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Texas Rangers, Captain Kirk, and A Reflective Quaker

I’ve finished three different books in the past week. And yes, I don’t think you could find three more distinct and different books–not only in subject matter but in style and genre. The first is a history book about the Texas Rangers, the second a weird Star Trek book, and the third is Parker Palmer.


9781574416916-usTexas Rangers: Lives, Legacy, and Legend by Bob Alexander and Donaly E. Brice.

I bought this book at a great book store in Kerrville and looked forward to reading it for a long time. The history in these pages is wonderful. I wish the authors would have gone into a bit more detail about some of the individuals and escapades, but their intent is more of a survey than specifics. The main problem with Lives, Legacy, and Legend is at times the prose is not quite clear–as the authors seem to try and write paragraphs in the most muddied way possible to demonstrate their clever way of saying common things.

There are also a lot of digs against “Political Correctness” which I never understood in the text. One reference to it is an indulgence. Two references are pushing it. But by the seventeenth time the authors remind us that political correctness and modern sensibilities have no place in studying Ranger history, the point seems belabored.

There are some great photographs and primary documents, which alone is worth the price of the book.

UnknownThe Autobiography of James T. Kirk: A Story of Starfleet’s Greatest Captain ‘Edited’ by David A. Goodman.

Two things up front: I enjoyed this book and laughed out loud several times. Also, it is a quick, easy read, unlike the Texas Rangers book, which is slow, plodding and laborious. The problem is, I think I enjoyed the book because I enjoy Star Trek, and the writer clearly does as well. But I don’t think the book is that well written.

The best are the early pages where we learn things about James T. Kirk that aren’t covered in the television shows or movies. But about sixty percent of the book is really lame plot summaries of shows. Yes, we get Kirk’s perspective on those things, but nothing  really new is brought to the table.

But the book is funny. That should come as no surprise because it is written by Goodman, called the ‘editor’ on the book cover, who wrote for Family Guy and Golden Girls. What it lacks is emotional depth. The book was given to me as a gift for Christmas by a kind friend, and I looked forward to reading it, thinking it would give more character depth about the famous alpha male. But nope. Goodman is funny, but he is not that good of a writer. He does more ‘telling’ than ‘showing’ and as a result he leaves Kirk shallow.

There are two things that will stay with me a while, though. The first is how Goodman ‘washes’ over Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, the movie almost everyone agrees is the worst ever. It is quite clever, and I must say I like it. The second was this line thrown in to describe the mind-numbing administrative work of being an Admiral that Kirk hated.

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Page 197

Of course the Obama was over budget and behind schedule. Of course it was.

Parker-Palmer_Hidden-WholenessA Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward An Undivided Life by Parker J. Palmer

I’ve read Palmer before, but not this book. What interests me is that I think Palmer believes he wrote a how-to book, when in reality he wrote about the inner voice, overcoming our fears and paranoias, and the need to learn to trust.

The format of the book is laid out as the steps to forming circles of trust. A circle of trust is a group of people who dedicate themselves to allowing people to hear their own soul in protected communication. It is good material, and I recommend the book to small group leaders of any kind, because the principles he shares are nearly universal.

The book is a gem, but what will stay with you for a long time is the story of the woodcarver. I’ve seen Palmer use it before, but I think his exposition of it in this text is his best.

Of the three books I’ve shared about, this one is the most vital; it is the one I think everyone would benefit from.

STAR TREK HAPPY ANNY

Kirk_and_Spock[1].jpgI have used a lot of digital ink in this blog over the years on Star Trek, so there is little I could add, but that will not stop me. picard_starts_his_mozart_recording1

Here are some of my favorite Star Trek moments. I emphasize some, because let’s face it, most any Star Trek moment is better than a non-Star Trek moment.

Kirk’s style.

Picard’s humanity.

Janeway’s gambling.

Sisko’s transformation.

Archer’s exuberance.

Spock mind melding with a brick. That was epic.

Klingon guile.

Picard mind melding with Sarek, Spock’s dad, and then being the conduit for Spock and his father to have something akin to closure.

I think he did a little too much LDS.

Data defeating the Borg Queen.

