Friday, February 25, 2011

Hierarchy of Needs

After reading a review of Samuel Moyns' The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History by John Gray, I'm inspired to re-frame a previous attack on American Exceptionalism in a new light. American Exceptionalism, particularly when used by liberal and neo-liberals to justify 'democratization' and 'state-building' foreign policies, misunderstands what is the greatest good for a people. While concepts like freedom, human rights, and the right to self-determination are noble ideas in theory, they are not timeless. Nor yet are they particularly useful if established in the wrong circumstances. In the link above, Gray does a fine job deconstructing the myth of universal human rights. In this post, I will try to do the same for the concept of freedom and illustrate, through an application of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, how promoting freedom at the cost of a number of other needs is ultimately detrimental to a society.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Firefly: Our Mrs. Reynolds Review

Kristina Hendricks! Heavens above! Firefly is certainly sporting some prestigious supporting cast members. First Zack Efron and now the face of Mad Men. (At least, one of its many faces. Jon Hamm's chiseled visage is equally iconic.) 

I had the pleasure of watching Our Mrs. Reynolds with a handful of Firefly virgins, which was an enlightening experience, both for the episode and for the show overall. If nothing else, Firefly is a funny show. After four episodes under my belt, I couldn't help but wonder if my laughter wasn't starting to sound a little forced. If my affection for the show wasn't overcoming my ability to judge it dispassionately. But Our Mrs. Reynolds had all four of us in stitches at points, indicating that I have not yet fallen prey to fanboyitis. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Firefly: Safe Review

Oy. This gang should really stay off the wild west worlds. They don't have the production values to make them feel like alien planets instead of someone's backyard. I get the importance of a cowboy vibe to the show's overall identity and all, but much of Safe was just jarring. That is not to say that the episode is a total loss. It simply stands in stark contrast to Shindig's tight pacing and Bushwhacked's immersive atmosphere.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Tyler Cowen

  1. Two videos via The Awesomer. Both of cute animals shot in slow motion.

  2. Korean culture. Via Marginal Revolution
  3. The celebrations for Kim Jong il's birthday. 
  4. Good piece about the Egyptian revolution that bears heavily on an unfinished piece we're working on here. (One of these days!) Via The Browser. 

Uncodified Spiritual Musings

One of the potential pratfalls of being an agnostic, atheist, or otherwise uninterested in the matters spiritual is that one rarely has the philosophical workout of clarifying or redefining the basic tenets of their belief (or disbelief). After having a brief spurt in college as a starry-eyed undergrad ready to conquer the world, I'm finding the hodge-podge design of my spiritual architecture is extremely sketchy. Catalyst for dusting off my description / explanation is a newfound friendship with a charming but totally religious kid of roughly undergraduate age. When she dives into some insane explanation of God or story about missionaries or something else, I internally scoff at the very idea of such literal and active belief. But I can't communicate this disdain. Not for lack of tact but, literally, for lack of vocabulary.

So, though it may smack of juvenile theologism, I'm using this space to stretch the articulate legs on my spiritual structure. Those uninterested in the implicitly self-absorbed ramblings of one's personal belief system need not read further.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Great Gatsby

"...face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate with his capacity for wonder."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Tyler Cowen

  1. Hilarious article on the strategic mistakes made by Hollywood's alien invaders. Via Marginal Revolution
  2. NYTimes does great infographics again. How are we spending our money this year? Look no further. (Now we just need a simple infographic to summarize our oversight abilities.)
  3. The impact of Wikileaks on North / South Korean politics and diplomacy.

Firefly: Shindig Review

"Well, I'm alright."
                   - Mal after stabbing an unarmed and wounded man on the ground.

That you are Nathan, that you are.

Young love.
Shindig is the perhaps the tightest episode thus far, focusing almost solely on the events at a fancy-dress ball on Persephone. It is also the first episode to dabble in themes beyond the purely emotional. Though previous episodes have broad moral arcs, they are mostly black and white by their resolution. Give the medicine to the sick people, survive the Reavers, etc. Shindig, focusing as it does on Inara's world of 'companions' and female status in this sci-fi future, actually provides the viewer with a meaty issue to chew on.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

J.J. Abrams Can't Write Characters

Is that title even fair? Though Abrams conceives of his shows and sketches the basic contours of them, the episode-to-episode writing usually falls on others. Wherever the real blame should fall though, it is Abrams' name that is most closely associated with the likes of Lost, Alias, and Fringe. And, as a result, it is on him that we level our criticism.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Back on the grid

Some nefarious bastard backed into my internet cable a few days back and left me without connectivity. Apologies, dear fans, for the hiatus. We're back now...up and running for your enjoyment. Several choice links have piled up in the interim as have a few more reviews and that pesky Hierarchy of Needs piece that STILL hasn't been finished. For now, enjoy the following:

More to come. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Firefly: Bushwhacked Review

Whoa. This show is really starting to flex its atmospheric muscle. Humor: check. Drama: check. Horror? After seeing Bushwhacked, that is a resounding check. Given the previous reviews' complaints about camp, one would assume that a horror-themed episode would be one of the worst offenders. Horror is, after all, a fertile genre for low budgets, bad acting, and over the top gore. So the restraint and true fear this episode evokes is doubly effective for overcoming this reviewer's prejudices.