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.
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.
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:
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.
It too is a respectable entry into the annals of the shitshow that was the year 2020. Stay for the credits. How they put the comics together digitally is a thing of beauty.
The Wife and I sat up drinking until midnight, watching both these shows before tuning in to the creepy-assed feed from an empty Times Square on Youtube to watch the ball drop for Central Standard Time, before they hauled that sucker back up again to drop it again the next hour.
Or maybe they just put the video of the ball drop on on a loop and replayed the one-hour loop twenty-four times? Who can tell? What I can tell is that the official feed did not have the sad CST drop that I saw as part of my New Year’s celebration. Everyone had cleaned up and left aside from some holdouts who were still braving the cold at one am EST. NYC needs to break with tradition and embrace the universal time code (UTC) they should celebrate the new year at 7:00 pm EST and call it done. It’s no more midnight in NYC at 12:00 am than it is noon (as measured by the sun) at 12:00 pm. Tell those railroad barons what they can do with their time zones! Throw off the yoke of the tick-tock man!
Anyway, fuck you 2020. Your next of kin might well be worse, but I’m well done of you no matter what happens later.
Ticking away, the moments that make up a dull day, fritter and waste the hours in a off-hand way.
The story of the downfall of Spiro Agnew, Tricky Dick Nixon’s Vice President. He was insanely popular with American conservatives of the time, just as Richard Nixon was popular with the majority of Americans of the time. They were both popular when they were elected. Spiro Agnew had a secret that wasn’t much of a secret in Baltimore where he had come from, and that secret would lead to some strange twists and turns in the near future as Richard Nixon broke laws in his attempts to stay in office.
Without that advisory from the Office of Legal Counsel Donald Trump would have been indicted for his crimes before he was impeached, and his impeachment and removal would have been a foregone conclusion because you can’t be President of the United States and conduct the business of the United States from prison. Well, Mitch McConnell and the cult-like followers of QAnon would have said he was railroaded and that the superhuman Donald Trump could easily do the country’s business from prison, but they wouldn’t have represented a majority. They would have been an even smaller minority than the one that came out and voted for Donald Trump in the November election.
I’ve mentioned the podcast that spawned the book she is out stumping for three times on the blog over the past few years. Unfortunately all the links that were in previous articles now lead to non-existent feeds as far as I can tell, so I will have to re-edit them eventually to point to a new feed location (Done. However the feed was restored when I started editing, so I left some of the old links in. Fingers crossed that the feed stays up this time. -ed.) In the meantime, the podcast is also on Youtube just like the segment of LSSC that I linked above.
If you love a good yarn, especially a true tale of intrigue, check out this podcast and book. you’ll definitely enjoy the story. I did.
I learned something new. I love it when that happens. When I was hospitalized for the night after having my angioplasty last year,
…I started to experience vertigo. I didn’t think too much of it, other than the irritation that I felt while trying to wheedle a Xanax out of the nurse because of the vertigo. The stress of having to argue with the nurse about a medication that the hospital could see on my charts as being a medication I have been prescribed adding to the anxiety of an approaching vertigo spell. Yeah, that was fun.
But still. I couldn’t figure out why I had that sudden bout of vertigo. No warnings, none of the normal patterns (not that surgery is normal) But then I remembered that they had me on an intravenous drip of normal saline for most of the day and the night, about 16 hours of normal saline by the time I started to feel the spinning. For a lot of Menerieans salt=vertigo and saline is definitely salt. I have been on a reduced sodium diet for decades now because reducing salt is also what they recommend for people with hypertension, another chronic illness that I enjoy.
Sixteen hours of saline fluid introduced into my system. Surely that wouldn’t cause vertigo, right? I mean, normal saline is the same sodium levels as blood, right? Why else call it normal saline? It turns out that this is not the case. Normal saline just means the saline solution most frequently used in hospitals, and the salt levels are not the same as the levels in the blood.
Each bag of saline contains the same amount of sodium as 20 snack-sized bags of potato chips.
I haven’t eaten an entire bag of salted potato chips in… well, it has to be at least a decade. I occasionally (once a month or less) get a snack bag of air-fried chips from Schlotzsky’s (another Austin original) along with my regular original sandwich (hold the cheese and add the guacamole, please) and unsweetened iced tea, and that is almost more salt than I need in a day. I know they changed that bag at least twice while I was there, which is a lot more salt than I needed.
