Re: Belated Serenity review

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Oh damnit that empty space just called to me.

I have only the vaguest idea what you are talking about.

Serenity. The movie based on the show that was cancelled. Wednesday Addams?

Serenity itself is highly desirable. I think those that have it rarely find the need to kick ass. But I suppose it's not by its very nature incompatible with ass-kicking.


Posted by: ozma | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:21 AM
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Great song! That Paolo Angeli is one of many great things I and many other people would never have known of if it weren't for the wfmu blog.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:34 AM
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I wanted River to have more screen time.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:34 AM
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I really liked that Serenity was free to see in the movie theater. That was a big point in its favor.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:40 AM
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Man, I love modded instruments. I mean, it can be done badly, and I've seen that, but in general, it's great fun to watch.

I saw a guy in Boston who'd rigged up a drum kit so his left-foot hi-hat kicks would also register a brush hit on the snare drum, thus freeing up his hands for the guitar. He played basic beats behind his guitar work. It was just fascinating to watch.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:46 AM
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All movies are free to see. The ticket is just for a seat in the theater.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:51 AM
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No, the ticket is for admission to the theater, and the number of tickets dispensed is equal to the number of seats in the theater.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:09 AM
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7: not always so; most of the times I go to the cinema, the number of tickets dispensed is less than the number of seats in the cinema.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 3:06 AM
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I didn't like Serenity. In fact, I fell asleep half way through.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 3:16 AM
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I wanted River to have more screen time.

Then this xkcd is for you.

ttaM, you are a big freak. I can understand people being put off by the rampant Firefly/Serenity fanboyism of people like me, but the movie itself?


Posted by:
Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 3:56 AM
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burn the land and boil the sea YOU CAN'T TAKE THE SKY FROM ME


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 4:13 AM
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re; 10

Just did nothing for me, at all. I was probably already a bit sleepy when I saw it, but, it didn't do nowt for me.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 5:10 AM
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||
Does anyone else remember a poem where jaguars invade some kind of religious sanctuary and eventually become the object of worship themselves? I want to say that the first line is in fact "jaguars invade the sanctuary", and that the poet was from eastern or southern Europe. Google is useless, and this is nagging at me.
|>


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 5:29 AM
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Not even this?

"This is the captain. We have a little problem with our entry sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and then - explode."


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 5:31 AM
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re: 14

Nope. There are a few of those sorts of (for want of a better word) culty/geeky pop-cultural things that are just 'meh' to me.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 5:35 AM
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14 to 12

13: Embarrassingly, the only Eastern European poet I know well is Wislawa Szymborska, and it doesn't ring any bells.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 5:37 AM
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5: I can't remember who it was that noted that Bob Dylan played the guitar and harmonica at the same time, and was regarded as a genius, but if he'd also stuck a pair of cymbals between his knees, he'd have been a geek act.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 6:04 AM
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18: Rich Hall, apparently.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 6:06 AM
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13: I have read such a thing, though I thought it was tigers. Something makes me think of Alasdair Gray, though that is almost certainly wrong. Anyway, now this will drive me insane. Thanks, Cosma!


Posted by: Nakku | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 6:17 AM
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17: he'd have been a geek act

Perhaps the clash of the cymbals would have covered up his appalling voice?


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 6:18 AM
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19: I try to bring enough to share.


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 6:19 AM
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Turns out I'm thinking of something else, which is this old Laurie Anderson thing:

It was up in the mountains. We had this ceremony every year. We had it and everyone from miles around came in for it. Cousins, aunts, uncles, and the kids. Grandmothers, grandfathers ... everyone. And we set it up around this big natural pool. With pine trees and palm trees. All the trees were there. And we had thousands of those big urns--you know the kind. And everyone would dance and sing, and it lasted for three days. Everyone cooked and looked forward to it all the year.

Well one year, we were in the middle of it, and I was just a boy at the time. Anyway, it was evening, and suddenly a whole lot of tigers came in. I don't know where they came from. They rushed in, snarling, and knocked over all the urns, and it was really a mess.

Well, we spent the whole next year rebuilding everything. But in the middle of the ceremony the next time the same thing happened. These tigers rushed in again and broke everything and then went back into the mountains. This must have gone on four or five years this way--rebuilding and then the tigers would come and break everything. We were getting used to it.

Finally we had a meeting and decided to make these tigers part of the ceremony--you know--to expect them. We began to put food in the urns, so the tigers would have something to eat. Not much at first ... crackers, things like that. Then later we put more food until finally we were saving our food all year for the tigers.

Then one year, the tigers didn't come. They never came back.


Posted by: Nakku | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 6:23 AM
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Thanks, Nakku. That's definitely not what I'm thinking of, though I suspect Anderson may have read the same poem.


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 6:26 AM
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I believe what you're looking for (religion, jaguars) is in Kafka.


Posted by: BrianZ | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 6:34 AM
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Heh, I am working on Kafka [not in a scholarly way] in my day job, right at this moment.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 6:46 AM
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How you do suck, Cosma. It's leopards, not jaguars, making most of my early attempts to find the poem fruitless. "Leopards in the Temple." Thanks, BrianZ.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 6:59 AM
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24, 26: Thanks! Here it is, per Wikiquote:

Leopards break into the temple and drink to the dregs what is in the sacrificial pitchers; this is repeated over and over again; finally it can be calculated in advance, and it becomes a part of the ceremony.

I apologize for any inconvenience caused by my confusion of felines.


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 7:03 AM
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Damn! I so would have found that if I hadn't been confused by jaguars and tigers (I should have kept going through OS X iterations). I even got to the right part of my bookshelf but was waylaid by Alasdair Gray.
And on the theme of grumpy Scots, Serenity is a fine movie, ttaM.


Posted by: Nakku | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 7:19 AM
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And on the theme of grumpy Scots, Serenity is a fine movie, ttaM.

It might be. The bit i slept through might have been amazing! But the 75% of the film I watched I thought was just OK.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 7:21 AM
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I liked the TV show quite a lot, but wasn't blown away by the movie either. (Actually, I would have thought it would have been hard to follow, or at least hard to give a damn about, without some preexisting knowledge of or interest in the TV show.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 7:38 AM
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I enjoyed Serenity. And Firefly. And Buffy, too, back when it was on. But, man, Dollhouse is one of the most spectacular pieces of flaming crapola I've seen.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 7:45 AM
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Maybe whether it's leopards or jaguars depends on the translator? Probably not, I just like supplying straws for people to grasp at

The "Wednesday Addams kicks ass" angle won me over.

Racist.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 7:47 AM
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I thought Firefly was better than Serenity.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 7:50 AM
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I saw most of Firefly but didn't see Serenity.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 7:51 AM
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TtaM by the end of this thread:

"O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Serenity."


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 7:53 AM
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I think I substituted jaguars for leopards because I'm reading about the Maya in anticipation of a trip to Tikal. And because I haven't read Kafka since 1994.

Serenity: enjoyable, like the TV show, but neither was The Best Thing Ever (even if you have a weakness for Adventures In Spaaaace, which I do). However, LB is wrong in 30; or at least, when I ran the experiment with a naive subject (n=1), it made her want to watch Firefly.


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 7:56 AM
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Maybe we should turn this post into one of those internet poll thingies so everyone can register whether they've seen Firefly, whether they've seen Serenity, if they liked them, which they liked better, thoughts on Dollhouse, etc.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:00 AM
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28: I am a grumpy Scot and I rather liked Serenity.

"We're going to explode? I don't want to explode."

But such is the power of peer pressure that, by the end of this thread, ttaM will have convinced himself that he likes Serenity and always has done.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:01 AM
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Finally, an Internet poll thingy becomes part of the original post.


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:07 AM
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However, LB is wrong in 30; or at least, when I ran the experiment with a naive subject (n=1), it made her want to watch Firefly.

This was my experience, also. Liked Serenity, never saw Firefly.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:11 AM
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RE: Dollhouse
The network did not let Joss do what he wanted to for the first five episodes. Apparently once they get to episode six things will start to roll.

Serenity was ok, but I think Joss does his best work in a serial format. Also not when he's trying to write/produce three shows at once.


Posted by: Molly | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:13 AM
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Also re: dollhouse:
I thought Buffy was cheesy, too, for a while (and it was!). Worst case scenario you get to ogle hot chicks beating people up, so I'm giving it a bit.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:18 AM
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37: If Serenity were a 20th century philosopher, where would it rank against its peers?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:18 AM
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43: why does Unfogged persist in opening its comments to people who are unqualified to answer such questions?


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:21 AM
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#43. Somehow, I get a very Santayana-ish vibe from Serenity.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:27 AM
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i loved firefly and serenity but both would have benefitted from the dynamics of a much longer arc

the character whedon didn't really get to work on -- dr simon tam -- was emotionally recessive by design (and hence performance)*, and (in ref the world of space-piracy, nerdily out his his depth): hence remained somewhat cartoony, despite actually being central to the story

in technical terms, he's the "xander" of the series -- viz the person whose journey the whole show portrays -- but he didn't have time to HAVE a journey

*whedon's fascination with this kind of character as a physical type -- he's half xander, half wesley, but BUFF** when he has his top off -- is i guess one of the many things he's brought into telly and film from comicbooks
**buff =/= buffy in this sentence


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:30 AM
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However, before the bear, someone who was gathering kindling had come into the cave. Hearing the bear, he hid himself in a corner out of fear. he heard the bear talking to himself. Finally [the bear] said, "I hope there is no one beneath me to grab me by the balls and throw me down the mountain".
The man gathered his courage, reached up, grabbed the bear by the balls and threw him down the mountain, and the unlucky bear died. [Piyâ* jằ ằma vâ-š. Da hâr qapnî va asbâwyâ xirs, da kamar van-aš vâ hâr. Xirs badbaxt umr-aš da va ma.V/i>]

Tales from Luristan, Sakander Amanolahi and W. M. Thackston, Harvard Iranian Series, 1986. $25, and you can look inside the book and be the first to review it. Includes a small glossary and quicj grammar of Lur.

A wonderful book for anyone who's interested in Lur studies or who wants to give a gift to their favorite Lur. (Quick and dirty summary: the Lur highly valued caginess and ruthlessness and had no sympathy for ursine suckers who got themselves grabbed by the balls and thrown down the mountain.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:33 AM
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Dollhouse has been a lot of pipe-laying so far, but I think it has the potential to go to very interesting places.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:34 AM
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30
(Actually, I would have thought it would have been hard to follow, or at least hard to give a damn about, without some preexisting knowledge of or interest in the TV show.)

I thought the same thing, but a friend of mine who only saw Serenity said she didn't have any problems figuring out what was going on.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:36 AM
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ogle hot chicks beating people up

Russell? Ayer?


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:38 AM
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Firefly was overrated. But I liked it, and I could imagine it becoming much better if it had lasted longer. I get the impression from the internets that many of hte most vocal Firefly fans like the show mostly because they think one character or another is hot. (And they speak Chinese! Isn't that, like, totally smart? 'Cause in teh future we might all, like, speak Chinese.)Serenity was fun but also overrated. (It seems like there is a whole population of people for whom "Summer Glau kicks ass" is enough to qualify the movie for immortality. I don't get that.) I still think the best thing we've seen from Whedon was somewhere around seasons two and three of Buffy. Maybe that one episode of Angel where he was a puppet. (The staunchest Firefly defender I know also thinks Rome was the greatest TV show ever made. This says something, I think.)

