Watching Babylon 5 for the First Time, Season 4: Episodes 13-16

I am very late to the Babylon 5 party. As it came out, I was a bit young for the show and the few times we tried to watch as a family, it was clear we had no idea what was going on. After several people bugged me, telling me it was the show I needed to watch, I grabbed the whole series around Christmas last year on a great sale. I’ve been watching it since, sneaking it in between the many things going on in my life. It quickly became apparent that I’d want to discuss the episodes with others, so I began this series of posts. Please don’t spoil anything from later seasons or episodes for me! 

Babylon 5, Season 4: Episodes 13-16

13: Rumors, Bargains and Lies

I enjoyed the opening with the mix of humor about Sheridan missing Delenn while also making some plans for how to (not) convince various worlds to go along with plans to clamp down on various problems. The conversation between Delenn and Neroon was fantastic. I especially enjoyed the back to back uses of “After a fashion” by Delenn regarding a compliment and trust in Neroon. I’m honestly surprised that we see the Minbari homeworld so quickly embroiled in conflict, though. Sheridan’s conversation with an alien about the use of White Star ships with the Centauri is also masterful, along with having the touch of humor that I’ve enjoyed so much in B5 so far. The follow-up conversation with Mollari and the alien is another example of this. And again, Dr. Franklin piles it on. The writers of Babylon 5 truly use humor to great effect, essentially embracing the somewhat campy nature of the show while never fully degrading into anything but space opera. It’s fantastic.

Delenn’s manipulation of her own caste was another great moment in this episode that is full of them. Lennier must survive! Though, let’s be real, I’d trade basically anyone’s life if Marcus gets to survive. And, of course, Lennier recovers enough from being poisoned to… wait WHAT!? Neroon is a traitorous snake!? Okay, call me gullible but I did not see that coming. 

14: Moments of Transition

Garibaldi is enlisted by William Edgars to smuggle more items to Babylon 5. Zack confronts him about it, but Garibaldi is unimpressed by his points and gaslights the heck outta Zack. Neroon appears to be having some kind of second thoughts about his betrayal. Meanwhile, Bester is back on station, and being a cynical butthole as normal. He works to enlist Lyta’s… body? He wants to know what the Vorlons did to her, and tries to sell it as a contribution to all telepaths, but we as viewers know he’s garbage and that the Psi Corps would 100% use it for humans only, especially those humans who serve the corrupt and probably evil government. Of course, somewhat predictably Lyta immediately faces additional hardship, leading one to wonder if she won’t give in to Bester.

Delenn uses her subtle manipulation of the religious caste to turn the tables on the warrior caste and appeal to Valen and the traditions of the Minbari to force their hand. Neroon steps up when push comes to shove and challenges Shakiri on his apparent fear of death. Then, Neroon steps in to save Delenn at the last moment, taking the massive trial of the Minbari to the death, eventually being burned into nothing as he calls on the Minbari to listen to Delenn. I truly teared up at this moment. What an incredible, beautiful, spiritual moment.

Bester celebrates Garibaldi’s actions as Garibaldi fires Lyta shortly after hiring her due to a command from WIlliam Edgars. I am still trying to put together what all of these intertwining threads are supposed to add together to become. The episode ends with Ivanova and Sheridan planning a retributive strike on Earth forces after the Earth forces commit a heinous war crime. Time for some action. 

I think this brings me to between 5-10 times that I’ve cried either joyfully or with other emotions during the show. It may be the greatest show ever.

15: No Surrender, No Retreat

Sheridan has had enough garbage from various factions among the peoples on Babylon 5. He has decided to nullify many of the agreements and seek to fight back against Earth to end the anti-alien propaganda and leanings once and for all. I liked that they addressed the question of possibly false orders being given to the Babylon 5 forces… and of course Ivanova’s one liner was great: “Trust Ivanova, trust yourself… anybody else? Shoot ’em!”

We finally get another one-on-one between Mollari and G’Kar, and it was fantastic. Mollari ultimately goes on a rant about how he tried to do whatever was right for his world. “I am a patriot!” says Mollari. But he says it is because of this that he made choices that endangered both his world and G’Kar’s. He made terrible choices, attempting to do what was best for his people. He shares with G’Kar some future plans, and the work he’s going to try to do for his people going forward. “I hope to do better,” he said. He offers the gesture of a drink as a returned favor, noting that he and G’Kar can have something in common “besides hatred” and a drink to the humans. But G’Kar silently turns the gesture down, pouring the drink back into Mollari’s flask. Mollari departs in disappointment. It’s a powerful, character-building moment for both of them. 