The assumed harmlessness of introducing normal saline into the bodies of all of their patients has been a point of worry for many doctors. So much so that there have been trials conducted using other replacement fluids than saline solution,
For more than a year, the emergency room and intensive care units at Vanderbilt rotated the IV fluid used to hydrate patients. On even-numbered months, they used saline, and on odd-numbered months, doctors could choose between either lactated Ringer’s or Plasma-Lyte-A. Both Ringer’s and Plasma-Lyte have less sodium than saline, along with other electrolytes. Most of the patients on balanced fluids in the study got lactated Ringer’s.
When I read the phrase lactated Ringer’s I heard it in one of the voices from the show Emergency! from way back when. That was the show that first got me interested in medicine and emergency care. My mother would probably be horrified to learn that I was indoctrinated into the evidence-based medical system by a TV show that she let me watch as a child.
Lactated Ringer’s or the Plasma-Lyte appears to be the better way to infuse fluids into patients. Not world’s better, but statistically measurable improved results from not relying on normal saline for all the patients admitted into the hospital. If you also need lower saline you might ask for one of those two the next time you find yourself needing surgery. Here’s hoping that time isn’t in the near future.
…even the provocative director of the X-rated film Fritz the Cat, Ralph Bakshi, managed to keep it in his pants. His ambitious yet incomplete 1978 animated Lord of the Rings stays in the right lane, true to its high fantasy trope, even though the film is wildly psychedelic in its visual flair. Such a great contrast to his other fantasies Wizards and Fire & Ice which was R-rated Adult Swim fare decades before Adult Swim existed! Instinctively and thoughtfully, Bakshi knew that Tolkien’s story didn’t need all the Tits & Ass that had previously made the animator the darling of 70’s arthouse cinema. He kept that out of Middle-earth, indulging it elsewhere more suitably for his other films.
I am commenting on the content of the live stream and the quoted article above, so some of this will probably seem to be a little disconnected. But, here goes.
15:45 minutes. The #TORnTuesday hosts discuss Arwen being present at Helm’s Deep in the movie version of LotR, and how theonering.net and it’s fanbase stopped those scenes from being in the final cut. Arwen being at Helm’s Deep would have been perfectly acceptable to me if a) she was dispatched as the leader of the group from her grandmother and b) women were equally welcome in the fighting troops with men and so her presence was unremarkable. This would have required a major rewrite and a re-explaining of why the plot evolves the way it does. Specifically? Eowen showing up at the battle in front of Minas Tirith and everyone being surprised, especially the Witch King (the subtleties of ingrained systemic misogyny are hard to parse sometimes) If women were commonplace things in battle, why wouldn’t anyone have thought about Eowen being in the battle of the Pelennor Fields? I mean, Arwen glowed with the light of the two trees in the first film, she can do just about anything else in the story after that. Considering what else was done in the Two Towers that varies from the book, Arwen being at Helm’s Deep makes complete sense to me. I would love to see those scenes, that version of the film, right next to the final version. I mean, why not? Other than, of course, that wasn’t how J.R.R. Tolkien wrote the scene. It would have been nice to see the Helm’s Deep battle filmed as it was written. I’ll take the parts of it that I did get, I guess.
56:00 minutes. There is the description of the John Boorman scene of the fellowship coming upon the waters of Galadriel. I cannot describe precisely how overjoyed I am that Ralph Bakshi got to do his version of Lord of the Rings rather than John Boorman, who went on to make Excalibur instead. A great movie, but definitely not high fantasy.
Anyone who thinks LoTR, or this Unnamed Amazon Production (UAP) needs more sexing up doesn’t understand what Tolkien was trying to say with his work. Explicit sex scenes shouldn’t be part of Tolkien’s work simply because Tolkien wouldn’t have dwelt on the prurient in that fashion. It is contrary to his vision of what high fantasy was and is.
It’s like telling me that Star Fleet has been subverted is a plotline of a film (Into Darkness) when Gene Roddenberry specifically forbade that storyline in the Trek writers guide. You, the modern interpreter, can certainly go there. Once you do, the film cannot be part of the canon for that created universe. If you insist on including contrary things like storylines that aren’t in the text or scenes that are contrary to the sense of the work, you risk destroying the social groupings that form in fandom around the platform that the work represents because the work no longer presents a uniform vision of itself.
