Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ten Times Trek Tackled Tough Topics


Growing up on Star Trek, I've always felt an unflinching optimism about the humanist direction of our world culture. I was a child of the 90s. A poor kid, a transient kid, a kid with divorced parents, a kid who went to fifteen schools and experienced therein a variety of micro-cultures. I was a kid from the Mountain South, a kid with strict, Southern Baptist grandparents but liberal-minded, artist parents who had all sorts of friends. I was a kid who stood in line for food stamps, a kid who lived, for a time, in a shelter and, for another time, in a fancy suburb. I was a kid who watched as factories and jobs and coal mines and mountain tops and any sense of pride went out of small town after small town in Appalachia. I was a kid who watched an Oxy epidemic and a low employment rate contribute to the already low life expectancy of those around her. I was a kid who once went hiking in the hills of North Carolina and watched as her mother burned to ash a racist symbol she'd found littering the overlook. I was a kid who grew up with family and friends of various colors, creeds, and sexual orientations. I remember being that kid, looking around at my own world and at the world on Star Trek, and thinking, "We've got a long way to go but at least we're on the right track."

I remember thinking that something like the future portrayed in Trek was where we were headed. And I still believe that.

When November rolled by and things shook out the way they did, I was disappointed by many things but, because of my varied background, unsurprised. I hoped it wouldn't be as bad as I worried it might be but, as January unfolded, I watched as the highest office in the land was filled by a man who seemed incapable of taking us anywhere but backward. I watched as cabinet positions were taken by confirmed bigots and misogynists and billionaires who'd bought and paid for a seat at a table where they might only wreak havoc on the poorest and most desperate families of this country and others. I watched as people on both sides on an invisible line shouted into their echo chambers and posted articles they hoped would garner favor from their like-minded friends. I watched and I retreated into my own world because confrontation and public discource is not something that comes naturally to me. And in my retreat, I continued to do as I have always done. I watched Star Trek. And, one afternoon, at the sound of a single line, about human compassion, I began to cry.

Star Trek has had a long, long history of turning its eye on the current cultural climate, of tackling the issues which tug at the ugliest, fuzziest, darkest parts of our world and brings them into sharp, technicolor focus. These episodes are a cornerstone of Trek and of Science Fiction in general. They allow us to see our own problems through the eyes of others (sometimes subtly, other times less so) and, hopefully, in looking through those other eyes, we can find some empathy or, at least, some empathy can find us. Star Trek says the things I have difficulty saying. It says these things with grace, compassion, and a hope that I will continue to turn to. I figured I might as well make a list for reference so, here it is:

1- A Taste of Armageddon, The Original Series
Two societies are content to let a computer deal out death so their physical culture is preserved. Kirk is having none of it. This is one of my favorites from TOS.


2- Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, The Original Series
Two races from one planet hate each other for superficial reasons the Enterprise crew can't even percieve. This one is easy (or maybe not) to scoff at these days but, in its time, it was a necessary and poignant episode.

3- The Drumhead, Next Generation
A confessed spy, a terrorist plot and a devious witchhunt are the set pieces of this quiet, courtroom episode and Picard is its beating heart.

4- Darmok, Next Generation
(Full Disclosure: This is my favorite episode of Star Trek. I will put it on every list I ever make. However, it absolutely deserves a spot here.) The Enterprise encounters a race of aliens whose language they cannot even begin to understand. Captain Picard is spirited away to a dangerous planet where he and the alien captain must overcome their differences and learn to work together.


5- The Outcast, Next Generation
Riker befriends a member of an androgynous race who considers an individual that identifies strongly as either male or female to be criminally deviant and perverted. Featured here is one of the best speeches in Trek.

6- Duet, DS9
Set against the still tense Bajoran/Cardassian conflict, Kira discovers an infamous, Cardassian war criminal aboard DS9. Things are not what they seem.

7- Far Beyond The Stars, DS9
This one features the crew in old timey duds and no alien makeup or prosthesis. It also features a stark look at the life of minorities in 1950s America as Sisko finds himself in the story of a black Science Fiction author trying to sell his vision of an egalitarian future to a world that's almost but not quite ready.

8- Distant Origin, Voyager
The Voyager gang becomes embroiled in one species' debate over evolutionary science.  This is an often forgotten but very strong outing. I'd also add that I think it's the best Chakota-sode but that would sound like I'm damning it with faint praise.


9- Remember, Voyager
The full title of this one should be, "Remember: Hard to Watch" and that's really the whole point. Basically, Voyager comes upon a somewhat serene society only to find an ugly and evil truth in their recent past. It's a truth most everyone would like to forget. Except they shouldn't.

