saga, a deeper sense of tragedy. It explains why Annakin's ghost shows up at the end of Return of the Jedi: since Annakin was artifically kept alive by the Emperor's power, he couldn't enter the Force as Obi Wan and Yoda did until the Emperor was dead. And I think it gives a more sinister meaning to the Emperor's classic line "Only now, at the end, do you understand..."

Revelations of Revelations

I watched the new television drama Revelations for the first time the other night. When I first saw commercials for Revelations, I had assumed that this was the start of a new trend of Christian programming on NBC. Unfortunately, it seems like this might be the sort of fashionable pseudo-Christianity that seems to exist exclusively on television.

The portion of the episode that I watched had five interlaced plotlines. In one, a male scientist and a female nun are searching for a boy that has been kidnapped to be used as a sacrifice by a satanic cult to speed the arrival of the Antichrist. Additional tension in this plotline is driven by a Lovecraftian scholar/mystic who is the only one who can save the boy but who can never save the boy unless he gets a new source of funding to continue his research.

Obviously, the scientist's job is to state the scientific perspective for the audience when necessary while developing a growing respect and admiration for his companion's faith, courage, and convictions. The nun's job is to challange the scientist with evidence of the supernatural (which the show will abundantly provide) while respecting the scientist for his enlightened use of scientific techniques to further her spiritual quest. In this instance, the nun wants to work with the scholar, since only he can find the mystical key to save the boy, while the scientist thinks the scholar is trying to defraud them (no scholar worth his salt actually needs money to pay his grad students to keep the work going).

The second plotline is the show's creepy badguy who just happens to be some kind of nearly-unkillable satanic homunculus who always seems to know everything; if the scientist and nun are Dana Scully and Fox Mulder from the X-Files, the homonculus is the "Cancer Man". This guy spends his days in jail using his Hitleresque charisma to seduce his fellow prisoners over to the Dark Side.

The third plotline is that the apocalypse is coming, as evidenced by the episode's simulated terror bombing of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. If you're faxing a shocked, angry letter to the producers over that, fax one for me also.

The fourth plotline is the teenage boy who appeared to be willingly spending time with the satanic types. In his few scenes, an older man guides him through some kind of ritual incantation before asking the boy to kill a rabbit with his bare hands. I didn't see any evidence that they had been playing Dungeons and Dragons beforehand, so I assumed that it was rabbit stew for dinner that night.

The final plotline is about an unconscious girl receiving care at a convent who incessantly, automatically scribbles whenever you stick a pencil and notepad into her face. Since she's unconscious, she must know some critical information, which is why the convent is under seige by the armies of Satan. And in the true paranoid style of American politics, the convent can't even call the police because even the police are working for Satan. When the Satanists launch a surprise attack on the convent to kidnap the girl, the mother superior attempts to euthanize the girl before she can be captured.

Let's recap. We have a nun who's running around researching mysticism and magic powers, an evil satanic homunculus (as my friend Brian might say, "I've got homunculi in me"), a Jewish terror attack on a Muslim holy place, a teenage boy who is involved in that horrible, evil practice called "hunting", and a mother superior who adopts a "scorched earth" policy to opposing Evil.

Great Stuff! Keep reading!

Sorry for the misleading title to this post, but if I put the conservatism of doubt into one more post title, the blogosphere will start manufacuring antibodies to destroy it.

This post was prompted by Andrew Sullivan's latest elaboration of what the conservatism of doubt really means. As far as the concept of truth is concerned, Sullivan explains that here that conservatives of doubt use reason to identify truth and conservatives of faith don't. The critical faultline in American politics, according to this latest post, is essentially between rationality and irrationality.

I suppose that not every political system ever to exist in human history suffered from this divide; a few entirely irrational regimes must have come into existence at one point or another. The problem here is that the only rational response that one can make to the revelation that important political controversies with enormous stakes involved are sometimes determined by irrational decision making is to get used to it. And the first thing that any true conservative of doubt would be willing to admit is that irrationality in one form or another is going to be a part of political discourse for the indefinate future.

Another tricky problem that irrationality poses is that people who are thinking or acting irrationally may also believe that they are being perfectly rational. That Sullivan's conservatism of doubt seems indistinguishable from liberalism is because it is nothing more than what liberals have been claiming to be believe for decades.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Senator Clinton is not running for President

Nearly a year ago, I explained a few reasons why Hillary Clinton will keep her Senate seat as long as possible. The most persuasive reason for me is what I called the "sleaze factor": all of the abuses of power that the Clintons committed during the 1990's that the public hasn't found out about yet, but which will come out if she runs for President in 2008. Running for the Senate in 2000 was only the logical move for someone who spent the greater part of a decade keeping herself a few steps ahead of Ken Starr and the vast Right-Wing conspiracy. Her safe Senate seat is her refuge; think of it as a nice, comfortable villa on the far side of the Rubicon river.

