Monday, October 31, 2005

I'm going over next week's ballot to see if there's any issues I ought to be thinking about.

There's some paper on Judge Nigro, enough so I'm thinking of voting "no". The other judge, Newman, seems inoffensive if dull. That's the whole and total of state items on the ballot. Eh, off years.

Countywide, it's the big district attorney face-off, as these things tend to be lifetime offices unless the DA gets caught with a sheep, or, you know, disappears suspiciously off the face of the earth. Which, I suppose, would still make it a lifetime office in the latter case... Arnold hasn't done anything since the primaries to make me think anything more of her than I did at the time. The one debate note I looked into had her complaining that a police union endorsement of her opponent, Madeira, wasn't actually an endorsement by the police. Not impressive. Which is sort of a shame, because Madeira hasn't done anything to get me enthused about backing him, either - I'm not particularly fond of a prosecutor who seems to specialize primarily in drug cases. Madeira probably gets it in a tight race to the bottom, unless he's found with a sheep before next week.

Geez, there's a race between a Lose and a Luse for jury commissioner. That's ripe for typo-driven upset. Ann Lose, the Republican, is the incumbent, and I remember her being a perfectly amiable and inoffensive presence at my last two jury call-ups. I'm going to try to remember the right spelling, and vote for the incumbent.

Incidentally, there's a Patrica Lose running for tax collector in Bellefonte on a write-in campaign - I saw two of her signs while walking on Curtin Hill yesterday. I expect they're some sort of relatives. I've seen too much of how much of a pain-in-the-ass write-in ballots are for the ladies who run the election to be enthused about that campaign. On the other hand, there doesn't seem to *be* a tax collector on the ballot - what happened to Thal? To make it even more confusing, Patricia Lose is also on the Bellefonte West ballot for Judge of Elections. Admittedly, Judge of Elections is definitely not a full-time position, and I think Tax Collector might be; it's definitely more of a year-round sort of thing.

As for the rest of the local choices, only Bellefonte West gets any choices to speak of - we actually have more council candidates than council seats, and we have a contest for inspector of elections - lucky us. I think I'm going to vote for Leah Ranio - I slightly know both candidates, and she seems the better choice.

As for the council candidates, we have the Republican incumbents DeCusati and Heidt versus a Democratic challenger, Joanne Tosti-Vasey. Tosti-Vasey doesn't look familiar, and she compares poorly to the relative newcomer, DeCusati, who replaced an incumbent who died in office. Looks like the Repubs for council.

We have, of course, no choices for school district - that was all resolved during the primaries.

Meh. Boring year.

Friday, October 28, 2005

You know it's bad for AD Vision when they have one of their cut-rate store-on-fire sales and I can't justify buying enough to cover the shipping charge. There's a lot of relatively new stuff in there, too. It can't be good for their long-term business when people like me get the idea that it's never worth-while to buy the first version of an ADV title, because we'll inevitably see a brick of that thing we paid in excess of a hundred dollars for in the single-disc version, selling at a cut-rate bargain-bin price of ten dollars - Daiguard, BTW, which is definitely worth the shipping charge if you haven't seen it yet.

At least they're finally getting around to the second volume of Princess Tutu. Watch me buy it at almost retail, like a schmuck.

Caught Solty Rei last evening, before we had to toddle off for the weekly home-game. Dave and I were arguing over whether it was a direct rip of Blade Runner, or a strictly derivative rip of Bubblegum Crisis. I was doing pretty well on the Blade Runner front, until two chixor in partial Knight Sabre battlesuit armor showed up, chasing a lolicyborg. The show was fun for about five minutes' worth of "spot the homage/ripoff", but after that, I had to pay attention to the actual plot, which was tedious, and the writing, which was nearly indescribably inept. Solty Rei's script felt like it was written by a replicant - someone who knew what scripts were, and what they were supposed to accomplish, but was comprehensively incapable of making any actual human connection with the emotional needs of the story. The writing staff of Solty Rei failed the scriptwriting equivalent of a Voight-Kampff empathy test.

I finished reading three of Eric Wittenberg's books on Civil War eastern Union Cavalry - Little Phil, the Union Cavalry Comes of Age, and Protecting the Flanks. I bought the latter two sight-unseen, and was somewhat disappointed in the physical presentation and brevity of Protecting the Flanks, which turned out to be a short tactical study married to a battlefield guide.

