Tag Archives: Star Trek

An Iowa thrill for a Star Trek fan (because it’s tough to visit Vulcan)

The claim to fame for Riverside, Iowa, will come to pass in 2228, which means residents have a long horizon of sunshine to make hay in it.

Or harvest corn. This is Iowa, after all. To-may-to, to-mah-to.

This cause celebre? Riverside, Iowa, is said to be the future birthplace of Capt. James Tiberius Kirk. No idea who that is? Move along, you noob, only a Trekker will appreciate the rest of this post.

I visited Riverside last week, and it was Awesome with a capital A! (Or maybe my modifier should be out of this world. Whatever. You get the point.)

Riverside Street Signs

Capt. Kirk is known among original Star Trek fans as Starfleet’s greatest captain (cue visage of a young William Shatner looking heavenward). Somewhere along the history of the future, Riverside claimed him (though the 2009 Star Trek movie with Chris Pine depicts Kirk’s birth aboard a USS Kelvin shuttlecraft). A small town in the middle of Iowa about 15 miles south of Iowa City, Riverside might barely be a gas stop off Highway 22 except it’s now home to Trek Fest and The Voyage Home Riverside History Center, filled with all kinds of Star Trek tchotchkes.

Riverside history museum

You can’t miss it because a replica of the USS Enterprise and the shuttlecraft USS Riverside sits out front:

Down the street behind a beauty parlor, some clever fan erected this birth marker with a handy bench for far-out contemplation:

Riverside Birth Marker

But the best part of Riverside, Iowa, might be Murphy’s Bar & Grill, where I found this conception plaque:

Riverside Conception Plaque

Plaque reads: “Capt. James T. Kirk conceived at the point on June 22, 2227.” Which would be exactly nine months prior to his birth in March of the following year.

Because apparently, alcoholic beverages have the same effect in the future on one’s moral fortitude.

Refreshing. But you only need one.

Refreshing. But you only need one.

As I pondered the future captain’s role in saving Earth several times over, I enjoyed a delicious Romulan Ale at the bar. I can’t tell you the thrill it was for a Star Trek fan to waltz into a bar and order an Romulan Ale and actually get one.

Bartenders like that are a rare commodity in this universe. She got a good tip.

‘Star Trek’ wisdom

I’m working on a great project — a scrapbook — with a sewing theme. I dug up a bunch of wonderful quotes about how “friends are like fabric — you can never have too much” but the Trekker in me also thought of an episode from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” titled “Tapestry.”

The quote doesn’t work for my project (because we’re not highlighting one’s youthful mistakes) but it’s a good quote nonetheless, so I’m sharing it here as a reminder to embrace my past and for you to embrace yours, whatever it is, because it makes me me and you you:

“There are many parts of my youth that I’m not proud of. There were… loose threads — untidy parts of me that I would like to remove. But when I… pulled on one of those threads — it unraveled the tapestry of my life.”

~ Patrick Stewart as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard

That’s bold, baby: ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’ delivers

Epic. Engaging. Familiar characters and masterful acting. “Star Trek: Into Darkness” has something for everyone.

Even if you’re not a “Star Trek” fan and even if (ahem, what is wrong with you?) you’re not entirely clear who Gene Roddenberry is or why Capt. Kirk looks so much younger in this movie than pop culture implies, you’ll appreciate this sci fi thriller.

I toured the blogosphere this weekend and found a number of reviewers decades younger than me — many of whom admitted never seeing a television episode of the iconic ’60 series — who enjoyed “Star Trek: Into Darkness” very much, so I feel confident saying director J.J. Abrams did a good job luring a new audience to the “Star Trek” franchise.

And as an ardent fan of “Star Trek” (aka “Trekker” not to be confused with “Trekkie”) who even dressed as a Klingon once, I loved the latest cinematic outing. I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me. Not kidding.


This is as much a review of “Star Trek: Into Darkness” as it is an analysis. DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER if you haven’t seen the movie and you want to experience it in all its glory. Find another reviewer who piques your interest without giving away plot points. This one is for insiders only.