The first sortie by the Babylon 5 closes the jaws of a trap around some Earth Force destroyers, giving Sheridan the chance to talk to them from a position of strength. He appeals to their conscience, and in the case of some, succeeds. As Sheridan tries to convince captains from Earth to join him as an ally, G’Kar approaches Mollari at the bar and takes a drink side-by-side with him. G’Kar says he will sign his name on a joint statement with Mollari, “But not on the same page.” Yet another powerful moment between these two. Mollari’s series of expressions as G’Kar departs is a masterful play, too. Two captains end up joining with Sheridan. 

And apparently Garibaldi is leaving for Mars… for good? I doubt it.

16: The Exercise of Vital Powers

Garibaldi goes to Mars to meet with William Edgars, and we finally get a kind of noir-style look into Garibaldi’s mental state at this point. He seems paranoid about Sheridan, in particular. One wonders who did this to him and how they did it. The room he ends up in on Mars seems to look just a little similar to the room we saw in his flashbacks of his captivity and (apparent) mental reconditioning. I wonder if there’s some broader plot with Edgar setting Garibaldi up as a tool for himself instead of simply taking advantage of a situation that fell into his lap. Honestly, reflecting on this after watching the episode I’m becoming even more convinced that this might be the case. 

Meanwhile, back on the station, Lyta has some success where Dr. Franklin does not as she manages to penetrate the fog of some of the telepath victims of the Shadows. As Franklin works towards Sheridan’s goal of helping the telepaths, Edgars is apparently performing his own experiments with some kind of horrible drug that they discover “works” for sure. But all we see so far is some people who look like living corpses dying in what seems like isolation.

Garibaldi decides to go in with Edgars, and the latter demands that Garibaldi bring Sheridan to him. Garibaldi agrees to get Sheridan and bring him to Edgars. And Garibaldi agrees to do so by going after Sheridan’s father, which is a serious ramping up of Garibaldi’s betrayal. Is he just doing what he’s programmed to do? I’m honestly getting really confused about this. We just get a noir-like close to the episode as Garibaldi rides across Mars once again. It’s brutal. 


Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!


Presidential Biographies: Theodore Roosevelt #26

My quest to read (at least) one biography per President continues with Theodore Roosevelt, the twenty-sixth President of the United States. The biography I chose with my selection process (reading reviews online and utilizing and this website- My Journey Through the Best Presidential Biographies) was actually twofold. Initially, I read Power and Responsibility: The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt by William Henry Harbaugh. I found that one to be extremely dry, to the point where I was forcing myself through. After getting to the end, I decided a fresh look was worth it for Roosevelt, and ended up reading Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life by Kathleen Dalton.

Here, I’ll offer my thoughts on that biography, and proceed to present my official ranking for the DEFINITIVE RANKING OF PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES!!!!!! The full list of the rankings with all the Presidents as well as comments on their careers, updated as I read through this list, may be found here.

Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life by Kathleen Dalton and Power and Responsibility: The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt by William Henry Harbaugh

Theodore Roosevelt is certainly one of the more fascinating figures in United States history. Both biographers I read pointed out the gulf between the assumptions about his life and legends about the man and the facts of his life. Certainly, the legends and general knowledge have a basis in reality, but his real life is fascinating as well. Time and again, the old aphorism that “Truth is stranger than fiction” applies very accurately to history.

Roosevelt is not what people would describe as the American dream. Unlike some other Presidents who went from relative poverty to the White House, he was born into immense wealth. He did, however, still struggle to make something of himself. Struggling with illness through his youth, it was his father, “Thee” (nickname for the elder Theodore), who pushed him hard to get past physical weakness. His father’s worldview was embraced by Teddy, who himself pushed for what the biographers called a “muscular” Christianity. This term can be misleading in its meaning, but essentially it is a combination of orthodox Christian teaching with an amalgam of cultural baggage largely based around perceptions of what it means to be robust and, by extension, masculine. That same image of Christianity unfortunately is very alive and well in our times as well, as people combine Christian belief with cultural baggage even while claiming it is the latter that just is the former. That aside, it is clear that both Roosevelt and his father were faithful Christians who attempted, however imperfectly, to apply their beliefs to their lives.

Roosevelt before his Presidency is full of the legendary tales that have established him firmly in American folklore. The rough riders, the traveling around the world–all of that is fascinating reading. It also helps show the character of the man himself. Roosevelt did not back down from a fight, whether with force of arms or with weapons politic. He charged forward in his attempts to bring about labor reform, especially working to try to push such reforms through the Supreme Court. He was bitterly opposed in this by basically everyone with money, who did not wish their wealth to not simply increase in massively disproportionate ways.

