Tuesday, April 30, 2013

TNG: Cause And Effect

So, apparently I'm at the end of TNG: Season Five. I'm not sure how this happened but it turns out that some really great episodes are in this group. (ie- Cause & Effect, The Perfect Mate, I Borg, and The Next Phase) For my viewing purposes this is awesome. For my blogging purposes--not so much. I typically like to take time and think about these things for a couple days before I dive into a post but time is a luxury that I don't really have right now. I'm managing these episodes pretty well but, thanks to the recent move, packing, and unpacking, I'm a little behind. I'll just have to come back to all those episodes later... like next year. Today, I'm all about "Cause and Effect."

Remember that one time when Bill Murray was a jerk who kept waking up on Groundhog Day and had to win the love of Andie McDowel before he could be let out of the time loop? Well, that happened on Star Trek too. In the episode, "Cause and Effect," the main crew goes about their evening. They play poker. Geordi visits sick bay. Beverly gets ready for bed in her adorable pink pjs and hair ribbon. The next morning the Enterprise is charting the Typhon Expanse, everyone attends a staff meeting and Beverly reports having heard voices the night before. Aside from that, everything's business as usual until they encounter a ship coming from a hole in spacetime. There's little time to react and the Enterprise takes a direct hit to their starboard warp nacelle. They explode. It's pretty crazy.  The next thing we know, we're back to the start of the night before. Everyone's playing poker. The same cards are dealt. We're in a time loop, folks.

While Groundhog Day is more famous, "Cause and Effect" actually came out about a year earlier than the film and many (read: many, many) episodes of television followed their lead and we consequently ended up with a lot of other shows saying, "Let's do a time loop!"  The X-Files episode "Monday" is a particularly good example. "Life Serial" in Buffy and "Time Bomb" in Angel are also great and "Window of Opportunity" in SG-1 is one of my favorites of the series. My favorite time loop episode of anything is most likely "White Tulip" in Fringe. But it all started with "Cause and Effect" which is totally worth the watch. Written by Brannon Braga and directed by Jonathan Frakes, this bottle episode is packed with great scenes that each vary slightly from the version of events before. It also gets bonus points for featuring Kelsey Grammer:

Anyway, I love this one and I couldn't help thinking as I watched it that if I could control spacetime, I would probably just use it to watch all of TV in one endless, looping day. Or, at least, I'd use it to get ahead on Star Trek episodes and blog posts.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax

Remember how I've been going on and on about our move for the last few weeks? Well, it's happened. We spent the weekend moving and I'm writing this post from our new apartment--hooray for 1st thing in the morning cable installation!

After all those posts about me packing our apartment, I guess you can imagine that I'll also be unpacking for a while. I'm spending today eating off paper plates, watching Star Trek, and unpacking boxes. Look what I found:

Hopefully tomorrow I can get back to regular posts. Until then it's all peanut butter sandwiches and TNG season five.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Best of Both Worlds: In A Movie Theater

A few months ago it was announced that, in anticipation of the Blu-ray release of TNG Season Three, that Fathom events would be showing "The Best of Both Worlds" in theaters across the country. I bought my tickets the day they became available. I couldn't wait for the showing and finally, last night, I sat in a huge room full of Star Trek fans and watched what is often considered the best episode of The Next Generation and one that is particularly meaningful to me. It was pretty amazing.

I went with my friend Jim who, while being a casual fan of Star Trek, wouldn't be considered a Trekkie. He asked me tons of questions about TNG the whole way there (for the record I only live a couple miles from the AMC but in LA traffic it took 45 minutes to get there--a world without warp drive basically sucks) and once we got into the theater I spotted a familiar face. I turned to Jim and said, "Oh hey, there's Michael Okuda."

Jim's response:  "Who's that?"

I replied with a brief answer about who Okuda is and the guy in front of  me (another Trekkie with an obvious "OMG I can't believe we get to watch BOBW on a ginormous screen in five minutes" gleam in his eye) asked who I'd seen. I told him and he gasped and grinned at the same time. We shared a knowing nod.

Jim and I got to our seats and I noticed as a few more familiar people came through the door. "There's LeVar Burton. There's Denise Okuda. There's Ira Steven Behr," I said.

My friend seemed a little unnerved and asked how it was possible that I recognized them all so quickly.  In answering his question I realized that, in addition to being a lifelong fan, I'd been staring at all of these people for months. I've been living and breathing Star Trek every single day since January 1st. I don't just watch the episodes. I read about almost every story on Memory Alpha. I look up who wrote what and what the design elements were, what went into the production, and what the impressions of the episode were when it first aired. I take notes. I think about the impact that that episode had on my life, whether I can remember seeing it for the first time, and whether it's important to me. I talk about the episodes with friends online and then I come over here, open a new post, and start typing. I can pick Denise Okuda out of a crowd of hundreds because for four months, Star Trek hasn't just been a part of my life, it's taken over.

But, what you really want to read about is "Best of Both Worlds" so here are some of the things I noticed about the new version:

First of all, everything (really EVERYTHING) has more detail. You can see the seams in the sets and costumes. You can see what kind of material everything is made of. Did you know the purple trim on Troi's costume is textured? I didn't. You can see Brent Spiner's pink, lower eyelid skin under the Data makeup. You can see Patrick Stewart's skin creases under his Locutus makeup. Did you know that their Starfleet Uniforms have made-on belts? I always guessed at that but never really saw them. Belted unitards! Seriously. There is a science officer with a long, blonde ponytail standing at the science station in the back of the bridge like the ENTIRE TIME they're fighting the Borg. This woman is a tireless officer. The new CGI effects are gorgeous. The new Borg viewscreen is beautiful and fits the already established design of the Borg cube. And the shots of the cube and the Enterprise in front of Earth are absolutely breathtaking.

