The Revenge of the Lizard Queen

There are so many little things I could talk about: another doomed award nom, a couple of nifty academic analyses of Blindsight, even an intriguing new finding of a relationship between hand-washing and buyer’s remorse (no, really — it factors into everything from musical preferences to crucifixions). And I’ll post on at least some of those things in a day or two. But today I’m going to rant about something which, while relatively trivial, says something ominous (if not exactly new) about the intelligence of the TV-watching North-American populace.

“Flashforward” has been cancelled. “V” has been renewed.

Neither of these facts in isolation would get me especially het up. The cancellation of both shows would have elicited little more than a shrug. The renewal of both would have made my eyeballs roll briefly back into their orbits, but not much more. The announcement that “V” had been cancelled while “Flashforward” had been spared would have actually conferred some small comfort, shown me that while I might quibble with the absolute standards of N’Am pop culture, at least its relative rankings were in order.

But “V” surviving while “Flashforward” dies for lack of eyeballs? Where does the Neilson Corporation do its recruiting, lobotomy wards?

It’s not that “Flashforward” was such a good show. It verged on melodrama sometimes. Characters had a habit of repeating the same damn plot points over and over after we’d already got it, thank you. But here at least was a show that interrogated its tropes, looked the premise What if you caught a glimpse of the future right in the eyes and didn’t blink. It dealt with issues of free will and predestination in prime time, and while you might expect to have been disappointed by the middle-of-the-road answers it served up during its brief life — Yes the future is set, kinda, but you can change it too, kinda — “Flashforward” managed to maintain tension and avoid sounding mealy-mouthed. (I was especially impressed by the way in which characters who saw futures they did not want, who had advance warning and therefore the means to avoid said futures, managed nonetheless to plausibly remain on their preset track without any sense of forcing or contrivance. That was a tough trick to pull off.) Societal responses to the blackout were plausibly mundane and apocalyptic in equal measure. The backstory seemed nearly Lostian in its depth, but was more coherently developed. The technobabble was restrained and (to my ears, anyway) plausible. I had no trouble buying this show as that rarest of television events, honest and unrepentant science fiction.

Unfortunately, the viewing public has no time for honest and unrepentant science fiction. Evidently they prefer great steaming piles of turd sculpted into the shapes of giant spaceships.

“V” is worse than bad sf, worse than a bad TV show.   It’s a terrible remake of a mediocre TV miniseries.  Eighties-era “V” was at least ambitious in intent, an overt metaphor on fascism.  It was never even intended to be science fiction; the lizard-aliens were only grafted onto the show’s central premise after the original, political-thriller pitch failed to sell because it was “too cerebral” for American audiences.   You may still remember the original for its political elements, though:  the gradual demonization of scientists and other “intellectual elites” who posed a potential threat to the Visitors; the old Holocaust survivor showing a group of kids the right way to deface the cheery propaganda posters pasted on walls and fences (“Now. Go and show your friends.”)

The current reboot dispenses with even these slender reeds (not surprisingly; the US has become more fascistic, less cerebral, and even more mistrustful of intellectual elites in the years since the original aired).  So instead we get a show utterly devoid of any depth whatever, a relentless procession of clichés and plot holes, trimmed with CGI that would have been amateurish a decade ago. Evil aliens come to Earth and walk among us. They look just like we do, and they are made of nefarious. A vital few turn on their own kind, having been converted to the side of truth and goodness by — wait for it — the mother-love apple-pie wonderfulness of Human Emotion. (I’m still waiting for one of them to say “Tell me more about this Earth thing called kissing”.) The Visitors speak to each other in stilted expressionless voices from stilted expressionless faces, except when Anna the Lizard Queen is being particularly evil; during these moments she smiles, just in case the viewing audience hasn’t got the whole “particularly evil” part yet. Her second-in-command is a stone-faced idiot with Korsakov’s Syndrome, to whom every nefarious plan must be described repeatedly and in detail, no matter how obvious. Exposition at the beginning of the hour is prefaced with “The Humans will…”; at the end, with “As I expected, the Humans…”

