22 November 2014

Elven Intellectualism

Re-watching The Desolation of Smaug and the elven torture scene got me thinking about Elven Intellectualism. 

The idea of alignment in D&D is fairly straightforward:
Source: http://throughThePrism.blogspot.com
  • You are either good, evil, or neutral.
  • That orientation, is determined by one of three worldviews: Law & Order (lawful); Good & Evil (chaotic); Libertarian (neutral)

The whole system is easily systematized and graphed (see right), and play follows general rules proscribed by the logic of this system.  Players generally play good (or perhaps neutral) characters, so wanton slaughter of innocents is reserved (again generally) for the monsters, and quests to save personages of historical significance, or more often to enrich PCs personally, are undertaken.

Others, and in particular Degolar, from whom I swiped this rendition of the chart, have put more thought into the concept and viability of alignment theory for socio-philosophic application.  Just search "Alignment Matrix D&D" on google image search, at the poster meme of applying alignment to fiction and real world environs is readily apparent.

I want to think instead about the historicity of alignment.  Namely, how good and evil (and law and chaos) might be affected by the passage of time. 

If you're a person who is capable of (or perhaps it's fairer to say 'in the habit of') thinking historically, or if you're an elf, who has lived through centuries and millennia, and passed time has warped notions of good and evil, law and chaos: what then might alignment mean to you individually, and socially?

Note: this is a work in progress, and will be continued (and perhaps even concluded!), but I wanted to get the thinking out their in its nascent form for consideration...

02 November 2014

Vote Happy

Election Day will soon be upon us, once again.  Milwaukee has a Socialist running for Sheriff (she seems really lovely, smart, and on the right side of history!), and a Green Party candidate for State Treasurer (and in September, his numbers were pretty okay!).

In this sad/silly era of bought & sold candidates, dangerous zealots (as well as more clown-ish zealots), and a political campaign and lobbying system that encourages corruption, a progressive looking for genuine reform options often doesn't know which way to turn.  Of course, Democrats being in charge of things is less bad than Republicans.  So, the sensible choice seems to vote for Democrats in close races, and vote more radically (Greens, Socialists, liberal Independents) when it's expedient.  The fear-mongering lessons of Ralph Nader loom large, despite the fact that they're misguided.

Nationally, there are a lot of interesting races.  That said, the US House is guaranteed to remain in Republican hands, despite the fact that more people will probably end up voting for Democrats.  Thank you gerrymandering.

Unfortunately, the same reason can't be given for why the Senate seems poised to fall into Republican hands as well.  Though it would be awesome, wouldn't it?  To re-draw the state lines to re-organize people into more culturally appropriate regions? 

  • East and West Dakota - East Dakota would be a 40 or so mile wide strip surrounding the I-29 corridor, stretching from Grand Forks all the way down to Kansas City (anything north of GF we can give to Canada).
  • Up North - the northern part of Minnesota and Wisconsin, along with the UP.
    Source: www.pastemagazine.com
  • The Middle Bit - a utopic plot of mostly rural farmland, focusing primarily on the biography of me, including Clinton, Wisconsin, stretching up north to Madison, then over to Decorah, Iowa, then up to Minneapolis.  It looks a bit like those Tetris pieces that go down one, over one, down one again (see picture, except the other one, and turned vertically).
  • Austin, Texas - Austin, Texas.
  • Yellowstone - Just a really cool state to visit.  First bear governor.
  • Iraq - I know we're mostly moved out, but it's time to start colonizing, people.

The State of Wisconsin has a useful resource for figuring out what all is going to be on your ballot

At the top of the ballot, of course, is the Mary Burke / Scott Walker race for Governor.  This one will come down to turnout, and while I'm not overly excited about Mary Burke, she's the choice.

Down the ballot a ways is our rootin'-tootin' Sheriff Clarke, running against Angela Walker.  It seems the last time the Journal Sentinel deigned to mention her in an article was August 8th, when Chris Moews was being backed against the gun-loving sheriff by Michael Bloomberg. 

14 September 2014

Thoughtless Chess

This afternoon, I invented a new game, "Thoughtless Chess".  You probably own this game already, though you may not have realized it.  The game is played on a standard chess board, with the standard chess pieces, and the pieces move exactly like they do in the normal game.

