Star Trek Thoughts

I’ve been watching some OG Trek recently and noticed some niggling issues that I wanted to address.

There’s too many references to current knowledge. For example, the episode “Who Mourns for Adonais” is all about the Greek pantheon of gods from ancient earth history. It’s a cultural touchstone for western culture, but I’d imagine that Trek time thousands of years into the future would have a different set of cultural touchstones, and therefore this would be a bit obscure. I’d prefer that Trek would keep to more evergreen topics instead of having callbacks like this.

In the episode “Mirror, Mirror”, Kirk and co. are warped to parallel universe Trek where the federation is an evil empire that enslaves other nations. Evil Spock is denoted by his goatee. Evil Kirk is also transplanted to OG Trek world, and is detained instantly by normal Spock, who realizes something’s off. Evil Kirk’s reaction? “Why are you imprisoning me? Where’s your beard?” At least Evil Kirk has his priorities in order. Also funny to me that despite being in a bizarro evil universe, Kirk is still bros with evil Spock and can spare some time to have heart to heart. The funniest part of the episode was how Jim still had all this time to seduce Marlena despite the time crunch and being in this environment where everyone wanted to kill him. Normal Kirk also has his priorities in order.

Amok Time:  wherein Spock is dying because he can’t bust a nut. But his symptoms magically go away after he believes he’s killed Jim. Very strange to contemplate overall: basic Vulcan biology requires them to either kill someone or fuck someone every ten years or they die, I guess. Also, for such a logical race, their explanations are a bit lacking: even though Jim had the right to deny the death match with Spock as an outsider, T’pau and co. never bothered to explain that he was accepting a fight to the death in the first place. What’s the point of trying to be fair if you’re not going to both ameliorating the information asymmetry?

Basically, Old Trek has some problems, but everything does, really.

All Or Nothing Review

All or Nothing is a TV series on Amazon Video that follows a sports team through one season of their respective sport. It originally started as a behind the scenes documentary of the NFL, focusing on the Arizona Cardinals. However, they’ve now expanded to rugby and soccer. I’ve only watched the football seasons, but in general the show is really compelling.

Elements I like:

  • The storytelling: you get to put faces to names. If you have no background in football, you’re now given context behind the players’ and the coaches’ motivations in the decisions. You get to see how the team develops throughout a season.
  • The behind the scenes stuff: similar to above, you see a lot more of the people building the team than you do normally. Talking to my brother (who actually follows football), he was surprised at how Bruce Arians (the head coach of the Cardinals) comes across. I guess his personality appeared completely different in broadcasts than portrayed in the documentary. Cursed a lot more, for one. You get to see players have prayer sessions about Donald Trump’s comments on racial inequality – pretty surreal.
  • The team building: Of course, coaching is a large part of building a good team, but you really get to see the nitty gritty of how these organizations construct teams and foster players to direct the team into the type of team they envision. Strategizing first/second/etc round draft picks to fill in the pieces they need, or targeting good value players, etc. The Cardinals picked up some  veteran players that had been written off as past their prime and integrated them into their game plan in their small areas of expertise to maintain high utility.
  • The inside culture and how the coaches and players build the team. In the second episode of the current season with the Dallas Cowboys, you see how the coaches explicitly build comraderie by having a meeting session once a week where players shake hands and hug it out. Constant physical contact and physical affection naturally helps build relationships over time even if the activity may seem contrived.

Of course, the show lives and dies by the quality of the team they follow, so it can be inconsistent. I thought the first season with the Cardinals was great. The second season with the Rams was a bit boring. The third season with the Cowboys is shaping up to be pretty good, so far. Overall, worth watching.

Random Musings on The Next Generation

I think I’ve watched about the first two to three season of The Next Generation, but in the meantime, I’ve accumulated some thoughts about the show:

Data: Sex Robot?

That episode where Data plays at Sherlock Holmes is great. I love the twist at the end where Moriarty turns out not to be a mustache twirling villain, but a living being with agency who is desperately clinging to life. Such a great surprise. Moriarty rolls in going, “Can I live?”

Q is a giant prick. He’s basically omnipotent, but all he ever seems to do is pop in to the Enterprise to fuck with Picard and co. To be fair, though, if I were omnipotent, I’d probably just spend most of my time dicking people about.

Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan seems out of place in the show. She just kinda shows up at some point, and also happens to have some sort of death grudge with Q. I forget why.

Doctor Crush and Captain Picard have pretty good chemistry. It’s really weird how they get rid of Dr. Crusher in season two and replace her with that other doctor whose only purpose is to say, “Fuck you Data, you’re not human” and then disappear back into the sick bay. I guess she also shows up to fix broken bones or cure space cancer when crew members get sick.

Time’s Arrow is full of surprises. I love that scene where Data pulls out a newspaper and is surprised to see Whoop Goldberg on the front page. Also, that guy playing Mark Twain is a laugh riot.

Asian Connection is “The Shit”

The Asian Connection, a straight to DVD production. With a cast of Michael Jai White and Steven Seagal, among others. This movie is totally my shit.

“You’ve got to tell me where you got this money.”

“No.”