To be fair,  Anna’s contempt for our species is entirely justifiable; we are portrayed as an astonishingly incurious lot. The Visitors have been here for a whole season and not one of us has remarked on how odd it is that they look just like us, right down to our different ethnicities. Nobody has ever asked them where they came from. Perhaps most egregiously, our cardboard coterie of resistance fighters has been working side-by-side with one of the “good” lizards since episode one — a Visitor who was sent to earth years in advance to pursue the Evil Alien Agenda — and as far as I can tell, nobody has ever once asked him what that agenda is. Not the stone-hearted mercenary, not the Priest Struggling With His Faith, not even the Blonde Mom/FBI agent (has anyone noticed how many of those seem to be starring in genre television these days, by the way?) They’re all risking their lives daily to fight these aliens, and they’ve got an alien fighting right alongside them, and they never bother to ask him what the Visitors want in the first place.

The only reason I keep watching this show is because after each week has passed and the memory has lost its visceral intensity, I can’t believe that anything could be so trite, so badly-written, so poorly acted. I assume I must be misremembering somehow. I tell myself it couldn’t possibly have been that bad. Ed Wood, after all, has been dead for decades.

And yet, “V” has been renewed. And “Flashforward” cancelled.

How could a loving God allow something like this to happen?

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Tuesday May 18 2010at 01:05 pm , filed under ink on art, rant . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

65 Responses to “The Revenge of the Lizard Queen”

  1. better to abandon tv shows as soon as possible.

  2. The first half season of Flashforward was melodramatic enough to be nearly unwatchable, like the fact that it took someone committing suicide to prove that the future could be changed at all. Also, there’s a level of cognitive disonance with the flashforwards (the fact that the future predicted acknowledges the flashforwards, yet NO ONE comments on the fact that they are in the flashforward time while it’s happening) that was hard to overcome. That said, the second half has picked up quite a bit, and the implied multi-year arc impressed me (while at the same time making me laugh at any show that builds that kind of timeline into their first season). Finally, the fact that I knew there would be at least some payoff this year when the characters caught up with the future meant that the show had to be better than Lost in that respect. So yeah, I’m annoyed too – this was the only real long-term-arc show that I’m watching that could have continued.

    As for V, you’ve just reinforced my decision not to bother with it. Thanks for backing me up there!

  3. I think the closest they came to moral pandering was during the pilot: when the newsman and the alien queen are having their little interview, it’s interspersed with cuts to the basement where the conspiracy nut is giving us the real story.

    “The aliens have been here for years, overthrowing our governments and making life suck!”
    ***
    “Well, our future plans for expansion involve making our alien medical technology accessible to everyone, everywhere.”

    “…you’re talking universal healthcare.”

    “That’s right.”
    ***
    “They’re TERRORISTS!”

    Right now, the only thing keeping me watching is the vain hope that one day, somehow, I will get to see Morena Baccarin dislocate her jaw and consume a guinea pig on network television..

  4. I managed to catch a few episodes of V when it was on a month or so ago and haven’t even cared enough to see how it finishes.

    I’m going with turn.self.off on this one. I honestly just gave up on TV altogether. We have 5 religious channels and at any given moment 3 of them have Kirk Cameron on them. Definitely not worth the brain damage.

    Although, I have been hearing good things about Stargate Universe. I might have to check that out soon. At this point in my life, the only fiction stuff that I can manage to get through is sci fi books. But I guess I’m just snobby and elitist that way!

  5. Whoops, sorry for the second post, but I don’t know what happened with the bold there. I meant to just bold turn.self.off‘s name!

    I will use this to point everyone towards a post by Alastair Reynolds praising Stargate Universe. This may interest some people on here who have read his stuff:

    http://approachingpavonis.blogspot.com/2010/05/stargate-atlantis.html

  6. “How could a loving God allow something like this to happen?”

  7. “How could a loving God allow something like this to happen?”

    Ah. There’s your problem…that part doesn’t exist! 😉

  8. I am somewhat sad to admit I watch V, mostly because I am compelled to watch anything and everything with Morena Baccarin. But no one asking the good V what the plan is and the fact that EVERY OTHER TIME we see Anna she’s looking away from a crowd to smile nefariously.

    You would think since she’s doing this so often someone would catch a reflection of her doing so, or that some random V would get hit by a car and have his reptilian biology sprayed all over times square. I mean really, close contact with so many aliens, some of which just drive out to the suburbs for the heck of it.

