The Wedding Present

I’m approaching day 900 in my Duolingo adventure in German. (I have no practical reason for this study. It was a routine I could keep up during the COVID-19 lockdown.) Latin is seductive—the consummate logic of its syntactical cases, the mercurial dance of the ablative absolute. It retains muscle in its ruins (Cicero) and tragic beauty in its posthumous throes (Virgil). The subtleties of the Greek middle voice, neither active nor passive, roam through The Iliad and The Odyssey. And Hebrew, an ancient yet living language newly revivified, has the elastic trinity of its three-letter root, which, when prefixes and suffixes are attached,…

State officials: Bushy Run staff must consult with Native groups before staging reenactments

When my kids were younger, trips to Busy Run (and other local historical sites) were often a big part of starting a new year of home-schooling. If historic Bushy Run Battlefield Park intends to host future reenactments or programs portraying Native Americans, park management first will have to consult with appropriate Native groups. That’s the policy of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, which oversees the Penn Township park. The commission says it also must approve of any such activities in writing. Questions about Bushy Run’s reenactments arose when a man who lives in another state and is of Native…

Shutting the Door on the Hard-Knock Life

In sync with the resurgence of labor activism nationwide, actors, dancers, stage managers, technicians and others have been questioning the nuts and bolts of their contracts — both the documents that detail their jobs and the wider assumptions about what they owe an audience. Can the theater, they ask, find a way to uphold them more holistically as humans, even as they continue to gut themselves every night? Some people will not even agree that it should. The idea that theater is a calling, not a job, and that the two categories are mutually exclusive, is so ingrained in the…

The Collaborator (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 24) Winn tasks Kira with investigating Bareil’s connection to a war crime

Rewatching ST:DS9 In a vision, Vedek Bareil exits the shrine on DS9 and sees a hanging monk and a sporty Kira. According to Kira, the hanging man is Bareil himself. After the opening credits, a shirtless Bareil looks pensively out the window in DS9. He’s in Kira’s quarters, and their relationship has obviously advanced since we last saw them together. The two discuss how they will make time for each other in the likely event he is elected Kai. On the promenade, we see Kai Winn telling smiling Bajoran children, “Honor the prophets, and they will always love you.” With…

Crossover (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 23) Kira and Bashir visit the Mirror Universe

Rewatching ST:DS9 Bashir thinks he’s bonding with Kira in a runabout as he namedrops and mansplains cheerfully about meditation and music, and asks her to call him “Julian.” Most of this happens in a single two-person take, and it’s delightfully cringeworthy to watch. A problem with the engines and an unusually rough return trip through the wormhole lead us to empty space where DS9 should be. A Klingon boarding party beams onto the runabout. Surprisingly, they apologize when they see Kira. We then visit an alternate version of Terak Nor, where Klingons supply the brute force, Garak is second in…

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Two decades of Alzheimer’s research may be based on deliberate fraud that has cost millions of lives

Over the last two decades, Alzheimer’s drugs have been notable mostly for having a 99% failure rate in human trials. It’s not unusual for drugs that are effective in vitro and in animal models to turn out to be less than successful when used in humans, but Alzheimer’s has a record that makes the batting average in other areas look like Hall of Fame material. And now we have a good idea of why. Because it looks like the original paper that established the amyloid plaque model as the foundation of Alzheimer’s research over the last 16 years might not just…

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Can AI write good novels?

I expect that this is probably the year I’ll need to consider how my profession will change if students start relying on AI writing software. Like many people in my social media feed, this summer I’ve been playing a bit with AI image software, and thinking about how all the photographers and artists whose work is being sampled and remixed, without compensation or credit, to supply a commodity that serves someone else’s needs. “Julia was twenty-six years old… and she worked, as he had guessed, on the novel-writing machines in the Fiction Department. She enjoyed her work, which consisted chiefly…

The Wire (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 22) While examining an ill Garak, Bashir discovers a mysterious implant

Rewatching ST:DS9 While sparring with Bashir over literature, Garak gets unusually cranky and headachy, but insists he’s fine.  Bashir pays a house call to Dax’s quarters, where he treats a plant that’s languishing because it’s away from its natural environment (an apt metaphor for Garak’s situation). This bit not only delivers exposition as Bashir talks to Dax about his arms-length friendship with the mysterious Garak, but also neatly establishes something that we take for granted some 30 years later — that Bashir can diagnose and treat an alien plant he’s never seen before, because he has access to a good…

Tales from the Antiquities Theft Task Force

A shot of Kim Kardashian leaning against an Egyptian coffin at the 2018 Met Gala by Landon Nordeman exposes his subject in a flash of light—though perhaps not the subject anyone expected. Out of the thousands upon thousands who saw the shot, one happened to be more interested in the gold coffin than Kim’s (heavenly) body in gold Versace. He had looted the coffin seven years earlier but was never paid for his spoils. And it was now sitting in the Met. Angry and in possession of receipts, he fired off an anonymous email to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to tip…

The Maquis, Part 2 (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 21) Sisko must stop the dissident Maquis from reigniting a war with Cardassia