Protecting the Flanks also had one of the least reader-friendly fonts I have ever encountered in a professional publication - the dashes were light, thin marks at a forty-five degree angle to the line of text, and visually indistinguishable from paper flaws in an indifferent light. The text was also laid out double-spaced, as if it were a high school term paper. I'm inclined mostly to blame the publisher rather than the author, but lord, what a mess. I had never read much about the cavalry actions east of the main armies at Gettysburg, though, so what little there was of Protecting the Flanks was worth the slight cost, I suppose.

Little Phil is the latest in a relatively popular micro-genre, the enthusiastic revilement of Phillip "Little Phil" Sheridan. To be frank, so many people have had so little good to say about Sheridan over the years, that the idea that he's some sort of paragon of military virtue worth tearing down to reveal the rotten truth behind the lie, is kind of foreign to me, as if the sentiment had been translated poorly from a not-particularly-translation-friendly dialect like Pashtun or Osaka-ben. Ah, I suppose this is what comes of fads of revision and counter-revision, each new song-and-dance seeming old to those that don't generally read that which has been out of the book-stores for a generation or more. After all, I've never read Battle Cry of Freedom, or Lincoln Finds a General or most of that general run of book.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Huh. The results of the Con's corporate elections were apparently posted on the website, and it ended up being a news item on Anime News Network. That's kind of freaky - it's got to be the first time any non-staffer other than our lawyer has ever really paid attention to how the Con (or strictly speaking, the corporation which runs the Con) is governed. An amazing number of people (insidery-type people from other cons, actually) are surprised to discover that the same dusty slate of silverbacks haven't been running the con for Methuselah years.
Looks like the local paper, the Centre Daily Times, has gone in pretty heavily for blogs. I'm going to give this one, Happy Valley, a trial to see if it's worth keeping up with. If nothing else, it at least promises to give an online CDT where the links don't go dead seven days after publication. I think.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Passing by Tora Bora and cruising leisurely over the Khyber Pass, there seemed to be something surreal about leaving a combat zone to head to a disaster area. It seemed the we were, in effect calling time out from the war to go to an earthquake.

"I used to watch action movies when I was a kid, I loved them," laughed Xena, a conservative Muslim who chose her pseudonym from the film character, Xena the Warrior Princess. "My favorite actor is [Jean-Claude] Van Damme."

Xena, the heavily armed conservative Muslim. It's a story about a Lebanon-based security company which uses "modest-looking" women literally riding shotgun on their clients' trucks in Iraq. Xena is the least-serious of the bunch - the rest sound really pissed-off and ready to kill things, with an emphasis on the kidnappers and slaughterers who prey on the shipping industry in Iraq.

Via Instapundit.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Huge goddamn snowflakes the size of racquetballs are falling right now here in the middle Valley. We weren't supposed to get anything below 1500 feet, but this stuff is sticking like heck, and we're about 1280 here at the office. Pretty as hell, against the bright orange fall leaves in the patch of woods outside my office window. It's gonna accumulate at this rate - probably not enough to muck up the roads, but certainly enough to cover the lawns and fields. The meteorologists are positively giddy. The one snow-doubter is being taunted with his breakfast of crow.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The invite for next year's National History Day thing just came. The theme for 2006? "Taking a Stand in History: People, Ideas, Events". You think the resulting papers, projects, and documentaries will be a tad... political?

The kids already get a pretty hefty shove down that slippery goddamn slope from their NEA-addled lefty-zomboid teachers in a normal year, with a neutral theme. Why not just go ahead with something like "From Each According to Their Abilities: Parties, Vanguards and the Dialectic" while you're at it?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Calm morning in an otherwise busy week here at work.

We've been watching the new shows for the fall anime season. They're actually pretty good for a change - for the most part, 2005 had been a pretty lame year for new anime. Admittedly, fall is when the studios and networks roll out their decent shows. Winter is an afterthought, and summer is for galfeltch and harems. It's usually spring and fall, and this year's spring was utterly forgettable for the most part.

New fall shows...

