Friday, May 31, 2013

What's Going On Here

When I first started this blog, I created a very simple "About" page. Since then My Year Of Star Trek has grown and evolved. I'm heading into my sixth month so I thought I'd create a Captain's Vlog to better explain what's going on here. Enjoy:

If you, like me, don't like watching stuff like this online and would rather just read it, or if you don't (for some reason) want to stare at my face for five minutes, I will try to post a transcript of this tomorrow as an addendum to this post. 

PS- Enjoy my shout out to Buckaroo Banzai.

PPS- I know the thumbnail of this video features me making a totally weirdo face. Yes, I make that face all the time. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Case Of The Olds

When I was a little kid and I ended up in a game of house, do you know who I inevitably played? The grandpa. When I played The Princess Bride, I was Miracle Max. My favorite picture book as a child was literally called, "A Little Old Man." I'm the kid who screams at other kids to stop playing their music so loud, to get off her lawn, and who really, really appreciates fig newtons.

I mention all of this because I think a lot about a DS9 character who is frequently referred to as, "Old Man." Jadzia carries a symbiont named Dax who used to live inside a cranky old bastard named Curzon. Sisko had a great fondness for his cantankerous mentor and still does--even though that old bastard now kind of lives inside Jadzia. It sounds a little confusing but when Jadzia Dax strides confidently in and out of scenes, playing tonga with the Ferengi, appreciating beauty in all genders/species, and lecturing her old mentee about honor or loyalty or whatever, it seems totally natural.

I feel like I'd be a great trill. In fact, if I weren't completely sure about the fact that I (sadly) don't live in the Star Trek universe, I'd check to make sure I didn't have some super old guy's discarded symbiont in my gut. My symbiont probably wouldn't be as cool as Dax though. My symbiont would just mumble a lot about the price of gas and then adjust his suspenders (which I have and wear often) then refuse to go outside because it's too crowded/sunny (which I do) and then announce that he's off to take a nap. (Don't judge. Naps are awesome.) Actually, I guess I'd be a really crappy trill. I'd totally be turned down for The Joining. And that'd be ok with me since I really just want to sit inside and plow through a sack of Werther's anyway.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sick Day

Today I felt pretty awful. It started out great but took a bad turn and then all of the sudden it was 9pm. I did manage to watch four episodes of DS9. They were all super awesome and hopefully I'll write about at least one of them tomorrow--maybe Blood Oath.

Until then, enjoy the following photos:

Awesome right? A friend happened to see these guys in a claw machine and was kind enough to send them to me. If I'd been be-bopping around the Walmart and spotted not one, but TWO Star Trek plush toys I'm pretty sure I would've blown all my junk food money playing the claw machine. You know how it is--you go out with a sack of quarters and a hankering for dill pickle potato chips and you come back with nothing but disgust at your own pitiful claw machine skills. Either way, just knowing that somewhere out there this is happening. These guys are probably still just sitting there, shouting at each other from underneath Betty Boops and Teletubbies or whatever. Just knowing that this is going on makes me feel better.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

BFFs: Jake & Nog

Today I watched The Alternate, Armageddon Game, Whispers, and Paradise. My favorite of these is the Obrien-centric "Whispers" which is intriguing from the start, mysterious all the way through, and surprising at the end. Because it's such a great surprise, I'd rather not ruit in for you here. Instead, go watch it and enjoy this little tribute picture I made of Jake and Nog. These two haven't had much going on the last few episodes but for whatever reason, I just really wanted to do a piece about them and since it's Sunday and I mostly just worked on illustration stuff, this was a nice break.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

DS9: Doomed To Fail

I'm terribly sorry about the fallback in posts this week. I didn't write the day that I was in the ER and spent yesterday recovering. I did, however, watch lots of DS9. Actually, in the last two days, I watched several episodes of DS9 and three of them were about doomed relationships: Melora, Rules of Acquisition, and Second Sight. If you've not seen these episodes and you don't want them totally ruined for you, skip over this one and come back to it after you've had your heart broken three times in four episodes.

#1: Melora
Melora is an Elaysian from a planet with very low gravity. Because of DS9's comparatively high gravity, she needs the assistance of a wheel chair and/or exo-skeleton to move about the station. Bashir gets the googly eyes over her and even comes up with a series of treatments that allow Melora to function in the high gravity environment. Eventually though, Melora realizes that if she continues the treatments she won't be able to return to her home world for extended periods of time without confusing her neuromuscular system. This makes no sense to me since it seems like once the treatments have effectively become permanent, she ought to be able to function in a low gravity environment just as well as any our astronauts function on the space station but whatever. Dax draws such a charming comparison between Melora and the Little Mermaid that it doesn't bother me.
Wish I could be... part of your world. 
What does bother me is that fact that somehow Bashir has gone his entire life without experiencing low gravity! Dude, you are literally living in a space station! What's going on!? How do they not have rooms that are just designed for low gravity (like Melora's) where you can go fly around all day and do awesome David Bowie covers to beam back to Earth? Anyway, once Melora doesn't want to be Bashir's science project anymore we never see her again.

