by F.F. "Bones" Norman

Professor Crane Quackinbush sat in his lab, royally pissed off. He had just figured out a principle of quantum physics which might allow the controlled total conversion of matter to energy.
Well, it didn't work.
"Fornication," Crane said, leaning his arm on the table in the spilled root beer.
"Hi! Whatcha doin', Quacky?" asked the professor's huge-breasted red-haired girlfriend.
"Oh, Muffy," said Crane, "my secret formula didn't work. I added the eleven secret herbs and spices but I can't crack the secret recipe."
"Don't sweat it, Bigdaddykins," said Muffy, her solidly packed chest heaving as she chewed her gum. "Everything will come out fine."
Suddenly, 23 armed men crashed into the lab. "Must be some of Bob Camshafter's men!" Crane shouted. "Hit the floor, Toots!"
She did, landing on her more than ample mammaries.
"Quick, Muffy! Give me your guns!" Crain said. She pulled a pair of 45s from her shirt and handed them over. With a gun in each hand, firing from the hip, he let out a steady stream of fire power toward the attacking bad guys. He realized just as he ran out of bullets that firing two-handed without lining up the gun sights first is a bloody waste of time. And bullets.
"All right, Professor," said a bad guy through the noise of battle, "give us the klysteron!"
"The what?"
"The fornicating klysteron!"
"I don't have one!"
"Aren't you Dr. Wolfgang Saganhoffer?"
"Wolfgang lives next door."
"Oh. Sorry."
After the bad guys left, Muffy said, "Gee, I sure hope they don't hurt Wolfie. I sure like him."
"He'll be okay," said Krane, staring at Muffy's magnificent mounds. "He's a big boy." "I know."
"Hi, Doc. Hi, Muffy," said the paperboy, tossing Craine's newspaper into some large beakers full of Kool Aid and dry ice. "Hey, Doc, guess what? I just invented a cheap method of controlled total conversion of matter to energy."
"Fornication," said the Professor. "Ah, but I bet an untrained dolt like you couldn't possibly put that discovery to any practical use."
"Yeah, I guess. Except I made this conversion drive starcraft out of this abandoned oil tanker I found. I was thinking of going to Tau Ceti. Wanna go?"
"No!" shouted Krain. "I don't want to go for a ride in your stupid oil tanker!!"
The paperboy went on to become Overlord of the galaxy and he locked Cwaine and Muffy in a prison on the planet McGuffin IV. He forced the Professor to work endlessly on projects to benefit mankind, and forced Muffy to wear low-cut, slinky dresses in the daytime.
Soon, the pressure became too much for Craine to hear.
"That's enough!" he screamed at his former paperboy. "I can't take it anymore!!"
"Oh, all right," said the former paperboy. "Muffy, take off your dress."
"That's not what I really meant," said Crainne.
"What did you mean?"
"I'm pissed off! I've spent the entire story so far being pissed off. This story isn't any good at all. I quit! I'm going to get a job in a Heinlein juvenile novel."
"Oh,"cried Murry, attempting to refasten her dress which kept popping open at the slightest provocation. "I didn't expect that to happen. Oh, well."
Quain went on to his career in Heinlein novels and was still pissed off all the time. The paperboy remained Galactic Overlord until he turned 42 when he and Muffy retired to a small star cluster orbiting the Lesser Magellanic Cloud. Professor Saganhoffer survived the attack, thanks to his collection of trained attack skinks. Bob Camshafter never got the klysteron, nor did he ever find out just what a klysteron was. In fact, he never appeared in the story at all.
"Fornication," said Bob.

Part Two – Ignores Part One
   The silver, dart-shaped spacecraft swung madly through space. “Fornication!” yelled Captain Dwayne “Spunky” Spongester over the roar of the engines as he grabbed at the steering wheel. His ship, the small freighter Mulroney, was totally out of control, its course twisting and tumbling like errant fireworks. It was a good thing Spongester had put on his driving gloves, otherwise he might not have been able to grip the wheel.
Quick, Mavis,” he shouted to young woman in the co-pilot’s seat, “switch to auxiliary!”
Princess Mavis Octavia quickly scanned the controls. She’d had only limited spaceship flying experience as a member of the Royal Court of Whimbillden, but she knew enough to know they were in trouble. “Which one?”
Auxiliary!” The ship lurched and the fuzzy dice hanging off the rear view mirror hit him in the face. “There,” he pointed, “the red one!”
She pressed the button, her expression looking more worried. “What’s wrong with the ship?”
Throttle’s jammed open! And I checked the pedal and it’s not stuck! I’ll bet one of Kling Davar’s henchmen is behind this!”
Like the one I saw hanging around the ship before we took off?” “Yeah, like that one! Fornication, auxiliary’s not working either. Hit the manual override — the blue one!”
She pressed the blue button, but Mulroney continued dizzily careening out of control. Spongester knew they couldn’t take much more of this.
We can’t take much more of this! Nothing’s working!” All the controls were inoperative. With the throttle jammed open and steering gone, it was just a matter of time until they flew into a star or an asteroid. Spongester began to think their future was hopeless.

I have an idea,” said Mavis. “What if we just turned the engines off?” “WHAT?!? Fornication, Mavis, if we turn the engines off, we’ll lose power!”
Yes, so?”
So, if we lose power, the engines won’t have any more power and they’ll turn off, and if they turn off the Law of Infernal Inertia says we’ll lose all our forward momentum and slow down— Wait! I’ve got it! Stand by! I’m going to turn off the engines!” Spongester turned the ignition key to “off” and the main engies cut out. The cabin was filled with relief and silence.
Good work, Mavis. We’ll be drifting for a while, but at least now I’ll be able to fix this crate. First, I’d better find out where we are. Pass me the map.”
Reaching into the glove compartment, Mavispulled out a folded, dog-earred, wrinkled, coffee-stained piece of paper. “This?”
Yeah.” Spongester unfolded and studied the paper. “Ah, I thought so. We’re right on course for this uncharted planet,” he said, pointing at the map, “and if I’m right, we’ll drift right into a perfect orbit.”
Just then, Arnold the Android entered the cockpit. “Sir!” he declared imperiously, “that was the most horrific example of space flight I’ve seen this century. You could have killed everyone and dented me.”
Spongester snorted. Arnold the Android was entirely made of cantbustium, the strongest substance known. “Right. We need to fix this crate fast before Kling Davar finds out we escaped his devious plot. You go outside and do the dangerous stuff, I’ll stay inside and supervise. Mavis, let me know when we get near that planet.”
Unfortunately, Spongster was wrong. The Mulroney did not drift into a perfect orbit about the uncharted planet. In fact, it crashed on the planet.
Fornication,” said Spongester.
The trio survived.
To be continued....

