General postsThursday February 14, 2013
The Valentine's Day Posts
- It's a Twitter meme right now: #CandyHeartRejects. I came up with my own last year: the less-romantic movie-themed candy hearts. For the rest of us.
- Dramatically speaking, the point of the story isn't to bring the lovers together but to keep them apart. We need to stretch this out to two hours, after all. Or two seasons. Or 10. If the couple gets together? Nobody cares. So find some way to keep them apart. Which means if you're alone on V Day, you're the point of the story.
- A poem from Leigh Hunt.
- Have you gone to Google's Valentine's Day Images page? Prepare to be blinded by red and crap.
- Seven years ago, for MSNBC, I wrote a piece sorting Hollywood kisses into several categories: the desperate kiss, in the rain, the manhandle, the woman takes charge, and the wow kiss. It's still not bad. Not wow but not bad.
- ABC News picked up on this piece a few years ago but ... Well, here. With a little Elvis Costello thrown in.
- For all the marshmallow valentines out there:
Sorry for the denture smell.
The final sunset of 2012 over Puget Sound, as viewed from Evan's office in lower Queen Anne. I'd say “Auf wiedersehen” to the year but I've just seen "Django Unchained' and know better.
Valentine's Day: The Point of the Story
The point of the story is to keep the lovers apart. That’s where the drama is. That’s what we paid to see. We want to anticipate them being together, we want to hope for them to stay together, but once they do stay together they become a bit dull. They share a bathroom and go to work and come home and share a bathroom. They’re no longer lovers. They’re a couple. Who wants to watch that? Nobody. Not even the couple. Especially not the couple.
So the goal of the dramatist is to keep the lovers apart for as long as possible. How? However. Family hatreds, class issues, war. She’s married, he’s shallow, they’re gay. He doesn’t recognize true love, neither does she. Fiddle-dee-dee and lah-dee-dah and Play it again, Sam. Stella! Elaine! Adrian! Or the old standby: Please, we’re British.
Which is to say if you’re alone on this awful day of forced national celebration of what Gore Vidal once referred to as “love love love”? You’re the point of the story.
Happy New Year! Five Days Late
Happy New Year!
I know. I’ve had a cold.
Being in the publishing business, I’ve been living in 2012 for a while now (I’m up to July), but I like the idea of fresh starts and New Year’s resolutions, even though most of them go the way they go. There’s a great, small Danish bakery, Nielsen’s, a block from where I work, and one day in January, two or three years ago, in the depths of the Global Financial Meltdown, as I was waiting for my mid-afternoon latte and happy-hour nosh (most likely a custard-filled snitter), I asked the barista how business was going. I was worried about them, as I was worried about all small businesses in the area. She admitted that things were pretty slow. “But they should pick up around February,” she added. Februrary? I wondered. Had she heard something I hadn’t? “Why February?” I asked. “That’s when most people give up on their New Year’s resolutions,” she said.
We are what we are. But I still like the idea of resolutions even though I don’t write down the New Year’s variety. Maybe my resolution for next year is to write down my New Year’s resolutions.
The ones floating about my head for this year involve getting serious about French again, or Chinese, which is still better than my French, or writing this or that long unfinished project, or reviewing and ranking every superhero movie or baseball movie. They involve reading more, and reading more fiction, and traveling more, and...
Unfortunately, there’s only so much time in the day. In this way, the resolutions contradict one another. They jostle one another for my attention. Me! Choose me! I doubt I can do superhero movies and baseball movies. I can’t study French and Chinese. Things get left behind. Most things. Life sweeps us along.
It’s all about time and interest. I have too little free time and too many interests. I suppose I’ll worry the year when my interests become manageable. It’ll indicate a decided lack of interest in things.
So here’s to the New Year. Here’s to the illusion that we have all the time in the world.
Photo of the Day
The Last Blog Post of 2010
I'm still in the process of seeing some of the big U.S. releases in December (“King's Speech”; “True Grit”), so I'm holding off on my Top 10 list until all that's done. If I can't promise punctuality I can promise thoroughness. Since I can't be the first out with a top 10 list, I hope to be the last.
