Friday, January 31, 2014

How Star Trek Allowed Me To Be More Free

A few days ago I was contacted by the lovely Aradia about doing a guest post. She's a Seattle-based Electro Pop-Rock musician who you can check out on TwitterFacebook and iTunes. She's also a longtime SciFi/Star Trek fan. So, how could I possibly say no? The following is a guest post from Aradia: 

I’ve always had my head in the clouds. Well, more accurately, in Outer Space. Since childhood, space travel and astronomy have been loves of mine, and I took every opportunity to explore them. To me, the most important thing Humankind will ever do is leave our Solar System and explore the galaxy & universe. Another area of interest for me has always been ethics, and the general observation & analysis of how people operate, especially in sticky situations. Pretty nerdy, huh?

 So yeah, it was lonely growing up thinking about this stuff. The good news was: Star Trek existed. Here was the killer combo of space travel AND ethical explorations—in like, every single episode, and awesome (albeit sometimes cheezy) costumes to boot! As I got older and got out there into the real world more, I found other people who had as much fervor for the Star Trek world as I did, and who were just as inspired by it. Some of my best memories are of donning my Star Trek TNG red shirt, black pants & black leather boots and walking through Greenwich Village during the Halloween parade. I’d run into Klingons—even Cardassians!—and I’d have a sense of belonging I wouldn’t have anywhere else. That’s the power of being part of a community. I can do things and be free to express myself in ways that might otherwise be considered too silly or weird. When you’re expressing yourself to people who “get it,” it doesn’t feel weird at all.

 The Star Trek community—whether at conventions, random conversations, or online—provided a sort of haven for adventurous topics of conversation and dress. The existence of such a community has had a marked impact on me as an artist and musician. Namely, it’s meant that there’s a whole group of people out there who’ll get some of my musical and sartorial themes. My style and lyrical content might be “out there” to some, but to other Trekkies, it’s familiar. I can feel more comfortable knowing that when my song “M-Class” plays, someone out there will know I’m *not* talking about a Mercedes, but a type of planet that can harbor humanoid life. I can use terms like “engage” and “warp speed” in my lyrics and I know someone’s ears will perk up. And I know that once in a while, a viewer will catch things like “the Prime Directive” in the slide presentation in my video for ”Miss Communication.” Every time I include stuff like that in my music, I’m speaking directly to others in the Star Trek community with whom I’ll always have a special connection.

Aside from specific references, my connection to the Star Trek community has also made me feel more comfortable writing what some have called “thinker’s pop music.” A lot of Trekkies tend to be folks who like to think; they dig philosophy, technology, and subjects that go deeper than money, fashion and small talk topics. So, while lighthearted “fluffy” tunes might be the music of choice for some, it likely won’t satisfy your typical Trekkie. This gives me the opportunity to sing about people & society in my natural observational manner and know that there’s an audience to appreciate it. But what’s even more amazing about Star Trek is that it hasn’t only un-weirded (ok I know that’s not a word) my music & style somewhat; to a degree, it’s popularized it. Since the smash hit releases of the 2 latest Star Trek films, people think it’s awesome that I named my dog Khan, or that I wear metallic outfits and talk about outer space in my songs. I was always proud of my love for the world of Spock & Picard, but now I can even be considered “cool” for it. And that’s…pretty damn cool.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Sweet Birthday

So, last year I went to Kirk's Rock for my birthday. Then, I had eleven more months of Star Trek. Through it all, I couldn't help noticing how much cake people in the future seem to eat. Worf has a birthday where he alternately eats chocolate and yellow cake. Deanna turns into a cake. Hoshi goes on a fact-finding mission just so they can give Malcom a pineapple upside down birthday cake. And when Miles O'Brien has a birthday his evil, pah-wraith possessed wife (of course) makes him a nice birthday cake.

Nowhere, though, are birthdays more celebrated than on Voyager. These people (and maybe this is because they have a morale officer/chef on Voyager so why not) celebrate birthdays like nobody's business. And they do it in a pretty specific way. Everybody gets one of these:
A big, swirly, purple and blue (and sometimes spotted) cake. Toward the end of it, as someone was celebrating yet another birthday, I said, "You know. We should make a purple cake for my birthday next year."

Well, that day is almost here. Tomorrow's my 30th birthday but tomorrow I'm planning on eating a huge cheeseburger and then taking a day-long nap so, today, I made a cake:

We made it completely from scratch, by hand, which is obviously how an alien from the 24th century would do it. Scott and I both sort of remembered the cake being taller than it was in Voyager but I'm guessing theirs is actually just a hunk of foam covered in purple spray paint, glitter, and varnish. Ours is white cake with butter cream frosting. I tinted the buttercream purple then streaked it with blue and pink and added teensy white icing dots and a few star sprinkles. I absolutely love it. It's my favorite birthday cake ever.