Ask Paramount how much they like their new Trek that the Abramanatorcreated for them. Sure, that first movie made money. Forget ever making money with the universe after that point.
Elf sex may not be the one thing that breaks the Tolkien fandom groups, especially since slash fiction is what most people create in their own heads (apparently) but if they are going there in the series, it won’t take Amazon long to completely abandon the rest of the lore that Middle Earth is supposedly based on, in the name of drawing more viewers to the show.
Here’s a thought. Why not create a new thing and get people to watch that, rather than pretend that the new thing is somehow related to something you feel nostalgia for? Nostalgia is overrated.
I have little interest in watching what Amazon does to Tolkien’s second age elves; even if Jeff Bezos does embroider the life of Galadriel, a strong female lead character, so lacking in Tolkien’s work. I am loathe to sound off about entertainment that I do not want to feel obliged to watch. If I sound off on the subject, and they cite my words as some motivation for changing their work, I would feel obliged to spend quality time evaluating the resulting product.
I have little trust left for the corporate creators of entertainment. I am way beyond reticent when it comes to promising my time in this fashion. I’ve written off many of my most treasured memories of youth at this point in my life, as well as abandoned new infatuations when they betrayed what they supposedly were about in the beginning. I’ve written them all off because some corporate stooge somewhere wanted to make a few more bucks off of my nostalgia one more time.
So I am prepared to pretend that Amazon’s elf stories don’t exist just like I pretend that other entertainment that doesn’t entertain me doesn’t exist, before I’ve seen one second of the work as it is intended to be seen. It is my feelings being used to motivate me here. The only way that I can stop them from being used to manipulate me is to compartmentalize those feelings and lock them away where they can’t be abused by the unscrupulous. It is up to Amazon to produce some work or other that motivates me to watch it based on it’s own merits. Gratuitos elf sex isn’t going to be considered meritorious. That statement can stand in for anything else I might say on this subject.
…it should be ‘high’, purged of the gross, and fit for the more adult mind of a land long now steeped in poetry.
I liked the challenge of designing and building things, figuring out how something works and how to make it better or apply it in a different way. When I was a kid, I never wanted to be James Bond. I wanted to be Q, because he was the guy who made all the gadgets. I guess you could say that engineering came naturally.
When this is over this country is going to need more than bandaids. It’s going to need fucking surgery. Things need to change and not go back to normal. Ctrl-Z us back to how we were in 2016 is simply not going to cut it, and honestly it shouldn’t have taken a pandemic to prove our unemployment system is a mess, that we need universal healthcare and that workers need benefits, the right to organize and wages that reflect how essential they really are.
The fourth season of Better Call Saul dropped on Netflix recently. This event inspired me to skim through the past seasons of the show, and then watch all of the fourth season in a two-day marathon. I don’t want to reveal any spoiling events in this little blurb. I just want to say that it has been a hell of a rollercoaster ride getting to the end of fourth season.
I find I don’t like Saul Goodman or Jimmy McGill that much. I liked Charles McGill, Jimmy’s brother, portrayed by Michael McKean. It was his appearance in the pilot episode that got me interested in continuing to watch the show in the first place. In the fourth season I find that I am still watching the show mostly for Mike Ehrmantraut and Nacho Varga. Those two characters had long runs on Breaking Bad, the series that this TV series is a spin-off of.
We have gotten to the point in time where events that are portrayed in the middle seasons of Breaking Bad are about to occur. Gustavo Fring‘s meth cooking bunker is under construction. The conflict between the various criminal gangs that control illegal drug trafficking in Breaking Bad are heating up, leading to the crisis point that finally explodes at the end of season four of that series.
What season five will offer is still unknown to me, even though it is available to rent on Amazon Prime. I pay for Netflix in order to be able to watch streaming media. I am hesitant to bite the bullet and subscribe to another service to watch other media, and I’m not willing to pay rental fees to watch television programs that I should be able to watch with commercial interruptions without having to pay any other price than spending my time watching them. So season five of the show will have to wait until Netflix gets it. If it ever gets it.