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4 years ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Finishes 'Discwor... · 5 replies · +24 points

I've been reading Discworld for nearly 30 years, and part of the fandom for 25.

Mark, you started reading Discworld 6 years ago, in 2014 (funnily enough, on my birthday).

For various reasons, I haven't left many comments here over the past few years. But I've followed every post, watched every video, and it's been something very special to revisit all these stories and see the reactions of a fresh pair of eyes from a new perspective. When I was still a teenager, I used to reread all the preceeding Discworld books before a new one came out (impressive considering there were often 2 a year!) but it's been a while since I've had the time to do that, and several of the most recent books I never quite felt like rereading. So this is the first time I've experienced the whole, complete set. It's been incredibly enjoyable.

I've had the immense pleasure of inviting Mark to Discworld conventions and talking to him about his thoughts on the series and I've loved seeing Pratchett's influence trickle into his writing*. I'm so glad you got why we love Terry's work so much. It's strange to be at the end of this journey, but it's been such a brilliant one. I'm so pleased we could welcome you into the fandom.

Basically this is just to say: thanks, Mark. And here's to some enjoyable rereading in your future!

*I don't think there's a Pratchett reader anywhere that doesn't emerge with a new appreciation for the beauty of a good footnote.

4 years ago @ Mark Watches - Mark Watches 'Doctor W... · 1 reply · +10 points

Like much of the rest of the episode, there's a lot of inconsistency in how 'intelligent' the AI is... the Doctor says it's conscious, but normally she'd be a lot more concerned over the fact a conscious decision making entity killed someone, she's dealt with that kind of thing in various ways before. If it's sentient, does it get bored, or deserve pay for its work?

As you say it doesn't do much beyond what we might expect current industrial AI does... except if it's not sentient after all, how did it know to call the Doctor for help? Why get Kira involved? (that kind of logic is actually very human style, not what a machine might do). And does it control all the bots or are they somewhat independent?

4 years ago @ Mark Watches - Mark Watches 'Doctor W... · 0 replies · +8 points

It's part of the Black Archive series by Obverse books, and it's coming out in November!

4 years ago @ Mark Watches - Mark Watches 'Doctor W... · 2 replies · +12 points

"Science fiction has A LOT more interesting stories than this to talk about automation. It feels as if there's a lack of imagination when someone looks at automation as problem for people's jobs/livelihood and thinks "ah, the solution is to phase out automation and give more people jobs" (the "solution" to the problem of this episode as stated by the executives of Kerblam) rather than "maybe in a future where all jobs are automated, we should instead think about other systems as an alternative to a system that requires a demand for human labor in order to function." It's baffling."

I just wrote a whole book (well, half of one, I had a co-author) on this episode and you basically summed up an entire chapter in this paragraph! And then another one with: "because the Doctor at that moment is literally defending a system/being/structure/AI that JUST murdered someone in cold blood? What???"

I chose to write about this episode not because I thought it was great, but because it failed in such interesting ways while also being quite popular - like Mark, many people enjoyed it, and I actually personally rated it above many others in the series - but left lots of people with a weird aftertaste. The politics is excessively messy, and the technology could have been far more interesting too...

5 years ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'Wintersmit... · 0 replies · +14 points

A thought that came to me:

If Tiffany is going to be a witch of the Granny Weatherwax style (as seems likely) and Petulia is setting up nicely as her equivalent of Nanny Ogg, to be grounded and practical where necessary...

Despite the differences in power dynamics and relative ages involved, I think Anagramma might be her Magrat. More interested initially in the trappings and fairytale versions of witchcraft, has to learn from the ground up what it really means... but in a pinch comes through with unexpected bravery and her own style.

5 years ago @ Mark Watches - Mark Watches 'Babylon ... · 1 reply · +4 points

I'm British, and from what I can gather it seems that it can be quite drawn out. A colleague of mine had a close bereavement recently (an elderly relative) and it was about two weeks, possibly more, before the funeral.

Jewish burial is supposed to take place within 24 hours if at all possible.

5 years ago @ Mark Watches - Mark Watches 'Babylon ... · 0 replies · +5 points

I'm happy to chat. If you can't figure out DMs here (I don't know how?) I'm findable on twitter.

5 years ago @ Mark Watches - Mark Watches 'Babylon ... · 3 replies · +4 points

Vg znl abg unir orra gur ernfba, ohg V nyfb ernyyl yvxrq gung gurer jnf zber gvzr orgjrra gur rcvfbqr jurer Vinabin'f sngure qvrq, naq guvf bar. Vg ernyyl oevatf ubzr ubj zhpu fur'f orra nibvqvat vg.

