Informational Segregation

Discover the incredible true story of Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols and the US space program. Stream the documentary, Woman In Motion, exclusively on Paramount+ in the US on June 3.

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Woman in Motion (2021)
Paramount PlusWoman In Motion – Apr 5, 2021

I love that this documentary exists. I need to say that first. I love the fact that one of my favorite actors had such a prominent role in diversifying NASA. Nichelle Nichols was the daughter’s idol as a child. She has a version of every Uhura doll that has been released since they first started making Star Trek toys back in 1974. The vendor who sold her that doll cried when she ripped it out of the package and started playing with it right there in front of him back in 1996. She is a fan and the daughter of true fans of Star Trek, the only series.

Got that? Good. I love the fact that this documentary exists, but I won’t be subscribing to Paramount+ just to see it. This documentary should be available streaming everywhere. Why won’t I subscribe to Paramount+ just to see it?

I won’t subscribe because we are forgetting the very lesson that Nichelle Nichols is promoting in the documentary.

Where are my people?

They aren’t visible because they were denied information. They were not just denied access, but they were denied even the information that would allow them to do jobs at NASA. This was done as part of the pursuit of insuring that the majority of the benefits created by technology landed in white men’s hands. They weren’t told that this was something they could do, and so consequently there were few who even asked if they might do it.

Hidden Figures (2016)
20th Century Studios UKHidden Figures | Official HD International Trailer – Sep 20, 2016

You would never have seen this movie made by a Hollywood studio at any point prior to 2016. Barack Obama’s election made Hidden Figures possible, because the popularity of Obama made movie investors sit up and take notice, be willing to hazard real money on a movie about the black women who were the pioneers of diversity in American government.

These women had to overcome obstacles that the average person has no way to understand. Not only the fact that they were women and they were black in the United States of the 60’s, but that the information that they needed to be who they were was reserved for people who could pay to access that information.

Information is for everybody who wants it, everyone who needs it, not just the people who can afford it. Information is not just for the people who subscribe to the correct entertainment channels and pay the right amounts to the right people. Information is for everybody, and we are allowing profit motives to re-segregate us into smaller and smaller groups. We are allowing copyright to Trump the best interests of our nation and our world.

This has to stop. We have to stop allowing copyright holders to refuse access to their products unless you are willing to pay them for it. This is the basis for the creation of libraries, the understanding that information should be available to everyone. The library should be a thing that you can access by computer or cellphone. You shouldn’t have to get in a car and go find a building somewhere in your city in order to borrow something from your library.

I look forward to seeing Woman in Motion and Hidden Figures played to children in schools, to adults who don’t think women and blacks should be allowed to do the same things as white men. They are the people who need this experience, and it should be made available to them, not just to the people willing to pay Paramount or Disney or any other copyright holder directly for their jealously hoarded intellectual property.

Drowning in Depression

What makes a person go online begging for help from total strangers, and then when someone tries to understand the problem, tries to understand why this stranger is publicly threatening to kill themselves, they turn on the would be helper and try to submerge them in their ire?

As I deleted all my comments from the thread that started this thought train moving and reported the post as a violation of the subreddit’s rules (what I should have done in the first place and will do the next time I see one of these kinds of posts there) I was reminded of this passage from Dune:

“Once on Caladan, I saw the body of a drowned fisherman recovered. He–“

“Drowned?” It was the stillsuit manufacturer’s daughter.

Paul hesitated, then: “Yes. Immersed in water until dead. Drowned.”

“What an interesting way to die,” she murmured.

Paul’s smile became brittle. He returned his attention to the banker. “The interesting thing about this man was the wounds on his shoulders –made by another fisherman’s claw-boots. This fisherman was one of several in a boat — a craft for traveling on water — that foundered . . . sank beneath the water. Another fisherman helping recover the body said he’d seen marks like this man’s wounds several times. They meant another drowning fisherman had tried to stand on this poor fellow’s shoulders in the attempt to reach up to the surface to reach air.”

