Woman in Motion

The title of the documentary about Nichelle Nichols,

Woman in Motion (2021)

Is also the name of the company she formed to work with NASA on women and minority recruitment back in the 70’s. This fan of Star Trek never took the time to find out why Nichelle didn’t do a lot more film and TV work than she did following her time on Star Trek. What she did was recruit the largest group of astronauts that NASA had ever trained up to that point, and she successfully saw the astronaut corps integrated for the first time. The first women and minorities in space were people that she convinced to apply to NASA. That was Nichelle’s impact on the future of manned space travel.

It was a little depressing to witness the progression of Alzheimer’s that was visible in the documentary. There were three distinct sets of video recordings that were sampled and included in the footage for the documentary. Two from previous short films and/or family video about her and a final video shoot made just for the documentary. It was clear that she was having some difficulty speaking towards the end of her life. The kinds of problems that young Nichelle and even older Nichelle did not have.

This made the way they ended the documentary that much more touching.

Nichelle Nichols – Fly Me to the Moon – 2016

Whatever was affecting her speech centers was not affecting her singing at all. Her rendition of this song brought me to tears. I couldn’t escape the image of Tommy Lee Jones’ character lying stranded on the moon in his spacesuit as the very same song played over the final scenes of Space Cowboys.

I’ll never forget meeting her at that convention in Tulsa, Oklahoma and getting the artwork that still hangs in my daughter’s bedroom signed by her. Hers is still the first memory I have of Star Trek. As much as she hated saying that line, that’s what I hear. “Hailing frequencies open, Captain.”

The world is a poorer place without you Nichelle.

All I can do is think of Nichelle Nichols as a force of nature unto herself.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

A Vimeo Sandpit Tale

I wanted to post a simple comment on this video:

YouTube – The Sandpit (Vimeo)

That video is on YouTube. The original video link that I followed was for Vimeo. The Sandpit is a cool little short film that won awards a decade ago. Like most things on the internet, access to the data about the film gets spotty after a few years and the link in the information bar under the video points to a now-defunct blog. I wanted to let everyone know that the content was preserved on the Wayback Machine.

It is shot on a Nikon D3 (and one shot on a D80), as a series of stills. I used my Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 and Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 lenses for all of these shots. Most were shot at 4fps in DX crop mode, which is the fastest the D3 could continuously write out to the memory card. The boats had slower frame rates, and the night shots used exposures up to two seconds each. The camera actually has an automatic cut off after 130 shots, so for longer shots I counted each click and quickly released and re-pressed the shutter release after 130 to keep shooting.

I did some initial tests a while back using a rented 24mm tilt-shift lens, which is the standard way to do this. However, after my tests, I found it made much more sense to do this effect in post, rather than in camera. Shooting tilt-shift requires a tripod, as it is very hard to stabilise afterwards, and gives less flexibility in the final look. I opted to shoot it on normal lenses, which allowed me options in the depth of field and shot movement in post. I used a tripod for the night shots, and my Gorillapod (which is much more portable) where possible, but many locations—like hanging over the edge of a roof or through a gap in fencing on a bridge– had to be shot hand held, and the inevitable wobble removed afterwards.

archive.org/aerofilm

I successfully linked the interview location on YouTube because I have access to my YouTube account, it’s linked to my Google account. I could not get logged into my Vimeo account. I spent several hours that night going through my old passwords, updating some, deleting the ones for dead websites that I ran across, but I never did managed to get logged on to Vimeo. The best I could do was find some cryptic-assed note about the account being blocked.

So I wrote them a note.

The unhelpful warning about needing to log in before contacting you is kind of pointless. I can’t log in because the email address that I use is flagged as having violated some rule or other. I can’t imagine what rule that could be since I’ve never uploaded a damn thing to Vimeo in my life. I’d really like to know why my email address has been blocked from having an account on Vimeo. It’s been my address since there was a Gmail to have addresses at. Please. Enlighten me.

A few days later, they responded.

Unfortunately, your account fits within our spam categorization and isn’t permitted on Vimeo.

We wish you the best of luck in finding a hosting platform better suited to your needs.

I’ve heard fuck you said better before, even with more words involved in the directive. This sounds like a challenge that I’m up for.

This sort of response is exactly the kind of throw-down that gets lawsuits started. You did not answer my question. I have never posted anything to Vimeo, so how can my email address be associated with spam? To make those kinds of accusations you have to have proof and I’d really like to see the proof that you are making your judgements on. This should be an easy question to answer considering you can high-handedly declare that I don’t fit on the Vimeo platform. Prove this assertion.

They, of course, did not answer the question a second time.

Your account has been suspended because our system has detected some unusual characteristics.
 
For security purposes we cannot discuss the details of our security measures. Additionally, when accounts are suspended for these reasons we are unable to reconsider the status of the account.
 
From our Terms of Service: “Vimeo may suspend, disable, or delete your account (or any part thereof) or block or remove any content you submitted if Vimeo determines that you have violated any provision of this Agreement or that your conduct or content would tend to damage Vimeo’s reputation and goodwill. If Vimeo deletes your account for the foregoing reasons, you may not re-register for the Vimeo Service. Vimeo may block your email address and Internet protocol address to prevent further registration.”
 
Please refrain from opening any additional accounts as these may be terminated without notice. As this is our final decision, we will be unable to respond to additional messages about this matter.
 
We apologize for any inconvenience and we wish you the best of luck in finding a hosting platform better suited to your needs.

Ouija Boards. That must be what they are using. It certainly can’t be my own history on Vimeo. I created the account and linked to a couple of videos on the blog. I might have written a comment or two. Maybe. I don’t know because I can’t see my own history on Vimeo, a thing that pisses me off more than wasting several hours trying to log into the website in the first place.

If I’ve burned a bridge like the one they claim I burned, I should have a memory of that scorching somewhere to recon with. There is no memory, so this has to be some bullshit on their part. I simply can’t prove it.

