Watching Loki S1E3: Lamentis

Spoiler Warning!

This is about 10 minutes shorter than the first two episodes.

We rush straight into TVA headquarters: the Variant does not kid around, and she takes down a crowd of guards with no magic and no mercy.

https://external-content.duckduckgo.com/iu/?u=https%3A%2F%2Ftse1.mm.bing.net%2Fth%3Fid%3DOIP.D8goqb52Hx79GeA1bmtCLQHaEK%26pid%3DApi&f=1

The Variant’s headgear is interesting; one of the horns is broken. So she’s a Loki but broken or different. Distinctly different; that much was already clear.

“Don’t call me Loki! Don’t call me Variant!” She’s Sylvie. That will cut down on the confusion. She and Loki are evenly matched, but far more different from other Lokis than I think we’ve seen in the comics. She’s far more direct and much more of an anarchist than Loki who, ultimately is a megalomaniac.

These two are different enough that I have to wonder if they really are versions of the same individual. If they are that calls into question the whole notion of a sacred timeline. The flawed headgear could be telling us that they’re not the same; her story is broken.

There’s a Sylvie in the comics, but she’s an Earth teenager given Asgardian powers by Loki. A later version of the Enchantress. That may or may not be a clue.

Lamentian society as commentary lacks subtlety. It smacks you in the face with class privilege. Traveling to an arc so you can escape the destruction of your planet isn’t the time or place for luxury.

More differences: Sylvie doesn’t know her mother. That’s kind of chilling since that small nascent spark of decency in Loki mostly came from Frigga. Assuming she’s really a Loki. The broken horn would fit a missing parent symbolically though.

https://imgix.bustle.com/uploads/image/2021/6/24/e7e9229a-b2ea-47dc-9007-270049027732-loki-episode-3-lamentis-loki-sylvie-sitting-700x299.webp?w=349&h=149&fit=max&auto=format%2Ccompress

Meanwhile, their plan to use the Arc to recharge the TemPad and escape Lamentis is extremely cold-blooded, even if everybody on board is fated to die anyway.

We get more clues that the TVA or at least the Time Keepers aren’t on the up-and-up.

A lot of this episode felt like an homage to the new Doctor Who that didn’t quite land but the episode was necessary; we needed to learn about Sylvie and we did. And the sense that nothing is as it seems has intensified somewhat. I’m still fully engaged.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Next Episode:

Previous Episode:

Foundational Readings

The internet has since its inception been a remarkable tool for gathering and sharing information. Lately it’s been both better and worse than it used to be and one of the reasons that it’s both is Archive.org.

https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/51RpmRxyIvL._SL350_.jpg

It’s a literal treasure trove of information. Think of it as an internet library. If you’re looking for something, especially something out of print, there’s a good chance that it’s there, scanned and ready to be checked out. Archive.org was especially gracious during the lockdown. In May 2020, when I taught Science Fiction, all the novels we covered as well as most of the short stories were available there for my students to use free of charge. It was a huge help.

So, why better and worse? Well, having access to “a literal treasure trove of information” has a bit of a downside. When I’m researching something like, for example, Asimov Trivia there are things to find that I’ve never even heard of and didn’t know I needed. Sometimes this is helpful, like when I discovered Isaac Asimov Presents: SuperQuiz (See Episode 5). Other times it’s not; I take a long and winding road that doesn’t lead anywhere. Next thing I know I’m 6 books over and barely even aware of where I started or what I was doing. That’s fun, but it’s not productive unless serendipity lends a hand. No kidding. Paragraph two got put on hold while I looked up something random.

Suffice it to say that Archive.org is, well, astounding. But “What does this have to do with Foundation?” you might be wondering. If you’re following Stars End: A Foundation Podcast or even if you’re merely looking forward to the forthcoming Apple TV+ series you might be wanting to reread the books. They’re all there for sure.