In the meantime, here are the movies I've reviewed so far this year. “Un Prophete” and “Restrepo” are still tops for me.
What about you? Favorite movies from 2010?
Feel free to include favorite books and songs as well. I really need songs.
(And for anyone who thinks the conceptual video with great dancing is dead, please check out Janelle Monae's “Tightrope,” which I first came across via Time magazine's top 10 list. A sure sign you're old: when Time magazine is hipper than you.)
Good-bye, 2010. Skol, everyone.
Link of the Day
A piece on the joy of walking your dog, called "One Night in Dog Heaven," by my friend Jim Walsh. Not many writers are able to pull the eternal and the mystical from the quotidian as well as Jim. Excerpt:
Master, I know I am low on your priority list but please deliver me from this godforsaken prison of human stasis and let me run wild. You hold the key to me being the best I can be, the unbridled creature I was born to be. Let me hump a few friends and strangers, chase a few leaves I have mistaken for pheasants and overall be so in the moment that I make all the Zen people look like multi-taskers.
Federer, tout simplement magnifique
From Le Monde:
On pensait que l’histoire sportive de l’année serait le retour de l’Américain Lance Armstrong sur le Tour de France. Il n’en est rien. L’histoire sportive de l’année, elle s’est jouée en trois actes, en trois sets (6-1 7-6 6-4), sur le central de Roland-Garros, dimanche. L’histoire sportive de l’année, c’est d’avoir vu Roger Federer soulever pour la première fois la magnifique Coupe des Mousquetaires. De l’avoir vu se laisser emporter par l’émotion et verser de chaudes larmes en écoutant l’hymne national de son pays.
Or in my hastily translated English:
We think the sports story of the year will be the return of the American Lance Armstrong to the Tour de France. That's nothing. The sports story of the year played itself out in three acts, or three sets (6-1 7-6 6-4), at center court, Roland-Garros, Sunday.The sports story of the year was seeing Roger Federer raise for the first time the magnificent Coupe des Mousquetaires. It was seeing emotions get the better of him and the warm tears come, listening to the national anthem of his country.
Corrections are welcome.
Jim Walsh: For the Graduates
Remember Kurt Vonnegut’s commencement address that made the viral rounds in the late ‘90s (“wear sunscreen”), which turned out to be a well-written column by Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune? Her faux commencement address? Her commencement address if asked to give one?
Here’s one by my friend Jim Walsh, which appeared this week in the Southwest Journal in, yes Jim, sexy South Minneapolis. Everyone who knows Jim Walsh will never mistake this for anyone but Jim Walsh.
Read it. Love it. Live it. Pass it on. (You can read more of Jim's stuff in Southwest Journal and MinnPost.)
For The Graduates
By Jim Walsh
May 28, 2009
I was in an ambulance for the first time in my life last week. As the morphine entered my system and the trees billowed past the window (Satan had entered my kidney; he hath since exited and I am yet again feeling lucky to be alive), I remembered a few things I’ve been wanting to tell you before I go:
- Even though the real world can feel overwhelming with all its war, poverty, stupidity, and fallible-to-foolish parents, don’t waste your life in front of a computer screen. Go outside and play.
- Before he died, singer/songwriter Warren Zevon said, “Enjoy every sandwich.” Meaning, of course, that tomorrow isn’t promised and that life is fragile. I would also say you should enjoy every ant, breath, bud, and magic moment, and, as often as possible, put yourself in situations where your and others’ enjoyment is maximized.
- When said enjoyment is happening, various wanton killjoys will try to rain on your parade. Don’t let them. Smile your wry smile and move on.
- The Bible’s most oft-cited mandate is “love the stranger.” Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that you start wrapping your arms around every Sven, Dick, and Lorna you run into, but at least talk to strangers. Here in Minnesota, that will get you plenty of arched whataya-selling? eyebrows, but more often than not it’s worth it.
- There is no such thing as “too much information.”
- Love and sex is more intense, interesting, and infinite than they make it look on TV. For the most part.
