- The Washington Times - Monday, April 6, 2009

Poli-Sci-Fi

“During the sixties and seventies, popular American science fiction looked to the stars and saw a Cold War there. Consider ‘Star Trek,’ the franchise that, as a TV show from 1966 to 1969 and later as a series of movies, chronicled the adventures of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and the crew of the USS - ‘United Starship’ - Enterprise, representatives of a democratic United Federation of Planets that held an uneasy truce with the warlike, autocratic Klingon Empire. The real-world parallels were unmistakable. …

“The original ‘Star Wars’ films were similarly political at heart. Like ‘Star Trek,’ they portrayed a universe caught between two great rivals, one free and democratic, the other hierarchical and autocratic. Not for nothing did the first film use ‘evil Galactic Empire’ to describe Darth Vader´s dominion. (One wonders whether Ronald Reagan drew his famous excoriation from [George] Lucas’;s hit.)

“When the Soviet Union began to thaw in the mid-eighties and collapsed entirely in 1991, however … mainstream science fiction started to cast about for alternative inspirations. Often it failed. ‘Star Trek,’ for example, continued to imitate geopolitics as it launched a phenomenally boring new TV series, ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation,’ in 1987. … The Federation and the Klingons were now at peace, and the Enterprise resembled a spaceborne United Nations, a bustling enclave safe enough for the crew to bring children with them. … The ‘Star Trek’ franchise called to mind the end of history on an intergalactic scale.”

Benjamin A. Plotinsky, writing on “How Science Fiction Found Religion,” in the winter issue of the City Journal

Love you to death

“Back in 1993, the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain began investigating piracy of Dave Barry´s popular column, which was published by the Miami Herald and syndicated widely. In the course of tracking down the sources of unlicensed distribution, they found many things, including the copying of his column to alt.fan.dave_barry on usenet; a 2000-person strong mailing list also reading pirated versions; and a teenager in the Midwest who was doing some of the copying himself, because he loved Barry´s work so much he wanted everybody to be able to read it.

“One of the people I was hanging around with online back then was Gordy Thompson, who managed Internet services at the New York Times. I remember Thompson saying something to the effect of ‘When a 14 year old kid can blow up your business in his spare time, not because he hates you but because he loves you, then you got a problem.’ I think about that conversation a lot these days.”

Clay Shirky, writing on “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable,” on March 13 at his eponymous blog (https://www.shirky.com/weblog/)

Ho-hum Hall

“[It’s] not to say this wasn’t a worthy bunch of [Rock and Roll Hall of Fame] inductees. Little Anthony and the Imperials, Wanda Jackson (how was she not in the HoF already?), Spooner Oldham, Bobby Womack, Elvis sidemen D.J. Fontana and Bill Black, Jeff Beck, Run-DMC, and Metallica all deserve their slots. But the ceremony itself was often tough to sit through. …

“Things finally seemed like they might pick up when Eminem hit the stage to induct Run-DMC. It was a rare public appearance for the rapper, who’s gearing up for a comeback album that’s due this summer. Gaunt and a little subdued, he paid heartfelt tribute with a speech based on a recurring ‘two turntables and a microphone’ theme that didn’t quite make sense (like no other artist in hip-hop history, Run-DMC’s sound was based on having TWO mics). It was a decent-enough set-up for a performance that sadly never came. Earlier they had announced they wouldn’t be performing out of respect for the late Jam Master Jay, a decision that was both admirable and a little disappointing.

“It was up to Metallica to wake things up, which, of course, they did. Playing as a five-piece with former bassist Jason Newstead, they tore through ‘Enter Sandman’ (something less predictable might have been nice, guys …) and the entire eight minutes of ‘Master of Puppets.’ ”

Rob Brunner, writing on “Metallica, Run-DMC inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” on April 5 at the Entertainment Weekly blog the Music Mix

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