Basically, it was awesome. I normally watch Star Trek on a 23" screen in my tiny living room. I don't have the blu-rays so I'm watching everything on Netflix thus--not in HD. I watch it by myself or with my husband. Watching Next Gen in a huge room, with tons of other fans, on a gigantic screen, in HD was pretty much the opposite of what I do every day. The thing is, it didn't feel that way. It felt just as comfortable and homey as if I were watching in my living room. Yes, it was huge. Yes it was packed. Yes I could see the defects in the resin that comprised the entryway arc of Picard's ready-room. But, watching the episode still pretty much felt like it always does--just right, familiar, and comforting. The audience laughed with/at the same places that I did, they reacted the way I did, we all cheered together as the credits rolled. I realized that it was the same experience I have every day--just amplified. And, being surrounded by other people who appreciate it just as much as I do, made me happy. It was like being at a family reunion except I felt like I actually knew these strangers.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

TNG: The Outcast

It's commonly held that one of the reasons for the popularity of science fiction/fantasy is its ability to provide us with allegory. It's like a mirror that throws back our own reality--only better (or worse) with aliens or wizards or spaceships or magic. It's a reality enough distorted by the exotic to help us reconsider, or at least question, our deeply rooted beliefs.

I don't need allegory to enjoy SciFi and fantasy. When badly done, I find it preachy and predictable. I don't need lofty metaphors to enjoy a story--I just need a good story. But sometimes, if an allegory is rendered just right, with thoughtful presentation and a steady hand, then the allegory is well-earned. It weaves between your heartstrings and you don't realize how meaningful it is until they've all snapped.

Much has already been written and said about TNG: "The Outcast" but I figure one more voice can't hurt. If you're unfamiliar with this episode, Riker makes a connection with Soren, a member of a culture which "evolved" beyond the concept of gender. Occasionally though, some members of the society identify as male or female and they are shunned or brainwashed until they revert to what their culture considers a "natural" state. Riker and Soren, who identifies as female, fall in love but she is found out by her government. At the climax of the story, Soren delivers an impassioned speech about personal freedom and you should watch every word of it: 

Soren is an alien in a culture within a universe that does not exist. But her story is striking and heartbreaking because of its familiarity. The inability to be oneself, to love who one loves, to live and die freely without persecution is the desire and right of every human being. This episode of Next Generation is a clear allegory and one that doesn't just make me sad. It makes me angry--it makes me want to fight dragons and it makes me hope that they can be beaten. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Lost and Found

Today I spent a lot (read: A WHOLE LOT) of time packing for our impending move. As I pulled stuff out of our cabinets and sorted all of it into boxes, I came across something interesting:

I drew this when I was about eight years old and my teacher made the class keep journals. My mom saved the journals for years and gave them to me after I got my MFA. I hadn't even remembered doing them but I'm so glad to have them now. Anyway, this is a picture of me and a television. My life/interests clearly haven't changed all that much in the last twenty years.

Today I watched lots of episodes of Star Trek, among them "The Outcast" but I want to give that episode the attention it deserves. It's 8:18 and I'm about to brush my teeth and go to bed because I just can't keep my eyes open anymore. Maybe tonight I'll dream about second grade, or maybe genderless aliens, or maybe I'll just go out like a light and wake up tomorrow ready for more.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Press Pause

I spent all of today packing up our apartment. I only sat down to eat lunch (composed of a can of broth and a can of beans--neither of which I wanted to pack and move) and make phone calls to ensure that when we get to the new place it will have power and mail service and internet.

Then, as I was making dinner, the UPS guy brought me a present--the new Star Trek game. I was so exhausted by the time I got it spinning in the Xbox that I only managed to play for about twenty minutes. I'm more of a FPS girl who dabbles in RPGs and I typically don't enjoy games that make you feel like you're playing a movie because, come on, I'd rather just watch a movie instead of having to hold down X every twenty seconds. Still, this is a Star Trek game. It's a JJ Abrams Star Trek game. There are lens flares everywhere. Star Trek music plays constantly. I have a phaser and a tricorder. I am happy.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Today I packed lots and lots of boxes and cleaned out our kitchen cabinets and sorted through our closets. (If you're new here and don't know what I'm talking about--we're moving in less than a week) I also managed to watch three episodes of Star Trek: TNG, including "New Ground."

"New Ground" is all about Worf getting to know his son, Alexander, who's got some issues. Alexander had been living with Worf's adoptive parents but had become a little too much for them to handle--especially because he was a great big liar and pretty disobedient all around. These facts came as an unending source of embarrassment to Worf who was mortified by the fact that his son might steal toy dinosaurs and then lie to his teacher about it. It doesn't help that Worf doesn't know anything about Alexander. When he takes the little Q-tip-head to school, Worf can't even come up with Alexander's birthday. It takes a whole episode, a ship-wide disaster, and a pair of highly endangered animals almost burning to death to bring the pair together.