44 isn't nearly petulant enough.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:39 AM
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Dollhouse has been a lot of pipe-laying so far, but I think it has the potential to go to very interesting places.

You mean like laying the foundation or heh-heh, "laying pipe"?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:42 AM
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i think serenity's exposition-4-newbies* is beautifully handled, actually, given that there's quite a lot of required, but this is not in itself a quality that in itself makes it a better film -- it's a matter of craft-grace rather than actual-real content

*fans of startlingly bad exposition are directed to the first dr who movie, where exposition of who the daleks are and what they want is handed over to two daleks chatting in a corridor


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:43 AM
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51.2: I agree, but I'm just an amateur.


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:45 AM
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46 is interesting.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:46 AM
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51.1: I must say I did not like making Our Heroes partisans of the Lost Cause of states' rights Independence, but maybe that's reading more into it than it will hold.


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:48 AM
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Liked Serenity;loved Firefly (tho haven't seen all episodes). The differences due to form are interesting:S seemed ultimately more satisfying, or at least seemed to provide a more complete mythic rush; F was more fun, in the gradually revealed idiosyncratic cowboy pastiche and room to focus more deeply on individual characters and themes.

Dollhouse:Here is a long long long Rape Theme Thread from IMDB. Overwhelmingly male, but still has some interesting posts. In there somewhere is an interview with Whedon, in which he says the show is about identity, socially-determined or not. Most of the people in the thread think the Network, once they catch on, will cancel the show.

Is "rape" too strong a word for what the Patriarchy does to consciousness? Is it wrong to use rape as a metaphor?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:49 AM
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46,44:Yes, it is

Dollhouse (I get tired of italic tags, sue me)

Could the Amy Acker character play that role, or is Acker just doing the same thing she did in Angel? Is it too soon to tell? Would it be different for girls a woman without "buff?"


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:53 AM
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"Overrated" is a dubious term, considering that if it was overrated by people at Fox it wouldn't have been cancelled before the first season was finished. "Overrated by some," sure, but isn't that true of everything?

I liked it, but I think comparing Firefly and Serenity are apples and oranges, despite the same setting and characters. In fact, I'd say that they complement each other. The plot of the movie is basically the kind of thing that would get used as the ongoing plot of a season of the TV show, or more than one. Picture season four of Angel or season seven of Buffy. I probably would have enjoyed it because I like that kind of thing, but in hindsight they were much better done on the timeframe and budget of a movie, so the plot can't get all convoluted and the symbolism can't get all ham-handed and stuff.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:53 AM
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56: i think this is absolutely deliberate (look at the way mal dresses) -- not that whedon is a sekrit confederate, but that he was interested in the dynamics of honour, lost causes and dormant rebels

also of course, firefly is conceived as a Space Western and many legendary guntotin cowpokes (jesse james etc) were precisely former Confederate Rebs


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:55 AM
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River is also a character-type and body-type that Whedon is obsessed with: anorexic, dark haired, child-woman who has been tortured at some point in her past and now is crazy and frequently spouts gibberish. Druscilla, Fred, and River all fit the bill. The repetition is unnerving, and I think undermines Whedon's feminist cred.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:59 AM
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57 F was more fun, in the gradually revealed idiosyncratic cowboy pastiche and room to focus more deeply on individual characters and themes.

I remember reading somewhere online a detailed criticism of Firefly that focused on the pastiche aspects, but I can't figure out where it was. The major complaint was that, at least in the episodes that we got, it throws together a lot of clichés but doesn't do much to deconstruct or challenge them. Inara really is a hooker with a heart of gold. And so on. I've seen similar complaints several times but this one was particularly insightful and well-written. Maybe I'll remember where it was later.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:00 AM
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60: It is incredibly deliberate. Mal's gun is modeled on the gun Clint Eastwood uses in The Outlaw Josey Wales, a movie about an ex-confederate soldier turned outlaw.

Serenity creates a world where the myths of westerns are actually true. The confederate cause is just. The Indians are savages. I have been trying to figure out why Whedon did this, but with little success.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:04 AM
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River is also a character-type and body-type that Whedon is obsessed with: anorexic, dark haired, child-woman who has been tortured at some point in her past and now is crazy and frequently spouts gibberish.

I remember hearing or reading somewhere that this pretty much exactly describes what Whedon had in mind for Willow's girlfriend Tara, in whatever season of Buffy. That he had been the last on board with the actual actress who was cast, but everyone else would not let him let her go.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:05 AM
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i think inara is the character whose cliche gets most addressed -- though it is the biggest fattest cliche, and a bit hard to dodge

formally i think river is much more like an actual alien than drusilla, who is probably my least favourite character in buffy -- partly bcz the accent is incompetently fake british* AND she's a big mimsy goth -- but yes to 61 in some ways


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:06 AM
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I have been trying to figure out why Whedon did this

because it's an enormously rich mythic space? especially if you're exploring it with a kind of counter-politics?

(one of the things i like about buffy and firefly is that the politics is very hard to read)


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:10 AM
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56, 60, 63: Yep, and Serenity's ending directly bears on the SPOILERperfectability of man/society/SPOILER. Also, morality is individually and not institutionally derived.

61: Joss Whedon has feminist cred? I know the man can actually write female characters and all, but if I were a feminist I'd be more careful in my cred-dishing.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:11 AM
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61: It does bother me that the only heroine in his universe who wasn't delicate-by-even-TV-standards was Tara, and apparently she wasn't how Joss conceived the character originally.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:11 AM
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61:and I think undermines Whedon's feminist cred.

Yeah, well. I find that challenging too.

Umm, there is a thread over at EoTW by SEK about Watchmen that may be pertinent. SEK says Anthony gets neither the movie nor novel because he lacks the background with comics.

Relevance. I am not sure how really great Whedon is. The cultural deconstruction of the "little girl warrior" (for instance) may not be in the text but entirely in the viewer and cultural milieu, which are assumed by Whedon. I may not be making sense, but maybe Whedon works on a level of irony that leaves interpretation much more implicit than even Moore.

Reminded somehow of what Tarentino did with the "schoolgirl" in KB I.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:13 AM
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morality is individually and not institutionally derived

we-e-ell, the film is called serenity, which is the name of the collective they all belong to: hence morality is not indivdually but collectively derived, because (it turns out) they love and help one another

the issue is, what kind of collective?


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:15 AM
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60, 63: This makes sense, but I don't like it. On the other hand ranting about the many-steps-removed fictional portrayal of treason-in-defense-of-slavery seems rather too much like indulging my inner Zhadanovite.


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:17 AM
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Something about Dollhouse reminds me of '70s sci-fi shows. I think it's the anemic, vaguely Logan's Run-ish design of the Dollhouse, but it could also be the straight-faced use of hoary dramatic cliches like The Most Dangerous Game. Minus the central conceit and less exposed flesh and it could be The Bionic Woman.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:20 AM
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I have been trying to figure out why Whedon did this, but with little success.

(one of the things i like about buffy and firefly is that the politics is very hard to read)

61: Joss Whedon has feminist cred?

This is what I am trying to approach in 69. I think Whedon is very hard to interpret, and this is what makes his work fascinating and disturbing.

I have never been completely satisfied with feminist readings of Buffy or Angel. Maybe Whedon is just a jerk. Or a genius.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:21 AM
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I should say that my observation in 61 is taken directly from Roz Kaveny.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:22 AM
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I never saw a single episode of Firefly but was able to follow and enjoyed Serenity. I actually quite enjoy having only a single view of a multilayered mythic universe. It's the whole modernist fragment thing---I don't feel any real need to go and read the Similarian, for example, because the bits and pieces that show up in the Lord of the Rings is enough to make me feel that there's a rich backstory of a world pressing in on the present narrative.

It seems like there is a whole population of people for whom "Summer Glau kicks ass" is enough to qualify the movie for immortality. I don't get that.

I totally get that. I probably could have just watched close-ups of Glau's feet for an hour and a half.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:23 AM
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anorexic, dark haired, child-woman

He probbaly just has a think for Wednesday Addams.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:24 AM
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Er, a thing.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:25 AM
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Does ben have another think coming?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:26 AM
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Yes: also, probably.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:27 AM
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77: which he has in a probba way.


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:27 AM
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77: You're probbaly rite.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:27 AM
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although it's in one of the deprecated seasons -- which like better than the classic seasons -- the sequence of buffy eps where (a) her mom dies and (b) she is suddenly the wage-earner trying to look after non-superhero dawn i think dig into a really interesting feminist territory, about families and maternal duty (and grief, which is whedon's secret deep topic anyway)

the bodystuff complicates this, but it doesn't undermine it -- it sets up a (huge) tension, probably by no means deliberately

i have hyperfeminist women friends who love buffy, because it's about physical fitness and being able to take care of yourself -- and when you say "but all the girls are HOTTT" they say "all the better!"


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:29 AM
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68
It does bother me that the only heroine in his universe who wasn't delicate-by-even-TV-standards was Tara,

Well, there's Buffy herself. She has her angsty episodes, sure, but she's definitely of a different "type" than Drusilla and Fred and River. Arguably Faith and Cordelia too, although Faith is a villain in most of her appearances and there are a lot of other issues with Cordelia.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:29 AM
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" partly bcz the accent is incompetently fake british*"

I'm pretty sure the crap British accents on Buffy (Anthony Stewart Head aside) are deliberately crap. It's not like Whedon doesn't know what a British accent sounds like - he went to my school in England (not contemporaneously).

As to the new question, I saw Serenity before watching Firefly and thought it was really good, though not spectacular. It was certainly the best sci-fi film since, say, Gattaca, if only for the dialogue. It wasn't particularly confusing to me, although looking back I suppose the Inara and Book bits could have used the context of the TV show. It immediately prompted me to watch Firefly, which is definitely superior, as the characters have room to breathe and their relationships and motivations have time to develop. Episodes like Out of Gas and Objects in Space have much more to offer than Serenity, but I still love the film. It's got so many awesome lines and ZOMG moments.

As for the feminism question, his speech to Equality Now says what needs to be said, in my opinion.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:31 AM
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Anybody watching Dollhouse? This may end up being Whedon's greatest work, i he is allowed his freedom.

1) Alpha? (is that right, I am not sure) Anyway, whatever the name, the mysterious former active that is now an antagonist a bunch of actives. Is he/she goodguy or badguy?

2) In the first episode Dushku says things like "I was only trying to make a difference"

I think Echo in her previous life was a very very bad person, a terrorist with the blood of many civilians on her hands? If she gets her old memory/personality back, she may be sociopathic like "Alpha" and we won't like her much. Will we want that terrorist personality "wiped" or changed, so that Echo is "converted to someone more to our liking? Does that make us like the Dollhouse, seeing people only for their utility?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:33 AM
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I'm pretty sure the crap British accents on Buffy (Anthony Stewart Head aside) are deliberately crap. It's not like Whedon doesn't know what a British accent sounds like - he went to my school in England (not contemporaneously).