“Why is this interesting?” the banker asked.

“Because of an observation made by my father at the time. He said the drowning man who climbs on your shoulders to save himself is understandable — except when you see it happen in the drawing room.” Paul hesitated just long enough for the banker to see the point coming, then “And, I should add, except when you see it at the dinner table.”

Dune by Frank Herbert (1965) pg. 139

(a Reddit thread discussing what the scene means)

When you are drowning in depression, it will do you no good to stand on the shoulders of the swimmer next to you. You will both surely drown if you do that. This is why rescuers in actual water emergencies frequently have to wait for a drowning person to stop fighting the water before they can attempt to pull the victim to safety. A drowning person will drown you and themselves in their frantic attempts to stay up in the air. They don’t know what they are doing. A depressed person needs therapy, and solid, stable people around them. Not more depressives that will pull them down deeper into despair.

Had I not found aid in the form of disability payments back in 2005, I would have been dead in 2006. I had it all planned out. I just had to start the plan in motion and it would have worked flawlessly. Probably. I was drowning in depression, convinced that I had to keep working to have any value to the people around me. It took almost another decade for me to figure out that I had value that wasn’t calculated in dollar figures, something that a working person who is convinced that they must keep working to have a meaningful life can’t understand. Not really.

I know this because I was one of those people and I can see the train of thought that lead me from my deepest pit of despair to where I am now. But I’m still burdened with the same chronic illness that forced me out of work twenty years ago. I know this because any time I forget who and what I am and try to start back into my old ways the vertigo sets back in and I have to take a week off in order to recuperate. Just like I had to do every other week back in the bad old days when I thought force of will alone would see me through.

I cannot save another chronic illness sufferer if that person can’t understand how I’m still treading water all these years later and flings insults at the methods I employ in order to cope. Hopefully they will also survive long enough to see the error of their ways. I won’t know because I can’t save them and save myself at the same time. They’ll have to find someone with a firmer grasp on reality than I have. I have people who want to see me keep on living. I hope that they do too.

Short Wave – How To Reach Out When Someone You Know May Be At Risk Of Suicide – April 5, 2021

Postscript

She was going to have to give up nursing in order to treat her Meniere’s if she had Meniere’s. She didn’t have vertigo, so I tried to explain to her that she probably was misdiagnosed and should seek a second opinion from a professional. She then scathingly informed me that she was a professional who damn well knew what was wrong with her. She had endolymphatic hydrops that she developed from exposure to a chemical (she never said what) and hydrops was Meniere’s. She said I needed to educate myself. She then attacked me for being on disability for 15 years, leeching off the government as she put it.

It isn’t Meniere’s if you know the cause. It isn’t Meniere’s if you don’t display the full spectrum of symptoms. It isn’t Meniere’s if you can cure it. I wish I didn’t have Meniere’s. What she has isn’t Meniere’s. What she did have was evidence that:

It has been said that he who is his own lawyer, is sure to have a fool for his client; and that he who is his own physician is equally sure to have a fool for his patient.

quoteinvestigator.com

Justice League SNAFU?

I was blindsided at about six in the morning with a reference to the Snyder Cut on some Reddit thread somewhere, and I had to go look up what the fuck a Snyder cut was so I could understand what it was people were arguing about. Ah. the Justice League movie that a bunch of digital people seem to think would have been better the way Zack Snyder shot it. Before Joss Whedon got his accused sexual harasser fingers all over it. That movie came out when?

Justice League (2017)

2017? Why are we still talking about this? Oh, right. The Wonder Woman movie I didn’t see this year. I’ll watch it when it gets to a streaming service I already pay for. The first one was good, we’ll see what that one is like eventually. When I see it. As far as Justice League goes, I’d be willing to bet that either version will end up feeling about the same in the end, and Snyder’s version would have been far too long to be successful in theaters.

I wandered over to Facebook this afternoon, and they are bitching about Justice League there too. Now I’m thinking what the actual fuck is going on? Because this smacks of some serious evidence that we have too much time on our hands these days. It’s either than or an orchestrated campaign to get people to talk up the Snyder cut of Justice League right before the revised version of the movie drops.