One Year Ago Tomorrow: My B-day

Friday, January 24, 2014

Star Trek MixTape: Crazy Alternate History Heart Rippers

So here's a feature that I've been planning since about October of last year but haven't been able to get around to it until right this very second. After a year of ALL OF STAR TREK, I sorta noticed a few things. Like, wow there are a lot of tropes that Trek really loves. It makes sense. There are only a certain number of stories you can tell about a group of 5-9 unflinching optimists on the edge of space in forty five minutes before you start to repeat. It happens.You get 726 episodes of a thing and eventually you gotta hit up some old material. And, that's ok. The reason these ideas recur is that they're generally good ones.

Now, about this post series: Remember back in the days of TNG, when you made mixtapes (or mixed tapes-- I asked google about this but she wouldn't give me a straight answer) for the current love of your life/current BFF? I say you because I never did this. For some reason I've always kept my music preferences to myself. I refuse to let anyone else in on my Pandora habits, let alone give them a handmade tape with all my fav songs. But, I've chosen to share my love of Trek with the world so, instead of a collection of tunes, here's the first entry in a series of Star Trek MixTapes: Crazy Alternate History Heart Rippers.

Star Trek first started their foray in Crazy Alternate History Heart Rippers way back in The Original Series. From here on out, every time a character got flung through spacetime and we all ended up crying into our cereal bowls, we thought about that first, gut punching episode--City On The Edge Of Forever. It set the standard and Trek ran with this idea. Seriously. Every single series had one of these.

So, here, I present to you a bunch of episodes that seem really silly at first but end up ripping your heart out:

1- TOS: City On The Edge Of Forever:
Kirk and Spock chase Tripping-Balls-Bones through a talking gateway and into 1930's Earth. Kirk (and me and you and everyone we know) falls in love with Edith Keeler but, as Spock tells us at the end of the first act: Edith Keeler Must Die. What follows is an exercise in the utterly devastating nature temporal causality.

2- TNG: The Inner Light:
A weirdo probe shows up and flashes a light at Picard who promptly passes out and wakes up on a strange planet where everyone calls him Kamin. He's married and his planet has some issues. He plays a flute and somehow even typing that makes me taste tears in my throat.

3- DS9: The Visitor:
Jake watches his dad die in an explosion only to return periodically--haunting/parenting Jake throughout his entire life. The father/son-ness of this one is so sincere and honestly-played that I just want to wander off into the kitchen and not come back until I've emotional binge eaten an entire box of cinnamon toast crunch.

4- Voyager: Course Oblivion
This one starts out with just about the happiest thing ever: Tom and B'Elanna's wedding. It takes a fast, hard turn into the most depressing part of the Delta Quadrant. As I watch my beloved crew try to do what any good, Starfleet ship would do, I find myself falling apart at approximately the same rate as Janeway and Paris.

5- Enterprise: Twilight
Archer saves T'Pol from a spatial anomaly and, as a consequence, loses his longterm memory, his command, and his entire planet. T'Pol refuses to leave his side and their resultant relationship is one of the sweetest, most beautiful things in this series.

So there ya go. Five episodes from me to you. These all take place in a pocket of space/time that sort of doesn't really exist and everything goes back to the way it was before--except our hearts. Those are ripped out and chucked through a dilithium powered engine going warp nine and the pieces are scattered throughout the stars.

One Year Ago Today- TOS Season Two Essentials

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Fan Girl Of The Day!

Well, this is pretty cool: A while back I was nominated for Fangirl of the Day over at Her Universe and, today, I got it!  As a chick who predominately shops in the men's section for her geek apparel, I'm so glad Her Universe came along.

Also, this blog recently won an award over at A Peek At Karen's World! My Year Of Star Trek is the "Best Kept Secret," which I rather like.

I haven't been around quite so much lately but I have good reasons for this. I'm in the next-to-last stages of pre-production for my first novel release and, as I was getting ready to send the edited manuscript back to the publisher, I realized (in the eleventh hour) that the artwork needed a change. This book has quite a lot of art inside and I'm doing all of it. As I was prepping everything, I discovered that I needed to go back and re-do some of the pieces for consistency. I've been working on this nonstop about 10 hours a day. Unfortunately that doesn't leave much time for blogging. However, I did get a chance to re-watch The Trouble With Tribbles last night!