As you might have expected, prominent liberals that discuss Hillary Clinton's chances in 2008 haven't quite given up on the Kool-Aid yet. Joe Klein of Time Magazine also wants to avoid a repeat of the 90's in 2008, although purely to avoid polarizing vitriol:

It would doubtless be a circus, a revisitation of the carnival ugliness that infested public life in the 1990s. Already there are blogs, websites and fund-raising campaigns dedicated to denigrating her. According to the New York Observer last week, these sites aren't getting much traffic—yet. But they will. I remember several conversations with Senator Clinton after her health-care plan was killed 10 years ago, and she was clearly pained—nonplussed by the quality of anger, the sheer hatred, directed against her. That experience would be a walk in the park compared to the vitriol if she ran for President. And while I'd love to see someone confront, and defeat, the free-range haters on the right, the last thing we need is a campaign that would polarize the nation even more. Indeed, we could use the exact opposite—a candidate who would inspire America's centrist majority to rise up against the extreme special interests in both parties.

Susan Estrich, on the other hand, just doesn't get it:
First, Hillary shouldn't run because it will bring out the haters. As if not bringing them out means that they don't exist, or as if giving in to them gives them less power. That's a really weak one. Hopefully, the right will stand up to its own haters. If they don't, the country will. Speaking in crass political terms, the haters help Hillary, they don't hurt her.
Give me a break! The implication that only a "hater" could view Hillary Clinton as anything other than the greatest, most honest and enlightened person in modern political history is completely ridiculous.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

I'll take "Things that can be seen coming a mile away" for $100 Alex

The inevitable response to President Bush's recent comments in Latvia has been playing out this week, albeit somewhat under the radar since vastly more important world-historical events (such as this and this) have occupied much of the media's attention. Assuming that you missed it, some of the President remarks that are being found objectionable are:
The agreement at Yalta followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable. Yet this attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability left a continent divided and unstable. The captivity of millions in Central and Eastern Europe will be remembered as one of the greatest wrongs of history."
The Slate article follows the "Red Army was in the way" position, although it references this week's Arthur Schlesinger Jr. post that insists that it was really Stalin who screwed up at Yalta.

I'm willing to buy the argument that the Soviet Army occupation of Eastern Europe precluded Western military action; for all we know, even a full-scale Western invasion of Eastern Europe against the Soviet Army might have been doomed to failure. On the other hand, this seems to contradict Schlesinger's statement that Yalta did not ratify the division of Europe. Yalta was either the best deal the Western allies could get given the distribution of Soviet forces in Europe, or it wasn't, but not both.

Schlesinger's escape from this dilemna is the Declaration on a Liberated Europe, which, presumably, was based on the assumption that the possibilty of dissapproval by Western liberals would be an excellent incentive for Stalin to abide by its terms. And based on the assumption that shattered Eastern European governments that were heavily infiltrated by communist agents and heavily saturated with communist stormtroopers would prove to be resiliant democracies, I would guess that the signing of the Declaration on a Liberated Europe certainly would have seemed like a diplomatic master-stroke at the time. If the thought of, say, a mildly unpleasant speech delivered by Alger Hiss at the next United Nations meeting didn't leave the Man of Steel shaking in his combat boots, I'm not sure what did.

On the other hand, President Bush's remarks in Latvia have a certain necessity to them. Given that the American response to the Soviet takeover of the Baltic States was basically "so long and thanks for all the fish", President Bush had to admit to the United States screwing up at some point.

The other controversy mentioned in the Slate article is President Bush's supposedly revanchist view of the Vietnam War:
The thing about the Vietnam War that troubles me as I look back was it was a political war. We had politicians making military decisions, and it is lessons that any president must learn, and that is to the set the goal and the objective and allow the military to come up with the plans to achieve that objective. And those are essential lessons to be learned from the Vietnam War.
Bush's remarks here are a bit of simplification, since in general the President's decisions based on his role as Commander-in-Chief of the military are inescapably military decisions. On the other hand, was there anyone in the 60's who thought that the politicians weren't screwing everything up?

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Social Security

In his column Turning away from government, George F. Will uses the experiences of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan to explain Social Security and its future. Will quotes Moynihan with writing:

"Once the great majority of citizens found that they would do better in the private investment part of this new system, support for the redistributive aspects of Social Security would quickly erode. It would become a residual relief program for the poor elderly, possibly turned over to the states as is done with welfare."

Another point that the article makes is the Democratic Party's absolute refusal to consider progressive indexing. The explanation for this refusal is quite simple. One measure of the strength of a government program is the number of "clients" that the program serves; the Social Security Administration in particular has essentially everybody as a client! Progressive indexing might be good for the long term financial health of Social Security, and it should make sense to Democrats on redistributionist grounds as well, but if its bad for the Washington D.C. bureaucracy then its apparently bad for the Democratic Party as well.

Friday, May 06, 2005

The Federal Judiciary

The New York Times ran an op-ed explaining the Federalist vs. Republican war over the judiciary in the early years of the Republic. In one sense, the article was an attempt to embaress Tom Delay for his embrace of extreme congressional tactics for asserting congressional supremacy over the judiciary (although DeLay usually succeeds in embaressing himself quite well on his own in this regard).

