Geekier than thou
And scattered about it, some in their overturned war-machines, some in the now rigid handling-machines, and a dozen of them stark and silent and laid in a row, were the Martians–dead!–slain by the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared; slain as the red weed was being slain; slain, after all man’s devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth.
H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds
Remember, no panicking. All will be well. Nothing to worry about:
Amateur astronomers are puzzling over a seemingly anomalous cloud that has shown up on images of Mars taken over the past few days. Is it really a cloud, or a trick of the eye? Does it really extend 150 miles up from the surface, as some of the observers suggest? And what churned up all that stuff, anyway? The amateurs and the pros will be trying to resolve those questions before the phenomenon fades away.
“It’s not completely unexpected,” Jonathon Hill, a member of the team at the Mars Space Flight Facility at Arizona State University, told me today. “But it’s bigger than we would expect, and it’s definitely something that our atmosphere guys want to take a look at.” Continue reading
Something for the weekend. Sogno di Volare, The Dream of Flight, the theme song of the game Civilization VI that was released yesterday. (Be still my geek heart!) I know what will be occupying my weekend! Continue reading
Time to refresh my chief geek of the blog credentials.
To observe the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, my favorite scene from all of Trek: Commander Michael Eddington’s rejection of the Federation in the Deep Space Nine episode “For the Cause”. It is remarkable that an entertainment phenomenon arising from something as ephemeral as a short-lived television show is still with us half a century later. Partially this is due to the endless running of the original Trek series in syndication in the seventies that greatly expanded Star Trek from a small cult to a large enough audience to flourish. If viewed with a cold eye Star Trek is a fairly routine space opera with often bad writing, cheap production values, concepts that strained credulity, (an alien race modeling itself on the human Roman Empire?), bad acting, (William Shatner take a bow), worse science and a ridiculous philosophy that seems to be an amalgam of socialism, militarism and sixties goofiness.
All true to an extent, but there is so much more to Trek than that. It has provided an optimistic view of the future that flies in the face of the fashionable gloom that has engulfed the West. Star Trek has served to inspire kids to embark on careers in real science, and sparked the imagination of many more children. Along with the daffiness of Trek fandom, it has been the basis of the beginning of many friendships and has provided hundreds of hours of harmless, and occasionally edifying, entertainment. I do not regret the time that I have spent on Trek over the years, and I trust that I will not see the end of this romance of the future. Man always needs optimism and hope, and even a form of entertainment can sometimes appeal to the better angels of our nature. May Star Trek and its offspring, you knew I was going to end with this, Live long and prosper! Continue reading
Farewell Mr. Garibaldi. Continue reading
Paramount finally admitted that the lawsuit against the makers of Prelude to Axanar for copyright infringement was idiotic and is in the process of dropping it.
At last night’s Star Trek fan event, the latest trailer for Star Trek Beyond wasn’t the only newsworthy event: J.J. Abrams, announced that Paramount Pictures’ lawsuit against Axanar Productions was “going away.”
Speaking at the fan event, Abrams noted that Star Trek Beyond’s director, Justin Lin, was outraged at the legal situation that had arisen: “Justin was sort of outraged by this as a longtime fan. We started talking about it and realized this wasn’t an appropriate way to deal with the fans. The fans of Star Trek are part of this world.”
Lin had a direct role in helping to end the lawsuit: “[Justin] went to the studio and pushed them stop this lawsuit, and now, within the next few weeks, it will be announced that this is going away, and that fans would be able to continue working on their project.” Continue reading
As faithful readers of this blog know, I like to play historically based computer strategy games. One of my favorite series has been the Civilization games by Sid Meier. The first one reached my house on Christmas Eve 1991, the first Christmas of my twin sons, and my bride and I quickly became entranced by it. In between playing with our infants and introducing them to the joys of Christmas, we took turns charting the courses of society through 6,000 years of history. For a young married couple fascinated by history, it was the ideal Christmas present.
Over the past quarter century we have purchased each new version of it. I was struck by the optimism of the announcement trailer. It is a historical optimism I share and it is splendidly set forth in Daniel Webster’s closing argument to the jury of the damned in The Devil and Daniel Webster by Stephen Vincent Benet: Continue reading
Amazing how surreal the real world is now in comparison to fiction. Time to take a break from an increasingly insane world and take a look at two of my favorite fictional locales: Star Trek and Star Wars.
In comparing the two franchises, I would give the prize to Star Trek for consistent quality, with the exception of Star Trek the Next Generation (PC In Space.) However, Star Trek never reached the heights attained in the first trilogy of Star Wars, or the depths plumbed in the second trilogy. Give your opinion in the comboxes.
Bonus debate: Most annoying Star Trek and Star Wars characters. Hint: Continue reading
“Don’t push the pink–
Let me tell you something about Hew-mons, Nephew. They’re a wonderful, friendly people, as long as their bellies are full and their holosuites are working. But take away their creature comforts, deprive them of food, sleep, sonic showers, put their lives in jeopardy over an extended period of time and those same friendly, intelligent, wonderful people… will become as nasty and as violent as the most bloodthirsty Klingon. You don’t believe me? Look at those faces. Look in their eyes.
The trailer for Star Wars: Rogue One, due out this Christmas, which tells how the Rebels stole the plans for the original Death Star. The first of the Star Wars Anthology spin off films, and chronologically just before A New Hope, the first Star Wars film. At the end of the trailer there is the beginning of an unintentionally hilarious interview with a completely non-reactive Mark Hamill. Continue reading
Something for a Halloween weekend. Hey there Cthulhu. A minor vice of mine is a love for old pulp science fiction and fantasy. One of the authors I treasure is H.P. Lovecraft, best known for his cycle of horror science fiction\fantasy stories centering around the Old Ones, evil supernatural entities that lurk in dark dimensions, waiting to unleash unspeakable horror on unsuspecting humanity. The best known of these demonic creatures is Cthulhu. I have always found these stories gut-bustingly funny due to the fact that Lovecraft, in these stories, has to be the worst writer of fiction, at least fiction that does not contain phrases like “Love’s Savage Unending Fury”, “The Davinci Code”, “Based On A True Story”, and “Stephen King”, since Bulwer-Lytton shuffled off to the world beyond. Some things are so spectactularly bad that I find myself liking them due to how hair-raisingly inept they are.
One of my favorite stops at the Abraham Lincoln Museum in Springfield.
The Thirty-third Infantry Illinois Volunteers was organized at Camp Butler, Illinois, in the month of September, 1861, by Colonel Chas. E. Hovey, and mustered into the United States service by Captain T. G. Pitcher, U. S. A. Continue reading
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