Why would he intentionally arrange for the British accents to be crap?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:35 AM
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84: possibly it's deliberate, but drusilla's still annoys me, which spike's doesn't (and in fact james marsters gets better and better at elements of nonposh britspeak over the story-arc, which i also don't think is deliberate)

(angel's irish accent is turner prize-winningly awful)

drusilla's dad is british i think (i mean the actress's)


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:37 AM
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47 is fantastic.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:37 AM
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no, drusilla's dad isn't british


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:39 AM
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This is a good thread to note that my essay, called "Moral Complexity in the Buffyverse", for Slayage is available.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:40 AM
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88: SEZ YOU.


Posted by: OPINIONATED BEAR | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:42 AM
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I had actually had the movie described to me as space cowboys vs. space zombies, raising the question, are the reavers really zombies, given that they aren't the living dead? I say yes, since the rational part of their soul has been killed. (Or perhaps simply thoroughly subjugated, since they can pilot spacecraft and whatnot—but from the perspective of what they really are, they endure a kind of living death. This is the endpoint of democracy, by the way.)


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:45 AM
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Has someone done terrestrial cowboys vs. zombies?


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:46 AM
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93: There's this treatment.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:48 AM
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John Steinbeck's The Reivers isn't about zombies, though it is full of nostalgia.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:50 AM
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I bet Cormac McCarthy could do an awesome job of it.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:51 AM
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96: I am tempted to suggest it to him just for the look on his face.


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:52 AM
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47 is fantastic.

As it was the first time.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:54 AM
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Alternate Names:
Der Große Zugraub
The Great Brain Robbery

I think the translators missed something.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:54 AM
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95: And neither is William Faulkner's The Reivers.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:54 AM
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97: Do you frequently get the chance to look upon Mr. McCarthy's face?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:55 AM
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Link in 84 was reassurin.

Episode 3 in Dollhouse SPOIIER When Echo uses the rockstar as bait SPOILER

I think one of the problems liberals will have as Dushku gets her memory back is that we will find "authentic" Echo an inadequately conflicted character, a fanatic, a sociopath. We watch much series TV in order to vicariously work thru inner conflicts, emotional, moral, political. We will be disturbed when it is all the characters around Dushku that have the moral conflicts while Dushku is unreflectively kicking ass.

Whedon is good at using his actors strengths and weaknesses. Dushku is not as great a projective actress as Gellar, so she won't have much going on inside.

Whedon is the best. To start a flame, I always thought the Sopranos and The Wire just played in various liberal confort zones, and rarely challenged. Gangster & Poverty porn. Whedon brings it home.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:55 AM
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Cowboys on dinosaurs vs. zombies would be even more amazing.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:56 AM
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It's better this time because we learn that being grabbed by the balls and thrown down the mountain is something that the bear was specifically worried about. Indeed, his vocalizations may have suggested the technique to the hiding man.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:56 AM
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To start a flame, I always thought the Sopranos and The Wire just played in various liberal confort zones, and rarely challenged. Gangster & Poverty porn.

There may be something to that, actually, and if it's true of The Wire, it's probably even more true of Charles Dickens.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:01 AM
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"Why would he intentionally arrange for the British accents to be crap?"

As a joke? I always find it pretty funny. I mean, a lot of the British/Irish characters are already playing off cheesy American stereotypes of Brits and Irish people.

"I had actually had the movie described to me as space cowboys vs. space zombies, raising the question, are the reavers really zombies, given that they aren't the living dead? "

Not in my opinion, but I'm not hugely dogmatic about zombies. People say the 28 Days Later zombies aren't really zombies, for instance, but I reckon they are. Still, I think zombies should fulfil several of the following criteria -

a) They should desire to feed on, but not need to "survive", human flesh/brains.

b) They should only be killable through damage to the brain. Blood loss, bullets to the heart, dismemberment. These mean nothing to the zombie except inconvenience.

c) They should be able to infect non-zombie humans (and possibly animals) by biting them or via exposure to bodily fluids.

d) They shouldn't show more problem solving/cognitive ability than a human infant at the very best - Romero's Land of the Dead is probably the furthest I'd go, although the sentient zombies of Return of the Living Dead qualify by virtue of being a parody.


So the Reavers only really satisfy criterion (a).


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:03 AM
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Dinosaur space pirates


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:05 AM
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re: 41

RE: Dollhouse
The network did not let Joss do what he wanted to for the first five episodes. Apparently once they get to episode six things will start to roll.

Serenity was ok, but I think Joss does his best work in a serial format.

I got exactly the opposite feeling - that Dollhousewas suffering because Whedon was rushing to introduce season-long story arcs, and the individual episodes weren't compelling enough to stand alone. And I'm kind of irked by that. I like season-long story arcs, but you have to walk before you can run. You earn the right to tell multi-episode stories by telling great single-episode stories in the meantime. Joss isn't earning it in this one. It feels presumptuous.


Posted by: Lambent Cactus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:08 AM
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Cowboys on dinosaurs vs. zombies would be even more amazing.

It's been done.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:09 AM
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I can't abide Joss Whedon. Too many apparently grown adults acting like middle schoolers, too many poses being struck too often, too much dialogue that sounds like Chandler-from-Friends in space.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:09 AM
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Maybe I'm misremembering, or just have different standards for awesome ass-kicking, but I don't even remember any especially note-worthy fight scenes.

So, I just went and looked on youtube, and really, that's it?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:10 AM
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Cowboys on dinosaurs vs. zombies would be even more amazing.

Are you familiar with Dr McNinja, who has a dinosaur riding sidekick and who once fought a zombie clone of Ben Franklin and an army of zombie ninjas?


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:11 AM
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Ok, fine, ttaM. You've found me out. Really it was just the Wednesday Addams vibe that won me over.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:12 AM
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Er, let's just pretend I deleted that "Serenity was ok..." line when I quoted the rest of 41


Posted by: Lambent Cactus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:12 AM
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The repetition is unnerving, and I think undermines Whedon's feminist cred.

Whedon has feminist cred?


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:13 AM
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Damn you W-lfs-n!


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:13 AM
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Are you familiar with Dr McNinja

Lord! It's like manna from Heaven!

It's been done.

Have dinosaurs even ridden cowboys, then?


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:19 AM
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110:Your loss

Dollhouse is, finally, Whedon't most political show.

The Dollhouse is Enlightenment liberalism, the place where the savages are "educated" into socially useful citizens.

Echo will be the intuitive non-rational revolutionary terrorist.

It will be Whedon's lefty answer to 24. Jack Bauer always has good reasons for the collateral damage. Echo will just have her rage.

And the FBI is trying to keep the agent off the case because the US Gov't is involved.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:21 AM
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Maybe I'm misremembering, or just have different standards for awesome ass-kicking, but I don't even remember any especially note-worthy fight scenes.

Huh. I don't know how it comes across on YouTube, but it struck me as pretty darn ass-kicking on the big screen.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:23 AM
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Cowboys on dinosaurs

You're missing a piece of the puzzle.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:24 AM
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108: So, if you compare the first few episodes of Buffy with the first few episodes of Dollhouse, you would prefer Buffy? Really?

As far as I am concerned Joss has earned the right to tell me his grocery list. But obviously I am not a network executive.


Posted by: Molly | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:24 AM
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106: Well, the Reavers can convert people who survive their attacks into other Reavers, just not by fluid exchange like criterion (c). And is infection by bite really an important part of the zombie thing? I haven't seen too many zombie movies, but I read about one of the Romero movies that all the dead were rising, whether they were killed by a zombie or not. I can think of a few other zombies where their numbers continually grow, but due to some external cause instead of spreading a disease.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:25 AM
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117: It's all been done. There are only so many basic story elements, after all.


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:26 AM
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121 -

I don't know, I never got into Buffy. I liked Firefly enough that I was disppointed not to see its multi-episode arcs pay off over many seasons. And I liked it enough that I'll keep watching Dollhouse for a while in the hope that it matures into something great. Which, like bob, I think it has the potential to be. But in the mean time, I'm annoyed.

And ultimately, whether Whedon has earned that kind of patience from me isn't nearly so important as whether he's earning it now from the Dollhouse audience who don't have a shared history.


Posted by: Lambent Cactus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:36 AM
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(since it sorta kinda expands the point i was making about morality and collectivity, here is my official contribution to Higher Buffy Studies)


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:39 AM
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Whedon's feminist cred comes from things he's willing to assert in the real world (where he's a lot more feminist and forthright than the mean). It is tempting, when watching his pulp, to interpret it as kindly as possible because we know 'he's a good guy really', but it still makes me nervous; I think cosying up to the cliches is an occasion of sin. I have trouble with Bust for the same reason.

I have this reaction enormously to Firefly, for the reasons that Cosma and Helpy-Chalk adduce, because I just assume the stage-dressing is still covering the wounds it covered in the nineteenth-c. originals. I'm a seething crazy version of a retconner on this, but the bits that set me off most are that all sides of the society we see clearly enslaved Chinese-speakers (e.g., they mostly swear and eat in Chinese, and these are things that were historically picked up from the house servants); and that smuggling cattle is destroying the ecosystems in the target planets.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:39 AM
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did civil rights kill off the western as a mass-pop form? the timing is right, but i never read this argument made


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:43 AM
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118: The Dollhouse is truly the most searing indictment of procedural liberalism since Kung Fu Panda. Jack Black's pure-hearted warrior bear offers us the hope of revolutionary Maoism in the face of global capitalism's all-devouring anthropomorphic monkey. Which is Obama? Does Krugman know? Does Yglesias? I will be ready when the moment comes.

Marx was right when he said "Money, get back/ I'm all right jack keep your hands offa my stack/ Money, it's a hit/ Don't give me that do goody good bullshit." "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast" remains an unacknowledged masterpiece.


Posted by: rob folkmanis | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:46 AM
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127: I think that it was space movies. My son (b. 1973) may never have seen a cowboy movie before he was in college.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:48 AM
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re: 119

I've watched enough trashy Hong-Kong movies, and attended enough kickboxing competitions that I suspect I'm slightly jaded.

Tony Jaa: awesome.
Summer Glau: not doing anything that people I know can't already do.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:48 AM
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Funny how Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog hasn't come up yet. Bob, how does it fit into your Weltanschauung?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:50 AM
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but space movies in the churn-em-out pulp sense since barely existed before star wars -- and westerns were all over tv and comics and pulp novels also (i had a friend when i was like five = 1965 who had a custer's last stand boardgame)


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:50 AM
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all sides of the society we see clearly enslaved Chinese-speakers (e.g., they mostly swear and eat in Chinese, and these are things that were historically picked up from the house servants)

I don't remember this. I mean, I remember them swearing in Chinese, but I don't remember seeing clearly enslaved Chinese-speakers. Are you saying the swearing and food are clear evidence that there are Chinese-speaking slaves somewhere?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:51 AM
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127, 129

Not just movies, either. I recall something about a Final Frontier.