An absolutely fascinating part of Roosevelt’s vision of reality is his commitment to seeing scientific knowledge and insight as a guiding light for policy and practice. Pair this with his Christian commitments, and it made for a powerful worldview that withstood many tests. But it also led to some serious difficulties. For example, Roosevelt’s worldview held to a strong belief that all people were valuable and that each person should be given a fair chance/fair deal at life. But the science of his time also had some pushing eugenics and “scientific” race theories that argued that people of different backgrounds were, in fact, unequal simply based upon their heritage or birth. Race science is deeply rooted in prejudice and has very little basis in actual fact (for some fascinating reading on this, read Superior by Angela Saini or The History of White People by Nell Irving Painter), but it was and sometimes still is accepted as sober truth. Roosevelt, being well-read and interested in science, struggled to balance his belief in the equality of all people with the notion that people were, in fact, unequal in reality as well. Dalton does not over-emphasize this in his policy-making, but it seems like it did impact him in some ways.

Alongside Roosevelt’s fight to protect what he saw as workers’ rights, he also fought against the peonage system which he saw as little more than an extension of slavery. This fight put him again on the other side of those in power through wealth, which is somewhat surprising given Roosevelt’s own background. But Roosevelt’s fight both against peonage and for workers’ rights demonstrates in reality his actual commitment both to Christian principles of equality and his general belief that everyone deserved a fair chance at life. Another place this was demonstrated was in Roosevelt’s view was ahead of his time was in women’s abilities more generally. When challenged by anti-suffragists who made the argument that only those who could defend the right to vote ought to be given it (i.e. only those suitable for military service), Roosevelt replied by saying that women could one day become “effective combatants” (75). Women, Roosevelt said, should have equality before the law because “though placed by education and surroundings at a disadvantage,” women were “in no wise inferior as regards quickness or acuteness” (ibid).

Roosevelt also truly tried to walk the line between parties, moderating some aspects while pushing for liberalization of others. Whether it was his battle for fairer labor laws or his hawkish foreign policy, Roosevelt truly was a man of principles that he would follow even if they went against the grain of his party or other powerful people/groups. He’s perhaps best known for his conservation work–itself tied into his vision of scientific leadership–and looking back on his legacy, there’s no question that this is properly placed as a major accomplishment for him. Additionally, his foreign policy is a major component, whether his questionable use of force to get the Panama Canal forced through or his personal brokering of the peace talks for the Russo-Japanese War, he was all over the map on foreign policy (sorry), but he also massively expanded the power and prestige both of the President specifically and United States generally in international relations. Going along with that, his support of the navy helped modernize the U.S. Navy and project U.S. interests–colonial or not–globally.

Roosevelt was not a perfect man or President, but he was a fantastic, admirable one. His record of defending the rights of all citizens of the United States–and many non-citizens–is exemplary. He was guided by his devout faith to regard everyone as deserving a fair chance at life, and his policies followed that belief. It is commendable, too, that he allowed the scientific knowledge of his time to guide him more than any previous President–an example that occasionally led him astray, but that has self-correction built into it in such a way that Presidents to this day ought to take note. Though legends often blow their subject out of proportion or downplay their flaws, Roosevelt’s “real life” truly seems to live up to the towering shadow he casts over United States history.

Theodore Roosevelt’s Original Ranking in THE DEFINITIVE RANKING OF PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES (Full and Updated List Here)

Theodore Roosevelt (26th President – Original Ranking #2)- Theodore Roosevelt exemplified what it ought to mean to be President. He put the needs of the people–all people–first and fought against any who would attempt to take away votes, privileges, or rights from citizens of the United States. He allowed himself to be guided both by his Christian faith and by modern (for him) science, which did lead to the occasional mistake, but largely allowed him to correct himself on several positions. His immense strides for conservation helped usher in an appreciation for nature and science that grew with his efforts. He could have been better on many counts–his imperialism was only occasionally reigned in by his inconsistency of foreign policy–but he constantly tried to be better. He was a man of fine principles who stuck to them, even when it was difficult. Not only that, but he was an excellent, immensely successful President. It is difficult to understate how important and great Roosevelt was.


J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!


“The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel” – First Impressions

Official Art from Nihon Falcom. Used under fair use.

I started playing “The Legend of Heroes” series back in 2015, ultimately finishing the first game, “The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky” in 2016. The series recaptured my love of role-playing games, particularly Japanese RPGs, in a way I never thought I’d feel again. I played through all 3 games in the “Trails in the Sky” arc and was in love with them every minute. I fell in love, moreover, with the characters. I purchased the “Trails of Cold Steel” games on sales as they came out, knowing I’d want them in my back pocket to play once I wrapped up the “Sky” series.

But once I’d finished “Sky,” I was afraid I wouldn’t find the other games captured the same feeling. I knew many people had become fans of the series by playing “Cold Steel,” but was concerned myself about how many comparisons were made to the Persona series–a series that I have played and enjoyed, but that always stresses me out. The main reason for the latter is because I always felt stressed I’d miss things and not get to enjoy the full feel of the story. But that couldn’t keep deterring me. I started watching a “Let’s Play” to experience the Crossbell games but I didn’t want to stay away from the beautiful world Falcom had created. So I dived in to “Cold Steel.”

