1

Captain Z-RO and Christopher Columbus

The things you find on the internet!  From 1955 the first episode of the Captain Z-RO show featuring the time traveling explorer going back to 1492 and the discovery of the New World by Columbus.  Obvious low production values, but it holds up well compared to the appalling drek that mostly makes up TV fare today.

12

First Look at The Man In the High Castle Season Three

 

“The Nazis have no sense of humor, so why should they want television? Anyhow, they killed most of the really great comedians. Because most of them were Jewish. In fact, she realized, they killed off most of the entertainment field. I wonder how Hope gets away with what he says. Of course, he has to broadcast from Canada. And it’s a little freer up there. But Hope really says things. Like the joke about Goring . . . the one where Goring buys Rome and has it shipped to his mountain retreat and then set up again. And revives Christianity so his pet lions will have something to—”

Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle

 

 

The televised version of Philip K. Dick’s tale of alternate worlds, one of which is ruled by the Third Reich and the Empire of Japan, is going into a third season in 2018.  I have greatly enjoyed the first two seasons, which stands head and shoulders above most of the drek broadcast these days.

 

14

Dark Powers

Would extraterrestrial alien civilizations be friendly or malevolent?  Here is a post that argues they would be benign:

 

 

The second possibility is a little more intriguing. Imagine a benevolent or benign spacefaring alien species, akin to the Vulcans from Star Trek. If they’ve figured out how to successfully traverse the distances between the stars, then they have technology that’s at least hundreds of years beyond our own, and potentially thousands, tens of thousands or more. We have enough problems on our world figuring out how to manage our own planet, and we have the resources of an entire world, a solar system, and a massive, energy-giving Sun. For a species to come as far as an intelligent, spacefaring alien would have come, they must have figured out a solution to a whole slew of problems that humanity clearly still grapples with. Meeting a civilization such as this could only have positive outcomes for our own. Continue Reading

23

Game of Thrones is Filth

 

 

I have to agree with Mathew Walther on this:

 

My goodness. I’ve just spent an hour watching to see if a guy who raped a teenage girl at bow-and-arrow point is going to be eaten alive by the animals he has spent the last few seasons subjecting to forms of cruelty that make Michael Vick look like a PETA ambassador or beaten to death in the freezing cold by his victim’s half-brother. Thank goodness the guy who set his terminally ill daughter on fire in a pyromantic oblation to a heathen god at the behest of a witch who never seems to wear any clothes is not around to prevent justice from being carried out here — the woman whose size makes her the frequent butt of bestiality-related jokes killed him just in time! Lucky that she has a wealthy and well-connected benefactor in a one-armed knight whose hobbies from childhood on have included killing people and sleeping with his queen sister — including in a church right next to the corpse of one of their unacknowledged sons — to whom we were first introduced when he pushed the little brother of the above-mentioned rape victim out of a window to conceal his incest from her drunken prostitute-addicted domestic-abuser husband! Almighty God has made me in His own image and endowed me with faculties of reason and sense perception and given me free will so that I can tune in next week to see whether the unidextrous dueling champ’s royal sister sets her daughter-in-law and the rest of her extended family on fire or just a bunch of priests. Hallelujah!

Go here to read the rest.  It is a shame too, because among the porn and violence laden dog’s vomit there are such gems as this:

 

Continue Reading

4

Nothing to Get Scared About. Really. Maybe.

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

9

Star Trek 50 Years On

 

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

1

Paramount Drops Lawsuit Against Axanar

 

 

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

3

Civilization VI Optimism

 

 

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

21

Star Wars v. Star Trek

 

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

10

Quotes Suitable for Framing: Quark

 

 “Don’t push the pinkskins to the thin ice.”

Andorian maxim

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.

Quark

11

Mary Sue Stole the Death Star Plans

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

13

Twas a Dark and Stormy Cthulhu

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.

Continue Reading

Ghosts of the Library

 

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

10

Star Trek Politics

 

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 TrekThe 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

17

The Man in the High Castle

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:

Ecclesiastes 12:5

 

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

4

Mr. Spock as Conservative

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

11

Leonard Nimoy: Requiescat in Pace

 

A sad day.  Leonard Nimoy has departed this Vale of Tears.