Posted by: Lambent Cactus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:52 AM
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but space movies in the churn-em-out pulp sense since barely existed before star wars

Buck Rogers? Flash Gordon?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:52 AM
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on second thoughts, john, i think you're right -- boo, cz i like my theory better


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:52 AM
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Does Blazing Saddles mark the end of the age of cowboy movies?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:54 AM
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Not that it killed them, just that it sort of, I don't know, wrote the epitaph?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:54 AM
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ttam, Glau isn't a martial artist! She's a ballet dancer! And that's what's awesome about it!


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:55 AM
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yeah, i'd totally forgotten about saturday morning sci-fi serials -- though these actually co-existed with saturday morning westerns for decades, so (if they're the smothering agent) only got the upper hand in the 60s: the western vanished from routine film and TV schedules really fast


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:55 AM
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130: Have you (or has anyone else here) seen the new Thai film Chocolate? I've only seen the trailer, but it looks damn entertaining. Plus there's the tagline: "a special needs girl, with a special need . . . to kick some ass!"


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:56 AM
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i think serge leone marks the end of them (or wrote the epitaph: they don't stop, but they totally power down in terms of cultural presence)


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:56 AM
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re: 139

Why is that awesome? I don't get it. It's not an amazing piece of dancing, and as martial arts choreography it's perfectly fine but it falls a long way short of the state of the art. So what does it have to recommend it?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:57 AM
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143: The resemblance to Wednesday Addams?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:58 AM
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133: No, we don't see slaves. We don't see any in The Virginian, either, iirc. But the swearing and food are the kind of systematic detail that are all over the original Westerns, because they arose in Western reality from a history of race-based slavery; they're a big part of what makes F recognizably Western. It seems like the parsmonious solution to assume that they arise from a similar cause in F. Different, Mal-defending retconners come up with different explanations. (Me, I am totally okay with admiring Mal for trying to be moral despite having half-poisonous original training. Also, the tight pants.)

I have other supporting details, but I'm trying not to let the crazy all loose. Unfortunately this makes me sound like I'm hanging a big theory off three swearwords. My tinfoil hat is getting tight.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 10:59 AM
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Doesn't Toy Story state that the actual space race killed off the western? And it has cowboys, spacemen, and dinosaurs, so should be considered fairly authoritative.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:01 AM
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145's theory makes a lot of sense, especially if you stretch "slavery" to cover things like actual antebellum Chinese railroad labor


Posted by: Lambent Cactus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:03 AM
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143.---I think for me it has something to do with the repurposing of a body aesthetic. Ballet bodies are all about calm and grace and centeredness---one of my teachers used to tell us that the upper body should be serving tea to the Queen while the lower body does all of its hopping about. Martial arts bodies always have a kind of spring-coiled lethalness about them, which is beautiful in its own way (I could also watch Jet Li simply walk down a hallway for an hour and a half), but different. There is certainly an artificiality in pretending that Glau's grace is lethal, but I think that it goes along with the artificiality of Whedon's entire mythos: the clever quips, the saturated colors, the soap-opera in space.

I also am fond of Wednesday Addams, I guess.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:03 AM
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I should make clear that I am not making an argument for omigod-Serenity-is-the-best-thing-ever but rather hey-I-totally-enjoyed-Serenity.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:05 AM
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one of the (man) reasons i was sad not to see more of firefly is because i assumed it was intending to move on into a terrain where the Big Badness of the Alliance starts to be contrasted more with what the rebels were actually fighting for (as opposed to they're fighting against, which is secession from the Alliance); and that this "for" would turn out to be something pretty hard to swallow; ie up the ante of moral dilemma

the Alliance -- according to wikipedia's version of the backstory -- is an Alliance of American and Chinese galactic superpowers (the only ones left from "Earth-that-was"), but yes, I think the issue of slavery is totally just "round the corner" of the story-so-far


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:07 AM
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sorry they're not fighting against the secession, i mean secession is the reason for fighting against; but what is the Grand Old Cause "for" -- this is only (in all of of firefly that we get) stated in the blandest of terms ("freedom")


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:09 AM
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And is infection by bite really an important part of the zombie thing? I haven't seen too many zombie movies, but I read about one of the Romero movies that all the dead were rising, whether they were killed by a zombie or not.

Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but my remembrance (and I've watched Night... and Dawn... many times) is that all the dead rose originally, but further propagation is only through bite. People who die "naturally" don't return. That's also certainly how it is in, for instance, Max Brooks's books or The Walking Dead. The zombification-as viral concept has been gaining ground recently (viz. World War Z, 28 Days Later).

As for the Reavers and conversion, fair point I suppose, but I think there's a qualitative difference. Part of what makes the zombie menace so scary is that their numbers grow exponentially, and places where people normally congregate in a disaster are therefore the most vulnerable. Conversely, I never got the sense that people were afraid of Reavers' numbers growing - their mad aggression was grounds enough. I think the "conversion" to outright killing ratio is different enough - as is the mechanism - that they're not the same phenomenon.

That said, Reavers clearly do draw to a certain extent on zombie lore.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:11 AM
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ttaM is absolutely right about the fight choreography. If there's one thing recent movies have taught us, it's that wire work, a few high kicks and the right camera angles can make anybody look like they kinda know a form of kung fu, unless you know what you're looking at, at which point they all start running boringly together.

The rest of the movie I thought was pretty okay, though.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:14 AM
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Ballet bodies are all about calm and grace and centeredness---one of my teachers used to tell us that the upper body should be serving tea to the Queen while the lower body does all of its hopping about. Martial arts bodies always have a kind of spring-coiled lethalness about them, which is beautiful in its own way (I could also watch Jet Li simply walk down a hallway for an hour and a half), but different.

Eh, not really. Jet Li is built more like a ballet dancer than he is somebody who could actually win a fight. The spring-coiled lethality is the part of the act you put on to make a fight look cool.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:16 AM
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reavers are also straight out of mad max 2, which i hesitate to gloss further in view of the current state of Higher Mel Gibson Studies


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:16 AM
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Jet Li is built more like a ballet dancer than he is somebody who could actually win a fight.

Maybe that's why I like looking at him so much!


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:22 AM
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129: I love the scene in "Safe" (a.k.a. the planet-destroying-cattle-smuggling one) where she joins in on the step-dancing.

My bitterness at the cancellation of Firefly continues unabated. (All the episodes are on Hulu, BTW.)


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:22 AM
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F Troop ended the Western.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:27 AM
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156: heh, could be.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:28 AM
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It does bother me that the only heroine in his universe who wasn't delicate-by-even-TV-standards was Tara

I'm not sure if this was only re: Buffy and Angel, but, happily, Zoe and Kaley fail the delicate (at-least-by-TV-standards) test.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:35 AM
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"F TROOP" WAS THE WESTERN!!


Posted by: OPINIONATED SGT. O'ROURKE | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:37 AM
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I recall reading somewhere an explanation of how the collapse of the studio system killed the western and the musical, but I don't remember the purported mechanism.


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:41 AM
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Serenity creates a world where the myths of westerns are actually true. The confederate cause is just. The Indians are savages. I have been trying to figure out why Whedon did this, but with little success.

Is the simple answer, that he did it because it makes the fun of watching a western less complicated/guilt-inducing, not available?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:46 AM
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Everyone knows that dancers make good choreographed martial artists. Don't a lot of action stars in the mysterious East have dance training? (And let's don't forget Jean-Claude!)

117: It's all been done. There are only so many basic story elements, after all.

Ok, so what's the nazi t-rex from?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:49 AM
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Is the simple answer, that he did it because it makes the fun of watching a western less complicated/guilt-inducing, not available?

The simple answer is never available. This is Unfogged.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:49 AM
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126: I think we see too much use of written Chinese in high-status contexts (like River's school) for this to be completely plausible.


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:51 AM
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Jet Li is built more like a ballet dancer than he is somebody who could actually win a fight.

They're not mutually exclusive, you know. He won a shitload of Chinese national martial arts tournaments in the 70s, but wushu is as much dancing as fighting.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:52 AM
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165: home of the always already subsumed.


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:52 AM
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My impression is that wushu is more dancing than fighting.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:54 AM
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Just out of curiousity, which swear words/phrases in the US were picked up from West African slaves? I've been thinking about it and I'm not coming up with any.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:56 AM
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152 - I was reading someone speculating interestingly about why zombies are so culturally of the moment. He/She (it might have been Jenny Davidson of "Light Reading"?) threw out the idea that zombies are a trope about infection, whereas vampires are a trope about sex, and that one was more easy to represent without a lot of camp or historical freight (corrective penetration! those swarthy folk are sleeping with our white women!) than the other at this point in time. (Also, pointing out that zombies are a lot easier to do in video games.)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:58 AM
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What? What about Castlevania?!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:59 AM
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166: Agreed, though the near-complete absence of Asian (Asian-Alliance?) characters is astounding given the set up. I hoped that as Firefly continued there'd be some explanation for that, other than garden variety racism.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 11:59 AM
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Not so much swear words, as vocabulary about sex, no? I'm doing this off the top of my head, so I may be confused, but jazz and juke were both sex before music, and are both West African in origin, I think, and funk/funky as well.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:00 PM
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173: That was really weird -- I kept on waiting for a shoe to drop there.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:01 PM
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My impression is that wushu is more dancing than fighting.

Dancing with pointy weapons and punching and kicking.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:02 PM
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Why does Joss Whedon inspire such deep readings of his serieses? Because his characters wrestle with Good and Evil and other capitalized nouns? Or mostly because we have a tendency to analyze shows we love, and people love his shows?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:03 PM
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I only analyze the ones I hate.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:05 PM
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177: Well, and he's doing stuff that invites analysis; it's all borderline allegory. That doesn't make it great art, but it does mean that picking apart what it all means is a natural pastime.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:05 PM
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What it means is, Joss Whedon is a clever fellow.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:07 PM
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Seconding 145. I don't get a lot out of watching people who came to martial arts second fight. I suppose the alternative is watching martial artists act. I guess I'm voting for stunt doubles.

Everyone knows that dancers make good choreographed martial artists.

But still distinguishable from martial artists. They never look like they're striking through the target. The acceleration is all wrong.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:08 PM
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175: OED says "jazz" is first attested "in California, frequently in baseball contexts and as college slang", and that the music was in fact first known as "ragtime". "A supposed African origin [for 'jazz'] was later shown to have been invented by the author" of such-and-such an article from 1917. But "juke" is from Gullah, "probably of West African origin", with relatives meaning things like "to live wickedly". "Funk" was apparently originally a transitive verb, "to annoy with smoke", perhaps from fumicare via French.


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:09 PM
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and that smuggling cattle is destroying the ecosystems in the target planets.

I totally love this. I am not sure why, but it gave me a wonderful giggle.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:10 PM
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183: In our next episode, Our Heroes battle — the Park Service!


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:14 PM
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171 - I'm not sure why you'd want to do it without camp or historical freight (in general). I mean the racial subtext in Night... barely qualifies as sub, and people have never stopped making camp zombie films.