Part Three –The Syndrome Factor
Captain Dwayne “Spunky” Spongester of the late space freighter Mulroney was adamanent. It didn’t matter that his spaceship had just crashed into an uncharted planet, it didn’t matter that he was stranded on said planet with only two companions (Princess Mavis Octavia of the Royal Court of Crunchiebar and Arnold the Android), it didn’t matter that right now Kling Davar’s henchmen were quite probably closing in, and it didn’t matter that he hair was mussed and he’d lost his comb in the crash. No, what matter now was that there was no fornicating way that he was going to accompany Arnold the Android.
I won’t do it,” insisted Spongester, “no way.”
It won’t do any harm,” pleaded Mavis. “In fact, it might be fun. I want to watch!”
You’re sick. I won’t do it.”
Please,” Mavis pouted. “Would you do it for me?”
For you? I doubt it. I don’t know anything about you, except you’re supposed to be leading me to your bank machine to pay off your gambling debt to me. I know those things are supposed to be everywhere, but there’s just never one around when you need one. —Fornication, quit pouting! Oh, all right, I’ll do it!”
He stopped pacing, and sat beside Arnold. “Sir,” said the android, “you do not have to do this. If you’re embarrassed....”
No, I’ve done this before. Surprised, Mavis? I guess you don’t know much about me either.”
Sir, I did serve for a time as an entertainment unit on Vegass III. Perhaps I should lead? I think you’ll feel more comfortable. Jump in when you’re ready.”
Yeah, okay. I am a little nervous. You start.”
Very good, sir. Ahem.
Row row row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily merrily merrily merrily
Life is but a—”
Arrgh!” shouted Spongster as he jumped up from the Android. “I can’t do it! I just can’t, I’m not ready—”
Not ready for what?” asked the voice of the man coming over the hill.
Look!” cried Arnold. “It’s Admiral Runté!”
GoodthingI hitthe emergency locatorbuttonjustbefore we crashed last chapter.”
Sir, I read the last chapter and I don’t recall you doing any such thing.”
Well, Spongester,” and the Admiral, “what brings you here?”
I could ask you the same thing, Admiral. When I last saw you on
the cover of this zine, you were trapped on a planet of desperate women with a secret.”
Mavis could stand it no longer. “Spongester, you know this man?
He’s responsible for deaths of millions of Cruchiebarians.”
He is? How?”
Why is Spongester unwilling to sing?
How did the Admiral kill millions of beings?
Did the writer actually stop at this point because he was too lazy to think
of a way out?
To be continued....

Part Four – The Dog Days of Space

Huhh - wha—”
Sir, wake up. The ship has crashed!”
Spongester stirred. He opened his eyes and looked up at Arnold the Android.
The ship – out of danger?”
No, sir. As you know, Bob, er, um, Dwayne, we crashed on an
uncharted planet! Remember?” Spongester shook his head trying to recall what had happened last issue.
Forget that,” said Arnold, reading over my shoulder, “last issue was all a dream!”
Oh, that’s right. I remember now. Admiral Runté, the campfire sing-a-long, Princess Mavis – all a dream.”
Well, no. Princess Mavis is real.”
She salvaged the navigational computer and is trying to figure out where we are.”
But I know where we are! We’re on an uncharted planet! Help me
up! Lift that impossibly heavy girder off my legs.”
With Arnold’s help, Spongester struggled through the wreckage and found Mavis in the smashed cockpit. She’d reassembled the navigational computer, but couldn’t find a spare plug to plug it in.”
Let me see that,” said Spongester. “Two prong or three prong?”
Three,” said Mavis.
Fornication! This ship isn’t grounded! Curse this ancient wiring!”
The ship looks grounded to me,” said Arnold as he noted the strangeunearthly yet alien terrain that lay outside the crashed ship.
Never mind that cheap verbal humour now — you’ve got to stand around and watch while I heroically save you!”
Spongester pushed away from the startled android and stood upright. His legs, which a moment ago lay crushed beneath a heavy steel beam, now supported his full weight.
Amazing what a band-aid can do,” mumble Arnold under his breath.
Spongester moved slowly but deliberately to a side panel, popped the cover and drew out the back-up navigational computer (also known as a map). He unfolded it over a pile of debris, and studied it intently. Finally, he said, “I know where we are.”
Where?” cried Mavis.
Right here,” he said, and pointed at the map, “on this uncharted planet.’
Arnold sighed heavily. The author only had one goodjoke and he was milking it for more than it was worth. “So we know where we are. We are on an uncharted planet.”
Not just any uncharted planet,” said Spongester smugly. “We are on this uncharted planet.”
Ahhh. And just where is this uncharted planet?”
Why, it’s right... um... it’s right, er... oh, fornication....” Spongester studied the map again. “Aha! Here we go, we’re in the constellation Rand McNally.”
Arnold shook his head. “No. Try again.”
Oh, okay. We’re in the Yaw Yklim galaxy.”
No, you idiot—”
Near the planets of Nrutas and Retipuj—”
“—you have the map upside down—”
Oh, boys!” Mavis interrupted. “I fixed the radio. And it’s only two prongs!”
Give me that!” yelled Spongester, diving for the radio. He grabbed the controls, pausing just long enough to deliver the following exposition: “This radio is the only communications link we have. Only this radio can save us. Ourhumanity is fragile. Ifsomethinghappensto thisradio,I figure we’re only twenty minutes away from cannibalism. I’m going to turn it on now. Pray that nothing unexpected happens.”
He flipped the send switch.
Mayday mayday mayday! Oh, save me please please please puh-lease save me! Leave the rest to die but please save me. I don’t want to eat the robot but I may have to soon. And he looks way too crunchy. So save me! Save me from breaking my teeth on the robot! Please! I’m worth it! And I don’t have dental coverage! Space Corps Control is too cheap for that! Save me—”
Stop it,” said Arnold. “The signal’s being jammed. And look at the sensors! Another ship is approaching! A ship that’s really big and powerful—”
And dangerous, no doubt!”
Yeah. Anyway, the other ship is broadcasting and totally overpow ering our signal. You want to hear it?”
Golly, yes!”
Put on those headphones and flip the switch from ‘send’ to ‘receive’.”
Spongester did and listened intently. His face turned white. His jaw went slack. His wrists went limp. He unplugged the headphones so that Mavis and Arnold could hear the signal, a strange, alien screeching sound.
What are they saying?” asked Mavis. “Should we turn on the translator?”
No need for that,” said Spongester. “I speak ‘alien’. ”
He concentrated mightily for a moment. His forehead wrinkled, his brow furrowed, his ears wiggled. A small lock of hair curled down the middle of his forehead. Finally, he spoke again.
Fornication! It is an alien invasion fleet. Their world has lost a vital natural resource, and they are going to invade every world they encounter in a mad, but yet strangely insane quest to re-acquire as much of this rare but powerful resource as they can. They will not rest, they will not sleep. Death means little to them. They fear nothing. They are a proud race, a warrior race. They are of a hive-mind, serving their leader-masters, who will relentlessly drive their worker-slave-drones to attack at the slightest provocation by using their incredible over-mind mental prowess, developed through eons of forced evolution, genetic engineering and just plain dumb luck. They have powerful phased-light-photon-quantum-torpedo-blaster-ray stun-guns! They are ugly. They have five arms, four legs, sexual appendages the size of an import car, and acid for blood. They can grow replacement limbs, but oddly, they sound like Preston Manning. They are genetically engineered time-travelling macro-nano-tech ar moured fighting robotic death-machine soldier-clones—”
From outer space?”
Yes! Genetically engineered time-travelling macro-nano-teched armoured fighting robotic death-machine soldier-clones. From outer space!!! We are but flies to them. Or fleas. Or fleas on a fly. An annoyance. They plan to conquer us with the same ease that I can step on a lowly bug. they are irredeemable, oddly just like Preston Manning. We’re doomed. Earth is doomed. The whole quadrant is doomed. Perhaps even the universe itself. Even I, myself, oh so glorious me, am doomed.Fornication!”
Wow. You translated all that?”
Well, no, not really. I just inferred it. The message is only three words long.”
Oh. Well, what is the message?”
“‘Mars needs puppies!’”
{{Parts One, Two and Three were published in (respectively) issues One, Two and Four of UTOH. Part Four was recently unearthed in the bottom of a birdcage and is being published for the first time anywhere.
We’ve been assured that this is the author’s preferred version.
F.F. “Bones” Norman’s fame in Canadian SF literary circles is perhaps second only to Robert Gunderson’s. His previous works include the novels Spam Must Die!, Muffy the Vampire Layer, and A Block of Fish. He also wrote “The Blanderputty Matrix” episode of Babylon 5.
Currently, Norman is a crossing-guard instructor on Salt Spring Island. In his spare time, he volunteers as a soccer goal post.}}