I saw the movie in 3D on an IMAX screen, and I was enthralled. It was worth the extra admission. There is so much action, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. Amazingly, most of the action is not gratuitous but actually important to the story. I loved the scenes as the Enterprise is plunging into Earth’s atmosphere and wreaking havoc on the gravitational systems. That’s how it is on spaceships — sometimes the ceiling is the floor. You never would have seen that in 1967.

STimagesPortraying one of the greatest “Star Trek” villains ever couldn’t have been easy, but Benedict Cumberbatch pulls off Khan Noonien Singh for a new generation. Between his portrayal and the writing which shows Khan to be multi-dimensional — Kirk pressing him into duty as the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” was brilliant — I appreciated his nuanced and diabolical performance.

I was a little irked, however, that the real bad guy turned out to be the Adm. Marcus, but maybe I’m mad because it’s a little like finding out Obama’s IRS is harassing the Tea Party — that’s such a Nixon move. Do all our leaders have to sink to underhanded shenanigans and reveal their human frailty? Is this what is meant by “Into Darkness”? We have seen the enemy, and it is us? It reminded me of the first “Mission: Impossible” movie when trusted Jim betrays Ethan. Such a predictable plot twist. Ugh.

Still, no one will remember who plays the admiral. Everyone is talking about the new Khan. But more than Cumberbatch’s performance, I admired Zachary Quinto’s Spock. Sometimes, I could hear Leonard Nimoy’s voice as he spoke, but he wasn’t just copying someone else’s performance. He made Spock his own, even more than he did in the 2009 “Star Trek” movie that introduced all the young versions of our favorite characters.

And the scene with Spock watching Kirk die after he saved the ship — a tribute to the same pivotal scene in “Star Trek: Wrath of Khan”? Masterful. The old dialogue, flipped on its head, then updated as Spock helplessly watches Kirk die instead of the other way around.

Some die-hards hold up 1982’s “Wrath of Khan” as a better movie, and I agree. Here’s why. Spock died. There wasn’t a happy ending. It was like life. Life doesn’t always tell neat stories. The way “Into Darkness” brings Kirk back from the dead — “super blood”? really?! — was dumb. Abrams had to do that so audiences wouldn’t exit the theater on a sad note, but, I’m sorry, it wasn’t as theatrical as having to spend all of “The Search for Spock” returning his katra to his reanimated bodyBut I guess that’s how we are nowadays (oy, there’s that phrase). Back in my day, we didn’t have stem cells. We had to do things the old-fashioned way. We had to bring people back from the dead with dangerous and mystical Vulcan ceremonies with strange names like fal tor pan.

Anyway, back to “Into Darkness.” Besides the sometimes outrageous turns requiring us to suspend judgment (come on, if you can buy “warp drive,” you can buy “super blood”), I thought the movie pulls the audience through some amazing emotional territory — humor included, we even had Klingons! — and I enjoyed it. Because of the respect for what’s gone before, I’ll look forward to whatever bold things Abrams & Co. does with this “Star Trek” reboot.

My science fiction reach exceeds my grasp (of great literature)

“He tasks me. He tasks me and I shall have him! I’ll chase him ’round the moons of Nibia and ’round the Antares Maelstrom and ’round Perdition’s flames before I give him up!”

~ Khan in “Star Trek: Wrath of Khan”

It is sad that I fancy myself a bibliophile and yet I had to look up this quote from “Star Trek: Wrath of Khan” to figure out its origin. It’s a direct quote — other than the substitution of astronomical terms — for a passage from Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick,” which I will confess, I haven’t read. But I should.

 As long as I’m confessing, I’ll confess this: Based only on Trekkie rumor and speculation in the blogosphere, I watched “Space Seed,” the episode from the original “Star Trek” TV series introducing Ricardo Montalban as Khan Noonien Singh, and “Star Trek: Wrath of Khan,” the second feature-length “Star Trek” movie, in preparation for this past weekend’s viewing of “Star Trek” Into Darkness.”

Yes, I’m that much of a Trekker nerd.