For me the quintessence of zombie horror is the loved one/friend becoming a mindless drone and coming after you - the terrible cognitive dissonance between the still recognisable appearance (and in some treatments behavioural traits) and the fact that it's not in any meaningful sense a person, let alone the same person. The scene in Night... where the daughter turns on her mother is just chilling, and pretty much all treatments have comparable scenes in some way (see also the common trope of someone misguidedly keeping a turned loved one chained up because they can't quite accept it). There's an element of that with vampires as well, but as you say sex is the crucial point.

Now there are lots of other obvious places to go with the zombie premise to play off "historical freight" - all the metaphorical uses of mindless hordes, cannibalism and aggression, fear of the multiplication of "others", paranoia and so on. I'd argue it's that flexibility built around a solid core of dread that makes zombie themes so perennially popular. That and the fact that they're an easy source of cheap gore.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:18 PM
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re: 148

Yeah, I can sort of see what you mean. Although the martial art I do has a bit more of that aesthetic, what with it being French and even sharing names for techniques with ballet -- fouetté kicks, chassés, etc. It also shares the same long leg lines, and open hips, pointed toes, etc, too.*

But Megan is right, her moves are pretty but the acceleration is all wrong.

* slightly less-so in full contact rather than semi-contact fights, but the basic aesthetic is still there.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:24 PM
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Ok, so what's the nazi t-rex from?

You don't recognize Tyrannosaurus Reich, the nazi dinosaur?


Posted by: inaccessible island rail | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:36 PM
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187: "He is not considered part of the DC Comics main canon[citation needed]."


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:38 PM
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I'm so glad Wikipedia wasn't around in my childhood.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:40 PM
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I suppose the alternative is watching martial artists act.

I'm sure I've gone off about this before, but here it is again. I'm totally fascinated by how someone like Jet Li can be a plausible actor in Hong Kong cinema but an unrealistic failure in American cinema. It has something to do with the way roles are written. In Hong Kong cinema, it's perfectly acceptable to have a leading actor be a blank slate of grace and power, with only a couple of awkward social interactions to define his place in the moral spectrum of the movie. In American cinema, on the other hand, there's this imperative to create a well-rounded character, to show layers of a psychology, to manifest some sort of backstory and motivation. I've never seen anything quite as embarrassing as when those "human interest scenes" between Aaliyah and Jet Li in Romeo must die; I kept thinking "why are you making him do this?"


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:40 PM
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The title of Melville's book is one of the first uses of the term "confidence man" in print. NYC or NOLA seems to have been the place of origin.

Everyone should read that book, which describes the recent-contemporary mind pretty well. There was a guy talking about privatizing charity on a for-profit basis, for example, and that's already happened and become normal.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:42 PM
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In American cinema, on the other hand, there's this imperative to create a well-rounded character, to show layers of a psychology, to manifest some sort of backstory and motivation.

And have relationships. It's all the same old toxic stew.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:45 PM
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166: There is a powerful parallel Chinese-speaking society, the other half of the Alliance, but that doesn't rule out the poor from that society being enslaved in the English-speaking one. Nineteenth-c. US intellectuals sometimes got all swoony over the Celestial Empire, borrowed the art, copied the furniture, made trading expeditions; these didn't help the US Chinese getting lynched up and down the West Coast. (I think this explains 173, too. I also think the Tams are part-Chinese and it makes them unwilling to rock the boat in their Anglo milieu.)

174: and it wasn't very long ago that words about sex were swear words. Still true for half my family. (182: But doesn't the OED start with the first written use? That seems like it would matter, for this subject. Though it's also possible that LizardBreath and I read the same bad scholarship, which in turn may have been motivated either by affection for or loathing of African-American culture.)

183: Studying ecology gives science-fiction its own loony pleasure, closely related to 'things don't go boom in a vacuum!'



Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:45 PM
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190: I think you're on to something, but I also think Li's English skills play into it. Sounding and acting "natural" in a foreign language is difficult, and he's not very good at it.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:45 PM
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183: Studying ecology gives science-fiction its own loony pleasure, closely related to 'things don't go boom in a vacuum!

Very true. My first thought, actually, on reading your comment was - at least it's not sheep.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:46 PM
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I'm not sure why you'd want to do it without camp or historical freight (in general). I mean the racial subtext in Night... barely qualifies as sub, and people have never stopped making camp zombie films.

There's both subtext and text in Night (and since it's the first modern zombie movie, I'm not sure everything maps quite right; there's the same undifferentiated mob, but it lacks the idea of zombie-ism as infection; it's more like Carpenter's zombie-flick-without-zombies Assault on Precinct 13 in that regard, which is even more explicit about zombies equating to the underclasses). I think zombie films totally welcome camp, but they also work very nicely without it -- I mean, there's really not anything camp about 28 Days Later, and the camp in Dawn of the Dead is more about the quality of the makeup than anything intrinsic to the story.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:47 PM
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re: 194

I noticed this even with very good non-English speaking European actors. The various Spanish actors, for example, who have transitioned to US cinema.

The Penelope Cruz of 'Volver' and the Penelope Cruz of any number of English-language movies just aren't the same.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:47 PM
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The Lur book is really good. I got it from the library as an Ogged joke (pbuh) but the Lur had a wicked sense of humor.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 12:55 PM
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198: Fat lot of good it did them.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 1:00 PM
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Nah, the Lur are doing fine.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 1:03 PM
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The true story is at last revealed:

Finally [the bearogged] said, "I hope there is no one beneath me lurking to grab me by the balls give me cancer and throw me down the mountain off the blog".


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 1:04 PM
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After watching HK movies for a while, US actors mostly look like winking, grinning, look-at-me understudies for East Lynne; even when it's all melodrama, the set-pieces are different. Was Keanu Reeves ever good in anything?

Shorter, truer: the romantic scene that undoes me is two hands tightening on one railing, in Dragon Inn.

parenthetical, is it definite that sheep are worse in dry ranges? Last I followed animals-larger-than-pocket-gophers, I was told that cattle won because of cultural associations with the rich in England (and this was well before Collapse). Herding practices of the Dine were adduced as sustainable.

I like the Ginger Yellow theory of zombies being the horror of the family, where vampires are the horror of the suitor. Family; not as good-looking, you're stuck with them while they age and fall apart, and they just keep at you.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 1:14 PM
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Night of racial tension.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 1:14 PM
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Was Keanu Reeves ever good in anything?

Duu-uuuuude.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 1:15 PM
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How did Keanu make it into all those otherwise good movies anyway?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 1:18 PM
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omar sharif was egypt's greatest actor in a generation, adored and revered as a master of his craft -- in his western roles, this doesn't come across so much (i once proofed an article on the history of egyptian cinema: the first bit is the only fact i remember)


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 1:19 PM
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same for ricardo montalban possibly?


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 1:22 PM
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Surely he wasn't Egyptian?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 1:28 PM
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Supposedly Charro was a very talented guitarist but had to do the "coochy coochy" thing to make it anywhere in the States.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 1:34 PM
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190: I've long thought along similar lines, although I'd quibble slightly and question whether Jet Li is really a plausible actor in Hong Kong cinema. His "acting" comes across pretty badly in things like The Enforcer and Twin Warriors. The point is that it doesn't matter in HK martial arts films, whereas it does in his Hollywood films, because the filmic idiom is so different. My reference point for this line of argument isn't Jet Li (although he works fine too), but the movies of John Woo. Displaced into a Hollywood context and forced to pad out the slow-motion gunfights and doves with lengthy but still ludicrous and paper thin backstory/character development, he turns out turgid nonsense. But because Hong Kong audiences don't demand any/much of that rubbish in their action movies, they're much pacier and showcase his strengths.

It's fascinating how two cultures can take such different approaches to effectively the same end, namely a flimsy justification for a bunch of spectacular set pieces.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 1:39 PM
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montalban is a great mexican actor who is revered and adored in egypt


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 1:46 PM
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Variety shows always freak me out this way. Same basic deal, but completely different in different cultures and very sensitive to fashion. I'm unsure if it's right to think of televised variety shows as the inheritors of vaudeville and how vaudeville's setting really differed from that of continental european cabaret.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 1:49 PM
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I'll bet ogged's blog in his native Iran was much better than this one.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:02 PM
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Actually, ogged is a great Mexican blogger who is revered and adored in Iran.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:03 PM
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213, 214: surely it can't be that easy to summon the ancestral spirits?


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:05 PM
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212: Good point. Whenever I travel to the continent I'm always fascinated by how the Italian channel(s) in the hotels (presumably RAI Uno, although I forget) seems to constantly show the same variety programme, which (to my non-Italian speaking, um, eye) appears to be a current affairs chat show, an audience participation song and dance affair, and a cleavage competition all at the same time. I imagine the British TV line-up on a Saturday night is equally baffling to Italian eyes.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:05 PM
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WHO THE F*&K IS CALLING ME???!!/???


Posted by: OPINIONATED ANCESTRAL SPIRIT | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:10 PM
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Charo on Martha Stewart's show a couple of years ago. She had lessons from Segovia as a child.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:11 PM
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the bits that set me off most are that all sides of the society we see clearly enslaved Chinese-speakers (e.g., they mostly swear and eat in Chinese, and these are things that were historically picked up from the house servants)

Already pointed out above, but that's an inference, very far from "seeing clearly." Plus, as I see it the snatches of Chinese in Firefly are better categorized as the mutterings and asides that can be in a foreign language without depriving the audience of any information.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:16 PM
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Um, in the spirit of not imputing malice when a simpler explanation is available, isn't the most parsimonious explanation simply that using Chinese allowed them to swear on Fox?


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:19 PM
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Plus, as I see it the snatches of Chinese in Firefly are better categorized as the mutterings and asides that can be in a foreign language without depriving the audience of any information.

Yes, this. I thought it was possible that much more of their speech was in Chinese, but translated for the viewer's convenience except when it didn't have to be.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:21 PM
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I wouldn't say it gets to 'very clearly', but the Confederate subtext is as close to explicit as subtext can be an still count as sub. And when you've got Confederates, you're implying slavery.

I hadn't connected the invisible Chinese with the invisible slaves, but there is an Occam's Razory argument that where you've got two big parts of your world that are lurking off screen somewhere, unshown, that there's a strong possibility they're connected.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:24 PM
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Um, in the spirit of not imputing malice when a simpler explanation is available, isn't the most parsimonious explanation simply that using Chinese allowed them to swear on Fox?

Sure, but once you make that decision, you have a certain obligation to build a context for it. And then the two people who are from the successful side of the power structure are (white but) named Tam. I figure the show had to be going somewhere with that sometime, surely -- all that linguistic residue of Chinese power, but a noticeable absence of people who look Chinese? How could there not be some interesting backstory plot to be unraveled there?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:24 PM
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(It doesn't quite ring true for me either -- my guess is that the rebels were supposed to be slavery-free Confederates. But it's not impossible.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:26 PM
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Now that we're back to that, I'm also not really getting what set you off. That the show didn't depict a perfectly just and environmentally sustainable society? Or that what you saw as clear indications of slavery and ecosystem degradation weren't made explicit or foregrounded?

No, we don't see slaves. We don't see any in The Virginian, either, iirc.

This I also don't get. The Virginian may have glossed over slavery, but it was depicting an historical society where slavery actually existed. Firefly was depicting an imaginary future society which you infer slavery exists in, and you think it's glossing over that, and that upsets you?

