Monday, March 30, 2009

Battlestar Galactica

Last week was the finale of what I consider to the best show on television. Perhaps the best show that's been on tv for a while. The finale of Battlestar Galactica.

Chami and I have been following the series closely since the mini-series.. it's always given us lots to talk about and argue over after each show - you can't ask for more than that.

We've been watching the last 10 episodes - called Season 4.5 as the fourth season was split due to the writer's strike - with increasing trepidation. What was once a brilliant show was starting to show cracks. Ron Moore has always said that he focuses on the characters more than the story (and definately not on the technology) and that most of the plots were made up as they went along. This was unfortunately starting to show. Great characters are fine - but if they are set against a backdrop that is becoming increasingly incoherent it makes them into caricatures and character studies - not real people.

As it has been said across the blogosphere, the finale has polarised the audience. Chami and I definately fall into the "it was shite" catagory. We spent something like 4 or 5 hours after the show talking about why we were so dissapointed and where it had gone wrong.

First it was the abandoning of any of the great mythology they had built up. I got the distinct feeling that the writers strike had put the final nail in BSG's coffin. Everything in season 4.5 felt disjointed, it felt out of place. Nothing more than the mutiny and then the "God did it!" explanation of the finale.

The show had built a deep mythology over the last four years -the 13 tribes of humans and the exodus from Kobol, the Gods of Kobol giving "fire" to the humans to create other intelligent beings, the temple of five, the Book of Pythia and the visions of Hera and the Opera House. These were powerful ideas. Even the (randomly made up) story line of the Final Five cylons being from Earth and giving the technology added SOMETHING to the story (as well as muddied up the waters around the Temple of the Five) - but it could have been saved.

However it seems that the writers just gave up (well before the final) on making this into a cohesive story - ambiguity is fine - but ignoring it completely, or even worse - saying "God did it" is the worst possible cop out. It still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

Jacob from Television Without Pity says it like this:

think what I reacted so violently to, this finale and the last one, was the exceedingly inorganic, forced nature of the revelations, at the last second. Not organically developing out of the story told over the preceding nineteen episodes, and the threads of deeper meaning and juxtaposition that they afford, but a determined weeding out of tools and images that didn't fit the finale, when it was time to write the finale. That's distinctly irreverent, toward the material, toward the story itself, and to your writers. I think what happened here was less a issue of forethought and planning, and more a loss of nutsack at a crucial moment. A dedication to reaching ideas long plotted out, working against the grain of the story itself, to arrive at treasured endpoints that no longer signify.

However, even worse than the "God" explanation was the "lets all go back to the stone age" idea of Lee Adama. I find this whole concept so reprehensible I can hardly think about watching BSG again. Not only because I find the whole thing personally offensive, but also because it is such a huge contradiction of everything that has gone before.

How would a group of 40,000 people who have fought and disagreed about everything from politcs to religion possibly unanimously agree that abandoning all technology and embracing a pre stone age life is a good idea? Sure a few, or even most might have done it. But EVERYONE? (Speaking of hippies - this might have been a great use of the "cult of Baltar" that they had spent all this time building up. I could believe that they want to go back to a primitive life. But no - the whole cult was just dropped and forgotten like many other pieces of the story because it seemed to hard to resolve).

Battlestar Galactica has always been a story of incredible moral courage. Not only from the characters, but also from it's writers. What it did at the very end is the worst form of moral cowardice. Jacob from TVWP once again:

Why on Earth should anyone, anywhere, ever retrograde? If you don't like the thesis, generate the antithesis and pull it together with your hands: don't wipe the board. I don't think I've been more grossed out by any statement of this show's characters than the order not to "underestimate the desire for a clean slate." Anyone who honestly wants a clean slate wants to die. The question is, "When Will the Work Be Done?" And the only answer is: Never. You don't get to lay down your burdens, the rough spots are all you ever had. That's called life, and it's just as sweet and just as brutal as the angels, and the Gods. You can't tear pages out of your history. That's as weak as declaring bankruptcy, and morally reprehensible. It is profane.

I fear that the ending of BSG has ruined what would have been one of my most cherished stories. Maybe some time in the future I can forgive Ron Moore or least understand what he did and look at BSG in something similar to the way I've looked at it before.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

/bin/mail and setting the From: line

UNIX geekery ahead. Skip to save your sanity.

Over the years I've needed a script to set the From: line in a mail that it sends out - and the syntax is quite obscure and doesn't always turn up in a Goolgle search.

So what you need is to give mail the -- argument which lets you pass arguments straight to sendmail:

echo "message body" | mail -s "subject" user@domain.tld -- -F "Users Name" -f user2@domain.tld