- When it comes to the future, heed the wise words of the Waterboys’ Mike Scott (“Dream harder”), and Suicide (“Dream, baby, dream”).
- When it comes to suicide, heed the wise words of Neil Young from Sleeps With Angels (“Change your mind”) and Dory from Finding Nemo (“Just keep swimming”).
- I can’t prove this with any scientific certitude, but it says here that every moment spent at the Mall Of America turns your flesh into polycarbonate plastic and your blood into Liquid Plumber.
- Unless, of course, you’re shopping at the LoveSac or Apple store. For me.
- When you’re in a dark place and thinking that you’re all alone, pick up a book. The human experience isn’t all that unique, and chances are better than even that you are not the first one to be going through what you’re going through.
- If you go through life open-hearted, you will at some point fall in love and very likely get your heart broken. This is not always a bad thing. In fact, this is unavoidable and welcome and normal, unless you are a zombie.
- If you are a zombie, find another zombie and go make out like only zombies can — under the Washburn water tower.
- At least once a week go to the Peace Garden and Bird Sanctuary at Lake Harriet and listen to the quiet. Then go to the Rose Gardens and sit on Karl Mueller’s bench and listen to the birds and yourself.
- When it comes to true love, heed the wise words of Neko Case: “I don’t care if forever never comes, ‘cause I’m holding out for that teenage feeling.”
- Don’t just type “LOL.” Do it. Hardily. Often. Until energy drink spouts out of your nose like anti-freeze from a spent hose.
- When people ask you what you want to be when you grow up, tell them to get back to you after they’ve listened to the Ramones’ version of Tom Waits’ “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up.”
- When people try to convert you to their religion, tell them to get back to you after they’ve read Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search For Meaning,” the collected works of Joseph Campbell, Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha,” the Sufi poets Rumi and Rilke, and the new bumpersticker you just came up with: THANKS BUT THE WHO ALREADY FORGAVE ME.
- Give your mom the occasional unbidden foot massage.
- Give your dad the occasional unbidden neck rub.
- Work hard, but realize that competition will only take you so far. Collaboration and cooperation is more fun, more productive, and more heart- and brain-expanding. Keep in mind the wise words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”
- And President Harry S. Truman: “It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”
- And President Barack Obama: “Never stop adding to your body of work.”
- And [your words here].
My "Star Trek" Novel: Fuck-Ups of the Federation
The small, stoic face of Admiral Brush filled the viewscreen in the Captain's ready room. It was an unremarkable face except for its tendency never to crack a smile (it was once said of him that even Benzites had better senses of humor). Now his face looked more impenetrable than normal. Captain Harrison matched it with a deep frown of his own; the vein in the middle of his forehead began to bulge slightly with the effort.
"Admiral, we both known that Admiral Spock is on Romulus attempting to bridge the diplomatic gap between the Vulcans and Romulans. The message must have come from him."
The Captain leaned back in his chair as if to distance himself from this judgment. "How do you figure?"
"Numbers and letters scattered across a universe," the Admiral replied blandly. "Anything is possible."
"It's too great a coincidence. A Romulan scout ship destroyed. A dying Romulan's last words about the Borg." Captain Harrison ticked his reasons off on his fingertips. "The upheavals we are sensing from Romulan space. Now this. An old-fashioned Earth S.O.S. that contains the Starfleet service number of an Admiral we both know is on Romulus. It's too..."
"Yes! It is too coincidental. That's why it can't be a coincidence!"
"Captain. Calm your famous temper. This isn't Ligon II, after all."
"I know this isn't Ligon II, damnit!" The Captain slammed his fist down on his desk. "We're talking about the destruction of a species! We're talking about the possible destruction of our own species unless we act now!"
"We are acting now," Admiral Brush contended. "We are sending all available starships into that sector to monitor the situation. From there they will make a sound judgment based on the available facts."
Captain Harrison tugged his tunic down. "Good."
"But we still want you out of there and mapping Halkan space."
"But shouldn't we be here? To inform the others of the situation?"
Admiral Brush nodded calmly. "We have all that information. They have been informed."