I'm not trying to be flip, I just really don't understand what you're getting at.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:27 PM
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In 225, by "you" I meant "clew".


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:29 PM
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I've been away, and trying to catch up by skimming. Has the thread moved on to Zombie Sheep?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:31 PM
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Yeah, I see what you're getting at, though. Count me on the side of not convinced that the show was being constructed with perfect loving attention to the sociological details of lexical borrowing. (they mostly swear and eat in Chinese, and these are things that were historically picked up from the house servants)


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:31 PM
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I'm not much of a fan in the sense of knowing what Whedon's said about the show. Does anyone know if he's said anything about either slavery or the missing Chinese? It'd seem as if he'd be likely to have plans for both in some episodes that didn't get made.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:35 PM
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I'm not at all sure that there are "missing" slaves in the same way that there are missing Chinese people.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:38 PM
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I'm not sure either. But there are definitely, absolutely, no question Confederates. Which gives rise to at least a question about slavery.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:40 PM
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||

On average, the doodlers recalled 7.5 names and places - 29% more than the average of 5.8 remembered by the control group. "If you are in a boring meeting, the best thing you can do is try to make it more interesting, but if that's not going to happen, your best bet is to doodle," she said.. "It's not so much that doodling is good for your concentration, but that daydreaming is bad. If you are thinking about where you are going to go on holiday, that is probably going to be more cognitively demanding than a doodle."

>


Posted by: Lemmy Caution | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:41 PM
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229:Okay, hell I''m googling

My first hit says Whedon says one of the main inspirations for Firefly was Shaara's The Killer Angels.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:41 PM
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the thing that was unsettling about it was what i was gearing up to enjoy about it -- that the Good Guys were physically dressed as (and rhetorically coded as) people I would normally take to be Bad Guys, blows against the Empire struck by rebels whose cause (in actual real history) was (according to me) (and i assume everyone else on unfogged) cap-E Evil, but whose cause so far in the show was cast as vaguely good (bcz they're the heroes of the story and we like them; bcz the Rebel Alliance on the harried margins is allowed to secede from the Empire with its Death Star)... what i was hoping for was a tangle of fun complexity (buffy gets to sleep with vampires! even vampires that are Very Evil)

the fragments we get of the barter economy off of the Big Worlds in firefly is that this society is actually pretty horrible, and firefly is a semi-pirate operation half-resisting and half-colluding -- by no means spotless (they rob a bank in serenity, which is something outlaws in westerns ofen do, with he cheerful approval of viewers like us, who do not approve of any or all bank robberies that happened to happen in our own high streets, today or tomorrow)

i think the slave reading is potentially a strong one, in terms of future content and significant subtextual something-or-other -- but i think it's really hard to read how it is being used, let alone how it would have been used


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:42 PM
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Yes. It seems much more likely to me, though, that slaves are missing in the sense that Whedon didn't think of them at the outset (though he might have thought of them and incorporated them later), while the gap created by the presence of Chinese influence and absence of Chinese people is a deliberate construction. Maybe I'm just being an ungenerous viewer, though.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:43 PM
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Not that I've seen, but then I'm not as active a browncoat as I used to be.

Incidentally, on the subject of the Tams' ethnicity, the ever-reliable Wikipedia tells me, citing the Firefly Companion, that Kaylee was originally supposed to be "Asian".


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:45 PM
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232: What about commenting?

(I concentrate just fine when I tune out meetings; I'm just not concentrating on the meeting. Typical collaboration of academic psychology in the colonization of the lifeworld, etc.)


Posted by: Cosma | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:46 PM
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I'm not trying to be flip, I just really don't understand what you're getting at.

I'm not clew, but I assume he's bugged by what looks like an apologetic for or at the very least a romanticization of racist American myths. If you take a face-value and no-shades-of-gray view of the show, it's saying that the South was genuinely motivated by a concern for freedom and self-government, and Indians genuinely were implacable, irrational savages.

I think there's no harm in Firefly and Serenity in this way for a lot of reasons, but given that there actually are wingnuts making those arguments about the real-world history, I can't dismiss clew's (presumed) point as completely ridiculous.

On preview, similar but not exactly the same as what tierce de lollardie said.

Also, put me in the camp of people who think that 90 percent of the Chinese dialogue was just an excuse to get swearing on network television.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:54 PM
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a browncoat

This is weird too -- I suppose it could just be coincidence, but it looks as though Whedon set the Good Guys up as not just Confederates, but Nazis.

And then no payoff. You really do have to wonder about what the 5 year plan was here.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:56 PM
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(I should say I don't think there's any harm in it either. But I think there's a bit of an iceberg's worth of unexplained heavy stuff that's not going to get explained because the show was cancelled.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 2:59 PM
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My read on the use of Chinese in Firefly/Serenity was that it was a way of telling the viewer that the characters aren't actually speaking English (and, implied, they probably aren't white either). I assumed that the actors were mostly white because, well, actors on American TV shows are mostly white, and that no plot-significant discussions were conducted in other languages because that would interfere too much with the viewing experience for an American audience.

I haven't bothered looking up secondary materials with the author's views, though.


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 3:00 PM
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IT'S ALWAYS A BIT OF AN ICEBERG, ISN'T IT?


Posted by: OPINIONATED TITANIC | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 3:00 PM
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From the Signal to the Wiki to Browncoats


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 3:01 PM
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I hoped that as Firefly continued there'd be some explanation for that, other than garden variety racism.

It wasn't long enough to have a chance to deal with that, but I suspect that part of the answer is that this is supposed to be Earth-people descendants, quite far off in the future. I took the Alliance (or the Alliance culture) to be a relatively old phenomenon, such that the language and culture were merged, rather than there being an Anglo group and a Sino group.

Like the U.S. and China did a joint space mission and 500 years from now our descendants are robbing trains. Or something. It would be like wondering why third-generation Italians whose parents grew up in Little Italy aren't speaking Italian.

I don't think there's evidence for two distinct cultures in the series. The lack of Asian characters is probably just garden variety Hollywood racism rather than an artistic choice. (I hope.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 3:02 PM
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Speaking of Whedon -- anyone else think it's weird that in a show about a brunet named Angel in LA, no one ever looked at his card and assumed his name was Ahn-hel? What, the vampires ate all the Latinos first?

(Possibly this actually did happen sometime in the show -- I certainly haven't seen all the episodes. But I'd think it would be a running gag.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 3:09 PM
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The other fucked up thing about Whedon is that all of his cheerleading routines are completely unrealistic. I mean, if you're going to do a show about cheerleaders fighting vampires, you should at least get the cheers right. I can only hope he did this for deep, allegorical reasons.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 3:11 PM
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No, I am thinking that in some original Whedon conception of the show, racism against Chinese by Mal and the "good guys" played a very important role. Not sure about slavery, but Mal probably was originally a deconstruction of Jesse James, with a fucktoad of warts and all.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 3:11 PM
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245: Vampires are too pale to be mistaken as Mexicans.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 3:11 PM
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I'm just very upset now that I realize that the Empire in Star Wars was trying to commit genocide against the Chinese.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 3:14 PM
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Confidential to Mζtch:

Whatever you do, don't watch Episode 1.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 3:15 PM
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Mζtch

Indiscretion error?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 3:16 PM
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Dancers can do choreographed cheers fine. I mean, they look pretty doing it. But after Cheering for two decades it all looks wrong to me. Get real cheerleaders, asshole!


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 3:17 PM
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251: No, but it is an !ndiscretion error.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 3:18 PM
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250: Episode 1 of Star Wars?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 3:19 PM
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254: Yεs.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 3:20 PM
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The Jedi are Chinese? I thought they were Mexican!


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 3:23 PM
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they're the lost tribes of egypt


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 3:24 PM
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Vampires are too pale to be mistaken as Mexicans.

Robert Rodriguez says nuh-uh.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 3:31 PM
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I thought that was the Colonies of Kobol?


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 3:32 PM
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The commentary to Dr. Horrible has a song sung by Maurissa Tancharoen about lack of inclusion for asians specifically and herself in particular, on Dr. Horrible.

sample lyric
I WROTE ALL PENNY'S LINES AND HER SONG, YOU KNOW
I EVEN SANG HER PART UP ON THE DEMO
BUT WHEN IT'S TIME TO CAST THE SHOW
DID THEY WANT SOMEBODY YELLOW - HELL NO

link


Posted by: Molly | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 3:46 PM
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"specifically" s/b "in general"


Posted by: Molly | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 3:49 PM
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259: They were all Cylons, but Helo put them in the Dollhouse.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 3:59 PM
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Whatever you do, don't watch Episode 1.

But I thought those aliens were Japanese stereotypes, not Chinese stereotypes?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 4:02 PM
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In attempting to Google the answer to 263, I find:

"Thank you," said the Neimoidians in their thick accent. Voldemort had heard it before, in impressions of Asian people from his home planet and in the Star Wars films. Even he thought it sounded racist.

I think that wins at least one internet.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 4:08 PM
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wikipedia has a terrific not very successful attempt at being multiculturally fair to the neimoidians (it's in "List of Star Wars Races K-O"): "Neimoidians have been stereotyped by other races in the galaxy as corrupt and greedy, particularly after the Battle of Naboo. They are certainly willing to resort to extortion, lies and manipulation, but their success also lies in exceptional organizing abilities."


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 4:22 PM
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"I'm not trying to be flip, I just really don't understand what you're getting at."

LizardBreath and tierce de lollardie and redfoxtailshrub point out a bunch of the other oddities that get my propellor beanie spinning, but there's a fundamental issue that seems to be a way-of-consuming-media that I will try to ... well, to think out clearly.

A lot of this is related to political speech, the stuff sometimes called 'dogwhistles'. It is, I think, an insupportably naive reading of how people talk to each other that only what's literally, inarguably (hah!) in the current speech/show 'counts' as true. In Firefly specifically, there's a lot of work being done by references to half-forgotten pop culture; it's a very easy show to understand because we have all these cues about what's going on. They happen to point to race and states'-rights issues that still have political juice. So Whedon and the audience are using, also benefiting from, lots of references to a history that definitely included slavery. I am made very uncomfortable by arguments that we get to assume away all the unpleasant parts of that history because they don't happen to be onscreen.

It's all of a piece, as the drunkard said of the dishcloth.

It would be way cool to see/read a version that actually explained this, in any way: e.g., here's a history, there was no slavery or Indian war equivalent; or, the rebels were neither stainless nor unjustified; or, the rebels were dreadful as a political movement but included many virtuous people; or, the rebels were dreadful but the Alliance is worse.

I am not, n.b., accusing Whedon of having nefarious secret messages, or claiming that " the show was being constructed with perfect loving attention to the sociological details of lexical borrowing". I'm more accusing people who enjoy the show -- including myself -- of being morally lazy. It's always easy to enjoy fantasies of being a virtuous aristocrat, but I disapprove of aristocracies a whole lot. And I read Project Gutenberg pulp and history for fun, so I'm constantly reminded of the tropes from aristocratic society.