#2: Rules of Acquisition
Ok, basically we've got a Yentl thing going on here. This Ferengi chick named Pel is fed up with women not being allowed to read or write or wear clothes. She gets herself some sweet, synthetic lobes and heads out into space to make her fortune. Pretty soon she meets Quark and falls in love. Quark doesn't know Pel is a lady but he respects his new pal for his smarts and rare loyalty. See? Just like Yentl. I told you.
Rule of Acquisition #21:
Never place friendship above profit.
Anyway, as much as Quark digs Pel, he can't abide by her break with convention and neither can the Grand Nagus. Things don't end well but Pel makes a pretty clean break and gets on a boat headed for the United States  books passage on an Andorian freighter which will take her into the Gamma Quadrant, where she can lead a life of freedom and dignity as a woman.

#3: Second Sight
Well this one's pretty heartbreaking from the get-go. Basically, Sisko realizes that he almost forgot that it's the fourth anniversary of his wife's death so he takes a somber walk around the station where he meets a beautiful woman named Fenna. They hit it off and he starts forgetting how crazy depressed he is just when she disappears. This happens a few more times and Sisko even wonders if maybe he's starting to lose it. Finally, he and Dax figure out that Fenna is a psychic projection of Nadell, the unhappy wife of a terraforming scientist they're hosting. Once that comes out, we can all gather that Sisko and Fenna (who doesn't even really exist) can't ride off into the wormhole together. Sisko says goodbye to Nadell completely ignorant of the fact that she will go on to have a happy life as the director of Global Dynamics in a little town called Eureka.
Don't cry, Fenna. Eureka is awesome. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Visit To Sickbay

I have a slight medical problem. Sometimes I drop like a stone and no one really knows exactly why. Sometimes it's caused by pain or heat or maybe I haven't eaten in a while or maybe I'm freaking out over something like a too-crowded room. Anyway, once it starts, it's a runaway train. I can feel my body turn hot and cold at the same time and then it's like I go through a tunnel where my senses just shut off. Yesterday, I was sitting in a restaurant sipping a coke when I felt it starting. Usually, if I catch it early, eating or drinking something with sugar will curb it but not this time. I told Scott, "I think I'm going to pass out." I remember reaching for the drink, my hand missing it several times, and then I woke up on the floor.

A little while later, I was in the ER. Nurses swarmed around me and I was hooked up to a lot of machines that go ping. Hours passed. "This is Star Trek," I said, and my husband seemed a little worried that I might be losing it again. I clarified that what I meant was that back in the TOS days, they were still dreaming of much of the technology we had seen over the course of our stay in the ER. I held up the simple clip on my finger that gave us a constant readout of my heart rate. "Like this thing," I said.

Many of the sickbay instruments regularly used in Star Trek have become a reality. The hypospray, the tricorder, a handheld ultrasound, and bionic eyes that work much like Geordi's visor have all been developed. Back when Bones first ripped the sleeve off of Kirk's uniform to fix him up in "The Naked Time" all this stuff was just a good idea. Now it's real.
That's why, when I watch Star Trek and see devices that can instantly graft skin or bones back together, food replicators that mean no one has to go hungry, and seamless universal translators that make it easier for everyone on this planet to talk to everyone else, I feel optimistic. People out there are working on that. Maybe someday I'll be writing posts from a handheld, tablet-like device that instantly transmits my work to thousands of people all over the world--oh, wait.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

DS9: In The Hands Of The Prophets

My sixth-grade science teacher, on the first day of class, announced that she would not be teaching evolution or the big bang theory, as she believed in neither. She was a Christian, she said, and that entitled her to choose what she wanted to teach and what she wanted to leave out. I remember exactly where I was sitting in the classroom. I remember the old tables with old graffiti gouged into it.  I remember the fact that there was no air conditioning and that in Kentucky in August, the heat was intense. And yet, as my teacher proudly uttered the statement that she planned to intentionally neglect a large part of our curriculum, a new heat, oppressive and uncomfortable, crept over my body. As a young, curious student, I was confused. I was disappointed. I was angry. 

I thought a lot about that day as I watched "In The Hands Of The Prophets." In the episode, Keiko is teaching her small, rag-tag group of students about the wormhole next to which their station is perched when in comes Vedek Winn. The Vedek (a religious authority and holy figure among the Bajoran people) insists that Keiko ought to be teaching the children about how the wormhole is actually a Celestial Temple and that the aliens within are actually holy prophets. Keiko disagrees. She insists that she's just trying to teach plain, hard, provable science. The story goes back and forth between the two with both Siskos stuck in the middle and a heap of Bajorans pulling their kids out of school over religious differences. 