You like a film you like a film…you don’t you don’t. Seriously, so what? Life is a lot less stressful saying ”so what?”

I think we have forgotten how to say “I don’t know” which is far more important than just ignoring the things that piss us off. You don’t have to say “so what” to just keep scrolling on.

For most people it is safe to say “Don’t like it? Don’t watch it and don’t dwell on it.” I myself will frequently queue a movie I like when some other movie I’ve just watched for the first time leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Bad images behind my eyes. But if you aspire to be a storyteller yourself, it is important to understand how the story doesn’t work and how it might be fixed. There is also a use for criticism when you are trying to describe to others what the film was about and why it did or didn’t work for you.

Criticism is at the same time all too easy and way harder than most people give it credit for being. How to talk about a thing without spoiling it? How to offer pointers that are constructive for the next person to pick up that script? I mean, if all you have to say is “it sucked” you probably shouldn’t bother to say anything. Scroll on. If you have more to say than that, then sharpen your pencils and get to work on it. Don’t expect to be thanked for your efforts, though.

As far as Justice League goes, I didn’t talk about it on the blog when it aired and I watched it, and I didn’t talk about it because it made no real impression on me. I’d rate the movie with a solid three stars. It was popcorn and it was enjoyable while it was on. I was never emotionally moved by DC characters in comic books, although Batman was a comic I would occasionally read. His movies have been hit and miss over the years, more misses than hits.

I never cared for Superman because there is no real story to be told when you have an invulnerable protagonist, which is why the writers had to invent so much Kryptonite to affect him that there is enough kryptonite in the DC universe to make a neutron star out of the stuff. Maybe that explains his strength? I watched his movies because they were on, and I liked the first two largely because I had a thing for Christopher Reeve whether I cared for the character of Superman or not. I’ve seen the later movies as well, and as someone who was not emotionally invested in the character, I have to say I liked the extended version of Batman vs. Superman. It had just the right amount of grim reality to it to make the story interesting to me. Aside from which, the ending sets us all up for the beginning of the Justice League movie. If you haven’t seen the extended version of Batman vs. Superman you won’t understand why there is no Superman at the beginning of Justice League, and that is going to throw anyone off the story right from the start.

Why are people bitching about Justice League anway? They should try watching Super Friends like I did with my sibs back in the 70’s. That show will stop anyone from ever taking those characters too seriously. I’ll happily watch the Snyder cut if it ever shows up somewhere I can watch it without having to expend too much effort, but I’m not so interested in seeing it that I’d start talking about it on social media everywhere, all the time. That smacks of obsession. If you are the one doing that, turn the screen off and go outside to breath for a few hours. Try some meditation. Come back when you’ve found your equilibrium again.

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Retconned To Death

A meme popped up in a facebook group I’m part of, a meme asserting that Babylon 5 was the third best Star Trek series of all time. I can see how this claim might be true. Since Deep Space 9 was in actuality the third Star Trek series, and since J. Michael Straczynski (Joe) suddenly came up with the seed money to create Babylon 5 after suing Paramount, the owners of the Star Trek franchise, and then dismissed the suit after an agreement with Paramount, after Paramount realized how much their new series looked like Joe’s pitch to them for Babylon 5; it is quite easy to say that the third Star Trek series was Babylon 5, if not the third best series of Star Trek.

The meme’s real problem becomes apparent when it suggests that the second best Star Trek series after The Original Series (The Only Series) was Star Trek: Enterprise (long time readers of this blog should have been able to hear my head explode when I read that name off the list) I must object to this outrage in the strongest of terms. Enterprise was crap. It was so much of a crap show that I used it to illustrate just how bad science fiction television can be:

…But I’ll go even farther and state for the record that everything Star Trek after and including a good portion of Star Trek: Voyager has been crap. One could argue (and one did) that at least half of TOS season 3 was crap:

Half of TNG was really boring and terrible. Half of Voyager was terrible. It is still the greatest and most culturally significant franchise in SF history. When you get right down to it, art is hard. Consistent quality over a period of decades may not be a reasonable expectation. Might as well savor the high points and forget the terrible stuff. Forget the terrible stuff except for that Voyager episode when they went too fast and turned into lizards. That episode is too unforgivably stupid to forget.