Leonard Nimoy, the legendary actor who played Mr Spock in Star Trek, has died at the age of 83.

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.

His wife Susan Bay Nimoy and son Adam confirmed he passed away at his Bel Air, Los Angeles, home on Friday morning.

Nimoy’s final tweet from his hospital bed urged fans to ‘live long and prosper’.  Continue Reading

2

Prelude to Axanar

 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!

11

Star Trek Continues

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!

23

SPI Infomercial

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

7

Star Trek Medley

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

7

Review of the Hobbit Trilogy

(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

1

PopeWatch: Batman

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

 

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

3

The Original Klingon

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

7

Constitution Day: Star Trek Style!

 

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

5

Prime Directive Debate

(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

3

On Vacation 2013

 

Family on Vacation

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.)

Continue Reading

2

American Gothic and Ma and Pa Kent

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

Europa Universalis the Musical!

When I am not in the law mines, attending to family matters or blogging, I can often be found playing grand strategic historical computer games.   I have gotten quite a bit of enjoyment out of the Europa Universalis games put out by the Swedish game company Paradox, which allows you to lead virtually any country on the globe from the Fifteenth Century up to the Napoleonic period.  Go here to download a demo of Europa Universalis III.

On April 1, 2013 those wild and crazy Swedes at Paradox released a video, above, detailing their plans for Europa Universalis the Musical!  Ah, if twere only true.  Nerd Heaven!

4

The Ten Commandments of the Science Fiction Writer

Ten Commandments

 

 

My co-blogger Darwin has a good post at his blog, Darwin Catholic, expressing his irritation at three laws proposed by the late science fiction writer Arthur Clarke.  Go here to read it.  The proposing of laws seems to often go with the territory of being a science fiction writer.  Asimov had his laws of robotics, for example.  Reading Darwin’s post propelled me into imagining the ten commandments for science fiction writers, and here they are:

 

 

1.  You are a science fiction writer, and will write only science fiction:  no fantasy, no (spit) urban fantasy, no (gag) romance novels disguised as fantasy.  This rule is subject to being overruled if you really, really need the cash.

2.  You will not bow down to the idols of popular taste or to what will sell in the mass market.  Kindle and e-publishing will have your sole worship.

3.  You will not take the name of science in vain and have more than three scientific absurdities in each story that you write.

4.  All the rest of creation labors for only six days.  For science fiction writing wretches remember the words of Heinlein:  “Six days shalt thou work and do all thou art able; the seventh the same, and pound on the cable.

5.  Honor your father and your mother as they may well be the ones supporting you as you seek fame and fortune by scribbling endlessly for a living. Continue Reading

Your Tax Dollars at Play

As faithful readers of this blog know I am a Star Trek fan.  Therefore I am doubly offended that the IRS decided to spend $60,000 bucks on a Star Trek and Gilligan’s Island parodies:

Yes, the IRS goes boldly where no man has gone before. And like a space tourist, the IRS wrote a check to do it. Some headlines suggest the price tag was $4 million. Actually, the IRS studio itself cost around $4 million but the Trekkie movie was around $60,000. Continue Reading

Game That Pope!

I have wasted endless hours of my life playing historical strategy games since 1970, first as board games and then on computers.  Troy Goodfellow at Flash of Steel has a fascinating look at games which involve the Papacy:

 

Popes are also generally not playable characters, and when they are, they come with major strings attached. Papal power is a spasmodic interference in play, either through the mechanics of being a Trump (a power that players compete for so they can use it against their enemies), a Vendor (a mechanic that distributes tasks and rewards to stimulate certain types of play and progress) or a Disruptor (a mechanic serves to keep games challenging or hasten resolution of stalemates.)

