SciFi Weekend: Cancelled and Returning Shows; Seinfeld Reunion; Paparazzi and Emma Watson

It is that time of year when we start receiving news on which shows will or will not be returning. It is now official that Life on Mars has been canceled and production will stop after the seventeenth episode, leaving four left. As I didn’t expect the show to return in light of its poor ratings I actually saw the early announcement as good news. Knowing that the show will not be renewed allows them to properly wrap up the series.

The American version Life on Mars will actually run one more episode than the British version. A show of this nature actually works better as a limited run series with a definite beginning and end. Such series are rare on American television, probably guaranteeing failure for this show. If the show had continued for five years it would have either dealt with general police shows or the hints about the time travel aspect would have become increasingly contradictory and incomprehensible, reminiscent of the latter mythology episodes of The X-Files. Hopefully they can now write an ending which does justice to this idea.

Heroes will return for another season but will be reduced to eighteen to twenty episodes. They are also considering a definite end date and conclusion for the series like Lost and Battlestar Galactica.  Upcoming episodes will include Angela Petrelli’s  back story.


It is questionable if Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles will return. The season finale was written to answer a number of questions and serve as a series  finale if it isn’t renewed. This week’s episode returned to the main characters along with wrapping up the Riley stories after recent episodes  seemed to be drifting. It also looks like they are returning to the storyline from the beginning of the series in which Cameron might be damaged. Summer Glau discussed the upcoming episodes:

For her part, Summer Glau, who plays the cyborg Cameron, added that the show will provide some kind of closure for her character as well.

“At the beginning of the second season the thing in Cameron’s life was that she was damaged,” Glau said, referring to the chip in Cameron’s head. “She had been damaged, and then that threw her off her game. And I think if my character was experiencing anything, it might have been insecurity about whether or not she was capable of doing her best at protecting John [Thomas Dekker] anymore. And I think she was really struggling with the insecurity of having a new girl in John’s life, Riley [Leven Rambin]. … And I think that that’s all going to come to a head toward the end of the back nine [episodes], and then in the finale something, there’s just a huge, huge change/resolution/change.”

Summer Glau will also be appearing as herself on Big Bang Theory tomorrow.


We already knew that Doctor Who is returning next year with a new show runner and a new Doctor played by Matt Smith. The Tardis is also to be redesigned when Stephen Moffat takes over the show. This will allow Moffat to establish his view of Doctor Who. Reportedly the design will be more high tech and desgned to look better in high defnition.

Lost moved in a new direction yet again with last week’s episode. Sawyer has become head of security for Dharma after the time jumping left him in the past, and he is living with Juliet. The episode ends with the return of Kate and others to the island, which is bound to create new complications.  Now that the story has moved back to Dharma we will learn more about Ben’s early days on a four episode arc involving young Ben.


Curb Your Enthusiasm will be returning to HBO and will include a multi-episode arc with the cast of Seinfeld, Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, and Michael Richards, playing themselves.  The show stars Larry David, creator of Seinfeld, who plays himself, with frequent references to his past work on Seinfeld.


Yesterday I noted the remarkable amount of interest on line in nude pictures of Emma Watson (Hermione Granger). The Week reports that interest in salacious pictures has become a serious problem for Watson since turning eighteen:

Emma Watson sometimes wishes she were still 17, says Louise Gannon in the London Daily Mail. The British actress has been playing Hermione in the wildly successful Harry Potter films since the age of 9. Despite all the fame and riches, she managed to stay grounded, studying hard and keeping her private life private. But when she turned 18 last April, the paparazzi in Britain were legally allowed to photograph her at will, and they pounced. “It was pretty tough turning 18,” she said. “I realized that overnight I’d become fair game.” Suddenly her every move was being chronicled by
photographers hoping to catch her in a compromising position. “I had a party in town and the pavements were just knee-deep with photographers trying to get a picture of me looking drunk, which wasn’t going to happen. I don’t actually like being drunk, particularly in public.” She has been taken aback by the level of intrusion, starting the very day she came of age. “The sickest part was when one photographer lay down on the floor to get a shot up my skirt. I woke up the next day and felt completely violated by it all. That’s not something I want in my life. I just kept thinking that if it had happened a day earlier, people would have sued their asses off.”