I find that I can't watch this episode without becoming incensed. And, of course, that was the intent. Contentious stories like this one make us angry or afraid or sad; they make us talk; they make us want to take action. Star Trek has always challenged oppressive societal norms. It has always asked us questions about ourselves, our world, our future. Roddenberry's vision of the future is one in which we celebrate not only our differences but also our ability to overcome. And, to overcome, a culture must progress. And to progress, we must rely on science, whatever our beliefs may be. We may respect one another's beliefs, we may choose to learn about them or even adopt them, but we also have the right to a legitimately rigorous, fact-based, secular education. Children have the right to be taught by individuals who express excitement and can present scientifically literate lessons about the universe and all its wonders. The woman who denounced not only two of the most widely-accepted theories in science but also two elements of the Kentucky sixth-grade science curriculum had no place standing in that classroom.

That year I went to our small town's tiny library on my own and checked out everything I could find about evolution and natural selection. I wrote an essay called, "Arguing For Evolution" and (though normally an honor-roll student) I got a D-. In spite of the poor grade, my scientific curiosity wasn't stifled and I think I owe at least part of that to Roddenberry's future, to spending my evenings watching as yet impossible feats of science on TV, to Star Trek. Unfortunately there are still plenty of Vedek Winns out there in classrooms denouncing the very subject they've been hired to teach and shutting down budding curiosity before it ever has a chance. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

DS9: The Forsaken

Once upon a time, Lwaxana Troi got stuck in a turbolift with Odo and TV magic was made. "The Forsaken" revolves around a computer malfunction, some whiny ambassadors, and a blossoming friendship between two unlikely people. While the other stuff is fine, it's the Lwaxana/Odo relationship that I love about this episode. Both characters are (in their own way) rather abrasive. Lwaxana is brash and overly chatty while Odo is stoic and standoffish but they both have a hard time making any real friends. This episode slaps them together like peanut butter and jelly and what we get is a series of sweet, perfect scenes and eventually a revelation from both characters. I love this one so much I just had to sit down and draw something:

Sunday, May 19, 2013

DS9: If Wishes Were Horses

Do you know how many baseball games I've watched today? Three. Three ball games. To be fair, I'm technically still in the middle of the Detroit/Texas game but I will watch it all--to the very last inning. I love baseball and I've been watching this year since the first day of spring training. I live in LA and soon after we moved here I discovered Vin Scully and so now I'm a (rather despondent) Dodgers fan but I can watch any baseball. I watched all of the World Baseball Classic and sometimes I watch college and minor league games.

You might assume I was raised in a sports/baseball family but you'd be wrong. My parents cared less than nothing about sports but (probably thanks to baseball movies) I was always interested in the game. I love the way it looks and the way it sounds. I love the green grass and the rusty brown of the dirt. I love the crack of a good hit and the swoosh/sizzle of a strike. I love it.

And that's why, when I wrote out the schedule for My Year Of Star Trek, I was SO excited to realize I would be spending most of baseball season watching DS9. One of the saddest things in all of Star Trek is the fact that baseball has all but died out by 2369. The death of baseball is depressing but Star Trek (following a tradition that goes back to the Original Series) gives us hope by simultaneously warning us about what we could lose, and letting us know that as long as someone, somewhere loves something it won't completely go away.

In DS9, Commander Sisko is that someone. He loves baseball so much that he passes the knowledge of the extinct practice on to his son. When confronted by the wormhole aliens, he expresses the human capacity to take pleasure in discovering what was previously unknown through the concept of baseball. In "If Wishes Were Horses," Jake is off playing baseball in the holosuite when Buck Bokai (who played in the last ever World Series) appears before him.

This episode has its ups and downs. I've even seen it argued as one of the worst episodes of Star Trek. And it is a bit ridiculous but it's not exactly as if that's some kind of new thing for Star Trek. Remember the time the TOS crew was seeing the white rabbit or when Kirk's Starfleet bully showed up to give him a sound thrashing. Or, remember that time Kirk and Abraham Lincoln got in a straight-up fistfight with Genghis Khan? Yes. It's a lot like that.

Anyway, my favorite stuff from this episode comes in the last scene. After Sisko and the crew have been put to task by what seem to be figments of their own imaginations, Bokai comes to him to explain what's really been going on. By and by, their discussion turns to the human imagination and Bokai says, "I wonder if you can appreciate how unique that imagination of yours really is." The whole scene, a short, quiet finish, pays tribute to one of the long-lasting ideals of Star Trek--humanity, when at its best, is unique and exceptional.

At the very end, Bokai tosses Sisko a baseball. Sisko would end up keeping the ball around throughout the rest of DS9 and it shows up at several key (totally awesome) moments. Seeing Sisko with it for the first time, I smiled. I feel like it's going to be a great summer. Now, back to the game.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Star Trek: Into Darkness

Last night we saw Star Trek: Into Darkness. Basically, it was amazing. For now, I'm not going to mention any details or reveal any plot points or character moments or anything of the sort. However, I will say what the experience meant to me. It meant a lot. A whole lot.