5 years ago @ Mark Watches - Mark Watches 'Babylon ... · 4 replies · +22 points

The other nice touch I thought was how Rabbi Koslov referred to Babylon 5 as a 'Ness Gadol'. My immediate association with that phrase is Channukah, where it is often used when referring to the story of that festival, commemorating the uprising of the Maccabeean rebellion to reclaim the second temple. We say 'Ness gadol haya sham', a great miracle happened there (and it's the meaning of the acronym on the sides of a dreidel). This refers to both the military victory, and the more miraculous aspect of the rekindled flame that was kept alight in the resanctified temple for eight days when it should have only lasted one. Some historical interpretations suggest it was a civil war that ended, but either way it's a story about restoring peace at the end of a violent conflict. That seems pretty fitting for Babylon 5, whose main purpose is peace.

*Culturally, at least. I am relatively observant for personal and cultural reasons, however in terms of faith I am an agnostic (in the classical sense: I don't believe the existence of deities is an answerable question) tending towards atheism.

5 years ago @ Mark Watches - Mark Watches 'Babylon ... · 10 replies · +19 points

I don't comment much these days but I felt like I had to contribute to this one! Note - I can't remember where the couple of things that I mention in ROT13 crop up in the show, so to be safe assume whole show spoilers.

Reading the ROT13 comments, I'd noticed that this episode was mentioned often as one that people weren't too fond of. So when the episode started and I remembered which one it was, I was quite surprised because I remember enjoying it the first time. And I did this time too! I suspect it possibly gets downrated because it doesn't seem to connect in to the ongoing plot threads as much as others, and doesn't include as wide a variety of cast members (none of the ambassadors, for example). Vf vg bar bs gur srj rcvfbqrf gung qbrfa'g pbaarpg ng nyy gb gur jvqre cybg nepf? The Walker Smith plot I didn't find particularly exciting, but it was fine, and like Mark I liked the resolution of it. [S1, regarding episode placement, expectation only] V'ir svavfurq f1 abj, ba zl frpbaq rire jngpu, naq V guvax V cebonoyl jngpurq vg bhg bs beqre ynfg gvzr. V guvax vg jbexf ernyyl jryy urer, tvivat gvzr sbe gur guernqf gb qrirybc ohg nyfb tvivat sberfunqbjvat sbe jung'f gb pbzr.

As a Jewish person* though, I have a particular connection to the other storyline here, and since Mark mentioned not being able to comment on the authenticity, I thought I would.

We've seen previously Ivanova make references to God, so it wasn't a surprise that she comes from a religious background. But as Mark says, it's not that often that you see Jewish practice explored in detail on TV, especially in science fiction shows! It's so nice to see a major character be Jewish in a multi-ethnic cast where it's not treated as strange or an issue. Naq cerggl qnza pbby gung fur'f nyfb n dhrre punenpgre, juvpu nyfb tbrf haerznexrq. Crbcyr pna orybat gb zber guna bar zvabevgl tebhc! Uheenu!.

The exploration in this episode is very respectfully done, and feels honest to me, even though some little details were, if not incorrect, then at least interesting. For example, I was surprised that the Rabbi ate the mysterious fish while commenting that the Torah does not mention it. Actually, in determining whether a fish is kosher there is a specific set of rules (it needs to have fins and scales) and in practice there is an 'agreed list' of fish that have been determined to be acceptable to eat. I'd expect him to at least check the former! However since Jewish practice is quite broad, I can happily accept that he is from a tradition where there are different rulings about alien foodstuffs, and/or he accepts that eating it out of politeness to Ivanova (who's clearly arranged for the quite expensive restaurant) is more relevant than its specific kosher status.

What is addressed very well in my opinion is the representation of Jewish mourning ritual, and the purpose of the shiva. I like a lot of the practices of Judaism, especially the more reflective ones, and it has always seemed very strange to me how Christian tradition waits such a long time before the funeral, and then that's the end of it. Jewish burial is done almost immediately, and then sitting shiva lasts up to a week, to allow time to mourn and come to terms with the grief in a supported manner, before returning to 'normal' life. Although the end of the episode doesn't quite clarify the timeline, Sinclair makes references to 'double shifts' in plural so I suspect at least a couple of days have passed. So perhaps Garibaldi came to visit her at a later time during her shiva?

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