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

Why 4 Patch?

The Wife recently suggested I rely on Patch.com for my local news. I was complaining about not having enough local news in my news feed, a common problem now that newspapers have gone the way of the dodo. When I first looked it over I thought/said to her “Ah. Another news aggregator like Nuzzel or Feedly. Just what I need.” …The Wife was annoyed at the observation and I closed the browser and all was right with the world that day.

The tab stayed open on the browser though, and over the next few weeks I would notice it and go “Oh yeah. That local news aggregator. I probably should check that out.” Then I would close the browser and all was right with the world again.

Today I open the browser and just for a lark I scrolled through some articles. The site immediately demanded I allow them to send me notifications. Every website does that now. I hate it, but it is accepted site behavior for some reason. I blocked the notification request and kept scrolling.

Then I opened an article. As soon as I did that the site pops up to ask me to join their newsletter. Again, I hate it but every site does this now, so I decide to bite on this lure and give them my email address. Of course that prompts them to tell me to create an account, and after creating the account they want me to verify my email address.

So I go to my email account and click on the verify link. Directly under that message is another message asking me to fill out a survey. The first question was “how likely are you to refer someone to this website?” Following my guidelines for ratings I say four out of ten because: a) I’m three tangents deep into a whim I engaged in while distracted and now I’m regretting the time investment; and b) I still haven’t read a single article on a website that I dismissed as “just another news aggregator” several weeks ago; and c) the site is every bit as demanding of my attention as every other site is these days and I don’t like being shanghai’d every time I sit down at the computer to look something up. A legitimate source doesn’t need to keep your eyeballs on the screen 24/7. A legitimate source is something you come back to without being prodded.

I’m dissatisfied so the rating is less than five. I’m still planning on reading the article so I’m not really that disatisfied. That’s a four. Now, take it or leave it Patch. That’s the answer you get at this juncture. I’ve got other things to do in real life and I don’t have time to write anything else today.

Use Our Website to Order!

It can’t even accept a feedback request.

I tried calling in to the Freebirds locations that I usually go to (Tech Ridge and Hancock) and they instructed me to go to the website to order because they weren’t allowed to take orders over the phone any more. There is a problem with this scenario, of having to go use the Freebirds website. The problem? The website sucks.

I’ll go through the order just to prove the point. I can’t order all three types of beans or multiple meats on the website. Maybe I want more than one kind of bean on my burrito. Maybe I’m in the mood for steak and chicken. I can get ancho on the side for the Daughter and extra chicken for the Wife, but there is no way to say extra pico for the one and extra lettuce for the other. We don’t want to talk about food allergies. That is a lecture too long for this feedback. It will require a second submission.

Use the custom field, I hear you saying. That would be a wonderful challenge for my communication skills since the custom order field is limited to forty-five characters. When Twitter limited me to 140 characters it was sometimes tough to get the right message across in one tweet. That was a challenge that I was willing to take on because the worst outcome was that my message was misunderstood and I would have to tweet a second time to try to clarify my statement. I wouldn’t have to pay for and then eat the resultant mess. A custom field of 45 characters means I have to write the order out in code, and I’ll be willing to bet that my code and your code will not match since the encryption/decryption key isn’t provided with the order form.

The problem of “go in the restaurant and order or use the website” is solved for me by going to a different restaurant. Going to a restaurant with a drive through or having food delivered from some place that answers the phone or whose website allows me to clearly and unambiguously order what I want from the menu. I love Freebirds burritos, but I don’t love them enough that I will jump through extra hoops, settle for something made in a way allowable by the kludgy website or risk my health during a pandemic in order to get Freebirds food. Lady Liberty is going to have to find another job if those are my choices.

Microfiber Blanket Entity

The microfiber blanket we recently purchased is almost miraculously soft, and it’s cozy warmth is a comfort on winter nights when your state has left you stranded at home with no electricity, gas or running water in the middle of a blizzard.

When we put it on the bed for the first time and noted its behavior, we were concerned that it might have been possessed by a mischievous spirit. Since it hasn’t sucked out anyone’s soul, bled anything dry or eaten our pets, we’re guessing it’s either a benign spirit or a new form of life.

In addition to warmth on cold nights it also provides entertainment. While you are asleep, it will crawl across the bed to keep the spouse warm while leaving the  purchaser cold, and it will repeat this process nightly if required to. Simply put the blanket back in its original position on the bed, and then go back to sleep again. When you wake up you will once again discover that you have all the blanket.

Through experimentation I have established that the blanket moves in the direction that the tag is.

I highly recommend microfiber blankets. Get your spouse to buy one for you. If you discover what it eats please let me know so I can keep mine properly fed.

Sentient Bed Covering Review posted on various sites. The Wife kept wanting me to change this one, so if it looks different than you remember, it’s her fault.

Notifications

We want to send you notifications

No

Please allow notifications

No

(sets me as accepting notifications by default, then sends me notifications)

What the fuck is this? (clicks on notification)

Please enter your password

(Puts in password)

This password is incorrect. Please login to your account to view your notifications

Wait. Back up. You send my notifications to devices that I’m not logged into? Why the fuck would you send my notifications to total strangers that aren’t logged into my account? What the actual fuck is the purpose of this shit?

(Changes password, disables notifications)

Fixed that problem. The dialog is significantly cleaner and shorter than the actual experience was or is.

My Friend Xanax

Third day in a row. Taking Xanax for light vertigo and playing World of Warcraft slightly stoned. This is what the bad days are like. It beats worshipping at the porcelain altar for six hours at a stretch. I’ll take it.

