Monday, February 12, 2018

20,000 Words About "Star Trek: Discovery"


This is not Star Trek.
This is not Star Trek.
This is not Star Trek.
This is not Star Trek.
This is not Star Trek.
This is not Star Trek.
This is not Star Trek.
This is not Star Trek.
This is not Star Trek.
This is not Star Trek.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Life Was Sacred To You Then: Star Trek episode 9, "What Are Little Girls Made Of?"

Dr. Korby has discovered that as their sun dimmed, the inhabitants of this planet moved underground ... from an open environment to this dark world.  
When you were a student of his, Christine, you must have often heard Dr. Korby remark how freedom of movement and choice produced the human spirit; the culture of Exo-III proved his theory.  When they moved from light to darkness, they replaced freedom with a mechanistic culture.  
Dr. Korby has been able to uncover elements of this culture that will revolutionize the universe when freed from this cavernous environment.
One of the predominant concerns of science fiction at large and Star Trek (in most of its incarnations) in general is delineating the place where humanity ends and artificiality begins.  Put another way, science fiction often seeks to answer the question: what is real?
This isn't even the first time Star Trek had wrestled with the issue; early in its run, we'd already been gifted meditations on the question in "The Cage," "Mudd's Women," "The Enemy Within," and "The Man Trap."  Spoiler alert: we'll revisit the question a great many times.
I don't see it as a bad thing.  It's an important question, one that bears asking over and over again.  Even if you never land on a firm answer, the process of asking the question is enriching.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

They Had One Weapon Left and Both Knew It: Dune Club, Session 12

Well, y'all, here we are: our twelfth and final post on Dune.  (I say "final," but you can count on there eventually being a series of posts about the various film adaptations.  Plus, with a novel as good as this one, there's no such thing as having said it all; I didn't even scratch the surface, I just felt the itch and twitched my finger a bit.)
And it came to pass in the third year of the Desert War that Paul Muad'Dib lay alone in the Cave of Birds beneath the kiswa hangings of an inner cell.  And he lay as one dead, caught up in the revelation of the Water of Life, his being translated beyond the boundaries of time by the poison that gives life.  Thus was the prophecy made true that the Lisan al-Gaib might be both dead and alive.
Princess Irulan's epigraphs are almost always worthy of attention.  Some are more worthy than others, and this is one of them.  Consider the phrasing in that final sentence: "thus was the prophecy MADE true" (my emphasis).  This implies that there was a scenario in which the prophecy was not true in and of itself, which surely misses a bit of the point of a prophecy.
Or does it?  It's a matter that could be debated, and one could also debate whether Irulan is -- in her texts -- attempting to subconsciously hint that Muad'Dib really isn't all he's cracked up to be.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Little Enough Profit in Our Venture: Dune Club, Session 11

You cannot avoid the interplay of politics within an orthodox religion.
Can of sandworms avoided...
  • "Suddenly he understood why Stilgar had warned him once about brash young men who danced and played with these monsters, doing handstands on their backs, removing both hooks and replanting them before the worm could spill them." -- This brings up an axiom: on all planets, in all cultures, are there teenage dirtbags.  Do the young men of the Fremen sometimes listen to Megadeth and hang around in Kmart parking lots?  I'm certain of it.
  • "But he knew he could not let any consideration deflect him.  He had to remain on the central line of the time storm he could see in the future.  There would come an instant when it could be unraveled, but only if he were where he could cut the central knot of it."

The Illustrated Dune p. 403

Monday, September 18, 2017

Fate Was Sometimes Inscrutable: Dune Club, Session 10

No woman, no man, no child ever was deeply intimate with my father.
  • The epigraph which begins this chapter is about Count Fenring, who is said to have "refused to kill a man even though it was within his capabilities and my father commanded it."  Irulan ends this epigraph by saying "I will relate this presently," and it's been long enough since my last read of the novel that I can't remember who Fenring refused to kill, or if we ever even find out.  He's a fascinating character, especially considering how little time we spend with him in the novel.  
  • Nobody beats Emperor Shaddam IV for being a great "off-screen" character, though, unless maybe it's Irulan herself.  (Granted, she does become a major on-screen player in the sequels.)
  • There is a leap forward in time of several years here, and he find out about it -- and about the rise on Arrakis of a new religious figure, "Muad' Dib" -- via the Harkonnens.  Earlier in the novel, we were finding out about dangers to the Atreides via the Harkonnens; now we are learning about the (as-yet unknown) resurgence of the Atreides via the Harkonnens.
  • The Baron upbraids Feyd-Rautha for unsuccessfully attempting to assassinate him, which is a lot of fun; he's also disdainful of his nephew's lack of finesse and subtlety.  "And as he had done many times since that terrible day on Arrakis," Herbert writes, "he found himself regretting the loss of Piter, the Mentat.  There'd been a man of delicate, devilish subtlety.  It hadn't saved him, though.  Again, the Baron shook his head.  Fate was sometimes inscrutable."  Paul, of course, would be able to give his grandfather some counsel on this subject.  Herbert, here, is accomplishing some significant tasks: he's allowing us to be somewhat admiring of (and sympathetic toward) for the Baron AND his nephew.  He's pulled that off elsewhere in the novel, too, and it is striking.  I think we naturally do that for any POV character; the mere process of aligning ourselves to another person's mind (even a fake person's) pushes us in that direction.
The Illustrated Dune p. 371 (art by John Schoenherr)


