Nice day blah blah did stuff etc etc okay, time to DORK OUT.
As for the new Star Trek: I liked the second part more than the first, because of pew pew pew and a bit more drama and some interesting set-pieces, but is it worth the money? I’m going to pay for one more, and it had better give me . . . what’s the phrase? A New Hope.
This being the United States in 2017, Internet trolls are accusing “Star Trek: Discovery,” the newest incarnation of the sci-fi franchise, due to début on television in the fall, of white genocide. The commotion began last week, when the show’s trailer first appeared on YouTube. It opens with a conversation between the two lead characters, a starship captain and her first officer, played by Michelle Yeoh and Sonequa Martin-Green, both women of color.
Very quickly, the comments section was filled with garden-variety Trekkie gripes—the Klingons looked weird, there was too much lens flare, the dialogue was hammy, the uniforms were non-canonical. Many commenters, though, were clearly appalled by the absence of white men in command positions. “Where is the alpha male that has balls and doesn’t take crap from anyone?” one asked. “Is everything going to have to have females in every fucking thing?” another asked. A third person called Yeoh “a reject from a overseas customer-support line.” A fourth dubbed the show “Star Trek: Feminist Lesbian Edition.”
Two and a half years ago, in the very same corners of the Internet, there was a similar campaign against “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” whose trailer featured a female protagonist and a black man wearing the iconic white carapace of a Storm Trooper. That incident was absurd enough, but in the case of “Star Trek” the outrage is even more confounding than usual. The franchise’s claim to fame, its central premise, is its advocacy for science, non-belligerence, and, above all, multiculturalism.
The Star Wars thing didn’t happen. Dur-hur idiots on Twitter, trolls, etc., made some brief noise that was exceeded by a factor of 100 by pushback and derision. I thought the Black Stormtrooper was a great chararacter, and "female protagonist" was well-sketched - because, at least to me, sitting in the theater wanting to like it, nothing slapped me across the face for the sake of alienating the fans because ha ha it's cool to spoil all their things, and everything was bound up in a good story, well told. The new SW movies were stories with an immense amount of lore behind it that wasn’t trashed or rewritten. They were just good yarns.
The 2-hour premier was not a good yarn, but let’s give it some slack because Trek premieres - in retrospect - are never all that hot. Discovery annoyed me from the start, though. We had Wise Captain Grandma walking with someone who was talking like that person you meet at a Halloween party who's really into being a Vulcan, but thinks it means being flat and arrogant. They're talking about Starfleet’s ethics and purpose as they head off to save Sand Locust Pod People. Missed opportunity. No one talks like that. People talk about the weather, the stone in their boot, the lousy batteries on the new communicators, crew gossip. It’s like a movie about the Iraq war that has a Marins saying “We are here to fulfill a noble UN mandate, but yet I cannot wonder how the Kurds fit into this scheme.”
“Patience, Lance Corporal Klusay. That is why I chose you for my battalion, six years ago. I knew you would have the very qualities the Armed Forces seek, yet would follow your heart and instincts.”
And then the starship comes down into the atmosphere to beam them up, because it’s pretty. Okay.
So. The Klingons, I thought, were great: I’m willing to give up everything we knew about them, based on the performance of Chris Obi as T’Kuvma. Too much costume, though, and the ships suffer from Cavernous Ship Syndrome, like seeing a show where the French sent out starships that had spaces as big as Notre Dame because Culture.
There was no sense of the Federation ship - its spaces, its layout, its character. The new transporters are horrible. The bridge is too big. The screens everywhere seem designed along one idea: let’s give the crew far more information than they can possibly apprehend.
The battle was visually impressive, but really nothing new: ships lining up on the same plane shooting at each other. The new tech - inter-ship holographic communication, the ability to reach out and call up Sarek to make a holo-appearance on demand - requires you to say “well, this show isn’t what they said it was. There’s no reason this couldn’t be set 100 years after the TNG timeline.”
But then there’s the heroine. Didn’t find her likeable. She’s a grab-bag of attributes - Logical! Brilliant! Strong! Dedicated! A Maverick! - but they didn’t cohere into anyone I’d find interesting over the course of a series. Yet.
But you must be impressed, because otherwise you’re part of the racist alt-right gamer gate pushback against diversity.