I didn't really like the Blood movie when it came out way back when. It wasn't really much more than a proof-of-concept for computer-assisted animation composition & editing, and the actual story and such just didn't do anything for me. They finally got around to doing a TV version called Blood +, which skips quickly from the Vietnam War-era setting of the movie into the usual contemporary timeframe which most TV anime are set in. But hey! at least the show is set in Okinawa instead of the usual indeterminate-Kanto blandness. Our protagonist is a relatively well-adjusted amnesiac version of the movie's flattened-affect schoolgirl killing-machine, which is an improvement right there. The idea of a flattened-affect female protagonist works a lot better in theory than it did in the movie. The new, TV version of Saya gives us some emotional material to work with, when she starts regressing into said killing-machine mode. The TV premiere also has a lot more style and flair going for it than did the movie, which was a pretty straightforward bit of realism, if your version of realism features seven-foot-tall maneating bat-creatures and katana-swinging, emotionless schoolgirls. I'm definitely looking forward to more episodes of this. Not without some trepidation, though - last year Tsukuyomi MOON PHASE started out as a bold, stylish and sharp vampire show, and look where *that* mess ended up.

Shakugan no Shana, on the other hand, looks to be this season's Melody of Oblivion. On first glance it appeared to be a fighting-psychic-teenagers kind of kludge like the execrable Tokyo Underground, but then our bland good-natured protagonist got his torso split down the middle at the shoulder by what I expected would be his love-interest, and she told him the reason that he wasn't dead was that his soul had been eaten, and that he was a walking puppet of the gods, or some such thing. Very freaksome, and off-putting. It's a little like the third season of Sailor Moon if all the people whose hearts were taken by the monsters-of-the-week lost them permanently, and went stumbling off through their lives Stepford-Wife-style with the soul equivalent of clockwork substituting for what they really used to be. Our narrator and protagonist isn't really a person, he's a self-aware thing, by the logic of the show. The actual aware actors - monsters and anti-heroine alike - treat him with the dismissive and annoyed contempt one might give a parrot in a cage at a business meeting. It'll probably sucking pretty soon - lord knows, Melody of Oblivion did - but it might be worth paying some attention until then.

Paradise Kiss was a hell of a manga, sharp and pretty and funny as all heck on the march. I didn't really see how they were going to make an anime out of it, and now that I've seen the result, I'm not sure why they bothered. Apparently somebody wanted to do something avant-garde hip and goofy-cool, and since the manga was all of those things... If you haven't read the manga - do it now! it's short at five volumes, and Tokyo Pop is re-printing it! - the protagonist starts out as a joyless grind of a high school senior who gets scouted by a bunch of art-school weirdos looking for a model for their fashion-studio output. Somebody pulled a major boner by getting Madhouse to run the production, though. Madhouse is one of these studios which produce highly polished, well-animated material with all the grit, soul, and poetry drained out of them. If you're lucky, they'll remove the trepaine and patch up the skull, leaving said production to shuffle, zombie-like, off into the usual obscurity of Madhouse releases. I seem to remember that Gantz was a mostly-Madhouse affair - so was the bland and charmless TV version of X. Madhouse's director's idea of "hip and quirky" apparently features the heavy usage of garish and intrusive photo-montage scene-wipes and a peculiar form of comic superdeformity which bears no resemblance to either Ai Yawaza's distinctive oddness, or the usual cliche run of off-the-shelf smallbodied wackiness. There's no here, here.

Aria is bland and forgettable. It's one of these cute-girls-doing-cute-harmless-things-in-a-pretty-setting shows. It's gotten a lot of good buzz, because a certain class of fanboy are collective suckers for this sort of nonevent bullshit. Bah, I say.

Mai Otome is not really a sequel of Mai Hime, which was a good show about one-half of the time. Rather, it's more of an old-fashioned re-use of character designs in a new story, in the way that old manga and anime creators like Tezuka, Leiji Matsumoto, and Go Nagai would recycle their characters and character-designs as if they were actors, dropping them into whatever story they wanted to tell. The new show is another powerful-schoolgirls story, except it's set in some sort of retro-futuristic Ruritania where the school is an elite training academy for "Otome" ["maidens"], who are basically massively powerful human weapons trained and socialized like samurai-slash-maidservants. It's very well animated, the characters and situations are lively, and it's quite yurirific. Much better start than Mai Hime which started slow and sloppy and only occasionally rose to the occasion afterwards.

Jigoku Shoujo, or Hell Girl, is this season's Hundred Ghost Stories, or what did they call that when it got imported? Oh, yeah, Requiem from the Darkness. Er, anyways - Jigoku Shoujo is a supernatural-people-giving-normal-people-what-they-deserve horror-type show. There were exactly zero sympathetic characters in the first episode, which really put me off. Looks like the world of this show is populated by victims and assholes. It's also got this nasty thing where when the victim-of-the-week gets what she wants, her soul gets claimed, and said victim goes humming happily into the sunset. The moral of the story being, apparently, that the happy are soulless. Er, no thank you. Next!