But what I’m really excited about is that Archive.org has many issues of John W. Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction. That’s the seminal SF pulp that defined the genre. There we find the original Foundation stories 8 years before they were collected into book form. This is the DNA of the Foundation series. As the story was developing, while Asimov was figuring out how psychohistory works, we can see this universe evolve in Astounding. And as an added bonus, we can read the stories with their original artwork, enjoying them as few have been able for almost eight decades. So here are the pieces of Foundation as they appeared in Astounding Science Fiction. Not too different. With his prodigious output, Asimov was known for writing rather than rewriting but I’ll note the changes that I noticed.

https://i0.wp.com/www.philsp.com/visco/Magazines/ASF/ASF_0138.jpg

Foundation isn’t actually a novel, it’s what is known as a “fix-up,” a collection of short stories linked together with a framing sequence. “The Psychohistorians” is that framing sequence and is the only part of Foundation that was original to the book. It introduces Hari Seldon and sets up the universe replacing a much shorter introduction that ran as part of the next story.

The Encyclopedists” originally ran in the May 1942 issue of Astounding under the title “Foundation.” Other than the short introduction that was supplanted by “The Psychohistorians” it’s largely the same as the version from the book.

There are two lovely illustrations by Manuel Islp and the issue also features “Asylum” by A. E. Van Vogt and “Beyond this Horizon” by Robert Heinlein writing as Anson MacDonald.

Here’s the entire issue Astounding Science Fiction, May 1942.

The story continues just a month later as “The Mayors” was published under the title “Bridle and Saddle.”

John W. Campbell showed a lot of enthusiasm for this story. Taking up half of the previous issue’s coming attractions, it was the lead story for the month, it was featured on the cover and was graced with 4 (Count ’em! 4!) lovely illustrations by Charles Schneeman. You can click on any image in the gallery for a better look.

For a science fiction adventure story the art work sure shows a lot of people sitting in chairs.

The issue also includes “My Name is Legion” by Lester Del Rey, “Proof” by Hal Clement and “The Slaver” by L. Ron Hubbard who actually wrote some Science Fiction before branching out into… let’s call it other areas.

Astounding Science Fiction, June 1942.


The Traders,” the shortest section of Foundation was published as “The Wedge” in Astounding’s October 1944 issue with little or no fanfare. This story has the most significant difference between the magazine and book versions. Here the main character is named Lathan Devers rather than Limmar Ponyets as it is in Foundation. The story has three illustrations by Frank Kramer.

Astounding Science Fiction, October 1944

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/69/f8/be/69f8be2e02a881e340dabe410bf6e746.jpg

“The Big and the Little” appeared in the August 1944 Issue of Astounding and once again it’s very similar to “The Merchant Princes.” There’s a difference that’s noticeable immediately though, rather than opening with a quote from the Encyclopedia Galactica, it begins with a different quote that prefigures the names of the sections of Foundation.

“Three Dynasties molded the Beginning: the Encyclopedists, the Mayors, and the Traders…”

Ligurn Vier, ‘Essays on History’

We never really see the traders as a formal dynasty leading the Foundation but perhaps we can infer one; in this story, we meet the third major figure in Foundation History after Hari Seldon and Salvor Hardin the first of the Merchant Princes, Hober Mallow.

Like “Bridal and Saddle,” “The Big and the Little” is both the lead and cover story for this issue. It is illustrated with six pictures rendered by Paul Orban.

Astounding Science Fiction, August 1944

We’ll be back soon with the stories from Foundation and Empire. Meanwhile, I’m inspired to work on a project that uses Archive.org.

References:

If you haven’t already, this is a perfect time to check out our podcast.

My Voyager Rewatch: S4E14

S4E14 Message in a Bottle

The Doctor’s alpha quadrant adventure is pure cheesy fun! Andy Dick works well as an even haughtier Emergency Medical Hologram Mark 2. It’s a joy watching them play off of each other.

Auto correct tried to give me “Andy Duck.” I’d watch that too.

I could have done without the Paris and Kim side plot. In 2021 it seems silly that something as important as the EMH program doesn’t have a backup.

Voyager 4x14 Message in a Bottle - Idrin is shocked by ...

I would have preferred more of the Hirogen subplot. I don’t remember anything about them and they seem interesting.

But at least we’re finally moved the big “voyage home” story forward. From now on it’s less Star Trek: Gilligan’s Island and more Doctor Who: Blink sans the Weeping Angels of course. An above average episode.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

#StarTrek #StarTrekVoyager

Images used under the fair use doctrine.

