Straw Puppy’s POTUS Polls: ‘Don’t They Know It’s Christmas?’ Edition

I thought last week’s might be the last one of these but no. There’s still more legal shenanigans going on over the Christmas holidays.

“Vice President Pence was sued Sunday by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and several other Republicans in a far-fetched bid that appeared aimed at overturning President-elect Joe Biden‘s election win. The lawsuit focuses on Pence’s role in an upcoming Jan. 6 meeting of Congress to count states’ electoral votes and finalize Biden’s victory over President Trump. Typically, the vice president’s role in presiding over the meeting is a largely ceremonial one governed by an 1887 federal law known as the Electoral Count Act. But the Republican lawsuit, which was filed against Pence in his official capacity as vice president, asks a federal judge in Texas to strike down the law as unconstitutional. The GOP plaintiffs go further: They ask the court to grant Pence the authority on Jan. 6 to effectively overturn Trump’s defeat in key battleground states.”

It’s an obvious stunt and looks like it won’t go anywhere. So why is Gohmert bothering? In the past he’s aligned himself with the Tea Party and more recently voted against making lynching a federal crime. So, he’s definitely in the even-worse corner of the GOP and this will play well with QANON activists.

Imagine if Gohmert does actually prevail in court but the ruling comes after January 6 thus accidentally granting Kamala Harris the power to decide the next Presidential election?

Star Trek Discovery: Su’Kal (S3E11)

While Discovery has had a distinctive visual style from the beginning and some distinct themes (bloodier than other versions of Trek), it hasn’t found its own narrative style. There have been experiments with space opera (particularly Season 1 mirror universe episodes) and advances in CGI have made it possible for Discovery to include exciting, action-filled space battles. Yet the show has often relied on story conventions from the original series and TNG. Also, the relatively small number of episodes per season has meant that it has retreated from the more social slightly-soap operaish (in a good way) qualities introduced in TNG but better explored in DS9.

The Picard limited series (flawed as it was) had the advantage of committing more overtly to a single season-length plot. Each season of Discovery has had its own story arc (Lorca-Ash, Red Angel and now The Burn) but the show has still attempted very TNG episodes (often directed by Commander Riker himself!) mixed in with space-action episodes (that I’ve enjoyed but often they felt like the belonged to a different franchise).

Su’Kal is an interesting, if over-stuffed episode. Lots of things happen (and Cora’s review covers the plot better than I can ) and overall it doesn’t quite come together but I feel like there is a sense of both synthesis and distinctiveness here.

The opening is unusual. Has a Trek episode ever done this before? The show starts within the same scene as the last episode but not to resolve a cliff hanger. We last met the crew toasting the dead-not-dead Emperor Georgiou. She is long dead and also very much alive in the past (which is true of every dead person when you think about it) but also she’s not narratively dead. That closing scene was a way to close off that story line but also (in universe) for the crew to find closure for the loss of Georgiou (and remember that several of them had served with the non-evil Georgiou & they all had served with the evil-but-pretending-not-to-be Lorca). That scene was plausible but also plausibly discordant in tone (sadness at losing a woman who was not just rude but a mass murderer who used to eat members of Captain Saru’s species).

This episode simply carries on that scene with the crew still at Georgiou’s wake. We get Adira and Stamets interacting and Gray deciding to return. However, the social bonding is interrupted with the shocking news that there is somebody alive on the mysterious Kelpian ship that may contain the answers to the mystery of the Burn. I wonder, if they filmed this with the original intention for this revelation to be a cliff-hanger moment for the previous episode? Maybe, but as odd as it was I liked that sense of a blending between episodes. There is a thing that Discovery has done that previous Trek versions have rarely done — play with the narrative time within and between episodes.

The episode attempts to pull in the different ways Discovery can be into one episode. Space action (as Book’s ship attempts to zoom through an erratic and radioactive dilithium fuelled nebula storm) a very TNG/TOS away-team adventure in a mind-bending location along with the plot arc and Disocvery’s penchant for space-opera tropes as acting-captain Tilly has to face off evil-space-princess-pirate with green skin.

Does that all work in one episode? No but not for a lack of effort and the show delivers an enjoyable if chaotic Trek adventure. It is also probably one of the best uses of the holodeck concept in an episode that I’ve seen (note: not the best episode on the holodeck but the best concept). As the Discovery crew aren’t familiar with the technology, it is a genuine mystery to them but not to the viewer. That itself is another Discoveryesque aspect done well — a call back that rewards fans but works without prior knowledge that works organically with the plot.

