Geekier than thou
Time to renew my creds as Chief Geek of this blog. I have come across one of the best essays I have ever read about Star Trek: The Politics of Star Trek by Timothy Sandefur, which appears in the Claremont Review of Books:
Star Trek VI opens with a shocking betrayal: without informing his captain, Spock has volunteered the crew for a peace mission to the Klingons. Kirk rightly calls this “arrogant presumption,” yet the Vulcan is never expected to apologize. On the contrary, the film summarily silences Kirk’s objections. At a banquet aboard the Enterprise, he is asked whether he would be willing to surrender his career in exchange for an end to hostilities, and Spock swiftly intervenes. “I believe the captain feels that Starfleet’s mission has always been one of peace,” he says. Kirk tries to disagree, but is again interrupted. Later, he decides that “Spock was right.” His original skepticism toward the peace mission was only prejudice: “I was used to hating Klingons.”
This represented an almost complete inversion of Star Trek’s original liberalism, and indeed of any rational scale of moral principles at all. At no point in the show’s history had Kirk or his colleagues treated the Klingons unjustly, whereas audiences for decades have watched the Klingons torment and subjugate the galaxy’s peaceful races. In “Errand of Mercy,” they attempt genocide to enslave the Organians. In “The Trouble with Tribbles,” they try to poison a planet’s entire food supply. The dungeon in which Kirk is imprisoned in this film is on a par with Stalin’s jails. Yet never does the Klingon leader, Gorkon, or any of his people, acknowledge—let alone apologize for—such injustices. Quite the contrary; his daughter tells a galactic conference, “We are a proud race. We are here because we want to go on being proud.” Within the context of the original Star Trek, such pride is morally insane. Continue reading
Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:
The late Philip K. Dick, paranoid, left-leaning, mentally ill and drug abuser, was nevertheless a science fiction writer of pure genius. His book The Man in the High Castle (1962) introduced me as a boy to the genre of alternate history, with his unforgettable evocation of a United States divided by the victorious Axis powers of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. One of the main plot devices in the book is a novel The Grasshopper Lies Heavy which posits an alternate reality in which the Allies won World War II. Like most of Dick’s work, the book suggests that the dividing line between alternate realities can be very thin. Continue reading
Over at The American Thinker there is an article entitled Why Conservatives Will Miss Spock. Go here to read it. I am afraid I found it fairly unsatisfying. However, there are examples of Spock giving voice during Star Trek episodes to fairly conservative viewpoints. Here are some of these instances:
1. Balance of Terror-Sadly, war sometimes is necessary:
War is never imperative, Mister Spock.”
- – McCoy, after Spock agrees with Stiles on attacking the Romulans
“It is for them, doctor. Vulcan, like Earth, had its aggressive, colonizing period; savage, even by Earth standards. And if the Romulans retained this martial philosophy, then weakness is something we dare not show.”
- – Spock, responding to McCoy
2. Space Seed-Freedom is better than rule by even an able dictator-
Captain James T. Kirk: [looking at a library picture of Khan on viewscreen] Name: Khan Noonien Singh.
Mr. Spock: From 1992 through 1996, absolute ruler of more than a quarter of your world, from Asia through the Middle East.
Dr. McCoy: The last of the tyrants to be overthrown.
Scott: I must confess, gentlemen. I’ve always held a sneaking admiration for this one.
Captain James T. Kirk: He was the best of the tyrants and the most dangerous. They were supermen in a sense. Stronger, braver, certainly more ambitious, more daring.
Mr. Spock: Gentlemen, this romanticism about a ruthless dictator is…
Captain James T. Kirk: Mr. Spock, we humans have a streak of barbarism in us. Appalling, but there, nevertheless.
Scott: There were no massacres under his rule.
Mr. Spock: And as little freedom.
Dr. McCoy: No wars until he was attacked.
Mr. Spock: Gentlemen…
[All but Spock laugh]
Captain James T. Kirk: Mr. Spock, you misunderstand us. We can be against him and admire him all at the same time.
Mr. Spock: Illogical.
Captain James T. Kirk: Totally.
3. Mirror Mirror-Civilization is better than barbarism-
Spock: It was far easier for you as civilized men to behave like barbarians than it was for them as barbarians to behave like civilized men. Continue reading
A sad day. Leonard Nimoy has departed this Vale of Tears.