Actually, I spent the first forty-five minutes or so crying at the fact that this whole thing was even happening. I get that a lot of people don't like the Abrams reboot but I'm not one of those people. Lens flairs and all, I love the new movies. I've spent a lifetime with Star Trek and I've spent every single day since January 1st watching and writing about Star Trek. The experience has reminded me just how bereft I was when Enterprise went off the air, how terrible it felt to not have any Star Trek coming, to believe that maybe Star Trek was over and they weren't ever going to make anymore. But now they have, and in doing so, they've done something wonderful.

These movies have mythologized the characters that we have known and loved since the 60's. Like Sherlock Holmes or Superman, multiple incarnations of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy means that they can live beyond their original scope. They can exist again and again, each time refreshing themselves for new generations and through those re-imaginings, they become more universal. The ideals of Star Trek--the high value placed on curiosity, loyalty, exploration, tolerance, and kindness--can be passed from one generation to the next, each time delivered in a updated and appealing format. And, the good news is, if you don't like the reboots, you can ignore them.  No one has erased all our cherished series. They still exist and they're more accessible than ever. You can go sit down in your living room and watch them over and over again and pretend these new movies don't exist. But that's not what I'm doing. I saw the 2009 Star Trek eight times in theaters and I plan on doing much the same thing with Into Darkness.

The movie is fast, smart, crammed with references to known Trek, and pretty much overflowing with heart. All the characters have great moments and the Kirk/Spock/McCoy relationship is deepened. Cumberbatch is awesome. The Enterprise is beautiful. New additions to the classic effects and sounds are perfect.

Anyway, now I'm going to paraphrase one line from the film--a line that I feel pretty much sums up how I feel about these reboots. It's out of context and I don't find it even remotely spoilery but, just the same, I'll put this quote after the following picture and you can feel free to skip it and come back to this post later:

"The Captain's Oath is a call for us to remember who we once were and who we must be again." 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I Can't Even...

Ok, I was going to write this whole post about how great the DS9 episode "The Nagus" is.

I was going to talk about how awesome Wallace Shawn is and how I've loved him ever since The Princess Bride and how I think his creative life (with his crazy-talented partner Deborah Eisenberg) seems like the kind of life I hope I've built for myself. And I was going to talk about how this episode features the first promising seeds of the Jake/Nog relationship and how the moment Sisko finds out what Jake and Nog are up to is a virtual punch in the gut that gets me every time.

But I just can't really talk about any of that stuff. I am basically climbing the walls, pacing the floor, and chewing my fingernails off in anticipation of Star Trek: Into Darkness. We have tickets for tonight's show and even though it doesn't start till 10pm and it's not even dark yet, I keep checking the clock.

Basically, this is my Christmas Eve. How can I be expected to go about normal life when a new Star Trek movie is playing in theaters RIGHT THIS MOMENT?!!? For real, I can barely keep it together:
Of course, with my luck, I'll burn out all my nervous energy by 8pm and fall asleep as soon as the opening credits roll.

No. That is a joke. I will not do that. That is physically impossible. The last time I saw a Star Trek movie in theaters for the first time, my heart pretty much exploded out of my chest as soon as I saw this:

Check on me in the morning though and make sure I didn't suffer what I'm pretty sure doctors refer to as an acute attack of Fangirlitis, also known as Subitus-Trekkie-Stupefio

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

DS9: Time For Something Completely Different

I've spent just about every day of the last three months watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. It's the one I grew up with, the one I'm most familiar with, the one I always get nostalgic about. I was sad to see it go and a little apprehensive about DS9 which I and am much less familiar with. Just as I assumed would happen--the entrance into DS9 came as a shock. It's very different from TNG but it's also refreshing and here's why:

#1- Alien Cultures Abound
In TNG, a crew of (mostly) humans flies around and encounters different species and we see their cultural differences play out over a span forty-five minutes. We mostly just get glimpses into their lives and ways of living. In DS9, there's a lot more alien to go around. Fully half of the individuals in the sweet Sears Portrait Studio photo below aren't human and that doesn't include (spoiler!) Worf who comes along later or Rom and Nog who are both great characters.
"Let's head over to Cinnabon after this, guys!"
In DS9 we follow these non-humans around for several years rather than several minutes. As a consequence, the same "OMG! This totally draws a parallel to my own culture!" moment is greatly enhanced.

