SciFi Weekend: Barack Obama, Superhero; Sarah Connor Rumors; Flash Forward; The Prisoner; and Jack is Back

Obama Spider-Man

Barack Obama  will appear on the cover of a special issue of Spider-Man to be released on January 14. Peter Bart of Variety calls Barack Obama America’s last Action Hero.

There’s no new “Spider-Man” or “Iron Man” on the immediate horizon, but the superhero genre is alive and well. As evidence, consider next week’s inauguration.

Historians cannot remember a moment when a president has arrived amid such lofty expectations. Barack Obama will not simply be sworn in; if he’s not careful he will be enshrined.

Back in 1932, there were vague hopes that Franklin Roosevelt might help solve the Great Depression, but FDR was an unprepossessing patrician who spoke funny and sat in a wheelchair. Voters were more puzzled than expectant.

But today, in the eyes of the world, Barack Obama is nothing short of the Last Action Hero. (He even makes an appearance in a bonus issue of the “Spider-Man” comicbook coming out on Jan. 14.)


Later Bart describes what Obama can learn from the superheroes:

If Barack Obama is going to bring this off, perhaps he should take note of a few of the traits of the superhero fraternity.

“Iron Man’s” gift is that he has a strong moral compass. And he knows how to handle the military-industrial complex (it’s part of his family).

“Spider-Man’s” relevant gift is that he can swing from situation to situation with amazing dexterity, never quite leaving a mark. That’s good politics.

“Batman” is smart at choosing his battles. And, as he reminded us this last outing, he’s damn good at generating box office. Obama take note: Ticket sales are like votes.

We can skip “Superman.” His outfit is a bit embarrassing and his ambiguities toward women keep getting in the way.

Will the superhero franchise come through for Barack Obama? Anyone who starts off with a trillion-dollar economic package needs all the showbiz tricks he can mobilize.

There are lots of rumors going around regarding upcoming events on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Reportedly Jon meets his father, Kyle Reese in an upcoming episode. I assume that either this will be on a diffrent time line from the movie series, or maybe this will be an eariler trip back in time (from Kyle’s perspective) prior to the events of the first Terminator movie. Reportedly Riley did not die as it appeared at the mid-season cliff hanger, but such an outcome of a cliff hanger would hardly be a surprise.

Shows such as Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles have problems building an audience as many potential viewers are reluctant to come in on a story in progress. At the start of the season a decision was made to make each episode more of a stand-alone story. I doubt this would matter in a series such as this which has developed such a detailed mythology that new viewers would still have trouble keeping track of what is going on. Now they have decided to return to a more serialized format, which probably will work better in a series of this type.

Sci FI Wire interviewed Brannon Braga on his planned show Flash Forward based upon the novel by Robert Sawyer. the show is planned to follow Lost and will even have one actress in common with roles on both shows–Sonya Walger.

Brannon Braga, the onetime Star Trek executive producer, says that his ABC sci-fi pilot Flash Forward—in which the Earth’s inhabitants have a simultaneous glimpse of their futures, then must live with the consequences—is designed to reset itself each season, starting with a new flash and ending when the premonitions come true.

“Yeah, the structure’s not dissimilar from 24 [on which Braga is a co-executive producer], and we want to reset the show at the end of each year, where we’ll do another flash forward at the end of the first season, and then potentially another flash forward at the end of the second season, each one kind of resetting the core characters’ visions of the future and introducing new characters,” Braga said in an exclusive interview on Tuesday, Dec. 6, at the Hollywood premiere party for 24‘s seventh season, which kicks off this weekend.

Braga—who developed Flash Forward with producer/writer/director David Goyer and Goyer’s wife and producing partner, Jessika Borsiczky Goyer—adds: “One of the cool things about the show is you have 5 billion potential storylines. And we plan to tell the stories of people all over the world. Obviously they’ll be focused on mainly people here in L.A., but we’re going to go all over the place.”

The pilot follows a group of characters around the world who have to deal with the consequences of a 2-minute, 17-second glimpse into the future. The series is loosely based on Robert J. Sawyer’s novel Flashforward.

“The core concept is very much the same as Robert Sawyer’s novel,” Braga says. “That was the impetus for it and the idea of the entire world blacking out at the same time for a discrete amount of time, and everybody on Earth having mysterious visions of the future. Same idea. Obviously, to do a TV show, you have to sustain potentially—and God willing—100 episodes or more; you’ve got to change the concept a little bit. His novel had people having visions of the future 20 years from now. We change that to five months from now and kind of narrowed down the scope a little bit and made it a little bit more of an intimate epic. But essentially the concept is the same.”

The show features an ensemble cast, led by Joseph Fiennes, Sonya Walger, John Cho, Christine Woods, Jack Davenport and Courtney B. Vance, and is envisioned as a companion to Lost. Goyer directs the one-hour pilot, which goes into production in February in Los Angeles.

“We just finished casting the pilot right before the holiday, and we just went into … official prep on it two days ago, so David is busy getting ready to direct, and we’re going to shoot it next month, right after President’s Day,” Braga says.