Ginban Kaleidoscope is some kind of shoujo sports anime in which the protagonist is an arrogant, nasty little piece of work, an ice-skater who habitually refers to herself as "the billion-dollar-girl". She gets her comeuppance when she flames out in some sort of competition in Montreal and knocks herself out on the ice. This somehow results in her being haunted by a Canadian boy-ghost, and she spends the rest of the episode carrying on like a crazy person. This doesn't get her committed to an insane asylum like it ought to, apparently because ice-skating prima donnas are functionally indistinguishable from your average proto-schizophrenic teenager undergoing her first psychotic break. Art isn't quite as bad as I heard, but it wasn't particularly good, and for a show about an ice-skater, there's precious little material on the ice, which you'd think would be the selling-point you'd want to push in a first episode.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

My landlord's secretary showed up on my porch last night with another woman about my age, saying that new lady was thinking about buying the building, and asking if they could look around. I said "yes" before thinking about it, and found myself making excuses for my bachelorish lack of basic housekeeping skills and general sloth. The place wasn't filthy, but it wasn't clean by any reasonable standard. Kind of mortifying, really.

The would-be owner was going on about how big the space was, noting that my living room was "bigger than [her] apartment". I found myself wondering how someone living in an efficiency (because lord knows, my living room isn't much bigger than 12'x14') could afford to buy a three-apartment building, no matter how depressed the Bellefonte real estate market might be. Then I realized that she probably wouldn't be renting out the building, but rather would be fixing it up as a residence. Then I started worrying about my monthly lease, which makes it painfully easy to set me out on my ear on the kerb with my stuff piled around me.

I hate moving. Ben thinks it'll be good for me to get moved out to a better place - he hates my apartment's layout - due to the leaking roof and the poor maintenance and all the rest of it. I still hate moving.

Monday, October 17, 2005

I finished reading the sequel to Dies the Fire, the Protector's War, last weekend as I rudely read during the Con's elections meeting in Harrisburg. [Jessica, it's a shame you don't come to these any more. There was discussion of Federal Reserve policy and the ramifications of the coming replacement of Greenspan in the context of non-profit financial decisions. I plagarized your opinions shamelessly. The elections themselves were something of a waste, as there was very little of controversy, and what controversy there were elicited long-winded opinions from what seemed like every member present. At great length.] The first book was very much a stand-alone affair - it ended quite solidly, and sufficed unto itself. The sequel, on the other hand, is quite explicitly a serial affair, and ends on an annoyingly vague rising note, with the actual fate of several characters unstated but quite definite. Stirling just didn't want to *tell* us before we went on the the next book in what is apparently going to be a trilogy. Bah.

Oh, and the new book establishes retroactively that the survival rate world-wide was less than 1%, not 10%. Seems rather exaggerated.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Fascinating hand-annotation of a translation of the Zawahiri-Zarqawi letter from Athena of Terrorism Unveiled. Very interesting - especially the line "more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media". The tone of the letter in general sounds like R.E. Lee corresponding with one of his less clever subordinates. Zawahiri is a scary-smart guy. I think I'm more worried about him than that poetic bastard, bin Laden.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I started going to the Tuesday night poker tournaments at Bar Bleu last night, after Dave talked me into taping the show I had been watching on Tuesday nights. This makes two nights a week spent playing cards in smoky bars. Hope the conservatives are right about secondary smoke not being a big cancer risk...

I made the final table at Bar Bleu, which seems like a bigger deal than it was at Crowbar's much smaller Sunday night tournaments. I wouldn't have thought that they'd be able to fit so many tables in a tiny little basement bar like Bar Bleu, but there it was, eight tables, 64 players, all in a room that couldn't have been bigger than 25' by 30'. I'd never been down there before - it's down a set of stairs from *inside* of a barbecue place called Buelah's, in the storefront where Mario & Luigi's used to be on Garner Street. It has a nice atmosphere, very oldfashioned-jazzy, especially compared with Crowbar's black paint-and-sticky-floor lowest-common-drunk-college-student ambience.