Captain Harrison shook his head. "I don't--"
"Get your ship out of that sector, Captain! This is a direct order! It is no place for a bunch of..." His mouth curled in disgust, and with a dismissive wave ended the transmission.
Captain Harrison slumped into his desk chair in deep thought. After Mr. B and Ensign Rodgers entered his ready room, he relayed the conversation to them.
"What do you think it might be?" he asked his Number One in low tones. "Some kind of conspiracy?"
"Like what happened on Stardate 41775.5?" Mr. B wondered aloud. "The quill parasites?"
"An alien takeover of Starfleet? Is it possible? Despite the precautions that have been taken?"
"What about a Borg takeover?" Mr. B suggested. "The Admiral's actions would seem to favor the Borg more than anything."
The Captain nodded his head in thought. "It would explain his stoic demeanor. How he's had it in for me from Day One."
The conversation between the two was interrupted by a Klingon war cry.
"Glaajin heads!" Ensign Rodgers shouted. "Don't you know? Don't you get it? The Admiral doesn't want us investigating because The Brock is the dung-heap of the Federation! It is where they send their least trustworthy..." He shook his head in frustration. "Think about it! Captain, right before this assignment you had that run-in with Admiral Yamamoto. Commander, you've had a long history of...not seizing command. Me and my drunken battle with Commander Riker. Simon Tarses hiding his Romulan history. A Vulcan more interested in cool than logic. That idiotic Ridlian and his insufferable giggle. An aristocratic doctor who can never concentrate on what matters. Our entire crew is made up of the rejects of other crews! That's why we were sent here! That's why we're on the Brock! Because no one wants us. We don't fit in."
"The starship of misfit toys," Mr. B mused.
"The assumption is we'll bungle this. The assumption is we'll add more fuel to the fire. They realize this is such a delicate matter they want seasoned hands in charge."
"Like Captain Picard," Captain Harrison said, his eyes vacant.
"Like Captain Picard. He's had experience. He's been with the Borg before. They don't want us near this place. Because they don't' trust us. To them we're the fuck-ups of the Federation."
Captain Harrison stared off vacantly for several seconds. His insides felt like a star collapsing in on itself. The man who he imagined himself to be was not the man others saw him as; he was used to this, but the disparity between the two visions overwhelmed him now. It all made sense. How come he hadn't realized it before? He was not a rising Starfleet Captain in the mold of a James T. Kirk or Jean-Luc Picard. His position wasn't even as highly-esteemed as that of most Commanders or Lieutenants on other vessels. He had been shunted off. He had been forced onto a dirtier path. He would probably never rise above his current position because those in authority, those who controlled the strings of command, had never liked him, never had faith in him. For one horrific moment he saw himself as they saw him, as a skinny nobody from Nowhere, Arizona, and he shuddered inwardly.
Then with a galactic force of will he threw off these assumptions and reassumed the stance of who he knew himself to be. In the long run, their opinions didn't matter. In the long run all that mattered was what he did. He forced himself to look up at his First Officer.
"Mr. B," he began calmly.
Just then the Brock was rocked by a blast that threw the Captain backwards out of his chair, and tumbled Mr. B and Ensign Rodgers over the desk. The Captain executed a Vulcan barrel-roll and was on his feet and out onto the bridge in a matter of seconds, followed by the cursing Ensign Rodgers and the confused First Officer, holding onto his overly-large head. The whoops of the red-alert siren resounded around the bridge.
"Status!" the Captain shouted as he took the command chair from Lt. Mann.
"Attack from a Borg scout ship," Lt. Mann stated. "It decloaked at forty-five degrees portside and then cloaked again. Shields are up and at 72 percent capacity."
"Tachyon emissions!" the Captain shouted.
"Spraying tachyon emissions," Lt. Mann stated.
The ship was attacked again.
"Fire phasers at the origin of those blasts!" the Captain shouted.
The phasers fired harmlessly into space.
"Captain," Lt. Mann warned. "Those shots came from the middle of a heavy concentration of tachyon emissions."
"The emissions seem to be doing...nothing. They are not...indicating where the cloaked vessel might be."