For all you know I have a thousand different accounts already, all posting whatever the fuck I feel like. You can’t tell and that probably scares the crap out of you and your lawyers. All I want is the ban to be lifted for this email address, a ban placed for no good reason that even you are willing to defend. If I had money (and if Vimeo wasn’t a third-rate YouTube wannabe) I’d already be talking to an attorney about fixing this problem and then you’d have to tell me what it was that you so mysteriously can’t tell me right now without an attorney at my side. As it stands, all I can say is “Sell to Google while you still can.” That would be the smart move.

Postscript

I can no more say why they reinstated my account on Vimeo than I can say why they blocked my account on Vimeo. In any case, my account has been reinstated even if I can’t make a comment on the video in question still. No idea why that is, I’m not even the only person to add a comment within the last year. When I try to add the comment that YouTube gave not one shit about, Vimeo logs me out and forces me to change my password again.

In reviewing my history on Vimeo I was unable to find anything that I might have done on Vimeo that could have gotten the account blocked. Anything at all that I’d done ever aside from follow some accounts. Now this means that either they deleted my account’s history because it got hacked, or I’ve actually never done anything. Either of those cases could be true. I don’t care which one is true, I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t an old password that I left lying around that was causing the problem. It was definitely not worth the time investment from that perspective. Qualitative fuckoff superiority satisfaction, though? Very high.

Star Trek: Afterlife

News of its death had not been exaggerated.

One of my earliest memories is of a black lady in a red miniskirt, a beehive hairdo and what I would now think of as a Bluetooth headset hanging out of her ear. There were flashing lights on the communication boards behind her and she utters the line “Hailing frequencies open, sir” then the picture cuts to a man in a mustard colored shirt in a chair. I couldn’t explain the show to my mother, I also remember that. I was mad when they took it off the air and I tried to describe to my Mom about the alien with the pointy ears and the phasers and the bright red surfaces all over the bridge. The salt monster that had terrified me a few years previously. She didn’t remember the show although I got a hug for the disappointment of not seeing my show that day.

When I came home from school one day in 1977 and found my show in reruns for the first time, I was ecstatic. I remember dragging Mom into the den to watch with me. “It was Star Trek. See? I told you Mom.” I rewatched all but two episodes in reruns over the subsequent years as I watched the show after school with my brothers and sisters who would have rather been watching anything else.

I took my first date to watch Star Trek: The Motion Picture on its premiere weekend. I was stoked. I don’t think my date was because I never saw her again after that. The Motionless Picture (as the fans dubbed it almost immediately) wasn’t like original Star Trek but it was nice to see the characters again. I had no idea that what I saw onscreen was originally intended to be a second television series pilot that they punted into a movie instead. That knowledge came later with my introduction to the Wife and fandom at large, but I could feel Gene Roddenberry’s influence in every bit of it. The subtle trekkiness of it. It was there under the different costumes and muted bridge colors.

I went to see Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan by myself the first time. I thought it was so good that I dragged my friends with me to watch it a second time. I don’t think most people today would understand what that meant to me back then in 1982. I had never spent money to watch the same movie twice before, much less 27 times to see Star Wars over and over again like some of my friends in fandom had done. This was an action film that was also a Star Trek movie, and I loved it. It wasn’t quite as distinctively Trek as the first movie. Kirk’s son denounces Starfleet as just another military organization bent on perverting their science, er, their ridiculous life-generating magic bomb into a weapon.

If you ignored the embarrassing technobabble about the science it was a great movie that expanded on one of the best episodes of the series. If you had been a fan of the show for as long as I had been by that point, the fast and loose nature of some of the science in the show was just one of the things that you learned to suspend disbelief about. After all, you can’t enjoy the show if you are busy picking it apart while you are watching it. Spock’s death scene in Wrath of Khan still makes me cry decades later even knowing they bring him back in the next movie.

On The Media – I’m Brooke Gladstone and I Am a Trekker – August 11, 2021

I can say what Brook won’t in that episode of On The Media. I was a Trekkie, not a Trekker. I used to say that it was a distinction without a difference Trekker vs. Trekkie but I’m not so certain this is true any more. The Wife and I fell in love over a box of Star Trek (and Superman!) comic books. She revealed that she was much more of a fan than I had ever been, having ordered from Roddenberry’s groundbreaking marketing arm Lincoln Enterprises pretty much as soon as it was announced. She walked around with a golden Enterprise necklace the way some people walk around with a golden cross or a St. Christopher’s medal. She had also been on the official Star Trek mailing list and attended several conventions before we even met. She could win trivia contests about the show and I could not.

I turned in my fandom pin when I met the Wife and the cadre of fans that she brought me in contact with. For example, I can’t be a true fan (the sensitive kind that wants to be called a Trekker and not a Trekkie) because I didn’t know these three characters were all played by the same actress, Diana Muldaur. I have no idea why I’d never made this connection; or why, if one of the fans I lead as Captain of a local Star Trek club alerted me to this fact, I still don’t remember that they were all the same person to this day. Trivia is a thing that I’ve never found important enough to remember, thereby earning its label of trivia. The fact of this doesn’t keep me from losing when we play trivial pursuit.

The Wife and I went to see Star Trek III: The Search For Spock together as well as every Star Trek movie after that one. Every Star Trek movie until they stopped being Star Trek movies in 2009.

When Star Trek: The Next Generation aired I began to notice the change. In movies it is easy to plot a simple story and hand-wave your way through the deeper questions of social order and the fabric of society. In a television series that has to produce (at the time) more than twenty one-hour shows each and every year, the show has to rely on the actors who appear on the show to invest more of themselves into the characters than is asked of the average movie actor. This is also true of the writers who have to produce the scripts that create the bones of the social interactions that the actors lend themselves to. It is a herculean task to create a television show even now with computer effects, short seasons and padded budgets. Back in the day when Star Trek aired, 1967-69, it was nearly an impossibility and had never been done that way for television until Desi Arnaz made it the television standard.