The difference, is the player.  The rules of Thoughtless Chess are few:

Source: theliftedbrow.com
  1. Of utmost importance is to realize that the object of Thoughtless Chess is not to win (nor to lose).  The object is to let the game unfold as it will, and see what happens.  There is an infinite number of possibilities for a game of chess - the goal of Thoughtless Chess is to create a random, human-generated chess match (though don't intentionally be random - see rule #2)
  2. You must make your move in a very short amount of time; and you are not permitted to plan or strategize your move (or future moves).
    • Patterns are permitted ("I feel like annihilating all of the pawns", or "I wonder how long I can go without taking a piece", etc.); any such patterns, which seem to be amounting toward a larger strategy should be called out, by any player or observer.  If that person can articulate the strategy being enacted, the player who is carrying out should desist, and will be shunned with pursed lips and shaken heads.
  3. While moves should not take time to plan, the players should be mindful of legal moves later in the game.  A player in check must make a move to get out of check.  After an initial check and un-check, however, a follow-up check is no more likely than any other eventuality (at least theoretically).
Chess theory is a long, proud tradition - The Lifted Brow published the image above as part of a lengthy investigation of the chess scene in Blade Runner (I know, you're probably saying, like I was, what chess scene in Blade Runner).  Poorly written villains use chess as a metaphor for the game of life (at least the sort of life where there is royalty and expendable little people).

Chess is a beautiful, noble game.  Players furrow their brows and stroke their chins to show how deeply they are considering their options.  Thoughtless Chess is an opportunity to experience the game itself, without the pesky mind games.

30 August 2014

Lake Express

Riding on the Lake Express Ferry for the first time.  We’ve just left behind the last of the birds doing the “Boat Challenge”, which I assume is a contest which consists of a dare to outrace the ferry for as long as possible.  Once the Lake Express gets up to its full cruising speed, it’s passing even the fastest moving birds like they’re standing still… except they’re flying parallel to the ship.

The Wisconsin coastline is still very visible, and Michigan, up ahead, is still just a vague notion.  At the mid-point, I’ll show you what both coasts look like.
It’s an odd blend of people on the ferry this morning.  There is a palpable sense of adventure to many of the groups.  It’s difficult to pin down any generalizations about the socio-economic status of Lake Express-ers.  Even more difficult to figure out is any kind of cultural mean.  There are a couple of foreigners, several “older couples”, a smattering of little kids with a parent or two, and a biker couple.  There are several people dressed like drifters, and an inordinate number of people wearing bright neon, which makes me constantly mistake them for crew members.  I can’t figure why they chose such bright attire, whether it’s their norm, or they felt it was befitting the water voyage.
The terminal, naturally, has the ooky borderland feel that almost any kind of station has.  A multitude of ennui from the people waiting, coupled with the dense feeling of mass anticipation, makes any transit hub a jumble of weighty unpleasant-ness.  Airports are particularly interesting examples of this, because the ‘average’ passenger is so much more bourgeois.  You expect a certain amount (that amount being large) of heavy despair when you’re at a bus station, but when you’re at an airport, it doesn’t seem quite as ‘natural’.  That sense of despair and foreboding is foreign for most passengers preparing to fly, and they don’t like it, and they don’t know where it’s coming from.
Now that we’re en route, though, things are looking up.  The side to side* canting of the boat aside (I’m riding up top), the ominous feel of the terminal is left behind, and the anticipation of arrival has captured the collective imagination of the passengers.  The air up here is heavy with humidity, but feels good, in conjunction with steady wind, and the forthcoming sunshine from Michigan (as you can see, the sun has long since risen, but not above the cloud-line quite yet) gives the trip a sense of hope.

* As I typed “side-to-side”, I tried to cast back to my nautical terminology, but only came up with port and starboard (which I think is back and left – a la JFK)… I then looked at the bottom of my shoe, because one of my pairs of shoes (boat shoes, natch) has the labels for all 4 directions of boating terminology (I think a third is aft – I can’t discover the fourth yet).

04 August 2014

On Tim

Reading through The Wind Through the Keyhole tonight - the story (within a story) of the brave boy, Tim, on a grand quest.  In terms of volume numbers, it means I'm more than half way through The Dark Tower series for another pass.  In terms of page numbers, I'm not so sure I'm there yet.

Before I'd tuned back in, I'd flipped on About Time, which I think is my new favorite terrible great movie from the folks at Working Title Pictures.  Man, they know terribly good movies (or goodly terribly movies).  In this latest mastersluice, a mild-mannered ginger named Tim, is told at a coming of age New Year's Day that he and the men-folk in his family are capable of autobiographic time travel.  Tim, being a Tim, uses this power to optimize his life and the life of those around him.