Uh - no. She’s uninteresting. So far. She’s only Awesome because the script says she’s awesome. She ticks off all the Badass Boxes because it is required to have Strong Female Characters who are, say, KirkPlus, imbued with all the things the writers find admirable but decline to give to a male character, because that would be A) retrograde, B) a missed opportunity to make a Point, and C) just what the wrong fans want.
It seems that a lot of modern-day geek culture is in the hands of people who have an idea about who the wrong fans are, and what they want, and why they should not have it.
BTW, I didn’t like Majel Barrett’s character in the Trek pilot, either. She was a pill. But take her basic unemotional attributes, and you have Seven of Nine - except that Seven had the gift of sarcasm, and an actress who could deliver the lines like someone casually flicking icicles over her shoulder and impaling someone 20 feet away. Character + writing + acting: bingo.
The New Yorker article says that Trek fans, in their desire for some old classic Trekness, are harkening back to an unenlightened 60s idea.
Indeed, “Star Trek” can often be seen as patronizing, if not conveniently delusional. The United Federation of Planets, despite its vaunted tolerance and inclusiveness, is mostly led by older white men. The explorers’ motives are represented as pure, unencumbered by cultural chauvinism, yet their science always prevails over aliens’ indigenous superstitions.
I thought we were supposed to believe in science.
As for everyone pushing back against Micheal (that’s her name! Because of course it is and what’s the matter with you) as the main focus, because they’re “Bannonite” trogs - Eh. Avery Brooks left me cold the first few seasons of DS9, because he played it cold, but he ended up being the most impressive “captain” in the entire franchise. You can make the argument that the best Vulcan of them all was Black. Voyager will always be the show that’s really better than you think, and Janeway was smart, capable, compassionate, ready to target phasers the second it became obvious that was necessary. Add Seven of Nine, and the show was basically about two strong women, and some other guys who never moved an inch from their basic character description - except for the Doctor, who was artificial.
And so on. It’s a matter of writing and acting, of developing characters you like, and in the world of Trek "firsts" matter only for the PR department, not the fans. Female captain? Of course. Female First Engineer? Why not. Black Vulcan? He’s great.
The Trump phenomenon was "front and center in our minds," Harberts admits when talking about the post-Fuller production process. "We felt like it would be interesting to really look at what's going on in the United States." He mentions that among the show's antagonists are an ultra-religious and violent Klingon faction whose rallying cry – "Remain Klingon" – is intentionally reminiscent of "Make America Great Again.”
"It's a call to isolationism," the showrunner says in reference to the slogan. "It's about racial purity, and it's about wanting to take care of yourself. And if anybody is reaching a hand out to help you, it's about smacking it away . . . That was pretty provocative for us, and it wasn't necessarily something that we wanted to completely lean into. But it was happening. We were hearing the stories.”
As regular readers of this site know, I can’t stand Donald Trump. But the reasons for his election are more . . . diverse, shall we say, than some monomaniacal hysterics would like to admit. I know this because I probably know more Trump voters than the people who are certain they know what lurks in the hearts of Trump voters. Like gender, it’s a spectrum!
Anyway: they can’t even get their analogies straight. The messianic Klingon, who wants to return to the true teachings of Kahless, is deeply religious; Trump’s the kind of guy who goes to church maybe for Christmas and doodles a KILROY WAS HERE on the donation envelope with the dull stubby pencil provided on the back of the pew. The usual Klingon term for the various factions - Houses - is translated in the show as “Tribes,” which is different. Houses are political dynasties; Tribes are defined by language and culture. If you believe Trump is about Racial Purity, then he’s not about reunited the tribes. The Klingon, if he really was invested KAGA, would be about establishing the primacy of one tribe over the rest.
Let’s also consider what our heroine wants to do in the first ep SPOILER I GUESS: blow the bejeezus out of the Klingon ship before they have the chance to strike. It’s something of a cowboy maneuver, and it’s in direct opposition to Captain Grandma’s wait-and-see / let’s talk approach, which gets everyone killed. She’s right, in a sense, even though her rationale boils down to “I phoned my dad to ask him about this guy who’s harassing me, and he said I should shoot him in the head,” but everything she does is so off-the-books you think “well, her career’s over, until the writers introduce a character who likes her spunky take on this whole ‘chain-of-command’ thing.”