Speculative fiction like Star Trek is meaningless unless it reflects facets of the world outside, and the world outside the view of the television cameras had changed quite a bit since the original series had been on the air. The Vietnam war had been raging outside the camera’s range back in 1960’s America and the Cold War had dominated the lives of everyone living on the planet since the 1950’s. We were all going to die in the the thermonuclear fallout from World War III, that was the world that Star Trek was born into.

Star Trek was a breath of fresh air in that climate with it’s portrayal of a bright future where we could all get along. When The Next Generation (TNG) hit television screens we were living in that future. The predicted nuclear wars hadn’t occurred and the future was different than we expected. It wasn’t bright and it wasn’t going to get bright any time soon. The destruction of world civilization had been delayed a few generations but it was still a possibility that we all worried about, even if it wasn’t nuclear holocaust and the USSR that dominated our nightmares anymore. TNG had to be different from the future that Gene had created for his original Star Trek thirty years previously.

TNG was more militaristic for starters. The militarism was still subtle, but it was there all the same. The science was weaker, too. Star Trek made science shortcuts for reasons of storytelling and cost cutting. You can’t tell a story about characters if those characters don’t survive the journey from one planet to the next, so you introduce warp drive to shorten transit times into something more like a sea voyage. You introduce transporter tech so that you don’t have to film separate scenes of shuttles taking off and landing on each planet you visit (just don’t think about dying each time you get into the transporter only to be reborn on the planet surface) we can print food now with fabricators so the replicators in Star Trek aren’t even that much of a stretch anymore. Your flip phone that you used to love did the flip thing that it did precisely because Kirk did the flip thing with his communicator in 1967.

There were goofy stories based on the goofy tech introduced to tell the stories in the first place, but TNG made whole seasons of goofy stories about goofy science and goofy tech a thing. Which was fine, if it wasn’t a little much in the way of content to consume.

Then there was Deep Space Nine. I liked DS9 but I liked Babylon 5 more, which was interesting because the theme of a remote station on the edge of known space was a central story point that seemed to be shared between the two of them? Well, I’m sure J. Michael Straczynski doesn’t care much anymore. He got to make his show with the money that wasn’t mentioned in the settlement between him and Paramount. DS9 was better than TNG just as Babylon 5 was better than DS9. They were more real and dealt with more real subjects and didn’t seem to have so many goofy tech stories in their repertoire.

After that was Voyager and Paramount’s first betrayal of Star Trek fandom. I wanted to watch the show but wasn’t allowed to because Paramount wanted the fans to carry their UPN broadcast networks on their backs. I wasn’t having any of that. Then there was Enterprise and Nemesis:

…and I realized that there was speculative fiction that I liked and speculative fiction that I distinctly didn’t like. I probably should have thanked Paramount for the revelation that I could hate some kinds of fiction, even fiction offered under the guise of being Star Trek. I would thank them, but they weren’t done ruining Star Trek for me yet:

The Abramanations were definitively NOT Star Trek. This assessment goes far and beyond not liking story points or characterizations in these movies. I mean; red matter was an impossibility, a stupid impossibility just as Khan’s magic healing blood was a stupid impossibility in Into Darkness (Another aptly named film) There were stupid action sequences and stupid humor sequences. Too much stupid to ever be able to talk to other fans about the stupid without my having an aneurism suppressing the desire to throttle said fans as they praised the stupid; and so, I declared Star Trek dead because of those two films. But it wasn’t up to me, was it? I’m not the rights holder.

I signed up for Paramount+ recently. I signed up because I wanted to watch Picard and Woman in Motion. (I still need to watch that, now that I think about it. We miss you already Nichelle) I like the actors in Picard and I like the characters that they are reprising in the series; so I watched it, and it was better than I had expected it would be. It was so much better than I expected that I talked the Wife into watching it. She also liked it. Could it have been better? Come on, it always could be better. It was good for what it was, a tribute to the shows and characters that have come and gone in Star Trek history. Was it really Star Trek? I think you could say it was. TNG Star Trek if not classic Star Trek.

(Et in Arcadia Ego one and two. The Eclogues)

I would have preferred if they had ended it in season one, but they made season two; and after finishing watching season two I had to say it was also worth watching. I won’t hold my breath for season three but I will probably watch that too despite reservations.

However, Paramount+ kept showing me ads for Discovery and Strange New Worlds at the beginning of each episode of Picard. After I had watched all of Picard that there was the watch, I decided I might try Strange New Worlds. It was, after all, about Captain Pike, Kirk’s predecessor as captain of the Enterprise. Unlike the show, Enterprise, which was not part of Star Trek canon in even the slightest sense (there was no warp capable ship called Enterprise before the one mentioned in the original Star Trek) Captain Pike had been established as being part of the Star Trek universe from the very beginning. Even before the beginning of the show itself since it represents the premiere of the show that could have been but wasn’t (See The Cage for those who aren’t Trek nerds) so I started the first episode and hit my first snag.

Pike had appeared in Discovery before Paramount had decided to create Strange New Worlds. Was I willing to try to suspend disbelief for two seasons of a show that I already knew was bad? I mean, I had panned Discovery claiming worlds with the Federation flag in advertising a few years ago, could I watch two seasons of the show knowing that they were probably going to do horrible things to my beloved Star Trek? I’d survived the Abramanations, I thought to myself. Surely I can survive two seasons of Discovery.

Oh, how wrong I was. It started with the first episode of the series. The ship, Discovery, travels on magic mushrooms. No, I am not kidding when I say that. They are mushrooms and they are magical; ergo magic mushrooms. Magic mushrooms, spore trails through sub-space, or whatever technobabble you want to make up. Same fucking difference. Might as well chew a fungus and go their in your dreams. Your dreams will be better, I can promise you this.