How I Lost My Con-Virginity (Unexpurgated)

by Laura Atkins

Rest assured, fellow fans, that this is only one article. I have no intention of writing the "Con-Virgin" series. But I did want to share with you the events of that fateful weekend when I lost my Con-Virginity.
As with everyone on their first time, I was somewhat apprehensive -- I mean taking two days to do it, and with so many. people, most of whom were not the sort I would invite back for a cup of coffee afterwards, Furthermore, I had to pay 530 for this dubious privilege. But Nichelle Nichols was to attend I-Con I, and my friends were there to give me immoral support, so off I went, elegantly clad in jeans, T-shirt, and matching belt and socks (a most demure shade of purple).
Upon arrival, I filled out a form (which I do quite nicely, thanks) and paid out $30, in exchange for which I received my registration number and an I-Con badge with my name on it, that I promptly pinned to my chest. Seemed like an awfully small prick to me, but then, being a Con-Virgin, I had no way to judge.
As I was leaving the registration table, a gentleman who claimed to have been christened Ogre (by loving but misguided parents) leaned over the table and said that he knew what colour my socks were, and if I didn't behave he'd have the security men down on top of me in a flash. Monica very kindly explained that I would enjoy that, but then dragged me away before I had a chance to ask how many.
We wandered into the dealer's room, an area which reminded me of the bar in Star Wars. Monica assured me that most of the people in the room were in fact humanoid, but seeing them grunting and scratching, and excavating in various orifices as they haggled over the shimmering goods on the tables left me doubtful as to their true origins. However, throughout my time at the con, I only encountered English-speaking aliens, which made them almost as good as Terrans in my case. I found the spherical aliens to be particularly intriguing; I never got a chance to watch one negotiating its way through a door, but as they were present at the various panels and the dance, I assumed that they had collapsible girdles, or perhaps they lost form and oozed through door-openings, reforming on the other side with a grand, alienesque flourish.
I attended TWO panels at which Nichelle Nichols presided. She has a very good sense of humour. In fact, she was better at making jokes than telling a story smoothly, but she did give us the inside scoop on anything allowed by her agent, -including the tale of how she met Whoopi Goldberg, and told us some stories about winning or losing parts and how the filthy pieces of distended rectum at the studio didn't allow her to sing during her fan-dance in Star Trek V. She also sang for us at the end of each panel, and charmed us all with her wit and vulnerability. I concede that she appeared to be less than gruntled at the autograph session, but after the sort of day she must have had, I would have been feeling somewhat less than angelic myself.
Afterwards, me and Nichelle went for a beer in the bar. She told me she could get me a starring role in Star Trek VI with her if I felt like coming out to Hollywood. I thanked her very much, but told her I had to be at work on Tuesday to clean the telephones. (Does that cover the name-dropping clause of the "Loss of Con-Virginity contract"? I wasn't sure.)
'During the first day of the Con, I saw one gentleman whose costume I found to be particularly effective, and I almost went up and congratulated him on mimicking Tolkien so effectively. I'm sure glad I didn't, though — imagine my chagrin when my friends told that he always 'smoked a pipe and wasjust naturally masterful! Still, I am quite sure he was someone important, because every time he told a joke his audience listened in round-eyed, awestruck silence.
Later on, Ogre came up to me, looked me in the eyes and said earnestly, "I love you. Will you run away with me?" It was awfully sweet of him, but I thought I should finish losing my Con-Virginity first, so I told him to ask me on Sunday. He was crushed, but bore his sorrow most bravely.
After supper came the Costume Contest. It was fun despite the entertainment, and there was very little spandex abuse. But I guess they've had to tighten up the rules on this sort of thing since the SPCS (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Spandex) created an uproar and threatened to close the Cons down entirely if they didn't shape up. (AR AR AR!)
After the contest was the dance. The aliens seemed particularly fond of such garments as gold stretch lace and fur loincloths, but then, I guess that's what makes them unlike humans. They all seemed to enjoy dancing to "Rasputin," too. I must say that having alien armpit sweat smeared all over my shoulder was a never-to-be-forgotten experience, and I got to do it twice because they played it later on in the evening for those aliens who missed it the first time.
I worried about the bodily integrity of some of the aliens, though. I don't know what their melting point is, but whenever there was a slow dance, they seemed to sort of osmose into each other, and to have great difficulty extricating themselves from each others embrace afterwards. I think the people who put the Con on should find a hotel with better air-conditioning next time, to prevent further tragedies like this from occurring.
I met one most interesting alien whose name I shall change to Willie and who came from the planet Saltspring Island. His friend Peter was also a Con-Virgin, and gratefully accepted his ritual hickey from an American alien called Tracey. Willie wasn't a Con-Virgin, but took a hickey anyhow, as these sorts of shared rituals help to cement the bonds between interplanetary species. She offered to give me one but 1 declined on the grounds that she wasn't my type.
I had fun dancing with 'Willie, and we engaged in ritual conversation. I feel that I made a most sympathetic listener, and held up my end of the conversation by asking such leading questions as "So why is your brother a prick?" He was actually just
like a human, except drunk, and we got along swimmingly. At the end of the dance, we danced a slow dance. I became alarmed for his bodily integrity, but he became quite firm at the end, so I breathed a sigh of relief.
I said I was going home, whereupon Peter and Willie informed me that I couldn't really be said to have lost my Con-Virginity unless I stayed up all night watching B-movies, presumably on the theory that losing one's Con-Cherry should be a painful process. I appreciated their concern, but felt that I really should go, as I had been drinking ice water all night and was in no shape to keep partying. Before I left, Willie gave me a warm fuzzy in traditional fashion, but I was still apprehensive about his bodily integrity so didn't allow tradition to overtake common sense and immoral integrity.
Next day, I woke up feeling like exhilarated excrement, and made my way back to I-Con in time to miss any events of importance, except for the second panel with Nichelle Nichols. I thought this was extremely clever timing on my part, as I noted that many of the aliens were suffering from the heat and looked rather pale and tired. Obviously, I would best serve the Con's needs by remaining out in the cool lobby, where I could assist with
any alien medical emergencies. So 1 went up to the Hospitality suite and had coffee and a cigarette. Ogre asked me where I'd found a blue cow to kill to make today's belt. I didn't tell him, as blue cows are an endangered species, but did add that it was a small cow and didn't supply more than a belt's worth of hide anyhow.
All good things must come to an end, much like Cons, and so four o'clock found me in a denuded dealer's room, which had only humans and one elf left in it (a well-dressed one, named Ebon Lupus, who according to the Con scuttlebutt was planning to return the following year as Burgundy Coyote). The aliens were gone, and the entire stock of U.S.S. Resolution fudge maggots had been sold. A young man had given Nichelle Nichols the shirt off his back (he offered his pants and socks too, but she regretfully refused, saying she had to wash her hair), and Veronica had kept many of the panels running smoothly. Plus many poor suckers...ah, noble volunteers...had presided over the Resolution's table. I commended the of all these people most highly, but felt that I should leave the specialized positions until next time.
And that's how I lost my Con-Virginity!