Like Alexander, I was a little adrift as a kid. When I was nine, I moved in with my dad (something I've written about here before) and we were relative strangers. He took me to the local elementary school to enroll and didn't know my birthdate or the last school I'd gone to or what my grades were like or any of the stuff a parent typically knows about. Six months and then a year went by and I knew my dad a lot better. I knew he loved SciFi and video games--just like me. I knew he didn't have any real idea how to cook or keep a tidy house--just like me. After a while, we got to know each other pretty well.

I lived with my dad off and on through elementary and middle school and spent all of high school with him. It's been a long time since I first made a place for myself in his life. We've changed a lot since then. We've gone through good times and bad together and every year at the end of January he sends me an email saying, "Your birthday's sometime this week, right?" And I smile because it is and even if he hasn't got it exactly right, he's a lot closer than he was twenty years ago.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

TNG: Unification

I was a little kid when "Unification" first aired so I don't remember what a big deal it was that this episode featured a dedication to the recently departed Gene Roddenberry. I don't remember what a big deal it was that Lenard Nemoy returned to the small screen as Spock after all those years. I don't remember what it was like to watch Mark Lenard make his final guest appearance as Sarek. I don't remember it but, as I re-live all of Star Trek in a year, the impact of those events affects me in a strange way.

Gene Roddenberry's contribution to television, to popular culture, and to millions of people all over the world is still being talked about, all these years after his death. A brand new movie is coming out in mere weeks, every few months thousands of fans flock to conventions to celebrate the series, people like me and you queue up old episodes of our favorite show and sit in our living rooms, enjoying the stories from a universe that came out of Roddenberry's head. His is a life worth celebrating.

That's why I'm so glad that they ran his dedication before "Unification" which served to bring together the Romulans and Vulcans but also brought together the old and new Star Trek series. Spock and Sarek returned to Star Trek and handed it off to this new generation. Sarek's death, which takes place in the first half of this two-episode story, is a heartbreaking salute to Roddenberry and it couldn't have been handled by a better, more committed-to-Star-Trek actor than Mark Lenard.

I love this man. There are a few actors who made lots and lots of appearances in varying Star Trek series but Mark Lenard is my favorite. From his very first appearance as a Romulan in "Balance of Terror" to the beginnings of his portrayal of Sarek in "Journey to Babel" to playing the first Klingon with a ridged forehead in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Lenard was a mainstay in the Star Trek franchise. He apparently loved Star Trek and kept asking to return. His appearance in the TNG episode, "Sarek" was written to parallel the declining health of Gene Roddenberry and when the father of Star Trek died, so to did Sarek.

I wish I could remember what it was like when news outlets across the country ran tributes to Gene Roddenberry. I wish I could remember how big a deal it was to see Spock's return to TV or to appreciate Sarek's death and the passing of the Star Trek mantle to The Next Generation as it happened. But I can't. What I can do is appreciate all of it now. I have loved Star Trek my entire life but the last four months have been remarkable. Watching the series on an accelerated timeline, writing about it everyday, has deepened my appreciation of events like "Unification" and of Star Trek in general. Gene Roddenberry and Mark Lenard have both left this world behind but my life is richer thanks to their contributions.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Just An Update

Great news! Star Trek recently won the TV Guide Fan Favorites contest. Over 500,000 fans voted. That's pretty awesome. Congratulations, Star Trek!

In other news, you can vote for your favorite TNG episode at StarTrek.com in this week's poll. I think that's pretty amusing since I just wrote about "Darmok" as my favorite a couple days ago. According to the poll, "Darmok" is in last place (among the ones they listed) and "The Best Of Both Worlds" is first with 28%.

Aside from watching lots of episodes, most of my time over the last couple of days has been taken up with a few different art/illustration projects. Anyway, amidst all my various projects, I found some time to do another Star Trek portrait. This one is for my friend over at The Tardis Page. She's a Vulcan/Ocampan so I gave her a mixture of the two species' ears and a Kes-style dress as well as a nice PADD so she can blog and watch TV wherever she goes.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

TNG: The Game

I was pretty little when Rachel Leigh Cook broke an egg into a hot frying pan and proclaimed, "This is your brain on drugs." I was an elementary schooler when the (scientifically documented to be ineffective) DARE program was at its peak. I was told to "Just Say No" by everyone from Nancy Regan to Punky Brewster but I didn't care about any of it. Even as a kid, it all seemed patronizing and preachy. None of these things were going to keep me from trying drugs.

The thing is, I never tried drugs. It's not like I never had an opportunity either. I grew up with artist parents and their artist friends who threw hazy artist parties. I went to an inner-city middle school where cops lead drug dogs around on leashes to sniff lockers on a daily basis. I spent all of high school in Kentucky where both pot and meth are booming industries--the cops literally burned big piles of confiscated marijuana in the field behind the high school. Still, I wasn't ever even tempted and I never really put together why that might be.

Then, yesterday, I re-watched "The Game." You may remember this episode as the one in which Wesley Crusher and Ashley Judd (the ship's smartest teenagers) save the day when Up-For-Anything-Riker brings an addictive, mind-controlling game back to the Enterprise. I've only seen this one a few times but each time I watch it, it brings back the totally creeped out feeling I got in my first viewing. From the icky "pleasure" face everyone's going around making to the weird way they're all crazily pushing the game on other crew members, to their complete loss of control, this episode totally weirds me out. Especially this lady:

Here's a close-up in case you weren't already skeeved out enough.