I’ve said before that future historians will find Trek an interesting cultural signifier because of its emanations and penumbras, not its specific allegories. TOS was JFK optimism played out on the Wagon Train to the Stars, with hard adversaries of a Commie stripe: Klingons as a stand-in for the brutal Reds, Romulans for the crafty ChiCom variant. TNG was a vision of a post-perestroika cooperative order; DS9 was a post-Soviet show about the Middle Europe of Space. Voyager was end-of-history 90s “now what?” conjecture, uncharted space. Enterprise is a subject for another entire entry - a brief run as a specifically post 9/11 show, and then something that retreated into a Star Trek show about Star Trek.
Making Discovery about Trump is like making the original show about LBJ. TOS had its moments that reflected its times; there’s a little Vietnam here and there. But the ideas and conflicts in the stories were timeless, which is why we don’t see old eps where Kirk has to fire on a ship on the Golftonquin.
Here’s the bottom line. Starfleet is not multicultural. Starfleet is monocultural. The United Federation of Planets is, by definition, multicultural, but only to a certain extent; if your culture demands that other races be eliminated, you ain’t part of the Federation. There are basic beliefs upon which its members must agree, and tolerance for mild divergent opinions is required. (I.e., Andorians must agree that Tellurites can be on the same ship, and they can probably request that they be bunked on different decks, but they cannot believe that they must be killed if their body odor gets too strong.) No one has to like everything about everyone else.
But Starfleet requires a certain set of beliefs necessary for the operation of a vast armada of spacefaring vessels. Pacifists cannot serve on tactical. If you do not believe in modern medicine, you cannot serve in sickbay. If your culture is completely egalitarian you cannot be expected to hold a captaincy. And so on. The monoculture is necessary if anything is to be done, inasmuch assome shared values and beliefs are required for the organization to work.
Diversity within an overarching set of shared cultural values is what the series is about, and that is what makes it American.
“Discovery” has the best opening credit sequence of any of the series.
Best? Oh. Come on.
I still get a twinge of joy seeing the USS Shoehorn ply the inky depths. And then there's this one, confident, martial, at rest, on alert:
Here is the new one, which is better than any of the others:
No, it’s not. It’s a tool catalogue without an actual theme that borrows on past accomplishments.
At least no one's singing.
The guy perhaps best known for not being able to sleep with Marilyn Monroe:
There’s something about the sponsor ad at the end that makes me miss something about America.
Wikipedia, because of course every show has its own entry:
Tom Ewell stars in this half-hour sitcom as Tom Porter, a real estate agent whose entire life, away from the office, was dominated by females.
The New York Times said:
"The Tom Ewell Show (CBS) leads a relentless parade of situation comedies, all designed to show that American family life is as cute as a freckle on a five-year-old. The show, which might also be titled Father Knows Nothing, presents the comic with the excavated face as a bumbler named Potter who is trapped in the customary format: Harassed Man Beaten Down by Wife, Three Daughters, Mother-in-Law. In the opening episode, Ewell could find no better way to outsmart his spendthrift women than closing his bank account and ruining his own credit. For those who may have tuned out early, the women were all set to start spending again.”
And we think that the weak, female-dominated, useless husband is an invention of our own times.
Welcome to Kermit, named for Teddy Roosevelt’s son. In 1924 it had three houses. But:
On July 16, 1926 oil was discovered in Hendrick oilfield, near Kermit, and the town experienced a boom. In 1927, a population of 1,000 was reported; by 1929 that number increased to 1,500. On March 4, 1929, the Texas-New Mexico Railway reached the town.
In the 1950s the town continued to grow; housing additions were built. By 1960, the city had a population of 10,465 and 260 businesses, and additional growth estimated to be over 12,000 during the decade.
Not sure the oil industry is firing on all cylinders these days.
Trees, old-time lampposts, empty store:
It looks as if they put the lamppost in te middle of the sidewalk.
They always think the trees are an improvement.
“What do you want the building to look like?
“A good-natured bondage mask.”
"Any era in mind?"
"How we think the 80s looked in Miami."
“Architects? Don’t seem many of ‘em ‘round these parts. We leave it up to the bricklayer, mostly. He knows how to leave spaces for windows and doors, and that works out well enough.
Buckaroo Revival with those odd Texas Steps:
Bob, tear it down. Even the pet doors are gone.
The Courthouse Square. As basic as it looks, but these areas always give a place an idemtity.
Finally: Yes, that’s a seventies bank. Why do you ask?
The roof looks like they selected an area in photoshop and dragged it down one pixel at a time. The banks of this era had a style as much as the old Greek / Roman style, and perhaps it was more successful: that temple might not always be a bank, but buildings like this were always a bank. Or a government office.