Friday, May 31, 2013

Levar Burton Reminds Us What Star Trek Is

Levar Burton stands up to J.J. Abrams on behalf of Star Trek. Yes, that's right, and he should get his own statue for it. What am I talking about? What is he talking about? Here's the quickly dismissed quote from an interview he did with the Toronto Sun:

"...I'm a little disquieted by things I hear coming out of his camp, things like he would like to be remembered as the only Trek—which would discount everything before he got there."

"There's 'breaking the canon,' which he did (by re-inventing Star Trek's timeline). But there's also honouring the canon. And to pretend to be the only one is really egocentric and immature."

"I just came from a conference in San Francisco with Advanced Micro Devices, and they're working on technology towards building a holodeck. That was Next Generation. And that's part of what Star Trek has brought to the culture. So when JJ Abrams says, There should be no Star Trek except the one I make,' I call bulls---, J.J."

So what is he talking about you ask? Why is this important? Is there any truth to this? Why yes there is ladies and gentlemen...

Part of J.J. Abrams goals with his new Star Trek Franchise reboot was to 'do away with,' have 'erased' in the public's mind the icons of the original Star Trek, starting with merchandise featuring the original icons like William Shatner.

An explanation coming from The Atlantic Wire regarding Abram's issues with the old series:
"You see, whereas Paramount owns the movie rights to Star Trek, CBS owns the rights to the television series (and any future shows in the works). That meant that CBS could and still did create merchandise based on the cast members of the original series. Since people were apparently getting William Shatner's Kirk confused with Chris Pine's Kirk, Bad Robot—Abrams' production company—asked CBS to stop making such products. CBS said no, so Bad Robot "scaled back its ambitions to have Star Trek's storylines play out with television shows, spin-off films and online components, something Abrams had been eager to accomplish." --The Atlantic Wire

What is obviously part of Abrams marketing strategy, coinciding with his "This is Not Your Father's Star Trek" was to create not a reboot of a sense but an entirely new "Star Trek," one which would not be either a continuation nor any kind of 'reinvention,' but a replacement. He wanted this new Star Trek to do away with old icons, old ideas, obviously starting with merchandising, so that the film rights-holders could have their own "Iconic Star Trek" to cash in on, and so they could ignore the old one since they don't have rights to that. What part of this is all about is Abrams desire to 'devalue' the television Star Trek, to make his the absolute publicly acknowledged Star Trek. He most certainly has no concern for the old Star Treks, and Levar Burton most likely had heard this was the case.

What initially appears to be some kind of rights-dipute has wider implications. His job was to make a Star Trek more widely accepted of course, for profiting purposes, but to essentially erase a generation of pop culture which regardless of his attempts is still admired to this day. Somebody needs to explain to J.J. Abrams that you can't really try to erase pop culture like that, with some marketing scheme. You can't, for instance, try to destroy the public's love of Sean Connery James Bond because you want a new iconic Bond. You can't just manufacture pop culture like that. Abrams marketing scheme assumes it can re-fashion not just a look or appearance of a product, but public perception of that product, not to mention the reality of what that original iconic pop-culture element did and how it influenced people and society. Abrams has money in mind here, but it would seem he also wants to control the public perception of Star Trek, channel it, distort it to his own ends, and this blog decrees Levar Burton its honorary Star Trek Hero for his courage to stand up and speak about this--because it is...bullshit.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Trouble with Transporters: Star Trek Into Darkness

STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS (or The Transporter is One More Reason You're Not Supposed to Be Making Action Movies Out of Star Trek)

I got some news for Damon Lindelof and J.J. Abrams. You know that transporter thing in Star Trek that you can't figure out what to do with? You know, that thing in Star Trek: Into Darkness that you keep having problems with. This is a two hour movie, where most of the dialogue is about explaining why the transporter doesn't work in this scene, because you want to do an action scene, or it would be too easy to just beam someone out of trouble. There's a reason for all this. There's a reason why hacks like Lindelof can't figure out how to get around it.

Let me explain to you why it exists in the first place. No, it's not because somebody like Gene Roddenberry thought it would be cool to have a teleporter on board, but because they were making a television show which focused on a story, and they had neither the money nor the time to show people getting in and out of little shuttles all the time. It helped them get on with their story. It wasn't about action battles in spaceships. The transporter beam helps you get your characters where you want them to be quicker, so you can move forward with your "plot." Do you guys know what a plot is? 

You see, you keep having this problem with having to make shit up and explain to the audience all the time why you don't want to use the transporter all the time because you have no plot, you have no story, everything is focused on space battles, action, people shooting and blowing shit up. They didn't have transporters in Star Wars, there was no need for them.  In Star Trek, it was in fact invented as a convenience, but it worked so well that people now just assume that one day we'll invent such a thing... 

You have characters doing shit all the time in Star Trek movies that they probably shouldn't be doing in a Star Trek movie, and since you have nothing to say, you have no plot, you have no story to tell, you end up with this severe issue around the transporter beam. You're simply not thinking straight because not only do you not understand "Star Trek" and how it works, you make it look even dumber when you come up with more bad excuses throughout the movie of just why they can't use the transporter at that particular moment, you waste screen time with characters having to explain it, and you make yourselves look stupid because you're thinking only about action and stupid shit that YOU want to see in a Star Trek movie. If you had simply come up with a great story, you wouldn't have this problem. There are so many instances in this stupid movie that require you to have to explain to the audience who you obviously KNOW are going to be wondering what the fuck--why don't they just use the transporter--because they're smart, and yet you treat them like they're dumb, and they're not going to notice that you have to fucking explain it every five minutes to them why you can't use the transporter in this scene. You're idiots. You did it to yourselves.