It also means that Doug Jones gets to work without make-up as the holodeck on board the crashed Kelpian ship decides to represent him as a human.

The essence of the mystery of the Burn is explained and the answer is unsurprising only in so far as it doesn’t matter. It was always going to be magicphysics but we get a bit of Trekian psychic-woo which is fine. Trek cosplays as hard-science fiction in the Campbellian tradition of cosplaying as hard science (it’s recursive) and I have zero complaints about that.

The good news is that behind the scenes, Phillipa Georgiou took the script for this episode back to Season 1 and is threatening to put the showrunners for that season in the Agoniser so that they start experimenting with this format in season 1 so that by the time the new timeline gets to season 3 they’ve worked out how to make it work. “No Klingons!” shouts Georgiou as producers cower in terror while an intern tries to get Michelle Yeoh’s agent on the phone, not understanding that Georgiou is the character and not the actor playing her. “Experiment with the narrative form of Trek,” she says in a more charming tone which some how conveys a deeper threat of mutilating violence than her shouts or the combo of bat’leth and Romulan disruptor that she is wielding. “Experiment with character not Klingon prosthetics. Show us the neglected Trek species like the Orions not the Klingons again! Show non-traditional family relationships like it’s the future and not the 1990s and expecting a cookie just for having a gay couple in the cast!”. (Why isn’t Georgiou also warning us all about Covid-19 if she is in the past? Because she is an evil space emperor and she has other priorities.)

Two more episodes to go. The next one is on New Year’s Eve — it’s like Discovery is doing Christmas specials like Doctor Who! Michael, Saru and Doctor Hugh as the Three Wise Men/Sentient Beings come to visit the child born in hostile surroundings? That almost works.

Finally, once again (as the show always has) the episode delivers visually with great CGI work on the space storm planet and the crumbling fantasy world of the holodeck. Hot mess that looks fabulous is the future that Discovery wants.

Susan’s Salon: 2020 December 27/28

May as well keep this party going until New Year’s Eve

Please use the comment section to just chat about whatever you want. Susan’s Salon is posted early Monday (Sydney time which is still Sunday in most countries) . It’s fine to be sad, worried, angry or happy (or all of those things at once).

Please feel free to post what you like (either troubling news or pleasant distractions) in the comments for this open thread. [However, no cranky conflicts between each other in the comments.] Links, videos, cat pictures 🐈 etc are fine! Whatever you like and be nice to one another 😇

Some more Superhero specs

That last pair were fine for those of you who want techno-powers but I know many of you would rather unlock the secrets of the magicverse to gain your superhero status. Here are some specs for those with occult powers. If you need a superhero/villain name then “Prince Nez” is right there for the taking (although you’d have to do without the Arms of Protection).

Superhero glasses

I asked the Twitter hivemind for superheroe/villain examples of people wearing glasses while in character rather than incognito. There are some good examples (Doc Oc, Blade, Oracle) but overall I still think specs are more often used as a sign of being unpowered or in disguise as somebody unpowered or (Hank McCoy, She Hulk) busy doing some non-action activity (Oracle fits there also).

Anyway, as an antidote, here are some superhero glasses that give the wearer high-tech powers of blasting things with laser and hacking devices. Also (unlike my glasses) they don’t slip down your nose.

Thirteen Notable Video Games of 2020 (maybe?)

The other week I linked to a few “best of…” lists for 2020. On Twitter, Hampus also suggested another round-up source here I’ve since collated those lists along with the video games already listed on the Hugo Sheet of Doom. I’ll confess that I have taken a scattershot approach to deciding whether games are SFF or not. It isn’t always easy! Does a historical game count as alternate-history if you can reshape events (eg Crusader Kings III)? Is Call of Duty SFF because there is a zombie option? I don’t know! In the end I didn’t include Call of Duty but did include “Yakuza: Like a Dragon” because the second sounded more wacky. I didn’t delve into eligibility much in terms of when the game was released unless I already knew it wasn’t eligible (e.g. Among Us) and there are games here with eligibility questions (Hades) and also there are remakes which may be technically eligible but which don’t have new stories.