10- Terra Prime, Enterprise
Alternate title: "Make Earth for Earthers Again!' This one pits Archer and crew against a xenophobic, isolationist leader (in the fabulous Peter Weller) who'd like to build a wall around the world make sure Earth is safe from any further seeking out of new life and new civilizations and/or boldly going.


Of course there are plenty more. When I mentioned to my husband that I was going to make a list of socio-political Star Trek allegories he said, "How long is that list going to be?" And I decided to limit it to ten. But there are plenty more.

Here are a few, in brief:
-TOS: Devil in the Dark (A lesson in tolerance and the dangers of hasty assumptions)
-TOS: Plato's Step-Children (First inter-racial kiss on US TV)
-TOS: A Private Little War (Overtones of the Vietnam War)
-TNG: Measure of a Man (What does it take to be considered human?)
-TNG: Journey's End (Native American rights in the 24th Century)
-TNG: Chain of Command (The horror and futility of torture)
-DS9: Homefront/Paradise Lost (Starfleet goes Patriot Act in fear of shapeshifter terrorists)
-DS9: Second Skin (Problems of identity, point of view, indoctrination)
-DS9: In The Pale Moonlight (Personal Values >/= Ultimate Goals?)
-VOY: Author, Author (Another exploration of humanity and human rights)
-VOY: Prototype (B'Elanna finds herself repairing instrument of endless war)
-VOY: Faces (B'Elanna confronts both parts of her bi-racial identity)
-ENT: Cogenitor (Rights of individual)
-ENT: Dear Doctor (Doctor and Captain grapple with the question of non-interference)
-ENT: Home (Issues of xenophobia in the wake of terrorism)

Welp. I'd meant for this to be a super short, list-form post. It became something... else. But if you're sitting around in your house thinking to yourself, "Gee. I wonder if there's any Star Trek out there that might resonate with whatever complicated feeelings I'm currently feeling regarding the current socio-political climate." The short answer is, "Yes." The long answer is, "Yes."

Friday, January 27, 2017

Generic Ensign ENT: Andorian Incident and Breaking the Ice


I ate a lot of pecan pie to make this post. A lot. I am not ok after that.


Generic Ensign's Log: ENT 2 from AshleyRose on Vimeo.

Sidenote- I realize that I have a "weird mouth" when I eat. It's a combination of my highly elastic skin and a strange Aspie thing where when I was a kid I was told not to eat with my mouth open and I took that to mean, "NEVER EVER OPEN YOUR MOUTH EXCEPT TO PUT NEW FOOD IN." So my whole life I got weird looks/giggles in school cafeterias and never understood why. Then one day when I was 33 I made a silly Star Trek Vlog and watched it and just laughed and laughed. (That day was today.)

Extra Side Note: (since I'm over here spilling my guts) I have a REALLY hard time with some food textures and gooey/gelatinous sweet stuff is one of them. I'm telling you right now that I sacrificed for this video. Sacrificed. Also I'm still on a bit of a sugar high, if you can't tell. From the rambling. I  hope you enjoyed this installment of Generic Ensign! In spite of my silly struggles, I really enjoy making them.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

NEW Generic Ensign for 2017

BAM! I'm back, y'all!

I was SO sick over Christmas and then had SO much work to catch up on once I got back and seriously I haven't even taken the tree down yet. That's how behind I am. It's January 19th or some biz. Anyway, one of the things I hated getting behind on was this blog. I had big plans for the new year. I was going to suddenly pop up on January 1st in my new GE costume and be all like, "GUESS WHAT I'M WATCHING!!!!" But I didn't have time to work on said costume because of said flu. Whatever, I can do that even if it's January 19th because this is my blog and it's the fourth year of this blog and I make the rules (up as I go.) So, without further ado:

GUESS WHAT I'M WATCHING!!?!!? 
(Prepare yourself for five episodes covered in short order)


In case you didn't watch the video because you, like me, have an aversion to video posts (unless they're walkthroughs for video game stuff) and you can't even guess from the still up above--it's Enterprise! And, because there's comparatively so little of it, I'm hoping to either write or Vlog about each episode. I've seen Enterprise all the way through three times with a few outliers here and there having been watched a couple more times and I haven't seen it at all since my initial Year of Star Trek so I'm (if you can't tell) super excited. Here we (boldly) go!


Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 Year In Review


Boy, I had a lot of posts planned for this month. I had at least three Generic Ensign Vlogs planned as well as a holiday post and a couple of specific episodes I just really wanted to write about. I even made a Trek-themed mince pie!