When I think back of the clever uses of the transporter in the movies, I have to say, those people knew what they were doing with Star Trek, it would seem the more you deviate from what Star Trek is, the catch is, the more you have to waste time trying to explain stupid shit to the audience as to why stupid shit is happening in your movie. That's a waste. It shows you don't know what the fuck you're doing. By continuing to point out to the audience all the time why you can't use the transporter also shows how insecure you are in your writing, you could have just invented one simple excuse at the beginning of your movie, and all your problems would be solved, but you're not that clever, and you might have to use that transporter at some point because in fact you're lazy, and you don't want to have a space-battle action scene at that point. You're dumb. 

The transporter beam works in Star Trek because while it may seem that an actual story is boring to you, in fact, it's not, while it seems to be operating slowly, it really isn't, it progresses faster than your action heavy garbage because not only is it going somewhere, it's engaging the audience in their minds, in their emotions, it doesn't have to work as hard. It uses the transporter because in fact its moving so fast, it doesn't have time for space-battle action scenes and fist fights every five minutes. It has a direction, it knows where it's going, and has a point to make. You have nothing to say, you have no point to make. 

The Transporter Beam Problem is indicative of how poorly written your movie is, think back, how many other Star Trek movies can you think of, or even episodes which had this problem? When you look at it, you can start backwards and see that the movies starting with Into Darkness, "2009", Nemesis, etc, go from bad to good, and get better, the further back you go. Which means these movies keep getting worse and worse, and the worse they get the more you see this babble-shit to explain why stupid shit is happening on screen like transporter problems. The further you get away from real Star Trek, you start having these issues. They didn't have this problem back in the day.  This last movie here is the worst of all of them, I don't think I've seen such a stupid Star Trek movie in my life. You continue to wonder why the hell it's such a problem, this 'transporter' thing, and yet it is so simple. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Warped World

2063. Ten years after the end of "World War III."  That would be 50 years from now. Sometime between now and I assume the 2050s this ridiculous war starts. There's not a lot to go on, but there's enough I guess. Eugenics Wars. Mass murder. Genetic engineering gone amuck. Another date of 2079, says DATA in "Encounter at Farpoint," the bullshit still continues with fascists and drug-manipulated soldiers where people are held "guilty until proven innocent." Well, it's getting that way right now. 1996, 2063, 2079, these Star Trek people can't get their dates straight. Some other nutbag, Philip Green mass murders survivors of a nuclear holocaust too. Lots of insane people. They don't sound so unfamiliar to our time now. We're well past the 90s, and perhaps we've dodged that bullet, as far as I know there have been no genetically engineered dictators in the last 20 years, but that doesn't mean we won't get one soon enough. But really, who needs 'genetically engineered' dictators when we got enough of the 'normal' ones right now? 

Today, in 2013, when one looks at the situation, we have neither space explorers, warp drives or any contact with alien races. We do however have bad genetically engineered food that they refuse to tell us whether we're eating it or not, we have flip-top cellphones, which have now been replaced with stupid iPhones, we have advanced personal computers which are rapidly becoming 'stupidity-machines' that nobody will know how to use in less than 10 years, and people will be so stupid they won't even type words anymore.  We have idiotic 3-D movies, but no holodeck yet. It's likely that holodecks will only be invented once the porn industry figures out how to work them. Weapons of course always advance faster than everything else, meanwhile people are moaning about gun-control laws. A segment of the population seems unaware that the availability of pulse energy weapons is out there, and the kinds of technology that makes their little chemical powdered ammunition seem ridiculous. There's not much a 9mm let alone a .44 is going to do against a drone strike. We have 3-D printers, yet meanwhile a segment of the population is still trying to replace Constitutions with their religious books. 

Our movies are getting dumber not smarter, people are becoming more vicious, not more tolerant, and those people who see themselves as 'progressive' are still throwing caution to the wind, almost taking dangerous steps just to spite the 'conservative' minded religious-book-thumpers. How do you convince people of both political persuasions that they're being irrational? When I see people arguing that dumber movies are good for us, otherwise we won't get 'another' one? If they're all dumb, what's the point? Both sides of the political world are awaiting their apocalypses, with their forecasts of destruction. One side says Global Warming is coming to get us, the other says God is coming to get us. Both negate the other, and neither side has any rational solutions to these problems. Taxing the poor isn't going to stop Global Warming, and if its the prophecy of the Book of Revelations, well, there's not a chance in hell of stopping that now is there? I share many ideas with both these groups, I see a lot of merit in many things both of them have to say, but they don't care, I'm "either with them or against them." So there's a "no-win situation" right there we can't get out of. 

I look ahead, I dream of a better world, and these people out there seem to forfeit any possibility of making things better, especially when they refuse to see any point of the opposing side. The opposing side also refuses to reason with what it is they seem to argue about, and you hear a lot of "let them die," and "someone ought to" and "they should be hung for treason." It all sounds like the Dark Ages to me. If one tries to point to something better, you'll get accused of being a communist traitor who wants a 'new world order,' and if you try to criticize and point out the dangers of unfettered technological advancement, you get called a fascist. How the hell are we going to get anywhere with these people? Aliens would have to come down and reveal themselves and alter the course of all human history, but something tells me this just isn't going to happen, no matter how much Star Trek one believes in.

