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Gary V.
Mon, Apr 22, 2019, 11:11am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang

@David

So am I an Uncle Tom or am I not black? Make up your mind.

Anyway. I'm black. I see it every day, but if it makes you feel better to think that a black person who might not have approved opinions on certain subjects, think of me any way you feel.

I'm not trying to "bend over backwards" for racism, whatever that means. I just refuse to make my life revolve around what white people think of me at the expense of my own enjoyment of a work that has nothing to do with what white people think of me. Day in, day out I have to fight against some notion that I'm a victim and the world is out to get me. Day in day out I have to see other black people fall into that trap and using that as an excuse not to do what they can.

This is what I don't understand. We're constantly told in life that we aren't responsible for what other people think about us; that we should live in spite of it, except when it comes to people not liking us because of our skin color. For that, we must put our lives on hold, whether or not it has any real effect on what we can't do.

News flash, actual racists don't give a crap what I think about their opinions. So if it's not hindering me and what I can accomplish why the heck should I fret about some loser's opinion about something I can't change?

It's called Stoicism, David. Look it up.
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Gary V.
Wed, Jan 9, 2019, 10:07pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: The Dogs of War

Funny how they associate socialism with virtue...
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Gary V.
Wed, Jan 9, 2019, 12:01am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang

As an actual black person (Don't call me a person of color. It's annoying) part of me rolled my eyes a bit at Sisko's concerns about the hologram. His attitude is the same type of attitude that makes people want to sweep through fiction and other people's creative work to make sure it is up to social code. It's the same thing killing comedy today. And they do this not because it's right or meaningful, but because of a type of social ennui. I didn't mind it so much from him in this because not only did he initially keep it to himself, but Kasidy provided a very fine counterpoint; but during his speech I was like, dude, take a chill pill. It's a just glorified video game. What do you want? A racism simulator? Why stop there? Why not have band members kick the gong backstage or have hologram patrons randomly pinch the butts of female players? If the program took place a few years earlier, you could throw in polio, just for the heck of it.

I might be a minority on this compared to other black people, but I don't think I'd need an advisory label reminding me of every injustice done in a period related narrative if that's not what the story calls for. You'd never do the real stories justice, anyway.
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Gary V.
Mon, Jan 7, 2019, 10:34pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: It's Only a Paper Moon

On the topic of interracial romance, I always thought that the one that made the most sense was Kira/Sisko, and for a few reasons that may not be obvious.

1. Kira obviously has a thing for influential/powerful men in the Bajoran hierarchy. Who is higher than the Emissary?
2.You don't see it much, but Kira seemed to have an almost maternal relationship with Jake. Just look at the scene in "The Visitor" when she's comforting him after his father's "death." There aren't a whole lot of opportunities to see it, but that's just a testament to how much of an impression it makes when you do.
3. Sisko and Kira really challenged each other early on, which made believable the loyalty and the mutual respect they developed later. They're also a good team.
4. Sisko was the only main character that would eventually take the Bajoran religion as seriously as she did.

Any one of those things could have been developed further to contribute to a very natural romance plot between the two. The only real strike against it is the most important male character hooking up with the most important female character is a bit trite.
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Gary V.
Mon, Jan 7, 2019, 9:49pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: It's Only a Paper Moon

This has got to be one of the realest episodes of DS9. Nog's psychological response to trauma is 100 percent accurate. It's the same realization I had when a close family member got a serious illness. All those youthful illusions of invulnerability go out the door, and paralyzing fear sets in. Vic's advice was about the only good advice anyone with an ounce of wisdom could give.

This is up there with "The Visitor," Necessary Evil," and a few others as my personal favorites.
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Gary V.
Sun, Jan 6, 2019, 11:15pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Far Beyond the Stars

"There isn't really that much nuance to the Cardassian/Bajoran situation. It's wrong to paint all Cardassians with one brush, but the planet is guilty as sin..."