My Voyager Rewatch: S4E13

star trek - Which Starfleet uniforms have pockets ...
Personally, I don’t wear shirts without a pocket.

S4E13 “Waking Moments.”

Starts strong with an atmospheric teaser that’s almost a collection of vignettes. It’s obvious that the crew is dreaming. It’s nicely disorienting, evoking the feel of a dream before they make the fact undeniable.

There are some nice moments, like some real comedy with Tuvok. Sadly, I’m most impressed that B’Elanna’s uniform has a pocket; it’s functional.

Another vision quest. Yawn. But Chakotay carrying a spear in the dreamscape is hilarious. That’s not Freudian at all.

Star Trek: Voyager - Waking Moments (Review) | the m0vie blog
Tell me about your mother.

Ultimately, a mediocre episode that I had a hard time caring about. Aliens living in dreams makes little to no sense. But lucid dreaming is a cool idea. Check out Ed: “Captain Lucidity”. It’s a much better episode. #Ed #Stuckeyville

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

#StarTrek #StarTrekVoyager

Images used under the fair use doctrine.

Watching Loki S1E2: The Variant

Spoiler Warning.

I’ve been to Oshkosh. It doesn’t look anything like this. And I’m immediately reminded of Sheldon dressed as Spock at the Renaissance Fair.

“I Need a Hero” playing over the first scene is out of place unless it’s setting up a twist. An interesting thing about this show is that it isn’t clear who are actually the good guys.

Main-Loki goes into action with the TVA. His jacket begs the question: to which version is the title referring? Probably all of them. Loki’s fascinating on this mission; it’s clear he’s playing games even before they tell us.

I’m struck that the Time-Keepers may be an elaborate hoax. Looking it up, that’s not consistent with the comics. But they’re building up a sense of mystery about them. It will be interesting one way or the other.

I loved watching Loki’s face fall as Mobius perfectly laid out his plan. The dialogue in this scene is terrific; Wilson and Hiddleston together are a joy to watch.

Another image of Loki being tiny in his surroundings, this time with the Time-Keepers in the foreground. The look of the TVA is even more impressive this time, all vastness and grandeur.

That idea with hiding in the apocalypses is inspired.

It’s low-rent philosophizing, but I really enjoyed the conversation about mythologies and how ridiculous they all are. Also, now we’re discussing the Time-Keepers as mythology.

The name Ravonna just clicked. That’s the princess Kang the Conqueror was in love with during some of his early appearances (See Avengers (1963) #23). Of course, Kang/Immortus has links to the Time-Keepers. Unravel the threads far enough and we find Doctor Doom and the Fantastic Four I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear the name “Nathaniel Richards.”

There’s lots of use of the term “Superior Loki.” Loki uses that term when there is a picture of Spider-Man in his black suit prominently in the background. A combined reference to two instances where Peter’s mind was somehow compromised, namely the Superior Spider-Man and the Symbiote. Clue? Misdirect?

I suspect the big reveal is why people love this episode and it’s pretty good but not particularly earth-shattering when we consider what we know about Loki from the comics.

But alternative Loki is demonstrated to be a badass. And when we see the TVA starting to react to the Variant’s attack, it’s the first time the surroundings seem cramped and mundane.

I’m psyched for episode 3.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Next Episode:

Previous Episode:

Juneteenth and Pride Month!

Two Flags for June

The Juneteenth Flag

Happy Juneteenth! I’ve been wanting to fly a Juneteenth flag for a couple of years now but I found an affordable one just this year.

You might be wondering what “Juneteenth” is. Also known as “America’s second independence day,” it’s been a state holiday in 49 states and commemorates the end of slavery in the US after the Civil War.

President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and it took effect on 1 January 1863. It proclaims “all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” This changed the character of the war, transforming it from a conflict that could be perceived as an internecine squabble to a quest to expand basic human rights, Of course, it wasn’t that simple. But it meant that the tide of freedom advanced as the Union gained territory.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/55/Juneteenth_general_order3.jpg

The Army of the Trans-Mississippi was the last major Confederate force to surrender. On 19 June 1895, when General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to take command of the Army forces there, one of his first actions was to issue General Order 3, which informed the citizens of Texas that slavery there was ended. It read in part:

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”

Celebrations erupted as Granger’s men traveled forth announcing the order. A few months later, slavery finally ended throughout the US on 6 December 1865 with the ratification of the 13th Amendment. One year after General Order 3, the first commemoration took place in Galveston as “Jubilee Day.” That became an annual tradition.