This world is headed at at least Warp 2, on its way to total destruction, and even though that seems to be common knowledge people just keep on being mindless consumers as if they hope that they'll all wake up tomorrow and everything will be different. It's one thing to dream of Star Trek world, but believe in it blindly, hoping someone will provide it to you, and somebody like Khan just might come along and lie to you, and you'll buy into it, and OOPS, he didn't have that in mind all along, and you'll never get your Star Trek world ever again. Do nothing to get there, and you'll never get there. One cannot just assume that some magic device will be invented and it will all just happen one day. The more and more people do nothing, dream nothing, the less and less we'll have any kind of future at all.  It looks like after 9-11 everybody seems okay with "the ends justify the means." So Star Trek world at any cost, which means we'll get there if we have to murder half the world, pollute the place and destroy the entire natural genome to do it. That's not going to work ladies and gentlemen. There does have to be justice in the world, and the road must be taken with a lot of precautions, and a lot of considerations. We're not going to get there by banning religion, we're not going to get there by making everyone one religion either. It should be obvious to everyone that this can't be done this way, but it never seems to be. 

The Pope says atheists aren't evil, thank God. Can the atheists say that religious people aren't evil now? Probably not. Religion is causing a lot of problems right now as it is, and it's likely nobody's going to be thinking rationally for a long time. What can be done if this is the case? You see in Star Trek, people try to get along, and respect eachother, there stuff to do, so they're not sitting around on the internet all the time posting negative shit about everyone they hate all the time. They have exploring to do, they have the unknown to investigate, they have nature to study, they have 'new worlds and new peoples' to go to and meet. This is something we truly need at this time. If we're not doing something like that, it seems, we're just causing war. Too much videogames, too much porn, too much idle time without any exploration and we get angry talkshow callers, hate-filled comments everywhere on every internet post, and ridiculous flame-wars about insignificant details of people's favorite things. How does this get us anywhere?

Star Trek. To boldly go. Where no one has gone before. Look around you. Is ANYONE trying to go where no one has gone before? Not at all. They want things to stay the same. They want things to go backwards. They want to fuck with things they know nothing about with complete freedom no matter what the consequences and they want to force you to accept the consequences of their actions. We've gone pretty far with technology already, and one thing we're going to have to realize pretty soon here, especially if nobody's going to build any spaceships, that if you're going to be doing this shit here on this planet, other people live here too, and you have no right to do that, no matter how much money you happen to have. You have to be held responsible for your absolute disregard for the rest of the human race, and the future, regardless of whether you believe you're doing it 'for the future.' You see, good intentions are not always a good enough excuse. These are the problems... and we cannot deny them while we seek for this better world. We can't stop trying for a better world either. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

To Boldly Go...

Zefram Cochrane built a Warp Drive Engine in the year 2063 in Bozeman, Montana. This was something that takes place in a movie called Star Trek, First Contact. A lot of other strange things took place in that movie, but this is what happened nonetheless. 

If you're a Star Trek Fan, there's no denying the reality that if you go on the internet, you'll find thousands of arguments, possibly millions of arguments about millions of details that have been presented in various episodes and movies and these crazy arguments come from any number of perspectives. If you're a Star Trek Fan, you already know that there's possibly millions of fans who all want to be the person who points out some error, some detail, some discrepancy, some continuity problem and there's no end to posts about things like this. There's hundreds of episodes to sort through, 5 different series' and all these movies, not even including the new ones. 

You will find uncivilized 'discussions' about Klingon foreheads, where and when the Borg should be appearing, how the bridges of people's noses in different series' look different, and how the 'future history' does not line up with dates given in different series. You will find people measuring different sizes of ships on screen and writing entire essays about how impossible it is for certain scenes to have taken place because the size of the ships changed, or wouldn't allow for certain actions shown on screen. Uniforms are different, aliens look different from time to time, and some line of dialog written in one episode doesn't match up with another episode. As a matter of fact, I speculate, there is more written about Star Trek regarding what could and couldn't have happened, and which details are incorrect and where they do and don't belong it's almost beyond comprehension.

Some call it "nitpicking," and yet this "nitpicking" comprises a bulk of discussion about this particular series. People comb over ever detail of every single thing that happens on screen and it really has become a culture of its own. These are of course, "fans," who actually say they love the series, watch it over and over, and freeze frame and screen-capture and post these little details to engage and try to win arguments across the internet every day. It is most certainly a bizarre thing, but it is sometimes amusing to look at, the amount of information gathered and posted is extraordinary. Every word, every date, every little detail is examined. 

Less is written about the concepts and why they exist for some reason, and it shouldn't be assumed that these kinds of people are gathering and comprehending the themes and concepts and meanings of these episodes that they're dissecting. They might be, but they go over and over these episodes to the point of absurdity. I saw one argument about "canon" regarding whether or not the BORG should pronounce the word "futile" as "few-tull" or "few-tyle."  Simply because two actors pronounced them differently in different episodes, and "shouldn't they have pronounced them exactly as the Borg did in the original episode in which they appeared?" 

So Zefram Cochrane comes from an episode in the 60s, and he lived on some other planet for awhile. What's worse than nitpicking is seeing people get upset when some odd thing appears to be different. Needless to say, Star Trek is full of tiny microscopic little inconsistencies and a few 'continuity' mistakes. However, the bulk of the show, the majority of the series, the whole of the idea and the various themes that come and go are hardly affected, yet it continues.