But there is though. There are countless episodes where even the most vile aspects of the occupation are scrutinized from all angles without questioning the fact that what the Cardassians did was wrong. At one point Kira's closest Cardassian friend, a dissident, one she sees as a father, was found to have helped take out Kiessa Monastery in his youth. Kira's own mother played house with Dukat to aid her family, and Kira was a straight up terrorist who is more than implied to have blown up civilians. And lets not forget her momentary lapse in principles while serving under Dukat and the Dominion, using the same logic, I'm sure, many collaborators used during the occupation.

You see, having nuance is not the same things as showing approval. It's not about pondering the morality of taking over a planet or hating people because of their skin color. It's about being honest. Being honest about how life works and how people are.

In this episode there really wasn't any nuance. There were racist characters and there were magically enlightened characters. Of course the racists go around accusing the non-racists to be commies because as we all know, there were no racist progressives/leftists. Cops (of course, racists) killed a black man with impunity, and the main character was just the model long-suffering black man with no personality flaws apart from daring to dream too big. Don't forget the racist boss who doesn't support Bennie, not because his job may actually be at stake, but because he's a coward who uses his job as a smokescreen to hide his own bigotry.

Now I can forgive this episode for these things because it's largely on an island (there isn't much time to develop the story like you can the Bajor/Cardassia thing) but on its own merits, it paints the past as one would expect, which is not a huge deal because this episode serves more as a allegory about Sisko's role as Emissary than a study of 1950 America.

"Little Green Men" was explicitly a comedy though. . ."

It is, but Odo wasn't written as a goofball. You can have historical comedy and still not rely on cliches about the era.

("In the Cards" was quite an episode. I liked it very much. It's been so long since I've seen it, it was like watching it for the first time)
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Gary V.
Sat, Jan 5, 2019, 2:51pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Far Beyond the Stars

I appreciate what this episode tried to accomplish, and for the most part, I do think it hit more than a few of those emotional beats. But there are three things that keep this from being a "The Vistitor" level story for me.

1. This might be because I'm black, but I'm starting to notice how caricatured the life of people [black or otherwise] become in stories set before the mid 60's. Every black character is always a sympathetic guy tormented in a racist hellscape. I find it funny that a show that consistently deals with the nuance of race relations in turbulent times(see the Bajorans vs Cardassians), would have a cartoonish depiction of real 20th century life. The same goes with "Little Green Men." I get the sense writers were writing not from research, but how they thought life might have been like in those days. Heck, In some ways, I'm surprised Colm Meaney didn't play a baton twirling cop in this one. But then again, I'm sure he would have refused to.

My parents were born in the tail end of the pre-civil rights days and even they can find more to talk about those times than how terrible it was( and in many ways it was terrible). My mom is actually nostalgic for those times. Not because she misses the racism, but because there was more to life than what white people thought of her. She was raised in the south, believe it or not.

I say all this not to downplay the racism of those times. I've gotten plenty of stories from my parents on that. I say this out of a desire to see more than the suffering black man trope in historical pieces involving black people. I find it hard to believe that my ancestors would have survived if they were just poor colored folk spending all their days agonizing over how unfair life was. They had to have done other things.

But maybe that's more a criticism of taste than execution. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

2. I hate to say this, but Avery Brooks style kind of dings this episode a bit. If I'm honest, I've always thought Sisko was occasionally overacted to the point that there is a bit of contrast between him and other characters, especially Quark and O'Brien(who are probably the most subtle performances on the show). But this is a franchise whose first main was played by Shatner, of all people. This story, however, was supposed to have a more naturalistic tone, and for the most part Bennie is just that. . .up until the payoff.

Let's just say it makes sense why this scene is immortalized in meme. While I don't doubt Brooks' sincerity (I felt bad for old Bennie) or acting ability, when he started convulsing, it took me out of it. I was like, "Dang, you took that beatdown better than you took this news." I've been through way more trying times than having a story rejected by mean white people, but I don't remember ever spazzing out in someone's lap because of them.

Part of me finds it hard to believe that at least one person on set wasn't thinking "Man, dial it back a bit. Jeez" during filming.

3. My biggest complaint is the premise, which is just not probable for one simple reason. The type of work Bennie and the others were doing wasn't done by staff writers. Most stories in good sci-fi/fantasy magazines were bought from freelancers: the relationship of the writers and publishers carried largely through correspondence. Some magazines did have writers on staff, but it seems that was done to serve some editorial function(fictionalizing real accounts, rewrites, or in the case of Ghost Stories magazine, ghostwriting[pardon the pun] "true confessions"). To put it another way, staff writers were paid to be invisible while freelance writers were, well, freelance. They didn't go to the office, and they were responsible for their own success.