Anyway, I'm not saying that Star Trek kept me off drugs. What I am saying is that, in a culture where adults are constantly talking directly (down) to kids about what they should and shouldn't do, sometimes all it takes to get kids thinking about bigger issues is a simple episode of something they already love, dealing with something in a legit (not after-school special) way. 

I read that Braga's original intention with this episode was to make a statement about today's kids (I say those words in my old man voice) being addicted to video games but my childhood brain saw the totally stoned look on everyone's face and jumped straight to a drug analogy. I've been creeped out by this one ever since. I never had to "Just say no" or think about my precious egg yolk brain in a pan but somewhere, in the back of my mind, I remembered this episode and internalized it. 

Now off to the Xbox; I need to level up.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

TNG: "Darmok"

So, don't hold me to this because I might change my mind when "Tapestry" rolls around but I think that "Darmok" is my favorite episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

If you're unfamiliar with this episode, basically, the Enterprise is scheduled to meet with a group of aliens called the Tamarians. No one's ever been able to successfully cross the language barrier with them but Captain Picard is feeling smugly sure of his ability to communicate. He even makes a smug face:

When they finally hail the alien vessel, our crew finds them completely incomprehensible. They witness an argument between the captain and first officer of the Tamarian ship and then Picard is suddenly beamed down to the planet where he comes face to face with the Tamarian captain, Dathon. The Tamarian attempts to communicate and, though we can understand some of the words, we (and Picard) find his language inscrutable. Dathon continually gestures toward Picard, two knives in hand, saying, "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra." But it's of no use, they are too different.

Finally, after they're attacked and must work together, the secret to the Tamarian language system begins to dawn on Picard. These aliens speak in metaphor. They use reference as language. Stories make up their vocabulary. When Dathon is saying, "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra," he's referencing a part of Tamarian mythos that is so ingrained in their culture it has become part of their linguistic system. He means, "Two people, strangers alone, by working together, will become united."  Essentially he's saying, "Cooperation."

When I was a kid, this episode enchanted me. I've seen it several times throughout my life only to love it even more after every viewing. I think the reason for that is that there are so many excellent ideas at play here. The idea of two peoples, with seemingly nothing in common, working together to overcome adversity is one. The idea that, if you give of yourself openly, you can be met with still more goodness is another. And, paramount to me, is the idea that storytelling is not only important to culture but necessary.

The ability to cite history or stories, myths and legends, and to be entertained by them and learn from them is uniquely human (at least on this planet) as is our ability to pass these stories on. So much of human history, from proto-humans painting the facsimile of hunts on cave walls, to the epic poems that weren't even written down until long after the fact, to the invention of the novel and, more recently, television and movies, we long to tell our stories. We want to make our mark, ensuring that there is a record of our existence and someday, if we're all gone, we want whoever else comes along to know that we were here. We existed and, not only that, here's how we lived, our mistakes, our successes, our ability to hate and to meet that hate with love, and our continual hope for a happy ending.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

When I Find Myself In Times Of Trouble

Scott and I are in the middle of moving. We have a new apartment picked out and half of our house is packed up. It's a stressful process and, in spite of the fact that this is my 34th move, it never seems to get much easier. Yesterday I had to go over to the new place to inspect it and pick up our keys then run by the store to get a new vacuum cleaner since ours might as well just be the world's worst broom. It wasn't until I got back that I saw what had happened in Boston.

Standing in my living room, with the knowledge of yesterday's tragic event sinking in, the boxes and stacks of books and an unassembled vacuum cleaner suddenly seemed a lot less important. In times like these, I can't watch the news, stare at photos, or read about it all over facebook. I am overcome. The only thing I could do--the only thing I wanted to do--was sit down on my living room floor and watch Star Trek.

It's surprising sometimes, what comforts us, how we find solace. For me, yesterday, it was a tall glass of milk and three episodes of my favorite show. By the time Patrick Stewart was telling me all about new life and new civilizations, I'd started feeling a little better. The familiarity of my TV friends, the succinct plots with mostly happy endings, and the ambient, electronic sounds of the ship were enough to console me.

Nothing can erase what happened yesterday. But I'm glad that, in times like this, we're lucky enough to have the little things that soothe. For me, just like when I was a little girl, it's a glass of cold milk and TV. What about you?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Post About My Wardrobe

When I was a kid, I discovered Batman. I didn't have much opportunity to read comic books but I loved Batman: The Animated Series and that show turned me on to the X-Men, Spiderman, and Superman cartoons. I loved superheroes. I still do. Unfortunately, to show my love of superheroes, I've always had to shop in the boy's/men's sections for T-shirts. As I write this post, I'm wearing a men's size small Star Wars t-shirt (I don't find this blasphemous at all by the way) and I'll probably wear my men's size large Batman shirt to sleep tonight. The fact that, as a geek girl, I've always had to shop on the other side of the store for the stuff I love bothers me. What bothers me even more is that this hasn't changed all that much since I was a little girl, running around in my bright orange He-Man shirt.

Disney has released a string of Marvel-based hero shirts. They have a great variety of shirts for men and boys and, while they have no shirts specifically for little girls, they have a few for women.
Of course, all the dude shirts say things like, "Be A Hero" and "I'm a Hero" while the girl's shirts say "I Only Kiss Heros," "I Love A Man In Uniform," and my least favorite, "I Need A Hero." 