Russian Spring

Russian Spring
by Norman Spinrad
October 1992; Bantam Spectra;
 review by John W. Herbert

It's not often that a book goes from "science fiction" to "alternate history" between hardcover and paperback editions, but Norman Spinrad's latest gets caught by the speed of the upheavals in Eastern Europe. In his story set not far in the future, two lovers, an American space engineer and a young Russian woman who has decided to party (pun intended) across Europe, play out their lives against the background of the decline of the American Empire and the rebirth of the former Soviet republics. This is Spinrad's best work in ages, at times moving and engrossing, and constantly entertaining. Read this.

Babylon 5 - The Lost Tales

Babylon 5 - The Lost Tales: Voices in the Dark
review by John W. Herbert

Babylon 5 is back in the first of what is hoped to be a series made-for-DVD adventures under the moniker The Lost Tales. The first disc, entitled Voices in the Dark, contains two short tales both written and directed by Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski.
Set ten years after the original series, the first story involves B5 commander Colonel Lochley (Tracy Scoggins) who has summoned a priest to B5. She is convinced that a crewman on the station has been possessed by a demon and only an exorcism can save the unfortunate victim presumably destroy the demon. However, the demon insists on being exorcised, and this presents the priest with an ethical dilemma.
In story two, President Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) is on his way to B5 for a ceremonial function when Galen the technomage (Peter Woodward) visits him and presents him with his own ethical dilemma: a teen-aged Centauri Prince that is traveling on the same ship as Sheridan will grow up to lead a devastating Centauri attack on Earth. Galen wants Sheridan to kill the teenager before he grows up to be the Centauri's leader and bring havoc and chaos to the galaxy. Essentially the question Sheridan faces is the Babylon 5 version of would you go back in time and kill Hitler as a boy?
These are short tales, each clocking in at only about 35 minutes. Straczynski has said he wished to approach this new project as an anthology show, telling small stories in the corners of the B5 universe. Perhaps he has succeeded too well in this. The stories, especially the first one, are very talky. There's only six speaking parts across both stories, and barely an extra in sight. But where they lack in action, they make up for in philosophical meanderings.
The stories are also perhaps too similar. In both cases, Lochley and Sheridan solve their puzzles by playing back something that was previously said, Lochley by listening to a tape playback while staring out alone into space, and Sheridan by running back a conversation in his mind while flying alone in a spacecraft. (Maybe that's way this set is called Voices in the Dark.) This isn't to say that the stories are not entertaining -- they are -- but there seems little to tie them to the overarching Babylon 5 canvas, and that's a pity. Mind you, enough plot threads are left dangling from the Sheridan sequence that it could be easily picked up in further installments.
The special effects are very good and Straczynski's direction is good, too. He effectively uses some interesting camera work in the Lochley segment, and he keeps a sure hand on the proceedings. The actors seem to be pleased to be reprising their roles, particularly Boxleitner and Woodward who seem to having immense fun in their scenes together.
The DVD contains many behind the scenes features, in total as long as the feature itself. What is sorely missing is a commentary track, but on the other hand the reenactment of a major scene from the show using sock puppets almost makes up for that gaffe.
So while it is not as effective as it could have been, this first volume of The Lost Tales marks a successful return of Babylon 5 to our screens, and here's hoping that there is a second helping soon.

Ark II - The Complete Series

review by John W. Herbert
On the scorched and polluted Earth of the 25th century, three young scientists and their hyper-intelligent talking chimpanzee roam the land in Ark II, a sophisticated mobile lab and research centre, to help rebuild and restore civilization. Led by Jonah (played by the late Terry Lester), every week he and his crew -- Ruth (Jean Marie Hon), Samuel (Jose Flores) and Adam (Moochie the chimp) – would help villagers and farmers fend off environmental scourges, scavengers, crazy computers or immortal demagogues in a non-violent manner.
It was Saturday mornings, after all.
In fact Ark II was the most expensive live-action Saturday morning kids’ show of its time. Produced by Filmation, it premiered in September 1976, and although only 15 episodes were produced, remained on the air until 1979. It featured some great guest stars – Jonathan Harris, Malachi Throne, Del Munroe, a very young Helen Hunt, Jim Backus and Robbie the Robot (uncredited, alas) – as well as some very cool vehicles.
The premise of each episode was often similar: the Ark crew would be assigned (by a never-seen headquarters) to investigate some strange happening in a village. The villagers would be often fearful of the Ark and its crew, Ruth or Samuel would get into trouble, but then the villagers would realize the error of their ways and everything would turn out okay. But not before Jonah would have to fly around in his jet-pack. (And no wires here, kids – it was a real flying jetpack. Is that cool or what?))
It wasn’t as cheesy as it sounds, although the production values are sometimes lacking (each episode was shot in only three days). Each episode contained a “message,” but viewers were never slammed over the head with it and the show never sank to the level of cliché. They even went out of their way to avoid the obvious cliché – Adam the chimp is never played for comedy relief; he was an equal member of the crew. Even if he was wearing a diaper under his costume.
The show was shot on 16mm film, so it’s never going to look great. That said, the newly remastered DVD release makes the series look pretty good. And for a 30 year-old series that only filmed 15 episodes, there’s a wealth of behind-the-scenes material: two episode commentaries, a new “making of” documentary, plus assorted photo and art galleries. But wait – there’s more! Also included is DVD-Rom material, including all the shooting scripts, plus the series bible.
Many of the Filmation live-action Saturday morning shows are due to be released on DVD in 2007.
Can a review of Jason of Star Command be far behind?