I made it to the end of season one. I don’t know how. The story arc itself might have been interesting enough to hold my attention if only EVERY SINGLE THING about the show didn’t pop me right out of the ability to suspend disbelief with an audible WTF!?! Giant tardigrades. Microscopic critters that could eat you whole. The entire saucer section of the ship, when they start up the magic mushroom drive, spins. There are people on those parts of the ship, and it spins like a gyroscope. Even in the Star Trek universe there ain’t inertial dampeners strong enough to negate those forces, so how does the crew survive? They never even address it.

When Pike popped onto the ship at the end of season one, I knew that I could not watch season two and put him in with the crew of Discovery and their magic mushroom driven atrocity. So I stopped watching and haven’t been back.

I wouldn’t even be writing about this now if William Shatner hadn’t called out the current crop of Trek wannabes for not being Star Trek. That got their attention. William Shatner says that our Trek isn’t Trek enough? Where does he come off saying that? They offer up Gene Roddenberry’s panning of Star Trek V, as if that is proof that Bill Shatner doesn’t know what he is talking about.

On June 3, 1987, Roddenberry wrote a memo to Shatner expressing his distaste for the story. “Bill, as you undoubtedly know, I expressed to Harve Bennett at lunch last Monday my deep disappointment in the proposed Star Trek V film story,” Roddenberry wrote. “I simply cannot support a story which has our intelligent and insightful crew mesmerized by a 23rd Century religious charlatan.”

Roddenberry went on to point out that Shatner had previously agreed to recognize using religion in the script, which Roddenberry felt was unsuitable for the post-religious world he had created in TOS. The memo continued: “I had also thought that we had a clear understanding, man to man, that I would be consulted before any story went to screenplay.”

Roddenberry was so upset by the narrative Shatner had proposed that he also wrote similar letters to Bennett (who ignored him and appears in a cameo role in the final cut), his lawyer Leonard Maizlish, and head of the studio Frank Mancuso. In fact, Roddenberry was so incensed by the narrative direction Shatner had chosen, that he also wrote to sci-fi literary legends Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke to enlist their help in discouraging the studio from making the film. Both authors sent letters agreeing with Roddenberry’s position: Star Trek V “wasn’t Star Trek.”

movieweb.com

You know what? Gene was right. Spock had no brother, ergo Star Trek V couldn’t have been canon and probably shouldn’t be considered Star Trek. So what? Citing authority about Shatner’s work has no bearing on what that same authority might say about your work, your favorite new shiny thing that you love so much.

Bill happens to be right, at least when it comes to Discovery. That show is a joke and the actors involved, while very talented and dedicated, should have insisted on there being science advisors on the show during filming and during the writing process. Paramount should have cared enough about their property, Star Trek, so as to not dilute it with the crap that they’ve made under the Star Trek mantle since Gene’s death. I don’t care what Gene’s son thinks about the shows, either. Gene Roddenberry, the great bird of the galaxy himself, laid it all out in the Star Trek bible.

I’m a little unclear about technological devices of the future.
Can we invent anything which sounds reasonable?

Simply think of something logical, with some kind of science
or projected-science basis. Generally best are projections
of things we have now or which science is beginning to
build now. For example, in the pilot we had a hospital bed
which continually monitored all the key bodily functions,
and in fact some advanced hospitals today are already doing
part of this and working on further improvements.

Star Trek Writers Guide

Magic mushroom drives do not meet that standard. Discovery is not Star Trek just as the 2009 movie and Into Darkness are not Star Trek because the crap they came up with to explain their plot points doesn’t make fucking sense. I rest my case.

In the meantime I will say this. I was a Trekkie. I might still call myself a Trekkie if that means I can isolate myself from the Trekkers that think that magic mushroom drives, magic healing blood and red matter are things they want to be mystified by; otherwise Star Trek is even deader in my estimation than it was in 2009. Bill Shatner, you are right once again.

Strange New Worlds

I finally sat down and watched the first season of Strange New Worlds, all that there was of the show at the time that I wrote this. I wish I could come to the show with fresh eyes and not the same eyes that have watched the journey of Gene Roddenberry’s creation from the time that it first appeared on television screens way back when. Watched all the things that I detailed above come to pass. If I hadn’t seen all of those things and been offended by a good number of them I might be able to give this show the praise it probably deserves to receive.

Unfortunately I’m not that person, I’m just the jaded old fan that I am and hopefully always will be. So here goes my review of the first season. The first episode annoyed the fuck out of me. Transporting something into Spock’s eyeball? Great way to make his eye explode. Stupid tech solutions to stupid story plot points. I’ve seen these kinds of imaginary moments of crisis way, way too many times now on too many shows that should have had the collective intelligence to known better than to try that shit.

Children of the Comet

The second episode made me want to love the show. It perfectly encapsulated the moral quandary of the best of speculative fiction. I was truly impressed with the episode right up to the point where Captain Pike has to go through his quandary about being shown how he dies when he was part of the magic mushroom joyride that is all of Discovery.

Every episode of Strange New Worlds does some stupid thing or other that sets my teeth on edge. Dr. M’Benga storing his daughter in the transporter buffer, a sub-plot that leads up to the episode where she becomes a… god? Who knows what she is now, at least she’s not a dead person stored in a transporter buffer. Then there is the season finale that once again calls back to the magic mushroom joyride and makes it quite clear that this time crystal bullshit from Discovery is going to be a theme across the entire series. Every single episode does something that makes me ask “why am I watching this?”

I can’t. I just can’t. From a storytelling perspective I can appreciate the value of illustrating why Captain Kirk was the right man for the job illustrated in Balance of Terror versus the bungled job that Captain Pike does in A Quality of Mercy. From a philosophical perspective I don’t think that the writers or the producers of the current show understand what it was that Gene was trying for with his show about a future human society. Nor do I think they are interested in what Gene intended for the show beyond the fact that the fans demand more of it and the rights holders for it want to make money from that demand. I see no need to put money in their hands given my disturbed thoughts on the subject.