SPOILER ALERT (if you haven’t seen the new movie yet and you want to be surprised, avert your eyes RIGHT NOW): Rumor and speculation were right: The likely villain to be reincarnated in the “Star Trek” reboot was indeed brought back to life by actor Benedict Cumberbatch.

And he was awesome! Well, he was no Ricardo Montalban, but still, bold. I’ll share my review of the new movie here tomorrow.

“It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”

~ Carl Sagan

Riding high

“I could really use a lift.”

Overheard in most circumstances, this would mean, “Can I get a ride somewhere?”

At my house, however, “lift” means a lot more than a commitment of a few minutes and a couple of dollars of gas.

It means enough steel that a forklift is required to lift it, two men spending all day on an installation and the sacrifice of the third stall of the garage:


Why, yes, they do install four-post auto lifts in residential neighborhoods. And yes, this equipment is so very, very necessary when Dad is angling to spend more time with his 18-year-old son and Son is planning complicated repairs/modifications/improvements to his vehicles and ones yet to be invested in.

underside of a car

Fascinating, isn’t it, the soft underbelly of a Passat?

Such a contraption allows one to see secret things normally only mechanics witness. Like the underside of a car.

When he was shopping for said lift, my Beloved asked the salesperson if he could trust it to be safe when his pride and joy was under it.

“You mean an expensive sports car?” the salesman asked.

“No, I mean my only son.”

“Yeah, yeah, sure, totally safe. We certify it.”

Me? While my men are spending time getting greasy in the garage, I get lots of free time to indulge in ridiculous endeavors like blogging and trolling for “Star Trek” related trailers and videos on You Tube (have you seen the Audi commercial starring Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto, aka Original Spock and Young Spock? Brilliant!).


Happy birthday, Mr. Spock

How do you feel?

How do you feel?

How do you feel?

I do not understand the question.

~from “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”

I wonder how many times Leonard Nimoy heard “Live long and prosper” today. It’s his birthday. He turned 82.

Being a fan of “Star Trek” (that’s Trekker to the rest of you), I am an admirer of the man who made pointy ears a serious costume. I’ve been impressed with how he molded his career in the years after his iconic role and the ways he used his fame as a foothold to bigger things (he’s a pretty good movie director, for example).

I’ve gotta believe, however, being so closely associated with a singular character must be difficult. He did, after all, write “I Am Not Spock” and then decades later, “I Am Spock” (see? an author, too!). He, above all, can’t escape his alter ego. “Not a day passes that I don’t hear that cool, rational voice commenting on some irrational aspect of the human condition,” he wrote.

In any case, here’s a fan wishing him on his birthday a portion of the joy he’s imparted through the years as an entertainer.

Do you have any message for your mother?

Tell her … I feel fine.

For the right audience, Fey’s ‘Bossypants’ is fun, funny

For a fun diversion, proud women of a certain generation will appreciate Tina Fey’s “Bossypants” because you’ll get her jokes. The rest of you are out of luck.

bossypantsI laughed out loud (that’s LOL to those of you born after I graduated from college) many times while reading Tina Fey’s memoir, and it was worth every penny and every minute I invested in it.

But I’m a sucker for celebrity memoirs. If you’re looking for a complete documentation about what makes the former “Saturday Night Live” writer and creator of “30 Rock” funny or genuine, you’ll have to wait for the unauthorized biographies. Fey’s telling of her own story glosses over some of the details (her facial scar) and jumps around. But it’s a satisfying and entertaining portrait of a feminist comedienne of today.

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with 1-star reviews (authors get like that), so I always check out the 1-star reviews of books I like, trying to figure them out. I ran across this accusation about “Bossypants”:

It also showed me someone with a gargantuan ego who has a lot of false modesty.

Star Trek MemoriesWhat? I respectfully disagree, “Ebby” who liked “Samuel Adams: A Life” but didn’t like “Bossypants.” With that in mind, I’ve chosen to compare and contrast Fey’s “Bossypants” with “Star Trek Memories” by William Shatner, the actor with perhaps the most bloated ego on planet Earth. Or possibly the Milky Way. I confess to enjoying his memoirs very much, but he defines “gargantuan ego”; hey, you can’t take on the Klingons without a healthy opinion of oneself. At least Fey admits to being a “bossypants.”