The Simpsons Movie

review by John W. Herbert
It’s ironic but the future of hand-drawn animation may have just been saved by the ugliest cartoon family in history. Consider that The Simpsons’ Movie opening gross of $74,000,000 is the largest opening of any hand-drawn animated film in history, and is a larger opening than any digitally animated film by Pixar (Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, Ratatouille etc.). Only two of the digitally animated Shrek films have grossed more than Homer and his family.
On the other hand, The Simpsons has been a cultural touchstone for a generation and, as the tv-show enters its 19th season this fall, it’s hard to imagine that a big-screen version wouldn’t be a huge hit. As such, the movie plays it safe and doesn’t stray much from the formula that makes it work so well on television. Maybe a few of the joke are a little cruder, but they’re still tame compared to what passes as humour in the theatres these days.
And sticking to the formula ain’t necessarily a bad thing. It was the winning formula of balancing family sentimentality and dead-on self-aware satire that has made The Simpsons quite possibly the best tv-comedy show ever. While the later seasons of the show have often veered away from this formula, The Movie returns to the tried and true Simpsons story style of its glory years of the early and mid-1990s.
The first half of The Movie is classic Simpsons’ craziness, and is pitch perfect as it assails the audience with laugh after laugh. Itchy skewers Scratchy, Homer complains that The Bible has no answers, Lisa fruitlessly tries to encourage Springfield’s citizens to save the a lake, and Bart skateboards through town naked (which leads to the film’s biggest laugh as Bart is briefly glimpsed in all his glory). Eventually a plot develops and the laughs become a little less frequent. Homer falls in love wit a pig which leads to an environmental disaster for Springfield. The town is quarantined but Homer and family escape and move to Alaska. The family want to return to help their former town folks, but Homer has settled in to the Arctic lifestyle and wants to remain. (There a bar in Alaska called Eski-Moe’s.) They leave Homer to return to Springfield, and Homer must not only save his town, but he must also rescue the relationship with his wife and children.
This has always been the key to the success of The Simpsons, a balance between zany physical comedy, smart satire, and not being afraid to be sentimental and allow the family moments to play without undercutting them with a zinger. The oft-expressed belief the The Simpsons is “anti-family” is belied by the fact that no matter how dysfunctional this family is, it’s clear that they love each other and their relationship with each other is the driving force in their lives. Even “under-achiever” Bart has demonstrated again and again his deep ties to his family. (And how can conservatives complain about a tv family that is seen going to church regularly? Heck, the whole damn town goes to church every Sunday! And the first scene of The Movie is set in a church at Sunday Service! But I digress.)
This is by no means a ground-breaking film, but it is a witty reminder of why we’ve loved The Simpsons all these years. It delivers big laughs in abundance.
Plus we get to see Bart’s doodle.

Election Watch 2006

by John W. Herbert

November 28, 2005: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like an Election
You’ll pardon me if I start talking politics now, but the federal government has fallen today and an election will be called tomorrow. So there won’t be just one turkey at your house over Christmas, whole flocks of turkeys will be knocking on your door and begging for your votes.
For once, I have to agree with Ralph Klein. I don’t see any outcome other than a Liberal minority. I think the Bloc will do very well in Québec, and that will pretty much put the kibosh on the chances of any party forming a majority.
And Klein’s point that Conservative leader Stephen Harper is seen by voters as too right wing to form a government is dead on. Ontario will never vote for a Western right-wing rump party, and that’s exactly what the Tories became when they joined forces with Reform, or the Alliance or whatever the hell they were calling themselves.
And if Harper can’t win running in a second election against Paul Martin’s Liberal Bozo Brigade, that will spell the end of Harper’s leadership. The long knives will be out. And a minority won’t do: Harper has to win a majority or he’s badly burnt toast. A Tory minority will not last long as Harper has no other party willing to team up with him. The Bloc might, and Harper might be dumb enough and power-hungry enough to accept a Tory-Bloc alliance, but that will backfire as much as Mulroney’s courting of Québec sovereignists did in the 1980s. Remember how well that turned out? No, if Harper’s Tories don’t get a majority, he’ll become this year’s Stockwell Day, an embarrassing reminder of how this country’s right-wing consistently shoots itself in the foot.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

December 1, 2005: Harper and the GST
Conservative leader Stephen Harper has announced the first big promise of the campaign, an immediate rollback of the GST to 6%, followed by a further 1% decrease sometime within the next 5 years.
At least Harper hasn’t said what many from the right will tell you, that tax cuts such as these will pay for themselves. (BC Premier and noted convicted drunk driver Gordon Campbell said that very thing when, as his first action upon being sworn-in, was to enact a massive tax cut for high-income earners. This was followed by the largest deficit in provincial history and massive service cutbacks. But I digress. And if tax cuts really pay for themselves, Mr. Campbell, why not cut all taxes? It’s a win-win! I don’t pay any tax and the province somehow magically raises revenue to pay for services! But I digress again.) But making your first big pledge a cut in the hated GST seems like nothing more than a popularity grab.
And that couldback firee. Let’s remember which party brought in the GST in the first place. Why, golly, it was those darn Conservatives!
Not that the Liberals are all solid ground here suddenly defending the GST. After all, they were elected in 1993 by saying they were going to repeal the GST outright. Last time I checked, I was still paying it.

December 14, 2005: The Phony Election
I’d love to comment more about the election campaign so far, but there really isn’t much to say. All the major parties are trying to bribe us again with our own money.
Yes, Harper is scoring some points with his daily policy announcements, and that has the Liberals on the defensive. But he loses points for those awful TV ads.
The NDP isn’t saying much, but they have the best ads.
The Bloc has been running their usual quiet and competent campaign, but they clearly need some help with their goaltender rankings. Have they even feard of Curtis Joseph — hello?
The Liberals are losing the initiative to the constant Tory policy announcements, going into a reactive instead a proactive mode. But I suspect none of this really matters. The Liberals are smart enough to know when the campaigning really begins.
We’re in a period I’m dubbing "the phony campaign." The parties, and the voters, are in cruise mode, not getting into the real grim and gritty electioneering until after New Years. The real campaign will start on January 2. Three weeks of hardcore vote buying. Be prepared for the mud to fly.

December 16, 2005: War of the Words
Paul Martin is scoring points in the time-honored tradition of bashing US Presidents during an election campaign.
Even Stephen Harper had to admit that the US Ambassador’s comments on our election were ill-advised.
But are Martin’s tough words mere electioneering? Remember that he couldn’t wait to have his picture taken with Bush. And Harper would have had us fighting in Iraq if he had been PM.
It’s all games and posturing.
Speaking of which, how ironic it is that the US seems to have no aversion to telling other countries how to behave, up to and including invasion to make their point, yet get very agitated should anyone dare to criticize them.

December 17, 2005: Debate #1
Caught a bit of last night’s debate.
Gilles Duceppe, as usual, was the most polished and made the most sense.
And if he didn’t have this totally bizarre fixation for breaking up a perfectly good country, he’d probably make a great Prime Minister.

December 19, 2005: A Modest Tax Proposal
There’s been a lot of talk in this campaign about cutting the GST and/or cutting Income Tax. Which is fairer? Which helps out low and middle income Canadians the most?
Let me offer my own modest tax proposal — let’s scrap income tax and raise the GST.
Now before anyone calls the looney tuner on me, consider these numbers:
Canadian Government Fiscal 2004 Revenue
GST $28,200,000,000
Income Tax $84,800,000,000
Corporate Tax $27,400,000,000
Note that the GST revenue is almost exactly one third the amount of income tax revenue. So scrapping income tax and raising the GST from 7% to 28% would be revenue neutral.
Yes, 28% is a whopping tax to spend on purchases, but on the other hand there would no income tax deductions off my paycheque. For me personally, that’s a savings of around $350 a month. Suddenly, my idea doesn’t seem so wacky now, does it?
The GST is strictly a voluntary tax. It automatically taxes an individual based on the taxpayer’s ability to pay. For instance:
- a rich person might spend $4000 on a wide-screen HD TV. That’s $1120 in tax.
- a middle-class person might spend $1500 on an LCD TV. $420 in tax.
- a lower-income person might spend $500 on the last of the tube TVs. $140 in tax.
Clearly, there are some problems with my idea. Low-income Canadians who pay little or no income tax are not going to benefit from this scheme, so some sort of equalizing payment would have to be developed.
And rich people, some of whom will do anything to avoid paying taxes, will undoubtedly try to import goods from other countries to avoid the new GST.
But in fact, higher income earners should love the new GST. The higher the income bracket, the bigger the income tax savings.
And imagine the other savings. Imagine a vastly downsized CCRA, not spending money to track, compile and check tax returns.
No more income tax audits, and no more income tax forms. No more loopholes for smart accountants to exploit.
I think there’s something here. Paul, Stephen, Jack... any comments?