And finally, these 'oh, it's just to get it on TV' explanations never occur to me for two reasons; one, nerdlily, SF enthusiasts hate breaking that fourth wall. (This is related to my believing that all these unexplained details count -- in good SF they do. Nothing just happened, it was all authorial choice.) Two, so what? If you can't get on TV without saying stuff, you always had the option of not saying it.

This is all dangerously close to earnest.
---

On Jet Li, and whether there's character development in HK movies, etc.; Richard Burton wrote a book about the novel in which he defends the Romance (not the love-and-marriage sense, the historical usually-epics sense).

And martial-arts protagonists are so far from normal, their Romantic heroic actions so painful, that I don't think the conventions of bourgeois character development even make sense; an average person would demonstrably and sensibly run away, or ask for help, or organize a committee. So I think it's more internally consistent not to even try the novelistic character.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 4:27 PM
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OK, the Star Wars aliens can be heard in this video. And I guess the accent does sound vaguely Chinese, but only vaguely, to my ear, and I think mostly because it sounds tonal. (Also revealed by Google search: many people think all Asian accents sound the same. Weird.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 4:33 PM
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clew, as someone with a keen pseudo-academic interest in profanity and censorship thereof in different contexts, the "it's network TV" explanation leaps out at me. And, come on, as I've said here before, the exact same thing happens in BSG - there's no reason whatsoever for the characters to say "frakk" except that they're not allowed to say "fuck". At least Firefly has a somewhat enriched/altered English lexicon (eg "shiny"), a la Fray. There's almost none of that in BSG, just a fourth wall breaking "frakk". And, again, we're talking about Whedon, who in BtVS used Spike as a vehicle for getting English swearwords on to network TV.

Now that doesn't mean the way that swearing is handled shouldn't be justified in the context of the narrative - and Firefly does that to a certain, but clearly underdeveloped extent (give the guy a break - there's only 13 episodes). And that explanation should be plausible and fit satisfyingly with the rest of the universe. But to pretend that those pressures don't drive creative decisions is sticking your head in the sand. I'm not saying the swearing came before the Chinese cultural influence, but I'm 99% certain that the reason they swear in Mandarin is because they couldn't swear in English. And it's a nice Easter egg for fans who look them up afterward.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 4:46 PM
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On your other point, I'd agree (I think I'm agreeing anyway) that HK martial arts (and their action movie sibliings) need to be considered separately from others - as I said, it's all about idiom. Obviously, it doesn't apply to Hong Kong films in other genres, like those of Wong Kar Wai, say, or even thrillers like Infernal Affairs.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 4:50 PM
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My guess would be that 100% of people like me, who don't speak any Asian languages and don't know a wide array of people from East Asia, think all Asian accents (that is, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Thai) sound the same. They certainly sound the same to me.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 4:52 PM
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Ginger Yellow, I think the BSG 'frakk' is just as useful as evidence that swearing in Chinese does mean something; we know (out of frame) that if SF characters say 'frakk' everyone knows they're swearing; and (in frame) that a Chinese-cultural region has political importance. So, it was a choice to swear in Chinese; and we're 'supposed' to interpret Chinese-ness, it's important.

Maybe I'm partly annoyed that onscreen SF is often so lazy. It's not the onscreen-ness, mysteries and thrillers can be complicated.

Re HK: I guess I think that the problem is US action movies' attempts to be non-Romantic.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 4:56 PM
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re the swearing-as-reason-for-the-chnese, yes -- but it can be both (and i think it is): you get great curse-sounding curses which don't upset network censors, and you get (at some point later) to enrich and expand your plots with as-yet-unexpanded backstory

given that whedon thinks in lo-o-o-ong storyarcs -- viz had some notion of how buffy season seven would end before buffy ep one season one aired -- and given that we know he's as good as anyone with a deep background in comicbooks at picking up something small and seemingly minor in an early ep and making lots of it (dozens of buffy examples, none of which currently pops into my brain), and moreover at deliberately seeding seemingly small and minor things way in advance, so that insane high-memory nerds like me would get pleasure from spotting same, this can be a fourth-wall solution to one problem at the same time as an exciting potential seeding...

(using yr network workrounds to do Good rather than Evil etc etc)


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 5:01 PM
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Speaking of Whedon -- anyone else think it's weird that in a show about a brunet named Angel in LA, no one ever looked at his card and assumed his name was Ahn-hel?

Oh, I thought it was Ahn-hel. Never saw Buffy or that other one.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 5:05 PM
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i also remember thinking when i first heard this device -- based on knowledge of subtitles in martial arts movies rather than speaking any actual asian languages -- that chinese as spoken in films is a LOT more er earthy than the language you'd find in similar-type films in english, so that chinese-speaking viewers of firefly would more likely be amused than offended (by the cussing specifically)

but now that i write it out i'm not sure if this thought is remotely supportable (subtitles are after all added after the film in question has left the region it's originally shown in)


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 5:08 PM
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I am made very uncomfortable by arguments that we get to assume away all the unpleasant parts of that history because they don't happen to be onscreen.

While I agree that more is true in the story than is shown, I disagree with this, because I didn't read the Unification/Independence war as a war over states' rights. We don't learn a lot about it, but it seems to have more in common with wars of colonization than one of rebellion from an established order. I think it's a jump from there to slavery; it's certainly compatible with the world. And given that the show takes pains to show that the culture (even on the backwater worlds, in the swear words of the crew) has been influenced by China, I'd be very surprised if we were meant to see the inner planets as the only Chinese-cultural region of importance.

The second point of disagreement is that while the Western sometimes has genocidal elements, there's an argument that its essence (or one of its essences) is independence, the frontiersman, self-reliance,etc., and the genre can exist, so to speak, without having to play cowboys and Indians.

So while I agree it's compatible with the story as its shown to have Mal & crew be essentially Confederate frontiersman, I don't think it's an obvious enough reading to be confident that there is slavery in the universe, that their crew was on the pro-slavery side, that the hierarchy of the Alliance is Chinese and the "good guys" are Anglo, etc.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 5:24 PM
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So, it was a choice to swear in Chinese; and we're 'supposed' to interpret Chinese-ness, it's important.

Absolutely. I'm not denying that at all, for given values of "important". I'm just loath to read large amounts of specific socio-political justification into it without further textual support. The slavery stuff for instance isn't beyond the bounds of possibility for me, it's just not an immediate reading for me, given the text we have and my knowledge of Whedon's work/approach. Could he have introduced that as explanation/context given the time? Sure. Do I think it's likely? Not particularly, but I'm just speculating based on the same, limited evidence we all have. In the meantime (and it seems, forever) we have a very real extra-mural constraint.

the swearing-as-reason-for-the-chnese, yes -- but it can be both (and i think it is): you get great curse-sounding curses which don't upset network censors, and you get (at some point later) to enrich and expand your plots with as-yet-unexpanded backstory

Exactly.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 5:26 PM
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And what Cala said, so long as by "wars of colonialism", you mean wars of independence against colonial powers. That's pretty explicit in the show. It's not like there were existing "natives" when the settlers from Earth That Was arrived, at least not any that the Alliance wants us to know about.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 5:31 PM
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Yes, that's what I mean. It's an intracultural war (not clear whether it's a civil war, or a war of conquest by the Alliance, iirc), not one about subduing the natives.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 5:39 PM
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Speaking of Whedon -- anyone else think it's weird that in a show about a brunet named Angel in LA, no one ever looked at his card and assumed his name was Ahn-hel? What, the vampires ate all the Latinos first?

I believe Buffy's mom makes this assumption when she first hears about Angel, but I can't find the quote right now.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 5:42 PM
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that the hierarchy of the Alliance is Chinese and the "good guys" are Anglo, etc.

I read today in a timeline that the "War of Independence" or whatever started at the moment the first Unity President was elected. I also noticed that that President had a fully Asian name.

Like an Abe Lincoln event.

Whedon could have just been riffing off post-Civil War American West, and just used details with any exact parallels.

But then there is the role of the Chinese immigrants in that West, and well, certain racial stereotypes about Chinese being anti-individualistic and corporate.

If you can think of a connection or parallel, Whedon had lived with it for months.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 5:44 PM
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But I am not really sure how far or how seriously to take this stuff.

Before anyone steps before a camera you have the original concept that needs to be tightened into the "book" that has to get by the network that has to be adjusted by Whedon for production realities and an ambition that overreached even his own capabilities etc. Parts of the 1st concept like Chinese planet names may survive the elimination of te backstory context.

It could have simply been that there were not enough Asian actors and extras, and locking them up for a series schedule meant paying them more than standard rates.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 5:55 PM
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221: There's an exchange in one episode:
Mal: "Petty?"
Inara: "I didn't mean petty. I meant suoxi."
Mal: "That's Chinese for petty."

That tends to make me think the English is English and the Chinese is Chinese, if you take my meaning.

202: Was Keanu Reeves ever good in anything?

Sam Raimi's The Gift. Not a very good movie, not a subtle performance by Keanu, but good.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 6:12 PM
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"That tends to make me think the English is English and the Chinese is Chinese, if you take my meaning."

Personally I don't think that's even remotely in question, although clearly some people here disagree.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 6:18 PM
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282 was me BTW.

275: So while I agree it's compatible with the story as its shown to have Mal & crew be essentially Confederate frontiersman, I don't think it's an obvious enough reading to be confident that there is slavery in the universe, that their crew was on the pro-slavery side,

There are multiple references to slavery in the episode "Shindig". A gentleman of stature says to a young woman in finery: "It must have taken a dozen slaves a dozen days to get you into that getup", and Mal robs a slave trader in a bar for no apparent reason other than the man's occupation.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 6:21 PM
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284. Which is to say that the Alliance might well have been the pro-slavery side in Mal's war.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 6:23 PM
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So, is the world Shindig is set on Alliance, or crypto-Rebel, or successful sellouts to the Alliance, or what? I've been assuming that they were the last, because they're stylistically so much more like the worlds Mal seems to be at home on than the world the Tams grew up on.

I think that's the ep in which Mal mentions having grown up on a ranch with his widowed mother and forty-five hands. It looks to me as though he already knows cotillion dances. He keeps having chances to not be The Virginian and not taking them.

275-278, 284-285: I'm sure there's a consistent backstory in which the rebels are unmitigatedly good -- but I think it is necessarily going to take more epicycles/adjustments, because it's having to make up explanations for a lot of stuff inherited from Westerns. I'd have less trouble with the big political stuff than with the aesthetic accidents -- the crinolines and cowboy hats.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 6:42 PM
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Jet's brother Amp doesn't get the attention he deserves.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 6:53 PM
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286: It's Persephone, the same planet the pilot episode begins on. Definitely frontier, not Alliance core. I don't see anyone but Mal and to a lesser extent Zoe showing much sympathy for the Independents anywhere in the series, even among those who have a distaste for the Alliance.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 7:01 PM
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278: The impression from the opening narrations is that the worlds were originally autonomous and the central worlds wanted to unite all the worlds as the alliance. Assuming Earth-That-Was originally colonized them all but then became irrelevant/uninhabited, it doesn't map well to any Earth-historical scenario that I'm familiar with.

