Is Star Trek political?
Not overtly so. But “The Inner Light” already broke more than a few rules, so I’m going to continue the tradition here and now by saying I think President Barack Obama has a lot in common with Picard’s alter ego from the planet Kataan.
Both Obama and Kamin went to work one day and woke up among people who seemed very strange to them and who refused to believe they were accurately identifying their problems. One of these two men found himself surrounded by aliens who dressed funny and seemed to hang around and not get much done – and the other was Kamin! Both addressed global warming despite the naysayers.
Both men had or have supportive, loving wives and two children. Kamin turned out to be a (more…)
Post-Aurora is no time to get on a high horse, or even on a horse high, but all the various voices shouting about whether or not movies are to blame has clarified a few thoughts, which I would like to share.
Yes, crazies will be crazy no matter what. If he or she (but why be feminist? It’s usually a “he”) wants to swan-dive into violent cuckoo-ness, they’ll always find one waiting pool or another.
When I was a kid, we used to run around play-shooting each other like constantly. This was before video games so we made do with the very visceral, fresh-air-filled experience of popping off cap guns modeled after cowboy six-shooters — usually right in some other kid’s ear – then graduated to croquet mallets morphed into “Man from U.N.C.L.E.” infra-red sniper-scopes. (Yes, I’m from Connecticut and I played croquet. There, I said it.)
But like our cowboy or secret-agent role-models, we were always either good guys shooting bad guys or vice-versa. The same was true in movies or on TV. What I don’t remember, from either movies or TV, is so many innocent bystanders being killed for no reason other than some kind of visceral punch that unrestrained mayhem is supposed to conjure.
John Scalzi has a terrific novel out called “REDSHIRTS,” told from the point of view, a la Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” of the minor characters. I’ve always wanted to write a novel about the guy used as human Kevlar on the escalator in the original “Total Recall.” Guy gets up in the morning, argues with his wife, eats a granola bar (more…)
Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise is a man who projects an aura of serene confidence and wisdom. Speaks like an Oxford don even when he’s about to fire a photon torpedo or two. Keeps his emotions veiled behind an invisible burqa.
Then there’s the other Picard, the McLovin’ of Ressik, playing music, making babies, scarfing down his wife’s homemade stew out of a weird pot with an antler for a handle and bromancing the stone-faced noodge better known as his best friend Batai. And oh yes, being very loudly protective of his tight-knit little village, which is about to turn into a charcoal briquette.
That Picard was better known as Kamin during his sojourn on the doomed planet Kataan in Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “The Inner Light.” He didn’t live that life but he has all the memories of someone who did.
Story idea inspired by yesterday’s New York Times article, “A SMARTPHONE FUTURE?” by Teddy Wayne:
Aliens are taking over the Earth. But they’re not like the creatures who’ve been popularized in movies and TV, hovering over us in spaceships the size of Missouri and blasting us with death-rays – or holding out a deceptively friendly hand until they can put us on the menu.
No, these aliens are never seen and are exceedingly patient. They came here eons ago after selecting Earth as potentially habitable and seeded it with life much as a farmer might plant a newfound field with corn. Now they wait until our population reaches 20 billion and it is finally cost-effective for them to return and harvest their “crop.” Then we’ll be on the menu, after they turn us all into man-jerky and ship us back to Krylon 7.
But wait – there’s a problem. Absent sufficient distraction, Earthlings like to kill each other. All that potential jerky will either go rancid or light up a Geiger counter. What to do, what to do… (more…)
You can take this in the literal way – which is what Jason Isaacs’ dueling shrinks each told him in last night’s premiere of “Awake” on NBC.
Or you can look at it more philosophically – and two recently published books speak to that point of view. One, as I mentioned in my last post, is Tracie McMillan’s “The American Way of Eating,” subtitled “Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table.” The other is “Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health,” by H. Gilbert Welch, M.D.
Each of these books tugs the thread on different aspects of our lives and lets us witness the unraveling. McMillan worked undercover at various food industry jobs. Her takeaway on takeaway: due to the industrialization of food we are being spoon-fed a lot of crap – with very large and costly spoons. Her emphasis frequently is on the toll on food workers themselves – underpaid laborers whose health is threatened by rotten employment conditions even as we enjoy the very expensive – yes, fruits – of their labor. (more…)
Sometimes getting woken up early by the dogs makes you want to drive straight to the pound and trade them in for something more manageable, like a stuffed owl. Then, other times it leads to a learning moment, like today. At 6:45 a.m. I was hardly ready to start my day, so I gave Astrid and Katie each a Milk Bone the size of their heads, assumed a prone position on the living room couch and turned on the TV to watch the second half of the 1987 hit, “Baby Boom,” with Diane Keaton.