"The Borg have adapted," Mr. B suggested as the Brock was rocked again. "They have figured out a way to hide themselves even from tachyon emissions."
"Photon torpedoes at point of origin," Captain Harrison shouted. "Now!"
"Firing," Lt. Mann stated.
"Nothing," Ensign Ciam said as he stared into the main viewscreen. A small giggle escaped his throat.
"Shields at fifty-one percent capacity," Lt. Mann warned.
Another blast; the crewmembers rocked in their seats.
"Forty-two percent," Lt. Mann stated.
"We can't just sit here," Ensign Ciam said.
"Ensign," the Captain commanded. "On my mark, spin the Brock around in a course similar to a gyroscope or a wobbling top. Lieutenant," the Captain leaned back towards Lt. Mann. "On the same mark shoot all phasers in a spray array. Let's see if we can't nick something."
"A desperate maneuver, Captain," Ensign Siler mentioned.
"Desperation is sometimes the mother of invention," the Captain replied.
The ship was rocked again. "Thirty-eight percent," Lt. Mann stated.
"The motherfucker of invention," Ensign Rodgers concurred.
"Ready?" the Captain asked. He brought his arm down. "Engage!"
Ten seconds into the plan a small explosion in space occurred to the aft side of the Brock.
"Focus all photon torpedoes onto those coordinates, Lieutenant!" the Captain shouted. "Fire! Now!"
A large explosion lit up the viewscreen and a cheer was beginning to erupt from the relieved crewmembers of the Brock when three Borg, impassively fierce and heavily armed, materialized at strategic points around the bridge. Lt. Mann kicked the legs out from one and punched it square in the face as it was falling forward. Ensign Rodgers jumped on the back of another and tore out its eyepiece and disconnected its wiring, shouting all the while. The third Borg fired at the Captain; Harrison leapt from his chair just as it was incinerated, seemed to cover the distance to the Borg in nanoseconds, and his punch was so quick and stealthy that it was only observable after the fact: the Captain in a Zaldan qir-lan stance and the Borg's head rolling around on the floor near the turbo-lift. Blood was splattered against the far wall. Seconds later the Borg's headless body collapsed to the ground, leaking.
"Jesus," Mr. B stated. "Remind me not to be around you when you're mad."
"Is everyone all right?" the Captain asked.
Lt. Mann shook his hand; his knuckles were scuffed and bleeding. "Never better.”
Rodgers kicked at the disconnected Borg at his feet. "Baktag!"
The Captain himself kicked at the remains of his incinerated chair and sat in the one reserved for the Betazoid. "Status?"
"Shields at thirty-four percent," Lt. Mann said.
"Minor damage to the forward hulls and Deck 12," Will Abelsaan said.
"And," Ensign Siler mentioned, "during the course of the battle we seem to have drifted into the Neutral Zone."
"Really?" the Captain said, unconcerned.
"A clear violation of the Treaty of Algeron," Mr. B mentioned.
"Just what you'd expect from a bunch of screw-ups like us," the Captain said, and glanced over at Ensign Rodgers, who smiled and shook his head. The Captain looked at his communications officer. "Lieutenant. Any word from any other federation starship?"
"Nothing, sir. The Enterprise is still a day away."
The Captain scratched the slight scruff on his pointy chin.
"What do you recommend, Captain?" Ensign Siler asked. "Returning to Federation space?"
The Captain stood up and sighed. "I'd like to. But unfortunately we can't. Our navigation system has been knocked out. We've lost impulse power. We're just drifting. So much space junk."
"That's not--" Ensign Siler began.
"Radio that message to Starfleet," Captain Harrison told Lt. Langley. "In the meantime," he said, staring at the viewscreen, "let's see what's going on out here."
My "Star Trek" Novel: S179276SP
As the Captain entered the bridge, his stiff body language and sour mouth communicated to all hands that he was not to be bothered with trifles; but what Lt. Langley had wasn't a trifle.
"Captain. Message coming in from Romulan space. Code Two."
