Monday, November 30, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Pathfinder

I'm going to tell you a story about my day. A day that my BFF said was, "comicaly horrible." Well, I guess it started a few days ago--with what seemed to be hints of kidney-ish pain. It got progressively worse over the weekend. Then our DVR box suddenly kicked the bucket. We watched DVDs and Netflix and resolved to trade in the box asap. Then, last night, when the pain in my side had become pretty unbearable we heard a sort of explosion in the kitchen. Our refrigerator was smoking and singing its swan song. It, too, was no more. I put all the groceries (a week's worth purchased that morning) in a cooler with all our ice packs and put it out in the garage where the temperature wouldn't get above 50 degrees till sometime this afternoon. I went to bed in the hope that the fridge wouldn't commit one last act of defiance and burn the house down as we slept.
I woke up in still worse pain and, having consumed no caffeine for the last three days--I was very groggy and grumpy. I called the doctor but they couldn't get me in. I went to the Urgent Care where I found myself in the same argument I've been in all my life--no I don't run high temperatures. I've been hospitalized with infections before and never ran a temperature above 98.6. No, I don't know why. No, I'm not kidding. Yes, please give me whatever antibiotics you're thinking of giving me. So then we went off to the pharmacy. While I was inside, picking up cans of soup and medicine, the fans in my car went out. Oh, they'd been threatening it for a while but they finally thought, "You know, today's the day we shove off this mortal coil!" The fans ceased to be. Scott had to get to work but the fan problem was a real issue. We only have one car so that meant a trip to the rental car place (because of course our mechanic's loaners were all checked out) and then the mechanic. Then I got home and finally took my medicine and ate some crackers while I waited for the fridge guy to show up. As soon as he left I sat down with a giant bowl of Progresso and Voyager.

And what episode was it? Pathfinder. I'm concerned that, in my addled state, I really can't even begin to tell you how much I love this episode and how much I needed it today. I love Barclay and have always felt an affinity for the character--especially on days like today. Comicaly horrible days. Days where I know, even as they are happening, that they are so preposterous that even though all I want to do is sit down and cry, I laugh.

Pathfinder does a brilliant and sympathetic job with Barclay. His need to bring Voyager home, the way he hides inside the Voyager simulation, the way he loses himself in his obsession--it's lovingly done. So too is the difference in Barclay's competence and confidence when he's among his holo-peers. When he isn't burdened by the all-too-real social constructs of his every day life his head clears, he thinks better, talks with more gusto, expresses himself more fully. I love the little touches here as well. The way the Maquis crew are still in their browns and reds. The way we never see Neelix because of course Barclay doesn't know what he looks like. They way Seven isn't yet a part of the crew. The way even Janeway has her hair up in her Season One french twist.

I'm always surprise that it takes this long--only the penultimate season--for Pathfinder to make a connection with Voyager but the wait is worth it. I'm not sure I've ever seen this episode that I didn't tear up. And we all know, because this is Trek, that Voyager will eventually make it home, they will eventually connect again with their loved ones back home. But it's sweeter because it takes so long, because we, like Barclay, have invested so much of our time with this crew, becase we love them. Pathfinder is the beginning of the end for Voyager and that's a rather bittersweet thing.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

It's Not A Ka'athyra

Ok. I've been playing violin for one week and even though I hate learning things in front of people I like having a project and I like charting my progress. Please keep in mind, as you watch this (with the volume very low) that I have no musical training (or natural ability) and I can't even read music. I'm learning all this mess as I go along. 
Some things I noticed after watching myself: my pinky and thumb are both bent the wrong way which makes the bow more rigid and keeps my hand from absorbing as much of the energy. Usually when I practice I try to keep an eye on that but I was really nervous about this. Anyway, it's something to work on. I've been using videos from the Online Violin and Piano Teacher on YouTube. She's a great teacher and she also has a blog where she talks about Doctor Who so that's pretty cool.

In other news, I'm still working on Voyager! I just finished The Voyager Conspiracy before the Thanksgiving break. (I've spent the break playing Star Wars: Battlefront with Scott and watching old Kung Fu and Samurai movies.) Voyager Conspiracy is the one where Seven of Nine tries to absorb knowledge while she sleeps (and who among us hasn't tried that?) because it's just so much more efficient but soon she becomes a tightly wound ball of paranoia and she ends up winding up the whole crew along with her. I sort of question whether everyone would really get to the point of wearing sidearms (especially Janeway and Chakotay) but it's a fun episode and--if this one had been made today--I would think all these theories came straight out of Tumblr headcanons because that's totally what I would do. As it is, it's still an interesting story and Seven's turn as a conspiracy nut is believeable and, in the end, it doesn't keep them from using a new ally's space catapult to propel themselves that much closer to home.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy

First off: I'm now on Instagram. (Hooray, Johnny!) And you can follow me there.