January 26th – Finally it passes again. So close to the dizziness that persisted through most of December and early January that I almost thought it was the same bout of dizziness. Who knows? I don’t think so, but then I don’t know what caused that long stretch of dizziness either (still taking the iron) What I do know is that you can have my Xanax over my cold, dead body. You can have it over my cold, dead body, because taking it from me will kill me as surely as a drunken rock star chokes on his own vomit when he is so out of it that he (or she) doesn’t know which way is up. The difference is, I didn’t do this to myself. Nature did.

…But then nature made them musicians, artists, with all the baggage those labels entail. Maybe nature did it to them too.

Punctuation

As I edit through some of the old articles on the blog I marvel at some of the things I thought were amusing at the time. One of the other things that I find remarkable is my, overly, extreme, fondness, for, commas. That, and I never seemed to understand what a colon (:) was used for and and I’m way, way over-using the semicolon (;) and I can’t seem to ask questions properly because I’m afraid of question marks?

I also find myself agreeing with writers who hate the ellipsis…

…finish the fucking thought? Please?

#MAGA: Land Doesn’t Vote. People Do.

In private groups – where you’re not invited – we share our bewilderment of your descent into madness. We all have stories about how we’ve cut ties with you, our family and former friends, because we don’t want your hatred poisoning our social media streams. We can’t stand to listen to you vomiting the lies of your cult, day after day. You used to be different. We liked you. But now that we know what was inside your heart all along, we’ve decided you don’t deserve to know about our lives.

Red State Rustler (on Facebook)

I love every stinking word of that article. I love and agree with every single letter, space and punctuation. Tell him I sent you, if you click the link and read the whole thing. Since this is one of my #MAGA articles, I’m betting you, dear reader, won’t do that.

Joe Biden won the election. I realize this is news to you because your cult leader and his approved media sources won’t tell you that Donald Trump lost the election for U.S. President, but that is the truth as verified by the recent votes of the electoral college. It really shouldn’t matter that the electoral college votes one way or the other, but in the United States we have some pretty weird ideas about what it means to win an election.

Seven million (give or take) seven million more people voted for Joe Biden. Seven million more people voted for Joe Biden than voted for Donald Trump. When seven million more people vote for Joe Biden, he wins the election. That is just basic math, and it is also the way that the electoral college was supposed to work:

It was supposed to work that way originally, and it could well work that way again unless we get rid of it entirely. Seven million more people voted for Joe Biden, and still the currently sitting (lame duck) President and his supporters think that they have the umph to make him president for a second term. I don’t think they understand the basic math that is at play here. I have some visual aids for this article, because the Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans apparently can’t understand what 7 million more votes for Joe Biden actually represents.

tenor.co
mentalfloss.com
engaging-data.com

There are more of us than there are of you. Seven million more of us. Do you get the picture now? We are rapidly approaching the New Year as I sit here typing this. The 117th Congress will be sworn in and seated on January 3rd. The votes of the electoral college will be counted on January 6th. Barring antics by Republicans that slip through the net and attempt to sabotage the the electoral vote count, Joe Biden will be sworn in as president on January 20th.

The trumpists can either learn how to live with the fact that they and their cult-leader lost the election, or they can overthrow the legitimately elected government with trickery on January 6th or with insurrection sometime before January 20th. In either case, they will have chosen to end what has been seen as normal for the United States since 1789:

The Dark Side of the Moon

This entry on the blog exists to make a single statement. There are no tracks on Pink Floyd’s 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon. The track list is a lie, a fiction created by marketers who insisted that there had to be segments and names for all the parts of the life that is lived on the first side of the album that begins with birth and ends with death. Just as these same corporate shills insisted on there being labels for all the width of the lived life that is on the second side of the album, solid transactionalism to total madness.

Unfortunately there are few places where you can hear the album without track breaks, a fact that is quite maddening of itself for those of us who understand that the two sides of the album are intended to be listened to by starting the needle in the groove at the beginning of the first side of the album, listening to the end of that side, and then turning the record over to listen to the other side. A cassette tape works similarly, this is the thing that I always loved about my cassette tapes.

Fortunately Vimeo does have a place where you can listen to full albums without track breaks. Fooled me. I listened, and it’s just another rip of the same CD I own, and a poorly mastered rip at that.

Honestly? I’m still looking into the whole gapless thing. Supposedly it works on Spotify if you pay for Spotify. I don’t pay for Spotify. I do pay for Amazon music and it doesn’t do gapless while streaming. Windows media plays my CD rips of Dark Side of the Moon gapless, and yet Videolan puts gaps in between the exact same ripped files. Amazon will play the CD rips gapless, but not the stream. Go figure. I have toyed with making Dark Side of the Moon and other albums that should be experienced as an album into one long file so as to avoid having to deal with track breaks where no track breaks should be to get past this variability in players and playback, but then I don’t have tracks to start and stop on when inevitably someone interrupts my personal music concert.

That was supposed to be my gift to all of you today. A gapless playback of Dark Side of the Moon. I was awake for a solid thirty hours yesterday. I woke early this morning after a solid twelve hours of sleep. Twelve hours of running, hiding, yelling, screaming, whispering and pleading. All those dreams and other forgotten dreams. A lifetime of dreams as the thirty hours before that had been a lifetime of experiences. I awoke with the words of Brain Damage running through my mind (even though I remembered it as Eclipse before looking at the track list) and I knew what I had to listen to while preparing breakfast and getting ready for a nice morning stroll with the dog.

The lunatics are in my hall
The paper holds their folded faces to the floor
And every day the paper boy brings more

Dark Side of the Moon it is, then.

There is no dark side of the moon, really. As a matter of fact it is all dark.

Pink Floyd
Professor of Rock – Alan Parsons Story of Pink Floyd Album The Dark Side Of The Moon August 4, 2020

(Clare Torry does sing/say one line in Great Gig in the Sky. You have to listen very carefully to hear it)