*Like two minutes later*

“Bang me on this pile of money”

“ok”

 

“You’re not a murderer, Jack.”

*Jack proceeds to kill like twenty cops*

 

The guy who plays Niran is funny as hell. He delivers all his lines with such panache.

“Fuck you, Jack”

“Give me the bag or I’ll shoot the bitch, Jack”

 

Steven Seagal playing the worst mob boss ever. He gets a cool bit where he pretends like he’s an investigator, which is really great. He’s like an incompetent version of his role in Machete.

 

 

Star Trek The Next Generation: The Inner Light Review

The Inner Light is one of my favorite episodes of The Next Generation. The basic premise is that Captain Picard gets hit with a magic beam by a passing drone. The beam renders him comatose, but in his coma, he dreams of a different life as a family man. Over the course of decades, he gets a chance to raise kids, participate in his community, and grow old with his wife. There’s one line by Picard: “I always believed that I didn’t need children to complete my life – now I couldn’t imagine life without them.” There’s a catch in all this – in Picard’s alternate life, he finds out that the planet he’s on is dying. He tries to fight it, but his people don’t have the technology to fix the world or leave. The only thing they can do is send out a vessel that contains the essence of their civilization. It turns out that the drone that zaps Picard in the beginning of the episode is  the only relic of a long dead planet. When it zapped him, he was sent to a VR simulation of that society. It let him experience life as the

Despite living his alternative life for decades, he awakes to find that only 25 minutes of real time have passed. This is something that really resonated with me – The idea of living out entire alternate lives in your dreams as a form of emotional regulation and therapy appeals to me tremendously. Even though we wake from our dreams, the emotions that we experience while asleep are tangible.  Dreams may not be real, but our feelings do exist. Are they invalidated because our experiences weren’t physical? I’d say no. This is something that we do with fiction in general – books, movies, and other media. We use media to generate emotional response; There’s no reason why we can’t explore the land of dreams to enact something similar. Anyways, great episode.

On the Burden of Caretakers

I’m watching this movie called Heart of the Dragon. Jackie Chan plays a Hong Kong cop who’s also the sole caretaker of mentally disabled brother. It’s a pretty weird movie, but I thought it was interesting how much the movie focused on the how difficult it is to care for someone who’s unable to be responsible for their own well being. It affects your relationships, your career, and your own goals in life. You have to sacrifice a lot to live for someone else.

One things I liked in particular about the movie was how the different aspects  mental disability was handled by society. Jackie’s friends give him shit for wanting to abandon his brother, but they don’t really help take care of him. His lover resents him for spending so much time with his brother. His friends also give him shit when he tries to marry his girlfriend, because she’s going to have to pick up his baggage. Also, strangers don’t understand his struggles. People give him shit for not keeping an eye on his brother at all times,  but even when outsiders realize the brother has problems, they basically abuse him. Why? because society at large is uncaring. That’s pretty much a fact of life. Things are probably different in rural communities when everyone knows each other and are forced to relate by dint of not knowing anyone else, but when we get to cities, it becomes impossible for an individual to know everyone living there. We’re forced to compartmentalize and essentially write off a large portion of our neighbors. If I were living in a town of like twenty people, I’d obviously pay more attention to the struggles of Jeff, the one homeless guy in town. But living in NYC, I’ll pass by tens of homeless people and pay no never mind. Pros and Cons to everything.

 

Placeholder for Planet of the Apes review

I was supposed to post my review for Planet of the Apes yesterday, but the scope of the article kinda grew way beyond what I was expecting, so it’s going to be delayed until I deem it ready. I’m still counting this post for Sunday, because I definitely wrote something – it’s just going to take a while. I’ll update this post with the review when it’s finished.

***Dec 19 2016***

My enthusiasm to do a long form exegesis on Planet of the Apes has waned pretty significantly. I don’t want to put it off forever thinking that I’ll get to it eventually, so here’s the most recent draft with light editing.

I’m a huge fan of Planet of the Apes. It’s heralded as a classic of science fiction, and for good reason. Having just rewatched it, I think it’s safe to say that it holds up well. In fact, the main theme is still pretty resonant today.

In general, developed countries are moving away from religion. This is especially noticeable in more metropolitan areas like San Francisco. People aren’t usually shunned for their religion, but it’s not the pillar that holds up the community like it would be in other places.

Planet of the Apes takes a different tack:

It sets up a backwards society that accepts some scientific progress, but only within the limited confines of what their religion deems acceptable. *Insert evolution/climate change commentary here.* Charlton Heston plays the devil’s advocate – learning new things is, in fact, good. Denying reality and outlawing it because it disagrees with your beliefs is bad. Then the ending turns everything on its head.

Even though the ending has long been spoiled, it still works as an effective punch to the gut – despite the draconian rules of the new society, it turns out to be a reaction to the mistakes of the previous one – uninhibited scientific progress without a moral compass. The leadership of ape society has long known the history of humanity, and it’s grim: mankind wiped out its own civilization, likely by atomic warfare. It’s a hell of a sucker punch: the movie spends a large part of its running time having Charlton Heston point out all the flaws in an oppressive theocracy, only to find out that the alternative is no society, because humans fucked it up. We’re pretty good at doing that.