Ultimately, the show will deal with the theme of free will vs. fate, Braga says. “Absolutely,” he says, adding: “Thematically that’s what the show is about, for sure. Yeah, and seeing how these people’s visions come true or not come true or come true because they tried to not make it come true. Some people want it to come true. Some people don’t want it to come true. It’s a fascinating concept. We’re very excited about it.”

Sci FI Wire has information on the reimagined minseries, The Prisoner, which AMC will air next November:

American Movie Classics has shot a six-hour miniseries re-imagining of The Prisoner for modern-day audiences. One of the biggest changes in this re-imagining is that Six is now American, played by Jim Caviezel.

“I don’t think it makes any difference,” director Nick Hurran said in a press conference Jan. 8 in Universal City, Calif. “It’s a mixed-nationality cast. It’s a very global Village. I think we accept that now. We’re so used to a society being of every culture, every race, that it would have been quite parochial to go and do a British thing.”

This Village is set in the middle of a desert, as opposed to the seaside Village of the original. “Epic is absolutely the right word,” Hurran said. “The vistas that this prison gives, setting it in the Namibian desert or the nonspecific desert that we don’t know where it is, the character Six runs away to get free, to escape, and just keeps running and keeps running, and there is more sand than I have ever seen in my life. It gets to places you never knew you had.”

The desert turned out to be a production nuisance when the filmmakers had to re-create location shoots in Namibia. The majority of production was based in Cape Town, South Africa. “My overriding memory of this production is sand, no matter where we were,” Hurran said. “It returned, even in South Africa, when we had to try and re-create some locations to make them look like they were still in the Village. We needed to import sand and carefully, painstakingly lay it across the streets of Cape Town. Unfortunately, Cape Town’s very windy, and the wind certainly blew and blew all of the carefully laid sand about 100 meters into front yards and people’s letterboxes. So sand remained with us forever.”

Die-hard fans of the original Prisoner will notice some familiar tidbits. “There are a number of, of course, homages that the keen eye will see in what’s said and what’s worn, in pieces of architecture,” Hurran said. “Of course, there are a number of salutes that we made to the fantastic piece that was created. I think it would be a shame to take it to the next generation and not acknowledge what an extraordinary piece of work that was. [It’s] enigmatic, I think slightly less surreal, but it is as bizarre, in a good way.”

The big event today is the first of two two-hour episodes of 24 airing today and tomorrow to start the season. Sci FI Wire gives eight reasons why 24 is really science fiction.

Mitch Albom Defends Detroit

Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom looks at the problems faced by the automotive industry and Detroit’s sports teams and defends Detroit in this week’s Sports Illustrated. A portion:

…Detroit was once a vibrant place, the fourth-largest city in the country, and it lives in the hope that those days, against all logic, it will somehow return. We are downtrodden, perhaps, but the most downtrodden optimists you will ever meet. We cling to our ways, no matter how provincial they seem on the coasts. We get excited about the auto show. We celebrate Sweetest Day. We eat Coney dogs all year, and we cruise classic cars down Woodward Avenue every August, and we bake paczki doughnuts the week before Lent. We don’t talk about whether Detroit will be fixed but when Detroit will be fixed.And we are modest. In truth, we battle an inferiority complex. We gave the world the automobile. Now the world wants to scold us for it. We gave the world Motown music. Motown moved its offices to L.A….

Look, we’re the first to say we’ve got problems. But there’s something disturbing when American reporters keep deliciously recording our demise but nobody wants to do anything about it. We’re not your pity party. You want to chronicle us? We’ve been chronicled enough. As they say when a basketball rolls away at the playground, “Yo, little help?”

This is why our recent beatdown in Congress was so painfully felt. To watch our Detroit Three execs humiliated as if they never did a right thing in their lives, to watch U.S. senators from Southern states — where billions in tax breaks were handed out to foreign car companies — tear apart the U.S. auto industry as undeserving of aid, well, that was the last straw.

Enough. We’re not gum on the bottom of America’s shoe. We’re not grime to be wiped off with a towel. Detroit and Michigan are part of the backbone of this country, the manufacturing spine, the heart of the middle class — heck, we invented the middle class, we invented the idea that a factory worker can put in 40 hours a week and actually buy a house and send a kid to college. What? You have a problem with that? You think only lawyers and hedge-fund kings deserve to live decently?

To watch these lawmakers hand out, with barely a whisper, hundreds of billions to the financial firms that helped cause this current disaster, then make the Detroit Three beg like dogs and slap them with nothing? Honestly. There are times out here we feel like orphans.

And yet …

And yet we go on. The Tigers were supposed to win big last season; they finished last in their division. Michigan got a new football coach with a spread offense and an eye on a national championship; the Wolverines had their first losing season since 1967.