The name “Juneteenth” is a contraction of “June nineteenth.” Actually, it’s a “portmanteau” if you want to be all fancy about it. In a nice bit of synergy, Juneteenth became a national holiday two days ago, as President Biden signed the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act” into law. That was long overdue; we should celebrate the moments when we actually got closer to the ideals the US is supposed to represent.

The Juneteenth flag is stunning! it was originally designed by Ben Haith in 1997 and refined by graphic designer Lisa Jeanne Graf. The symbolism of the flag is profound.

The colors are an intentional callback to the American flag emphasizing that the people freed that day and their descendants were, are, and remain Americans.

The central five-pointed star not only represents the freedom of African-Americans in all 50 states but also symbolizes Texas, the Lone Star State, where the celebration originated.

The burst that surrounds the star is a nova, a new star which represents a new freedom, a new people and a new beginning for African Americans.

Finally, the arc depicts the horizon; a new horizon representing the promise and opportunities that lie ahead.

The Ally Flag

Also, Happy Pride Month! Until yesterday we’d been flying the Ally flag in honor of Pride Month. I didn’t have much new to say about it since I wrote about it last time we flew the flag.

My previous Ally Flag Post

At the time I’d written about an alternative version that I liked a bit better and wished had been available. It’s still not available, but I’ve recreated it so you can see it here. In retrospect, I had some mixed feelings about this version as I realized that the background was initially a “Straight Pride Flag.” Frequently, things like that are a reactionary backlash to some new group looking for equality.

But the standard ally flag has the same problem; the black-and-white striped flag has a similar origin and it’s time to reclaim those images in any event. Having either as the background of an ally flag does nothing but decrease its salience as a reactionary symbol. And aesthetically I still like the shades-of-gray better. I’m not completely happy with this recreation though. The contrast between the pure black on top and pure white on the bottom is too stark. I’ll probably go back and try a version with shades of gray throughout.

References:

Watching Loki S1E1: Glorious Purpose

Spoiler Warning.

The first new image of the series is a bug, reflected in a drop of water. Hmmm…

Loki arrives in the Gobi Desert

It’s a nice touch that they took the long shot of #Loki’s arrival; we see he’s tiny in this context. His landing is reminiscent of Iron Man 1.

We jump into action right away. I remember the Time Variance Authority (TVA) from the comics but only vaguely. Looking them up, there’s some good stuff (She-Hulk) and some egregious nonsense that I really didn’t care for. That might have been it’s precursor, the Dimensional Development Court which originated in MarvelUK’s Captain Britain stories.

There’s a cat. I hope we get more of the cat.

The informational video has the feel of a 1950s cold war propaganda video. In fact the whole TVA has a Twilight Zone vibe.

A less frenetic Owen Wilson is new but welcome.

As he traverses the TVA bureaucracy it becomes clear to us. Loki is like the bug we first saw; a distorted reflection with no ability to affect anything.

I suppose the sacred timeline must be the single one where the Avengers were able to beat Thanos. Maybe?

I did kind of enjoy it when Loki got the upper hand on Hunter B-15. In retrospect. When it was clear she survived.

The denouement of the episode is Loki gaining some self-awareness and realizing he’s the bug in this scenario. “I don’t enjoy hurting people… it’s part of the illusion. It’s the cruel, elaborate trick conjured by the weak to inspire fear.” Maybe. You really never can tell with this guy.

But he’s about to get some agency by joining an agency. Stay tuned.

So far not as weighty as #FalconAndWinterSoldier, not as emotionally resonant as #WandaVision but good solid entertainment. Strong performances all around.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Next Episode:

My Voyager Rewatch: S4E12

(This is the point where I started tweeting the episodes.) S4E12 “Mortal Coil.”