Harrison paused over the shoulder of Ensign Ciam, to whom he was about to give the coordinates for Halkan space. "From Romulan space? Code two?"
"But that's been out of use for..."
"One hundred two years, five months," Mr. B replied.
The Captain nodded. "Let's hear it."
"In your ready room, sir?" Lt. Langley asked.
Captain Harrison squinted upwards as static filled the bridge.
"Isolate the static," he commanded.
"Isolating," Lt. Langley responded.
Without the static, a series of blips were heard; several crewmembers nodded their heads slightly as they tried to make sense of the rhythm.
"It seems to be repeating itself," Mr. B mentioned.
"Could it be another code?" Captain Harrison asked.
"It is a code!" Lt. Langley shouted triumphantly. She blanched when everyone looked her way, and added, more softly, "I mean it is a code. It's an old Earth code for pronunciation symbols and numbers."
"Can you tell us what it means?"
"Yes." She closed her eyes. "O...S...S..."
"An S.O.S.?" Mr. B asked.
"Garbled?" Ensign Ciam wondered.
Mr. B shrugged.
"More to the point," Ensign Siler began, "who on Romulus would be sending an old-fashioned Earth code for--"
"There's more," Lt. Langley stated firmly. "Numbers. Nine...two...seven..." She shook her head. "I should wait until it begins to repeat itself again. Wait a minute. Here. "S...O...S..."
Mr. B and Captain Harrison exchanged raised-eyebrow glances.
"S...One...Seven...Nine...Two...Seven...Six," Lt. Langley read, "...S...P...S...O...S...S...One...Seven... It's repeating now."
"Is it an S.O.S.?" Mr. B asked.
"If it is," Captain Harrison wondered aloud, "what might the other numbers be?"
"Other numbers and letters," Ensign Siler corrected.
"And why, as Ensign Siler was saying, would anyone..." Harrison's thought hung in the air for several seconds before he pulled it down himself. "An I.D. of some kind?"
"Maybe," Ensign Ciam nodded.
The Captain turned to his science officer. "Mr. Abelsaan."
"Already on it, Captain. Cross-referencing non-S.O.S. numbers and letters in the message with all known Romulan and Federation identifications." He stared at his monitor and sighed deeply. "Let's see. In the country of Hawaii on Earth it is the driver's license number of one Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, while in Washington D.C., it is the patent number for Zamweewee--a kind of child's toy."
Mr. B brightened. "I used to have a Zamweewee."
Will Abelsaan continued. "It is also the serial number for a 20th century weapon known as a revolver. In Arizona, it is the registration number of a right-wing organization called the Diamondheads, in England--"
"How many Earth references are there for this number, Mr. Abelsaan?"
"Two hundred thirteen, Sir."
"I see. Romulan references?"
"Checking." Another deep sigh. "None, sir."
"What about Federation identification codes that cross reference correctly?"
Mr. Abelsaan's hands flew over the consul. "One."
"S-one-seven-nine-two-seven-six-S-P is the Starfleet service number for Ambassador..." His eyes widened and he turned to his Captain. "...Spock."
"My God," Lt. Langley stated.
"You're kidding," Ensign Ciam said.
"Spock?" Mr. B wondered aloud. "What would Ambassador Spock be doing on Romulus?" He motioned with his hand towards the consul. "Let's hear some of those other Earth references, Lieutenant."
But Captain Harrison was already out of his seat and giving orders. "Lieutenant Langley. Send that message along to Star Fleet command. I'll be in my ready room! Mr. B, you have the--" The doors to his ready room swished behind him before he could finish his sentence.
My "Star Trek" Novel — Mj'cra souft
Captain Harrison moved briskly from the turbo-lift to his captain's chair, ousting Lt. Langley; he was followed in by Lt. Mann, Ensigns Ciam and Siler, Jennifer--who sat to the Captain's left--while Mr. B brought up the rear and sat in the recently-installed commander's chair.
"Position," Harrison demanded.
"Coordinates R-714 at A-755," Ensign Siler said.
"All stop! Damage?"
"Minor buckling of the ship's outer hull," Lt. Mann said. "Not life-threatening."