January 09, 2006: Playing Your Cards Right (or Left)
Somehow I’ve gotten myself on the NDP’s emailing list. While normally I instantly delete any political email I get, I opened this latest one and lo and behold found this little gem below just in time for tonight’s debate.

(I should note for the record that no political party has tried to contact me personally, apart from a pre-recorded phone call from Dr. Keith Martin, my Liberal MP. And with the NSA probably listening in, I hung up in a hurry.)

January 12, 2006: Candidate Dump
The Tories became the first party to dump a candidate after it was revealed that a BC candidate was facing smuggling charges after allegedly smuggling a car and 112 bottles of booze across the border in 2004. Derek Zeisman will have to sit as independent should he be elected. This could be a sign of things to come as Harper and the Tories edge towards a majority in the polls. The last Tory government under Brian Mulroney was rife with corruption and resignations.
On the other hand, this is the first real glitch in the well-run Tory campaign. The Liberals are panicking; anytime a Prime Minister announces a major campaign plank like eliminating the constitutional Notwithstanding clause (and does it so suddenly that it doesn’t even make it into the party’s election platform), you know that he thinks he’s spending his last days at 24 Sussex. Clearly, Martin is trying to insinuate that Harper has a secret agenda against same-sex marriage, abortion, gay rights and other progressive issues. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Harper did, but Harper, from his perspective, has had the good sense to keep his mouth shut and the good luck that his candidates have done the same thing.
And in a bit of surprise, Mario Dumont (head of the provincial Action démocratique du Québec party) advised voters not to vote for the federal Bloc Québécois). Dumont will not recommend a federal party to vote for, but did say he will vote Conservative. The real surprise will be when Harper gives Dumont a cabinet post. Golly, yes, what a surprise that will be.
I’m sure Jack Layton said or did something this week, too. But no one’s listening.

January 17, 2006: Highly Illogical
Not that I have any burning desire to continue to poke fun at Stephen Harper, but what the heck.
A story points out that apparently Harper is a huge Trekkie.
"Like, huge," says a source. "And it has to be the classic series, from the 1960s - none of that Next Generation, Deep Space Nine crap." Okay, I’ll give Harper a point for being a fan of "real" Trek.
How true this really is I don’t know, but it readily sets up the tried and true "let’s compare the candidates to Star Trek characters" joke.
Paul Martin is Scotty. Clearly, he’s always whining about needing more power, but he’s also trying his damnedest to keep his wee bairns flying. Unfortunately for him, it seems that the good ship Liberalprise is on it’s last legs, no thanks to the evil Klingon, Commander K’Gomery.
Jack Layton is McCoy. He has a cure for everything that ails you, and most of them are just good old fashioned horse sense. He’s always muttering that the rest of the crew don’t follow his advice. He is always speaking the truth from the heart, and as always, no one listens.
Gilles Duceppe is Captain Kirk. Which makes sense in a way as Duceppe wants to fly his ship his way, damn Starfleet and its blasted regulations. He’s not going to listen to some blasted bureaucrats from across the galaxy tell him what to do. He’s going to take his ship and fly on a seperate course.
Finally, Harper is unemotional, his smile is forced, and he speaks in a monotone. His logic often fails him at critical plot points. Obviously, he is Spock. He even has the same haircut.

Election Watch ’06: John’s Guide To Electoral Reform
After watching all the Tweedledums and Tweedledumbers lo these last few weeks, I’ve concluded that Canada clearly needs some electoral reforms. To wit, I humbly offer these suggestions:
1. Whoever Wants to Be Prime Minister Should Be Automatically Barred From Seeking the Office
Clearly, the power associated with the office of a national leader attracts the wrong kind of people. One has to only look at our southerly neighbor to see the ultimate example.
Anyone who actually desires the office of Prime Minister is clearly not the sort of person we want running the country. As the famous philosopher Herman once noted: "The people capable of running the country are too smart to get into politics."
(And this goes along with the mood of most voters in the country. Very few actually want any of the current party leaders to be Prime Minister; either they feel they are left with little choice and must choose the lesser of four evils, or they are not voting for one party as they are voting against another one. I think we have to go back to the heady days of Trudeaumania to find the last time the Canadian populace was genuinely moved to vote for someone.)
2. MPs Should Be Chosen at Random from the General Population
To carry things one step further, anyone wants to be an MP should be barred from office. But then how would we choose our MPs? Via lottery. One citizen would be chosen at random from each riding.
This has the immediate benefit of a House of Commons that more closely represents and reflects the views of the national population.
For example: if 85% of Canadians are against the war in Iraq, it should work out that roughly 85% of our randomly-chosen MPs would be against the war.
If 52% of our population is female, then 52% of our MPs would be female.
If 4% of Canadians are lawyers, then the new House would only have 4% lawyers (as opposed to the 80% it seems we have now).
Parliament would resemble more of a municipal council or Territorial legislature, where various groups may form alliances for specific issues and votes, and a different set of alliances for a different set of issues. All votes would be free votes; there would no parties so no reason to vote along party lines.
Much like how the position of Speaker of the House is voted on by MPs, they would now also select MPs for Cabinet positions, including Prime Minister. (A single mother with two kids would be an excellent choice for finance minister. She would know how to balance the budget, as opposed to a millionaire business man who’s so removed from real life that he’s never in his life had to account for every cent. But I digress.)

January 23, 2006: Rep by Pop vs First Past the Post
If Canada had a 100% Rep by Pop electoral system, tonight’s election results would have looked something like this:
124 seats (actual results) vs 111 seats (rep by pop)
103 seats (actual results) vs 92 seats (rep by pop)
Bloc Québécois:
51 seats (actual results) vs 32 seats (rep by pop)
29 seats (actual results) vs 59 seats (rep by pop)
0 seats (actual results) vs 14 seats (rep by pop)