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Things We Do in the Name of Humanity: Dune Club, Session 9

Apologies for the tardiness on this one!  I will explain it away in two bulletpoints:
  • My reading time got subsumed by seeing the new movie version of It last week (twice).
  • My writing time got subsumed by having to work on Sunday (one of my normal days off).
These things happen!  I didn't have to deal with a hurricane, so you'll hear no complaints from me regarding distruption-of-routine issues.  Just wanted to make it plain that it wasn't due purely to being a lazy, water-fat outworlder.
The concept of progress acts as a protective mechanism to shield us from the terrors of the future.
Yeah?  What, then, is the act of progress?
A large topic, and one that is outside the intent of this series of posts, so we'll just drop that there and let it lie.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

She Was Like A Touch of Destiny: Dune Club, Session 8

Prophecy and prescience -- How can they be put to the test in the face of the unanswered question? 
This is the chapter in which Stilgar and the Fremen attempt to take Paul with them while abandoning Jessica.  It's good stuff.  The entirety of the sections covered today are quite memorable, in fact; this joining-with-the-Fremen aspect of the novel was probably always my favorite.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Mind, Long Fixed On A Single Track: Dune Club, Session 7

We return to the dry heat of Frank Herbert's Dune, picking up this week with chapter __.  Frank, would chapter numbers have killed ya?
We will continue to mark the chapters by quoting the first sentence (or thereabouts) of the epigraph that mark their beginnings.
For example:
What do you despise?  By this are you truly known? 
Hmm.  An interesting thought, but I'm not sure I agree with it.  Things I despise include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • spiders
  • tomatoes
  • black holes
  • wearing your pants pulled down to mid-thigh (it's idiotic and makes the wearer look like an idiot and is also stupid and dumb)
  • Kardashians and similar scum
  • people who willingly pay attention to Kardashians and similar scum
  • the fact that chili-cheese dogs are unhealthy
  • the unceasing passage of time
  • Joffrey
  • people who leave the shopping carts in the middle of a parking lot
  • people who don't flush public toilets
  • post-1990 slang

I could go on at some length.  And I'd imagine that by the end of the list, you'd have a strong working knowledge of who I am.

So hey, you know what?  I think I agree with Muad'Dib on this one.

Moving on...

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Undemanding Emptiness of Her Words: Dune Club, Session 6

Let's dive right in.
When my father, the Padishah Emperor, heard of Duke Leto's death and the manner of it, he went into such a rage as we had never before seen. 
  • Toward the beginning of this chapter, which finds Paul and Jessica (pardon the pun) still inside the tent, Paul flies into a quiet sort of rage while pondering "the very substance of this planet which had helped kill his father."  Jessica makes a bland comment about having heard the storm that raged outside between chapters.  Paul's calm is partially restored by the "undemanding emptiness of her words."  I was struck by this phrase and could not immediately identify why.  I think it has to do with the notion that Paul's mind has become so incredibly active, so freighted with import, that a simple and unambiguous observation brings him back -- if only for a moment -- down to a level of base humanity.  (I don't necessarily mean "humanity" in the Bene Gesserit sense, of course.)  Paul is losing his ability to live merely within a single moment, and Jessica's statement keeps him there, if only briefly.
  • Jessica has had a dream about Leto: "She had held dreaming hands beneath sandflow where a name had been written: Duke Leto Atreides.  The name had blurred with the sand and she had moved to restore it, but the first letter filled before the last was begun.  The sand would not stop."  This is a fairly obvious bit of symbolism, and in my experience, dreams rarely work on so obvious a level.  Do I care about this?  Nope, not really.  It's a compelling thing to imagine Jessica dreaming. 
  • The dream culminates in Jessica hearing the wailing of a "woman not quite visible to memory" as she departs in some way.  Part of her mind realizes that this is "her own voice as a tiny child, little more than a baby."  I wonder if instead this is the first stirrings of consciousness from Alia, who may be already affected by the omnipresence of the spice just as Paul is.
  • "For now is my grief heavier than the sands of the seas," Jessica thinks.  "This world has emptied me of all but the oldest purpose: tomorrow's life."  Jessica seems almost to be channeling Gurney Halleck here in her florid thoughts.  I don't necessarily think this is an accident on Herbert's part; the connection implies to me that Gurney's entire existence in this novel is the result of his having been emptied in similar fashion earlier in life.  He has devoted his existence to fighting the Harkonnens, and his method of doing so is by assisting tomorrow's Atreides lives.  And today's, of course, but always with an eye on tomorrow's.
  • Herbert gives us some lovely descriptions of seeing enemy ornithopters in the distance, carving up the desert floor with lasguns in an attempt to find and kill the needles-in-haystacks that are Jessica and Paul.  There is a great deal of lovely writing in this chapter; far too much to list.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Loud Silence of Clocks: Dune Club, Session 5

We now join the previously-scheduled program, already in progress...
There should be a science of discontent.
In this chapter, Jessica and Paul are consigned to the desert by the Baron and Piter.
Good chapter, but I don't have much to say about it.


Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife -- chopping off what's incomplete and saying: "Now, it's complete because it's ended here."

One thing I noticed on this reread -- and it was only my second, notetaking exploration only -- is that we potentially get a bit of light shed on the manner of Duncan Idaho's drunkenness.