WTF, Disney?! Marvel has a slew of seriously amazing female heroes, you know, like half the X-Men.  Why can't some of these butt-kicking ladies get their own shirts? Uggh! 

My Rogue hair from my first year in college.
Anyway, it just made me thankful once again that Star Trek has ALWAYS had super serious wonderful women role models. Go all the way back to the pilot to find Majel Barrett as the original Number One. Then look at Uhura who gave Sulu the what-for in the mirror universe and then took charge of the bridge in The Animated Series. Then you get to the series I grew up with: TNG. Tasha Yar was the freaking SECURITY OFFICER! Pulaski put a new heart in Picard when all the boy doctors couldn't handle it and Guinan made an all-powerful alien (Q) shrink away in fear. In DS9 you get Dax (who could kick Worf's butt) and Kira who lead a militia for her people during wartime. 

Then you get Voyager--the most badass Star Trek lady show--with Janeway (in many ways the BEST captain) and B'lanna and Seven of Nine both of whom are scientific geniuses who are also completely lethal. Move on to Enterprise and you get T'Pol, an expert in Vulcan martial arts, and Hoshi who is not only a xeno-linguistic genius but once broke the arm of a superior officer when he tried to break up her illegal poker game. These chicks are badass and I'm proud to say that I grew up with them and, when I could afford it, finally bought a shirt for myself in the WOMEN'S SECTION. Nice job, Star Trek. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

For Real LCARS

Yesterday I ran across an article on Slate all about how Google is attempting to re-create the computer from Star Trek. I've already drunk the Google kool-aid (I communicate with my friends and family exclusively through g-chat, I only use gmail, I love my google drive, I long for a Nexus 7 and I'm literally writing to you using this google blogging platform) so when I heard this news, I basically jumped up and down.

Even in the future, people mostly just google Seven of Nine.
When I was a kid, just like a ton of other kids, I wished for the day when Star Trek technology would become a reality. Thanks to Star Trek who influenced scientists at the space program which, in turn, made huge leaps in communications technology we now have fancy-shmancy touch phones, satellites that bounce our signals all around the world, and TVs that change the channel when you wave your hand. It's almost a cliche to talk about Star Trek tech but, whatever, I'm gonna talk about it too.

When the iphones (yes, I know they are not Google but I'm also in the Mac cult) first came out, my husband and I both really, really wanted one but we had a bad case of the poors. When we moved to Los Angeles in 2010 we bought some refurbished iphones for like ten cents (and a piece of our soul guaranteed to seep out over the course of our two year contract) and the very first thing I did with mine was equip it with a tricorder app. I have the TOS communicator beeps set up as my ringtone and the TNG view-screen sound as my text alert.

The point is that I love Google and I love Star Trek tech. If Google believes that their one, true destiny is to provide the world with the first Star Trek computer, I'll be the first in line... unless I have a bad case poors again, in which case, I'll wait till the 3rd generation comes out and get a sweet, refurbished model to put on my desk. Then I'll say, "Computer, show me a list of every Star Trek episode."

Then, Majel Barrett Roddenberry's voice will echo sweetly through my living room and say, "There are 716 episodes of Star Trek."

And I'll get my chicken sandwich and coffee ready and reply, "Play all."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

More Portraits!

I've been working with a new program and, maybe because of that, experimenting with some changes in style and look. Because I don't have an endless amount of time to do art every day (my hand cramps up after about five hours) I've been getting used to the program with the help of my latest Star Trek portraits. It's kind of slow-going but I'm enjoying it. Here are the two most recent:

This is Larry (from the mirror universe) and Katie, the Talaxian. Since you're mucking about on the internet already, you should check out Kate's blog, Nested. It's pretty awesome!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

TNG: The Nth Degree or My Super Powers

Up until my 21st birthday, I wished for super powers. Every year, I lost a little more hope until I finally just sort of said, "Well, I guess it's not going to happen." For some reason, I thought my bestowal of powers would almost certainly come on my birthday but I wasn't an exclusionist. I wished for these powers in wishing wells and when I blew a stray eyelash from my fingertip. I wished on stars and can remember specific times in my childhood where I really thought, this time it was going to happen.

But, it didn't.

I wished to be genius-level smart and/or be able to see future events. I wanted to prevent myself from feeling stupid or weird or lame. I knew that, on the inside of me was someone worth knowing, someone who was smart and interesting and confident and, yes, even pleasant. But it seemed like all the forces in the universe were keeping that part of me locked away and even I couldn't access it.

I was thinking about that as I watched the TNG episode, "The Nth Degree" wherein Barclay (who is typically a socially awkward screw-up) gets his brain probed by some high-class aliens who make him ridiculously, crazy smart. And, he's not just intelligent but creative and confident. He goes from stammering through conversations to hitting on Deanna and bringing the audience to tears in a performance of Cyrano. Beverly even says that he might be the most evolved human ever.
Here's Barclay just chilling out with his homie, Albert Einstein.
Well, that's basically all I ever asked for. (Not much, huh?) Barclay turns into a super human and suddenly, all that stuff that was inside him, all that hidden potential was suddenly turned loose. He was a new man. Everything was super-wonderful-fantastic. And then, everything went sideways. Barclay got carried away with his new abilities. He started captaining and driving the Enterprise which was not to Picard's liking at all. He became "fully integrated" with the ship and started uploading his mind to the ship's computer because his fragile human brain pan couldn't hold all that magnificence inside anymore. He lost it. He'd gone beyond the point of "super human" to "super pain in the ass" and no one was appreciating it.