Medieval Total War II is probably the best exemplar here, and the one most familiar to readers of this blog, though certainly not the first. You can’t play the Pope in MTW2 – and you can’t even easily direct who assumes that role once the old pope dies – but he is always in your face, both in good ways and bad. First, as a Vendor, the Pope is one of two sources of “missions” for Catholic rulers (alongside local nobles). The Pope’s missions are connected to religious stuff, generally – build a church, convert a province, etc – and rewards for accomplishing his minor missions are on par with those nobles will provide. The Pope is a Disruptor by calling Crusades and then demanding your king or princes participate, drawing resources and armies away from where you would rather have them (you can always say no, but there’s a price). And the Pope further disrupts through Excommunication, putting leaders beyond the protection of the church and freeing you to act against them. Continue Reading

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The Eternal Issue: Batman vs. Spider-Man

 

 

Ah, TAC tackles only the big burning issues of our day!  Travis D. Smith over at The Weekly Standard raises a philosophical question that has always intrigued me:  who is the greater hero, Batman or Spider-Man?

Reservations  about technology are at the heart of Spider-Man’s story. Peter Parker  gains the proportional strength and agility of a spider when a high-tech  experiment goes awry. His webshooters and spider-tracers are products  of his own ingenuity. His rogue’s gallery, by contrast, comprises a  testament to the dangers inherent in modern technological science given  the myriad ways it can be misused and lead to unintended consequences.  With few exceptions, Spidey’s foes can be categorized as either (i) good  guys who were transformed into villains (or ordinary thugs who were  made much worse) by technological mishaps or unexpected side-effects  (e.g., Doctor Octopus, Electro, Green Goblin, Lizard, Morbius, and  Sandman; Venom, too, indirectly), or (ii) crooks who specifically  invented, obtained, or otherwise employ technology for the sake of doing  wrong or becoming worse (e.g., Beetle, Chameleon, Hobgoblin, Jackal,  Mysterio, Rhino, Scorpion, Shocker, and Vulture; Kraven is the  noteworthy exception). The young Peter Parker is corrupted by the  culture around him no less than any other young man. His first instinct  is to use his newfound powers in a selfish, though harmless, manner: He  plans to make it big in showbiz for the sake of supporting his family.  But after he internalizes Uncle Ben’s message, Spider-Man stands out as a  marvel precisely because he is both the victim of science gone wrong  and a manufacturer of technological wonders, yet neither makes a monster  of him—if we set aside that brief period he had six arms.

Modern  society, marked, if not defined, by our devotion to technological  science and premised principally on theories of rights, explicitly  rejects classical ideas that emphasize virtuous character and duties  that transcend individual will. Assessing all relationships in terms of  power, defending subjective rights as absolutes, and replacing  interpersonal duties with collective responsibilities, preferring the  indirect benefactions of impersonal institutionalized mechanisms,  modernity is a breeding ground for tyrannical souls and a recipe for  tyrannical regimes. It is in this light that Spider-Man can help us to  see that modernity’s capacity to turn out relatively well depends on  habits and ideas that precede it.

When  I teach introductory classes in political theory, I am grateful for the  example that Spider-Man provides of Glaucon’s model of “the man of  perfect justice” from Book II of The Republic, one who always  does the right thing (in terms of complying with conventional morality)  even though he always earns a reputation for doing the wrong thing.  Nobody who would wield great power intending to work on behalf of  justice can avoid earning a bad reputation. Spider-Man is sure to be  accused of being an accomplice in any bank robbery he thwarts. The  headlines of the Daily Bugle regularly prompt readers to ask  themselves whether he is a “Threat or Menace?” Nevertheless, Peter  chooses to keep up the good fight. The language of “choice,” however,  falls short here. Whereas Bruce decides to become a costumed agent of  vengeance, acting on an internal compulsion, Peter regards what he does  not so much as a choice but as a responsibility, a duty he must meet  irrespective of his preferences and desires. This accords with the  classical notion that virtue is demanded of us by our very nature; it is  not something that anyone can opt in or out of indifferently. Continue Reading

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The Hobbit Opening Day in the US

I am immensely looking forward to seeing this.  My family and I will not see the film until next weekend, after my son finishes up finals at the U of I.  That is a good thing, because when the trilogy came out we saw each portion on the weekend before Christmas, so we will be keeping up a family tradition.  Feel free to post here reactions to the film, although no plot spoilers please. Continue Reading

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On Vacation 2012

Family on Vacation

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 dumps Biden and picks his teleprompter as his running mate, 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 36,000 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 from 2011 which gives a nice feel of the convention.