A man in Bennie's position would essentially be ghostwriting for the editor through a series of pseudonyms. None of what he'd write would even attributed to him. Since DS9 meant so much to him, he would rather submit it as a freelancer, which means it would have been rejected separately from his staff work.

Then there's the whole issue of how long it took for stories to get published. Months. The answer is months. Let's say, his work was initially accepted. Bennie would know the fate of his story well in advance of publication. And really? Would someone fire a guy just because he hated his story? How the heck did Bennie get hired there in the first place if the owner is that touchy on race? With all that melodrama I'm surprised Douglas didn't mention Bennie's girlfriend running off with Baseball-Worf, and the KKK burning his apartment building to the ground.

Also, with so many submissions, why would the magazine live or die based off of one man's decision to write a black space captain?

Now, I understand a scene of him seizing on the floor because of a dismissive rejection letter wouldn't be ample rationalization for such behavior, so there is that, but the amount of warping reality to make this guy's life a living hell is almost as sadistic as an O'Brien episode.

I liked this episode for the street preacher scenes, it's almost transcendent allusions to Sisko's role as Emissary(so it has more to say than just "racism is bad mmkay"), and the very different characters the actors play (BTW, why is Siddig's character allowed to take the picture? Did they forget he's not white?) I also sympathize hard for poor old Bennie. But this episode suffers from more than a bit of contrivance (see point 3) and a lot of melodrama (see point 1 and 2).

My rating is somewhere between 3 and 3.5
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Gary V.
Thu, Jan 3, 2019, 11:55am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Homefront

@Iceman

It's funny you bring up "In the Cards." That's the next episode of my DS9 binge at the time of this post. I was already looking forward to watching it before. Doubly so now.

Pure economic theory in sci-fi/fantasy is one of the most fascinating aspects of worldbuilding. Shame sometimes it gets ignored or tied up with personal politics in its conception. If done correctly, economics could provide a lot of natural motivation, conflict, detail, and cultural information. Just look what it does for Dune.

I guess that's why I dislike Ferengi episodes so much. You have here the foundations for an interesting species, the only one that's positioned to deal with commerce in a serious way, but they are there just to provide a weird amalgamation of slapstick and satire, serving only as strawmen.
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Gary V.
Tue, Jan 1, 2019, 11:58am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Homefront

"This is a great point to bring up: we might well ask this of Picard when he suggests that people seek their own perfection rather than material goals. What does he mean by..."

My evidence is in the way people behave now. In the past, people either stuck with their trade or died. Today, motivation, procrastination, wavering commitment, are all big sticking points in self improvement programs, and we are more wealthy now than we have ever been. If general wealth (and the federation has relative infinite wealth) can be detrimental to focus at the present, why should that magical change in the future?

"...goal, or virtue we can have or develop that puts us above the animals?"

I agree we have and can develop beyond the traits of animals, but I don't think this is always a good thing. Building an empire based on an ideal is something only we humans can do. That doesn't mean we should. In addition to that, animal part of our brain is often what keeps us grounded, keeps us from flying off the handle, believe it or not. Empathy is a kind of instinct, after all.

"The entire 'efficiency' of capitalism is literally competing to own a share of the market..."

Maybe that's part of capitalism, but the other part is fairness. Trading something of value for another thing of value is miles better than theft and more sustainable than just giving things away all the time. Competing over market share is as simple as allowing people to choose between you and a competitor because no one is entitled to anyone else's personal value. The only way to eliminate this is to eliminate agency of the engaged parties. Without this tyranny, most rational people try to create greater value and/or less cost. This is the nature of what you call competition.

"Here's where I think the heart of the matter lies. Negotiation is by definition self-interested..."