“Rest in peace, Star Trek. Say hi to Gene for me.”

Cyrano: Loving Madly

Cyrano (2022)

The Wife and I watched this movie two days before our 33rd anniversary. In my opinion there are few stories that can compete with this one for romantic impact on an anniversary date night. This new version of the story, set to music:

SpotifyCyrano Soundtrack

Is the first time that I ever took a real interest in the story. The reason I took an interest was because of this man:

Youtube – Peter Dinklage ’91 Addresses Bennington College’s Class of 2012

I love Peter Dinklage. Every time I would see him on screen he was always fully invested in the character he was portraying. I don’t remember him for most of the things that others might first think of, not Game of Thrones or Death at a Funeral (both of them) or even the Station Agent. I remember him for a little known television show named Threshold.

This wasn’t the first time I had seen him in a show, but it was the first time that he owned the screen so convincingly and persistently. He commanded my attention and I fell in love with his onscreen presence. I loved the show even though they canceled it. This seems to happen a lot with things I love. Most people simply can’t wrap their heads around why the thing is worth paying attention to.

This appears to be true of the Cyrano musical as well. I suspect that this is because most people can’t take little people seriously in leading roles. The Wife is convinced that it is the poor pacing of the movie edit that causes the problem with viewers. I personally don’t think most people are deep enough to notice that the pacing drags in several sections. They see a little person in a leading role and they refuse to pay to see the movie because it simply isn’t believable.

This is to their own personal detriment. The film is beautiful. It is a marvelous example of a period piece set in a variety of real world locations. Cyrano de Bergerac was a real person that came from a particular place and time in history. However, that Cyrano seems to have had little problem with women. While he apparently did have a very large nose, it was apparently no more pronounced than several popular actors of recent years (yes, I am looking at you Adam Driver) He did seem to be touchy about it, though. In the musical they simply abandoned the fake nose that has come to be associated with productions of the classic play. Who needs a large nose when you’re leading man is so distinctly not normal looking right out of the box?

The play was written by Erica Schmidt, Dinklage’s wife. Even though the part seems almost written for him, he reportedly had to beg her to be allowed to play it. They first performed the play in New York city; off, off Broadway. The future director of the movie just happened to be in the audience one night and the rest is history.

Youtube – From Tyrion To Cyrano – Peter Dinklage On Playing Intelligent Characters – Dec 1, 2021

As beautiful as the movie is, it is the soundtrack that makes it memorable. The passion in the performer’s voices is palpable. Dinklage’s vocals are raw and moving at all times. The lackluster reception for the movie does force me to wonder what the audience response would have been like if they had gotten someone more traditional to play the leading man’s role? If they had simply used movie magic and computer animation to make Peter Dinklage six foot tall? Would audiences have noticed how beautiful the film was then? Noticed the emotion? I don’t know. I’ll continue to love it anyway.

Matrix Resurrected

The second movie that I was willing to risk my life for (year 0, A.C. After COVID) was this one:

The Matrix Resurrections – Sep 9, 2021

The Matrix Resurrections (2021)

I have seen all the previous Matrix movies many, many times:

I love them. I have them and the Animatrix on DVD on my shelf with the other old movies that I want to be able to rewatch again and again. There is little to say about this movie that won’t be a spoiler for the movie itself. I liked it. I felt like the ending of the original three films was a little too pat, the sacrifice of the two main characters at the end of the last movie a little too predictable.

That is what this movie is about. It’s great. Go see it. I’ll be buying this one as soon as it is available for purchase, to go alongside the other installments in the series.

Litany Against Fear

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Dune

If I was to risk my life to see a movie, this is possibly the only movie that I would cross that line for:

DUNE – FINAL TRAILER – Oct 7, 2021

Check out the ‘thopters, man. Finally someone gives me real ‘thopters. That alone will get me to go watch the movie, even in a time of plague.

Dune – Official Main Trailer – Jul 22, 2021

I just hope the movie has a story. A story that feels something like the story in the book. I’m not looking for the book as a movie, I’m looking to feel the same way about the story in the movie as I do about the story in the book. Fingers crossed.


The first movie of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune ends immediately following Jamis’ Tahaddi challenge. Given the place in the first book where the movie ends, I would say that there are at least two more movies of material left to put on the screen. That is, if we are talking about the series of movies ending where the first book ends. If we go on to Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, then we have at least a nine-film epic.

I liked his handling of the story as far as it went. He departed from the text several times, and yet the story remains intact underneath the changes. The director deftly weaves a tale that was made for the screen out of the text that Frank Herbert wrote, and he does it better than all the others who have attempted to tell the story before.

Jodorowsky’s Dune (2014)

Documents the first time someone tried to bring the book to the big screen. While the attempt was fatally flawed from the beginning, the collaborations that started with that endeavor went on to generate a dozen other works that would be sorely missed today had the attempt not been made. I’m glad the movie was never finished. There is no way the completed project could equal the grandeur of the vision that is presented in the pitches for the movie.

Dune (1984)

Unfortunately for us, David Lynch did complete his attempt to put Dune on the big screen. Luckily for us, David Lynch went on to make better movies. Don’t get me wrong, there are facets of the 1984 Dune that are grandiose almost beyond imagining unless you have seen the movie yourself. The guild steersman in the first act; in fact, all of the first third of the movie was excellent. All of the casting for the Harkonnen’s including Sting as Feyd-Rautha was excellent. Unfortunately the production couldn’t create ornithopters that looked like ornithopters. They also abandoned the Prana-Bindu training/fighting in favor of creating a gadget that they called a weirding module to make the fighters unbeatable.