#2- Kick Ass Ladies
I've mentioned before how it took basically forever for Deanna Troi to come into her own. They just didn't seem to know what to do with her. The same goes for Beverly and Pulaski (while spunky) was short-lived. In DS9, you immediately get soldier-badass Major Kira. Then there's Jadzia Dax with her suitcase full of advanced degrees and a fantastic sense of humor. These chicks, though lovely, are not sporting cleavage and their plots don't revolve mostly around being a victim or falling head over heels (though this does happen) for some guy they really ought not to be involved with. Piss these ladies off and Kira will punch you in the face while Dax figures out a way to erase your memory of the whole affair.
Kicking ass and taking names since 2369

#3- Jake
I really dislike all the Wesley hate. I liked that character as a kid and an adult. However, I do think that they often had a hard time giving him decent stuff to do and he pretty much never had anyone to talk to.  Mostly it was always just Wesley annoying some grownups until they recognized his brilliance and let him drive the ship or something. Jake (Sisko's son) gets a perfect cohort in Nog and, together, they both become great characters.  I love these kids and watching them grow up is one of the pleasures of this series.
This is how BFFs are made

I'm about eight episodes into DS9 now and I'm really excited to keep going. While different from the Trek that came before, this is a truly great series and it really makes me look forward to the next three months.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

I was just a kid the last time I watched Star Trek V. My dad had bought/rented/pirated the movie and I remember exactly the way the living room looked when it was on. I remember the rusty red sofa he was sitting on and I remember the way the lights came through our pale curtains. I remember the way the Romulan woman looked in her shiny silver outfit and the marshmallow Spock prepared to roast as he, Kirk, and McCoy sat around the campfire. At one point though, as Kirk, Spock and McCoy brought the shuttle down to Nimbus III, I got scared. I hid behind the sofa and peeked out over my dad's shoulder. From there I watched as a bunch of dusty Sybok-entranced settlers climbed up a dune toward a woman. She was waving feathery fans and singing and dancing. It was Uhura. I stared at her in awe. The way she moved, the way she sounded, her level of confidence--in a moment of clarity I understood that this is what "sexy" was. As a kid, I'd heard the word, "sexy" tossed around on TV and at the parties I went to with my parents. I had a vague idea of its meaning but it wasn't until I watched Uhura that the word had any substance in my mind. She was sexy.

As an adult, this scene seems pretty tame--maybe even a little silly. The whole movie is a little like that. More than anything else, The Final Frontier feels just like a rompy episode of The Original Series. There's a surprising adventure, some comedy, a strange planet (make that two) and a big idea. The familiar themes of friendship, loyalty, and exploration are here along with a ton of heart. And, in addition to harking back to Star Trek's old tropes, there are plenty of interesting turns here. One of my favorite scenes (and one of the most surprising) is the quiet, simple scene between Sybok and the big three that all leads up to Kirk's speech about pain.

I'm so glad I got to watch this one again. It's a sweet, simple movie about some best friends going on a crazy adventure. No one had to die or crash the Enterprise or save the world for me to love it. I just wanted to see my old TV friends again. And, as an adult, I can much better appreciate the movie and all its nuances--including Uhura's sexy fan dance.

Monday, May 13, 2013

TNG: All Good Things

A couple years ago I was sitting around a table with some friends when the subject of series finales came up. Cheers, Frasier, Seinfeld, Buffy, and Lost were all brought up and I declared that Star Trek TNG's series finale was the one that had made the biggest impact on me. Actually, at the time I realized that I couldn't even say the name of the finale without choking up. Aptly titled it's: "All Good Things" You know, as in, "...must come to an end."

As a kid, it was as if part of my childhood was ending when Star Trek: TNG stopped. I'd been watching it almost as long as I could remember. It had stuck around through several moves and my parents' divorce. My mom had told me bedtime stories about Geordi and Data and my dad bought me my very own NCC-1701-D. And while these characters would return for movies, I knew even then that it wouldn't be the same.

I've only managed to watch "All Good Things" a few times. I just knew that I couldn't handle it again--at least, maybe not on my own. So, when it came time for me to finish up the series, I waited until the weekend so that I could watch it with my husband. It had been a while since he'd seen it and as the episode progressed, we both remembered all the parts that had effected us the first time we saw it:

Geordi's long conversation with Picard in the vineyard. The big kiss. Picard's very rare moment of obvious self-doubt. Data's office full of cats at Cambridge. Tasha. The broken relationship between Worf and Riker. Q's handfull of goo.

By the time we got to, "You are the finest crew in the fleet..." I was pretty broken up. I'm actually still a little overwhelmed. Although I saw TOS when I was a kid, I didn't really get into it until later. TNG was my Star Trek. It's the one that introduced me to phasers and transporters, replicators and communicators--a world full of hope, absent of poverty and populated with selfless, wide-eyed explorers who would do anything for their fellow crew-members. TNG taught me that lasting relationships do exist and that one should always question one's reality. It offered me examples of characters who made bold choices and didn't back down from the life they desired. It showed me a hopeful version of our future--a better version of ourselves. It gave me something to live up to.

Now my time with TNG is mostly over. I still have the films but my daily episodes are no more. I'll move on to DS9, Voyager and Enterprise and I'm excited about them. I love each of those series for different reasons and I've seen all of them less than I have TNG. And, while I'm sad to leave my Next Gen friends behind, I know that all good things must come to an end.