I was blown away fairly quickly. At the very beginning, the game thrusts you into the middle of an intense action sequence, but without any connection to the characters, it was hard to really get into this part. Then, after this brief introduction to the battle system and some characters, you rewind to see Rean Schwarzer, the main protagonist, getting off a train and starting school at Thors Military Academy. In traditional Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) fashion, you can walk around and talk to people around town, and it was here I knew I was falling in love with the game. Falcom, you see, crafted a detailed, beautiful world for these games. No, the graphics aren’t the same as modern blockbuster games–Trails of Cold Steel looks like it would be at home on the PS3, for example–but the amount of details crammed in to every room is stunning. It’s the little things like having flowers prominently displayed throughout town, the way townsfolk go about their days, and the like that made me feel at home. It’s a JRPG through-and-through.

Thoughtful design aesthetics can only take one so far, however. The gameplay itself is a delight. I’m only about 15 hours in now, and the cycle seems to be: spend some time at the Academy and around town doing projects to know side characters, make connections, and complete quests; then, go off to a distant locale for field work which is where the great battle system comes in to play; repeat. Tons of character development is liberally sprinkled throughout, and I’m falling in love with the characters and setting.

There’s a clear undercurrent of class struggle happening. At Thors Military Academy, those from the upper class get their own dormitories, complete with staff to complete all their cleaning and indulge their whims. The lower class students have different dorms but have to cook, clean, and do all their housekeeping themselves. Class VII, however, combines upper and lower classes into one group of students for special assignments. This has caused no small amount of tension, especially between two main characters: Machias and Jusis. The latter is of the uppermost crust of the nobility, the former despises nobles with a passion. But I can already see there seems to be much more going on than this in the background, as we start to learn more about Jusis’s family.

The music is incredible, as it seems to always be with Falcom games. I find myself humming the tunes at work or just enjoying the music in the background as I do things around the house.

If you are a fan in any way of JRPGs, I would strongly encourage you to play these games. It’s probably best to start with the Trails in the Sky series (I reviewed the first two games here). Those games are some of my all-time favorites for their amazing stories, music, and gameplay. But if the very old school graphics of the Sky series puts you off, you should still at least give Cold Steel a try. I guarantee that you’ll find something to love in this series if you like JRPGs.

Anyway, back to playing the game! Let me know what you think, but please don’t spoil this game or later games for me!


Video Games– here are all my posts about video games.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!


Reading the Horus Heresy, Book 12: “A Thousand Sons” by Graham McNeill

I know I’m late to the party, but I finally decided to start reading the “Horus Heresy,” a huge series of novels set in the universe of Warhammer 40,000 (though it is set much earlier than the year 40,000). I thought it would be awesome to blog the series as I go. With more than 50 novels and many, many short stories, there will be a lot of posts in this series (I doubt I’ll get to all the short stories). I’m reading the series in publication order unless otherwise noted. There will be SPOILERS from the books discussed as well as previous books in the series. Please DO NOT SPOIL later books in the series.

A Thousand Sons by Graham McNeill

Psykers and Heresy go hand-in-hand in the Warhammer 40K universe, and picking up this book about the Thousand Sons Legion had me expecting to find astartes that were already broken and mired in Chaotic evil. I say this as someone who has really only experienced the WH40K universe piecemeal, having started years ago with the Eisenhorn Trilogy and then picking away at different reads that looked interesting, largely through omnibus editions. So it’s likely someone who is steeped in the lore of the universe will laugh at my comments. That’s okay. I’m writing this about my own journey, and I hope you’ll take it with me! All of this is to say I had no idea I’d run into Magnus the Red and Ahriman (who, so far as I know, are both pretty evil dudes in the 40K part of the universe) as such sympathetic characters. 

A Thousand Sons starts off almost as an invitation–come read, and see that the Thousand Sons tried to do what was right. It’s a great hook, and I was enthralled right away. There are multiple perspectives here, something that I have enjoyed and also that I’ve been annoyed by in turns in the Horus Heresy. Here, it works quite well, as the perspective of the Remembrancers gives not just extra insight from “normal” people (HUGE scare quotes around “normal”) but also allows more investment in the overall plot. So McNeill here creates a story with numerous interesting characters–something several of the books have lacked thus far. 

Perhaps the most interesting of all, though, are Ahriman and Magnus. The latter doesn’t have as many pages dedicated to him, but they both shine as deep characters with motives that make sense even as they descend into evil. Making evil characters that are both believable and even sympathetic is an accomplishment, and McNeill does it so well here. You understand why Magnus thinks he needs the power of Chaos/Psychic powers. You see why he chose to heal his Sons even though he ultimately misunderstood the cost. You can question the apparent overreach and reactive way that the Emperor and Space Wolves move in the book. (I know, I’m hiding from the Inquisition right now!) It gives the book a feel of discovery and foreboding that makes the Warhammer universe work so well.