A lot of the same folks from Sunday nights were. I learned the names of a number of them - Jason, who got to the final table next to me, and got knocked out not long after I took a dive. Jackie, who was the last woman surviving in the tournament, and who I knocked out myself not two hands after someone mentioned that the waitresses were rooting for her. The guy who came in second, an intense, thin guy hiding behind a precarious, intimidating tower of white 5,000 chips was the one who ripped my head off at the final table, not five minutes after said final table formed. He got stuck in a blinds-exchange with the other big gun, a bald youngish guy with a goatee in a retro, coarse sports jacket. Finally, the bald guy finally clipped the white-tower guy for good and wrapped up the night.

The blinds schedule is fierce, quick and difficult, and at the moment I was knocked out, the big blind was one-fourth of my previously-respectable 40,000. It's really hard not to go all-in with mediocre hands when you're already that pot-committed by the big blind. I kept looking to get in at some point before being stuck on the big blind, but nothing showed *until* I was on the big. An ace-six off-suit wasn't enough when white-tower-of-intimidation guy made his pair of kings, but I can't complain. I got to the final table on a series of lucky wins made off of higher kickers. I just got antsy once the blinds hit 5000/10000, and jumped blind.

The organizer was talking about a third tournament series starting up later in the season at a pizza place/bar on North Atherton, which means that if you're obsessive enough, or bored enough, you could end up playing three nights a week. Since it's free and all, it's not as if it would be a serious commitment of anything other than personal time.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Walter Jon Williams' latest space opera novel came out last week - Conventions of War. It's pretty good, if a little less focused and a little less structured than the first two in the series. He gets distracted by a shipboard murder-mystery for a good chunk of the book, and it results in a somewhat undigested, lumpy sort of narrative, but no individual portion of the book is bad on its own merits. It was a good way to waste a few autumn days.

What really needs work, however, is the presentation by the publisher, EOS. The cover is the most bland of greenish-black-nondescript-ships-against-a-starscape&planet layout, and I actually had a co-worker pick up the book from my desk & mock the blurb-text. "Dread Empire's Fall" is a pretty cheesy series-title, too. If it wasn't for my deep respect for Williams as a writer, I would have never given these books a second glance.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Oookay. The newbies at PSSFS posted a list of "Great Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature" which is about two or three pages long and prominently features Terry Goodkind and Timothy Zahn. I suppose I ought to be happy it isn't Robert Jordan and James Hogan, oughtn't I? I honestly can't tell if it's supposed to be a joke or not...

Thursday, October 06, 2005

You know what's ironic? Reading an article about the joys of "guilty pleasure" movies like Cruel Intentions and the Devil's Advocate which concludes rapturously with an exclamation about how central the erotic sense of place is in these big-budget studio pictures, and then noticing that the author's from Oakland.

Somebody's taken their Gertrude Stein way too seriously.
S.M. Stirling is a very much hit-or-miss writer in my opinion. He can be pretty good in a pulpy sort of way, and he can also be one of the laziest hacks this side of Turtledove. Dies the Fire is definitely Stirling on one of his better days. It's basically the flip side of his Nantucket novels - the premise being that the same event that flung the island of Nantucket into the 13th century BC also effectively destroyed modern civilization by selectively re-writing the local laws of physics. The extant theory is that "Alien Space Bats decided to take away our toys" - electronics, electricity, explosives, gunpowder, even steam engines all are no longer functional under the new rules. Unsurprisingly, this wrecks humanity on an apocalyptic scale, causing the death by starvation and subsequent disease of at least 90% of humanity within six months of the change.

It sounds like a pretty grim story, and it is in places. But it's hard to get too nasty in a conventional narrative due to the weak anthropic principle - the protagonists have to survive if there's going to be much of a story. In the case of Dies the Fire, said surviving protagonists are various refugees, including a large number of Wiccans, SCAdians, and other hobbyists with the elements of the right sort of experience and training to survive in a world suddenly re-set almost to the 11th Century AD. Stirling is pretty well-known as a fairly conservative, libertarianish sort of writer within the community, and he's wildly unpopular among the left set in fandom for his opinions and his inclination to get into endless arguments in public fora like rec.arts.sf.written. It's rather surprising that he wrote a post-apocalyptic novel about Pacific Northwestern Wiccans and hippies ruling the world, (or at least Oregon) but there it is.

The subject-matter and the setting is very reminiscent of some of Stirling's early stuff, like Snowbrother and the other Fifth millennium books. In fact, I was groping for the comparison, when I realized that I was comparing two of Stirling's novels with each other... I wonder what ever happened to Shirley Meier, anyways?