I have to disagree with him though. There is no saving Star Trek at this point. Star Trek has irredeemably jumped the shark. After Star Trek: Discovery promoted itself by having a character claiming a planet with a shredded battle flag. After Star Trek: Lower Decks descended into the gags we fans lamely thought up for ourselves forty years ago (sealing a crewmans ass closed with Starfleet’s medical equipment? Has that joke showed up yet? I’ll bet it has) These shows make Star Trek: Enterprise look like high drama now.

I know, I know, there was a post I wrote that responded to a suggestion that Star Trek jumped the shark way back at the beginning of this blog:

…and I went on a few short years later to declare Star Trek dead all on my own:

However, like most things, there remains still more to say on this subject. There is a reason that Galaxy Quest is considered one of the best Star Trek movies (in the top ten) a reason that the riffs on the ideas first presented in Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry seem to be spreading outside of science fiction television and are presented widely now as just the way people should try to be. That reason? Star Trek has ceased to be on the cutting edge of television and forward-thinking philosophy. It has become a myth that overshadows the current attempts to reclaim the glory that was 1966 Star Trek. A franchise destroyed by its corporate owner’s inability to understand what it was that made the show special:

Planet Money – How Desi Invented Television – January 22, 2021

I’m not just talking about poor scripting or bad acting or stupid technobabble or whatever (Voyager lizard episode fresh in the mind now, thanks) Gene Roddenberry was part of a revolution that was not of his own creation, and Star Trek was one of the first new shows to come out of that vision of what television could really be if we gave it a chance. Desi Arnaz had a vision of making television in a way that had never been done before, and Gene Roddenberry had an idea for a show that would present people in a way that had never been seen before. They, together with the cast and crew of the 1966 Star Trek series, created something that has never been equalled since that time in television history.

None of the movies ever came close to being what TOS was when it aired. None of the series ever came close to equaling TOS in its effect on American society. No series since TOS has come close. This is a simple fact established in the number of myths that have moved out into society at large from inside the show and the fans of that show that was. Everything created since the 1966 series has been an attempt to recapture the essence of that show and harness it as a money making vehicle for its corporate owners. All of it has done nothing more than cement TOS as the only Star Trek worthy of being called Star Trek.

Everything since the 2009 Abramanation has represented a wholesale abandonment of Roddenberry’s philosophy for the future society the stories are supposed to be about. This betrayal was radically on display in Into Darkness:

…Where, not only does an admiral of starfleet fire on his own ships, killing his own crews, but he attempts to hold them hostage with terroristic threats. This is ironically the opposite lesson from the one we learned from Space Seed, the TOS episode that featured the character Khan seen recreated in some Mirror, Mirror version of himself in Into Darkness, the lesson being that terrorism no longer motivates individuals to comply with the demands of the terrorist in that distant future. That the knowledge that terrorists use our own emotions against us empowers us to defy our own emotional drives and makes us stronger than the terrorists could ever be. That lesson forgotten, the actors go through the same old cardboard cutout routines that they are paid to perform. The cardboard villain fails. The paper hero triumphs. The popcorn is stale and the sodas are flat, and I am no longer interested in the things that exploit my nostalgia for days gone by.

J.J. Abrams not even taking an interest in what kind of stories Star Trek had been about prior to his helming the 2009 movie shows itself in the works that he has created since 2009. Paramount’s insistence on treating the shows they’ve generated since 2009 as all equally Star Trek has driven off a lot of the original fans of the show. It is one thing to love Galaxy Quest and laugh at the good humored poking of fun at all things Trek from outside the Trek universe. It is another thing to consume this stuff that calls itself Trek and then continue treating it as if it is all worthy of fannish devotion.