A Thousand Sons is a fantastic, though not flawless, read. It certainly reinvigorated my interest in the series, and made the eponymous Legion fascinating to me.  Definitely one of the best reads in the Horus Heresy so far. 


Horus Heresy and Warhammer/40K Hub– All my posts on the Horus Heresy, as well as books throughout the Warhammer and 40K universe can be found here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!


Watching Babylon 5 for the First Time- Season 4: Episodes 9-12

Nothing could possibly go wrong.

I am very late to the Babylon 5 party. As it came out, I was a bit young for the show and the few times we tried to watch as a family, it was clear we had no idea what was going on. After several people bugged me, telling me it was the show I needed to watch, I grabbed the whole series around Christmas last year on a great sale. I’ve been watching it since, sneaking it in between the many things going on in my life. It quickly became apparent that I’d want to discuss the episodes with others, so I began this series of posts. Please don’t spoil anything from later seasons or episodes for me! 

9: Atonement

I enjoyed the opening with Zack Allan here clearly missing Garibaldi. I can’t wait to see what happens with Garibaldi and how he’ll come back. Like Zack, I think it’s just a matter of when, not if. G’Kar gets an eye which can see outside of his skull independently, and I suspect that will be important later! And, guess who’s here!? It’s Marcus, baby! And he’s acting as a bodyguard for the Doc, which can only end well. As they prepare to go, Dr. Franklin stops to tell Sheridan he’s willing to look into the disappearance of Sheridan’s’ father. It’s a touching moment, especially when one thinks about Dr. Franklin’s own father and the issues that we’ve seen there. I think it takes on extra meaning because of that, and Franklin is basically just trying to say what he thinks is important. 

Delenn goes back to Minbari to face some kind of inquiry into her sex life and dreams, which is both weird but also not unexpected. As we see these flashbacks, we discover Delenn was the deciding vote in going to war against the humans in the Earth-Minbari war. We also find that the Minbari have had human DNA in them for some time. The Minbari leadership is apparently trying to cover this fact up, due to some awful xenophobia about purity. Delenn is unimpressed by the appeal to keep it a secret. 

And we leave the episode with Marcus singing, which immediately jumps this episode into the top episodes of all time. He even continues over the credits!

10: Racing Mars

Marcus and Dr. Franklin continue to Mars, picking up an ally (??) along the way. Their cover is apparently as a married couple on honeymoon, a story to which Marcus takes with gusto, of course! Meanwhile, Garibaldi and Sheridan get into a shouting match over Garibaldi’s interview with ISN. Ivanova, back on station, is trying to enlist black market smugglers to bring supplies into the station. It sounds like a sweet deal–they’ll fix the ships, they’ll pay well, and they’ll excuse various past ills. 

On Mars, the erstwhile ally turns out to have betrayed Marcus and Dr. Franklin, probably because of some creepy mind control creature. Garibaldi is getting recruited by some strange unknown group that is trying to paint Sheridan as mentally disturbed, which seems… bad. 

Overall, this episode feels mostly like a setup, introducing a slew of new characters and contact with existing but heretofore background factions. We’ll see where it goes.

Also, I’m still wanting to know what the heck that eyeball on the Centauri’s shoulder was. 

11: Lines of Communication

Sheridan has a revelation while watching ISN to try to counter the propaganda from Earth with its own “voice of the resistance.” Marcus and Dr. Franklin try to spur cooperation between Babylon 5 and the resistance on Mars, while Delenn goes out on an expedition. Team Marcus seems relatively successful, and a potential relationship between Dr. Franklin and the leader of the Mars resistance is raised by Marcus.

The Drakh, with whom Delenn is coerced into speaking in person by another Minbari, apparently are deeply involved in the inter-caste conflict between the Minbari. The Drakh have rather interesting costumes and some sort of phase-shift effect or something. Delenn is forced by Forell, whose family was lost to the elements due to Warrior caste unpleasantries. But the complexity shifts up, as the Drakh react poorly to it being Delenn to whom they are speaking due to their own service to the Shadows and her victory over them. So was this a setup by the Drakh, who seemed to not know who she was at first? Or was it actually the beginning of a potentially larger conflict within the Minbari castes. 

Either way, Delenn is supremely unimpressed by the Drakh’s treachery, and she turns her fleet around to fire on the Drakh and destroys all of their ships. She then goes back to B5 and tells SHeridan she has to go home for a while to help figure things out. Sheridan comments that he’s sure “Stephen has his hands full…” and the scene switches to Marcus playing with his Minbari staff (not a euphemism!) and overhearing what sounds like some physical pleasure happening with Stephen and “Number One” (I forget her name, if she’s given one yet).