Zefram Cochrane in 2063 was a drunk, bored survivor of World War III living in Montana, who like some hot-rodder who customizes old junkers in his spare time for fun, builds himself a Warp Drive and decides to set off into space with it. The point of this character, in the larger picture, is that he does something different which changes things. He manages to innovate and step away from the hellish situation which is the middle of the 21st Century to basically inspire a whole new future which leads to what we know of as "Star Trek." Yes, this movie in which he appears involves time-travel, some plot inconsistencies, continuity errors, some ridiculous action scenes, character derivations, and numerous other things, but it is revisited in ENTERPRISE, and pretty much illustrated as the event which started it all. 

J.J. Abrams is far from a Zefram Cochrane doing something different, and the plot issues and continuity problems he has brought into the mess is far more disturbing than anything which took place before him. The real point here is, you can waste your time arguing with other Star Trek fans until you're blue in the face, playing gotcha games about the details of Star Trek, and completely miss out on the reason for many of these things, no matter how poorly they may have been conveyed. Sometimes Star Trek themes are conveyed perfectly without error, other times, little details crop up and if you're not paying attention and getting carried away with trying to make every single detail line up perfectly, you totally lose the meaning of things. (Abrams lost the meaning by not paying attention to anything at all, while many fans lose the meaning by paying attention way too much.)

We're approaching the real 2063, and many of us won't live to see that year, but it is closer to our time than anything Captain Archer, or Captain Kirk will ever do. Our time is more likely to be more like the events referred to in "Encounter at Farpoint" than anything else, and unless you actually think everything in Star Trek is going to happen exactly as they say it will, and will be upset when the Eugenics Wars don't really happen because they did in Star Trek, you're more insane than J.J. Abrams. No, nothing happened in 1996, Khan didn't show up in the real world, the times and dates predicted in Star Trek weren't entirely accurate. World War III could happen tomorrow. The point is that perhaps we need to look beyond a bit, and attempt to imagine a better world, one that doesn't have a World War III in it. Yes, according to the Star Trek Timeline, Zefram Cochrane doesn't build his ship until after World War III starts, but seriously, the point is more important than whether or not it takes place in 1996, 2063, 2079 or 2015, or whether such a war takes place at all. 

People take Star Trek seriously, some say too seriously, but in ways that are not always entirely even reasonable. What people need to take more seriously are the ideas that are being conveyed here, not so much whether Warp 7 is impossible or not, but whether or not the human race makes the right decisions in the real world, comparatively to situations in the fictional world. The fact is that we may never ever build a Warp Drive, nor even explore space in metal ships in our future. However, this doesn't make Star Trek any less relevant.  J.J. Abrams doesn't seem to have much to say to us about anything, and could probably care less what kind of future the human race is heading towards, let alone what kind of future Star Trek will actually have, but stories pre-Abrams did and no matter how shitty their special effects, or even their minor details, the points they are trying to make to us need to be looked at a lot closer, using the very same seriousness that the people who create thousands of pages of meticulous encyclopedia entries about every detail of everything that takes place in Star Trek. 

We're not living in a stable world in case you hadn't noticed. Crazy and crazier shit is happening every day. Star Trek world is getting further and further away, not closer and closer. If we're not careful, the mid-21st Century apocalypse will actually be the world we live in very soon, and it could end up being worse than anything Star Trek told us about. The dream of Star Trek is to "boldly go where no one has gone before." Not just because we can, or because the show makes it seem fun, but because if we don't we might as well nuke ourselves right now, and also, if we don't boldly go, we probably will nuke ourselves.

Star Trek Still Exists

Yes, Star Trek still exists. It does. On DVD and Blue-Ray. Every episode which ever aired can be purchased for thousands of US dollars at various stores and on the internet. They may even be available for some time. Some cable channels may even still re-run many of these episodes. Star Trek hasn't been erased yet. 

What concerns many people who take many issues with J.J. Abrams' Star Trek movies is that they are such a departure, and a departure no Star Trek film or television series has ever taken that they have basically ended the long-running series which once existed.  Star Trek may never pick up again where it left off, nor return to what might be considered the 'original timeline' or 'original storyline.' 

Yes, many television shows come to an end, but the choice to continue this series and essentially declare that the 40 years of collected fans of many if not all of these series' to be obsolete, that they're going to 'continue' the brand name, but attempt to refashion it in such a way as to leave very little connection to anything which came before seems an absurdity. What they've done is basically take something that needed no remake (The 1960s original series), simply because they figured people would buy it, either just to see it, or because they literally could be duped into thinking it would be even remotely the same. Yet they told those people to basically go fuck themselves if they didn't like it--that this was made to create a new generation of Star Trek fans... if so, then why bother resurrecting the character names of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, etc? Why try to 'go back' with some 'new spin' of some kind? It wasn't even remotely 'intelligent,' and these movies do not have much reverence for the original series other than some shallow and superfluous references and jokes. Do they honestly believe that is enough to 'satisfy' the original fans by just name dropping and re-using old lines? It isn't the same, these characters are different, it's a totally different reality than the earlier one, and not just because it has a different bridge with more special effects.