Tim is a noble name, with literary and historic pedigree.  I think timothy is some kind of grass.  Something understated and cool. 

I think there was probably a Timothy in the bible, and I'm quite sure there was a Saint Timothy, though I can't say what he helps folks out with. 

There's Tiny Tim - who may be no Little Nell - but certainly is one of the more obnoxious fictional characters in history... But he has such a good heart...

I can't think of a single villain named Tim (though when I asked google the same question, they introduced me to @timTheVillain twitter feed).  At the same time, I know of no super-heroes named Tim (maybe a alter ego) , no 'Great Men' who wear the name come immediately to mind. 

Instead, when Tim is a hero, he is an unexpected hero.  He's someone who rises from the everyday to perform the extraordinary.  Tim defies odds.  No one ever expects it to be Tim.

That I have a brother named Tim, of course, makes this a topic near to mind.  I'm not sure how well my theory holds for the non-fictional world.  Tim Curry, Tim Duncan, Tim Johnson, Tiny Tim (ukulele, not crutches)...  not sure what kind of conclusions to draw, but to paraphrase the Byrds:

A Tim to weep, and a Tim to laugh; a Tim to mourn, and a Tim to dance;
A Tim to cast away stones, and a Tim to gather stones together (useful when there's another Tim around casting them away); a Tim to embrace, and a Tim to refrain from embracing

Now all we need is a Tim to comment...

29 July 2014

Fantasy Life

My Fantasy Football League draft is underway (after coming in 2nd last year in both my Yahoo Baseball and Football leagues, I feel poised to make a big splash this year).  With the 2nd to last position in a snake draft, I was able to nab Aaron Rodgers, then 2 picks later, Brandon Marshall.

I'm also hovering around 2nd place in my Baseball league. 

*   *   * 

December 2017
I don't recall, and won't bother to look up, how I actually finished up these seasons, but I know that I didn't win either league, because I don't think that i ever have (at least in the last many years). 

I do recall that this post was going to be a reflection on gaming - fantasy sports and fantasy rpgs.  I think there may have also been some attention paid to my childhood and my present moment, as i have begun to re-engage in both fantasy lives.  (Although, i think 2013/14 was my peak moment for fantasy sports, I have since returned to a perpetual basement dweller in both leagues*.  My 2013 baseball was half a point away from victory, and on the eve of the last day of play, i neglected to pick up a few extra starting pitchers, which had been my practice the last few weeks, and didn't move up in any of the pitcher categories).

* Shane still hasn't convinced me to join fantasy basketball.   

26 June 2014

Environmental Theory

Of late there has been a ghastly pall of fog drifting over the spires of downtown Milwaukee (also, I've been reading some H.P. Lovecraft).

I hadn't given it much thought until
Brooke asked about it this morning, musing (sorry - HP) that the cause had something to do with the lake temperature, and theorizing that this perma-mist would last through the summer until the overall lake temp rose sufficiently to no longer need to release it's loamy essence. 

I said the theory sounds sound. But it certainly looks cool to me. And befitting my current reading. 

27 April 2014

Star Trek - the Chronology

An attempt (again, wildly incomplete until it's not) to watch the Star Trek Universe chronologically.  A straightforward version exists on Wikipedia.  Others have put together lists as well, which do good work.  I'm curious about how such a viewing alters the experience - not recommended for the uninitiated.

I would love some help with this, if anyone is a Trekkie novel buff, for example.  There is real value in seeing things in new ways.  Seeing  the Star Trek world in its imagined unfolding, from our past to our present and future, helps envision what Roddenberry's world might have to offer us, if we were to work toward inhabiting this future.

I'll make note of when to watch in particular episodes in [bold face in brackets].  Real world dates will be outlined in 'far left' italics.  I'll track watching //within slashes//, both in the timeline and viewing notes

3.5 Billion Years BCE

"All Good Things" - ST:TNG (Season 7:24-25)
  • Q and JL bond at the erstwhile beginning of life.  [Briefly near the end of episode 24 (22 min. from end on Netflix)]
2731 BCE Era (approximate)

"All Our Yesterdays" - ST (Season 3: 23)
  • Spock and Bones bounce back to some Ice Age era, when humans may or may not exist in the world (and it may not be earth).
Spock's ability to overcome his primal instincts, which are taking over throughout the episode, is the earliest (chronologically, at least) example of the common Star Trek theme that people are a product of their environments much more than they are innately good or evil (or greedy, etc.).  This is an important Utopian theme that runs throughout the series.  The implication is that if we can successfully build a good and just world, people will become good and just naturally.  It's an argument for creating the change that we want to see in the world, and trusting that we inhabitants of that world will deserve it, eventually. //4.29.14//

 16__ (very approximate)

"All Our Yesterdays" - ST (Season 3: 23)
  • Kirk lands in a sort of late-17th Century version of the English Restoration-style religious fanaticism.