Zathras is back with all of his witty dialogue!

12: Conflicts of Interest

Garibaldi is doing some good things in Downbelow. His newfound friends seem to be… not so friendly, though. After Sheridan orders Zack to get Garibaldi’s inenticard and other things–including his weapon(s)–from him, Garibaldi indicates to his “friends” he is willing to go up against security. 

Ivanova finds Zathras and is very confused. I am very excited by this, though, because Zathras is entertaining, if confusing. Garibaldi is the contact for Lise–his ex! She and Garibaldi get some privacy to talk things out a bit, and she explains what’s happened since we last saw her. She tells a story of injustice at the hands of Martian courts and estrangement from her first husband. She’s remarried since to a wealthy man who is now paying for Garibaldi’s undercover op. 

Sheridan tries to enlist the help of Mollari and G’Kar to help fight the raids along the borders of the Non-Aligned worlds. Each objects, but Sheridan reasons that if they can both allow the White Star fleet and the Rangers to patrol the borders of their empires, they can help usher in an era of peace. 

Garibaldi gets involved in some fighting and discovers his security clearance has been cancelled. And we get a scene similar to the endless Jeffries Tubes in Star Trek as Garibaldi directs his friends down a duct while awaiting to trap his enemies. But as Garibaldi waits in ambush, he realizes the other faction (I’m starting to get confused by how this is all playing out) must have a telepath to read where they’re going. The security forces on Babylon 5 manage to intercept the others, who commit suicide once stopped. Sheridan gives Garibaldi another lecture before the latter heads back to his apartment and deletes a message from Lise because he decides “it’s over.” I wonder if it really is over. She’s shown up a couple times now–are they teasing something? Her husband offers to hire Garibaldi, and he expresses interest. This seems to point towards more involvement, not less.

The first episode of news as run by Ivanova says, basically, that the truth will out! I certainly hope so.

Also, I’m left with this episode still wondering what the heck happened to Garibaldi? Why is he acting this way? And–why is there an eye on that Centauri’s shoulder?


Babylon 5 Hub– Find all my Babylon 5-related posts and content here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!


“The Baseball Codes” by Jason Turbow- A delightful read for any fan of the sport

I hadn’t really thought much about the “unwritten rules” of baseball until this past season. Then as young phenom Fernando Tatis, Jr. was lighting up scoreboards with seriously entertaining baseball, the “unwritten rules” began to sneak into news stories. For example, you’re not supposed to swing on a 3-0 pitch right down the middle if your team is up by some (indeterminate) amount of runs. At another point, Tatis, Jr. offended the Dodgers by allegedly “disrespecting” Clayton Kershaw by admiring his home run off the ace pitcher. I thought the outcry in each case was stupid. Don’t want someone hitting a grand slam off you when they’re already leading? Don’t throw a 3-0 fastball where they can easily smash it. Don’t like hitters admiring their home runs?

Enter Jason Turnbow’s The Baseball Codes, a book which seeks to draw out some of these unwritten rules while showing many anecdotal examples of the same.

The book is divided into four parts: On the field, Retaliation, Cheating, and Teammates. Each part is absolutely filled to the brim with real life stories from players around the league who were involved in some way with the unwritten rule in question. While many of these rules might be expected–such as “Don’t show players up” which came into play in discussions of Tatis, Jr. and Kershaw–others are surprising. For example, in the section on “Cheating,” I was delighted to learn that the way the baseball field is prepared can come into play on the box score. Turnbow writes about how teams can adjust, ever so slightly, the angle of the foul lines, the way the dirt angles, the make of the pitcher’s mound, and more. Have a home team that loves to bunt? It’s advantageous to pile up the first and third base line dirt in such a way that it helps roll those bunts back fair. This isn’t cheating in that it’s not against the rules, but it certainly involves giving advantages.

I was also surprised to find that some of the unwritten rules are things I don’t disagree with. While I think that complaints about “showing up” an ace pitcher by hitting and admiring a home run are stupid, uwritten rules that involve curtailing injury are not. Don’t deke an opponent into a short slide, because that can cause ankle injuries. It’s common sense, but hard to codify into an actual rule in the Book.

Apart from all the discussion of the “rules” themselves, a huge portion of the book is dedicated to stories of players breaking or enforcing the same rules. I found these to be often hilarious, sometimes stressful, and often baffling. There are many, many stories in here. Trust me, you’ll find something you enjoy. It would be hard not to.

The Baseball Codes is constantly entertaining with baseball stories. But what makes it truly great is it also makes you think even more about baseball and the workings that may or may not be going on behind the scene. Turnbow’s fantastic book is well-worth the read if you’re a fan of baseball. It’s phenomenal.