Picard is especially not pleased.
Thankfully, the aliens who'd brain-juiced him earlier, came back and saved the day. And, as I watched Barclay explain how things had gotten so out of control, I wondered if maybe, it's a good thing I never got those powers after all. Maybe, there aren't any really amazing shortcuts to figuring out who you are, no aliens to help you be the super-special-snowflake you always knew you could be. Maybe it's ok that I, unlike Barclay, have to take the long way round.

Still... if I woke up one day with super powers, I wouldn't be too quick to try and get rid of them.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

TNG: Night Terrors

Last night my husband dreamed about gold fish. I know this because, around 3AM he woke me up asking, "Can you smell the gold fish?" I answered, "No," and then went back to sleep wherein I dreamed that he was making fun of my newest Netflix addiction: Alias. In reality, we don't have (and have never had) any pet fish and the only time my husband has mentioned Alias is to say that he really wants to start watching it with me. Nevertheless, I think these dreams are important. And, not in a "if you dream about gold fish it means you're going to get gold teeth" way because that's some watered down nonsense. Just in a, "If I don't get my REM sleep, I'm going to end up shouting science fiction originated obscenities at strangers," kind of way.

I get really cranky when I haven't slept. I'm talking, "bite your head off for no reason" cranky. Typically, I am a completely pleasant person. I'm good natured and easy going and highly adaptive, unless I've got some sleep debt. I've always been that way but it wasn't until I saw the TNG episode, "Night Terrors" that I suddenly had some scientific (mind you: science brought to you by science fiction) reason for why I can be such a cranky bastard.

In "Night Terrors" the crew get caught up in a Tyken's Rift (it's like a deep space ditch) and they start drifting, unable to escape. Little by little, they become paranoid and irascible. Soon, they're hallucinating, which only serves to make them them even more cranky. Eventually, Crusher works out that no one has been dreaming and, without REM sleep, they're all losing their grip on reality and descending into an ever-expanding pit of crankyness. This is a process that takes ten days. But, for me, it only takes me being up about twenty minutes past my bed time or waking up twenty minutes too early for me to turn into some kind of John Carpenter-esque jabberwocky version of myself.

I'm not joking. People lose it when they stop dreaming.
This episode was vastly important to me as a child as I used the information I'd gleaned from it to argue my case for staying in bed before school, screaming, "If I don't get any REM sleep, I'm going to start hallucinating! Do you care nothing for my mental health?" It didn't often work and I usually just ended up sitting at my desk with bedhead, looking like the grumpiest Trekkie ever.

On another note: today, while watching this episode, I actually fell asleep. When I woke up, I had to rewind it to make sure I didn't dream Worf trying to kill himself and Jennifer Garner helping Data escape the Tyken's Rift by wearing a sexy blue wig and rattling off a lot of "facts." Oh, actually, one of those things was a dream.

Monday, April 8, 2013

My 100th Post

Well, the title pretty much says it all. This is my 100th post! How did this even happen? It seems impossible that 100 posts ago, it was December and I was sitting in my dad's house in Kentucky, watching "The Cage"on New Year's Eve.

When I began this project, I'd set out to write about my experiences as I filled an entire year with my favorite show. As I say in the "About" section, Star Trek has always been there for me. It has been a constant in my hectic, ever-changing life. I can't remember a time in my history when I wasn't familiar with/talking about/playing pretend/etc. Star Trek and that's the case now more than ever. My days are filled with Star Trek. This project is often the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about before I fall asleep. Now, Star Trek is my life. And, I pretty much anticipated that. You can't knowingly binge-watch 700 episodes of a thing and not anticipate some level of daily-life takeover.

Here's the thing that's surprised me though: about once a week, I get an email or a comment from a friend, an acquaintance, or a total stranger, telling me how much they appreciate this blog. I had never intended for this to be a solitary journey (again the "About" section clearly says: join me!) but I'd also never anticipated that my little, personal project might reach so many people. I'm humbled, touched, and beyond grateful for the support that you have shown me and my little project because, as you've read, or you can read, or you will read, this is a very personal endeavor for me.

Star Trek has always been a special part of my life, one I kept close to my heart, one I didn't want to discuss with other fans. I didn't join forums or comment on message boards as I did with other shows (at various times I was a member of X-files, Sailor Moon, and Frasier chatrooms--it was the 90's) but my feelings about Star Trek were tied too closely to my real, personal life for me to share my opinions. My memories of watching "Best of Both Worlds" were still too distinct, too arresting--for me to bring the episode up in conversation with a fan who might say that it was a stupid season finale.

But, thanks to your support and your kind words and just the fact that you show up here every day (for 100 posts) and let me talk to you about my favorite show for a few minutes, I'm not really scared anymore. I'm elated. I'm grateful. And, I can't wait for the next 100 posts.

Now, back to the show. I still have three episodes to watch today!