This is not the usual "I spotted an error!" gotcha game played by nitpicker culture, this is an issue regarding deeper themes and concepts, perhaps the reason why Star Trek even exists in the first place. Imagine how much more disappointed fans would have been of the Prequels if George Lucas had decided not to make them about anything even remotely connected to the original movies, and Darth Vader was a space-racer pilot, and the 'clone wars' turned out to be a space-speeder race contest which ended in a climactic space battle between clone racer pilots and competing aliens, resulting in the creation of the Empire simply to control the animosities of the losing alien species that took part in the 'Galactic Games.' People would be seriously upset not simply because they have no idea where this shit is coming from, but this is even further removed from what they've come to understand as 'their story' that they're familiar with. 

Our Star Trek still exists, yes, and perhaps these movies will be best remembered the same way as the remakes of LOST IN SPACE, GODZILLA, and PLANET OF THE APES. As embarrassments, many in a long line of cash grabs and failed 'remakes' which often are done to re-secure property rights to make money off movies. 

The crowd that loves the new Star Trek movies have the attention span of fleas, so it goes, when the next "Pacific Rim" comes out, Star Trek is quickly forgotten, and so it is the way they made it, a quick moving sensory overload that means nothing and is gone before you know it, nothing memorable, nothing to think about later, nothing to ponder. It's their own fault, but admittedly it does have some staying power, perhaps about as much as the FAST AND THE FURIOUS series which leaves little to remember, little to ponder after the fact, but maintains a certain amount of success...

Meanwhile, the intelligent fans of the original Star Treks wonder if they'll ever see anything like that again, and why the hell people are making Star Trek movies that make no sense, and that are so shallow and useless, rendering perhaps into a public perception that Star Trek is a worthless shallow series of mindlessly entertaining space adventures for infantile people who can't pay attention to anything longer than 30 seconds. 

There is much to go on out there in Star Trek merchandise land, even I have not seen every single episode of every single Star Trek series ever made, but when one looks at how ENTERPRISE ended, one sees how much more could be done. Certainly this property exists because it makes money, and it makes money if people like it and buy its products, but there's a central issue to understand regarding why people like it that is now essentially being ignored by the companies which own it or make movies from it. We've discussed this already. It's a thoughtless, empty thing, a soulless thing.  Who wants that? We look back and see 40 years of worthwhile 'product' if you want to call it that, why change that? Sure it's conceivable to go ahead with a new series, it's worked before, and kept it's purpose, but now, somebody's come along to turn it into something it never was. There seems to be no reason to have done that. It isn't like we hadn't seen Star Trek in 20 years, and they miraculously brought it back from the dead.  Star Trek Enterprise wasn't cancelled because "nobody" watched it, it was cancelled from on high to make room for a reboot/remake movie series.  One nobody asked for to be sure.

So here we are, fans with a Star Trek we don't really want, with a perception on the internet that "everybody" loves it, and they're spending a couple hundred million dollars a movie. I'd be happier if they spent that 200 million on some crappy cardboard sets, some bad makeup, some no-name actors and a few good writers. That comes to about 9 million dollars an episode. Imagine that. "Low budget" television eh? 

All we can hope for is an Abrams Cinema failure to stop this madness, but this isn't entirely what I want to address here on this blog. 

We scarcely see "Star Trek" in our Star Trek. Now take that and use it on anything else you value. We scarcely see anything in our anything these days, more and more and more. The reason seems to keep coming up "money."  Greed killed Star Trek? Could it be? Could this latest film be a failure? If it is, what does that mean for the franchise as a whole? They said that we should all be happy because the first one is a success. Why should we care about whether they made money off it? Do you value your car, your dvd player, your washer and dryer based on how much it makes the company money or how well it works? 

Give us something that makes sense. When people rent or buy or download (or however they obtain it) PORN, I assume they expect to see PORN. Not videos of tennis. Not videos of people playing videogames. Not videos of people talking about quantum physics. They expect naked people doing things they wish they could be doing. When it comes to Star Wars, people wanted space battles, lightsabers, romance, quasi-mystical dialog about destinies and cosmic conspiracies. That is what made it a success. Not cartoon rabbits stepping in shit. They were disappointed. When it comes to Star Trek, people want to see a spaceship full of people making hard decisions about big challenges they face while exploring the unknown, an imagined future with high technology which makes sense, and certain ideals to believe in regarding our own real future. What they got was a bunch of kids arguing about what to do because some guy from space wants revenge, with lots of explosions, shooting all over the place, people screaming all the time and some silly one-liners. This may have been what people were entertained with that week in 2009 when it came out, but it's hardly something so memorable you can watch it again, nor should one continue with that nonsense time and again.  One fact might simply be that Star Trek should have continued its way being a television series, rather than movies, and let movies be made for some big nostalgic and epic purpose because somebody wrote a really good script, not because it's a movie-franchise. Star Trek worked best as a television series, it's how it began, it's why there's five of them, and why it lasted for 40 years, not because of the movies. Check your facts on that boys and girls, only a couple of them were that big of a success.  The television shows however, still re-rerun and are still revisited by millions of people every day.

Something is "Warped" out there in Hollywoodland and it almost seems as if they're intentionally degrading these time-honored franchises by turning them into crap nobody wants to watch. I highly doubt that now, I do think it's simply a bunch of careless people simply trying to make a buck and thinking to themselves, why bother putting any effort into this, these people will just buy it on the name alone won't they? In many cases this is true, merchandise addiction has certainly become a decades-old American trait.  Companies depend on consumerism, buying crap with likenesses and logos for seemingly no apparent reason other than these people need more shit to waste their money on, but take away their like and sentiment for your 'franchise' and see what happens. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Trekkin On Up!