The uniforms in Star Trek Voyager were awesome. I never understood Seven’s particular get-up (other than eye candy), but aside from that, those were the best designed uniforms across the spectrum.

Romulan Ale.

Khan in Space Seed and The Wrath of Khan. Not JJverse Khan.

Riker’s beard.

The theme song to Star Trek Voyager. I still get all goosebumpy when I hear it.

Picard’s flute.

The episode where Kirk fools the Enterprise computer by asking it to compute Pi to the end decimal.

Andorians. I love Andorians.

Fascinating.

Shaka, when the walls fell.

Weyoun. Any episode with a Weyoun in it was a good day.

Which side of the body is white? Which side of the body is black? Yeah, that still speaks to me.

Our Man Bashir.

Bashir and O’Brien’s friendship–and their obsession with The Alamo.

I’m a doctor, not a . . .

Spock and Uhura–never saw that coming.

What does God need with a starship?

The character arc for Seven. It was stunning to watch develop.

There. Are. Four. Lights.

Ezri Dax.

Borg implants.

Yesterday’s Enterprise.

Porthos’ cheese addiction.

Birds of Prey decloaking.

Elim Garak.

Okay, I have to stop. I could do this all day. All week. All year. I may go watch some Star Trek tonight.

Live long and prosper.

Oh, one more.

 

 

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS AND BACK AGAIN

Let me nerd up one more time for a final post on the new Star Trek movie.  I posted two last week and a third is probably overkill, but its my blog so I’ll do what I want.

WARNING–RED ALERT–SPOILERS FOLLOW

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IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ME!

For starters, I would rate this as a middle of the pack Star Trek film.  I liked it, but it doesn’t even come close to the top of the line in the genre.  It is definitely not as good as the 2009 edition.  The special effects were nice and the Enterprise looked beautiful.  All of that was expected.  Benedict Cumberbatch is awesome but so too is Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto.  For me though, the story was weak and forced and the dialogue was not as crisp as I expected.  It felt to me that Pine and Quinto didn’t have that much of a script to work with.  I loved what they did with Scotty, though.  From the TOS (The Original Series) we knew that Scotty had a drinking problem and a fiery stubborn temper, so having him resign and make his way immediately to a bar was perfect.  By contrast, Chekov is reduced to running around the engine room like an incompetent cadet (what happened to the boy genius from the first film?) and Bones is almost non-existent.  Uhura virtually disappears as she is only important insofar as she relates to Spock.  These are not problems necessarily of plot or of directing, but of dialogue.  The dialogue was very bad.  Carol Marcus apparently was just eye candy (what’s with her suddenly and inexplicably stripping down?  That made no story sense) and Admiral Marcus was a total cliche.

Now, in addition to this, here are some things that caught my attention.

1.  I loved the Section 31 reference as being responsible for the whole debacle.  It made me miss Dr. Bashir.  I know that most folks think the tribble business was the big tip of the hand to Star Trek fans, but they are wrong.  When Section 31 was referenced my oldest daughter and I began to visible beam with joy.

2.  I did not love the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan.  Let me be clear, I love love love Cumberbatch.  He did a great job in this movie and he is a powerful actor.  However,  Khan Noonien Sing is supposed to be an Indian prince, not a British Caucasian.  I know that the timeline is different in this film universe but that alternate timeline didn’t go into effect until Kirk’s birth on the Kelvin.   Khans character from the past (1990’s) should be unaltered.

3.  Seat belts.  It has been the longest standing joke that there are no seat belts on the Enterprise.  It is about time.

4.  Wasn’t it great when new Spock calls old Spock for help?  Yeah, it was.

5.  I think that the scene in the role reversal, where Kirk dies and Spock yell’s Khan just like The Shat did in the original Star Trek II was pretty close to a jump the shark moment. (If you don’t know what “jump the shark means”, I don’t have time to explain so click here.)

6.  Three times Captain Kirk has died in a Star Trek film.  Why, why can’t he at least die on the bridge in one of them?

7.  The Klingon bird of prey was awesome–did you notice the wings moving up and down?  That was nice but so too was the commando type zip line decent into battle.  That was very, very Klingon.