I've seen this episode countless times and I know that I always love it and yet it always surprises me with how good it is. Even though the story is about a bunch of purring furballs taking over a space station, the humor is pretty sophisticated. Every exchange plays out to a humorous, often unexpected conclusion--like what Scotty's willing to get in a fight over--and Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are at their very best. The entire barroom brawl is reminiscent of a 60's prime Blake Edwards bit and Cyrano Jones is the perfect villain. The huckster's bubbly, flamboyant nature hides his underlying ability to create real danger making him a great foil, not only for Kirk, but for the Klingon's as well. He's more a force of nature than an insidious character and that works perfectly for The Trouble With Tribbles.

I haven't had much time to get back into Trek lately and I've missed it. It was really great to come back to it with this classic episode.

 I wrote about this episode last year: The Trouble With Tribbles

Last year on this day I drew the Mugato for the third Young Naturalist illustration.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Sorting Hat

So, it seems that I've been gone for quite some time. Honestly, things have been crazy around here. My first book is in the pre-production stages and I've been completely swamped with getting it ready. Of course, I can't work ALL the time. Sometimes I have to take breaks and/or procrastinate and let my brain relax. Break taking inevitably leads to taking a quiz about which Harry Potter character you are.

I've always felt like a Luna Lovegood and that's exactly what I got. The thing that surprised me was that when I put my result on Facebook, everyone else felt obliged to comment on how I'm so obviously a Luna. Apparently I might as well just be walking around in radish earrings and spectrespecs. I guess part of my Luna-ness is not really understanding/caring how other people see me.

Anyway, this led me to much (again with the procrastination) consideration about how to sort the TOS crew into Hogwarts Houses. The core group is pretty easy:

Or, if you're more of a traditionalist: 

I felt pretty proud of myself when I came up with these things so I figured, why not sort everyone else into their houses?

Well, this is about as close as I could get: 
Honestly, pretty much everyone under the Spock/Kirk/McCoy trifecta can either be sorted into Gryffindor or Huffelpuff but whatever. I put Scotty in Slytherin because he jumps to defend the honor of the Enterprise but not the captain, he's rather cunning, and he tends to purposely over-estimate the amount of time it'll take to fix things to get Kirk off his back. Uhura's like, crazy smart and talented. Sulu ends up being a superb starship captain. And Chekov is Chekov. He's basically the most Huffelpuffy Huffelpuff of the 23rd century. 

I started thinking about the rest of the series, too. What do you think? Any Star-Potters/Potter-Trekker/Potter-ies out there have ideas about how to sort TNG-Enterprise? 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Eric's Year Of Star Trek

The following is a guest post from a dear friend: 

The summer before entering school as a seventh grader, I took part in a Shakespeare camp.  I knew I was going to take part in a Shakespeare play.  I didn’t know I was going to fall in love with the camp.  I didn’t know that I would truly consider everyone there as part of my own family.  I didn’t know how painful it would be every year when the week was over and the camp had to end.  I can’t tell you when the camp became the high point of my whole year every year, but it has without question.  And this camp was started by AshleyRose.
I remember all the way at the beginning of this year receiving an e-mail from AshleyRose about how she decided to do this Star Trek blog thing and she wanted me to follow along.  I had a very limited connection to Star Trek at the time.  I had seen my dad watching some TNG here and there on TV, but I never watched it with him.  I had a vague image of the guy with the weird forehead and some episode when Data had sided with the Borg…until that one guy who played Charles Xavier talked Data into returning to the good side.  I had also seen the newest Star Trek movie (at the time) in theaters a few times.  Overall, I knew nothing about the series.  But I loved the movie, and I love AshleyRose, so why not follow along?