J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" isn't Star Trek. If you're not aware of that, then perhaps you've not seen Star Trek, pick any series between 1966 and 2007 and watch it. Watch the movies before J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" and if you cannot discern the difference beyond the fact that there are different actors in them, or the 'special effects aren't as good,' then I'm not sure you're able to understand what Star Trek was even about in the first place. You can pretend they don't exist, or you can believe that Star Trek is all a prequel to Star Wars if you want, either way, there isn't much help for you.  It isn't about continuity issues. There are a few of those among the series that came before it, nothing so assaulting as the new movies, but there's a few things here and there. 

If you're still babbling and complaining about Scott Bakula, Voyager, or DS9, if you're still hung up on infantile debates about Klingon foreheads and whether or not transporter beams should exist in ENTERPRISE, you're missing quite a great deal of what Star Trek was about. Whether you like it or not, the worst episodes of Voyager, Enterprise and DS9, and the Next Generation movies contain far more "Star Trek" than J.J. Abrams' movies, and are all a part of one long series that isn't attempting to sabotage Gene Roddenberry's original ideas, or the many writers who took the helm on so many episodes over the last 40 years. 

Yes, we know that genetically engineered super-men didn't try to take over the world in the 1990s, and there's no changing the fact that computers have advanced far beyond what we see in the Shatner series from the 1960s.  Star Trek continued, and just as Snake Plissken didn't rescue the President from a prison called "New York" in 1997, we as an audience have to ignore those dates and absorb the story and it's intentions. Along the course of the series' of Star Trek, we're told about a 21st Century in which catastrophic war takes place. Star Trek isn't about that "world war III" but it attempts to shine a light beyond it, that mankind makes it, that a more positive future is arrived at. You can get upset that that historical period is referred to with many different dates, or that the Eugenics Wars couldn't have taken place in the 1990s, or that you didn't like the guy who played Zefram Cochrane, or that First Contact had plot holes, or that Voyager's references seem to be different details, or that you didn't like time-travel cops, or that Enterprise had Scott Bakula in it, or that DS9 was too much like a soap opera, or whatever, but...  The story elements along its great timeline (whether there were characters you hated, or whether people went back and forth in time or visited parallel realities) are all connected in one single entity called Star Trek, keeping as much as possible the foundation of what it was always about, and didn't drastically alter any original characters or ideas to the point of absurdity, as did J.J. Abrams in his remakes.  This "Star Trek" vision is still intact after its 40 years of different series, at least it is on DVD, and it was intact until Abrams and his remakes came along. 

The Abrams films reveal a public not only not familiar with the original Star Treks, but one that either has contempt for it, or one that simply has no interest, no relation to it, no undestanding or desire for something it promoted. The arguments about the little details of Trek are often hobbyists who like to take things apart, to see the differences, but as of late, these 'discussions' quickly get ugly on the internet, and I have no desire to take part in them. The overall concepts in Star Trek are pretty solid, the intentional ideals of promoting a 'better future' exist throughout all the series, and story elements, about the 21st Century in particular are what they are and always have been. The 21st Century is a bad place to live through, but somewhere towards the end, somebody comes along and tries something, a 'Warp Drive,' and this changes everything. You may not like how it was portrayed in First Contact, but regardless, there is a meaning behind it, a purpose. It is trying to tell us something, it still contains the ideal that mankind should strive for something better, to break free, to try and head for a better world, to innovate, to be creative, to be inventive, to be a pioneer.

You can go ahead and embrace the mindlessness of J.J. Abrams movies 'cause itz cool!' or you can sit there and whine about story elements in past series' but I suggest people begin to embrace certain ideas in this series that so many people have admitted across the entire world that has inspired them because its cultural influences are being undermined.  Yes, these things still exist on DVD, but ask J.J. Abrams and his fans, and they'll tell you, not only could they care less to watch that stuff, they think its simply there to make more money off a 'dying generation' whose time is up, and they just better get out of the way because this new movie series is all there is and all that really matters.  The world around us is also telling us to get out of the way, there is an antagonism to these ideas of Star Trek, there certainly always was, but it gained a pretty wide acceptance by the end of the 1990s. Star Trek became a cultural staple, dozens of documentaries have been made about its 'contribution to culture' and it's influence on everything from science to the civil rights movement. All of that is being shunned by the society we now see developing. We're not heading towards anything even close to the future suggested by Star Trek, and it has nothing to do with the fact that we've stopped building spaceships to go to the moon. 

Technology advances, but our culture does not. Movie special effects advance, but the stories do not. Our future's not looking so bright, and J.J. Abrams "Into Darkness" isn't attempting to be ironic, it's manufacturing a product that its analysts have deduced that it's what the public wants to see, to revel in brooding apocalyptic violence and 'shock and awe.' It's like the attraction to death-metal music, a kind of adrenaline frenzied horror-trip, a crazed and manic bummer-trip jacked up to the max, and a steroid fueled angst ridden sensory overload instant-gratification commercialized product completely arranged and manufactured to the appeal of as many consumers as possible. It isn't suggesting anything in its story about our humanity, it isn't a cautionary tale, it isn't a dark comedy, its irony is phony, its references to earlier films are a con. It is a cynical cash grab, and has nothing to say at all. Star Trek always had something to say, even when it was being silly. Even when it said it poorly, it still had something to say to us. Even when it tried to blend mindless action with the Next Generation, there still was an attempt at telling us something about ourselves. These movies pretend to, and it is so obvious it isn't even funny. It's more than insulting and more than a disgrace to the original series, it is telling us that Hollywood wants nothing but our money, and no matter how much money people made in the 50s and 60s, they used to have something to say to us, the people who worked on these products did once try to ask questions, tell stories, inspire and challenge us. Not any more. This is bad. This is really bad, this means something far more disconcerting than a drastic change to a favorite television series. 