I still think Stirling wildly overstates just how productive people, no matter how well-motivated, can be in short periods of time. It was a problem with the Nantucket novels, in which our collective heroes had constructed a world-spanning fully-realized civilization inside of ten years, and it's something of a problem with Dies the Fire, which presents trained cavalry, full-scale fortifications, and seige weapony with six months of the event. Civil War era cavalry was supposed to take two years to become well-trained, and that was unarmored, with relatively simple equipment like breechloading carbines. I can't imagine that horseback archers could be *quicker* to train up...

Still, an enjoyable read. I've got the sequel, the Protector's War, on order.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I got an email from the RNC asking me (and presumably every blogger with two readers and a rightward tilt) to help with the Harriet Miers mess the White House has gotten themselves into. Generally, when the social conservatives are pissed about a judicial pick, you'd think that the more moderate wings of the party would be happier. Frankly, Miers is one of those rare cases where she's got something to annoy everybody. NPR was positively giddy last evening - probably because it's such a inept selection that even they can hear the war-drums in the base. On the other hand, that requires the libs in public radio to understand and follow the dictum "never interrupt your opponent while he's making a mistake", and I don't know that we've ever seen that sort of wisdom from the sparks of NPR.

Miers is a crony of Bush's, the woman who took over Gonzales's job when he went off to be Attorney General. She was Bush's *personal lawyer* back in the Eighties. Never been on any sort of bench. From all accounts, a fanatical Bush family partisan. Sounds like a perfect fit for where she is right now - on the White House staff. A Supreme Court Justice? In what universe?

I campaigned for a war-time Republican president, not the Ghost of Lyndon Johnson.

You're on your own, Ken Mehlman!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Serenity was a bit of a disappointment. Admittedly, I was never one of those "brownshirt" types - if for no other reason, than I'm not into fascist self-identifications. Whedon *had* to have known the provenance of "[x]shirts", right? It's basic political literacy. But all that aside, I did like Firefly, enough to buy the DVD set and watch 'em a couple of times.

Firefly was a fun, small show - an extended family of rogues and no-better-than-they-ought-to-bes bumping around the edges of a harsh and largely uncaring universe. I liked that about the TV series - that there was a bigger world out there that gave nary a damn about our heroes. The world didn't revolve around them, and that was a good thing. They were, after all, crooks. Whedon was quite explicit about this thematic element of the show - that it was an existentialist universe, and that any meaning was made by the characters.

Serenity, on the other hand, is decidedly *not* an existentialist film. At least, I can't see that in it. There's a clash between the conservative rebel protagonists, and the idealistic, zealous authorities. Said authorities, which could be characterized in the TV series as a vast, numb, heedless beast, oppressively large and unloving but not particularly swift or clever, became in the movie a smallish conspiracy of savage, nanny-state conspirators and true believers. I could see where Whedon was going with the Darkness at Noon, 1984 line of attack, but it isn't really a theme that *works* in an action piece. For one thing, it's a much more Burkean/Russell Kirk/early neo-conservative sort of attack than what he was pushing with the TV series. It's very much the sort of thing that I associate with P.J. O'Rourke and his hostility towards government and idealism of any sort.

I really have some cognitive dissonance issues with a tireless-Kerry-campaigner like Whedon writing a film like this. I strongly suspect that I've misunderstood the line of argument, but I can't help but see what I see: idealists' best intentions destroy anything they touch, and they must be fought in the name of the imperfectability of man. The Mal of Serenity *is* WFB's conservative standing athwart history, shouting "Stop!"

The movie has other issues, such as the discard of much of the series' atmosphere and humor for the Logan's-Run-by-way-of-Frank-Gehry bits on Miranda and the big space battle bits and the Reaver butcheries. I think it wouldn't have felt so much out of place as a big two-hour, two-episode show-piece within a full Whedonesque season of context, although that would have presumed a great deal of re-writing, I suppose. But as a stand-alone, it was fairly bleak and lacking in what I found charming about the Firefly concept.

Both Fillon and Whedon have complained about the way the network made them lighten up Fillon's Mal, and have indicated that the original conception was more bleak and Serenity-like. If this was the idea, I think I'm with the suits. Mal is harsh and more than a little unlikable, once you remove those grace notes of black humor and buffoonery.
For those still doing the public poetry thing, here's a report of a Baghdad poetry meeting in what sounds like Uday's old stamping grounds, if I've got the location right.