"Time's Arrow" - ST: TNG 
  • "Maybe it's worth giving up cigars for, after all"- Mark Twain ca. 2369 (in response to Counselor Troi's explanation of how the 24th Century has eliminated poverty, despair, hopelessness, and power run amok generally).
One of the 19th Century's greatest humanists remarks on the achievement of the humanist project (at least seemingly) in the Star Trek universe. //5.5.14//

"North Star" - ST: E (Season 3: 9)

At some point in the late-19th Century, the Skagarans take a number of humans back to their home world (or colonized world) as slaves.  Eventually, the humans overthrew the Skaggs, and made them into the second-class citizens.  An interesting line, in the third act, about how humans have long memories after Archer says that it's been 300 years since the humans were brought as slaves to a new world.  Imagine similar lines being spoken on earth in the present day had slave revolts resulted in an overthrow of the dominant Western culture. ||Alternate history where the Southern United States is overthrown in the late 1790s and earliest 1800s and the South, the Caribbean and some of Central and South America form an Afro-American nation, which becomes a Western Hemisphere rival to the US.|| //3.2.17//


"The City on the Edge of Tomorrow" - ST (Season 1: 28)
  • The re-write of this episode famously has Kirk making the ultimate decision to allow his new love, Edith Keeler, to die, rather than his being held back from saving her (to the detriment of the entire future) by Spock.

"Storm Front" - ST: E (Season 4:1-2)
  • An alternate history in which Germany occupies the Eastern United States during the Second World War.
At times it's obnoxiously Utopian, reading the racist/sexist American 1940s as magically cured by a common enemy.

July 1947

"Little Green Men" - ST: DS9 (Season 4:8)
  • A rare Ferengi-centric episode, in which Quark, Rom and Nog find themselves trapped in post World War II American paranoia (in a little place called Roswell, NM).   [Much of the episode occurs in "real time". Time displacement about the 14 min. mark, and return to the DS9 timeline around the 42 minute point on Hulu)]
For some reason the most intentionally politically relevant Star Trek series tended too often toward 'joke episodes'. Some small critique seeps through in the selection if the paranoid Red Scare America, but overall a lazy episode.  Some small critique of American greed and gullibility (culpability) is here, but without teeth (even sharp Ferengi teeth). Cute but not memorable. //8.26.15//


"Carbon Creek" - ST: E (Season 2:2)
  •  T'Pol tells the story of real "First Contact", in the form of her great grandmother and her crew crash landing in a sleepy town called Carbon Creek.  While waiting for a rescue they're not sure is coming, they settle into daily life in the town, taking odd jobs and becoming part of the community.  In the end, one of the crew opts to stay on earth, and the crew claims he died in the crash  [The 1950s storyline begins immediately after the opening credits]
Another "novelty" episode.  This time with Vulcan - Ha!  A critique of the traditional nuclear household  (in a threesome of Vulcans), but there's also a proto-Spock story here, too.  All Star Trek aliens are ultimately different kinds of humans, and the final message we take away from this incident is that balance is key.  Americans are clearly crazy (Humans in Star Trek narratives are Americans, and upstart civilization late to the game, who without noticing how it happened are somehow in charge now, I guess...), but to tilt too far any other direction (French Vulcan intellectuals or Russian / Germanic Klingon pride/honor people) is to lose out on the uniquely-American gumption that (so the story goes) leads to the development of the Federation.  //8.27.15//

"Future's End" - ST:V (Season 3: 8)

Henry Starling sees Captain Braxton's ship crash land on earth in the mountains. 


"Assignment: Earth" - ST (Season 2:26)
  •  The Enterprise uses its good ole slingshot time warp technology to study "Earth's most turbulent moment in history", 1968.
 Our heroic rescue from these dangerous times are only thanks, of course, to the interference of a super-technologically advanced planet.  Seems like they could've done something about W.  //7.30.16//

"Tomorrow is Yesterday" - ST (Season 1:19)
  • The Enterprise first encounters slingshot space travel accidentally and is zapped back to a week before the moon landing. 
Novel use of getting back home and undoing any historical intervention. //7.30.16//


Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  •  The Enterprise crew (this time aboard a Klingon Warbird) uses its good ole slingshot technology… this is sounding familiar. Going back in time to save the world with the help of two humpback whales. 