What's wrong with self-interest? The power of self-interest is two fold: It's far more reliable than your mood when it comes to innovation, but even more importantly, you can't truly be selfless without it. If Self-interest was bred out of people, doing "selfless" acts would have no weight. And I get the point that no scarcity exists in ST. That's kind of my issue with it. I can't believe people who never experience scarcity will be able to appreciate a kind act the way we do. Why? How often do you give clean water to people in your neighborhood as an act of kindness? I doubt you do because I imagine if you did, people would look at you like you were crazy. If everything you can possibly give away is worthless, then what worth is giving anything away?

"Altruism isn't, and never has been, defined as *transferring* value..."

I'm afraid my point was lost here but before I address it, I must disagree about your definition of altruism. Altruism is very much transfer of value. When you give something away, you are transferring something to someone else at no cost to them, just like when you steal, you're transferring something to yourself at no cost to you. Sure, altruism is also in intent, but the main point of altruism is that the altruistic person provides value to other persons without consideration of his own expense. Otherwise, it'd just be charity. And there is where my point was lost. Everything has value, even concepts. We value altruism because it's scarce. ST is filled with altruism not because it naturally evolves from the premise but because we in the present value the trait and put those traits in our fantasies. But how valuable could such a trait be in that environment if the average person cannot appreciate its importance? Can we honestly appreciate water in the way a Bedouin can? You're right, helping people at no cost to you is "good," but how "good" could it be for a person who will probably go their entire life without ever encountering a person truly in need? Viewing altruism as a transaction is the only way you can appreciate why its so important.

"This is a hotly debated point and I agree that this topic is of huge importance. Will luxury and infinite supply cause humanity to devolve into lazy pigs..."

I believe that hardship gives us character, and people who need for nothing will have no need to develop character. I focused on altruism here, but I think it's true for most things. Having unlimited access to everything can and has (historically) created psychological deficits that will eventually become human nature as long as that environment endures. Interpersonal conflict, however, can lead us to self-reflection, the threat of pain can teach us compassion, limitations lead to innovation, and scarcity adds value to charity and hard work. We mustn't confuse wealth with the potential for virtue. But that's just my opinion on the subject.
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Gary V.
Sun, Dec 30, 2018, 4:54pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Homefront

@Peter G.,

I've watched all of TNG, some of TOS, and all of DS9. I'm rewatching DS9 at the moment.

Anyway, I get the premise, and even enjoy it for worldbuilding's sake, but I just don't buy the philosophy. I don't see the realism in a world where people's work ethic is based off of fickle and often irrational personal desires, rather than rational, environmentally driven behavior. And I certainly don't believe such a world would create good people, if we could manage it.

Firstly, I think characterizing owning capital as competing for resources and trying to put others out of business is unfair. Markets are the rational answer to scarcity, and the ability to negotiate for resources is a virtue that's one step below pure altruism in a system where scarcity is unavoidable. Greed, theft, and violence need not be features of a market.

From a pure economic standpoint, giving something away that isn't scarce is not altruistic because there is no meaningful transfer of value. Infinite supply renders the value of the object to 0. And this is a big reason why I don't buy the premise. The people we see in Star Trek would not exist in a post scarce world because they wouldn't be capable of transcending themselves in such an environment. Everything we value would be valueless: food, water. Suffering would become an academic curiosity and not something most people experience at one time or another. Most people in regular life would know what sacrifice is only in theory. Artist, entertainers, writers, certain service providers, and skilled-laborers will be elevated to god-like status because their work will be the only thing that is truly scarce.

People that are not any of these things will be alien, hedonistic, and completely helpless outside of their false habitat. If they do pursue a profession, they'd probably only do so for a little while before moving on to the next, resulting in the best professionals being imported from outside the post-scarce culture or needing to be indoctrinated from an early age to shield them from these characteristics. This will inevitably create stratification in society. In one culture, you have skilled people hardened by real life experience, and in the other you'd have useless people with no real value(Not even an economic one). If this is sustained, the former will diverge from the latter and will rightfully see themselves as superior.

And this isn't because of faulty human nature. These will be emergent traits derived from conservation of energy and diversification.

I just don't believe a world where everything is free and no real work needs to be done will create good people or an environment in which I wish to live. The only reason it works in Star Trek is because we project scarcity derived modern virtues into these alien environments, virtues that will be bred out quite quickly.
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