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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Star Trek Portrait Winner: Amy

I'm still sick but I think I'm on the other side of it. So, today, I mostly just sat around lamenting the fact that I even have sinuses. But, it is getting better. I think. What I would like to do is write about "The Wounded" which I recently watched but, instead, I think I'll just post this picture of one of the Star Trek Portrait Contest Winners:

Amy is a half-betazoid, half trill 

As a reminder, if you entered the portrait contest, you also won the contest. So, email me a photo of yourself and I'll get to work on your portrait! 

Friday, April 5, 2013

TNG: Family

Obviously Worf is a Klingon. I mean, he kind of stands out. But, did you know he was raised by humans? Russian humans? I'm not sure why, but that seems pretty appropriate. The Rozhenkos took Worf in after his parents were killed in the battle of Khitomer. They raised him as their own but he always seemed out of place, always longing for a culture they could not give him.

In the episode, "Family," the Rozhenkos visit the Enterprise after they return from their battle with the Borg. They're worried about him. They want to talk to him but he's typically clammed up. Finally, they speak to Guinan who informs them that Worf comes to Ten Forward, as many homesick officers do, and stares homeward. Only, he's not staring toward the Klingon home world of Qo'noS; he's looking lovingly toward Earth.

While I was watching this episode (for, I think, the bazillionth time) and thinking about family, and home, I thought a lot about how, when I was little, I used to fantasize about being adopted. I think this is something a lot of kids do. Your parents are frustrating or they let you down or you don't like your house or your room or whatever and you begin imagining that your real parents or someone they've left to care for your incredible destiny will come and take you away from all this. You're Luke Skywalker. You're Harry Potter. You're Superman.

Only, my beautiful foundling fantasies never lasted very long. I look like some Soviet science experiment replicant of my parents. There's absolutely no way I could ever seriously question my lineage. So, instead, I turned toward the future. I thought, "Someday, I won't live here. Someday, I'll be gone from this town. Someday. Someday. Someday."

I grew up in Kentucky and North Carolina. Two sets of mountains. The low bluegrass hills of Kentucky and the steep, misty crags of North Carolina. I've always loved the mountains but I tried to look past their jagged horizon toward my future life--the one where I wasn't some scew-up kid who didn't fit in.

Then, in 2010, I moved to Los Angeles with my husband. I cried the night before we left, terrified at the enormity of it all, at the thought of this monster of a move--crossing three thousand miles in a Honda hatchback we'd started calling, "our shuttle." When we got here, though, and doors started opening and opportunities to do the things we'd always dreamed of formed right in front of us, I understood that we'd found our real life.

I realized today that our life here, in this huge, bustling, crazy place, is kind of our Enterprise.  This is where the adventure happens. This is where we will explore who we are. We will do the work that matters to us and fight the important battles and realize our goals. We are doing what we love and it is paying off. But, every morning, when the sun is rising, I look east. I'm looking toward all those tiny towns, those huge mountains, those rolling hills, and those two strange, imperfect humans who I could never, ever possibly deny are my parents. I'm looking toward the places and people who, whether I loved it or hated it, made me who I am today.

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

TNG: Season 3 Essentials

Season Three is a pretty big one. I really feel that Star Trek: TNG started to come into its own in Seasons 2-4 so it's really been a joy to re-watch those episodes. Of course, that makes choosing the essentials even harder. After a lot of debate, here's what I came up with:

The Defector
-Watch this one for some sweet, Romulan action.
-There's a whole Shakespearean through-line that's pretty wonderful and the end of this one has some nice bite.
Stand Out LineNow if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king, who led them to it.
Deja Q
-Is it possible to not include a Q episode in an essentials list? I guess we'll see. 
-Basically, in this episode, Q comes to the Enterprise as a human. He's lost all his super powers as punishment for being a jackass. 
Stand Out Line: Very clever, Worf. Eat any good books lately? 

Yesterday's Enterprise 
-Tasha Yar is back and EVERYTHING is wrong. The only person who realizes this is Guinan and, thankfully, Picard listens to her. 
-Seriously, this is one of the most memorable, most beloved episodes of the franchise so seek this one out ASAP. 
Stand Out Line: Geordi, tell me about Tasha Yar. 

The Offspring
-This is the episode wherein Data has a kid. I'm going to let you know up front that it will rip your heart straight out of your body and, while you will get it back, the episode will keep a tiny piece of your heart with it for all of eternity. So... don't say I didn't warn you/encourage you to sit down right where you are and watch it. 
Stand Out Line: This is a most stupendous undertaking.

The Best of Both Worlds: 
-Remember how "The Offspring" ripped your heart out? It's like that. Only kind of worse. 
-This is the Season 3 Finale and it's really a 2-parter. It involves the Borg, Picard, Guinan, and lots of great moments. If you don't watch this, and its second half, you'll be lost when Sisko goes on and on about Wolf 359 for seven years in DS9. 
Stand Out Line: I am Locutus of Borg

Runners Up

Sins of the Father
-This is the first truly awesome Worf episode. (Worf-isode?) Not only do we get a lot of scenes with Klingons (who I love) but we get the whole set up of "Son of Mogue" which would end up lasting the rest of TNG and DS9. So, it's kind of iconic. 
-Additionally, we get a new, deeper relationship between Worf and Picard which is pretty priceless all by itself. 