The star, who was first cast in the science-fiction series in the mid-1960s, suffered from COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – and was rushed to the UCLA Medical Center after a 911 call on February 19.
Never attempt to force the pink skins onto thin ice!
Andorian maxim about Humans
Further proof that with Kickstarter, and other modes of alternative financing, and CGI technology being literally at our fingertips, we are rapidly reaching a world where the old Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney movies of the thirties, with complete amateurs somehow putting together a professional musical, can now be taken as prediction rather than fantasy. The above video, Prelude to Axanar, is incredibly well done, a “retrospective” look by major participants in The Four Years War between the Klingons and the Federation. It is in effect a Youtube advertisement for the forthcoming independent movie on the battle of Axanar, the decisive turning point in The Four Years War. Trek fans rejoice. Also rejoice those who are hungry for better quality entertainment than is slopped out by the networks, cable channels and the Hollywood studios. Virtually any group now can put together entertainment of this quality. Hey any Catholic group who wishes to put out quality movies on the saints. A pathway now exists for you to do this. O Brave New World!
Time to renew my Chief Geek of the blog creds. As faithful readers of this blog know, I am a Star Trek fan. (No, I do not own a Star Fleet uniform, let alone worn one to court!) Over the weekend I watched the three episodes thus far produced by Star Trek Continues, go here to their website, an unpaid volunteer group making episodes to complete the final two years of the original Star Trek five year mission. Other Star Trek “tribute” episodes have been produced by other groups, but I have seen nothing that comes as close as Star Trek Continues in capturing the feel, and the fun, of the original series. Judge for yourselves. The video above is the third episode produced: Fairest of Them All, which is a continuation of my second favorite Star Trek episode, Mirror Mirror, which introduced the alternate “bearded Spock” universe where the Federation is an aggressive interstellar empire. Long may Star Trek Continue continue!
In line with My Little Pony Cavalry Commander.
A true blast from the past. An SPI, Simulations Publications Inc., infomercial filmed in the seventies to introduce people to wargames.
Among my hobbies, besides writing blog posts and annoying people for fun and profit, is the playing of rather elaborate strategy games. I began playing these games circa 1971 when I wheedled a copy of Luftwaffe from my parents for Christmas that year. The next year for Christmas I received a copy of Panzerblitz, and I have been playing and collecting strategy games since that time.
My wife and I acquired our first computer in 1987, a Commodore 64. Since that time almost all of my playing of strategy games has been on the computer. Christmas Eve 1991 was a memorable one in the McClarey household. It was the first Christmas Eve we spent with our newborn twin sons, and our copy of the computer strategy game Civilization arrived in the mail.
In between playing with our infants and introducing them to the joys of Christmas, we took turns charting the courses of societies through 6,000 years of history. For a young married couple fascinated by history, it was the ideal Christmas present.
Computers do spoil us. My playing of board wargames has diminished to almost nil. When I do attempt to play a board wargame, keeping track of the rules without the aid of a computer and doing the math calculations in my head seems too bothersome for the game to be enjoyable. Perhaps I am simply lazy, but I do believe exposure to computers does foster a “Can’t a computer do it?” attitude. Continue reading
Something for the weekend. A medley of the Star Trek theme songs. Ah, what memories they evoke of the endless hours I have wasted watching the various Star Trek shows! Shatner of course had the best comment regarding obsessive Star Trek viewing. Go here to view his comment.
Heresy! Of course at the end of the skit we learn that Shatner was merely demonstrating what the evil Captain Kirk from the “Mirror Mirror” universe would have said to faithful Star Trek fans! (What a relief!)
That leaves us free to debate important, meaningful questions. What was the best Star Trek original episode? I vote for Balance of Terror: Continue reading
(Language advisory for the video; apparently the first film made the reviewer extra grumpy.)