The production suffered from many problems during the course of the movies’ creation and this shows in the finished product. There were long exposition sequences throughout the film, a shortcut to storytelling on film that is never a good idea. The Wife walked out of the movie back in 1984, midway through one of the sequences that featured a bloody battle scene while the voiceover track intones “…and Paul and Chani were in love.” The horror of it was too much to bear. She spent the remaining hour of the movie playing video games in the arcade attached to the theater.

I have watched the movie several times over the years. It never got better for me, which is its own condemnation of the effort in my eyes. When you know a story before seeing the movie made from it, the anxiety of what you are about to see enacted on something you know and love overshadows everything. This has proven to be true for me for every movie that I have watched after reading the book. The first viewing is almost painful to endure. If the movie is good though, the later viewings get better and more enjoyable because you already know how the movie treats the thing you are nostalgic for.

1984 Dune treated a novel that I had read more times than I had read anything else very poorly. It strayed from the meaning and intent of the story almost from the moment the characters touch down on Arrakis. I had read the first four novels seven times through before seeing the movie in 1984 and most books never get a second reading by me. Dune spoke to me in ways that other books did not. Frank Herbert understood realpolitik, and he wove his vaguely recognizable societal groups into a believable future framework that gives the reader insight on the world of power politics, and what can happen when an oppressed population is given a savior that they recognize instinctively. Almost none of this was present in the 1984 version of Dune.

Dune (2000) Miniseries

This version was superior to Lynch’s version. It was more like the story it was trying to tell than 1984 Dune. True, they still didn’t get the ornithopters right, and they didn’t have Sting as Feyd-Rautha, but they made do with what they had and at least tried to tell the story that Frank Herbert wrote. I’ve never managed to catch this series since it first aired, so I have little recollection of it now. I just remember being glad to see the story treated more like I expected it to be treated, instead of being buried behind special effects sequences that could never replace real storytelling. They even went on to make:

Children of Dune (2003) Miniseries

An adaptation of the second two books of the series. I remember even less of this series than I do the first SyFy series, although I remember watching both. This one didn’t impress me with it’s ability to bring the story to the screen. In the end the small screen can’t compare to the big screen and these stories deserve to be on a big screen.

All of this is my way of saying that I look forward to seeing Jason Momoa returning in movie number four as the Goula Hayt. I’ll be along for the ride for at least that long. Here’s hoping that Denis Villeneuve gets the green light to continue with the second movies’ creation.

What Dune achieves – as Frank Herbert himself wrote – is an ambivalence and suspicion of “good wars.” The film’s allegiance is with the natives, and certainly with cultural humility toward the unfamiliar and the unknowable. Colonizing another is a brutal if not a fatal mission.

npr.org
Postscript

I always wondered why Frank Herbert’s world of Dune seemed so deeply human and real. It seems that he borrowed a lot of Arabic social norms and words to flesh out his world in a way that made it seem both real and foreign:

Throughline – Bonus: The Deep History of Dune – November 9, 2021

Setting aside the mistaken belief that because whole parts of the world were borrowed from them that then the story belongs to them (every reader thinks this about the stories they love and identify with) that episode of Throughline sheds some interesting light on the framing that Herbert crafted to tell his political epic in.

A Cashless Society

Going cashless shouldn’t bother anyone, but it will probably bother most people quite a bit. Most people seem to value those little green rectangles of paper, but paper notes have no real value. They are a liability since they can be easily stolen and the cost of maintaining and policing the physical currency is astronomical (both points are made in the SGU episode segment) Digital currency has all the benefits of physical currency, without the need to carry it around. It is a win-win.

I used to be a hardcore numismatist. I was all in on silver and gold currency, coin collecting, etcetera. Then I tried bartering for goods with silver as a test to see how well it would be received by businesses. Most businesses were not interested. They wanted to deposit their earnings in the bank at night and the bank only accepted federal money, “the coin of the realm.” The test was a failure, as was the silver currency that I was using as my test at the time.

To individuals, the physicality of the money is what makes it valuable. To volume businesses, the physicality is a liability. This is why credit cards took off and why businesses gladly gave four percent to the card issuers in exchange for not having to deal with cash. It makes their jobs easier and safer and the analog or digital nature of the money being traded on the card system makes no difference as long as it can’t easily be stolen or have to be stored.

The value is in the goods exchanged, the location maintained, not in the money that made the transaction possible. Money has no value because you can’t eat it, it won’t keep you safe, it doesn’t make you live longer. The things that do can be traded for money, so long as the person who has those things has them to trade.

The future’s cashless society will look almost exactly like the one we live in now. The government will have to maintain accounts for each and every one of us in order to make it work; otherwise the poor will be shut out of participation in the economy to the detriment of us all and to the eventual destruction of our societies. In the US they may even make us all banks so that the fed can just issue us money directly. You’ll be able to go to the Post Office (most likely) to conduct your federal banking business. The better off will move their funds to private banks, but the poor will have to rely on government issued cards to buy their necessities. Life will go on pretty much as before.

Black markets will still exist. They’ll go to the barter system and commodities like gold and silver. They’ll create bot nets of dummy accounts that will mask the crypto-currency transactions. The buyer will need to show up with the commodity the seller wants in exchange. Currency is irrelevant.

Bob talks about the briefcase full of cash and that magical moment of imagination towards the end of the segment as a reason for preserving the greenbacks. Remember the scene in Pulp Fiction? You never see what is in the briefcase. You only see the golden reflection on Pumpkin/Ringo’s face, but that’s enough to make you understand the immense value of what is in that case. The money in his wallet is irrelevant. The money in your wallet is irrelevant. The money in my wallet is irrelevant. The commodities. They have value.

Standoff Scene from Pulp Fiction (Prime Video)

Based on an email sent to The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe in reference to the segment in episode 844.