Compared to Shatner, Fey goes into a lot more detail about her childhood and work history including an entertaining stint at the YMCA in Evanston, Ill. I particularly enjoyed her retelling of her transformation into Sarah Palin. I was surprised by the number of photos in Fey’s book, including flattering shots like this one, which she, of course, plays for laughs:

Fey photo

Shatner’s first memoir (yes, “Star Trek: Memories” was the first of three, count ’em, three memoirs written with author Chris Kreski about his “Star Trek” connections) is filled with vainglorious pictures like this:

The caption reads: The "highly prestigious," not to mention "extraordinarily handsome," new capitan. What a guy!

The caption reads: The “highly prestigious,” not to mention “extraordinarily handsome,” new captain. What a guy!

Fey is a comedienne who sometimes acts. Her memoir is a writer’s book, filled with clever jokes that might not work on TV or even in the audio book (my Beloved did not find my readings of her work amusing), but they’re funny in print. Here’s a bawdy one about the first time she wore contact lenses:

“Right up until camera time, I was sweaty and green from having to touch my own eyeballs like that. If you’ve never had to do it, I’d say it’s not quite as quease-making as when you lose your tampon string, but equally queasish to a self-breast exam. If you are male, I would liken it to touching your own eyeball, and thank you for buying this book.”

Shatner, an actor who fancies himself to be a comedian, tells many stories of the times he pulled practical jokes on his co-stars, like the time he made fun of Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock screaming, “Pain, PAIN, PAAAAAAAIN!!!” while channeling a mother alien whose eggs had been destroyed. Writes Shatner, “At which point I yelled, ‘Jesus Christ! Get that Vulcan an aspirin!'”

Listen, I love Capt. Kirk, and I’ve held on to his hardcover memoir for two decades, but he’s just kind of harsh sometimes.

Fey wraps up her memoir with some observations about juggling motherhood with a demanding career. It’s a humorous take, but she’s spot-on, too, I think, about the illusion of “having it all.”

Shatner, meanwhile, writes an epilogue about how much some of his cast members hate him and how it’s really too bad. Genuine, I thought, but as self-serving as Fey justifying her life choices (it’s worth reading Nichelle Nichols’ and James Doohan’s memoirs for their unvarnished perspectives).

In conclusion (isn’t that how a rule-following high school student wraps up her compare-and-contrast assignment?), “Bossypants” succeeds at amusing readers, particularly ones who are female, mothers or fans of “30 Rock.” Though she might show moments of false modesty, I found her memoir to be genuine and playful, sort of like having lunch with a funny performer. Which shouldn’t be surprising — she is.

‘OK, make nice, give us the ray gun’

On our way last night to see “Sinister,” a horror-suspense movie about a true crime author who is destroyed by the quest to write a best seller, my Beloved and I were having a deep conversation as we dodged the panhandlers on the mall (because it was an effective passive-aggressive alternative to saying, “nope, can’t help you”).

I suggested to my Beloved that the behavior of a certain acquaintance of ours proved a theory of mine. My theory is not important here — it has to do with how one’s first sexual experience causes fetishes and even as I write it now, it sounds a little hair-brained — but what’s important is that I was espousing a theory of mine.

And my Beloved, who tolerates many of my strange behaviors (like my poor housekeeping and love for quinoa) but loves me for my smarts (and good looks), said, “That sounds like all your theories. You believe in moon phases and tarot cards and that everything is connected. I don’t think so. Stuff just happens. Sometimes there no reason for things.”

What?! Am I one of those crazy dreamers? One of those abstract screwballs? Is my Beloved in love with a weirdo?

The true is, I have always related with the polka-dotted elephant on the Island of Misfit Toys. I mean, I admit: I do believe the full moon causes lunacy.

And then this profundity crossed my mind:

You’re unique. Just like everyone else.

That’s the explanation I’m going to cleave to: I may be weird.

But so are you.

Note: As if to prove my theory on uniqueness, the headline for this post comes from “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” when Pavel Chekov is cornered by two FBI agents and waves around an inoperable phaser gun. “What do you think?” says one agent. “He’s a Russki,” says the other. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. Of course he’s a Russki.”