The above video shall serve as a review for the entire Hobbit trilogy. I saw part II last week and I was certain, perhaps in what felt like the fiftieth hour, that time had ceased and eternity begun. You know a movie based on The Hobbit is bad, when by the end you are rooting for Smaug to be unleashed on Peter Jackson and his merry band of let’s-see-how-much-money-we-can-flog-out-of-this-dead- Hobbit! Ah, well, we will always have The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Continue reading
From The Eye of the Tiber, the only reliable source of Catholic news on the net:
Hollywood, CA––”Hello, it’s Pope Francis,” were the first words spoken during a conversation in which His Holiness telephoned Zack Snyder, director of the upcoming film “Man of Steel 2.” “Hello Your Holiness,” answered a dazed Snyder, no stranger to celebrities but still star struck to be speaking to the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ on earth. “Listen, I’ll get to the point,” said Pope Francis, “I thought 300 was awesome, and Man of Steel was pretty great too. But I don’t know about Ben Affleck as Batman in your next movie.” Snyder reportedly stuttered at this point, unsure what to answer His Holiness. “I mean, I trust you as a director and all that, and I’m sure it won’t be that bad, but there really weren’t any better choices? I mean this is the guy that played Daredevil. Did you even see that movie?” Continue reading
Well we haven’t had a Star Trek post in a while and my Chief Geek credentials for the blog need refreshing. The idea of the Klingons being Shakespeare fans never struck me as far fetched. The Bard after all has his admirers in all cultures here on Earth and the Germans often refer to him as unser (our) Shakespeare. Granted that even Shakespeare has his moments of tedium but for those reared on the form of endless torture known as Klingon opera, that would be of no moment. Continue reading
One of the “alternate Earth” episodes that became fairly common as the original Star Trek series proceeded, as explained by Hodgkin’s Law of Parallel Planetary Development, and by limited production budgets, this episode featured an Earth where a cataclysmic war had driven the Americans, the Yangs, out of their cities and into primitive warbands. Chinese Communists, the Kohms, settled in America. Their technology was a few steps higher than the Yangs. The Yangs had been waging a war for generations to drive the Kohms from their land, and the episode coincided with the Yangs taking the last of “the Kohm places”.
Over the generations, the Yangs had forgotten almost all of their history and what little knowledge remained was restricted to priests and chieftains.
“Cloud William: Freedom?
James T. Kirk: Spock.
Spock: Yes, I heard, Captain.
Cloud William: It is a worship word, Yang worship. You will not speak it.
James T. Kirk: Well, well, well. It is… our worship word, too.” Continue reading
(This post is from 2009. I haven’t had a Star Trek geek post in a while and I thought it would be fun to repost this. We had a good discussion the first go round and I hope we will again.)
“As the right of each sentient species to live in accordance with its normal cultural evolution is considered sacred, no Starfleet personnel may interfere with the normal and healthy development of alien life and culture. Such interference includes introducing superior knowledge, strength, or technology to a world whose society is incapable of handling such advantages wisely. Starfleet personnel may not violate this Prime Directive, even to save their lives and/or their ship, unless they are acting to right an earlier violation or an accidental contamination of said culture. This directive takes precedence over any and all other considerations, and carries with it the highest moral obligation.”
Yesterday Darwin had a thought provoking post about the impact of technologically advanced cultures on less developed cultures. In the combox discussion there were frequent references to the Prime Directive of Star Trek. This of course gives me an excellent excuse for posting this examination of the Prime Directive and for me to burnish my credentials as the “Geekier-Than-Thou” member of this blog.Memory Alpha, the Star Trek Wiki, has a good discussion here of what the Prime Directive is:
“The Directive states that members of Starfleet are not to interfere in the internal affairs of another species, especially the natural development of pre-warp civilizations, either by direct intervention, or technological revelation. When studying a planet’s civilization, particularly during a planetary survey, the Prime Directive makes it clear that there is to be “No identification of self or mission. No interference with the social development of said planet. No references to space, other worlds, or advanced civilizations.” (TOS: “Bread and Circuses”) Starfleet personnel are required to understand that allowing cultures to develop on their own is an important right and therefore must make any sacrifice to protect cultures from contamination, even at the cost of their own lives.
The Prime Directive is not enforced upon citizens of the Federation. Under the rules as defined in the Directive, a Starfleet crew is forbidden from removing citizens who have interfered with the culture of a world. Violating the directive can result in a court-martial for the offending Starfleet officer or crew. (TNG: “Angel One”)
In all, there are 47 sub-orders in the Prime Directive. (VOY: “Infinite Regress”)
Originally the Directive was a shield for primitive worlds. If such a world was in danger, Starfleet had been known to order ships to save that world, provided it could be done without violating the Directive. (TOS: “The Paradise Syndrome”)
The Directive was later amended, prohibiting Starfleet officers from intervening even if non-intervention would result in the extinction of an entire species or the end of all life on a planet or star system. By the 24th century the Federation had begun applying the Prime Directive to warp-capable species, refusing to interfere in internal matters such as the Klingon Civil War. (TNG: “Pen Pals”, “Homeward”, “Redemption”, “Redemption II”).”