Imagine if Europe had vanished prior to the American War of Independence, and the original American colonies had decided to unify what is now the US against the will of the western territories.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 7:13 PM
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202: Was Keanu Reeves ever good in anything?

River's Edge? I barely remember him in it, but I liked Crispin Glover.

More plausibly, My Own Private Idaho, a film more or less hated by everyone I knew personally who saw it at the time, though they were wrong.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 7:15 PM
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i got jury summons, never knew that foreigners are called to serve as jurors, should send back the juror qualification form, so maybe they'll find i'm not qualified then
one trial or two days it says, very interesting though


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 7:42 PM
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I would love to serve on a jury. I would be the best juror ever. Like, the Henry Fonda of petty auto accident disputes. Alas, I never get called.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 7:49 PM
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re unrelated, the youtube teaser pic looks like a mechanic with a bicycle sprocket. Alas, not a Paola Pezzo thread.


Posted by: E | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 7:54 PM
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292:Been on two juries

Landlord/tenant dispute and DWI. The fantasy thrill of being Fonda doesn't go away, but you are still embarrassed to feel all civic dutiful about a roof repair.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:00 PM
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My jury duty was a neighborhood dispute that started when one woman called the other woman a slut because she was an unwed mother. Eventually about eight people got involved and they all seemed to be lying on the stand. One guy was accused of assault when he threw a large rock at another guy that didn't even get halfway there. It was a repeat trial with the victim and defendant switched. At one point one of the two women accused the other of stealing her underwear off the lie. Fun.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:07 PM
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line.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:07 PM
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295: So they were suing each other for what, exactly?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:14 PM
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I was on jury duty today, and I have it tomorrow. Got called up to the courtroom this afternoon along with 40 other potential jurors. We waited outside courtroom for about 1 hour. The two sides resolve the case. At least they have wifi there.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:19 PM
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298 was me.


Posted by: Willy Voet | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:20 PM
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Paola Pezzo is indeed a beautiful woman and was a great racer.


Posted by: Willy Voet | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:22 PM
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The swearing in Chinese was obviously most motivated by the constraints of network TV. That said, it makes sense in story. Chinese is the language of the ruling class of the Alliance; Mal swears in Chinese is a tiny act of defiance against his old enemy, and the crew's picked up the habit. It may even be a widespread phenomenon amongst the non-Chinese underclass.


Posted by: dob | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:23 PM
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parenthetical, is it definite that sheep are worse in dry ranges? Last I followed animals-larger-than-pocket-gophers, I was told that cattle won because of cultural associations with the rich in England (and this was well before Collapse). Herding practices of the Dine were adduced as sustainable.

I'm not up on the ecology per se, just on the environmental history of European colonization of the Americas. And there, it seems clear that European ways of grazing/moving sheep are much more damaging than cattle culture (cf., A Plague of Sheep, in Mexico), because sheep pull out the roots of plants (which you probably already know). Cattle just close-crop, giving plants the ability to regrow if you move them. Though, as bigger animals, they can cause more problems re: erosion and watering holes. Once horses, sheep, cattle are adopted by Native Americans, it seems like they often managed to mitigate the environmental problems through better husbandry adapted to their environments (at least, specifically with the Dine and sheep, as in Richard White's Roots of Dependency). But when run by Euro-Americans, my (willing to be corrected) opinion is that sheep are worse.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:31 PM
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(Now I'm worried that I got the grazing habits of cows and sheep reversed and am completely wrong. It's been awhile since I picked up any of this).


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 8:32 PM
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After consulting with my DVR, episode 3 of Dollhouse was much better that the first two. Advantage Whedon!


Posted by: Lambent Cactus | Link to this comment | 03- 3-09 9:38 PM
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I thought the backstory for the Chinese was sort of a predictable waxing of Chinese global cultural influence -- just thick enough a reed to hang the primetime cursing on.

I think Dollhouse would be much better if the people in the Dollhouse were more sympathetic -- specifically, if the conflict between them stemmed from their differing theories of what is in the dolls' interest. Right now, there's all these unsympathetic characters participating in a plainly horrible kidnapping/brainwashing exercise, with no one even going to the effort to gloss over it. I'm sticking with it through Episode 6 -- even paying for it to boost the Joss's numbers in the best way a non-Nielsen can -- but there's something really unfun about it. (For one thing, it could use a lot more "dialogue that sounds like Chandler-from-Friends in space.")

I saw Serenity twice before I cracked Firefly. After the first viewing I called my movies-with-body-count friend. "Francis," I said, "if I told you I just saw a movie where a pixie ninja kills a room full of space cannibals, you'd want to see that movie, wouldn't you?"


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 03- 4-09 12:23 AM
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I just watched ep. 2 of Dollhouse. Eh. It's not as bad as ep. 1 -- it's not totally boring, at least. But, eh. It's still pretty dumb and fucked up. Also: Romo fucking Lampkin. I fucking hate that guy.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 03- 4-09 1:01 AM
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What Wrongshore said about Dollhouse. From what I've read, there's a small possibility it will become a good show after the first five episodes, but I'm not getting my hopes up.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03- 4-09 2:01 AM
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292: I would love to serve on a jury. I would be the best juror ever. Like, the Henry Fonda of petty auto accident disputes.

My one stint of jury duty was a very frustrating case of Henry Fonda interruptus. I was alternate juror on a murder case, and was not needed for deliberations. A completely fucked up case concerning a killing under absolutely confusing circumstances in a public housing complex. The gaps in information that the jury had were staggering, so many potentially relevant witnesses not called on both sides (I assume for sound tactical reasons), and so many seemingly relevant questions not asked of the ones who were called. I left convinced they could never convict (pretty clear the defendant was actively involved in the killing, but they were trying for 1st degree) and annoyed that the prosecutor had not gone for a lesser charge.

Some time later I recognized one of the jurors at a local lunch place—turned out they *had* convicted and supposedly one of the "key" pieces of evidence they used was a red scarf on the ground in the background of one of the pictures; he said they decided it was a "gang" thing, despite absolutely zero evidence being given court about gangs. I was so stunned that I had no response. (And I have had residual guilt from time to time that there was maybe something I should have done with that little insight into the workings of the jury deliberations, maybe some of the legal folks here can clarify if there was or was not ...)

Bottom line: Don't be powerless, or you may be convicted by a jury of smug anything-but-peers acting on received media narratives rather than evidence.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03- 4-09 3:33 AM
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308 -- Transactional lawyers always blanche when I explain to them that their delicately wordsmithed document only means what someone like me (ie, basically clueless on the fine points of their business) can convince 12 unsophisticated ordinary people it means.

Patent law has got to be one of the scariest things going, for this same reason.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03- 4-09 5:03 AM
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305: a pixie ninja kills a room full of space cannibals

A little of that goes a long way. It's like all the concussions P.I.s or cowboys get without ever throwing up or getting severe vertigo or just getting stupider as the series goes on.

There's a point where the willing suspension of disbelief comes off the hook it's hanging on.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 03- 4-09 6:10 AM
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310: absolutely. We demand only rigidly realistic depictions of combat between psychic pixie ninjas and deranged space cannibals.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 03- 4-09 7:14 AM
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Transactional lawyers always blanche

Just explain to them that they're always depending on the kindness of strangers.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03- 4-09 7:18 AM
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As opposed to the strangeness of kindred.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03- 4-09 7:27 AM
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308 - I've done two jury trials, one in Portland and one in PG county Maryland. The Portland one was a prostitution sting with a defendant who was clearly taking a loooong shot at getting a sympathetic jury - we convicted based on the fact that if you are on tape offering an undercover cop twenty bucks for a blow job, chances are that you actually are a john and not a lost driver intimidated into offering to pay for sex by a 5'4" woman in fishnets when what you really intended to do was ask for directions. No shit, that was his defense.

The other was a drug case with horribly confused testimony from the arresting officer - that was an acquittal, but only after two hours of sitting there trying to explain reasonable doubt to an idiot who thought that the juror's job was simply to make a best guess and then majority rules take over. How he managed to get that impression despite the hella detailed briefing from the judge I have no idea. My memory of that irritating little episode is dominated by the phrase "I think he done it" which the idiot repeated over and over and over until we wore him down and he voted to acquit, though he made it clear that he was voting against his conscience only because he didn't want to come back the next day for more of the same.

If you get jury duty, a word of advice - first thing you'll have to do is pick a foreman (unless you're in a state where the court does that). Throw your name in the ring and try to get the job. Having an idiot jury foreperson is a trial in itself. Also being the foreperson gives you something to do during deliberations, which can be help save your sanity if you run up against "I think he done it."


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 03- 4-09 7:51 AM
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Way back up thread, re: browncoats. Confederate soldiers were commonly known as "greycoats." (I read way too many Louis Lamour books as a kid.) I think we should go for the more likely explanation rather than adding on a whole new class of morally-repugnant associations to be hung on the rebs.


Posted by: Chopper | Link to this comment | 03- 4-09 8:17 AM
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re: 31

My demand above was that it be 'cooler/better' rather than realistic.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03- 4-09 8:17 AM
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93: There's an old tabletop RPG called Deadlands that does exactly that, cowboys vs. zombies, though there are also marshals and all the other Western tropes as well as mad scientists and some other steampunk and sci-fi elements. The setting is pretty fucking fantastic in terms of engaging the imagination but the system as originally written is basically unplayable: terribly confusing and it took forever to determine just how badly one had almost certainly failed at using any of one's special tricks. There's a d20 version that came out a few years back that I picked up but never played. It made my heart flutter, just a little, to hear that Bruce Campbell loved Deadlands so much that he used to go to cons to run games.

I do love the idea, in all honesty, and when I played a mad roboticist for a one-shot my group did some years ago I mocked up a marketing pamphlet for his "Frankenmen" and everything. By the end of the game, however, I found myself actually saying to the GM, "Can't my bag of kerosene just explode so I can finally die?"

Sigh.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 03- 4-09 8:20 AM
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I've served on my jury as an alternate, and I swear to you that every single member of that jury was more intelligent, interesting and decent than any of the people involved in the trial (except for the judge and her staff). It was a wonderful surprise. Maybe it was because the trial took place in Manhattan, where there's a pretty high bar for making a living without acquiring a criminal record.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03- 4-09 9:01 AM
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I got my very first call for jury duty last year at age 39, and then (I guess) the defendant made a plea agreement and I didn't even have to report to the courthouse. I was a little irritated, as I have actively wanted to get jury duty for 22 years now.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03- 4-09 9:56 AM
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I spent a week commuting to Bumfuck, Alabama in order not to be picked for a jury, then any number of weeks in L.A. phoning in to discover if I needed to report, then a day sitting on a hyper-uncomfortable chair without being picked.

That's it. No more. I'll get a medical excuse the next time the paperwork shows up.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 03- 4-09 7:57 PM
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It made my heart flutter, just a little, to hear that Bruce Campbell loved Deadlands so much that he used to go to cons to run games.

Oh, sure, stop the presses, Bruce Campbell's awesome. Plus it's sunnier in the daytime!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03- 4-09 8:09 PM
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You know what else is awesome? Uotha, a duo cd by Paolo Angeli and Hamid Drake.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03- 5-09 7:06 PM
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