Friday, May 10, 2013

My Mentor

Here's some news: I'm pretty much finished with TNG! In the last few days, I've watched A TON of episodes and one thing that's really stood out to me is the mentor relationship between Data and Picard. As I was watching "Birthright," when Data sought Picard's advice about his newly discovered dream program, it reminded me of my own mentor--Steve. 

Steve was my director, my theatre professor, and over the course of a few semesters he became one of the best friends I've ever had. He introduced Scott and I at an audition for Romeo & Juliet (our first words to each other were the balcony scene) and he encouraged me to start my own Shakespeare program and even offered to host it in his theater. He took me on as an independent study when I needed extra credits for my degree and he even adapted one of my stories into a short film. I could keep listing all the great things Steve's done for me over the years but I'm sure you get the point. And besides, the real reason that this man has maintained a constant presence in my life is because he's done something very simple.  

Quietly and without any apparent desire for gratitude, Steve has been there for me. He advised me at some of the lowest points in my life. He has always modeled kindness, compassion, hard work, and quiet dedication. He took an interest in me as an artist and a creator and encouraged those qualities in me without hesitation. To this day, ten years after I met him, Steve is a steadfast force in my life. 

We live three thousand miles apart but we keep in touch. When Scott and I go home we always make a point to visit him. And in those times, exactly as I did when I was nineteen years old, I stride into his office, plop into one of the chairs, and smile--just appreciating the fact that he exists, that I know him, and that I was lucky enough to meet him right when I needed to. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

My brain--it hurts.

Yesterday I was watching TNG when Data said something like, "Since I discovered my dream program six months ago..."
And I shouted, "LIAR! That was yesterday!"at poor Data.
Data paid me no never mind and kept babbling about eating cellular peptide cake while I realized that the episode he was referring to, "Birthright" did in fact take place six months before the episode I was currently watching. However, I'd seen it only the morning before. I realized that I had viewed six months worth of episodes in about twenty-four hours. What. The. Hell.

Seriously, binge-watching 15 episodes of anything
will make you delirious enough to eat cellular peptide cake too. 
So as you may or may not remember, we moved almost two weeks ago. Because Scott's working pretty much 24-7 right now, I took control of the move and packed/scheduled/unpacked the whole house. Additionally I had some illustration deadlines and had to work on that stuff and get it out. Consequently, day by day, I got behind on Star Trek. I did my best but before I knew it, I was two weeks behind. TWO WEEKS!

Ok, in case you are baffled, let me answer some brief questions in the name of transparency:

1- How many episodes/movies are you watching?
-All of them. In in the interest of simplicity I count everything as "hours" and not episodes. I'm watching about 738 hours of Star Trek.

2- How many a day?
-About three.

3- Do you have personal deadlines?
-Yes. I keep track of all my deadlines with google cal which syncs to my phone.

So here's what happened yesterday. My phone chirped (the sound of the TNG viewscreen) to deliver a reminder that I sent to myself FROM THE PAST!!!! It said, "Be finished with TNG tomorrow." Obviously I already knew that I was way behind but this really twisted the knife. When I'd scheduled that alarm I was ahead by about ten episodes and feeling pretty damn smug about my TV watching abilities.

As soon as I got moved in here I started watching TNG while I was unpacking, while I was folding laundry, while I was working on illustrations, while I was eating and it still seemed like I couldn't get caught up. This week I have watched about 6-8 episodes a day and today, after "Masks," I just had to take a break. So, here I am, writing about Star Trek instead of watching it so I guess that doesn't really qualify as a break but whatever. I'm chugging Dr. Pepper and eating cheese crackers like I'm ten-years-old and hoping I can get caught up by next week.

I've done six episodes today and after my snack I'm going to get back at it with "Eye of the Beholder."
Wish me luck. I'm gonna need it.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

TNG: Frame of Mind

It seems like the fear of losing one's mind is pretty common. Unfortunately this is exactly what happens to Riker in "Frame of Mind."

In the episode, Riker is rehearsing for a play while also preparing for a dangerous away mission. He's stressed out and worried that he's not up for the job when, the next thing he knows, he's in an alien mental institution where they insist that his entire life onboard the Enterprise is a fantasy. The whole episode continually shifts between Riker's fractured realities. He fights against the idea that he isn't really a commander of the flagship of the Federation but eventually begins to relent--maybe he is a deranged murderer recovering from a mental breakdown.

Although in the past I have been particularly bothered by this darker episode, this time I felt like I was immune. I got through the whole thing and wasn't upset in the least. Then, I remembered that I had to go down to the management office in my apartment building and ask about a policy change. I got downstairs and realized that the woman who'd initially showed us the apartment hadn't been around for a while. In fact, I realized I hadn't heard from her since I agreed to take the place. As I got down to the lobby I thought, "Maybe she's not on the show anymore."

My train of thought chugged along while I quietly posited scenarios wherein the show-runner decided to write her out. Maybe she was too fussy. Maybe she wanted too much money or wouldn't learn her lines. I pictured her "on the set" of Apartment Office, checking her lipstick in a hand mirror with an open teleplay on the desk as a shadowey boss approached with a pink slip. That's when my train finally stopped and I realized I was standing on Platform Bonkers in Crazy Town Station.

