Here’s the latest podcast with Sheldon Richman. In it we kind of expand on last fortnight’s chat about limited government, and delve this time into decentralization. We cover some of the uncomfortable clashes between practicality and morality there, and some weird libertarian clashes between federalism and what is wrong, period — using eminent domain and Kelo vs. New London as an interesting example — but as usual, just begin to touch the subject when the hour is mysteriously up. Check it out, and check out past chats on including my moderation of the left libertarianism debate between Richman and Walter Block.

Further reading material: the Roderick Long piece that Sheldon Richman used as a jumping off point for the talk.

Via BBC America

Via BBC America

In honor of Charlie Jane Anders’ every Doctor Who episode ever list at io9, I am going to humbly approach a smaller task — ranking the new episodes. Because though technically the wise friend and her wise father who introduced me to the show did start with Three (Jon Pertwee), I have never yet had the attention span for Classic Who. Anders’ list may help me decide which arcs to tackle, however for now, I know only new.

Here we go, the top ten episodes of shiny new Who because I am way too lazy to do a count-down in reverse order. For additional laziness, multi-parters are filed under one average ranking.

1) “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances” (2005): This was my second NuWho, and the episode that hooked me for life. A sciencey plot that is not resolved with reversing the polarity of the neuron flow, a touching exchange about WIII that I constantly cite, Captain Jack at his most roguish, and GAS-MASK ZOMBIE CHILDREN. Also the London Blitz. I love everything about this. And it’s a key one to cite when mourning the brief tenure of Christopher Eccleston as Nine.

2) “Blink” (2007): Yep, I am ranking it in the same spot as Anders, but at least I don’t have 250 episodes to compare it to. It’s just so clever — before then-writer, now showrunner Steven Moffat became too clever by half. It is the first look at a very Moffat-y beast, the Weeping Angels, before he overused them. It has a fantastic companion (as it were) played by Carey Mulligan before she hopped across the pond. It is scary, funny, and satisfying. It is overrated, except it really isn’t.

3) “The Impossible Planet”/”The Satan Pit” (2006): I never disliked this episode, but it has been slowly crawling up my favorites list over the years. Rose and Ten have great moments together, but not sappy ones. They go off and do their own thing and take their own risks, but their bond is vital. The Ood are creepy and endearing, the secondary cast are awkwardly believable, and oh yeah, space Satan? Before I read Childhood’s End, this was even more epic a concept. But it’s still epic.

4) “The Doctor’s Wife” (2011): Neil Gaiman, you beauty. This was one of the handful of episodes during Eleven’s tenure that made me keep the faith. Nothing against Matt Smith, who has some really great qualities as the Doctor, but something about the tone of the whole show was usually off to me. And Amy does nothing for me as a companion, even if she is a stunning redhead with a gorgeous accent. This episode, on the other hand, has a terrifying villain to menace Amy and Rory, and a brilliantly bizarre way to give the Doctor a chance to speak to his oldest companion — his true love (no, it ain’t River Song, damn it).

5: “The Girl in the Fireplace” (2006): In some ways I might have burned out on this episode from too many rewatches, but it really is wonderful, no matter if the characterization of our main peeps is sort of…elusive. Finally getting Mickey in the TARDIS and having him adventure with Rose gives them a chance to have some good bonding. In the meantime, there’s a fabulous French woman who might be a Mary Sue, but valiantly rises above that; there are also clockwork monsters, another wild premise that holds together until the end (more or less), and a horse in space. More timey-wimey stuff that doesn’t just feel like someone shouting at you until you are distracted.

6:”Dalek”(2005): Weak extraneous characters with hilarious John Wayne American accents. However, Nine is on fire here. One Dalek becomes more menacing than millions of them. They are the ultimate in diminishing returns. Why couldn’t the show repeat the fury and terror in the Doctor’s reaction to Daleks with any success in ANY subsequent episodes? Rose is here being important to the plot, but this is Nine’s episode.

7:”Father’s Day”(2005): Anders is right that the monsters that appear do not show up in any other paradoxical instances before or after this episode. And considering what show this is (hint: timey wimey), that’s a bit awkward. But everything else here is so damned wonderful, and it all makes so much sense as a one-shot, that I don’t care. This is a fantastic episode about idealizing people who are gone, and missing them, and things like that. Billie Piper is really wonderful, and I think a former teen pop star deserved more credit for how good she was at being Rose.

8:”Midnight”(2008): This is another one that has slowly crept up in my ranking over the years. It’s almost Donna-free, because the Doctor needs to be separated from having an ally. Multiple people over the years have suggested this is Doctor Who does The Twilight Zone. It’s a strange, eerie, mysterious plot — and the strangest, eeriest, most mysterious part (besides how Russell T. Davies could sometimes write such good episodes, when he would go nuts in every finale) is that all of the alien confidence of the Doctor fails in this case. People are not impressed by him, and they don’t magically assume he knows best.

9:”Utopia/”The Sound of Drums”/”Last of the Time Lords” (2007): But-but the ending, you cry. Yes, I know. It is not…ideal. Still, before that final twist, you have two whole episodes that are strangely disturbing. Not in the way that Moffat’s best monsters are disturbing, but in a more subtle way that lingers for longer, like everyone’s eventual demise (sorry). “Utopia” takes place at the end of the universe. It’s dying, but people are trying to take a rocket to get somewhere…else. (Something about a slapdash rocket full of refugees trying to escape the end of the universe makes me sick in an awesome way — the way really killer sci-fi is supposed to, until you put it down and watch Gilmore Girls instead.) John Simm’s turn as the maser is not as hamfisted as it becomes later. It is still plenty broad, but it balances on a perfect, genuine line between madness and evil. His wife is unsettling with her twist. His domination of the world is scary. Everything except that final bit is fantastic. And yes, that final bit is bad. But it still makes more damn sense than whatever the fuck happened at the end of “The Stolen Earth” or even “Journey’s End.” Seriously, when Davros tries to destroy “reality itself” it feels like nothing. John Simm and the taclafane are an oddly sickening nightmare that demands repeat viewings.

