Doctor Who

I’m an old fan of Doctor Who. When we were small, my brother and I used to race to the TV to switch it off after The Polka-Dot Door before that scary music and the spooky image of the Doctor’s face (the title sequence was always the best part). Years later, PBS showed the series from the first episode made way back in 1963. We were hooked. By the time I finished highschool, we had videotaped all but a couple of the 600-odd episodes in existence. The show’s aesthetic – amiable science fiction horror for kids – is still with me.

Today, my imagination doesn’t take me as far. Although I can still sense flashes of brilliance, and BBC acting and scripting are still above par, I’m more critical of slow plotting and foolish dialog. I didn’t expect much from the new series.

I’m still uncertain. The incidental music is weak, the titles are missing the Doctor’s spooky face, and the 45-minute episodes lack the cliff-hangers that made those long stories so addictive. The Doctor’s wardrobe is positively ordinary. Worse, the show has product placements and on CBC there are advertisements: a jarring and unnatural occurrence in a BBC show. I am inclined to cancel cable and buy the DVDs instead, except there are rumors those will be long coming given the DVD cartel’s outrageous zoning system and the lack of a U.S. broadcaster.

And yet… for now, at least, I’m hooked again. The first 15 minutes of the “The End of the World” were brilliant, with the alien plumber who needed permission to talk, the two-dimensional fashion victim, even the laugh-out-loud iPod product placement. In Britain itself, as Adam Tinworth says, the series seems to be hitting its mark. If I can just imagine that my ten year old self would be scared, it will be enough.


Libertarian Communists

There were three interesting threads on Slashdot today – one about gay rights, one about open source, and one about PR – which I think capture how the politics of real people, in this case hackers, so often fails to fit in the conventional categories of left and right.

The majority viewpoints in Slashdot are American, and come with a very American dose of laissez-faire anti-government sentiment and an intense aversion to socialism. Yet on social issues the tone is often progressive, as in this discussion of gay rights. I am conducting a study of gay marriage in blogs, and I’ve found the same thing: in my sample, those in favor outnumber those against 3 to 1.

Now forget about merely progressive politics, let’s talk about Communism. Here’s what lionheart1327 had to say about open source:

Open source, and the volunteer way in which it is done, is basically the utopian communism that the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, etc. were striving to get to, but fucked up. Real communism is not people being forced to be “equal”. It is the unselfish sharing of everything, and volunteering your time and effort for the greater good. . . . maybe Bill Gates is right, and Linux is communist? Well, if you take away the prejudice against the “C” word caused by decades of propoganda, maybe thats actually a Good Thing?

This was given a high rating of “5, Interesting” by readers, as was this response by Analogy Man:

Then there is that other ‘C’ word…Christian. . . . giving your fellow man your time, energy and expertise over the internet is a Christian thing to do. Be an open source contributor! Be a Christian Communists.

Finally, I highly an article by Paul Graham, in which he describes how PR agencies plant stories in the media. He goes on to suggest that business as usual is under threat from bloggers, who lack the phony tone of PR copy. He quotes a friend in the business about struggling newspapers: “They think the decline is cyclic. Actually it’s structural.”

He too seems to be suggesting that information wants to be free. Yet this is someone who, in Hackers and Painters??1??, that technology acts as a lever to increase the productive capacity of individuals, so the increased variation in wealth in rich countries is a good sign. Hardly the words of a communist.


1 “Mind the Gap”, O’Reilly, 2004, 109-120.