Postscript

I have apparently been nominated to be the Jesus of monetary policy. Not quite sure how to take that. Run and hide before the Pharisees send the Romans to crucify me, or stand and accept my fate? I’m thinking I should decline the nomination now that I’ve spelled the conditions out for myself.

This article was test-posted to Reddit in two places; here and here. In both places the upvotes did not equal the downvotes which proves my original assertion. Most people are afraid of the idea of going cashless. The commentary on the two different thread also proved out my suspicions that a good number of people don’t even understand what going cashless would entail.

Reinventing the Game

I was relating the story of the Cleveland Indians trying to change their name to the Guardians to The Wife the other day. She didn’t believe that they could have been so stupid as to not determine that there was a team named Guardians in Cleveland before changing their name:

Cleveland Indians changing name to Cleveland Guardians: Tom Hanks narrates announcement

That’s shaping the two teams up for a fight. The Guardians roller derby team has filed a trademark application for the rights to the name. The MLB team did the same four days prior, but trademarks often go to the first entity to use the name, rather than the first to file for it.

fortune.com

This apparently put her in the mood to watch one of her favorite standby movies:

Major League (1989)

I don’t know why someone who hates watching sports as much as she and I do can sit down and repeatedly watch movies about the business of sports over and over again like she does. But she does, and this movie is just one among many that she has rewatched repeatedly over the years including movies like Draft Day, Field of Dreams, Tin Cup, Jerry Maguire and several others. Major League is a film that I also like. I like it for the comedy and the comeback spirit that is the theme of the movie. What I was reminded of when I wandered through and watched a few scenes of the film with her, was the similarity of that movie’s theme to the theme of:

Moneyball (2011)

Moneyball (2011) Movie Trailer

There is very little comedy in Moneyball. But that line from Brad Pitt “There are rich teams and there are poor teams. Then there’s fifty feet of crap, and then there is us.” It is the theme of Major League, but Moneyball is a movie about events that actually took place in baseball history and not a comedy spoof about underdogs who beat the system. The manager of the Oakland A’s at the time, Billy Beane, and a character named Peter Brand, an amalgamation of several people who worked with Beane to implement the Moneyball algorithms into the selection process for new players, changed the way baseball has been run ever since the season that is documented in the movie. It is truly a movie about the underdogs taking what has been given to them, and making something better out of it.

Major League is a funny, heartwarming movie. Moneyball is a down to brass tacks gritty-assed film about the choices that go into putting together a winning team. Both movies tell a similar story. Don’t blame me if I like the story of a real underdog succeeding over the fiction. It took me forever to even get the Wife to watch Moneyball. The fact that math was somehow involved in the movie was enough to leave her cold. After having watched it once, she’s now put that movie into rotation, too.

Here’s hoping the Cleveland Indians get to change their name. I doubt a name change will be enough to change their baseball future, but anything is possible. Any move away from using native Americans as sports mascots is a move in the right direction. Time to leave that past behind us.

The Eagle. The Dove. The Turkey

Don’t forget that most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor.

John Dickinson, 1776

Today I discovered to my horror that I have never written a proper review for my favorite Independence Day movie. Facebook reminded me that I sat down on July 4, 2013 and watched the Blu-ray version of:

1776 (1972)

But on that day eight years ago, I wrote a single line of text as a review for Facebook. I also quoted the movie twice, the quotes I include here, but all in all, not much of a review for a movie that I have seen no less than a score of times now. I searched the blog for a review; and while I have mentioned the movie many times here, I have never written an article just for the movie itself. I will rectify this lack of a proper review here and now.

1776 started life as a musical written by Peter Stone and the movie was written by Stone and directed by Peter H. Hunt. I have watched a variant of this film on the fourth of July every year since the Wife convinced me that musicals could be interesting by forcing me to sit down and watch A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum back at the beginning of our relationship. After that movie it was time to watch My Fair Lady and Victor/Victoria to name just two of my favorite musicals. On and on this introduction to the genre went, until I actually wanted to watch The Sound of Music for myself, and then I had to admit that there were some musicals that were okay. Somewhere in the middle of this educational series we sat down and watched a friend’s laserdisc copy of 1776.

The story of the existence of this version of the film is a tale all on its own. Peter Stone wrote his narrative on the creation of the Declaration of Independence back in 1969, and it was performed on Broadway 1,217 times. It was an unlikely success given its subject matter and the fact that the play went nearly thirty minutes between songs in the first act. It is a who-dun-it of a story about events that we know transpired successfully, and yet you wonder how it ever happened as you watch the actors on the screen. After the play left Broadway it was picked up to be made into a movie, the screenplay for which Peter Stone also wrote. He and the director struck up a good working relationship, and both were pleased with the resulting film when they put it to bed in preparation for its scheduled wide release.

Unbeknownst to them, the producer of the film, Jack Warner, had gotten a personal phone call from Tricky Dick Nixon, requesting that the musical not be released without at least being modified from the stage play. Specifically, he wanted this song removed from the film:

1776 – “Cool, Considerate Men” (1972 Film Clip)

Jack Warner happily obliged, taking a handy pair of scissors to the film that he had told the director and the writer would not be altered from their approved cut. In the end he removed not only the offending song, but several other scenes and verses of songs so that the film flowed more to his personal liking.

Fribble!

1776 Brawl between John Adams and John Dickinson

After this radical revision it should have been no mystery why the movie went on to financial failure, being shoved into the historical waist bin along with the objectionable parts of the movie that Jack Warner removed. Except that the removed sections were not destroyed as Jack Warner directed. His secretary took the scenes out of the trash and preserved them so that they could be returned to the film’s director. This way he would know what had happened to the movie that he had so lovingly crafted over the preceding years, but had never been allowed to be seen by movie goers.

Decades went by, and interests came and went. There was talk of a revival of the Broadway musical, and along with it the question of what happened to the movie version that had tanked so horribly when it was released? Enough interest was generated that Pioneer contacted Warner Brothers and Peter Hunt about creating a laserdisc version of the movie for interested collectors.