Finally, I ordered the games by how many lists they were on. Here all the games that were on at least three lists.

TitleLB Hugo SheetPolygon top 50Esquire top 11Vulture 10 BestTime 10 BestCBR 10 BestCount
Animal Crossing: New HorizonsYYYYYY6
Final Fantasy VII RemakeYYYY4
The Last of Us Part 2YYYY4
DOOM EternalYYY3
Fall GuysYYY3
Ghost of TsushimaYYY3
Ori and the Will of the WispsYYY3
Spider-Man: Miles MoralesYYY3
Star Wars: SquadronsYYY3
Yakuza: Like a DragonYYY3

I’ve played only three of those but each one is in the top four. I haven’t finished playing Spiritfarer but I’ve played enough to write a review and I really like it.

Here are those same games again but with links to reviews.

Tim’s Last Minute Gift Suggestions

From the desk of Timothy the Talking Cat.

Ho, ho, ho, it is nearly Christmas Eve and you all aren’t as smart as me. I’ve got all my gifts bought and wrapped and ready. My secret? I only buy heavy armaments and I buy them for myself. My gift to you all is to be that lone cat that stands upon the castle walls and protects you awful people from those who would bring us to our knees. Oh, it may look like the squirrels have retreated for the winter but just you wait…they will be back and then who will protect you and your nuts? SO SHOW SOME GRATITUDE! As the old Christmas carol goes:

I decided long ago, 
Never to walk in anyone's shadow,
If I fail, if I succeed, 
At least I'll live as I believe,
No matter what squirrels take from me,
They can't take away my dignity,
Because the greatest love of all,
Is happening to me,
I found the greatest hair ball of all,
Inside of me,
The greatest love of all,
Is easy to achieve,
Learning to love myself,
Is the greatest love of all.

You worthless and ungrateful humans have probably left all your shopping to the last minute. Well let me help out. Here are some quick and easy gifts you can get together even on a tight budget.

  • Cake. Everybody loves cake! You can find bits of cake under the oven and in the cracks between the cushions on the sofa. Smoosh them all together with a bit of spit for moisture. Now you have a seasonal cake-crumb-cake for no money at all! Yum!
  • Surprises. Everybody loves surprises! Go out into the garden. Find a dead bird. Sniff it and maybe wack it about a bit with your paws. Bring it home and drop it somewhere surprising.
  • Nature. Who doesn’t love nature? Well me, I don’t love it but lots of stupid people love it. While you are looking for a dead bird in the garden, grab some old twigs and leaves. Dump them on the bed of a “friend”. This is best done early in the morning while they asleep. Stand over the humus scented remains and say nothing. Just stare into their eyes with a glowering expression that says “appreciate this you ungrateful bastard”.
  • Turkey! Who doesn’t love Turkey! Try to make tortured puns that play on the name of the bird and the name of the country. It’s all the fun of Christmas crackers but without the crackers. Everybody will love this, particularly on the twentieth attempt.
  • Activities! Fun activities brings everyone together! Furiously try to burrow through your own litter tray, spraying kitty-litter and cat poo everywhere. Slink off while everybody has to clean up your mess. This will bring everybody together in the spirit of Christmas camaraderie.
  • Warmth. Everybody needs warmth in the cold winter! For this you will need petrol, matches and your imagination.
  • Visitors! Christmas is a time for community! Let your loved ones enjoy a visit from your local fire department! What could be more Christmasy than red trucks, blue lights, wailing sirens and men with hoses! Enjoy the Christmas snow as you stand around watching them soak your burning home!
  • No room at the inn! We all enjoy the Christmas story! Re-enact The Bible Chapter 4: A New Hope by letting your family discover there is no emergency accommodation available after a recent fire has made your home structurally unstable! Solution! What could be more stable than a literal stable! Sleep rough in a local farm building!
  • Christmas trees! Yule love this! Get lost in a pine tree plantation after an angry farmer chases you out of his stable with a shotgun!
  • Needles! Practical gifts are the best! Enjoy the seasonally fresh aroma of pine as you pull pine needles from your fur!
  • Forgiveness! People love redemption! Give your loved ones an exciting opportunity to show how loving and forgiving they can be to their pyromaniac cat by not threatening to strangle him or loudly discuss whether Christmas dinner this year will be “roast cat”.