    But there are so many things wrong with the show it’s idiotic. Damn her for looking perfect.

  9. John Scalzi is consulting for Stargate Universe. That’s the one fact that placed it on my radar, and so far it was good. Here’s hoping they won’t screw it all up in the last episode.

    Any other brainy SF shows out there? How large a bribe should we pay to the producers of “Rome” to try their hand at a new genre?

  10. For me, the last nail in the coffin of SF TV Shows was Battlestar Craptastica. Maybe I’ll post another comment when I have more time explaining why I consider that show a steaming pile of shit.

    (Speaking of SF TV Shows, Futurama is starting again this summer [Futurama was a pretty fun show])

  11. I keep hoping it’s an alien experiment, and, as in Asimov’s “Jokester” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jokester), as soon as we realize that, the experiment will stop.

  12. I’m in total agreement about these programs. I’ve been saying since the first episode of V that if they didn’t give me a hot alien chick chewing on a rodent pretty damn soon I was outta there. And now I am, I’ve had it. All this wonder of human emotions and the power of L*O*V*E shite is driving me batty.

    The loss of FF is a blow, I was enjoying it and thought it much better than pretty much any other TV SF currently on. I thought it would work in a nation often obsessed with conspiracy theories, the fear of “evil forces” running things in secret and corrupt scientists who are determined to play God with the lives of good innocent hard-working Americans.

  13. “How could a loving God allow something like this to happen?”

    So, you’re saying the “good” one got crucified and the “bad” one lives on?

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist. What else is new?).

    Glad you’re back to watching TV anyway. I’ve given it up.

  14. Can’t say I’m surprised that Flashforward has been canned. It might have worked with half the plotlines but as it was you would need to be taking copious notes to keep up with who was who and which side Janice was on this week.

    As for ‘V’, well any series with a character called Father Jack is never going to be taken seriously on this side of the pond. (Just google “Craggy Island”.)

  15. Alx said:

    Good news, everybody! Futurama is starting again this summer

    Futurama was very very clever. I own it on DVD, and the commentary is even funnier than the cartoon itself. I nearly laughed myself off the sofa.

  16. Anthony:

    I still want that to be the final scene of the Lost finale: I’m still on that fekking island!

  17. meh. This is one of the reasons why I don’t own a television or watch any sf tv. In fact, in a bizarre twist, the only currently airing show I (a hardcore sf fan) watch is “30 Rock”, which is utterly vapid but brilliantly written, partially because they slap it on the web once a week. If “Heroes” had just been about Hiro, I might have watched more than the pilot episode.

    That said, this encourages me to seek out Flashforward on the web, if it can be found, or in the local video rental joint. Thank you.

  18. >the US has become […] even more mistrustful of intellectual elites

    Can you really blame us for that, though? Look where our betters have brought us and look where they’re taking us. You see this better than anyone, Mr. Watts.

    Maybe, just maybe, rule by “enlightened,” resume-building technocrats is the least bad choice from a list of terrible options, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it.

  19. I admire the hell out of FlashForward for one choice that I’m afraid not many viewers understood correctly.

    Mark Benford saw a vision of a future in which his wife is with another man. That man, while in bed with his wife, also finds an important equation or formula that might help prevent another blackout. In order to prevent another blackout, Benford chose to KNOWINGLY attempt to make the vision come true, to leave his wife, to literally throw her into Simco’s arms, so that Simco finds the formula. In other words, while most Hollywood heroes would doom millions of strangers in order to save their loved ones (e.g., handing out the atomic codes to the mad terrorist who kidnapped their kid), FF gives us a hero that makes a difficult choice and puts the fate of the world above his own private life.

    But I think almost nobody picked up on that. We’re so used to the idea that heroes ALWAYS save their loved ones, that when somebody chooses otherwise, we can’t accept that it is being done intentionally. He must be some sort of idiot or it’s bad writing.

    FF’s greatest fault is that its characters are unremarkable and that is indeed a problem. But the story has captivated me from the first moment it was on.

    As for V… I watched the pilot, and that was enough for me, thank you very much.