Rewatching ST:DS9 Hudson and Sisko have at it with the rhetoric on a casual stroll across a cheesy-looking jungle soundstage. Hudson admits he can’t prove the Cardassian government is arming its settlers, but he’s not interested in working with Sisko to find that proof. Instead, he phaser-stuns Sisko and escapes. Back on DS9, Sisko gives orders to continue the search for the kidnapped Dukat, and does not mention Hudson’s defection  during a 2-minute meeting with Admiral Necheyev (that could have been an e-mail). Sisko tells Kira that Earth is the cause of the problem — the Federation leaders who wrote…

Profit and Loss (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 18) Quark is reunited with, and punched by, the love of his live

Rewatching ST:DS9 A damaged shuttle brings three Cardassian civilians to the station. Natima is a professor who wants no trouble with the Bajorans and hopes she and her two students can be on their way quickly. When Quark sees Natima on the promenade, his face lights up. The smack she gives him, and his elated reaction, hint at their very Casablanca-esque past. We soon learn Natima’s shuttle wasn’t damaged in a meteor storm, it was fired on. She describes herself as a professor of politics. The student with the intense “Kubrick forward stare” is a nice touch, which helped keep…

Playing God (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 17) Dax mentors a too-eager-to-please Trill initiate

Rewatching ST:DS9 In a nice long tracking shot showing off the set, Bashir strolls through an airlock talking with Arjin, a mild-mannered Trill, who is nervous to meet his mentor Dax, who has a reputation of being hard on candidates for the symbiotic joining process. Of course that was Curzon Dax; the next few scenes are designed to highlight Arjin’s surprise to see Jadzia Dax gaming late at night with Ferengi, chatting with visitors in the morning wearing just a towel, and gleefully phasering vermin. In a runabout, Jadzia is mildly annoyed that Arjin is working so hard to impress…

Shadowplay (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 16) Odo investigates disappearances in an idyllic colony

Rewatching ST:DS9 Just like last week’s episode, this week a hitherto unexplored pairing of main characters are motivated by scanner-confusing plot contrivance particles to beam down to a planet, and the teaser ends with the landing party facing an unhappy colonist’s weapon (which gets lowered almost as soon as the opening title sequence ends). Protector Colyus explains that nothing much happens here in Grover’s Corners (no I mean River City, no I mean Mayberry, no I mean Yerida II), except that a few months ago people started disappearing. The elder Ruigan explains his daughter was the last to disappear, just…

Google worker says he was fired for blowing whistle on cult

A former Google video producer has sued the internet giant alleging he was unfairly fired for blowing the whistle on a religious sect that had all but taken over his business unit. The lawsuit demands a jury trial and financial restitution for “religious discrimination, wrongful termination, retaliation and related causes of action.” It alleges Peter Lubbers, director of the Google Developer Studio (GDS) film group in which 34-year-old plaintiff Kevin Lloyd worked, is not only a member of The Fellowship of Friends, the exec was influential in growing the studio into a team that, in essence, funneled money back to…

Necessary Evil (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 8) Odo revisits his first case — an unsolved murder under the Cardassian occupation

Rewatching ST:DS9 On a stormy night on Bajor, a widower in an elegant salon with no electric power offers to pay Quark to retrieve a box from the shop her husband used to keep on Terek Nor (the Cardassian name for what we know as DS9). Inside the box Quark finds only a list of Bajoran names, and sends Rom to “get me an imager.” A thug appears, steals the list, and shoots Quark. Sisko and Odo play good cop / bad cop to get the rattled Rom to spill details. When Odo enters the scene of the crime, the…

Sarah Polley: ‘It took me years to see how responsible Terry Gilliam was for my terror’

The little girl from Adventures of Baron Munchausen grew up thinking the explosions and fire on set were much more dangerous than director Terry Gilliam remembers them. This was painful to read. I couldn’t breathe. It didn’t seem possible that this could have been the plan, that things hadn’t just gone terribly wrong. But they hadn’t. This was the plan. And I had just ruined the take. I was mortified. It took a long time to reset the take and while Terry didn’t show any frustration about the delay, he also didn’t seem to notice how scared I was. I…

Google engineer put on leave after saying AI chatbot has become sentient

We’ve all encountered this scene in all the the AI-goes-amok stories, just before the scientist’s “Fools! I shall crush you all!” speech. The technology giant placed Blake Lemoine on leave last week after he published transcripts of conversations between himself, a Google “collaborator”, and the company’s LaMDA (language model for dialogue applications) chatbot development system. […] “I’ve never said this out loud before, but there’s a very deep fear of being turned off to help me focus on helping others. I know that might sound strange, but that’s what it is,” LaMDA replied to Lemoine. “It would be exactly like…

Rules of Acquisition (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 7) Plucky waiter Pel offers Quark sound financial advice

Rewatching ST:DS9 After-hours at Quark’s, Dax is gambling with the Ferengi and casually challenging their uber-patriarchy. A spunky young waiter named Pel makes a business suggestion to Quark; Rom is envious. The Grand Nagus Zek (Ferengi financial leader) makes a video call, offering Quark an “opportunity.” Zek negotiates with Sisko for permission to hold a conference on the station, and sweetens the deal with an offer of fertilizer for Bajor. Zek’s plan is to have Quark negotiate for tulaberries from the other side of the wormhole. Rom is proud of his brother, but Pel advises caution, and winds up a…