In a more important sense, this op-ed only underscores the fact that the "legitimacy" of the federal judiciary has been eroding with time. Conservatives have been warning liberals for decades that judicial activism would only serve to weaken and deligitimize the federal judiciary in the long run. If liberals are now shocked, shocked, that conservatives are finding a growing constituency in favor of legislative action to curb judicial activism, then they only have themselves to blame.

The so-called nuclear option being considered by Republicans is a case in point. One subtle effect of successfully executing the nuclear-option will be a slight further erosion of the legitimacy of the federal judiciary: future judicial nominees that would have been defeated by a filibuster had the nuclear option not been carried out will be more vulnerable to accusations that their partisanship interferes with their judgement. The likely alternative to some deligitimizing rules change in the Senate is a series of progressively more strident escalations of the judicial confirmation wars that will only lead to more extensively damaging proposals being made by one party or the other.

My best-case scenario for a change in the way federal judges are nominated and confirmed is one that makes the least impairment to their independence and legitimacy. A neglected virtue of the nuclear option in the long term is that it might serve to deter some future "DeLay option" that liberals might find to be much, much worse.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

An amazing propaganda

Rogert Ebert has a review of the new documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room:
This is not a political documentary. It is a crime story. No matter what your politics, "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" will make you mad. It tells the story of how Enron rose to become the seventh largest corporation in America with what was essentially a Ponzi scheme, and in its last days looted the retirement funds of its employees to buy a little more time.

There is a general impression that Enron was a good corporation that went bad. The movie argues that it was a con game almost from the start. It was "the best energy company in the world," according to its top executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. At the time they made that claim, they must have known that the company was bankrupt, had been worthless for years, had inflated its profits and concealed its losses through bookkeeping practices so corrupt that the venerable Arthur Anderson accounting firm was destroyed in the aftermath.
What I find amazing is that, given that Enron had been looting enormous loads of money out of the economy throughout the Clinton administration only to be exposed in the first year of the Bush administration, Democrats proclaimed Enron as emblematic of President Bush's stewardship of the economony.

Science Fiction: Who needs it?

This was originally going to be a Star Trek rant prompted by the latest "Will Trek die?" posted on the Slashdot website. But, since my interest in Science Fiction in general seems to have greatly diminished in roughly the last decade, I'm expanding this post to thoughts about Science Fiction franchises in general.
Star Trek
Star Trek is the epitome of the once-glorious science fiction francise that now seems to do everything wrong as far as its fan base is concerned. I've never been persuaded by the general "lousy writing" or "poor characterization" explanations for why the Trek franchise has gone downhill. I've always been convinced that there was some deeper more fundamental explanation (yes, this is a rare example of a conservative blogger looking for a "root cause").

The best explanation for the widespread dissatisfaction with the Trek francise that I have yet to come up with (at least up to the early Deep Space Nine years when I gave up on the franchise) is that the francise's appeal really rested on a set of cultural assumptions that became out-of-date with time.

One example is the fixation of the original series and its contemporaries with logic: the starship Enterprise in particular and Earth in general were continually getting attacked by perfectly logical robot enemies throughout the 1960's. The general assumption seemed to be that unless humanity adopted something akin to the Vulcan code of pure logic, humanity's irrationalism inevitably was going to lead to its destruction. Except, of course, that humanity might somehow choose another path defined by those few intuitive geniuses (Captain Kirk, The Doctor, or David Bowman, for example) who somehow had that strange mix of intelligence and exemplary character to overcome enormous odds to defeat purely logical adversaries.

Nowadays, it doesn't take much beyond a quick hack-attack (for example, Data against the first Borg invasion of Earth in Star Trek: The Next Generation) to make your computer enemies blow themselves up. The heroic nature of post-Kirk Starfleet captains has been accordingly downplayed to the point that (cheap shot alert!) Captain Picard has become the Colonel Blimp of the Federation of Planets.

Another difference between the original series and its successors (which I'll expound on in greater detail in the future) is that the human cultural diversity of the original Star Trek has largely been replaced by some kind of human monoculture in its successors. Given the lavish attention attributed to the Klingon Empire in The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, it almost seems as if the writers had largely lost interest with the Federation.

I gave up on this show during my recent reactionary phase (i.e. about the time I was giving up Christianity for philosophical morphine) although I actually liked the early Stargate and even saw the original movie in the theaters. My take on the movie was that it was essentially a failed "Raiders of the Lost Ark"; the combination of modern technology and ancient Egyptian wierdness has long been a staple of the "pulpies" which themselves have a certain contemporary vogue. Given that the new Stargate spinoff is entitled Stargate: Atlantis, I've tacitly assumed that the franchise is rapidly running out of fresh ancient material to convert into storylines via demythologization.

Dr. Who
I only caught certain epsiodes on public television during the 1980's, so only the Tom Baker years really impressed themselves on my memory. Nowadays, I've been collecting a lot of the older episodes from the first Doctors, and it seems to me that the actor playing The Doctor really carries the show. Amazingly to me, according to William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton, Dr. Who appears to have been something of a kid's show originally.

Star Wars
I'm waiting until Episode III opens this month before writing more. Just remember that Lucas' conceptual evolution from what appealed to him as a child to what appeals to children started with Indiana Jones and ended with Jar Jar Binks.