What else? Well, I watched Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy last week and I've been putting off writing about it because, honestly, it's probably my favorite episode of Voyager. I say "probably" because I'm not 100% sure that this is the case--I just can't think of one off-hand that I love as much as this one. And, I don't know, I know you've seen this one and you aren't here to assess whether or not you should watch it. But still, when I write about the best or my favorites or whatever I always feel a lot of pressure about it--like I won't do it justice. I'll spend days thinking about what I should say and how I should say it and then I'll end up skipping it because I'm afraid I just won't measure up.

And maybe that's why I love this one so much. I have a tendency to daydream. I also talk to myself--out loud--in grocery stores. Sometimes I imagine scenarios so vividly I'm surprised when they don't or didn't come true. Sometimes I live so much in my own thoughts that I find it really difficult to snap back to the real world.

In Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy, The Doctor gives himself the ability to daydream and explores his own, imagined, alternate reality. But, of course, it goes too far, gets everyone into trouble, and he has to (after much embarrassment) get them all out. The episode has humor and heart. It's a fun, fast-paced meta romp with a real, emotional core. The Doctor might fantasize about defeating The Borg and snogging Seven of Nine but really, what he wants, is to be a better version of himself. To be take seriously and be allowed to explore who he is.
Like The Doctor I also want to exceed the limitations of my original program. As a kid, raised by ravenous wolves artists, I was feral artsy. I moved around a lot. I never played sports or musical instruments or had lasting friendships. I was poor and we couldn't afford those things. I was itinerant and couldn't settle in. I was constantly starting over. And on top of all that, I had undiagnosed Asperger's Syndrome and required a very specific kind of instruction. Still, like The Doctor, I daydreamed about being more, being better. I pictured myself running/winning races, throwing a baseball, playing the violin, going out to coffee.

It wasn't until I was an adult and both more in control of my life and equipped with a better understanding of who I am and what I need that I could begin to pursue this stuff. Now I'm a power lifter. I'm not great but I try hard. I work my ass off and try to get better a step at a time. I've found that this sort of athletic enterprise suits me because I can do it by myself and I don't have to rely on a team.

I have friends who respect my weirdness and once a year or so I go out to coffee with them.

I write books and I paint pictures and I do it, as much as I can, on my own terms.

And, this week, I started playing the violin. I may actually start posting progress videos on here. I don't know if you're at all interested in watching me screech and scratch but I do think it would be an interesting endeavor.

The point is, I guess, that it's good to daydream. It's a safe way to explore alternate realities. It's a way to be more mindful of who you are and what you want. It's a way to escape the doldrums or stress of regular life. And that's fantastic and necessary. But, it's also a way to hide. To never find out whether you could squat 200lbs or play the violin or save the ship. Like The Doctor, I want to be a renaissance man. And I'm going to do my best to live up to his example and go for it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Someone To Watch Over Me

You guys know about Pygmalion, right?

Well, one time there was a movie starring Audrey Hepburn based on a musical starring Julie Andrews based on a play written by George Bernard Shaw based on a classic Ovid poem based on a Phoenician myth about a guy (Pygmalion) who carved a statue that was so perfect and beautiful he fell in love with it and then he kissed it and the statue turned into a lady who he then married.

Someone To Watch Over Me is based on that movie/musical/play/myth and it's pretty great. Outside of the fact that I wish Voyager had taken more time/chances to explore Seven's sexuality, I love this one. Jeri Ryan does an amazing job of timidly stepping into romantic waters without letting go of her Seven-ness and Robert Picardo as the lovesick Henry Higgins/The Doctor makes perfect sense. Likewise, when Seven learns of The Doctor's bet with Alfred Doolittle/Tom Paris, her emotions and embarrassment at being what seems to be the butt of a joke are on point.
I get Seven here. I like to do things perfectly and hate for people to watch me learn something and be awkward in my first attempts. I have a hard time following verbal directions and would rather do just about anything on my own. This means I have to absolutely dedicate myself to something to take the leap of learning in public. Of course, this whole blog has sort of been like that. I've learned as I've gone along and my writing and thinking and understanding of Trek and pop culture have developed and you've all been around to see it happen. I felt it was a risk worth taking and I haven't been let down.

Anyway, Someone to Watch Over Me is rather inspirational and it naturally lends itself to further mash-ups so I made this Seven-Fair-Lady piece based on an episode of TV based on a movie based on a musical based on a play based on a poem based on a myth:

PS- This one gets bonus points for adding the song, "Oh My Darling, Clementine" to the Doctor/Seven mythology which comes back in a powerful way in the Equinox episodes.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Generic Ensign's Log: Course Oblivion

Generic Ensign's Log

Stardate: 52586.3

10:10 AM
Today's the day! Tom and B'Elanna are finally tying the knot. Samantha, Harper, Nicoletti and I went in on replicator rations and got them an old timey radio for their quarters. I think they're going to love it! I also finally got a chance to spend some time with Harper's baby today. So sweet! She looks just like her father and I think that must be a comfort to Harper in some way. 