Shooting stunning holes in Holy Saturday … with a ray gun

Science fiction helps explain away a lot of perplexing theological questions.

Familiar with “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”? For those of you for whom this is an arcane reference, let me explain. In the episode “The Emissary,” Capt. Benjamin Sisko uses baseball as a metaphor to explain linear time to an alien species known at the Prophets. The Prophets exist in a wormhole, a timeless plain where there are no beginnings, no endings, no befores, no afters.

Sisko: In the end, it comes down to throwing one pitch after another, and seeing what happens. With each new consequence, the game begins to take shape.

Alien Batter: And you have no idea what that shape is until it is completed?

Sisko: That’s right. In fact, the game wouldn’t be worth playing if we knew what was going to happen.

Jake Prophet: You value your ignorance of what is to come?

Sisko: That may be the most important thing to understand about humans. It is the unknown that defines our existence. We are constantly searching, not just for answers to our questions, but for new questions. We are explorers. We explore our lives day by day, and we explore the galaxy, trying to expand the boundaries of our knowledge. And that is why I am here. Not to conquer you with weapons, or with ideas. But to coexist… and learn.

I imagine God to be like those Prophets. He exists in a place without time — every event in all of history occurs at the same time, all the time. This is how He is omniscient — He knows what the future holds because it already occurred and it’s occurring right now and it’s about to occur, all at the same time. It is us humans who experience life in a linear manner, one pitch after another so to speak. God doesn’t intervene in mundane human events, like the Cubs baseball season, because it’s already over.

See? Science fiction solves this deep philosophical quandary.

In any case, I was amused by the story “What did Jesus do on Holy Saturday?” in today’s newspaper. Read it here.

Apparently, theologians for centuries have been arguing about where Jesus was on the Saturday between his crucifixion and resurrection.

Seriously. God is the great I Am (Exodus 3:14). The Truth and the Life (John 14:6). The Alpha and Omega (Revelation 21:6). And we, lowly humans with teeny tiny intellect, think we can explain Jesus’ daily planner on the day between dying for humanity’s sins and rising from the dead.

Sometimes, we can be so arrogant.

Apparently, some people believe that on Holy Saturday Jesus descended into hell (it’s a line in the Apostle’s Creed, recited frequently in the Catholic and Lutheran churches I’ve attended most of my life), and some Christians have found little Biblical evidence to this “hellish detour.”

I don’t know where the son of God was passing his time that Saturday (and frankly, it seems so trifling compared to what happened on Good Friday and Easter morning), but I’m content with my science fiction explanation: God is everywhere at once, all the time — in the grave, in hell, in heaven looking down, in my heart.

I am willing to immerse myself in Capt. Sisko’s humanity. It is the unknown that defines our existence. I have faith the answers will all be revealed in due time.

Bonus arcane reference: Part of the title for today’s post comes from “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”:

Chekov: [picks up his phaser from the table, aiming at the FBI agents] Don’t move!

FBI agent interrogating Chekov: OK, make nice, give us the ray gun.

Chekov: I warn you, if you don’t lie on the floor… I will have to stun you.

Making spirits bright … or maybe just haunting me

“Captain, he put creatures … in our ears
… to control our minds.”

~ Chekov in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”

Yeah, nothing like a Ceti eel to interfere with the mission at hand. Here on Earth, they’re known as ear worms, I learned this week on National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation.”

An ear worm is one of those nuisance fragments of a song that plays endlessly in your head.

For some inexplicable reason, that nuisance song for me recently has been “Jingle Bells.”

A listener of “Talk of the Nation” offered this advice for combatting such a creature: Sing through the whole song to close the loop (click here for that replay).

Let’s try it …

Dashing through the snow
In a one-horse open sleigh
O’er the fields we go
Laughing all the way.
Bells on bob-tail ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to ride and sing
A sleighing song tonight.

Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way,
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh. Hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way,
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh.

Did it work? Yeah, me neither. At least now I won’t be alone in the rubber room.

You’re welcome.