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Remembering Ben Bova (1932-2020)

Ben Bova was one of my entry points to broader science fiction. I found out about his passing last night. I was struck by the loss, because he was an author who’d had a massive impact on my life and enjoyment of reading. I want to tell my story of how I discovered Bova and how his works continued to guide my enjoyment of science fiction.

As a kid, my family would frequent a Hallmark store where my mom and sister would look at the greeting cards and gifts. This Hallmark, however, was remarkable: it had a bookstore at the back. I still don’t know if it was a fluke of the way Hallmark does licensing or what, but there was just this awesome bookstore at the back of a greeting card and gift shop. The owner/franchisee clearly loved science fiction, fantasy, and heavy metal. It was where, in my teens, I would buy magazines featuring the latest pull out posters of the nu metal bands I got into. I bought bookmarks there with dragons and other fantastic creatures on them (I still own a couple!). And, I walked the stacks. The science fiction & fantasy section was huge, too. There was one set of shelves that covered about a third of this warehouse-sized Hallmark. It was filled with speculative fiction. It had a facing set of shelves also filled with more stories of spaceships, dragons, heroes, and heroines.

It was here that I discovered Ben Bova. A book on the shelf, simply titled Moonwar, called to me with its cover (pictured above). It said something about the author winning a Hugo Award. I had no idea what that was, but I knew that I had enjoyed some Newbery Medal winners (a prominent award for children’s literature). Awards were clearly A Good Thing. (At the time, and for many years after, I had no idea that his Hugos were all for his editorial work. My experience with him was–and mostly is–exclusively based on his novels.) I begged my mom to buy the book for me, and she, always supportive of my reading addiction, did so.

I devoured it. I had no idea that the book was the second in a series. It didn’t impact my enjoyment of it at all. Up to this point, the only adult science fiction I’d read was Star Wars novels and some additional Timothy Zahn books I’d grabbed at the library (I was very confused those weren’t also Star Wars novels–I didn’t know authors would write their own books and Star Wars books–but I did love them.) Bova’s imagination of the future of human society branching out from Earth and fighting a war over the Moon was vivid and captivating. I couldn’t help but think about current astronauts and how they might help set us up for a moon base that could help us get new resources and explore new horizons.

Every time I visited that Hallmark from then on, I scoured the shelves to see if there were any new books by this Ben Bova guy. Then, one day, there was! A bright red-orange cover showing me a sunrise on Mars with the title of the book, simply called Mars splashed across its cover. And there was the name I’d been waiting for–Ben Bova. I didn’t even bother to read the blurb on the back cover, I ran it over to my mom, who once again indulged my reading. As she shopped the shelves, I dove in. When I got home, I kept going, and going, until it was done.

Mars awakened me to even greater possibilities of the future of humanity. It was a humanity in which we still had major problems–tokenizing minorities was just one of them–but it was one that was also hopeful and capable of greatness. And it was a humanity capable of discovery on the grandest scale. When a major plot point revealed a monumental revelation, I felt my heart bursting with pride and joy. Bova had awakened in me a deep love for science fiction and the possible. More than that, reading Bova spurred me to read at higher levels, learn bigger words, and learn about new ideas.

From then on, I read anything I could from Bova. It continued into my college years, when I read his Asteroid Wars books. Once again, I was blown away by his use of science in the novels, and it had never occurred to me how many problems there could be attempting to get rights and wage wars for those rights in space. It was a new awakening for me in college. I hadn’t been reading much of anything apart from books for school, and reading Bova again made me realize how much I still loved science fiction. It was in those years when I began to start truly branching out and finding how much I loved the genre. And, as it had been years before, part of that beginning was due to Ben Bova.

I continued to keep up with his Grand Tour novels as an adult. After some time away from them, I saw one on the shelf at the local book store and grabbed it. The book was New Earth and I was deeply moved by it. It depicted humanity going far afield from our own solar system and discovering the unexpected, along with the discovery of a great terror out in the cosmos. It moved me so much that I even wrote three blog posts about the book on my main blog dedicated to theology and philosophy (see, for example, this post about humanity on the brink). It had been a few years, but Bova once again struck a cord in me as a reader.

I have spent more than 20 years in the universe Bova made. I have learned about the planets from him, as his books sent me online and to libraries to read about the planets he discovered. He was a great light in the world of science fiction, and he will be deeply missed.

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Humanity on the Brink in Ben Bova’s “New Earth”- I write about Ben Bova’s New Earth and what it says about humanity’s future.

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My Read-Through of the Hugos: 1970

I’m a huge science fiction fan, and, having read a list of what are alleged to be the top 200 science fiction novels, I decided to next tackle a read-through of all the Hugo Award winners and nominees for best novel. Let me know your thoughts and favorites. Here are the nominees and the winner of the 1970 Hugo Awards. I’ve marked the winner as well as my own choice for which novel would win, had I the choice among the nominees. I put a small overview of this year’s nominees at the beginning.