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7

The Dark Knight Rises: A Film for the Age of Obama

I saw the film The Dark Knight Rises with my family last week.  I thought it went on too long, some of the various plot threads were confusing and the film required too much suspension of disbelief, above and beyond what is usually required in a superhero film.  It will not make my top ten list of favorite films for the year.  However, what is stunning about the film is that it conveyed fundamentally conservative messages.  Andrew Klavan tells us how, and the usual spoiler alerts apply: Continue Reading

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Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter Review

The reviews of the film had been dismal, but I felt duty bound to watch it, and give the film a review.  On  July 3, having closed my law office for the afternoon, my family and I went to the movies.  While the rest of my family, not sharing my duty to report on the film, joined the folks seeing Spider-man III, I strolled over to see the Great Emancipator dispatch vampires.  The viewing was rather like a private showing.  The audience in the vast theater consisted of me and one individual in the back.  I found this aspect of the film quite pleasant.  Alas that is the first and last positive aspect of this film that I can report.  Intrepid souls who wish to can follow me into the bowels of ALVH below, the usual spoiler  caveat being in force. Continue Reading

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Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter the Movie!

Born in a valley in Ken-tuck-ee

Greenest state in the Land of the Free

Raised in the woods so’s he knew every tree

Kilt him a vamp when he was only three.

A-bie, A-bie Lincoln, King of the vamp free frontier!

After the book Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, one had to know the movie was inevitable!  It is being released on June 22.   Historically, Lincoln was portrayed as a vampire in some cartoons by critics during the Civil War, but I do not believe that he was ever accused of killing one! Here is a video that was done to promote the book when it was first published:

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The Game is Ever Afoot

Time to refresh my creds as Chief Geek of the blog.  Season 2 of the series Sherlock is debuting in America on Mystery tonight on most PBS channels at 8:00 PM Central Time.  The series is a grand bringing of Sherlock Holmes into the present century.  It is wittily written, part send up of the original Holmes created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and part homage.  The improbably named Benedict Cumberbatch is superb in the title role, playing Holmes as a genius as a detective and a moron in dealing with all of humanity, but for Dr.  Watson.  Dr. Watson, Martin Freeman, is a British medical officer, fresh from traumatic injuries due to his service in Afghanistan (yes, the more things change, often the more they stay the same), who blogs about Holmes’ exploits as part of his therapy.  I highly endorse the series for anyone who likes to either think or laugh.

Sherlock Holmes is a prime example of a literary creation that completely escapes from his creator.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle grew tired of Holmes and attempted to kill him off, only relenting to bringing him back after his “death” at the Reichenbach Falls due to unceasing demands from Holmes’ devoted, if not crazed, fans.  Doyle tended to look down his nose at Holmes:  “If I had never touched Holmes, who has tended to obscure my higher work, my position in literature would at the present moment be a more commanding one,” he once wrote, which is a hoot since his other writings were the most forgettable drek imaginable.  Doyle wrote the last of his Sherlock Holmes stories in 1926 and died in 1930.  Since that time not a year has gone by without authors trying their hands at new Holmes stories, and placing Holmes in every setting imaginable including the distant future, outer space, fantasy realms, etc.

The continuing popularity of Holmes is something of a mystery, which is appropriate.  It is hard to attribute it to simply love of mystery stories, since most mystery sleuths are dead as soon as their creators shuffle off this vale of tears.    Perhaps it is because Holmes, through his powers of observation, can so simply and swiftly glean the truth.  What an all important ability to possess!  Alas the same could not be said for his creator, Sir Arthur.  He deserted Catholicism for spiritualism (seances and that sort of rubbish) which is akin to feasting on a rich mud pie and then developing a fondness for eating actual mud.  GK. Chesterton, who drew illustrations for an unpublished, during his lifetime, edition of the Holmes story, upon learning of Doyles’ conversion had this memorable quip:  It has long seemed to me that Sir Arthur’s mentality is much more that of Watson than it is of Holmes. Continue Reading