The Star Trek Gallery: Ships

I’m in the middle of a StarTrek Voyager rewatch and I’m up to “Mortal Coil.” As soon as I heard the word protomatter I knew someone was going to die and be brought back to life. Sure enough, Neelix gets zapped and is revived by Seven’s nanoprobes.

Of course, it had to be Neelix. The episode is now about questioning religious beliefs. They wouldn’t try that with a human character.

The most amazing thing so far is how damn dumb Chakotay is. He’s on his way to watch a holodeck recreation of the accident & he invites Neelix along without batting an eye. “Sure! Come watch yourself die! That won’t traumatize you at all!”

Mortal Coil (episode) - Memory Alpha, the Star Trek Wiki ...

This got heavy-handed fast. And of course, there has to be a vision quest that inexplicably requires a piece of technology.

Neelix contemplates his new condition and the episode almost stops without any real ending. This might be okay if they circle back to it, but without a real epiphany, this is merely a return to the status quo.

It’s a pleasant enough episode but ultimately unsatisfying.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Images used under the fair use doctrine.

My Star Trek Voyager Rewatch

https://cnet2.cbsistatic.com/img/jvcYmp7ULkZw77O0bH9fcFwj1Fo=/0x74:2250x1346/fit-in/970x0/2016/09/02/4a2f61fd-152e-42f6-af4d-d6d667edf5ea/voycastyear04.jpg

I’m not always a good Trekkie or Trekker. Whichever.

Until about 2 years ago, I hadn’t rewatched Star Trek: Deep Space 9 or Voyager since their first airings twenty-odd years ago. I’d done partial rewatches of TNG and Enterprise that petered out toward the end of the series.

Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete Series (DVD ...

Of course, rewatching wasn’t always as easy as it is now. The Next Generation attempt was actually quite an investment. I’d had some old VHS tapes that we recorded during the first run of the series but those were getting old and they weren’t exactly taped in order. But then in March of 2002, CBS started releasing TNG on DVD. The seasons cost just over $100 each, and I thought, “Here we go! I’m going to enjoy these, in order from beginning to end as the Great Bird of the Galaxy intended!” Although he probably didn’t. Long story short, this was about the time I got serious about finishing my doctorate and finding a tenure-track position somewhere. Season 7 is still wrapped in cellophane.

Starbase-Wandavision

Fast forward to 2019; I finally started enjoying Deep Space 9 again. I’d made it into the fourth season and it was, shall we say, better than I remembered. But the 25th Anniversary of Voyager was approaching and my old friend Rick announced that he would be talking about Voyager season by season on his podcast Starbase 66. That itself sounded like fun! I’ll listen to those! Okay then, Voyager it is, I’ll get back to DS9 later.

And the rewatch has been interesting. I distinctly remember initially finding Voyager electrifying. I watched the first few episodes twice within a week of their airing and hunted for clues on the internet about what might be coming. That quickly turned into a kind of low-key malaise about the show. The characters seemed formulaic and a lot of the episodes felt like they might have sat on the shelf since TNG because they hadn’t quite been good enough to film. I mean, seriously, you’re trying to get home and that’s 70,000 light-years away! How do you keep running into the Kazon? You should have been out of their space after episode 3 or something. Think about the premise for crying out loud! This is Star Trek: Gilligan’s Island. The Mosquitos didn’t come back to the Island after they decided that the Honey Bees were a better band who would threaten their success. You encounter them ONCE because you’re STUCK ON THE ISLAND!

So the Voyager rewatch has been happening for a bit over a year. It’s been a lot of fun even with the show’s flaws. Once again, better than I remembered.

Mid-season 4, I decided to tweet about the episodes. I liked how those came out. I restricted myself to a maximum of 6 tweets and that kept the comments pithy; no weird tangents or references to Gilligan’s Island. I can’t believe that was kicking around in my brain somewhere.

Turns out that’s a pretty efficient way to “review” a teevee episode and that’s a good thing. Two years ago I started a post about Mad Magazine and it’s still gestating there in my drafts folder waiting to see the light of day. So that’s what you’ll find in this “Voyager Rewatch” column. Short efficient quasi-reviews as I work my way through the series. Basically the same as they appeared on Twitter before they’re so far back in the past that they’re hard to find. I hope you’ll join me and enjoy.