8.  The “darkness” alluded to in the film didn’t last long.  Kirk should have stayed dead through the end of film.  If you’re going to kill him like you killed Spock so many years ago, you lose the weight of it if you bring him back so quickly.  Or just leave him dead.  You’ve already destroyed Vulcan, why not off Captain Kirk and then make the next Star Trek Movie all about Spock or, better yet, go to another timeline and get the real Kirk?  As it is, they combined Star Trek II and Star Trek III in about seven minutes of film.

9.  If your going to do Khan, again (or as one friend of mine put it, ‘JJ Abrams boldly going where Gene Roddenberry already went’) then I need him to say these words:  “He tasks me!”

10.  Another moment my daughter and I shared was when all the captains were together in the briefing room right after the terrorist attack.  Before Captain Kirk even begins to piece it together, I looked at Belle and she looked at me and we both said at the same time, “Godfather Part III” and sure enough here comes the same helicopter kill scene.  Is it homage, or is it copycat?  You decide.

11.  Last thing–and then I promise I’ll quit complaining–Kirk was written up for violating the prime directive when he saved Spock.  Right?  Did anybody else think, “Hey, wait a minute, stopping the volcano and saving that civilization (which clearly was a reference to TOS) is a complete and total violation of the prime directive anyway.”  I mean, for crying out loud, Captain Picard would have let the whole world blow up without doing a thing to help them while he drank tea.

All in all I enjoyed it, liked it, and am pleased with how right I was about what it would be.  These are the things that caught my attention on the first viewing.  I am certain I will see it again.  Certain.

THE STAR TREK COUNTDOWN

Yesterday I blogged (READ IT HERE) about the new Star Trek movie, Star Trek Into Darkness.  Today, though, I am ruminating about the other films in the franchise and where I rank them in order of excellence.

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KHANNNNNNNNNN!

1.  Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan–without a doubt this is the best.  It ranks in my top five science fiction movies of all time.

2.  Star Trek:  First Contact--Aesthetics, plot, acting, and the f/x were all superior in this film.  It was for everyone, but included something for the fan as well.

3.  Star Trek (2009)–I know most would put this as the first one, and it certainly made more money than any of the others, but there were too many plot holes in it for me to push it any further up the list.

4.  Star Trek IV:  The Voyage Home–Of Course, the voyage home is not to earth with the whales, but the voyage is back to the rebuilt Enterprise at the end of the movie.

5.  Star Trek Generations:  This film gets panned a lot because of the plot holes and time-travel nexus problems (which are no worse than Star Trek (2009) by the way) but this is the best thematic film of the lot in terms of emotional energy and morality.  My oldest daughter was an infant, 4 weeks old when we saw this movie in the theater.  She graduates from high school in three weeks.  Generations means something more now.

6.  Star Trek VI:  The Undiscovered Country–Kirk and crew have a great idea to work with, but the elements feel rehashed.  How many female Vulcans does Spock need to train?  However, I do love the Hamlet references.

7.  Star Trek Insurrection–I do not like this movie very much, but I do not hate it very much either.  It feels like an elongated episode.

8.  Star Trek III:   The Search for Spock–Stupid plot, poor f/x and needless emotional ploys (killing David Marcus and blowing up the Enterprise) spoil it.  The only real bright spot, Christopher Lloyd as a Klingon!

9.  Star Trek Nemesis:  Oh dear, this was an awful film.  It was a poor rehashing of Star Trek II (Which I am worried the new film will be as well) and it weakened the Romulans.

10.  Star Trek the Motion Picture–This actually is tied with Nemesis.  It is put at 10 only because of the vanity upon vanities of beauty shots of the Enterprise floating in the cloud thingy.  Never mind that this is essentially a stolen story from the original series.

11.  Star Trek V:  The Final Frontier–Awful awful awful awful.  The worst not only of the original six, but the worst of the entire franchise. The only positive aspect at all of the movie is the emotional energy of the individual ‘pain’ of the triumvirate.

Time will tell where the new film will rate.  Time will tell.  Time is “like a predator.  It’s stalking you.”

Read also:

Beard Trek

Some Star Trek Philosophy