"What caused it?"
"There are metallic scrapings at the point of impact. The mixture of tartanium, lisolyte, and benzorm would seem to indicate..."
Captain Harrison nodded. "Romulans!"
"Shields up!" Mr. B declared.
"Maintain yellow alert status," Captain Harrison ordered. "We don't know what's out there yet. Counselor?"
Jennifer leaned forward. "I sense...a kind of muted fear. But whether this is coming from out there or from inside the ship I can't tell."
"Captain," Lt. Mann said. "Given our speed, and the minor buckle at the point of impact, what we ran into--or what ran into us--couldn't have been very large."
"A conjecture," Mr. B stated. "Could the Romulans be sending cloaked space debris towards our side of the neutral zone?"
"For what purpose? I doubt the Romulans would go to so much trouble--and risk breaking the Treaty of Algeron--in order to seem...pesky."
"At warp speed, cloaked space debris could destroy a ship rather effectively," Lt. Mann reminded the Captain.
"True. But how would they monitor it? How could they make sure that the debris didn't drift back towards Romulus and Remus?" The Captain shook his head. "No, that doesn't smell right. The Romulans never nickel-and-dime anything." He cupped his hand over his mouth and lifted his face in thought. After weighing the alternatives, he executed a smart half-turn and settled back into his chair.
"Ensign. Turn the Brock around and retrace our steps. Lieutenant?" He turned towards Don Mann. "I want you to send out tachyon emissions. Let's see if we can uncloak whatever might be cloaked out there. On my mark."
Just as his pointed finger was raised in the air, the ship's inter-communication system beeped, and the voice of Doctor Failor filled the bridge. "Captain?"
"What is it, Doctor?"
"I just thought you'd like to know that G. Nickulls is doing fine. He's fully cognizant--or at least as cognizant as a Nausicaan can be." A light laugh floated through the intercom system. "Hey! My, how rude! I should add that Mr. Nickulls is also restrained and guarded, so further shenanigans from him will be unlikely. By the way, I think that was a wonderful idea of yours to--"
"Doctor," Captain Harrison interrupted. "We're in a bit of a situation right now."
"You are? Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize. I just thought that since your ball game was over, now would be the best time to fill you in on Mr. Nickulls' condition. But if you're busy..."
The Captain inhaled with consternation; his forehead vein became pronounced again.
"Ensign? Don?" Harrison's arm came down like he was pitching lackadaisically. "Engage." The Captain then turned toward his first officer. "Isn't the doctor aware of inter-ship protocol during a yellow alert?"
"I'll remind him, Captain," Mr. B stated, and seemed to be furiously chewing on his moustache at the thought of the future encounter.
Ten minutes elapsed before the double tactic of backtracking and emitting tachyon rays struck paydirt.
"Romulan scout ship revealed on the port bow, Captain!" Lt. Mann cried urgently. Confused, he added, "It appears to be drifting."
"Flood the area, Lieutenant. I want to know as much as possible about this ship before we board her."
An away-team was assembled of Mr. B and Security Ensign Rodgers. Together they marched into Transporter Room Two and climbed onto the platform, while Transporter Chief Kim stood ready at the controls.
"Ensign," Mr. B said. "Activate your emergency transporter armband. Mr. Kim. I don't need to tell you what a tricky business it is transporting aboard a cloaked vessel. If there are any fluctuations in our signals, bring us back with all due haste."
Mr. B nodded. "Energize."
The bright lights, cool temperatures, and hospital odor of Transporter Room Two slowly shimmered away, replaced by the bitter red warmth and claustrophobic tightness of the Romulan scout ship. A haze of old smoke filled the bridge. Rodgers' face grimaced.
"This place smells of Romulans."
Mr. B tapped once on his communicator.
"Captain? The ship apparently holds only two Romulans. Both are slumped over their chairs. One appears to be pressing against something on the control panel. I can't make out what it is..."
Rodgers leaned over. "It's the cloaking device."
"You read Romulan?"
"There's an old Klingon saying: Know your friends well but your enemies better. Romulan--unlike English--is a required language in Klingon schools."
