Thursday, July 2, 2015

Trek Thursday: The Naked Time

#17: The Naked Time

In case you forgot: Most of the crew is drunk and the Enterprise is spiraling towards a fiery oblivion.

Watching much of the expendable crew go a little wacky is good for a few giggles; this episode may be Sulu's shining moment. (The dude is ripped!) So is watching the deadpan Power Trio try to manage a crew full of drunks. Literally, they're drunks. McCoy figures out that something on the planet basically turns water into wine, including the water in the human body. Spock's emotional breakdown after he catches the condition from Nurse Chapel, where he reflects on the kind of life his human mother must lead on Vulcan, tugs on those heartstrings and plays them like a fiddle.

On a lighter note, the running gag about Riley's incessant singing of "Kathleen" is a nice touch, too, though again I ask: what does TOS have against the Irish? Also, I don't know about you, but having a few syringes of McCoy's Insta-Sober cure on hand would make life a lot better.

Spock's breakdown is solid character development with a good deal of emotional gravitas, but Kirk's is just awful. Something about his hidden feelings for Yeoman Rand doesn't really ring particularly in character, maybe because they're all mixed up in his feelings for the Enterprise.

Also, what's with the random bit of time travel at the end? It comes across as tacked-on episode filler, but since it's not singing space hippies, I'm not going to complain.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Five Fandom Friday: Guilty Pleasures

It's my birthday this weekend! So the whole concept of guilty pleasures is pretty apropos since it's my birthday weekend so I can do what I want!!

5. Trashy YA fantasy/SF novels

I mean trashy in the best possible, affectionate way. (And that's why I'm deliberately avoiding specific names, because one person's "trashy" fun speed read is another person's serious business life-changer, and that's okay.) They're like the jelly beans of books: not particularly challenging to your palette/brain, but just what you need when you're stressed, on public transport, or killing time on a long flight. Besides, there is a lot about writing to be learned from them: whether it's about plotting, characters, or what not to do.

4. Trashy 80s action movies

Especially if they star Sly Stallone.

I don't know what it is about them, but they're great.

3. Batman (1965 movie)

This movie is a league (and entry) of its own. With the Christopher Nolan "Dark Knight" trilogy rebooting Batman into something quite dark and gritty, it seems gauche or tacky to bring up Batman's campy past. But I love Batman's campy past. This movie never fails to cheer me up. Never.

"Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb."

2. Writing "fix fic"...for my own life.

Courtesy finerain

I think this is why a lot of writers write, to be honest. Maybe not often—maybe only a few times in their life, maybe after a traumatic break-up or when it concerns a particularly toxic friend—but my entire 2014 NaNo was essentially a fix fic. Or maybe more like a revenge fic. But you know what? It felt good. And when I was done, I felt even better. And now I have a more or less normal relationship with the toxic, dysfunctional friend who inspired in it!

I just hope that, if it's published, she won't recognize herself in it.

1. K-Pop

I know I shouldn't love it—it's commercial, it's crass, it's the product of years of child abuse and exploitation, a group's music and image are coldly calculated to pander to the tastes of Korean tweens, the music doesn't necessarily reflect the talent or tastes of the members, etc.—but I do. I do not go down the fandom rabbit hole; I don't follow the idols' personal lives, I don't have favorite "baes" and so on. I just put the tunes on my mp3 player and rock out. I guess I can pretend that it's helping my Korean...?

What are your guilty pleasures?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Trek Thursday: The Ultimate Computer

#18: The Ultimate Computer

In case you forgot: An experimental AI takes over the Enterprise. Kirk saves the day by getting it to self-destruct.

This is one of the few "man versus machine" TOS episodes I really, really like. Maybe because it came right after the turd bucket that was "Omega Glory" and that made it seem that much better, I don't know.

The threat that this machine, the M-5, entails is also better-done than in other episodes. Instead of the machine working perfectly, the threat is that the machine is pretty much straight up malfunctioning, to a degree previous computers on TOS would never do. They may be obsessive control freaks that micromanage peoples' lives even to the point of the people's detriment, but it's pretty safe to say they would never blow up a supply ship for no reason at all.