"Future's End" - ST:V (Season 3: 8-9)
  • The Voyager is sucked back to 1996 after being attacked by a 29th Century vessel. 
Star Trek has always had its own time as the subject at hand. When they do so explicitly it's always a bit clumsy and hilarious. In 1999 - companies with names like ChronowerX, money-grubbing executives, hacker-culture as dominant. 

1992 - 1996
  • The Eugenics Wars happen during this time.
"11:59" - ST:V (Season 5: 23)
  • Neelix becomes interested in earth history, and explores the relationship between mythic and social history.
More commentary on the small-mindedness of our own time.  This and the next several entries in the timeline (and the past several come to think of it, 1930 - 2040 or so) explore the philosophical question of history and fate.  All past events lead to the present, and these episodes call into question how we reach the future - the hopeful future of the Star Trek universe.
All evidence in our current world speaks to the contrary of the hope of finding a way to make things work - to accomplish the goal of allowing our technology to save us from ourselves.  It's clear that we could make a better world, with what have available to us.  But the only way we can imagine getting there is through some great turmoil.

"Carpenter Street"
  • Highlight of the typisch Amerikanisch stereotype has to be in the opening sequence when he eats the last piece of pizza in the box, which is in the bathroom sink...
  • The real story is about how dark the aughts and the present time is.  Recognizing how far gone most of us are in the modern era - that we are so immersed in the capitalist endeavor, that we will sell out others for our own gain.  That we will sell others for our gain.
//8.5.16// & //3.2.17//

 "Past Tense, Pts.1 & 2" - ST: DS9 (Season 3: 11-12)

"Past Tense" is a bit of a hilarious (and quite thoughtful) philosophical experiment and behind the curtain commentary on Star Trek time travel plots.  Most explicitly, the scenes when O'Brien & Kira are beaming through time in an attempt to find Sisko & Co. who've been lost in one of the formative historical moments of the early 21st Century.  They beam into the 1930s & the late 1960s in random searching of 12 possible moments in history when they might be lost (naturally, they only have enough chronotron particles to visit 7 or so...).  The two dates seem random, but both are references to TOS episodes that riff on this same theme: Making (or not un-making) history anonymously.

"One Small Step" - ST: V (Season 8: 6)

Star Trek VII: First Contact
  • This is no time to talk about timelines, but a quick word about timelines.  Like "Past Tense", First Contact starts early with the complete unexisting of "our timeline" - that is, the threat of unmaking the world we know.  Again, fortunately, the Enterprise is caught in a chrono-temporal bubble or some such, so while they witness the change in the timeline on the planet below, but are able to go back in time and "fix" things.
It's this notion of fixing, that I think is key to all of these time travel stories (as well as to the new alternate timeline movies with Chris Pine Kirk).  Fundamental, is the idea of "belonging" - that is, you belong in your own specific timeline.  The Enterprise crew that we know don't belong in a timeline where all 9 billion inhabitants of earth are Borg.  That said, based rules established by the Star Trek multiverse, each of these universes inherently already exists. 

The question is, in these temporal bubble moments, is the timeline that our Enterprise inhabits being changed, or are they being moved into a parallel timeline/universe where whatever conditions they observe always already (threw in some Heidegger!) existed.

More comments made recently: http://stogie10.blogspot.com/2016/07/celebrating-american-hope.html?m=1 //9.20.16 & 7.20.16//

Real time of Star Trek: Enterprise -

Season 1 of Star Trek: Enterprise includes a lot of one-off, standalone, "alien of the week" episodes, which is typical of a new Star Trek series - needed to explore new characters and explore what works and what doesn't in a new series.  A few gestures toward the Temporal Cold War, particularly in the season finale, but this new prequel show spent a lot of time looking backward in time - to the 90 years of fictional time since first contact and the Vulcan's tendency to hold back human progress into space.  The show also looks back the 55 years since The Original Series, and nostalgically re-introduces some themes and species (Andorians, anyone?).