My conclusion stated flatly? It isn’t worth the investment of time to even consume and then write criticisms of it, and I won’t waste even more time talking to people who think it is worth that investment of time. This is just more of the same from me on the subject of nostalgia. I don’t waste time arguing with Star Wars fans about the debacle that has been the Star Wars franchise since the beginning. There are other worthy subjects out there to spend time on, so I’ll do that instead.

Since this article started with my objections to a Babylon 5 meme, I want to point out that Joe’s worthy efforts to present his five year story arc failed in one important way. He had to fundamentally alter the story arc in season two in order to allow for the failing health of Michael O’Hare. Consequently the show did not end with the unavoidable destruction of the station and everyone on her at the time, as the arc was originally plotted out to end. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the show right up to the point where Claudia Christian left at the end of season four. I felt season five was seriously weak tea, an interesting sideshow of events that had to happen in order to fill out the final season that Joe didn’t think he would be allowed to produce because of the way the show’s broadcast contracts were mishandled by the various television networks of the time.

Since we’re all about harvesting nostalgia for the good old days for its dollar value in the here and now, why don’t we try that with the second most influential series in television history? Babylon 5, the first of the long-form story arc multi-season shows that aired on television, the show that lead to the kind of scripting that you find in almost every single television series on the air today. Gone are the one-off shows that do not develop characters from episode to episode in a glorious never-changing now. The characters reflect on the things we’ve seen them do, and their previous actions are referenced in later episodes directly even if the stories themselves don’t flow from episode to episode seamlessly. Babylon 5 gave us that.

Let’s take that original Babylon 5 five year story arc and generate a new show with new actors that begins and ends the arc as Joe intended when he plotted it out and pitched it to the networks back in 1992. New scripts, new characters, same overarching story. Let’s do it just to show how malleable the narrative device is, how influential all the different parts that go into creating a show can be.

Maybe then we can understand just how Desi Arnaz was as influential as Gene Roddenberry was in the making of Star Trek, but less influential than the authors of the scripts and the actors in front of the cameras were. Maybe then we’ll understand what we sacrifice when we let people shake us down for nostalgia’s sake. At the very least we’ll get the conclusion to Babylon 5 that we were promised when we started watching it back in 1993. One that will look great on HD television, even.

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Another image from my lovingly maintained electronic shrine to Babylon 5, transferred from computer to computer since 1993. Image found available online here

Featured image: Star Trek’s Enterprise superimposed over a satellite image of Earth

Accendi l’arcobaleno (Light Up the Rainbow)

I can’t understand a word of this song, but it still moves me to tears:

Accendi l’arcobaleno Song by Andrea Mingardi Simona Camosci and Coro in corsia

The composition reminds me of the way that We Are the World was presented back at the dawn of time, internet-wise. According to the segment of Deutsche Welle – Inside Europe 18.03.2021 (Dany Mitzman) that brought the song to my attention, the proceeds from the sales of the song will go to funding the education of more nurses in Italy and Europe. (Spotify Link)

“At that time of turmoil and sadness, and a profound need to cling on to something good, I wanted to write optimistic lyrics that would project me towards the end of this tragic event,” she tells the BBC.

When the Covid crisis hit Bologna early last March, she had just transferred from the local health centre to a specialist hospital clinic. After 36 years, she had been hoping to spend the final chapter of her career in a less frenetic environment.

Within a week her new workplace had become Bologna’s designated Covid hospital and she was at the checkpoint, filtering patients.

Simona’s idea was to put together a group of nurses to record the song, then use it to raise money to set up bursaries at the University of Bologna. If there was one thing the pandemic had highlighted, it was the scarcity of qualified nursing staff in Italy.