  20. I couldn’t agree more. FlashForward was the only serial I actually tried to keep up with. I gave up on Heroes and Lost and never even got started with V. Damn!

  21. I don’t need to watch TV, I just need to read this blog.\

  22. My honest suspicion?

    the stoned college teenagers who all gather together for Lost (this may or may not include my particular demographic) end up watching V afterwards for sheer couchlock and while discussing theories of quantum probability/collapsing timelines/what the smoke monster-nee-John Locke really is, lizard people play politics in the background and give brick-worthy performances.

    V couldn’t have chosen a better timeslot than immediately after the last season of Lost. I don’t think Lost is particularly excellent (over melodramatic, “let’s sit here and talk about our feelings while everything goes to shit around us”, not surprising for mainstream American TV) but has enough depth to where we get sucked in just to process the puzzle for its sheer existence, like being in a room with a blank sudoku.

  23. The mere existence of ‘V’ would seem to argue against the existence of any loving deity whatsoever.

  24. …an intriguing new finding of a relationship between hand-washing and buyer’s remorse (no, really — it factors into everything from musical preferences to crucifixions).

    Please post this ASAP. I’m a cop, so failure to comply is felonious assault.
    (too soon?)

  25. Uhh… that first paragraph is a quote from the intro of the blog post.

  26. I have to agree completely on both Flashforward and V. FF has at least tried to stay consistent with its original premise, while leaving dripping red herrings all over the scenery to keep us guessing. A point no has mentioned so far is that FF has several very good actors (Joe Fiennes, Sonya Walger, Courtney Vance, and Dominic Monaghan, among others). Vance (as FBI Agent Wedeck) and Monaghan (as semi-evil scientist Simon Campos) walk off with the set whenever they have any lines.

    V doesn’t try to be drama, let alone good drama. I watched the first episode, wrote off those hours as a dead loss, and haven’t watched it since.

    the Blonde Mom/FBI agent (has anyone noticed how many of those seem to be starring in genre television these days, by the way?)

    ISTM I’ve seen almost exactly as many Lipstick-Lesbian FBI agents (like Janice on FF). Some sort of culture war going on, I guess.

    Ed Wood, after all, has been dead for decades.

    And yet V shows that he lives …

  27. Oh dear, no blockquote? Paragraphs #3 and #5 in my previous comment are quotes from the original post; I’d intended they be indented and in small characters.

  28. FF is certainly better than V; though both are pretty crap in their primary-coloured reflection of how no one actually lives. Mark Benford (such intertextuality! It would give an academic an orgasm) is supposedly an alcoholic: did the writers ever consider how much in the way of diahorrea, vomit, blood and other unmentionables that actually entails? Don’t mean to be deliberately provocative, but telling is not quite the same thing as showing …

    Lodore

  29. Keippernicus… yadda yadda Morena Baccarin. Now if they had cast Jewel Staite in “V”, I might have gone out and got cable. Of course, I have a hard time picturing her acting evil, since she does good so very well. But then again, so did Gregory Peck, and then I watched “The Boys From Brazil” :O

    I really liked the book “FlashForward”, but I kind of assumed the show would suck. The book was complex and had a ton of characters, and while that’s very in vogue these days in post-“24” TV-land, it’s so hard to do _well_ (and genuinely smart TV is still nearly nonexistent). Actually, I have a hard time picturing ANY of Robert Sawyer’s books being made into good TV. He is too good a writer. Though a version of the Quintaglio Trilogy populated by the cast of that old show “Dinosaurs” would certainly be memorable…

  30. Lawful Neutral,
    I’d buy the argument if we _elected_ technical elites. As is, we get the government we elect and deserve all too often.

    BTW, technocracy as movement is deader than Mussolini.

  31. Wow… so until Futurama starts back up, all that’s left worth watching is Dexter and Doctor Who… damn.

  32. @ Peter Watts & DW, on May 18th, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    This is actually a very subtle allegory about President Obama made by tea baggers.

  33. @Trey,

    OK, my choice of the word “technocrat” was a poor one, and it is obviously confusing my point, namely: the USA is run by intellectual elites, and their performance does not fill me with confidence. The spotty results haven’t stopped them from pouring condescension, sanctimony, and contempt on those below, though, so I wouldn’t blame anyone for resenting them.