Season 2 of Enterprise is more one-off episodes - 'rut-roh, Hoshi's disappearing!' - and also a further exploration of the Temporal Cold War.  The Suliban feature prominently, and time is a common theme.  Time travel, storytelling, abandoned minefields, past rivals returning... The series is the closest in time between the time it aired and the era its portraying - 150 years.  I think this relative proximity makes it harder for the showrunners to simply imagine 22nd Century humans as inhabiting an entirely different headspace.  //2016//

Season 3 is a fantastic re-direct; really revitalizing the show from its loss of steam.  Rather than a lot of one-off episodes and a Temporal Cold War that was hard to get invested in as a major arc, the cliffhanger from Season 2 kills off millions of humans in Florida with a Xindi attack on earth.  The Xindi, this season explains, are several related species who live in the Delphic Expanse.  As it turns out (have i mentioned this post contains spoilers?), the Expanse is an attempt by transdimensional beings to take over our space, and they convinced the Xindi that humans were destined to destroy them - thus the attack on Florida (well, they were trying to destroy earth, not just Florida, but were stopped mid-attack).  Season 3 is about trying to thwart the next Xindi attack.

Season 4 starts in the midst of the Temporal Cold War, with Archer stranded in late-WWII America, and trying to re-set things right by getting the pesky alien-assisted Nazis out of North America.  The season as a whole has the sense of being rushed and thrown together - as if Rick Berman and Brannon Braga were looking over their shoulders at the looming cancellation and trying to cram all of the story-lines they had plotted for seasons 4 - 7 or so into one fun season.  The Eugenics Wars holdovers - the Augments - get an arc; the complete overthrow of Vulcan political order gets an arc; Andorians, Tellurites, Vulcans and Humans trying to forge a complex peace treaty (which will lead to the Federation) gets an arc; plus the reason that Klingons looked suspiciously like spray-tanned humans in TOS gets a fun and kinda hilarious arc.  Plus the mirror universe; anti-alien (i.e. globalization) radical organization Terra Prime.

  • Re-watching Season 4 in particular redeems the quality of Enterprise.  While it was on, it was fun to have Star Trek back on the air, but i think Season 4 shows that this could have been every bit as good a series in the long run - great major story arcs coupled with fun and exploratory in-between eps.  Enterprise was the first series since TOS that really tried to dig through the real fears of the era it was created in.  In retrospect, Enterprise forsaw even Trumpism to some extent... Earth wasn't ready for the Federation... but it needed it.  The U.S. (which has always been represented by humans in Star Trek) isn't ready for globalism... but it needs it.  
"These are the Voyages..." - ST: E (Season 4: 22)

The real time of this episode occurs in 2370, during Season 7 of Star Trek: TNG.  Riker is Hamleting a decision, and procrastinating by going to the holodeck to watch Jonathan Archer's mission while en route to the founding of the Federation.


The USS Franklin is lost, as seen on some grainy footage in Star Trek Beyond. [At the 1:01 point in the film]

The opening scene of Star Trek also opens an entirely new timeline, in which we see James Kirk born and George Kirk die.  [Through 11:30 or so until the opening credits].
In the standard, non-Kelvin universe, Kirk is born in Riverside, Iowa.  In the 2009 movie, he is born on the USS Kelvin.


Post-title sequences in Star Trek featuring a tween-age Kirk totally totaling his step-father's classic car.  Subsequent seen is Spock's own adolescence, and the pains of being a half-human on Vulcan.  Also around this time would be the scenes of Sarek's memories in ST:D episode "Lethe" (Season 1:6).

Sarek drops Michael Burnham off at the Georgia. ST: D (Season 1:2).  Some time before this, perhaps this very same year or in the years prior Sarek is seen choosing Spock's future over Michael Burnam's when he is told that only one of his non-pure-blood Vulcan children will be able to attend the science academy.  ST: D (Season 1:6)

Sometime between 2249 & 2254
The scene in Star Trek where Spock turns his back on the Vulcan Expeditionary Group, eschewing their offer and choosing to enter Star Fleet.

"The Cage" - ST: TOS (Season 1:1)

100 years after Season 4 of Enterprise.  The pilot that didn't make has a lot of elements of the series - a "Bones" figure, who is the elder mentor to the captain.  Pike has the same discontent that will haunt Kirk later in the series - not sure whether he should be here at all.

Real time of Star Trek: Discovery -
May 2256
ST: D (Season 1: 1-2)

There has been an "easy read" of the first couple episodes of Star Trek: Discovery as a Trump-America allegory where a nationalist Klingon Empire regroups and begins to mess up everyone's happy socialist utopia.  Sucks.