1970- A new decade ushers in one of my least favorite batches of Hugo nominees so far. Let’s get the good out of the way: Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness is fantastic. There hasn’t been a single book I’ve read from her that I’ve disliked, and this one is a renowned classic for good reason.

I didn’t like anything else this year. Macroscope was a fine offering, but it jumps around too much to ever establish itself and its world. I enjoy quite a bit of Silverberg, but Up the Line both annoyed me for not being great at time travel and was extremely gross/creepy at points. Bug Jack Barron, which I’ve read was an attempt to satirize racism and show its absurdity, but it came off as over the top even for that. It doesn’t help that there’s a good amount of sexism–intentional or not–throughout the book. I didn’t like it at all.

Vonnegut lovers won’t like me for this one: sorry. I just can’t stand Vonnegut. I kind of get where he’s coming from, I guess, but everything I’ve read from him (which is a lot, unfortunately) is something I’ve hated. I first read Slaughterhouse-Five in high school, which probably didn’t help. I thought it read like it was written by a dude who was even less mature than my 18-year-old self. And, re-reading it as an adult for this and another list, I can’t shake that perception. Some say that Vonnegut’s humor is so clever/dark/witty but I can’t read it as anything but infantile and going for cheap thrills. I will not read this one again unless I’m forced to.

Up the Line by Robert Silverberg- Grade: D-
I have enjoyed my share of Silverberg. In fact, I would rank a few of his books among my favorites. I quite enjoyed the cover of Up the Line I saw in the Kindle store. But wow I did not like the contents here. I like the idea of time travel fiction, and would rank the episodes of Star Trek having to do with time travel consistently among my favorites. But it seems like it must be extremely tricky to nail in the form of a novel. I’ve written before about the main difficulties I perceive in the sub-genre (Time Travel in Science Fiction). Up the Line falls victim to the problem I pointed out in that earlier post: ‘Too often in time travel books, the characters in the future or past are little more than vehicles for showing how strange or different that time period/place is.’ Yep, here the characters in the past are little more than objects of sexual desire/use by the main character, whose abhorrent acts have little to ingratiate him to the reader. Add in heaping helping of incestuous fantasy and you have a nearly Heinlein-ian level of creep factor happening here. I didn’t find anything to redeem the book, except that Silverberg is capable of weaving clever lines even in a book as gross as this one.

Bug Jack Barron by Norman Spinrad- Grade: D-
Full of vile racism, which it was intended (apparently) to satirize, this novel is a really tough read. It is drenched in 60s/70s thought and expression, to the point that it is difficult to read it now without having had personal experience in those times. There are seeds of excellence here, whether it is the idea of warring reality shows as politics or the various cyberpunk themes. But add those to random sexism and a huge influx of hippy culture and it just isn’t a novel that was for me. It’s got a catchy title, some interesting ideas, and heaps of things that are annoying or gross. Take it as you will.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (Winner, My Winner)- Grade: A
Le Guin created a world that feels strangely familiar, while remaining radically different. It makes you think about life and the struggles we face. The overarching plot wasn’t terribly strong, but the character-driven nature of it made that not matter very much. I was surprised, honestly, by how intimate the book was. It was to the point where it almost felt claustrophobic at points, but this reads as definitely intentional. One feels like an individual embroiled in the drama, set against the planet, set against others, ready to rise up. It’s an extremely personal novel. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut- Grade: F
I read this one in high school and hated it. I figured I should re-read it since I didn’t remember it at all, and–let’s be honest–I was a bit a of an idiot in high school. That re-read was a severe mistake. Vonnegut’s humor is barely 4th grade level, including lines that I think are supposed to be funny like ‘The old man was in agony because of gas. He farted tremendously, and then he belched.’ Yes, this is apparently a classic. The plot is also completely incoherent, effectively set up so that the author could draw an amateurish picture of a necklace dangling between a woman’s breasts. How mature. Slaughterhouse Five is among the worst books I’ve ever read.

Macroscope by Piers Anthony- Grade: C-
Several books on this list are written in the ‘kaleidoscopic’ fashion, and this is one of them. At times, it works. At others, it doesn’t. Macroscope, for me, fell into the latter camp, though it didn’t completely fail. The problem is with so many viewpoints and things going on, there has to be a strong central narrative or character or problem, and though the book seems to have an easy candidate, the promise never materializes. I was hoping for much more from this book, so part of my grade may just be disappointment with that aspect. Also, the idea of a tool that could drive people insane simply because of its complexity/usefulness/etc. is neat.


My Read-Through of the Hugos– Read more posts in this series and follow me on the journey! Let me know your own thoughts on the books.

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