Meanwhile, our world is becoming less and less interested in being a better one. We can choose to not give a shit like J.J. Abrams, and just get the money, or we can attempt to do something about it. Star Trek was something we once had that inspired those ideals of striving for a better world, but today, turn on a radio talkshow and you'll find them saying Star Trek was a communist conspiracy, propaganda dreamed up by satanic forces who are trying to destroy your god, and that the only thing we should forward to is a catastrophic apocalyptic future closer to the Dark Ages than even Star Wars. There is an absolute contempt for Star Trek and its ideals, and it's become political. They go a lot further than saying it's communism, but I digress. 

Why don't people desire a better world anymore? Is it because it means they have to do something for it, to get there? They claim they no longer have the attention span to sit and watch Star Trek because 'it's boring.' Their addiction to sensory overload is degrading their humanity, and Abrams is most certainly not helping with his steroid infused Fake Trek.  So it remains with us, those who can watch the old shows and discern those values, pick up those ideas from them, and we can't do that and do anything with those ideas if we're posting insulting comments to somebody because we have a problem with a tv series called Voyager. We can't contribute to society if we're busy attacking somebody for liking Scott Bakula. We aren't contributing to society if we're telling somebody they're stupid because they watched every episode of Deep Space Nine. The criticism of J.J. Abrams and his movies is most certainly justified for many many reasons, but I might suggest we also start to take a new approach to all this, to see what its real influence is, and where it is all really coming from, because if we do not do this, then not only will we never get any new Star Trek, we're never going to arrive at anything that even remotely resembles that world in our future. The mindless insulting that goes on all over the internet is useless, and I suggest it's time to start thinking about the 21st Century that we live in, that Star Trek has told us could be a hellish experience, that it's already begun to be a hellish experience, and that technology is already being unleashed to destroy innocent lives, that we've already entered a new era, where such things as Eugenics Wars, and fascist kangaroo courts and drug-fueled soldiers are already starting to happen. Its time to take a look out there beyond a couple bad movies and see why crazy people out there love them so much. We're in trouble ladies and gentlemen, and we have to wake up and smell the fact that we're here. 

We've begun. This is it. This is the 21st Century, and there's a long way to go. We're off to a real bad start, and we better start thinking our way out of an apocalypse starting now. That was Roddenberry's warning, and many of the writers of that show. I'm not asking you to dress up like a Vulcan every day, or to research how to do mind melds, but I am asking you to take this seriously, Star Trek fans have always been accused of taking it 'way too seriously,' but I'm telling you you're not taking it seriously enough. I'm not saying that if we build a Warp Engine we can save the world, I'm saying that many of the ideals of this future-Star Trek world are worth thinking about, worth utilizing, worth believing in, and if that's taking it too seriously, well execute me right now Mr. Singh.  Dissolve my DNA from the face of the earth and sterilize my entire family, if that's what you're little pathetic world has to offer. "Kick my ass"  mister frat-boy space-captain jerk. Bully me and harass me until you're blue in the face, if that's what you want, but I happen to want a better future, and I'm going to employ all that is available, or in this case, was once available, and I will criticize those who have the power to employ that voice but simply choose to make as much money as possible before they die.  There is a possible 'positive' future, but we still have to imagine the rest of it. We have to keep trying to imagine it, and we can't discard things simply because they don't have enough 'splosions and titties in them.  There is something of value here, and there's no reason to let it go to the worst of us. 

It's time to enter the 21st Century. It's time to move ahead not backwards. It's time to face the facts, and it's time to move forward into a future that we have to better imagine, and we can do that if don't let ourselves be satisfied with mindless entertainment provided to us by those who basically would be happy to enslave us...

21st Century Trek

Coming soon...

Follow the journey into the 21st Century... of both Star Trek and our own real world.

Mission Statement: Zefram & Me

Our 21st Century Trek begins...

Sometime in the 2060s, after an apocalyptic global war, Zefram Cochrane constructs a space ship in Bozeman, Montana and tests the first 'warp drive' engine. This is moment that the fictional saga of "Star" Trek begins. Out of the ashes of a future still to be lived, still to be survived, still to be endured.  Presently, we might as well still be headed for that apocalyptic future still imagined in the world of Star Trek.  Whether this future history is blurred, fragmented or difficult to piece together from the perspective of the 22nd or 23rd Century, the general idea in the series originally created by Gene Roddenberry, the mid to late 21st Century is a bad place to be.  Followers and fans of the series may argue about timelines and historical records, continuities and established functional, yet fictional, realities, the basic idea is there to be explored.  Khan Noonien Singh, genetically engineered tyrants, the Eugenics Wars, World War III, the fascist warlord governments, drug-manipulated soldiers, the breakdown of civilization, catastrophic war, the deaths of millions of people, the future of "Star Trek" still holds a caution to our present society, and we have not necessarily moved from our course. I understand that there are those who still believe that 'progress,' even towards the pseudo-utopian world of the Federation of the Planets is moving from here and all the technology we possess without wavering, that since we have cellphones that look like 'Communicators,' and we have drones and the internet and all kinds of technology predicted in Star Trek, that we might as well be on our happy way towards their future. But we most certainly are not. Not yet.