More than just "man versus machine," this episode is also great because we get a great sketch in our guest star of the week, Dr. Daystrom. First of all, some color-blind casting going on in the part, which is nice. Second of all, it's a great "what if" look at the bright young genius, all grown up. What happens to a person who gets too much praise too early? Daystrom has enough background that you could write a novel or movie about him without too much more than the episode lets on: not every walk-on character of the week gets that much. (Heck, even some regulars don't even get that much.)

While it's part of Daystrom's tragic flaw that he's intent on protecting the M-5 from destruction or disrepute, for someone who's equally concerned with pacifism and nonviolence, he lets his computer baby go a bit too long in its killing spree for you to really entirely like the guy.

Spock's assertion that a starship runs on the crew's loyalty to one man really rubs me the wrong way. It's just a little too close to cult of personality for my liking.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What I Read: Science and Human Values

Bronowski's "Science and Human Values" is a quick, compact little read. I finished it during a rest/recovery day over this vacation. (Introvert traveling means that you need an even mix of "busy" and "quiet" days.) If you follow Pharyngula,  you probably already saw the link. If you haven't read it yet (the whole thing is a free PDF), then it's worth taking the time to digest it.

I disagree with a few of Bronowski's points—there are parts that grossly mischaracterize (East) Asian culture and its effect on rigorous science, and I don't know if I hold with his epistemological claim about how science is the journey to find likenesses in disparate things—but the larger thesis is sound, and it's wonderfully written. Bronowski displays a broad knowledge of the humanities in addition to his science work; it's worth it just to "hear" a science writer quote Goethe in the original German.

Somehow Bronowski never came up in any of my philosophy classes, even though Karl Popper did. A new author to explore!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Five Fandom Friday: 5 Characters With My Favorite Fashion

Fashion is one of those things that I know I should pay attention to (jewelry is fashion and has trends just as much as anything else does, after all) but I just...can't? I love having clothes that fit well and express my wack-a-doo personality, but I have never been really into "fashion" as such. I think my choices will make that crystal clear!

5. Shannon Mullins (The Heat)

On the surface I guess it's not much of a style, but her character's grunge-y and ultimately practical/androgynous outfit is still like a comfort zone fashion for me. Sometimes all I want are wide-leg carpenter jeans (why are they all skinny jeans these days?? remember wide-leg jeans? Pepperidge Farm remember), a white tank top, and a plaid button-down thrown on top of it all.

This is maybe not something a creator and curator of fashion (via jewelry) should admit to—after all, you don't think "fab beaded jewelry" when you think "grunge"—but some maille might fit right in. Maybe a double helix patterned wallet chain?

4. Chunk (The Goonies)

I had an aloha shirt phase for a while in high school; it's nothing short of a miracle that my closet isn't still full of them. I would also not be above pairing that aloha shirt with plaid pants. (You know what else I miss, in addition to wide-leg jeans? Plaid pants.)

3. Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski (The Big Lebowski)

LEGO Lebowski courtesy Alex Eylar
The tricky question is, is it fashion or philosophy that I like about The Dude? I guess you could say that his fashion reflects his philosophy. Lucky for all of us, The Dude's sweater is still available for purchase! Thank you, Pendleton, for getting it and being such good sports about it.

2. Alex Mack (The Secret World of Alex Mack)

Hands up, 90s girls: who among you did not lift a style from a Nickelodeon show?

I thought for second about combining the last two into one sort of "90s Nickelodeon Fashion Mag Look Book" but eventually decided against. There were basically two characters whose styles I like(d) and even emulated, back in the day. That's not really enough to roll it all together.

I eventually lost interest The Secret World of Alex Mack at some point when they brought a love interest in, but I think I watched the bulk of the show (there were 4 seasons, I probably watched around 3 of them, definitely 2). My look in middle school was very much Alex, minus the beanies and baseball caps. Was it intentional? No, despite the fact that I wish very much to wake up on my 13th birthday with superpowers like hers. Or get hit by a truck carrying chemical sludge. Whichever.