  34. @Lawful Neutral,

    How far back are you looking when you talk about the folks running the US? Obama, for all his faults, doesn’t strike me as especially sanctimonious or condescending, and the Bush administration was as far from “intellectual” as you can get while still having a functional central nervous system (although I’d certainly agree with the “elite” part).

    My perception is that “intellectual elites”, far from running the show, are routinely derided and marginalized. Try teaching evolution in Texas. Try running as an atheist in, well, pretty much anywhere.

  35. One of the nice things about our new government here (The UK) is that the deputy PM (Junior coalition partner) is an atheist and said so during the election campaign.

  36. I have to admit that I have never seen these two shows, but I did watch the earlier version of V. I had a hard time watch Robert Englund playing Willie without thinking of him as Freddy Krueger.

  37. Hell, try being an atheist pretty much anywhere in this country. There’s derision, marginalization, scapegoating and condescension by just about every person and group of people trying to get elected into office. Not to mention newscasters. And then there’s the threats by family members of disownment…

    @Anony Mouse

    I know exactly what you mean about Robert Englund! I just tried watching Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer a few days ago and could not shake the thought of him of murdering teenagers! It was a fairly good movie, too.

  38. @Trey:

    I’m not only talking about elected officials (although I would strongly dispute that they are not drawn from an intellectual elite – check out Wikipedia’s list of current Senators; a cursory glance shows 10 Harvard alums out of 100), but also unelected officials, and the upper echelons of finance, law, art, the press, education, and industry. The self-proclaimed best and brightest have inflicted on us the credit default swap, Jackson Pollock, the Mideast peace process, architectural brutalism, offshoring, and a thousand other malformed abortions (no, I’m not talking about the medical procedure), and all the while they assure us that we’re just too dim or too unrefined to appreciate these great gifts.

  39. Dr. Watts,

    i guess that the early terrible episodes of Fringe drove you away?

    It got //really good//.

  40. The self-proclaimed best and brightest have inflicted on us the credit default swap, Jackson Pollock, the Mideast peace process, architectural brutalism, offshoring, …all the while they assure us that we’re just too dim or too unrefined to appreciate these great gifts.

    WHuh?

    Who doesn’t appreciate Jackson Pollock?

    That’s not something you need a refined eye for, or some effete ivy-league eduation to appreciate. It’s interesting paint drizzled on canvas to make interesting shapes. It’s painting that is about playing in the paint. What’s to get?

  41. @ laur

    “Any other brainy SF shows out there?”

    You – bet. Get hold of a DVD set of Misfits – UK drama about anti-social behaviour order teenagers unexpectedly gifted/cursed with super powers. Harsh, brutally funny and True. The test line for me was in episode one, when one of the female characters says:

    “You call me a chav one more time and I’ll kick you in the cunt so hard your Mum’ll feel it.”

    Heroes, it ain’t.

  42. V said:

    …the only currently airing show I (a hardcore sf fan) watch is “30 Rock”, which is utterly vapid but brilliantly written, partially because they slap it on the web once a week.

    Also because that show is absolutely infested with geek references. They owned me from the moment Liz Lemon said “I’ll cut you open like a taun-taun…”…

    Dmart said:

    Please post this ASAP. I’m a cop, so failure to comply is felonious assault.
    (too soon?)

    Hah. I’m on this side of the border now. Go ahead an try to extradite me.

    SpeakerToManagers said:

    Oh dear, no blockquote?

    I can’t even get blockquotes to work in the main posts. There’s gotta be some way to blame Microsoft for that.

    Lawful Neutral said:

    I’m not only talking about elected officials … but also unelected officials, and the upper echelons of finance, law, art, the press, education, and industry.

    Pleased to see that science got away relatively unscathed…

    The self-proclaimed best and brightest have inflicted on us the credit default swap, Jackson Pollock, the Mideast peace process, architectural brutalism, offshoring, and a thousand other malformed abortions (no, I’m not talking about the medical procedure), and all the while they assure us that we’re just too dim or too unrefined to appreciate these great gifts.