10:”Flatline”(2014): There is a very good chance that this episodes will be seriously downgraded in the years to come. But I feel so grateful towards it right now, that I want to celebrate it. It’s as if someone was finally listening to my mother’s complaints that aliens are too humanoid. The alienness of aliens is fully acknowledged and worked with in this episode. There’s menace and pathos, but actual slapstick that didn’t make me want to stick my head through a wall. Clara is tolerable, and almost endearing. Secondary characters are good. The Doctor is not prominent, but he’s there, and Peter Capaldi is amazing and needs more episodes worthy of his amazingness. This is the first episode since “The Doctor’s Wife” that made me go “fuck yeah, this show, I love this show!” I keep forgetting this is possible.

Steve Hill says he’s not trying to defend Big Taxi but then does a great job of doing exactly that. Big Taxi is not a victim and Uber is not a villain. Big Taxi deserves to die and it’s in its death throes. It got big about 80 years ago when, thanks to foolish New Deal thinking that thought competition was bad, nearly every state and city granted monopoly status to favored or politically connected cab companies. Most cities got one cab company that was able to charge high fares, screw cabbies with high leases ($800 a week now in Pittsburgh), screw customers with horrible often racist “service” and take advantage of the bad regulations that OUTLAWED all competition. (Meanwhile, states and cities pretended to regulate cab companies but really didn’t.) Those who think Uber — and I drive for Uber in Pittsburgh part-time — should be regulated like taxis have it backwards. Taxis should be deregulated like Uber. Uber is finally doing what no politician has ever done and no national or local news media have ever called for — opened up local transportation markets to legal competition and liberated people from the chains of Big Taxi and Big Public Transit. Make fun of Kalanick for his hyperbole if you want, but he and his pals deserve medals for disrupting and destroying Big Taxi and aggressively challenging all the bad laws that have made Big Taxi and its owners big and wealthy. I’m happy to report that based on the smiling faces of hundreds of my under-30 Uber riders, our children will never voluntarily use Yellow Cabs again.

That’s a nice face I’m making.

Anyhoo, here’s the latest podcast with Sheldon Richman. In it we chat about minarchism versus anarchism, and whether government can ever be limited. Check it out, and check out past chats on including my moderation of the left libertarianism debate between Richman and Walter Block.

img005I’m trying to write something about what he meant to me, but here’s what he wrote to me. With all the thousands of letters he received, he took a week to respond — and that included a delay because he wrote down the wrong street address! Hell of a man.

  • via Guardian

    via Guardian

    The lovely Oliver Sacks has died. I am trying to write at least one thing about him or how much he meant to me (even if I hate personal essays), but it will never hold up to the man himself. If you ant to cry, read his New York Times piece where he told the world he was dying. Better yet, read all his books. I am very glad to have interacted with him, if only through a letter. I am also very glad to have not gotten through all of his books yet. Alas, I have more of a “I will cry” aversion now to reading his last, a memoir.

  • He sometimes responded to 13-year-olds, too. This-one-that-was, at least.
  • Robert Anton Wilson maybe had the right idea on voting (if you go to the booth). These Reason surveys are weirdly entrancing, partially because some people are disappointing one year, sensible the next. Also my dad talked about neocons going back to their caves. (On a side note, if they don’t ask me to participate next year, I will cry. No pressure.)
  • Speaking of Robert Anton Wilson, this is in its way as moving as Sacks’ final essay on mortality in February. I gotta read his work.
  • Man, these great writers are kind of putting on the pressure to write something beautiful, moving, and unafraid when facing death. Honestly, guys. Hitchens did the same thing, with the additionally impressive fearlessness of the staunch atheist.
  • I will not admit to you how much of this angry recap blog of every single episode of Full House I have read.
  • I understand many things with which I don’t agree. I don’t agree with the many cries of cultural appropriation, but I do think actress Amandla Steinberg’s line about “What would America be like if it loved black people as much as it loves black culture?” has some truth to it. A thing that I truly do not understand (still) is accusations of racism in respect to Miley Cyrus’ black backup dancers. Now she’s worn dreadlock hair extensions and a few people are annoyed, and that I get (I understand, I do not agree). Not to be stuck in 2013, but I still do not understand why having all black backup dancers during a dance (not, like, in your life, Gwen Stefani and those Japanese women-style) is supposed to be bad. Are we supposed to hire more white dancers? This is such a mess.
  • Speaking of which: Cathy Young has a fine, nuanced piece on cultural appropriation. Don’t cringe, I swear it’s good.
  • Oh, and Taylor Swift is just a COLONIAL MONSTER because she has a video set in Africa, which seems to have a vague storyline of Taylor Swift and Hot Man are old timey film stars. Okay, internet. Okay. I am much more indignant that her new single is the song where she sounds exactly like Lana Del Rey, instead of something superior like “I Know Places” or even “How You Get The Girl.” (1989 is underwhelming, but has enough ear worms that I have opinions about it.)