1. Clarissa Darling (Clarissa Explains it All)

 I know I definitely tried to do the "tie a corner of an oversized T-shirt" thing after I saw Clarissa rock it on an episode. I watched a lot more of this than Alex Mack—maybe because I could relate to having an obnoxious younger brother more than I could to  having superpowers and a perfect, supergenius older sister. Even if I dressed more like Alex at the time, looking back I appreciate Clarissa's outfits more. (Plus, her bedroom was just WAY cooler.) I could never pull them off, but I appreciate them.

Speaking of 90s Nickelodeon, special shout-out goes to The Adventures of Pete & Pete. I didn't take any fashion cues from the Petes (or Ellen), but I loved it just as much.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Vacations and Blog Directions

I've been showing up in your feeds more or less as usual, but as I mentioned the other day in this month's Read Play Blog post, I'm on vacation! My Internet time is limited. Or, more precisely, my Internet time is unlimited, because it's my vacation and I do what I want, but the quality is unpredictable. Samwise, my netbook, didn't come with a heavy-duty wireless card.

More specifically, I'm on vacation along the American west coast. I have a friend getting married in Seattle, so I took the month off to visit a part of the country I had always wanted to see.

I have also been thinking about what I want to do with this blog. I like writing it, though I don't always like how I come off. Sometimes things sound forced, sometimes things come off as a little too high school confessional, sometimes I don't even know what. This weirdness is also tied with the limbo of my Etsy shop. I'll have more to post about that's relevant to the intersection of jewelry and science once I start making more jewelry.

That's not interesting. It's a blog cliche: the blogger putting their Long Dark Night of the Blogging Soul out there for people to read. But I think it's worth communicating that I'm having those thoughts, even if I'm keeping what they are to myself.

Meanwhile, because I don't feel like there's enough of myself/my presence/whatever on the blog, here I am checking off a bucket list item: touching a redwood tree.

Trek Thursday: Charlie X

#19: Charlie X

In case you forgot: Emotionally stunted teen with godlike superpowers terrorizes the Enterprise until his adoptive, immaterial parents take him home.

Charlie's awkward early encounters with other people are charming; there is a ring of naive authenticity in the ways he goofs up. There is the same kind of authenticity in the punishments he doles out during his temper tantrum, in that they seem like the kind of thing a distraught and totally alienated teenager would think of. The woman with no face in particular is some freaky stuff (and is a Google suggestion when you image search for Charlie X, so I guess that brief scene really made an impression). The few moments of Spock being forced to recite poetry manage to be both kind of funny and kind of terrifying at the same time.

What makes the episode stand out, though, is the end. Charlie's fate—to return to immaterial beings he can't touch or love—is pretty grim. Kirk's pleas with the aliens to allow Charlie the chance to be rehabilitated so he can be with his own kind may be one of the highest points for Kirk's character: even though this near-omnipotent brat just destroyed the Antares and took over the Enterprise, Kirk still has enough compassion that he can't doom Charlie to such a future. But the aliens are right, and Kirk and the crew and the audience knows it. Charlie is probably beyond rehabilitation, or at least beyond safe rehabilitation. A lifetime of solitary confinement is his only option—that or death.

The fact that the problem resolves itself despite (and without) any efforts of the Enterprise crew makes the ending, dramatic and disturbing as it is, a little bit unsatisfying, even if this isn't the only time it's happened. At least that interference makes for a nice irony to the episode: the very powers that condemn Charlie to his terrible future were originally given to him to save his life.

While Charlie's initial butt-slap of Yeoman Rand is funny—it's such an obvious mimicry of what he witnessed between two crewmen that you can't really blame him for thinking it would be okay—the way no one involved can talk about personal space, bodily integrity, and respect is just frustrating. Some humor doesn't age well, and this particular humor drags on for far too long.