    Definitely with you on the political and financial end of things. Art and architecture I’ not really qualified to comment on. But I keep seeing events like these, in which oceanographers and watchdogs call out industry and government for their hypocrisy, their ass-covering, and their squirtgun-vs.inferno approach to ecological disaster, only to have their own government tell them to shut the fuck up. I guess what I’m saying is that the scientists and the whistleblowers are the ones that usually get saddled with the term “intellectual elite” (at least, that’s how the preachers and politicians like to characterize them when they don’t like the data), and they generally get no respect at all unless their findings happen to fall into step with the party line. We should be deferring to those elitists.

    par said:

    i guess that the early terrible episodes of Fringe drove you away?

    They did. But I got talked into giving it another chance, and it did improve by the end of the first season. Then it kinda sucked again throughout a chunk of the second (that recent cringeworthy episode where a hallucinating Walter tells the noir fairytale to the little girl — you know, the one where all the characters intermittently break into song — well, let’s just say I’ve seen better productions from the hands of primary-school students.) That said, this week’s season finale was not bad.

    But honestly, that’s how I’d have to characterize “Fringe” at its best. Not-bad to pretty-good. At its worst, it’s a crime against couch potatoes.

    richard morgan said:

    Get hold of a DVD set of Misfits — UK drama about anti-social behavior order teenagers unexpectedly gifted/cursed with super powers. Harsh, brutally funny and True.

    I have never heard of this show before now. It sounds like “Kick Ass” gone weekly.

    I will have to check this out.

  43. >Art and architecture I’ not really qualified to comment on.

    Nonsense, Mr. Watts! The art world has promulgated that attitude far and wide, and it keeps their ridiculous racket going, but you do not need a PhD to tell beauty from ugliness, or insight from inanity. Is a taylor the only one qualified to say the emperor has no clothes?

  44. @Hljóðlegur

    >Who doesn’t appreciate Jackson Pollock?

    Clearly me, for one.

    >It’s interesting paint drizzled on canvas to make interesting shapes. It’s painting that is about playing in >the paint. What’s to get?

    Wow, that sounds just like the finger paintings I used to do in preschool. I hope for our culture’s sake that my mom saved at least a couple of those priceless art treasures.

    Pollock’s work looks like a damned drop cloth, and it’s about as interesting as a television tuned to static. Yes, you can find beauty and meaning in TV static if you really look for it, just as you can find it in tax forms, vomitus, and everything else in the cosmos. If everything is art, then nothing is.

  45. So, this is proof that there is no God. Or not a loving one, at any rate…

  46. @ Lawful Neutral –

    Wow, sounds like your knowledge of and eye for art hasn’t grown or improved since you did those finger paintings in preschool. And so, you’re set – so long as your Mom has saved your 5 year old efforts, that will do for you. That’s super! You’re easy to please!

    Remember, just because you’re tone deaf doesn’t mean the rest of us are.

  47. @Hljóðlegur

    Art, art valuation and art criticism, are fields overflowing with bullshit. This is what I have been told by others(people who traded paintings, for example), and what I suspect is true.

    Just because some people like bullshit and are willing to pay lots of money for it, that doesn’t mean it’s compulsory to like bullshit.

  48. @Hljóðlegur
    Consider wine and wine tasting.
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703683804574533840282653628.html

    Or this:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/1632021.stm

    There, at least, one can’t sell vinegar. With art, even that’s possible.
    A true artist can take a big dump, can the shit and then make people buy it.

  49. I watch Flashforward… it has a good premise, and certainly some cool moments, the main problem is that the cast is pretty dull, overall, and there are a few goofy self-contradictions (people in their flashforwards never seem to realize “hey, we’re going through our flashforward RIGHT NOW”, as someone else said, not to mention that it should have been confirmed in the first 24 hours not only what happened (news people would almost certainly have been having visions of themselves reporting on the flashforward time), and also that it wasn’t inevitable (because somebody would have killed somebody else who had a vision, just to prove they could). But it had been getting better since it came back from break, and it had a good premise.