-This is a beautifully, sincerely written episode about what it's like when a beloved, older person begins to lose their mental faculties. Using Sarek, who we've known since TOS, in this episode really heightens the themes here.  And, the scenes between such accomplished and talented actors as Leonard and Stewart are truly heartbreaking. 
-I've read that this episode was, in many ways, about Gene Roddenberry, whose health was beginning to go downhill during the third season of TNG. Like Sarek, he was a father figure, someone we all loved, someone who had made a huge impression. I imagine that, seeing him begin to falter, would have been difficult for everyone involved. 

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Portrait Winners Part 1

I don't know if it's allergies or stress or what but today I felt awful just needed to take a break. I still watched three episodes and took notes on all of them and worked on a portrait but I couldn't bring myself to sit at the computer and write. Don't worry, I'll get to it tomorrow.

In the meantime, here's an update on the portrait contest: Basically, everybody won. I couldn't not give everyone a portrait. I love you guys too much for that. Anyway, here are the first fruits of my labor:

Chris the Borg Drone
Here's an interesting thing: Um... apparently the Borg have ridiculously ripped abdominal muscles. I went my whole life never noticing this but when I pulled up reference photos for Chris' portrait, I realized that, apparently being part of the collective means maintaining a peak level of fitness. 

KJ the Banean/Vulcan
Ok, so KJ asked for a Banean/Vulcan appearance. When I first encountered the Baneans, I began referring to them as "feather heads" and, ever since, I have referred to the Voyager episode wherein Paris gets in trouble with a Banean girl, I have called it, "that featherhead episode." 

Alright, that's it for today! Time for me to go back to the strict lying on the couch, drinking sprite and eating graham crackers routine I've kept up all day. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Best of Both Worlds

When I was a kid, my parents got divorced. I can't say that I was completely surprised, even then. In those days, it seemed like everyone's parents (in real life and on TV) were splitting up. Still, it was pretty sudden. One day we were all living together and the next day, I was riding in the passenger seat with a coloring book on my lap, trying not to ask too many questions.  I didn't want to make trouble, didn't want to cry and whine, didn't want to be the star of a very special episode of my life.

We left in February and by March I was in a new school in a new town. I had new classmates and, as we'd moved several times before, I was used to the drill. I showed up. I excelled. I didn't make many friends. I didn't do my homework.

Then, all at once, it was summer. Time slowed down. The recent events of my life caught up with me. And, one night, there I was, watching "Best of Both Worlds." My mom was asleep but I wasn't. I was wide awake and I couldn't look away.

My lifelong love of Star Trek hadn't gone anywhere in all this time and I sat there, watching the season finale, by myself. I watched as Commander Shelby upset the balance of the ship. I watched as the Enterprise encountered the Borg and as Picard was suddenly taken. When he turned toward the camera and said, "I am Locutus of Borg," I pretty much lost it.

For several months, I'd kept it together. But, sitting there in a new living room, in a new town, when I hadn't seen my dad in months, I realized how much I needed my Star Trek friends to just maintain the status quo. They had always reliable and steadfast. They were good people doing good things and they didn't need a special reason for it. They were friends. They played poker and gave each other advice and they would all die for each other. They were unchanging and episodic. They were comforting. That's what I needed.

But, on that night in June, that's not what happened. Instead, Locutus of Borg happened and five months of built up tears and fear and anxiety poured out of me as the credits rolled and the familiar music played and I knew I would have to wait all summer to find out whether Picard would be ok. Whether my Star Trek friends would be ok. Whether I would be ok.

Monday, April 1, 2013

An Elaborate Practical Joke

When I was about eleven years old, I discovered Sailor Moon. Thanks to my artsy/SciFi-loving dad, I'd watched a lot of anime over the years but Sailor Moon was the first one that really, really spoke to me. I became obsessed. I collected Sailor Moon trading cards, kept a book of Sailor Moon inspired sketches, and even learned html back in 1998 so I could have my very own Sailor Moon website. I always felt like a Sailor Jupiter but there was something about Sailor Mercury--Amy--that always appealed to me. On every Amy doll, every Amy trading card, every Amy bio online, it said that Amy "dislikes practical jokes." That really stood out to me. I mean, it's one thing to "dislike practical jokes" but it's a whole other thing entirely for that little tidbit of information to show up wherever you are mentioned. You must REALLY "dislike practical jokes." But that meant something to me because, if I had a trading card with my stats all over the back, there would probably be a sentence about how I dislike practical jokes too.

And that brings me to the Star Trek side of all of this. Star Trek is a show without irony and that's something I love about it. It's about good people trying to do the right thing all the time. They have a tendency to not play practical jokes because, you know, it's the future and they're all beyond that. Except for one thing. One massive, gigantic, crazy prank which all of Starfleet Command is in on:

The Kobayashi Maru.

The Kobayashi Maru is a simulation designed to test the cadets in the command track at Starfleet Academy. It's a hard test. A really hard test. Actually, an impossible test. You get in there, you get your crew of other, exemplary cadets together and you try your very best to rescue the crew aboard a doomed starship named the Kobayashi Maru. You fire photon torpedos. You beam the crewmen over to your ship. You turn tail and run, leaving the marooned ship behind. You could try different maneuvers all day long but it won't change anything. You're still going to lose. That's because the Kobayashi Maru is actually testing your reaction to the "un-winnable scenario."

I know it's supposed to be a high-minded, super-smart way to test cadets under pressure but it just seems to me (and Kirk) like a jerk thing to do. Whatever. That's why me and Sailor Mercury would be in the science track instead of command.

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