The video that opens this post is from The Star Trek The Next Generation episode Pen Pals, and illustrates well the moral ambiguity that often ensued when Star Fleet officers were faced with a Prime Directive situation. How can you turn your back on people who need your aid? How can you be sure that such aid will not have long term calamitous results for the entities you sought to aid? Is the Prime Directive an absolute as Lieutenant Worf contended, or is there room for interpretation? What is the guiding purpose of the Prime Directive?
I think that Picard nails it when he says that the Prime Directive was intended for relieving Star Fleet officers from making intervention decisions when their emotions were aroused. In a time when Star Fleet captains with enormous power at their disposal are often far from the direct control of the Federation I can see much wisdom in this policy. Of course there are problems with the Prime Directive.
1. The first problem is that it didn’t work in practice. When the Prime Directive is mentioned in one of the shows, the odds were heavy that the good guys were going to stomp all over the Prime Directive for some noble end. Some sophistical justification was usually tacked on at the end to justify the violation, but the violation remained clear and glaring. No consequence resulted from the violation, so one could be excused from assuming that no one in Star Fleet high command really took the Prime Directive all that seriously. Continue reading
I am on vacation this week with my family. My internet connection in the coming week will range from intermittent to non-existent. I will have posts for each day I am away on the blog, but if something momentous occurs, for example: Elvis is discovered working at a Big Boy’s in Tulsa, the Pope issues a Bull against blogging as a complete waste of time, or Obama reveals that Area 51 does contain aliens and Joe Biden has accidentally started an intergalactic war with them, I trust that this post will explain why I am not discussing it.
Among other activities we will be attending the Gen Con Convention in Indianapolis, a pilgrimage the McClarey clan makes each year to renew our uber-Geek creds. If any of you are close to Indianapolis and you have never attended, it is worth a drive to see tens of thousands of role players, board gamers and computer gamers in Congress assembled. If nothing else you will go home reassured as to how comparatively normal you are. Last year’s attendance was in excess of 41,000 and there are multitudes of gaming related events. A good symbol of the holy grail of nerdiness that is Gen Con is here. Below is a Gen Con video which gives a nice feel for the magnitude of the convention.
My wife and daughter participate in the live action dungeon at Gen Con. I do not participate due to my great personal dignity, and because I doubtless would cry in anguish as my character was slain two seconds into the dungeon! I normally hang around at the game auction along with most of the grognard veteran gamers, i.e. geezer gamers. The type of wackiness that goes on at Gen Con is best symbolized in this video which has nothing to do with Gen Con but which certainly has the Gen Con spirit. (Hattip to Pauli at Est Quod Est.)
A first-rate video on Grant Wood’s American Gothic (1930). One of the more famous pictures at the Art Institute in Chicago, I have long admired it. Endlessly interpreted, the picture lends itself to a Rorschach type of test where what the viewer says about the painting says more about the interpreter than it does about the painting.
Whenever I look at it, I have always thought of Jonathan and Martha Kent, the fictional foster parents of Superman. The date of the painting would have been when the future Superman would have been around 11 based on his original chronology. The Kents would have been desperate to keep their beloved son, just beginning the mastery of his awesome powers, away from the notice of the World. The figures in the painting seem to me to be keeping a great secret. They look suspiciously at the viewer. The shades on their house are drawn. The averageness of the couple is belied by their desire to keep prying eyes away from that house. At the same time there is nothing that gives any hint of evil about the man and woman. They simply have something great that has been placed into their care and they wish to protect it from outsiders.
The association of the painting with the Superman saga is not original to me. In Superman The Animated Series Mr. Mxyzptlk, the imp from another dimension who periodically torments Superman, turns Ma and Pa Kent into a facsimile of the painting.
One can imagine the encounter that led to the painting.
From the diary of Jonathan Kent: Continue reading