2:14 PM
What a beautiful ceremony! I wish I could've stayed with the party longer but I've got to head back to my duty station.

8:20 PM
Harper is sick and so is her baby. Samantha and I are heading down to sickbay to see them. I can't imagine what could be wrong. They both seemed fine earlier.

Stardate: 52586.4

 2:30 AM
Just got back from sickbay. We lost Harper and the baby.  Their skin was covered in silver lesions. B'Elanna was in there too. And four others. Is this some kind of plague?

4:11 AM
My skin is silver too. I can't sleep. I'm going down to sickbay even though it seems like there's nothing anyone can do. No one knows what this is yet.

10:43 AM
We are all melting. We aren't who we thought we were. We're nothing. We're dying.

12:16 PM
Why can't we just go back to our home? Why should we even be listening to "Janeway" she's not the real captain. This isn't the real Voyager. I'm not the real me.

 Stardate: 52586.5

We tried to set down on another Y class planet in the hope that it might sustain us but it was under the control of a hostile species. We moved on even though our course is hopeless. Samantha is dead. Naomi is dead. Sharr and Ashmore and Frank are gone. Everyone I cared about is dead and my skin is a silver sludge. Still, we're carrying on. There's a rumor that we're going to create a time capsule and leave a message for the real Voyager. I hope it works. I hope somewhere out there someone will know that, if nothing else, we existed. Maybe we weren't the real Voyager crew but we were real.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Poltergeists etc.


Last week (maybe because Halloween was over and he needed somewhere to live) a poltergeist moved into our house.

The doorbell transistor in the closet literally burned out (scorching our wall) and then I guess the house was afraid of setting aflame so it decided to put itself out--by springing a leak under the bathroom sink. Then our cable and internet went down. In one day I was visited by the electrician, the plumber, and the cable guy which could've been the world's most annoying and time-consuming porno except that I was also sick. Did I mention I was sick?

Two weeks ago I was sitting on the sofa finishing up a sketch. I'd been drawing for maybe ten hours that day after a month of really steady art. I felt a spasm in my chest and then I felt like I'd been kicked by a horse. (Side note: I actually have been kicked by a horse. I'm not utilizing hyperbole to make a point.) Scott suggested the ER and I compromised by going to Urgent Care. I've had a few scares before what with the feinting and all and they always want me to have my ticker checked (I'm an old man inside which is why I say words like "ticker" and also why people want me to have it checked) and I always say no because I feel totally fine but mostly because anytime I end up in the ER they run several (very expensive) tests and it's always ok. Anyway, the Urgent Care doc suggested that I strained/tore something in my chest wall and that it would take time to heal but it would probably be fine. But then several days went by and it didn't seem to be getting much better. Over the weekend it was pretty awful and I'd had enough.

I went back to the doctor yesterday and she said, again, that yes it's most likely a chest wall strain (my ticker seems fine) and that I need to seriously lay off it and not just kinda lay off (which, if I'm honest, is what I'd been doing) because continuing to exercise and draw for ten or fourteen hours a day is just going to exacerbate the problem. I got home hoping to rest up and not see another human for several days/years and the sprinkler system had exploded so, I guess, at least I knew my house was back to "normal." I resisted the urge to workout last night and went to bed.

This morning I woke up with blood pouring out of my nose because I'm a swamp creature from Appalachia and the desert doesn't agree with me. My sinuses are 90000% dried out and busted.

It's great, right?

Anyway, I just wanted to check-in here and let you know that, yes, I am still watching Voyager but I've had a lot of stops and starts lately and I'll get back on here asap but I don't think I'll be able to write about every episode before the year's out. So just take some time to mentally and emotionally prepare yourself for the skipping (or briefest mention) of a few episodes. I'll jam some tissue up my nose, get this ACE bandage wrapped around my ribs, turn on the Netflix and we'll all be good to go.

Monday, November 2, 2015

New Trek!

I texted my BFF the news and she said, "That's great! How awesome!"

Yeah. It is awesome. Isn't it?

So why do I feel such a big, weird lump in my stomach?

Maybe it's this:

Star Trek has been a huge part of my entire life. And, for the last three years, it's been even bigger. I watch Star Trek every day and I write about it every day and I'm the first person to come to the defense of the new movies when people want to get snarky about them. I've argued for years that we need another Trek on TV and now... suddenly... it's finally here.

