Wednesday, November 11, 2009

V is for “vacancies”


Jewish date:  24 Marḥeshwan 5770 (Parashath Ḥayye-Sarah).

Today’s holiday:  Saint Day of Martin of Tours (Roman Catholicism).

Worthy cause of the day:  “  Murdoch: Make a choice”.

Topic 1:  “CBC Promotes False Barrier Analogy”.  The PR jihad against Israel goes on, and this article talks about why it makes no sense to compare Israel’s anti-terrorism barrier to the Berlin Wall.  Also in jihad-related sloppy thinking, the Dry Bones cartoon “Face It” deals with the reluctance of many to acknowledge that the Fort Hood shootings were an Islamic terrorist attack, despite the evidence that it is.

Topic 2:  Given some criticism I received on my review of the pilot episode of the new V last week, I think I need to clarify my position on the series.  The plot and characters are not necessarily bad.  For all we know, the writers may have even avoided two major blunders of the original V:  the Vs eat humans, in which case their operation is much more complex than they really need it to be to accomplish this, and there is a human-V mating which produces live offspring, which in real life is almost certainly impossible.  The real problem is that there are huge gaps in the story, the “vacancies” of this post’s title.  While we have some idea what some of the main characters are thinking, we have practically no idea why most of the people in this series believe and act the way they do.  Much of the time, it is not even clear what the Vs are doing other than secretly plotting against humanity.  Without much of a background, it is very hard to appreciate the show as a whole.  If the new V survives past the four episodes planned to be shown this year, I hope they will make an episode dedicated not to moving the plot along but telling us what humans in general are thinking and what the Vs are doing on Earth which makes humans love or hate them; this could be done plausibly in the form of a documentary hosted by reporter character Chad Decker, who already has reported on the Vs.

The latest episode, “There Is No Normal Anymore”, does not introduce any new theological ideas.  It does, however, deal with the moral issue of trust.  FBI agent Erica Evans and Father Jack Landry, who were present in the last episode at a resistance meeting which was infiltrated and attacked by the Vs, are naturally unsure whom they can trust.  There is evidence that Vs have been on Earth for decades, disguised as humans, and knowing who is really human and who is a V without more physical examination than most people would casually submit to is impossible.  This leads to questions of when to hide information or lie.  What they ultimately decide they must keep doing, despite the unanswered trust and deception questions, is to get to the bottom of what the Vs are really up to.

The cover of the book The Amber Spyglass.Image via Wikipedia
Topic 3:  Chapters 20-23 of The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, Book 3) by Philip Pullman.  Chapter 20 deals with Mary Malone, still in the world of the melufa, turning her crude optical device to see Dust into a more proper spyglass and ascending to the tops of the wheel seedpod trees to see why they are slowly dying.  Apparently currents of Dust in the sky have changed and are no longer raining much Dust down on the wheel seedpod tree flowers to fertilize them.  Don’t ask me to explain the physics of this; it makes no sense to me.

Meanwhile, Lyra, Will, and two elf-like beings known as Gallivespians, following Lyra’s death, reach the shore of a river, where they meet the boatman who takes people to the land of the dead proper.  They all go, but in the process, they have to leave their dæmons behind.  This is a huge blunder on Pullman’s part.  The dæmon is supposed to be the soul, and if that is not what goes to the land of the dead, what does?  Furthermore, Lyra and company really do not act differently when they go on to the land of the dead; they just feel horrible.  In any case, the land of the dead itself is as dark and dreary as the waiting area, only it is fenced in and guarded by harpies, who do little more than be insulting.  (Notice the ancient Greek religion theme going on here.)  With the help of Will’s knife, Lyra and company get past the front gate, only to find more of the dark bleakness, inhabited by the physically insubstantial dead, who do little more than sit around quietly and get insulted by the harpies, who know all the bad things everyone has done in life.  Despite promises that the Authority will reward and punish the dead, there is only punishment by the harpies in this domain.  It is so bad that Lyra and Will plot to let the dead out into another world—and even though the result will be oblivion for the escapees, most of the dead prefer it to remaining in the land of the dead.  None of this sounds particularly like the Christian afterlife, so chalk up another demerit to Pullman.


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