    I watch V, but mainly just to see how silly it’ll get and to see how many genre stars they can cram into the show. Don’t worry, I’m not a Neilsen family! It’s kind of lame. I think when I heard there was a remake, I was hoping for some subtlety, like how BSG gave some to the Cylons. Instead it’s just schlock.
    What I wouldn’t give to see some kind of ‘aliens arrive on Earth’ show where the aliens AREN’T the badguys… maybe they’re not necessarily the good guys either, they offer benefits and risk and certainly a lot of change which not everyone will agree with, and there are factions with reasonable (and osme unreasonable) pro and con viewpoints as well as a whole bunch of other stories just arising from the sociological ramifications. Maybe aliens something like the Culture from Iain M. Banks, where they have no compunction against interfering in the sneakiest of ways but doing so for the best of motives. Or even something like Earth: Final Conflict, only, you know, not horrible. (The first season showed promise, every season after went furthur into crap).

    From what I see, next year doesn’t have a whole lot to recommend it in the way of SF (even with SF as speculative fiction, not just Science Fiction which is thin on the ground anyway)… virtually nothing new on network TV, just a couple of superheroish shows I might check out, and in cable, The Walking Dead adaptation… hopefully a couple things that are just not yet on my radar in cableland too.

  50. I don’t know a thing about wine other than it gives me a monster headache? But I feel better knowing that the long list of smells I was just not getting from a wine were maybe not there.

    In re “true artists,” Jackson Pollock was not selling poop in a can. If you buy poop in a can, then you get poop in a can, and if that is all you want…. my comment was simply this – Pollock, even if he eventually got some high art critical acclaim, did some cool stuff and you don’t need to be an art professor to see it. if you can’t see it, that’s fine, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that no one else can, it just means you can’t see it.

    It’s like romance novels. They stink. Some people enjoy them even though they can discern the stinkiness, while some people just can’t tell they stink.

    I agree art does kind of mirror the wine tasting in that there are more people claiming to be able see finer gradations of “greatness” than can actually do so.

  51. @Hljóðlegur –

    This is exactly what I’m talking about: I must be too stupid and too crude to appreciate the brilliance of this stuff.

    I’ve got one question for you, though: can you honestly say you would recognize Pollock’s genius if he didn’t have the art world standing behind him and vouching for him? Suppose in a parallel universe where he never hit the big time, you find a Jackson Pollock selling at a garage sale for $20. Would you realize that this is one of the great works of the 20th century? Obviously I don’t know, maybe you would, but I would not. I also suspect most people would not, including most art experts and critics.

    Ever hear of Naromji?
    http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/archive/permalink/naromji/

    How about Pierre Braussau?
    http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/archive/permalink/pierre_brassau_monkey_artist/

    It seems to me that the experts, whose “knowledge of and eye for art” is so great that they make their living writing about it, don’t really have a clue.

    I admit, I’ve been using Jackson Pollock as a stand in for all of modern art, and he doesn’t deserve the blame for the whole thing, but everyone knows what a “Jackson Pollock” looks like, and it’s a perfect example of meaningless garbage praised to the high heavens.

  52. @Lawful –

    You’re muddying the issue by broadening it – my comment was that Pollock is accessible and he was pretty good, not that all of modern art is valuable. If I saw one of his good ones (remember, artistic output isn’t like the Midas touch, making everything the person does gold!) at a garage sale, I’d probably be able to see that it was good. Would I think MY GOD IT’S A WORK OF BLINDING GENIUS? Maybe, but maybe not.

    Some works are an order of magnitude better in person – the quality of the colors, the depth doesn’t come through unless you stand in their presence. Oil paintings are really tricky that way, for instance. If you haven’t seen a Pollock in person, you might be surprised at how it hits you.

    What about Georgia O’Keefe – accessible, modern? A print in a book does not get it for her better paintings – they’re just startling. Huge, vibrating with color. If you think they’re about sex when you see them in a book, wait’ll you see them in person. I’d have thought people would just be overcome and starting having sex on the floor of the gallery.

    You might be stupid, I don’t know you, but you’re probably not. I cannot distinguish great wines, and I’m not stupid. Telling what paintings are better is partly a matter of having looked at enough paintings, good and bad. The differences in quality gradually become apparent. Ever gone back and tried a beer or re-read a book you loved in college and thought, “Man, that, that kinda sucks. Why didn’t I see back then?” My theory is that the beer and the book are the same, but I’ve gone through enough different kinds of beer and books that now I can tell the difference better.