I don’t know what the law is in the U.K. but I would think there should be some limitations on a photographer’s ability to lie on the ground to invade her privacy in that manner.  Why bother with going to all that effort to harass Emma Watson? There are other young actresses like Lindsay Lohan who are willing to show off everything. (And yes, I’m aware that there are up-skirt pictures of Emma Watson available on line but I purposely excluded them in choosing the picture for this post. It is one thing to post pictures of people like Lohan who are seeking such publicity, but a different matter to post such pictures of others.)

50 Reasons to Reject Evolution

The full list is here.I’ll just give the first twelve:

1.) Because I don’t like the idea that we came from apes… despite that humans are categorically defined and classified as apes.

2.) Because I’m too stupid and/or lazy to open a fucking book or turn on the Discovery Science Channel.

3.) Because if I can’t immediately understand how something works, then it must be bullshit.

4.) Because I don’t care that literally 99.9% of all biologists accept evolution as the unifying theory of biology.

5.) Because I prefer the idea that a (insert god of choice) went ALLA-KADABRA-ZAM MOTHAH-FUCKAHS!!!

6.) Because I can’t get it through my thick logic-proof skull that evolution refers ONLY to the process of speciation, not to abiogenesis, or planet formation, or big bang cosmology, or whether God exists, or where they buried Jimmy Hoffa, or why the sky is blue, or how many licks it takes to get to the center of a fucking Tootsie Pop.

7.) Because the fossil record doesn’t comprise the remains of every single living thing that ever existed on this 4.5 billion year old planet, even though fossilization is a rare process that only occurs under very specific circumstances.

8.) Because science has yet to produce any transitional species… except for the magnitudinous numbers of them found in the fossil record which don’t count because… I uh, OOH LOOK! A SHINY OBJECT!!! *runs away*

9.) Because I know nothing about Darwin except that he had a funny beard.

10.) Because the theory of evolution (which, according to scientists, perfectly explains the richness and diversity of life on Earth) contradicts biblical literalism… ya know, flat Earth with a firmament that keeps out the water, talking snakes, people rising from the dead, bats are birds, flamey talking bushes, virgin births, food appearing out of nowhere, massive bodies of water turning into blood… etc etc.

11.) Because I think the word “theory” actually means: “random stabs in the dark” when it really means: “an explanation of certain phenomena that is well-supported by a large body of facts and often unifies other similarly well-supported hypotheses” i.e. atomic theory, gravitational theory, germ theory, cell theory, some-people-are-dumb-motherfuckers-theory, etc.

12.) Because the fact that science is self-correcting annoys me. Most of my other beliefs are rigidly fixed and uncorrectable.

The First 100 Days

The first 100 days of the Obama administration, as reported by The Onion.

The Party of Big Government

The Republicans try to frame political debates by claiming that they are the party of small government while attacking Democrats for supporting big government. I’ve already pointed out the inaccuracy of this claim many times in the past, and Steven Thomma of McClatchy does this today. He writes:

Strip away the political finger-pointing over President Barack  Obama’s proposed budget and the fight boils down to a clash of values. Both major parties are really for big government — just big in different places.

Republicans say they’re outraged that Obama would “borrow and spend” his way to a new behemoth government. But they borrowed and spent their way through the 1980s and the current decade. And they love big government — when it’s at the Pentagon.

Democrats from Obama on down insist that they don’t like big government, that they’re just forced into a temporary spending spree by the recession. But Democrats love big government as well, when it’s for social programs such as universal health care.

“The basic difference between Democrats and Republicans in recent decades is which aspect of government spending they prefer,” said Steven Schier, a political scientist at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. “With the Republicans, it’s defense. With the Democrats, it’s education, environment, health care, etc.”

He presents this comparison of spending by Democrats and Republicans (click on image for larger view).


Of the three presidents compared it looks like the Republicans might better be called the party of big government. Even government spending in areas such as health and human services and agriculture increased more under the Republicans.

Of course this whole debate over the size of government misses the point. The real issue is how much the government intrudes in the lives of individuals. This is where the Republicans are really the party of big government.

Belief or Disbelief in Big Government

Yesterday I noted an exchange between Will Wilkinson and Mathew Yglesias after Wilkinson, in a post which is uncharacteristic of him, seemed to descend into repeating the right wing stereotype of liberal beliefs. Hilzoy later posted her own objections to Wilkinson’s post. The section which  seemed the most offensive was:

Here’s one way to understand the “going Galt” dramatics. Obama is causing a lot of Rand fans to completely flip their lids in part because Obama and his devotees are Bizarro World Randian romantics in the grip of an adolescent faith in the generative powers of the state.