Peter Hunt decided to reassemble the original film for Pioneer’s laserdisc version. The movie is complete with Jack Warner’s scribbles at the edit points, and the dust and scratch marks on several of the removed scenes. One removed scene was only available in black and white, a test-run, a connective shot that explains why some characters are outside the hall when the crucial independence declaration arrived from Virginia. There is a secondary audio on the laserdisc that goes into more depth about the story that I’ve related here as well. If you have a laserdisc player, you really should own a copy of this movie on laserdisc. It, like the making of The Abyss on its laserdisc release, is unique. There is no place else to find the exact content that is on that disc.

Watching that version of the film is to travel back in time to the years when it was made, an interesting juxtaposition between the times that were being celebrated with song, and the times when America was burning with internecine conflicts at the hands of the most ruthless man then living, the sitting President of the United states. It is nice to have that perspective as we nurse ourselves back from the brink of destruction, yet again. It’s hard to know how to feel this July fourth.

The United States has survived the presidency of the despot, Donald Trump, and the pandemic that he allowed to rage unchecked across the country and the world while he worried about what this meant for his re-election chances. The sun still rises and sets without him in the White House today, and it is quietly reassuring to not be told what it is that pisses Joe Biden off every single day that we wake up. What a nice change from the last four years of hell that we have all endured.

The Blu-ray version of 1776 is different from the raw attempt at destruction that is on display in the laserdisc copy of the film. Gone are the jarring ink-marks and color changes that announce Jack Warner’s and Tricky Dick’s violent raping of the movie before it was allowed to be seen by American audiences. The scenes flow smoothly in and out of song, just the way the director left it. Just the way he intended it to be seen. It was a nice contrast to experience the film the way it should have been seen back in 1972. A nice change from the conflict that has consumed us all for the last few decades.

I find this depth of hindsight inspiring. The hand of destruction escaped at the last moment, leaving the people to reflect on what it was that we almost allowed to happen. Again. And again. And again. Let us recommit ourselves to the experiment that started in 1776. It would be a shame to let all the sacrifice be for nothing if we don’t. Watch the reconstructed version of the movie, or see if you can find that secondary audio track that I mention on the laserdisc. Be inspired, yourself.

Commitment, Abby, commitment! There are only two creatures of value on the face of this earth: those with a commitment, and those who require the commitment of others.

John Adams, 1776

Mirror Earth

While listening to the Rachel Maddow show tonight, I noted that she casually referenced Earth 2 as the place where Donald Trump is still president. It was an amusing bit of Science Fiction trivia to bring back to the front of mind for a few minutes while contemplating the looming destruction of democracy as we know it at the hands of the Republican’s favorite tyrant. The idea of a mirror Earth is one of the tropes that you hear repeatedly over and over again wandering around in and out of fandom. Pramila Jayapal can be forgiven for not knowing the reference later in the show. I doubt very many people do know it, or they might even be confused as to which Scifi/fantasy experience is the one being referenced.

I mean, there are multiple references that will come up if you go looking for the phrase Earth Two on Google. There was a recent television show and even a 2011 movie that run along the same vein. I had to go looking for the title of the movie that I was pretty sure Rachel was referencing myself because I hadn’t seen it since I moved out of that garish Abilene apartment that I shared with a friend back in 1984.

My roommate had one of the first VCR’s on the market, and he had compiled a pretty impressive catalog of movies including an off-air copy of Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, the film by Gerry Anderson’s production company that was released in 1969. That is where the phrase Earth 2 comes from. The uneducated rube that I was at the time made fun of the cheezie effects in the film, even though I had been a serious fan of the Thunderbirds series produced by the same company back in 1966.

The movie was named Doppelgänger in Europe. Americans had to have a more explanatory title. Mystery isn’t a thing that the mundane American viewer can appreciate, I guess. here’s the trailer:

Journey to the far side of the Sun – Trailer (USA)

This is where the idea of a mirror Earth came from. While Star Trek’s Mirror, Mirror episode aired earlier than this movie it wasn’t in production before Doppelgänger was and doesn’t feature a mirror Earth suspended in space in the same universe as our own.

The fascination with evil twins predates this film, true. That goes back to the beginning of recorded history; and if you wanted to, you could say that Earth 2 is a reference to the duality of existence that has been a part of philosophy for a very long time. I don’t know how that could be seen as anything other than a hasty generalization, though. Give credit where credit is due, Doppelgänger is where the idea of a mirror Earth comes from today, no matter how widely spread the fear of the evil twin is in the media we consume.

I can’t find the movie anywhere that I can watch it without paying for it at the moment. I’ll have to keep looking because I really would like to sit down and watch it all the way through at least once without mocking it again. It’s the least I can do.


I have a lot of nostalgia for those old marionette shows, and not just the Thunderbirds series. I doubt that I would still find them edge-of-the-seat suspenseful like I did as a six year old child. There have been multiple attempts to restart Thunderbirds with modern digital effects and new stories:

Thunderbirds Are GoOfficial Global Trailer – Mar 13, 2015

…and I have resisted the urge to watch any of it as an adult, even the old shows themselves. They were so cool back in the sixties when they came on right after school. I would run home just to watch them with Major Astro and they were probably why I wanted to watch Star Trek when it debuted. I can’t imagine how they could be anything other than embarrassing to watch as an adult. Like the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift, the adult experience can’t hold a candle to the memories of a child.

Postscript

The featured image is a screenshot I took of a pivotal scene in the movie. I discovered a version of it streaming online and watched it through for completions’ sake. It was much better than I remembered it being, and yet just as flawed as I thought it would be on watching it again. It was both memorable and flawed in fundamental ways. If you can find it to watch somewhere, you should give it a chance and let me know what you think.