  53. @Hljóðlegur –

    >If I saw one of his good ones
    How exactly does one distinguish a “good” Jackson Pollock from a merely average one? Does it have something to do with the price tag?

    >If you haven’t seen a Pollock in person, you might be surprised at how it hits you.
    I might have seen one years ago at the Chicago Art Institute, but I’m not positive. In any event, I don’t care how big the canvas, how vibrant the colors, or how three-dimensional the paint, it’s still just noise. Turn the volume all the way up on static, and you get loud static.

  54. No relation to the price tag.

    I’m so sorry all you see is noise. :( That makes me quite sad.

    But if you don’t miss it, it doesn’t worry you, and your artistic senses are filled by other things, then I’ll take some comfort in that.

  55. Sturgeon’s Second Law.

  56. No relation to price tag? There was a study, apparently, and people like the same wine more if they think it is pricier..

  57. We were discussing my appreciation of various Pollock works, and whether the price tag made a difference, and since I have no idea what any particular Pollock, or even, actually any Pollack goes for, price is not a factor.

  58. Your subconsciousness knows Pollock is expensive, and says, that Pollock has to be better than other stuff because it is more expensive (meaning, a lot of other mammals like him too)…

    Seems plausible to me. I wonder whether this is a cultural thing, or whether it is universal among neurotypical humans.

  59. @ Ausländer, Außenseiter, usw — You know what sounds plausible to me? That now you’re just yanking my chain for the sake of yanking my chain.

  60. Maybe.
    No one really knows, I mean, I tend to do stuff for a variety of reasons.
    So, that means I may derive some enjoyment from “yanking your chain”, whatever that is supposed to mean, and also it may be that I’m genuinely interested in the theory that our subconscious makes us enjoy expensive stuff more than cheaper stuff.

    I know that a lot of fmri studies have a suspect methodology, but I don’t know enough to have an opinion on this one..

    http://www.pnas.org/content/105/3/1050.abstract


  61. Art, art valuation and art criticism, are fields overflowing with bullshit. This is what I have been told by others(people who traded paintings, for example), and what I suspect is true.

    As someone whose degree is in art I couldn’t agree more. Those teaching art, in most cases, are in major need of some remedial critical thinking classes.

    That said, I happen to like Pollock. He’s not a favorite and the idea of spending one’s career making giant paint swirl canvases would quickly become tedious for me. But, nonetheless, I like quite a few of his paintings.

    Me, though, I’ll stick to fantasy and science fiction illustration (and if you think science fiction literature is “ghettoized” try going through art school telling your teachers you want to be an SF illustrator).

  62. Peter, the problem with the poor Flashback is that it requires uncanny amount of dedication just to keep track of. It’s like the Lost (Which was, perhaps, the worst waste of time in my life), but much more intricate, much more unforgiving to the casually missed episode syndrome (When you missed an ep, and can’t figure out head or tail) and with far more bland characterization.
    All in all, it’s decent if you are the kind of person who “hooks up” on stuff and watches it relentlessly.
    Casual TV audience, which, after the clusterfuck that is Lost, includes me, can’t handle it.

    V is just plain disappointing….I’ve seen a few episodes hoping that the Nu evil alien queen will be as attractive as the original (I refuse to use the term “old” 😉 )one, just, you know, because I still harbor certain very personal, very nostalgic memories about watching the old V as a teen on bootleg VCR tapes (Soviet Union :) ) specifically for the sake of seeing that gorgeous… oh… anyway, V failed to deliver what I expected.
    But I do understand why it’s still around – it’s simplistic, cliche, predictable carbon-copy flick that demands zero investment from its audience and supplies occasional LOL and/or eye-candy.
    It’s basically quintessence of pulp sci-fi.
    As long as there are people who specifically like pulp, NuV will be around.

  63. Ooooppsie, Flashforward, not flashback.

  64. re Peter Watts

    Heh. It is funny, but I didn’t notice the geek references until you mentioned that just now . . . I guess 30 Rock is a pretty geeky show. Figures the friend who got me to watch that is the same friend who got me to watch ALL of Futurama, and is a person who gets all references to everything all the time.

    I guess Toofer, Frank, and Lutz are also kinda geeky. *snerk*

  65. Glad you kind of liked the original V. I worked on it.