But we will be back for the Tigers and back for Michigan and — might as well admit it — we will be back for the Lions come September, as red-faced as they make us, as pathetic as 0-16 is…

Do you think if your main industry sails away to foreign countries, if the tax base of your city dries up, you won’t have crumbling houses and men sleeping on church floors, too? Do you think if we become a country that makes nothing, that builds nothing, that only services and outsources, that we will hold our place on the economic totem pole? Detroit may be suffering the worst from this semi-Depression, but we sure didn’t invent it. And we can’t stop it from spreading. We can only do what we do. Survive.

Albom was also interviewed on the Charlie Rose show on Friday. The video of the interview is not up yet, but it is worth watching once it is posted.

Why Al Gore Invented The Internet

The Times of London reminds us that everything, even doing a Google search, has some environmental impact:

Performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea, according to new research.

While millions of people tap into Google without considering the environment, a typical search generates about 7g of CO2 Boiling a kettle generates about 15g. “Google operates huge data centres around the world that consume a great deal of power,” said Alex Wissner-Gross, a Harvard University physicist whose research on the environmental impact of computing is due out soon. “A Google search has a definite environmental impact.”

Further down, the author tries to put this in perspective:

If your internet use is in place of more energy-intensive activities, such as driving your car to the shops, that’s good. But if it is adding activities and energy consumption that would not otherwise happen, that may pose problems.

Many of the Google searches done add energy consumption but considering how much more energy a car uses than a Google search, my bet is that the net balance is towards benefiting the environment. Quite often a Google search has allowed me to find out before going to a store whether an item is in stock, along with saving me the trouble of checking multiple stores. More often I wind up ordering on line,  with one more box being handled by UPS hopefully having less of an environmental impact than driving to a store. Other Google searches save trips to the library to do research. Perhaps a Google search which pulls up a bad movie review will lead to people staying home to watch a DVD rather than driving to the movie theater.

The environmental benefits to the internet also go beyond doing Google searches. Besides blogging this morning I’m both reading physical copies of some newspapers and pulling up others on line. While I’m goofing off writing a blog post, my wife is currently using GoToMyPC to connect to our office computer and is getting some real work done without needing to drive into the office. (My next door neighbor, a radiologist, can use his computer to pull up his x-rays to read from home. Why can’t I pull up the EKG’s which I’ll be driving into the hospital to read later this morning?)

Al Gore sure knew what he was doing when he invented the internet. (And a quick Google search of the blog pulled up an older post which explains where this misquotation of Gore started.)

Stupid Liberal Argument on Health Care, or It’s All Hillary’s Fault

I’ve had plenty of posts debunking stupid conservative arguments on health care, so it is only fair that I do the same when encountering a really stupid liberal argument. Ezra Klein shows that we are worse off now than we were in 1994, which is fine to point out , but the problem is where he goes with this. Klein bothers to defend HillaryCare, and even shows that Democracy Corps once bothered with the same question.

The implication is that we are in this bad situation because HillaryCare was not passed. The fact that we are worse off now than we are in 1994 does not necessarily mean that HillaryCare was a good response, and it doesn’t even prove that we would be better off now if it had passed.

Klein’s argument assumes not only that HillaryCare was a good solution but that it was the only solution. If we are worse off now, it makes just as much sense to blame Hillary as to retroactively argue that she was right and we should have passed her plan.

Hillary Clinton’s approach was to argue that  it would be her plan or nothing, and therefore we got nothing. She even got Bill to agree to threaten a veto should Congress pass something short of her plan, which is a ridiculous use of the veto. The purpose of a veto is to prevent bad legislation, not to block legislation because Congress doesn’t do exactly what your wife wants.

HillaryCare was a bad plan which resulted not only in the rejection of the plan but the loss of Congress by the Democrats for a generation along with any hopes at real health care reform. Hillary Clinton’s philosophy of government is quite different than what many of us who supported Obama over Clinton hope to see. Obama’s ideas come closer to Cass Sunstein’s philosophy of “libertarian paternalism.” If Obama will hopefully use government to “nudge” people to do the right thing while leaving them with free choice, Hillary Clinton’s ideas are based upon the philosophy of doing everything exactly as she says while outright rejecting the importance of freedom.

The real reason I am protesting stupid liberal arguments such as this one is not entirely to provide balance to criticizing stupid conservative arguments but because it is counterproductive. Backing bad plans which would be unacceptable to a majority of American voters, whether it is HillaryCare  or the British model, only provides more ammunition for those who hope to block any plan. For those who lack any insurance coverage either plan would be seen as an improvement, but a considerable number of Americans are currently happy with their current health plans. Any reform plan, if it has a chance at being accepted, must respect this while also seeking to assist those who lack adequate health care coverage. Imposing a bad plan upon all to help some is neither a politically viable or particularly ethical strategy.

Rather than drag up bad plans, it would make far more sense for liberal advocates of health care reform to push plans which avoid the mistakes of past plans. Rather than dragging back HillaryCare I’d rather see Ezra devote the space on his blog to more important topics such as supporting current plans for health care reform or pushing for increased pay for primary care physicians.