Or it will be. In about a year. So, again, why am I nervous and not jumping up and down?
Maybe I'm nervous that it won't be as good as we all hope. Maybe I'm nervous that it will be amazing but CBS will cancel it after twelve episodes--and then we won't get any new Trek for a very, very long time. Maybe I'm nervous that I won't have the same level of confidence when writing about a current incarnation of Star Trek--that I'll be out of my element. Maybe I'm nervous that this whole MYOST project has been based so heavily on nostalgia that it won't translate to brand new TV.

And, maybe, just maybe... this isn't about me (for once) maybe it's that you'll have to pay for the privilege to watch the show. The new Star Trek will be available exclusively on CBS All Access--CBS' new streaming service. So, no, you won't be able to catch it with your existing Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime subscription. OR with your cable subscription. OR with your antenna. You'll have to pay 5.99/month just for CBS and its shows--all of which are otherwise available on a weekly basis the old fashioned way--except for the new Trek.

So maybe that's why it bothers me just a little bit.

I've gone over this whole rigmarole before but here it is again:
My dad grew up really poor in the foothills of Kentucky. He watched Star Trek with an antenna.
My mom grew up really poor high in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina. She tuned it in by adjusting the bunny ears on top of the family's black and white TV set.
I grew up (at times) really poor, moving from house to house, apartment to apartment, in and out of states, and I watched it with an antenna. Sometimes Picard was fuzzy but at least I could hear the message.
Thousands (millions?) of kids around the world have watched Star Trek new and in re-runs for the last five decades virtually for free. My best friend's dad watched it from his house in a war-torn Lebanon. My friend Rich tuned in from England. Whoopi Goldberg watched it in NYC.
Those epiosdes didn't cost a single darsek, dorak, or frang.

I'm not saying that the people over at the network ought to make a brand new Trek and put the show out for nothing. I understand that producing a big new SciFi weekly series is going to cost some serious quatloo and I'm guessing part of the reason it got this far was that a deal was struck--Trek has an existing fanbase and they're willing to pay so let's tell them to pay. But I do wonder if the higher ups have taken a page out of the Rules of Acquisition, realized how badly Star Trek fans want a new series, how many of us are willing to shell out our earnings for coffee mugs and replica phasers and tickets to cons and, why not, yet another TV subscription service. 
So, yeah, I'll pay 5.99 for the chance to watch a brand new Star Trek series. But what about kids like my mom and dad? What about kids like me? Since when is Star Trek speaking only to the folks with a sturdy Wi-Fi connection and an extra six bucks to fork over for a single channel subscription service? Isn't part of the point that the Federation is an equal opportunity kind of place? Isn't part of the message that the future is brighter and better and no one will want for anything--not even TV?

Again, whatever makes this show happen, I'm willing to do. We need another Star Trek on TV. And financing a show like this isn't cheap. I understand compromises have to happen. I will pay the ticket price as many times as it takes and so will a million other Star Trek fans. But, the reason there are so many of us, the reason we can fill hotels and movie theaters and convention centers is that we all had an opportunity to fall in love the first time--no strings attached, no credit card needed. 
Trek has given me a lifetime of excitement and exploration, wonder and romance, logic and reason, laughter and tears and it's never really asked for anything in return so I truly don't mind paying it back now. But I do hope that somehow, at some point, the new series will be made more accessible to the people who need it.

In the last few months, two of my childhood favorites have gone the way of pay-to-view: Sesame Street is the other one. HBO recently bought the similarly beloved and long-running institution and announced that we could pay for their service and get the episodes brand new or wait a couple months for them to show up on PBS. That's the compromise. You can still get it for free but you have to wait a little while. The show gets made, we don't have to worry about it totally disappearing, but it's still available to all kids with access to free TV. It a model that some people aren't super comfortable with but at least it keeps the show going.

I want to keep Star Trek going too. Since 1966 Star Trek has delivered a message of hope and optimism and, more than ever, we need that message. We all need that message. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015


Thirty days ago I'd never heard of Inktober. Until this year I'd not really posted much of my art in earnest but this year I wandered into Tumblr with the same attitude any thirty year old wanders into a party mostly inhabited by nineteen year olds, "What is all this? When can I go back to Netflix." But I do love the art there. And I love my own little curated feed. And that's how I came across the whole idea of "Inktober" wherein you make some art, in ink, every day.

I decided to do it. Why not? I'm between novels at the moment. I'm trying to prep for more graphic essays. I need the practice.

It occurred to me on the second day that I might want to do portraits of some of my friends and family and so I put the word out on facebook--if you're ok with me drawing you, feel free to opt in. I was floored by the support and encouragement I got. And, it ended up being a really beautiful experience. People I hadn't spoken to since high school were suddenly telling me really nice things about my work. Friends I'd lost touch with. Family I've never been close to. They came out of the woodwork to encourage me and it was, at times, overwhelming.

I spent pretty much all of October drawing with traditional media--something I'd not really done in years--and it was amazing. And, since this blog and you folks are such a big part of my life, I just wanted to tell you about it.

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