But it's useful to recall, that even in this reading, less than one lifetime later (namely James Kirk's lifetime), Klingons and the Federation are on the border of peace and understanding (see Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country). 

It's easy to read Star Trek as meaning something; and especially something that you want it to say.  But even at the most cynical - our current struggle with understanding what is happening in America, Star Trek's clear answer is that the end result will be resolution and progress.  Worf will serve on the Enterprise, and there is unfortunate history that leads up to that. 

The best, simplest take-away is to always assume progress and togetherness.  We will win.  But it will take time.  That said, who wants to be on the wrong side of history?


November 2256 - ?
ST: D (Season 1: 3 - 6)

While each episode is building an exciting arch in a way that no previous Star Trek series has, the first several 'real-time' episodes of the series are also moral and ethical vignettes - doing what's right vs. following orders; recognition of a sentient "creature's" inalienable rights; familial obligations and standing up to racism in an evolved, logical society. //10.23.2017//

ST: D (Season 1: 7-9)

Episode 7 is a hilarious fun-fest, and at the same time a serious project in character development.  The next two episodes are heavy, and get to the mid-Season finale (yeah, other Star Trek shows didn't have these...) at the peak of exciting insanity. //11.20.2017//

ST: D (Season 1: 10-15)

The crew heads to the mirror universe and back.  On their return (because tracking timelines in two universes seems a bit obsessive...), they're 9 months further in the future, and the Federation has all but lost the war with the Klingons.  Thanks to the Terran Emperor, the Federation wins (or at least ties), and life goes on...
What's not clear, is which life we're operating in here.  This could be the standard Star Trek world we've come to know, or the Kelvin timeline (nothing major enough has occurred - Vulcan has yet to be destroyed, etc.).  It may also be its own separate timeline - which would be a waste, I'm afraid.
But this may very well be the orthodox Star Trek world, but if so, it is telling how close the Federation came to losing the war.  Kirk's racism against Klingons in the movies, and the underlying animosity, is understandable to some extent. //2.15.2018//

Star Trek: Into Darkness shows this as the day/month/week (not sure how stardates work!) of Spock's death in the Kelvin timeline.

2269 - StartDate 5943.7
"All Our Yesterdays" - ST (Season 3: 23)
  • Spock recognizes (and accepts) he can't go back to the ice age he's been longing for...

"All Good Things" - ST:TNG (Season 7:24)
  • "Encounter at Farpoint" - JL's arrival on the Enterprise [Throughout Pt. 1]
Picard comes across a bit crazy in these moments, which is cool.  Interesting will be to view this episode alongside "Farpoint" when the chronology gets there. //4.26.14//
- StartDate 479.88 
"All Good Things" - ST:TNG (Season 7:24)
  • Worf and Deanna days - JL in a low-cut gray shirt [Throughout Pt. 1]


"All Good Things" - ST:TNG (Season 7:24)
  • Jean Luc's present - in the Vineyard, and beyond - (25 years after JL and Geordi served together) [Throughout Pt. 1]. Troi is dead, unmarried to both Riker and Worf.

09 March 2014


We watched Smoke Signals this afternoon - must have been the first time in more than 10 years - and I was reminded what a truly great, and enjoyable movie it is.  I love the fuzziness of truth and lies in the film - Thomas tells stories and the response is almost invariably, "is that true?".

I've had a slow-boiling theory of the transience of truth (well before Colbert's 'truthiness' campaign, thank you very much), which a film like this (or my favorite on this theme, Stranger that Fiction).  I've always read poetry as a form of this borderland between fiction and reality.  I'm never as concerned with what is or isn't absolutely true as I am with what 'rings true', which, to my mind, is poetry's primary function.

Sherman Alexie has a great poem about Walt Whitman, which is a great response to Whitman's earlier "Song of Myself", which has another response verse by Allen Ginsberg, "A Supermarket in California", which is a great echo of the original.

Others have written this connection up more completely and thoughtfully, so I'll just point here and remember a great film and storyteller in brief.


12 January 2014

Another, Better Four-Year

It's been four years since the massive earthquake destroyed much of the capital city of Haiti.  News outlets love anniversaries and there have been plenty of retrospective 'where are they four years after' and 'where did the money go' articles popping up over the last few days, so I don't want to spend a lot of space here railing against the injustices the West has done to Haitians since goudou-goudou (and the injustices Haitians themselves continue carrying out against other, poorer, Haitians).