Basically, I've been watching so much TV lately that my already tenuous grasp on reality has shifted to the point that my brain pretends that the entire world is a television show. Unlike Riker, I'm not particularly worried about this development. Besides, what I'm most concerned about is the fact that, when I got there, the apartment office was closed. After all, it's sweeps!

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

TNG: Tapestry

Here's a picture of my refrigerator:

A while back I made a bunch of magnets. Obviously they all had to be geek themed because that's just how I do things. There's a Firefly, a couple of Star Wars, a Princess Bride and multiple Star Treks. Here's a close up of one:

"Why, that's Picard," you say, "but he doesn't look right!" 

Picard looks weird in this picture because this screengrab comes directly from the episode "Tapestry." This is my second favorite episode of Star Trek. The lessons I learned from this story, so many years, ago have stuck with me my entire life. If you aren't familiar with this one, Picard is pretty much dies on the table in the cold open. He awakens in "the afterlife" to the open arms of Q who suggests that if Picard had had a real, human heart that he might not have died. Q offers Picard the chance to go back in time and change his past so that he never got stapped through the ticker by a Predator-esque alien pool shark. 

Fast forward in time and Picard is suddenly no longer captain of Starfleet's flag ship but a science officer (wearing a blue shirt) toiling away in astrometrics. He wants more of out of life but he's informed that, starting with his choice to back down from a fight with some surly Nausicaans, he went down a road of timidity, never taking charge or making the risky choices that would propel him into the path he feels destined to walk. 

When he demands that Q give him back his true life, Picard insists that he would rather die as the man he was than live as the version of himself he'd just seen. Q grants his request and after he is revived in sickbay he tells Riker that, "There are many parts of my youth that I'm not proud of... there were loose threads... untidy parts of me that I would like to remove. But when I pulled on one of those threads... it had unraveled the tapestry of my life." 

My husband and I have always referred to this one as, "Picard in a blue shirt." Any time we're faced with a difficult choice we weigh the options and hope we don't end up like Picard in a blue shirt. Inherently, there's not a single thing wrong with putting on a blue shirt every day. It's just not for us. We both identified so strongly with this episode that it was a frequent topic of discussion when we first started dating and when my husband said, "I think we should move to Los Angeles so I can try to be a screenwriter." 
I said, "Ok."
Likewise, when I said, "I think I want to stay home next year, watch all of Star Trek, and write about it," he said, "Go for it!" 
We have moved five times in the last eight years. We traveled to Scotland so he could perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and a few months later took a weekend off from school to drive to the ocean to get married by ourselves. We run a Shakespeare Camp in Rural Kentucky and when we aren't watching TV or talking about stories, we're writing or painting them. We still don't know what we want to be when we grow up. Living life this way is often considered bohemian, romantic, and artistic. From the inside, it feels risky, crazy, dangerous, and totally worth it. 

When we first got to Los Angeles and stood in a California-sun-drenched apartment 3,000 miles from every single person we knew, I buried my face in Scott's chest and cried. It was terrifying. Then, I unpacked our magnets, stuck them to the fridge and stared at Picard in a blue shirt. 

I realized it was going to be ok. That this was all just part of the tapestry. 

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Monday, May 6, 2013

TNG: In Tribute To Troi

When I was a kid I was completely enamored of Deanna Troi. She was beautiful and sensitive and kind. Basically, she reminded me a lot of my mom who was also beautiful and sensitive and kind.
My Mom around my peak Deanna Troi phase
I never wanted my mom to change but of course she did--or at least my understanding of who she was did. I came to understand that she is also intelligent, witty, and strong. She's not without flaws but her flaws shape her character and make her human. And that brings me back to Deanna Troi.

Just as I started watching Next Gen, I attended 25th TNG Reunion in Burbank. I watched Marina Sirtis speak there and found that she was hilarious, opinionated, and whip smart. As an adult, Troi was never one of my favorite characters but I couldn't put my finger on why that was. Then I delved into TNG again and the more I wrote about the show, the more I realized that it really took Troi a while to come into her own.

For the first five seasons most of Troi's plots revolved around her falling in love with dangerous men or arguing with her zany mother. She was often a victim and she was often passive. She wore unitards with lots of cleavage and much of her job involved looking beautiful and empathetic. It was the rare scene when Sirtis' natural charm and spunk had any opportunity to come through.

Then, Captain Hardass came along and told her to put on a damn uniform.

She looks pretty miffed in this picture but I'm betting that, on the inside, Deanna was screaming for joy. Why? Because from here on out Troi becomes a different, more interesting, more real, human character. A mere two episodes later and she wakes up on a Romulan ship and she has to quickly adapt and take command of the situation to keep herself alive and keep the already fragile relations between the Romulans and the Federation from falling apart.

