Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Adaptation Etc.

A little over two weeks ago a text conversation with my husband went like this:

Me: I got the heart monitor.

Him: How bad is it?

Me: There's a lot of cords and electrodes and a sensor and there's also a phone you have to wear around.

Him: Will you be ok with all of that?

Me: I am Borg. I will adapt.

So then two weeks went along. And in that two weeks a lot of stuff happened. I expected one very sick grandma to die (she didn't) and didn't even think about the other grandma (who then died) and I had problems with my work and with my art and my allergies wreaked havoc on my sinuses and chest. And my chest wall injury refuses to heal which means I've had to lay off benchpress (my favorite lift and lifting is how I avoid needing therapy/prozac) for three months and I really expected it to get better. And all the while I went around my house and the grocery store and the gym with electrodes attached to my body, cords hanging off, a sensor that beeped for no reason sometimes, a phone that vibrated noisily if I got too far away from it. I didn't like it but, like I said, I would adapt.

Or not.

I have very pale, very thin, very easily damaged skin. The electrodes were itchy and, after a few days, they started to burn. I rotated the patch placement but there's only so far you can move them as they have to be attached in specific places on your body to get an accurate picture of your heart. The skin wasn't healing nearly fast enough.

I finally called the doctor and asked if there was anything that could be done throwing around words like: welts, weeping, and scabs. They hung up and, I suppose, talked amongst themselves then called back after a few minutes and informed me that I could take the whole thing off and send it back--they had enough information. 

I actually, really did this. I boxed up my monitor and then went out for a run. It was glorious. I mean, the pollen count where I live is about 9000% at the moment so I was hacking and wheezing by the time I got back but, whatever, I was free. 

I didn't realize how much this thing had weighed on me. Maybe if my February hadn't already been so ridiculous. Maybe if I'd been able to go about my regular workout routine. Or maybe if my parents' moms weren't both dying at the same time with my dad's birthday sandwiched in for good measure. Or maybe if I'd managed to be productive in my writing or hadn't had to cancel two commissions. Or maybe if various other things hadn't happened, I wouldn't have felt so encumbered by the wires and the sensor and the stupid phone. As it was I felt like that time The Doctor wrote an autobiographical holonovel and everyone playing his program had to wear a fifty pound backpack to symbolize his connection to his mobile emitter. 
Photons be free! 
I realize, of course, that there are plenty of people who go about their days with assistance devices (and the problems they cause) as their constant companions and I'm bitching about something I only had to do one time for two weeks. But this is my blog and, as I've reiterated over and over again, it's as much (or more) about me as it is about Star Trek so I get to do crap like this. And, I think, part of my issue with all of this is that I couldn't, contrary to what I'd said, adapt. As soon as I had an option out, I took it. And that frustrates me for some reason. Not enough to make me put the monitor back on. I already walked that business down to the post office. But, still. It's bothersome.

Anyway, right this very second I'm continuing my re-watch of TNG and it's goofy as hell. 

They have no idea who they are or what they're doing. They're stuck in the trap of basically just mimicking the Trek that came before. It's all over the place. The Ferengis are ridiculous. The science is subpar. The dialogue is dated and heavy-handed. It goes on and on. Still, there is the seed of something great here. Patrick Stewart is obviously amazing. The rest of the crew has clear potential. It really is a new generation for Star Trek but it's young and awkward. It's like that gawky eighth grade school picture you never want anyone to find. But, of course, if you were never that weird, awkward kid, you'd never be the awesome adult (who complains relentlessly about trivial health issues on the internet) you are now. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

TNG Re-Watch: The Naked Now

So, The Naked Now. This is a classic. I realize it's a classic. I realize it spawned the classic phrase, "Fully Functional." It's memorable and it's weird and it's an homage to TOS's The Naked Time but I watched it yesterday and a few things struck me:

1- WTF? Why is there no kind of quarantine procedure here? The Enterprise investigates a ship where the crewmen were acting like a bunch of goons and ended up killing themselves yet they send a team over without any sort of sensible precautions. At least in The Naked Time they were wearing space suits--yes, they also stuck their grimy hands all over everything and then rubbed their noses but at least they made some kind of effort.
"But it itches!"
(You can't hear me but I'm totally doing a weird voice as I mock him.) 

2- Geordie, OMG why are you touching everything?!
And given that Geordie touches all the things, why, when he gets back does Crusher basically just say, "Welp. The scans aren't showing anything and there's no way that, on this mission to seek out all kinds of stuff we don't yet know about, there could be something I don't know about yet."
Crusher does keep him in the sick bay but not in any sort of quarantine so when he feels like it he just up and walks out.