My Sunday started off strangely, with my wife's clock radio going off at the usual early weekday time, and hearing the voice of my friend and mentor, Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, speaking to me from the darkness.  He had been interviewed on the show On Being some years ago and was rebroadcast this morning.  The interview is fascinating and a useful primer on Haitian Vodou, but hearing the words spoken pre-earthquake

Resilience is not always a virtue...

*   *   *

Returning to this post some years later, I don't quite know what it was meant to be about, but I had tagged it "travel", and had been to Haiti in late 2013.  I think i thought to provide some commentary on the progress (or lack thereof) from the time of the disaster, and a bit of the socio-economic and political superstructure that contributed to the depth and complexity of a "natural" disaster like this one...

Here's a video of me driving around Haiti!

03 January 2014

I was on a jury... and it was really awful... but hugely important

Last month I was called for jury duty and was ultimately selected to serve on a criminal trial involving two young black men who were accused of perpetrating an armed robbery in the Western Suburbs of Milwaukee. The experience was singularly unpleasant, not only in the ‘this is jury duty and it sucks” way, but also in the resulting loss of faith in humanity (which was already fairly unsteady).

The trial itself took the better part of a week, starting on Monday afternoon (after a couple hours of jury selection) and ending Thursday afternoon. Almost all of that time was spent on the prosecution, which made a fairly circumstantial case that the two young black men in the room were in fact the two, similarly shaped, young black men appearing on a poor-quality surveillance video. The defense* re-called one witness, a Milwaukee cop, and asked a few questions to demonstrate how little police work really went into all of this (not following up on additional leads or suspects, etc.)

At that point, after some final arguments, the case was given over to us, the jury. This is the point at which everything went to hell.

It was approximately 4:15pm by the time we adjourned to the jury room (a dreary room with a long table and mis-matched chairs, the windows covered in privacy tape and an alarm on the door). As we took our seats, the bailiff came in and said we would need to elect a foreperson. He asked for any volunteers and the old woman seated next to me (who will hereafter be referred to as Crotchety O’Lady) said, “I’ll do it.” She was eager, but worked hard to seem resigned to it.

The long and short of it was that most of the folks on the jury were convinced by 'authorities'.  The prosecutor and police officers who testified laid a flimsy groundwork based on burner cell phones and the aliases assigned to burner phones in the contact list of one guy who was not very believable, and whose vehicle was at both locations according to the grainy video footage.

*   *   *

3 May 2018
I am sorry that i didn't post this in real time... It was a lazy period for me (regular life, in other words).  [Is it just me #iijm or do we find ourselves creating irl type abbreviations in the real world (#itrw) - i wanted to abbreviate #irt and #iow when i was typing earlier this paragraph, but then realized i was making those up.)

I was called to be a juror in late 2013, and it was in the early days of my being a person with a real job.  When i was actually called into a court room, i answered honestly (mostly**) when the attorneys were selecting jurors.  I did make myself sound banal (a "staffing specialist" rather than a "graduate student"), and not overly opinionated.

Mostly what i found being on a jury is that people crave leadership and most people have strong prejudices that they are astoundingly unaware of.  There were a few (or perhaps a couple) people on this particular jury who were actively and obstinately racist in their preference for convicting.  But at the beginning of deliberations, almost all (actually all, except for a middle aged African American lady, who described the defendants as "guys who could my kids", and me) jurors were initially in favor of conviction despite the lack of any compelling evidence.

In the end the two of us had convinced enough of the jurors that there was enough doubt to acquit one defendant entirely and get a hung jury for the other. 

Since serving on the jury, i have been shocked by the number of times i've heard friends, colleagues and other folks discuss openly how they have or planned to avoid jury service by answering introductory questions to the effect that they are prejudiced or would not be able to be impartial.  Jury service is a pain in the ass, but the fact that so many middle and upper class and educated people shirk their responsibility means that juries are largely and disproportionately peopled by under-educated and  underprivileged people... people who are more likely to be unintentionally prejudiced.

And these people need a leader in their midst in order to do the right thing.

*Note: In point of fact there were two separate “defenses” as each defendant was being tried independently of the other, with separate counsel. This becomes important later in the post and only one of the two “defenses” called anybody to the stand.

** Defense attorneys asked whether any of the potential jurors had any "pre-conceptions" of whether the defendants in this case were guilty or not.  My immediate instinct was to answer that, "yes, i would go into the case starting with an assumption about their guilt - namely that they are not guilty, unless the prosecution can prove otherwise."  I withheld this smart-alec remark, which i think would've gotten me tossed by prosecution despite it's accuracy.