Blogging (as with other forms of debate) can lead people to sometimes take a harder line than they intend. Will Wilkinson has backed off from this writing, “I agree. This isn’t fair. I don’t mean that all liberals or Obama supporters are statist romantics, just that lots of them are.”

Fair enough, except I would note that many libertarians are also romantics who believe that the invisible hand of the free market can fix any problem. Many, but not all, shake off these romantic views when going from adolescence to dealing with the real world.

Wilkinson not surprisingly does object to some of Obama’s views on using government and cites this portion from his recent speech before Congress:

Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years. We’ve also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history — an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine and science and technology.

Wilkinson responds to this:

The largest investment in American history that will spur “new discoveries” and “breakthroughs”!

Why didn’t we think of this before? I know, I know. We did. Bush promised us hydrogen powered cars by yesterday and something crazy about switchgrass, which just goes to show that an adolescent faith in the generative powers of the state is not uncommon among presidents.

In debates of this nature both extremes are wrong. Those who believe government is always the solution, and especially those who discount the important actions by the private sector are wrong. On the other extreme, those who argue that government is always the problem and never the solution are also wrong. Not even Ronald Reagan, whose famous statement in his 1981 inaugural address on this topic is often taken out of context, held this extreme view.

Using George Bush as an example of government failure is hardly a convincing argument. Besides Wilkinson’s examples, Bush also spoke of taking us to mars and got us involved in Iraq. Ultimately George Bush proved to be one of the most incompetent presidents in our history and his failures do not mean that other presidents cannot accomplish more.

Government is neither always the problem or always the solution, but government has accomplished tremendous projects. While George Bush only had empty talk about going to mars, John F. Kennedy was successful in starting us on the course of going to the moon. The interstate highway system, which was essential to our mobile society (ultimately for better or worse) was built by the government under Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower was also involved in a previous big government effort under Franklin Roosevelt to eliminate fascism in Europe. That effort included a government research program to split the atom.

Earlier government actions such as child labor laws and establishing public education were greatly responsible for creation of our middle class society. While some tweaks are needed at present, the Medicare program has provided health care to the elderly and disabled, who our private system of employer-based health coverage is unable to handle, for over forty years.

There have also been many government failures, including both proposed goals which were never accomplished and enacted programs which have turned into disasters. As with any other type of human action, there are both successes and failures when it comes to government.

Many things are best done by the private sector, but other tasks require some government involvement. We are not likely to either achieve energy independence or turn to renewable energy sources if this is left to private industry alone. There are necessary changes in health care which require  involvement by government, with medical organizations now being among the strongest promoters of some government programs. (Wilkinson also  notes in another post how doctors, among other white collar professionals, are increasingly supporting Democrats as opposed to Republicans.)

Just as government was necessary to provide the infrastructure for business to succeed in the twentieth century, further government action is needed to provide the infrastructure needed for a twenty-first century economy. Ideologues of the right (and I’m not speaking of Wilkinson here) have been resorting to knee-jerk cries of socialism in response to any government action, ignoring the strong influence of Chicago school economists on Obama’s thought. The goal of Obama and many liberals who backed him is not bigger government, even if willing to accept this when needed, but to create an atmosphere where the private sector can be more successful.

While George Bush’s term can only be described as a steady stream of failures, the record is more mixed for other presidents. Most have had both successes and failures, and this is likely to be the case with Obama. I’m sure that when historians look back at the Obama years they will see both successes of government action, some failures, and some matters which were hopeful talk which never went anywhere.

The real question here is what works. What one believes is not the issue. As I discussed recently, the universe is not here to please us. The most pragmatic response to specific situations will not always coincide with one’s ideological beliefs or what we wish to be true.

Many liberals back “big government” not as the the end goal but as a means to solve certain problems. Even Wilkinson has previously noted the important difference between big government and limited government. Government policy needs to be determined by what really works, not by religious adherence to certain economic views regardless of the evidence. While some conservatives have been willing to stray from dogma when necessary, others hold a quasi-religious adherence to their economic beliefs. Those who believe every problem is best fixed by the teachings of any set of ideological beliefs, regardless of whether from the left or right, are often going to be wrong.