DeFlip Side #116: Virtual Mailbag

DS116.mp3

Welcome everyone. I’m Christopher DeFilippis and this is DeFlip Side.

And it’s once again time to feature the flip side to DeFlip Side—that is, your side, not my side, since tonight I’ll be showcasing some of the many comments posted by you, the listeners, on DeFlipSide.com. It’s been quite a while sine I’ve been able to do this, which is a testament to the power of the Internet. Since launching DeFlipSide.com, I’ve gotten more listener comments in just the last year than in the show’s previous nine years combined. So let’s dip into our newfangled virtual mailbag and hear what you had to say.

Our first comment comes from fellow Destinite Brain Krey, a regular member of the Destinies film review team. Brain also has the distinction of being the first person to ever leave a comment on DeFlipSide.com, so it’s only fitting to kick things off with his thoughts about my review of the series finale of Smallville:

“Very nice summing up! I really thought you were going to trash the show but I was impressed that your opinion was so heartfelt. I watched the show from the first episode. I went in thinking that I was just going to laugh at it, but I ended up really liking it. I was very moved by a lot of the finale. In the end I’m glad Smallville existed—it definitely made me appreciate the depth of the Superman characters and ‘mythology’ more.”

Glad you enjoyed it Brian, both the show and my review.

More listeners commented on my recent show celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first manned space flight by Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

Dan Petitpas writes:

“You sort of glossed over it, but Gagarin actually jumped from his space capsule because the Russians were afraid of a ground landing. I think that was pretty amazing.”

A listener named Yura, who I can only assume is from Russia, wrote this reply:

“Of course he ejected, not ‘jumped’ out of the capsule! All actions during the landing as well as during the flight on the orbit were fully automatic. Gagarin couldn’t do anything. By the way, I don’t see here any information about another outstanding person, without whom this famous flight would hardly ever have happened—Sergey Pavlovich Korolyov—the chief constructor of the space ship and the R-7 rocket. But anyway great thanks for the interest to our space history!”

Thanks as well to you Yura. Actually, you’re right to invoke Korolyov, who was the brains behind most of the Soviet firsts in the early Space Race. I discuss him in much more detail in two other DeFlip Sides: episode #99, “Floating into Infamy” which talks about the first space walk, and episode #80, “Remembering Laika” about the dog who became the first living creature in space. Give them a listen at DeFlipSide.com

In fact, one of the coolest things about the website is the opportunity it affords new listeners to discover and comment on older DeFlip Side shows. Way back in 2006 I did an episode called “Earthsea and Me” discussing my perennial love for Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle, my favorite Fantasy book series.

Somehow, Ursula K. Le Guin’s people got wind of the article and linked to it on the author’s official website. Nothing before or since has generated as much traffic on DeFlipSide.com, or as many responses—especially to my comments on the series’ fourth book, Tehanu, which I called an exercise in feminist apologetics, with Le Guin atoning for the gender bias of the original trilogy by portraying all men in Tehanu as either weak, abusive or bad, and all women as strong, nurturing or wise. And to advance this misguided premise, I said, she twisted the main character Ged beyond recognition. Boy did readers take issue with that.

George Hersh writes:

“Christopher’s response to Ged’s part in Tehanu is fascinating (As Mr. Spock used to say). Ged’s ‘weakness’ stems from the fact that his ability to do magic was burned out of him. That ability, for most of his life, had been his strength and his one reliable defense. Ged is learning to live as an ordinary human being after blazing across Earthsea leaving a trail of deeds and legends behind him.”

Another comment comes from Lena:

“I found the Ged of Tehanu completely consistent… a powerful and intelligent man (learning) a new way of life. (He’s) empathic and determined to do right, and in no way does Le Guin depict all men as weak/abusive/bad.”

And Marcus weighs in:

“You say that the message of Tehanu was clearly that men = weak/abusive/bad, women = strong/nurturing/wise’. I don’t think it’s about that at all. In Ged’s case, it had to do with finding freedom in the giving up of power, in learning another way to be. (The) story asks more questions than any of the other stories had been able to frame: what’s a man’s power, what’s a woman’s power, what are the roots of the paradigm of the abuser and the abused?”

Look, these are all great points and I don’t dispute them. But I maintain that Ged would have faced these challenges with more equanimity and dignity than Le Guin granted him in the early part of the book. That’s what I meant by weak—a weakness uncharacteristic to Ged. And every other male character in Tehanu is a freaking horror show: thieves, rapists, murderers and abusers or all stripes. Men were needlessly demonized just to make the women in the book appear comparatively stronger, wiser and more sympathetic. Hope this helps clarify my perspective.

Another older DeFlip Side episode that garnered fresh website response is one from 2008 called “TALES FROM THE 21ST CENTURY!” In it I talk about fascinating scientific advances, including the potential to re-grow skin, organs and even limbs using a powder made from pig bladders. But what I liked most about the segment was the story of Booger, the first commercially cloned dog—mainly because it gave me an excuse to gush about my dog Lily and my own plans to make her immortal through cloning. She really is that cool.

Anyway, A. Jorge Garcia commented:

“Hi Chris. You don’t know me, but I’ve been following Howard since 1990 and you since you’ve been on Destinies! I love both bodies of work. You should be very proud. I have been reviewing many of your posts. My son is in med school right now and I just wanted to let you know that I couldn’t resist sharing this one with him and my Facebook friends and my Tweeps! Keep up the good work!”

Thanks, Jorge. I’m going to guess that tweeps are your tweet peeps. And I do know you through your comments on DeFlipSide.com, DeFlip Side’s Facebook page and on twitter. I guess that makes me a tweep! I’m glad you enjoy DeFlip Side and Destinies and I appreciate you getting the word out to family and friends.

Jorge also has a blog of his own and posted an interesting piece on the future of America’s manned space program, which he brought to my attention after hearing last month’s DeFlip Side about the retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttle fleet. You can find a link to it on DeFlipSide.com.

And while you’re there listen to some other old shows and leave some comments of your own. The only thing I enjoy more than writing DeFlip Side is when you, my wonderful listeners, leave enough comments to write it for me. So let’s keep that virtual mailbag full!

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