January 24, 2006: Swing to the Right
Stephen Harper should enjoy his moment in the sun. For a guy who’s the next Prime Minister, his government is not in a good spot.
His minority is more tenuous than the previous Liberal government. Consider that Harper’s Conservatives won fewer seats than Martin’s Liberals won in the previous election. Clearly, Harper was hoping for a majority and major breakthroughs in Ontario and Quebec. Heck, he did worse than even I thought he would. While there was some progress for them in Quebec, the Liberals held a lot of their ground in Ontario, winning the popular vote there and denying Harper his majority.
In fact the Conservatives won no seats in the country’s three biggest urban centers, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. There’s a decidedly urban/rural split to the Conservative vote. Could this be the start of a deep American-style polarization?
The Liberals showed surprising strength considering they ran a bad campaign and were plagued by scandals. While they suffered in Quebec, they fared better than expected. And thanks to Martin’s resignation, the Liberals will have a new leader facing Harper, possibly making Harper look like yesterday’s news.
The Bloc suffered the most. Expecting to do well, they lost seats and votes. Worse for them, the Tories established themselves as a federalist alternative in Quebec, and with the defeat of the Liberals, the Bloc’s biggest campaign issues, the Liberal party scandals in Quebec, are now off the table.
Even the NDP had some bad news to go with their good showing. Despite gaining a number of seats, they fell two seats short of holding the balance of power.
Where can Harper hope to gain support in the inevitable 2007 election? He won the West; the only place he can gain support is in Ontario and Quebec, and when he starts sucking up to Central Canada, he’ll lose the West. It’s a time-honoured Tory tradition. As Hugh Segal noted on the CBC last night, "When the Liberals are in power, the West votes Conservative. When the Conservatives are in power, the West forms a new party." Both the Reform and the Bloc Québécois were born out of the self-destruction of the last Conservative government. (And let’s also remember that the last Conservative government, possibly the most corrupt government in Canadian history, ran, like Harper, on being fiscally responsible and promptly had a decade’s worth of the largest deficits in this country has ever seen. But I digress.)
Stephen Harper could be the 21st century version of Joe Clark, a brief Tory minority while the Liberals re-invent themselves. In order to win central Canada, he will have to stick to Ontario-friendly progressive issues (whatever few the Tories have) and abandon (or postpone) the more contentious right wing nut case items of his agenda. Even if Harper wins a majority next time, his days are numbered. He will continue to pander to central Canada as he must to maintain power, the West will feel alienated and the Conservative coalition will implode like it always does, setting the stage for another generation of Liberal rule. For good or ill, it is the natural order of things.
And Harper isn’t helping himself by saying things like he "will start rebuilding this country." Memo to the PM: the country isn’t broken.
If Harper thinks he has a mandate for massive social change, he is woefully mistaken. He barely has a mandate to change the stationary.
Obviously, Canadians were weary of giving Harper a full mandate. They remember that if Harper had been PM three years ago, we’d be trapped in a dumb and awful war.
Canadians wanted to spank the Liberals. And they did. They also did not want to give Harper and his neo-con cronies free reign to run the country. And they didn’t.
There’s not a lot of good news to go around after last night’s election. Perhaps the worst news of all is that Stockwell Day might actually be prime material for a cabinet post.

February 06, 2006: Denouement: Meet The New Boss, Same as The Old Boss
With his first act as Prime Minister, Stephen Harper demonstrated that he can play the political game as well as anyone, and his high-minded campaign of integrity, honest government and accountably were as worthless as Chretien’s promise to remove the GST.
In other words, he said anything to be elected, and now that’s he won, the real Harper agenda will now be revealed.
First, MP David Emerson, re-elected a scant two weeks ago as a Liberal, crossed the floor to join the Conservative cabinet as the Minister of International Trade, with responsibilities for the Vancouver Olympics. Emerson, who had vowed on election night to become the new prime minister’s "worst nightmare", does not understand what the fuss is about. His Conservative opponent finished a distant third in his riding; clearly his constituents what wanted a Liberal representing them.
And after all the Tory’s boo-hooing when Belinda Stronach crossed the floor, and the cries of anger and outrage when the Liberals were apparently caught trolling for other Tory MPs in the last house, one would have thought Harper would heeded the calls from his party and enacted legislation requiring members that cross the floor to win their seats back in a by-election, rather than trolling for Liberals who value bigger pay cheques over serving their constituents. And he want after a Liberal! You remember them, those corrupt and decadent crooks that Harper just spent the last eight weeks telling us we couldn’t trust.
Harper also appointed Michael Fortier to the position of Minister of Public Works and government Services. Fortier was the Conservative campaign co-chair in 2004 and 2006, and co-chair of Harper’s leadership campaign in 2006. He lost a bid for the Conservative leadership in the 1990s, and lost a bid to win a seat in the 2000 federal election. While the PM has the right to name anyone he wants to cabinet, traditionally it has been a sitting MP, and if the person chosen is not an MP (as in Fortier’s case), the new cabinet member usually runs in a by-election at the earliest opportunity. This will not happen this time; Fortier is being appointed to the Senate, where he will sit until the next election, when he will run.
In other words, Harper’s first political appointee is a Conservative party hack who will sit in the Senate and Cabinet. Patronage lives! Worse, Fortier won’t have to take questions in The House because he’s not a member — so much for accountability!
And finally, Stockwell Day was given the Public Safety portfolio. While giving Day any form of responsibility is a disaster waiting to happen, surely Day would have preferred some sort of Recreation portfolio. He’s clearly a man who loves water sports.

Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century

by Mark Leonard

review by E.B.Klassen
Mark Leonard has written a decent little primer on the foundation and structure of the European Union, from the Amerikan efforts post—WW2 up to the present day. Next to the occasional Dick and Mary Francis mystery, this is certainly the lightest book I’ve read this year. Leonard writes as a man in love with an idea—in this case the idea of a better way of living with one’s neighbours than the doctrine of perpetual warfare.
Among the European facts that confounds popular belief is the acquis communitaire, the ‘acquired fortune’ or ‘accepted fact’ that regulates every facet of domestic policy in the EU—from human rights to consumer protection. This is 80,000 pages of regulation, regulations that are the bane of global capitalism. Laissez-faire capitalism is predicated on the destruction of the nation-state and the removal of barriers and restrictions on the movement and use of capital. Those who own the world’s economies have no interest in restrictions being placed on them. But it is these regulations and restrictions that actually allow international capital to flourish. When the Soviet Union was assaulted by the free-market neo-liberals after the collapse of the Stalinist state, everything should have been coming up roses for the Russian economy. After all, they did everything they were supposed to; privatized all state-owned assets, removed restrictions on wealth accumulation, let loose the dogs of market warfare. And yet the economy and the country fell into anarchy and gangsterism—not, as at least one person has suggested, because having been warned that capitalists are gangsters, Russians became gangsters when they became capitalists, but rather because there was no longer any legal structure under which a market economy could flourish. When a contract is worth less than the paper it is printed on, and can be negated by nothing more than a match, a market economy is reduced to its essence—a place where the strong-armed succeed and the rest are fleeced. Healthy markets require a strong legal system and extensive regulation in order to flourish, as it levels the playing field and reins in the psychopathic.
Europe has, according to Leonard’s book, recognized that a strong economy demands a strong state, and that the state needs to be involved in the market both as a regulator and as a player. But, Leonard argues, Europe took the unusual step of leading a race upwards. The consultations that lead to the creation of the acquis communitaire set high standards for members of the EU—but at the same time established that there would be direct and measurable economic advantages for anyone who chose to play in the same stadium; access to production capacity and markets inside a tariff-free zone.
But the central intellectual force behind the creation of the EU, Jean Monnet, started by constructing the stadium: first by starting negotiations to unite French and German steel and coal producers. He felt that by forging links between major producers, Europe could sidestep the potential for a return to armed conflict. After all, all wars are resource wars, but if the major producers were already on the same team, wars would become an "own goal", a goal that harms oneself instead of the other.
Once the stadium was built, it turned out that a lot of other teams wanted in to play. But in order to gain access to the stadium, the European Common Market, teams had to agree to play by the same set of rules; the acquis communitaire. And because the rules were quite stringent—neo-liberal markets inside the EU, coupled with progressive social policies—countries looking to get in have to bring themselves up to the minimum standards (as opposed to developed countries destroying their social and business environments to compete with more backward, anti-progressive countries).
Turkey is probably on of the biggest success stories of the European Union. At first, EU membership seemed completely out of the question. To quote Leonard:
"Turkey first applied to join the European Union in 1963, and for four decades it has had the prospect of membership dangled in front of it but then removed because of the failings of the Turkish government. Turkish human rights abuses, restrictions on press freedom, the persecution of minorities, and the backwardness of the Turkish economy have all provided European governments with reasons to withdraw the nectar of membership. However, in Turkey today the prospect of joining the European club has become a unifying national dream—uniting secularists and Islamists with Anatolians, Kurds, and Armenians—behind a project that promises all a better future.
"Over the last few years, the Turkish Parliament has passed six packages of constitutional amendments designed to bring Turkey in line with European standards. When the Prime Minister, Recep Tayip Erdogan, talks to his colleagues in Brussels, he boasts of abolishing the death penalty, the army-dominated security courts, and curbs on free speech. He can talk of how he has brought military budgets under civilian control for the first time ever, and of his ‘zero tolerance for torture’ in Turkish prisons. He has secured the release of Kurdish activists from prison, and allowed Turkish State Television, TRT, to begin broadcasting programmes in Kurdish and other minority languages such as Bosnian and Arabic. He has abandoned thirty years of intransigence on the Cyprus question, and erased centuries of mutual suspicion between Greece and Turkey with skilful diplomacy—so much so that Turkey’s fiercest rival in the past has been transformed into one of the leading supporters of Turkish membership in the EU. This revolution has come about for one reason alone: the Turkish desire to join the European Union." (page 50)
This soft-power approach does have its limits; Leonard suggests that the EU faced its greatest test in Srebrenica, where the Bosnian Serbs re-introduced genocide to Europe as they rounded up around seven thousand Muslims and butchered them. Since then, Europe has begun building a European army, in order to be able to add the threat of force to the continuum of responses they employ to achieve their goals. But the lessons of centuries of conflict are not lost on Europe; the Rapid Reaction force is intended to stay small, only able to respond to situations, not to conquer nations. The final word should go to Leonard:
"If ever there was a cause to listen to Monnet’s injunction to ‘enlarge the context by changing the basic facts’ it is in Europe’s new neighbourhood....For example, in Iran, American strategies of isolation and coercion are actually encouraging the suppression of democracy and the development of nuclear weapons. The lesson the Iranians drew from the Iraq war is that the only way to be safe from American invasion is to have a nuclear deterrent—and the challenge is to develop it quickly while American troops are still bogged down in Iraq. Equally, as Iran has already become a ‘pariah state’, it has nothing to lose by suppressing democracy. This is why a European policy, which starts with a recognition of Iran’s motivations and tries to change the calculus of risk for the government, could be more effective. By taking their security concerns seriously, and offering major economic benefits, it is trying to regain leverage over the Iranian regime that the American strategy of isolation has lost. But without American involvement the EU cannot succeed as it cannot offer the Iranians the security guarantees they need." (pp. 108-109)

The Who: Tommy and Quadrophenia Live

review by John W. Herbert

This new 3-DVD set consists of two shows by The Who.
Disc One is a performance of Tommy from a charity show in LA, one of two complete Tommy performances from the 1989 tour. The Who were in what I call their "Las Vegas" phase: a 15-piece band, including a horn section. Special guests for this show included Patti LaBelle, Phil Collins, Steve Winwood, Billy Idol and Elton John. This certainly isn’t the "classic" Who of yore. Townshend plays acoustic guitar throughout and the horns certainly add a new twist to the music. But there’s no question whatever their configuration that this is a group of excellent musicians clearly enjoying themselves. The musical highlight is John Enwhistle’s bass solo during Sparks.
Disc Two is a performance of Quadrophenia from a 1996 tour. Again another large band, this time augmented by a visual presentation and guests P.J. Proby as The Godfather and Billy Idol as Ace the Face. Again Townshend sticks mostly to the acoustic guitar and the band is in fine form. This time the musical highlight is John Entwistle’s bass solo on 5:15. (Okay, yes, you caught me. I’m a bass player.)
The third disc consists of the LA show’s second set and encore, an extended encore from the Quadrophenia show, and three songs from Giants Stadium from 1989. No big musical surprises here, except the Quadrophenia encore opens with an acoustic version of Won’t Get Fooled Again, and features a slightly reworked version of Who Are You.
Both the Tommy and Quadrophenia shows have a "visual commentary" track by Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, both of which are excellent. Controlled by the "angle" button, you can turn the commentary on and Pete or Roger appear on the screen, commenting on the concert, the music, the story, or whatever strikes their fancy. A must-watch for Who fans.
The viewer is alerted to the start of these segments by a pinball flashing superimposed on the screen in the case of Tommy, or a mod target symbol in the case of Quadrophenia. The downside is that the commentary segments start and stop all the time during the performances, and the viewer is constantly distracted by large flashing round objects in the middle of the screen distracting from the concert. Why didn’t the DVD producers put a less distracting and smaller symbol in the corner of the screen that doesn’t interfere with the enjoyment of the concert to signal the beginning of a commentary segment? Beats me, I guess that’s why they make the big bucks. Note to Rhino Records: Never do that again.

Titanic (1996) Special Edition DVD

review by John W. Herbert

Believe it or not, boys and girls, but there was a time when James Cameron’s film Titanic looked to be a disaster in the making. Horribly over budget at north of $200,000,000, and its release delayed six months, Titanic was looking to be a celluloid disaster destined to sink on its maiden weekend.
But the film opened to four-star reviews and boffo box office. The something amazing happened.
All major films’ box office drops off the second weekend. But Titanic was different. Its second weekend was bigger than its first.
That never happens.
And its third and fourth weekend grosses were still larger than the first. Titanic was on its way to being the highest grossing film of all time with a total worldwide gross of over $1.8 billion dollars. No other film even comes close. (Second place is The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King at $1.1 billion, the only other films in the billion dollar club, although the first Harry Potter film is just a few million short of joining the club. But I digress.) It received a record 14 Oscar nominations and won a record 11.
I saw it opening night. And I was in the front row bawling like everyone else.
Titanic is the work of a master film-maker at the top of his game.
The new special edition DVD contains a gorgeous new transfer spread over two discs, plus three commentaries: one from Cameron, one from various cast and crew, and one from a pair of Titanic historians. All three are worth your attention and are informative. In addition, there are 50 or so mini-docs on the two discs available by either a seamless branching option while watching the movie, or by a "play-all" feature. There’s also the original ending (available with a Cameron commentary) that, although fine by itself, is clearly inferior to the ending as it was finally cut. A third disc contains nearly an hour of deleted and extended scenes, all with optional Cameron commentary. There are other featurettes on this disc, including a gag reel of sorts, a look at Cameron’s real dive on Titanic, and a time-lapse feature on building the set. In all, this is a treasure trove of material, which almost makes up for the lack of a definitive "making-of" documentary as was promised when the set was originally announced a s a four-disc set.
Why does the the ill-fated story of Titanic still touch us? At its heart, it is the story of human frailty and hubris. The lessons learned from Titanic were lost by the time of Challenger, and those lessons learned were forgotten again with Columbia. It is a story of class rule by human ego and unquestioned ideology and assumptions, as if even daring to question these assumptions is evil and unpatriotic.
And clearly, these are lessons that need to be learned again.