But then a bunch of life happened. I got really sick. None of those well-intentioned December posts materialized.

Still, I didn't want to leave off this year without at least mentioning something about 2016 and My Year of TNG coming to a close. I'm just about finished with the series. In spite of the fact that I haven't been writing, I have been watching. I intend to watch All Good Things as I ring in 2017.

But before I do that, here's everything I have to say about 2016:
I started out the year with the intention of watching TOS but quickly realized I just didn't have the enthusiasm for it that I'd hoped and, by February, I'd switched over to my old friend TNG. It helped to comfort me when both of my grandmothers died within a couple weeks of one another. And it was there when my no-longer-convenient-to-ignore health issues led me to seeking and getting my Ehlers Danlos diagnosis. Suddenly I understood why a lot of things that frustrated me about my health, my body, my weightlifting were the way they were. And I understood that it was a problem that wouldn't ever just go away. Just as I'd finally got around to coming to terms with that I banged up my wrist and couldn't write or draw. And just when my wrist was nearly healed I started having strange, sudden, nauseating pain in both hands. This went on for six months. In and out of doctors. In and out of Physical Therapy. In and out of my blog. In and out of my house, taking long, long walks because I had to burn off my creative energy somehow and using my hands just wasn't an option. All the while I wondered, but really didn't talk about, whether my career as an artist, an essayist, a writer was about to be over at the age of thirty-two. Nothing seemed to help. Not exercise, massage, heat, cold, anti-inflammatories, or rest. I was frustrated. I cried a lot. I complained to my friends but not nearly as much as I wanted to, not nearly as much as I could and maybe should have. I poured myself into Generic Ensign and that, at least, was a welcome respite.


Now the year is nearly over. At the end of November I realized that I'd also been having some neck issues and wondered if it might be connected to my hands. I went to my doctor and she said, "How long has your neck been hurting?" I said that I didn't know. Things are always hurting. I have a chronic condition and I'm a power-lifter and workaholic with pathologically atrocious posture so it's tough to say. She perscribed a neck collar and physical therapy and I got rid of the foam pillow I'd purchased in May (a week before my hand pain started, I realized) and my hands, I'm happy to say, began to get better. It looks like there's a possibility that the pain is mostly caused by a pinched or inflamed nerve in my neck. Two months ago, I couldn't have imagined writing this post. I couldn't type for more than twenty minutes without excruciating pain. Now the pain is still there but it's in the background, easing in and out, and I worry that it's getting ready to pounce. That this really isn't the answer. I've hoped for so many "the answers" over the last six months and none of them have panned out so I don't want to speak too early and say, "Hooray, it's fixed!" and then catch myself back in the apparently bottomless pit I was in before. I am cautiously optimistic.

I realize, of course, that this post isn't really all that much about Star Trek. But this blog, since it began, has been about half Trek/half me. And the "me" hasn't made much of an appearance lately. So, here I am, telling you about my year. And, yes, in many ways, 2016 was rough. But there were plenty of great things too. I began meditating to cope with my pain and found that I really enjoy it. I started working with a lifting coach who also has EDS and got a new PR in conventional deadlift. I went to the beach by myself and did a ton of watercolors and ate huge slices of greasy pizza. I started riding my bike more often and now I take her (Harriet) out nearly every day. I let my hair knot itself into long ropes and stopped fighting it and now I'm happy with it for the first time in my life. I made new artist and lifter and Trek-fan friends on Instagram. I went hiking with my mom and little brother. I had three comic essays published. I turned in my third novel. I read several great books. I baked bread. I ate cheeseburgers and took long naps and played video games with my husband every Saturday afternoon. I watched Rogue One and cried when the credits rolled. I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation and I was comforted by its enduring message of hope and human compassion.


2016 has been a tough year. For a lot of us. And that sucks. I don't know what 2017 will bring. And that's ok.

I've always said that my greatest, or most beneficial quality, is my adaptability. This year that quality was put to the test and, go figure, I'm still here. So, whatever happens next year or the year after or the year after, I'll figure it out as I go. I'll adapt and keep going because adaptation is, more than a Borg quality, a human quality.