Obviously Marina Sirtis is gorgeous but I think her cleavage (glorious as it was) was holding her back. After Deanna Troi got a Starfleet uniform she got better stories. She went on away missions. She helped save the crew from Lore and his Borg chums and she eventually passed the Bridge Officer's Test and became Commander Troi. And this makes me happy. Just as I'm glad that I know my mom as a person and not just as the etherial fairy queen I imagined her to be in my childhood, I'm glad that Troi had an opportunity to evolve beyond her original, rather narrow parameters. It's only too bad this didn't happen sooner.

Friday, May 3, 2013

TNG: The Chain Of Command

Today I watched "The Chain of Command." TNG's middle-of-season-six two-parter is our first real introduction to the Cardassians. This episode ran right before DS9 began and I'm guessing the folks behind Star Trek wanted us to know what massive jackwagons these guys are. They made sure that "Chain of Command" had lots of high tension and drama. To start things out, the Enterprise is immediately taken from Picard and handed over to this guy:
Captain Hardass
(Actually, I really like him and I'm glad he made Troi wear a real uniform--more on that in a future post) 
Next, Picard, Beverly, and Worf go on a super secret mission to thwart the Cardassian construction of a crazy WMD but they're doomed to fail and, while his comrades escape, Picard is captured and taken to the highest ranking jerk around. This guy:
Gul Jerk-Bag
(He's a pretty awesome character too) 
Gul Jerk-Bag (actually Gul Madred) keeps Picard around for a while, hoping to get information out of him. And how does he propose getting those sweet command codes? Through systematic, Orwellian torture. This one's hard to watch but I've seen it about twenty times and, while it's still powerful and the performances by literally every single cast member are stellar, the very first thought I had when "Chain of Command" started was, "Oh hey, Picard's about to get naked!"

I felt bad for getting excited about a horrible Star Trek torture scene but then I got over it and ate a snack and shouted, "I see four lights!" at Gul Jerk-Bag along with Picard because it's Friday and that's how I roll. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

TNG: Rascals

Today I watched TNG: Rascals. If you're unfamiliar with this one, an away team (including Picard, Ro, Guinan, and Keiko) returns to the ship having transformed into children. They still have their adult brains complete with adult knowledge and memories--they're all just stuck as their twelve-year-old selves. While this episode is kind of a romp with charm to spare, I find it distinctly alarming.
You couldn't pay me to be a kid again. I hated it. This seems a little counterintuitive since I spend most of my adult life watching SciFi and playing video games while wearing comic book shirts. But I never think of the way I live as being like a kid--I just think of it as being like me. When I was a kid it was pretty much the same way. I never had a bedtime. I ate pretty much whatever I wanted. I did or didn't do my homework--no big deal. So why does the idea of being a child make me so squirmy?

I think it's because, even though I had a lot of power over the small things in my life, I had no control over the larger issues. No kid does. And, as a kid, I was acutely aware of that. My parents were divorced and lived three-hundred miles apart. They had financial trouble, boyfriend/girlfriend trouble, new-marriage trouble, new-divorce trouble and new kids in turn. These circumstances meant that, for much of my life, I criss-crossed Appalachia to move in with one or the other of them for some undetermined period of time. I dragged a battered suitcase behind me and showed up to new schools with new kids and a new life every time. I never had any idea how long I'd be there so these periods felt (and were) temporary. I was always at the mercy of grownups and I couldn't wait to have control over the big decisions in my life. As a child, I made silent promises to myself saying, "Someday you will choose your own path. No one will be in charge of you. No one can determine your life but you."

It turned out pretty well. As an adult I took charge of my life and this blog (which I'm pretty proud of) is just one of the products of that action. So, when I go back and watch my TV friends roam around the Enterprise in their miniature outfits, looking awkward while they thwart a bunch of Ferengis, all I can think about is how glad I am that no one can turn me into a kid again.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

TNG: The Inner Light

For a while, when I was little, my mom and I lived in an apartment over a hair salon in the mountains of North Carolina. Every friday it smelled like perm. It was there that I learned to make french toast, wrote and illustrated my first book, and watched The Inner Light when it first aired. I had my own room but I tended to fall asleep in front of the TV on my mom's bed in the living room. It was there, under an afghan, which my great-grandmother crocheted, that we watched this famous episode together.

The memory is vivid and precious to me. The blanket was strangely comforting in its scratchiness. My mom's arms wrapped around me as I crawled half-way into her lap like a too-big dog that longs for his puppy days. As the episode progressed we both began to cry. It escalated little by little until Picard awoke on the bridge of his ship after a lifetime spent on a world, with a people, that no longer existed. By the end, I was sobbing into my mother's chest, my tears running down her neck, hers soaking my hair.

I've seen this episode a number of times and I'm not sure I've ever made it through without crying. I thought today that I might finally do it. I was apparently more than a little na├»ve. The moment Picard blipped into his alternate life my memory of that first viewing started playing inside my head.  Here's how things went down:

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