Our civilization is still most certainly headed for the mid-21st Century horrors still suggested by the fictional world of Star Trek, regardless of what kinds of technology we have that comes from Star Trek. We are not moving expediently towards this wonderful more enlightened world of the Federation just because we're experimenting with teleportation, or photon torpedos, genetics, computers or robots. We've spent little energy in the social realm, to develop the 'civilization' necessary that can use all those fabulous toys. We face destruction still.

As I look around, right here in the fictional birthplace of where it all began, where that first Warp Flight took place, I most certainly do not see any better future developing, and I have to ask, because it seems to be that we're no longer interested in getting to any 'better' future, which is what Star Trek was all about. One look at the commercial "reboot" of the Star Trek series, and one can see it is completely devoid of that original sentiment, completely empty of the idea of striving for a better future...for all mankind. Luckily, the original recordings of the original series' and movies still exist to present those ideas, but I'm actually seeing a kind of revulsion towards it, a disavowing, an ignorant estrangement from the positive origins and foundations of this series called Star Trek.  These new movies, manufactured entirely for profit have discarded not only the backstory, the background, the details, the narrative, they've discarded the ideas, themes and intentions of that series. Their success suggests to me also that people are no longer interested in those ideas, themes and intentions, what many of us know as the 'foundations' of Star Trek, and why so many of us liked it, and that this abandonment of it is truly evidence of how totally off the track our society has become. We were lucky enough to have something like Star Trek in the first place during the middle of the Vietnam War, and the Cold War, and the cultural struggles for civil rights, a kind of illustration of what could be, asking us to be better than what we are. This new Star Trek seems to magnify, encourage and exemplify the same old 'worst' in us, asks nothing of us, questions nothing about us, nor attempts to point to any kind of future that might be 'better' in any way. Yes, there will always be challenges and conflicts in our future, but Star Trek usually asked us to look to the better part of ourselves, to find ways to better respond and react to things, to reach for something better. Instead it has been transformed into a mainstreaming acceptance of the worst in us, and our technology, not a questioning of it, the 'future' society isn't much different at all than what we have, and in these films it seems people are encouraged to be the same old assholes we have been, it's essentially the same world we have now with better technology. 

The shift from a larger narrative into a smaller 'soap-opera' style character focused narrative is indicative of its new foundation, it is not interested in inspiring people, it is not interested in uplifting people, it is interested only in reinforcing within the audience all their own usual desires and feelings, it panders to the worst in us, and in the guise of 'relating to the audience' for the sake of selling tickets, its "Kirk" is not only not the "Kirk" of the original series, its "Kirk" is not a step above what we could be, he's the worst of what we all are, a mainstreamed acceptance of an obnoxious, selfish, idiotic lout who thinks the universe is all about him. He learns only that because he's trapped inside a cinematic formula that he must adhere to certain character arc parameters, having nothing to do with much we actually see on screen, but that there are certain audience expectations and therefore his reactions alter over a 2 hour period but ultimately we all know he will return to the kind of arrogant fool audiences so love to see "kick ass."  He's not really even a character but a caricature, but one the audience is familiar with, one that seems to coincide with marketing statistics that show that products featuring such characters sell more tickets.

Aside from the whole subject of how movies are manufactured these days, and these new remakes of Star Trek, the world we see before us is not 'progressing' and things are not becoming more enlightened, and we're not getting any closer to any kind of future society resembling anything like Star Trek whatsoever, but we are quickly heading for that mid-21st Century horror so cautioned by the narrative, in it's backstory, in this series called Star Trek.

The question is, do we want something even like that? Star Trek was nothing but a good start, but a better one than we had before, it asked us not to necessarily build its world, but to keep trying to imagine one something like it, but we've not only stopped imagining Star Trek, we've stopped imagining something even like it. We may not end up exploring space in tin cans, but we might have still found something to explore while advancing society and civilization beyond the horror show we are now currently developing into, where the poor increase, the rich become more corrupt, where war pervades, where civil rights decay, where peace is a bad word. We're not only living in a world where these terrible things seem to be increasing, we're living in a world where Star Trek is reviled and degenerated. Where its ideas about a better future are not simply abandoned but despised. Such feelings could only be the kind of feelings that lead to catastrophe so cautioned by the Star Trek narrative. 

Are we really getting that bad? Are we really headed for destruction? Do we really despise Star Trek and the idea of a better future? These are questions I wish to explore in Zefram and Me. Right here, in Bozeman, Montana, in the place where it is all supposed to begin. Can this place really be where it begins? Can it be a place where hope is ignited... for all mankind? Is that too much to attempt? Is that so unlikely a possibility that all I can do is document the absurdity of such contrasting ideals that exist right here? If not the Warp Engine, could there possibly be something else, for the ideal still shines whether we end up following this fictional universe or not. Are we simply just abandoning all that Star Trek was, and shall we just detonate our world, and destroy our children for our own selfish sakes? Are we Warped out of control? Will there come such a pioneer, are there pioneers here now, will we have to wait for World War III? Can we not try something sooner? Will Star Trek be what J.J. Abrams tells us, and will its narrative forever change course? Is anyone left who remembers and tries for that better future?