BBC

A hat/tip is owed to sky.it. It was because I discovered the video on their site that I knew it had to exist somewhere. Damn, was it hard to find on Youtube. The only way I ended up finding the official Youtube video was to follow a link from this Facebook profile that came up in a Google search for the nurses name. A hat/tip is owed to them as well. The fundraising link triggers trojan warnings on my internet security program, so I haven’t been able to go to the site without disabling security and I don’t have a disposable computer system to surf with at the moment. I consider that sentence to be a Fair warning for anyone who is concerned about internet security.

Elementary Class Consciousness

At the end of the room a loud speaker projected from the wall. The Director walked up to it and pressed a switch.

“… all wear green,” said a soft but very distinct voice, beginning in the middle of a sentence, “and Delta Children wear khaki. Oh no, I don’t want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They’re too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly colour. I’m so glad I’m a Beta.”

There was a pause; then the voice began again.

“Alpha children wear grey They work much harder than we do, because they’re so frightfully clever. I’m really awfuly glad I’m a Beta, because I don’t work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don’t want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They’re too stupid to be able …”

The Director pushed back the switch. The voice was silent. Only its thin ghost continued to mutter from beneath the eighty pillows.

Chapter Two of BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley

facebook.com/r.anthony.steele

Finite Understanding

I never am really satisfied that I understand anything; because, understand it well as I may, my comprehension can only be an infinitesimal fraction of all I want to understand about the many connections and relations which occur to me, how the matter in question was first thought of or arrived at.

Ada Lovelace (?) (datanerds.com) (Amazon.com)

A hat/tip is owed to The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe #818; however, I could find no source for the quote. I haven’t decided if it is worth the effort to go through all her papers in order to find it or not find it.

Ada Lovelace helped write programs for a computer before there was a computer to run them on. She translated articles on Babbage’s analytical engine from other languages. She experimented with electricity and tried to write a calculus for the brain to explain why we think and feel the way we do.

Not only was she born before her time, but I would say that her time has not yet arrived. Imagine what she could have achieved had she been born tomorrow?

[The Analytical Engine] might act upon other things besides number, were objects found whose mutual fundamental relations could be expressed by those of the abstract science of operations, and which should be also susceptible of adaptations to the action of the operating notation and mechanism of the engine.

Ada Lovelace (Wikipedia)

Featured image: a watercolor of Ada found on Wikipedia

Change

What is more important to be about change as a society; changed individuals or a changed social structure? The answer to that is very simple because, if you don’t start out with individuals who are determined to change a thing, you will never get a political consensus.

Bayard Rustin
Throughline – Remembering Bayard Rustin: The Man Behind the March on Washington – February 25, 2021

Squeaking for Hugs

“This is Bonnie and Clyde,” said Will Whisennand, who oversees care of the mammals at the Austin Aquarium, as he walked into the otter exhibit. “They squeak when they’re happy. They squeak when they’re sad, when they’re excited, when they’re hungry. They’re always squeaking.”

kut.org – During The Winter Storm, The Austin Aquarium Went Dark And Cold. The Otters Snuggled For Warmth
KUT – During The Winter Storm, The Austin Aquarium Went Dark And Cold. The Otters Snuggled For Warmth – March 5, 2021

@wildlifewill95

Had to keep my babies warm during the power outage…. 🦦 #zookeeper #otter #zoo #aquarium #winterstorm #texas

♬ Sugarcrash! – ElyOtto
tiktok.com/wildlifewill

They just want to be held, want to be cuddled, want to be smothered.

Will Whisennand

I haven’t been able to hug friends and family for over a year now. When I finally get to hug them again, I’ll be making noises much like that otter is making in the video. There will probably be tears, too.

texasstandard.org/typewriter-rodeo

Time is the Fire in Which We Burn

Each minute bursts in the burning room,   
The great globe reels in the solar fire,   
Spinning the trivial and unique away.
(How all things flash! How all things flare!)   
What am I now that I was then?   
May memory restore again and again   
The smallest color of the smallest day:   
Time is the school in which we learn,   
Time is the fire in which we burn.

From: Calmly We Walk through This April’s Day
by Delmore Schwartz

Featured image: Screencap from Star Trek: Generations