Ok, something extra (because what this post needs is more words) here are the things I loved most in 2016:

3- The Flavia De Luce mysteries by Alan Bradley
4- The Murdoch Mysteries (the Canadian TV show, it's available in the US on Netflix and Hulu in parts and on Acorn nearly whole also on the cable channel, Ovation)
5- People of Earth (the new TBS series)

Go forth and watch/read these things and decide whether you love them as well.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Generic Ensign's vLog #8: Time's Arrow - Chain of Command

It's been a long few weeks (you'll hear this from Generic Ensign as well) and I'm glad to finally be getting back to the blog. I had some really intense family stuff going on that laid me pretty low for a while but then Thanksgiving was for serious amazing. The best in my memory. I played video games. I hung out with Scott. I took naps. I played more video games. I ate SO MUCH turkey. (I butterflied the bird this year and this is something I HIGHLY recommend) I made the biggest, craziest pumpkin pie. It weighed three+ pounds and took several days to polish off. This week I got back to work and FINALLY returned to Generic Ensign. So, here's the latest:


Generic Ensign's Vlog #8 from AshleyRose on Vimeo.

Friday, November 4, 2016

TNG Time Capsule: A Matter of Time, Hero Worship and Cause and Effect

A few years ago my mom found a couple of the journals I'd been made to keep in the second grade. I nearly cried when she gave them to me. As someone who writes and illustrates her own life, these little composition books are precious treasure troves of memory. PROOF! Proof that I existed as a small human. That I thought things and felt things and watched, even then, copious amounts of television.

Earlier this year I got them out and looked through them again, thinking that I would do a "on this night" series as I watched episodes that originally aired on dates corresponding to my journal entries. Unfortunately, life got a bit in the way. Waylaid by health issues and the like, I completely forgot about my plans. It wasn't until I was straightening up my workspace yesterday that I remembered.

Luckily, we're not that far away from these episodes. I only just finished the season in question! I handpicked a couple (for what will be obvious reasons) and here they are:


A Matter of Time
Original Air Date: November 18, 1991
This entry is the closest I could find since TNG was likely on winter hiatus at the time but I felt it was fairly appropriate. It's also the first entry in this specific journal.
"Yesterday it was cold. I stayed in and watched TV for 5 hours. Then did homework. Then I played and watched a movie. I fell asleep. I woke up. And I got to go to bed. 
I loved last night."



Hero Worship
Original Air Date: January 27, 1992
Again, this one isn't on the exact date (new episodes hadn't yet returned) and they would've been showing re-runs. 
"Tonight I can stay up as late as I want. I can watch late night shows. I can do anything I want. I love to stay up. I can play until 10:30. I can go to bed at one in the morning. But I like to watch TV best." 

PS- I think it's fairly plausible that the person on the TV is Worf. Just look at the haircut. 


Cause and Effect
Original Air Date: March 23, 1992
I picked this one out because it's one of my favorite episodes. I have a very clear memory of watching this one for the first time, feeling that sort of Hitchcock zoom trick your mind plays when it suddenly turns inside out.  I would've written this entry on the day the Cause and Effect premiered. 

"This weekend I flew a kite. I saw old friends. I played with them. And I wrote my dad a letter. I built a "made". And a story box." 

A few things strike me about this entry. 
1-In spite of being pretty poor through a lot of my childhood, I had plenty of toys. Still, I was always building stuff out of cardboard. My journals from this time actually have a lot of little rockets and such and I have really strong memories of building sprawling doll houses and weird little dioramas. I still do this kind of thing. In my kitchen there's a recycling bin and, beside it, a pile of cardboard pieces that I want to use for paintings and projects and whatever. Sometimes I actually get around to those projects and sometimes they make the slow march into the bin. I remember this maid construction really well. She was made out of toilet paper rolls and a shoebox. I'm not sure what her hat was made of but, knowing me, it was likely a stollen coffee filter. 

2-Why a maid? I'm not sure. My mom worked as a maid for a while during this time. I remember going with her to a couple of swanky houses. One of them had a gorgeous mural in the basement. I remember thinking, "Wow, this place is so clean." And my mom was like, "Yeah, gee, I wonder why." 
So maybe I made a maid to help her out around our house. I mean, what else was I going to do? Actually clean? Clearly I was too busy watching TV. 

3- The letter to my dad. This was about thirteen months after my parents split up. I hadn't seen my dad since then and, in child years, thirteen months seems like about forever plus ten. My journals reflect the memories I have of my attitude from that time. A sort of weird practicality I had toward stressful situations. I missed my dad but I didn't mope about it. I wrote a letter and got on with my life. What else was I supposed to do? 

Boy, this is a lot of typing. I actually saved my hands up all day just so I could do this post. And I'm glad I did. I LOVE doing Generic Ensign and I'm going to keep those Vlog posts going but I do also miss speaking in my own voice. After all, that's sort of my whole thing—writing about myself, my life, my history. Hoping that somewhere out there it'll strike a chord and resonate with someone else. So, if you're out there, thanks for taking this stroll down memory lane with me. 


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