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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

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Ratings are based on a four star system.
One star means that the commercials are more entertaining than the program.
Two stars watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars is good solid entertainment.
Four stars means you never dreamed television could be this good.

In my last column, I got the date wrong for the start of the next season of Stargate: Atlantis. SF Site reader Morjana Coffman set me right. Sorry about that. I shouldn't believe everything I read.

While on the subject of believing everything I read, I've had a few interesting experiences recently with people who believe what they read. The first is from a book, The World Is Flat, which I picked up in an airport to read on the plane. It's an interesting book, though it takes 660 pages to say what could be said in 200 pages or less: that the world needs people who can do math and program computers, and since American schools have decided it is too expensive or too much trouble to train Americans in those areas, the jobs are going overseas. The author writes about talking to an intelligent young computer programmer in Indonesia. The young woman mentions that she hopes Al Gore doesn't become president, because he is a Jew. Nothing could convince the woman that Al Gore is not a Jew.

Then there was a letter in my hometown newspaper by a conservative columnist claiming that scientists are silly people who just like to frighten the public, and that climate change is a hoax. I started to write a letter to the editor, but realized I was wasting my time. There was nothing I can say to convince people who don't want to believe that global warming is a serious problem.

Finally, I was having dinner last night at a nice restaurant, and got into a friendly conversation with the people at the next table. The man mentioned that Barak Obama had attended a madrasa in Indonesia. I said that that was nonsense. Turns out I was wrong. Obama did attend first, second, and third grade in a madrasa in Indonesia. What the story leaves out is that it was a Roman Catholic madrasa (the word "madrasa" just means school). But the spin of calling the school a "madrasa" and leaving out the detail that it was a Catholic school turns the truth into a lie.

Sigh! I suppose, instead of being depressed because half the people in the world believe total nonsense, I should be glad I didn't live 100 years ago, when virtually everyone believed total nonsense. When James Garfield was assassinated in 1881, respectable newspapers reported that when the bullet was dug out, it bore a perfect likeness of the assassin!

Enough. Back to the subject of movies and television.

I went to see 10,000 A.D.. The rating on is almost a perfect U shaped curve -- all 10's and 1's with little in between. I enjoyed the special effects set pieces, was bored otherwise. It did occur to me, watching the credits, that with thousands of people working on the picture, they might have thought to hire a writer.

DVD Review

Slings & Arrows (****), three complete seasons
I had never heard of this Canadian TV series until it was reviewed in Entertainment Weekly. It is about a Canadian Shakespeare troupe, and the conflict between art and commercialism, not to mention the conflict between being drunk and staying sober. The theme song, "Cheer Up Hamlet," is worth the price of admission: And the presence of a ghost, whose ambition is to have his skull play the part of Yorick, adds a nice fantasy touch. Highly recommended.
Slings & Arrows 1 Slings & Arrows 2 Slings & Arrows 3

Copyright © 2008 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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