Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | May 23, 2014

Beowulf, Babylon 5, and Random Links for Friday

1. The Idaho GOP Gubernatorial Primary Debate was…something to behold. (Politico;
Washington Post; Mother Jones.) Truly entertaining. Highlights below.

2. Commenting on the recent general election in India, Tyler Cowen suggests that the perceived extremism of the BJP legislative caucus could “make the electorate more willing to cut a deal with Pakistan, as fewer people will fear that the deal will neglect India’s interests. In essence this kind of slanted government can become more Coasean, as it is more trusted by its core supporters.” We’ll see, I suppose.

(For a broader discussion of this reputed phenomenon — the mechanism whereby “Only Nixon could go to China” — Cowen point to this 1998 paper he wrote with Daniel Sutter. See also this post.)

3. Taylor Marvin has a devastating critique of C.S. Lewis and the way that non-Western-European-style cultures feature in the Chronicles of Narnia. (Spoilers at the link.)

4. Katy Waldman compares J.R.R. Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf to the translation by Seamus Heaney.

5. Why Babylon 5 is the best — and worst — television sci fi series ever made.

6. H.R. Giger, the artist who designed the monster for Ridley Scott’s Alien, passed away. He was 74.

From Ars Technica:

Giger was already a well-established artist in his own right when he was approached by auteur director Alejandro Jodorowsky in 1973 to participate in preproduction work on Jodorowsky’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune. Giger did a number of designs for the film, most notably the Harkonnen world of Giedi Prime, but his first introduction to Hollywood was ultimately a failure–after a few years and a few million dollars, production on Jodorowsky’s Dune spectacularly imploded, leaving behind some fantastic stories and an enduring legacy, but no movie.

However, directly because of the failed project, Giger was hired a few years later by Ridley Scott to work on Alien, a film that involved a number of other Dune alums, including scriptwriter Dan O’Bannon. Alien was already in heavy preproduction and featured art by the likes of Ron Cobb, Chris Foss, and Moebius (Jean Giraud) — Foss and Moebius had contributed significantly to Dune as well. Giger was brought on by Scott after O’Bannon introduced the director to Giger’s work, and Giger’s designs displaced all other preproduction art for the titular monster.

(For my take on Jodorowsky’s concept for Dune, see here.)

7. It does seem that every book about Africa features the same cover art theme. (H/T: Chris Blattman.)

8. Come, Google Fiber, and deliver us from evil. (See also here.)

9. Banking at the Post Office: why the hell not?

10. LFC on Joseph Schumpeter, Corey Robin, and imperialism in the Cold War and post-Cold War eras.

11. M.R. Trower: Why are vegetarians (and vegans) so annoying? (Or, why do veggies and vegans elicit defensive and hostile responses?)

12. In the New York Times, Michael Kinsley reviews Glenn Greenwald’s recent book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State. At Techdirt, Barry Eisler tears Kinsley’s book review to shreds. A good and thorough fisking is a beauty to behold.

13. Bill Gates on Jeffrey Sachs and the Millennium Villages Project. (H/T: Tyler Cowen.)

14. Scott Wolford: when class meets current events; or, what to do when you’re teaching a class on the Causes of War and, all of a sudden, Vladimir Putin decides to have a war.

15. Jay Ulfelder: Realists Versus Russianists on Ukraine.

16. Oh, btw, there’s been a military coup in Thailand. In case you hadn’t heard.

17. The Americans finished a strong second season this past Wednesday. I was pleased with the season finale, as I have been with just about every episode this season.

For more details (and spoilers), see this recap and review in Time. Meanwhile, Slate has a good interview with the showrunners, Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields.

Image Credits: Photo by Brad J. Ward, February 2012, near Masai Mara, Kenya. Used under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license. Source: Flickr.


  1. Thanks for the interview link re: Americans! Damn, that show just keeps finding ways to turn the screw a little tighter … FREE NINA!

  2. Btw, is it just me, or has any other TV show in America had a protagonist be so forthrightly atheist? Elizabeth mocking Christian afterlife as a “fairy tale” was entirely in character, but startling, like Clark’s handing off the used condom last week.

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