3- Data can get drunk/sick/infected. This is a fairly dangerous precedent to set so early on. Data can contract a disease? (Would it then be referred to as a computer virus? BWAHAHAHAHA) I'm not saying this is the wrong thing to do, or even that actually stick to it. I can't really remember right now. Either way, it seems foolhardy to burn that bridge in episode two--even if Brent Spiner is a great comic actor and without these scenes we'd never have the phrase "fully functional" in our geek lexicon.

4- There is no effort made, at any point in this one, to contain all the drunk idiots. When they realize Tasha's drunk no one says, "We should probably put up some force fields around her" or "We should send some medical guys down there with gloves and masks to round her up." No. Just let her wander around the lower decks like it's a pub crawl. I'm sure everything'll be fine.

I still love this episode for all the reasons I detailed in my first post about The Naked Now. It's a classic for a reason. Trek is a show where people don't really talk about feelings or hug each other or cry. Getting them all wasted is actually a smart way to strip the TNG crew of their inhibition. They can reveal their desires, their pasts, their secret thoughts. Geordie wants to see like his peers. Troi wants Riker. Crusher and Picard want each other. Westley wants cake. And Tasha, heartbreakingly, wants gentleness.

But TNG is still in its infancy here. The last time I saw Naked Now was immediately following TOS and I was still enchanted by the early days and early ways of Trek. And, of course, there is something to be said for that era but Trek evolved, along the way, into something different. Something quieter with a more concerted effort to be thoughtful and scientific. Since I last saw Naked Now I watched all the rest of Trek and then all of Voyager over again. So things like The Doctor's quarantine field in sick bay (which he could enter because of his hologram-ness)and Janeway's ability to brainstorm along with the chief engineer are fresh in my mind. In this early episode Trek is still Adventure SciFi and that's not really a bad thing--even if I might balk at some of these issues now. Without Naked Now it would've taken much longer to get at all the character stuff. As it is, we get a shortcut into the unfinished business between Troi and Riker, the latent longing of Picard and Crusher, the secret desire of Geordi, and the disturbing, affecting background of Tasha. Without Naked Now do we ever ship PiCrusher? Certainly we would lose "Fully Functional" and, far more importantly, we would lose the heart in the first really, truly emotional episode of TNG-- Measure of a Man.

So, ok, I'll take the dodgy science and bad medical practices if it means that I still get this:

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

An Understanding

I realize I'm supposed to be writing about The Original Series but here it is February 17th and I'm doing this:
No, my socks do not match.

It's not exactly that I've had a hard time with The Original Series. I've rather enjoyed seeing Kirk and Spock and the mad sets and the velour tunics. But, as much as I love the curios weirdness of TOS, I will always find comfort in the familiarity of Next Generation. And, at the moment, comfort is what I need.

My grandma died nine days ago--not the one who was and still is in hospice care. The other one. The one who still seemed strong as an ox. It's strange.

She was my paternal grandma and we were never very close. Growing up, I often felt unwanted and she always managed amplify that feeling. She was blatant about the fact that I would never be treated as well as my male cousin because I wouldn't carry on my maiden name because I was a girl. She whipped me with a fly swatter when I was naughty. She told me terrible things about my mother (real or true, I'll never know) that no kid should ever hear. Our interactions were always thorny and tangled.

When I was a kid, living with my dad after my parents' divorce, he dropped me off every weekend with my grandparents. My cousin (just two years younger) was there as well and, in these weekends, he became my best friend. Every Sunday night we all watched Touched By An Angel on CBS followed by The X-Files on FOX. Angel was my grandma's show. X-Files was mine, obviously. In this way, we had an understanding. TV bonded us for two hours at a time every week. I came to enjoy Touched By An Angel and she ultimately fell in love with the paranormal weirdness of The X-Files. These Sundays became sacred.

She died abruptly but not suddenly--on a Sunday. She'd been taken to the hospital on a Friday and told she wouldn't have much time as the infection she'd developed was too advanced. It was enough time that my family (with the exception of me) could see her. Then on Sunday morning she asked to read the bible with her two daughters. My aunts picked out their favorite passages and she picked out hers and they read together and then she sat up in bed, smiled, and held her arms aloft as if she were entering an embrace. And then she died.

My grandma was herself until the end--and after. When my family took to the arrangements they found them already made. My grandma had planned her own funeral. She picked out her coffin, paid for her plot, and decided on the services well in advance. She'd even recorded video of herself to be played at the funeral.

It's only now that I see how alike we were. She planned everything out in advance. She charted weeks' worth of dinners before Pinterest made it en vogue. She planned out of habit, out of necessity. A lifetime of poverty had given her the shielding and know-how to not only survive but thrive in a pinch. She didn't want to be a burden on her family. Nor did she want to stick around so long everyone forgot the strong, capable, fierce woman she had been. And she had been fierce.