With my limited knowledge, I had absolutely no idea what to expect from the blog.  But I wasn’t following it every day in the beginning.  I had completely forgotten that this project was even happening...until I decided I would send a reply e-mail.  Upon reviewing AshleyRose’s last e-mail, I panicked that I completely forgot about her project.  I spent the next few hours going through every entry.  After fighting through all the laughter and the tears, I was finally caught up, and I had fallen in love with this blog. 
I wasn’t following along by watching the episodes, but I read every post that was made.  I saw how the characters changed from each new series.  From my experience with the movie, I loved how much the “original” crew had changed from TOS to the newest movie.  I knew enough about “who” this Spock character was or this Captain Kirk person so that I could understand their personalities.  I could still enjoy what the characters were doing.  What they were faced with. How painful it must have been for Spock to die.  I could even see Kirk introducing a civilization (or two) to STDs…  I saw very little of TNG, but I still was close to it because it was the most familiar to me of the actual Trek TV series from just having seen a part of an episode or two.  While following along, I knew I couldn’t wait to eventually watch TNG myself sometime.
But when AshleyRose was finishing TNG, I didn’t want it to end.  I knew nothing of the other Trek series.  I didn’t want to be thrown into a series where I didn’t know anything about the characters.  I’m glad it happened though.  I got lots of good things out of the other series as well.  I especially have an interesting in watching Voyager.  I want to see Janeway and Seven kick butt.  I want to know more about the Doctor.  I still remember watching the video Ashley posted on the Doctor and Seven singing together.  I had Seven singing “You Are My Sunshine” in my head the entire time I was in class after that.  I also remember being depressed about the copy crew who was fated to turn to dust.  I want to truly watch and be a part of this series.
My big Star Trek event of the year was watching Star Trek: Into Darkness.  I watched the previous movie right before watching Into Darkness in theaters for a midnight showing.  It was amazing!  I was back with the crew that I knew so well.  At one point, I heard my dad say the villain was Khan.  A few minutes later, with his epic facial expressions, the jerkface revealed, “My name is Khan.”  The best part was hearing someone else in the theater being shocking and saying, “No way!”  Yes way!  And my dad got it right!  I watched Into Darkness a total of four times (the same amount I saw the previous movie in theaters) over the course of five days.  One of those days was spent showing the previous movie to my little brother right before leaving to watch Into Darkness again!  I then watched it again with friends the next day.  By that point, I was quoting parts of the movie and taking note of how everyone seemed to only be capable of crying through one eye.  I loved being able to have my own, though rather short, Star Trek adventure.
At the beginning of the year, I basically knew AshleyRose as my drama director.  As the year draws to a close, I have been given the opportunity to get a glimpse of something she loves.  How it helped her get through the hard times.  How it helped her connect with her family.  And even the non-Trek stuff, such as watching her mother perform Greek tragedies on stage.  For me, this blog has allowed me to learn more about someone I admire and love.  It has allowed me to follow a friend a whole year instead of just one week.  This blog was totally worth it!
As an added bonus, guess what I got for Christmas: Seasons 1 & 2 of TOS!  The year may have ended, but my journey has just started.  And I know just who to turn to when I want to talk about Star Trek.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Big Goodbye... Again

Last year, during my re-watch of Next Gen, I viewed The Big Goodbye and realized how much I wasn't onboard with all the fan fervor. Today, I happened to see that it was the 26th anniversary of the first airing of this classic episode so I thought, "Why not give it another shot."

After an entire year of Star Trek, I figured my feelings about the episode might have changed. Maybe, since I'm feeling all nostalgic about Star Trek in general and about my blog in particular, I'll get the warm cuddly feelings most people associate with this episode.

In fact, that didn't happen.

I watched this one and, once again, I just wasn't enchanted in the way I'd hoped. Yes, I love Patrick Stewart strutting about in a trench coat and fedora and Gates McFadden is stunning in her little pink ensemble. But the episode itself? It just didn't work for me... again.

I think the reason for this is that I either didn't see this episode the first time around or I saw it and was just too young to appreciate it. By the time it came around again, I'd seen this episode's tropes over and over--only by then they were better done. TNG originated the "holodeck gone berserk" episode but they didn't perfect it until later and both DS9 and Voyager followed their lead with even crazier, more ridiculous holo-adventures. I much prefer Moriarty's holo-crisis story in Ship In A Bottle to this one as well as DS9's similar offering Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang. The Voyager crew basically spent 90% of their time in the holodeck so they, of course, gave us lots of these stories and the black and white Bride of Chaotica might be the most daring.

The Big Goodbye will probably never win my heart but that's alright. It set a precedent for some of the funnest, craziest romps in the Star Trek franchise.

On This Date Last Year: The Very First Season Essentials

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Sneaking Star Trek

Man, it's been quiet around here lately. I've missed you. I've missed this blog. And, as I realized recently, I've really really missed Star Trek.

I (stupidly) anticipated a lot of free time once the new year began but it's been quite the opposite. Basically, while I finished the year, I put off every single other thing that I ought to have been doing. I wasn't writing. I wasn't responding to emails. I wasn't working on art. I wasn't watching any other TV. I was pretty much just watching Star Trek and writing about it. And it was intense.

After a few days, I finally eased back into regular life. Then, on Monday, Scott got up much earlier than I did and ended up wandering off to take a nap. As soon as the door shut behind him you know what I did? I fired up the Netflix. I didn't watch any of the shows I'd been backlisting. I didn't watch any of my old favorite Netflix standbys. I didn't put in any one of the stack of DVDs sitting out because I want to watch them. I turned on Star Trek: The Original Series. I scrolled through the episodes and let it land on a random title. The Naked Time.