In a key scene, Keaton’s character J.C. interviews prospective nannies. The first applicant is a sweet Midwestern young woman. When J.C. asks her what brought her to New York, the nanny-to-be replies straight-faced, “The Lord.” Keaton forces a smile that looks more like the “who farted” look and ends the interview pronto. A few seconds later the interviewee is a pretty woman in a Burqa who says “I don’t speak back to men and I don’t need a bed – I can sleep on the floor.” She’s so wrong for the job in our 1987 eyes she doesn’t even rate a dismissal – just a cut to the next applicant. (more…)
Do you know how Jean-Luc Picard got his name?
Neither did I, until I bought my second flat-screen TV. Not that I learned the answer on TV. No, my enlightenment came at an auto body shop on account of what happened to my car window. That’s how I happened to meet the ex-stunt woman who knew all about Jean Piccard, which she spells with two “c’s.”
Clear enough? Okay, let me back up.
I drive a 1998 Volvo wagon, a car so alluring with its rascally V6 engine and roadster-like handling that after it passed from Wife to Daughter to Driveway I happily took it for my own. A car so reliable I throw dogs, groceries and boxes of authentic hand-made Ressikan flutes into the cargo bed and zoom off to far-flung points (like the Phoenix ComiCon or Vegas Trek Con). A car that trustingly accepted into its svelte but capacious maw the two dishwasher-sized old-school TVs I finally decided to get rid of. (more…)
Call it serendipity. Or chalk it up to the fact that in my uber-staid ’hood I’m known as “that guy who goes to sci-fi conventions.” Where, as they imagine it, I paint myself green and shoot up Kirillian smack (the best in the known galaxy, b-t-dubs).
At any rate, I was recently approached by a neighbor – let’s call him Wes – who made an interesting discovery in his attic: a plaster cast of a hand in LLAP mode. (That’s “Live Long and Prosper,” dear neighbors, and now that I think of it, that way preceded MTFBWY, didn’t it?) The find had shifted Wes’s imagination into high gear. His house, after all, was previously inhabited by a mold-maker for Paramount. Along with the stucco Vulcan salute he found plasters of several recognizable movie-star faces – casts to make rubber masks. So if those casts were of real actors, then why shouldn’t this hand be, too? And who more likely to have his splayed fingers thusly memorialized than Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy? (more…)
This was a sucky year for a lot of people in a lot of ways, but it had some bright spots: I started speaking publicly about “THE INNER LIGHT” for the first time since it originally aired almost 20 years ago. And, being a new empty-nester, I watched way less TV and read more fiction.
I sure feel good about not getting called to Vietnam after pulling the Lottery Number 3 back in the mid-70s. My favorite book of the year, “Matterhorn: a novel of the Vietnam War” by Karl Marlantes, eliminated any doubt I might have had. The only sleep I’ve been losing now is from pounding Bulls so I could stay awake and read more of this excellent novel. Like the ubiquitous E-tool the story’s Marines use to dig protective holes, this ultra-realistic Vietnam tale bores deep into the psyche of every character we meet, from Lieutenant Colonel Simpson, the eternally drunk Battalion commander, to 2nd Lieutenant Mellas, the green officer who is always second-guessing his own political instincts. It’s like “War & Peace” – except without the peace. Find a good soft LZ, surround yourself with some long rats, and dig in for a great if often disturbing read. (more…)
If you told me when I wrote “THE INNER LIGHT” that 20 years later I would be blogging about those 44 minutes of program content I would have said, “Do tell good sir or madam, whatever is this futuristic thing known as blogging?”
Okay, I lie. I would have said, “Quit making fun of me, moron, and what’s blogging?”
Either way you get the point. A lot has happened since the days of the Macarena. Yet the affection for “The Inner Light” endures. Having had 20 years to think about it (I’m a little slow. Or is it stubborn?) I now realize how Picard’s 50-year sojourn as the dying planet Kataan’s lone voice of reason is a metaphor for questions big and small about life as we know it. A recent college grad I spoke to at the Chicago Trek Con told me “Inner Light” was the focus of her first two sessions of Introductory Philosophy. Wow! I want to pull a Rodney Dangerfield at that college. (more…)