Maybe that's why we always butted heads. Maybe our personalities clashed because we are both so unrelenting, so determined, so fierce.

The last time I saw her was on Christmas Day. I was back in Kentucky and planned to see Star Wars with my dad. I was surprised that, not only were my dad and sisters there, but also my aunts and grandma who, in spite of her diabetes, seemed strong and healthy. The theatre was tiny and it was packed. We didn't sit together. But, just like all those episodes of The X-Files, my grandma watched, enjoyed, appreciated the movie. When it was over we met in the lobby and she grabbed my face and said, "I just wanted to see you one more time before I died. I want you to know how much I love you and how proud I am of you."

My grandma may have been misguided about a lot of things when it came to raising me, when it came to the measured way she doled out affection, when it came to the level of ferocity with which she protected her little family. I never understood her. Not until I was an adult and had more distance, not only from her but from my own childhood and from hers. She had been unwanted. Dropped off on one relative after another. A little girl in the foothills of Appalachia never made to feel worthy. When she found my grandpa she held on tight. When they had their only son, she held on tight. When they had two daughters, she held on tight. Constantly clutching at her family. Constantly providing. Constantly proving her worth--even to the people who loved her and relied on her. Lashing out at anything or anyone who might take them away from her. I get her a little better now.

I spent innumerable weekends sitting on the sofa beside her, calling a truce two hours at a time. I longed to be Scully. I longed to escape my feelings of unworthiness, to be capable and strong and fierce, to have adventures and see the greater world. I wonder now what my grandma wanted. Did she watch with an eye on Tess? Did she want to be tough and gruff with a gooey center? Did she want to be wise and all-knowing and smarter than everyone else in the room? Did she want to set an example of how to survive and maybe even thrive as a nobody-woman in a world that's always trying to beat you down? I don't know.

I'll always cherish those hours, though. Those two hours of TV, every weekend, when we were forced together and always, in spite of how different or how much the same were were, came to an understanding.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

TOS Re-watch: The Man Trap

I finally did it. I watched The Man Trap yesterday after pretty much taking a month off from Star Trek and blogging. And you know what's strange? It didn't occur to me until much later, as I was making dinner, that Leonard Nimoy is dead.

I watched The Cage last month, of course, and didn't even think about it. I watched the whole of The Man Trap, where we get our first real glimpse of what Trek would be, and I thought about Spock's character, I thought about the sets, the costumes, the way it's so rich that Kirk tells McCoy not to be ruled by his "glands." I didn't think about the fact that this is my first re-watch of The Original Series since Nimoy died.

For a moment I felt guilty. I should've spent several seconds in silent solemnity as the credits rolled for the first time and Nimoy's name appeared. But I didn't. I was finishing up a painting and drinking coffee and worried about nine million other things and it didn't even occur to me that I should feel anything other than the same familiar nostalgia I've always felt when watching Trek.

Maybe it's because we lost DeForest Kelley and James Doohan a long time ago. Maybe it's because I already felt Nimoy's death so keenly and let it go. Maybe it's because the actors are never their characters--as much as we might want them to be--and even if Nimoy did die, Spock is still right here on my TV. It's his familiar voice that lets me know everything will probably still be ok. It's his skinny build in his blue velour uniform that makes me smile. It's still his way of infuriating the more outwardly emotional people around him that I identify with.

In January I had my birthday--it was lovely. I saw Star Wars for the 8th and 9th times--and loved it more with each viewing. I kept having weird heart palpitations and (after ten years of not-very-well-explained fainting spells) finally made an appointment with a cardiologist. I painted very little. I wrote even less. I turned down multiple commissions and ended up cancelling one that was going too slowly. I worried about my health and then worried some more. What if there's something very wrong with me? What if I don't wake up one morning? What if I never finish my work? Why do I think my work is so important? I spent some (likely ill-advised) time on Web MD. I played so many hours of Fallout 4. I worked on the query for a book I'm dying to send out but anxious about its prospects. I actually picked up the phone and called my mom because her mom is going into hospice care. I felt annoyed with myself for not being more torn up about it.

Then, yesterday, I watched The Man Trap. And I didn't think about losing Leonard Nimoy. And that's ok. Leonard Nimoy was amazing. He brought life to a character that has been and will continue to be beloved by millions. And that character is still alive and well in marvelous technicolor. He's part of a greater family, a greater story, a greater home. It's a home that I can always go back to, after a month of strange ups and downs, and it won't mind how long I've been away. Like any home, it's flawed. It's getting on a bit. Its ideas, while forward for its time, are more dated now. Its music, clothes, and style are a little old fashioned. But I still love it. I know everything it's done for me over the years. Everything it will continue to do. It's still comforting, still comfortable, still safe to sit with Star Trek and know that, whatever has happened in my day, it's there.
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