It. Was. Glorious.

Yesterday, Scott went off to get some work done. I fired up Netflix.

This afternoon, Scott sat at his desk with his headphones on and suddenly I found myself sneaking Star Trek on my laptop instead of the TV.

Ok, I wasn't really sneaking Star Trek. And, obviously, my husband loves Star Trek but 2013 was my year of Star Trek. And, as much as he loves the show, he was along for the ride while I was driving like a madman and, often, he had no choice but to binge watch six episodes of Voyager while I got caught up. I want him to be able to watch whatever he wants to watch but, every time I turn on the TV, I find myself missing Trek. It has become my comfort food. My softest blanket. My hot cup of tea. My favorite song. It's such a huge part of my life now that I can't go more than four or five days without it.

Right now, I'm watching the TOS crew engage with a group of nasty Romulans in Balance of Terror. And, it is glorious.

Friday, January 3, 2014

New Year's Eve

On December 31st I wrote a post detailing my experience with this blog. I discussed the ups and downs of the year and tried to sort through my feelings about Star Trek in general. Also, I mentioned that I only had the two newest films to watch. I wasn't too worried about those four hours so I kind of moseyed around a bit, not really wanting to believe that the year would really be over.

Finally, in the afternoon, I popped in 2009's Star Trek. Scott and I watched it and loved it all over again. (I'll write posts just about the new movies in the coming days.) Afterward, I wanted to take a short break so we went out to get some cheeseburgers.

While we sat in the drive-thru line we talked about the finish of the blog, how far I'd come, how unbelievable it was that it was almost over.

"I can't believe it's been a year since we watched the pilot at my dad's house," I said.

Scott said, "Yeah..."

Then came several seconds of silence followed by a revelation. It had been a year. I watched The Cage on the last day of 2012, not the first day of 2013. At the time, I wanted to be sure I could write about it on January 1st and I knew we'd be traveling and it just seemed like a great way to ring in the new year. He continued, "I think you have to watch it."

I thought about what might happen if I didn't. I mean, it's not like the Star Trek police were going to come after me. And, if I didn't finish, would that mean I could extend my year? Could it not be over? Could I somehow prolong the experience of My Year Of Star Trek by just not finishing?

I only truly contemplated this possibility for a few moments. Deep down, I knew I was just trying to find some last-ditch way of not finishing. Or, rather, of not being finished. I hated the thought of it coming to an end so much that I briefly considered the idea of failing in my task as somehow letting the project fall into limbo. But no. That just wouldn't do.

"Yeah. I have to watch it." I clutched my sack of cheeseburgers and stared at the clock. If we went straight home, queued up Into Darkness, watched it straight through, then turned on the pilot, I'd just make it.

And that's exactly what we did. Watching The Cage again, after an entire year of Star Trek was the perfect way to finish 2013. The "almost Trekness" of it was like the kind of fevered dream you have just before real inspiration hits. It's not quite Trek. A lot of the ingredients are there, there's a ton of potential, but it's just not quite right. Lucky for me and you and generations of Trek fans, someone at NBC gave it a shot.

I was in awe every minute of this viewing but I was a little anxious since, with each of those awe-infused-minutes that passed, I was getting closer to midnight. Finally, at 11:45, I was done. I had watched every episode of every Star Trek series and every film in 2013.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A New Year

This morning I woke up, made breakfast, sat down with a cup of coffee and turned on the TV.

"What now?" I thought.

For the first time in a year, I wasn't facing down several hours of pre-planned TV.

"This is weird," I said. I turned the TV off. It felt so strange to not have in my day that I didn't really want to watch anything. I cleaned the house. I ate lunch. I worked on some art projects. All the while, the television screen was black and the room was silent.

Eventually, I looked at the DVR. Lots and lots of shows had banked in the last month or so. With this blog going at full clip, I hadn't had time to watch a single other show. I suggested we try Almost Human. We did. Watching McCoy rip through a future New York City with his android partner, I immediately, obviously thought of Star Trek. I missed my blog. I missed my show. I missed you.

I came over to Blogger. Sometime during the morning, while my TV had been off and my laptop was shut, this site hit 90,000 pageviews. So, again, thank you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for coming back over and over again. Thank you for your encouragement, your emails, your comments.

Tonight, I'm going to bed after a day with no Star Trek. But that's alright. This project is still here. It'll still be here tomorrow. And the next day.

And that brings me to a little announcement:

I have a NEW project. My husband and I are going to watch all of X-Files in a year and write about it together. You can read about that over at Our Year Of X-Files.
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