"Captain," Mr. B continued, "it would appear that one of the Romulans is maintaining the ship's cloak even though..." Mr. B felt for a pulse. "...even though he is dead. We will now attempt to decloak the vessel."
"Careful, Number One," the Captain cautioned. "They may have protocols to prevent such an undertaking."
Carefully Mr. B lifted the Romulan's hand from the panel, noting its lightness and shriveled quality, and then lifted the Romulan himself out of the way. Ensign Rodgers sat in the Romulan's place and surveyed the navigational equipment before punching in what he assumed were the appropriate commands.
From the viewscreen aboard the Brock, the Romulan scout ship wavered into visibility.
"My God!" Ensign Ciam cried.
Half of the ship was gone; what remained was pockmarked with burns and laser blasts.
"Mr. B!" shouted Harrison, rising from the Captain's chair. "Do not instigate a search of the Romulan vessel. Repeat: do not search the Romulan vessel. You might just walk through a door into space."
"Affirmative, Captain." To Ensign Rodgers, he ordered, "Look for the ship's logs. Let's see if we can't find out what happened here." He put his hands under the second Romulans arms. "I'll get this--"
At that instant, the Romulan he was holding reared up, gasping for breath.
"Yaaah!" Mr. B fell back against the other Romulan and slapped at his communicator. "Captain! One of the Romulans is still alive!"
"Place your communicator on him, Number One!" Captain Harrison shouted. He stood up and tugged on his tunic. "Captain Harrison to Doctor Failor! You're about to receive a visitor. We'll beam him directly to Bed Two."
"G. Nickulls is in Bed Two, Captain. Of course, I could--"
"Bed Three then! Chief Kim! Lock onto Mr. B's signal and beam it directly to sickbay. Bed Three! Energize!"
The Romulan was transported away from the Romulan scout ship. Alone, Ensign Rodgers suddenly smiled.
"So how are you getting back?" he asked the now communicator-less first officer.
Mr. B looked confused. "I figured I'd hitch a ride on your signal."
"Uh uh," the Ensign teased, still working the control panel to release the computer log. "I figure this is my way toward promotion. You know: eliminate those above me."
"Great." Mr. B tossed his hands in the air. "I somehow wound up in the mirror universe."
"Got it!" Rodgers examined a small, shiny disc in his right hand. "It appears to be--"
At that moment there was a sensation of intense heat and a feeling of breaking apart, before, startlingly, the two were back on the platform of Transporter Room Two; Rodgers, whose chair had not transported with him, fell onto his back. Their hair was singed and smoke wafted from their bodies but otherwise they appeared unharmed.
Chief Kim breathed a sigh of relief. "Got them, sir."
Captain Harrison's voice resounded around the room's bare walls. "Good work, Chief."
"What happened?" Mr. B asked.
"The Romulan ship just blew up," Chief Kim responded.
Five minutes later, Mr. B, Ensign Rodgers, and the Captain rendezvoused in sickbay; they were met by a dour Doctor Failor and a worried-looking Simon Tarses.
"There was just...too much internal bleeding," the doctor said. "I know so little about Romulan physiology. Mr. Tarses here tried to help, but..."
"Did he say anything before he died?" the Captain wondered.
Doctor Failor looked over at his assistant. "He did say one thing..."
"What was it, Mr. Tarses?" the Captain asked.
Tarses, seemingly frightened, swallowed once. "He said Mj'cra souft."
"Molok!" Ensign Rodgers cried.
The Captain looked from crewmember to crewmember. "What does it mean?"
"It means..." Simon Tarses began, before his voice caught as if on an exposed nail, and he shook his head wearily.
Ensign Rodgers finished for him. "It means 'The Borg'!"
My "Star Trek" Novel — Holodeck Baseball
In order to become better acquainted with his crew — and in order for the reader to be introduced to them — Capt. Harrison institutes a baseball game on the holodeck, and the following results. Ensign Siler, a Vulcan, and Ensign Ciam, a Ridlian — a species I believe I made up — are the captains of the two squads. As a side-note: The HOLODECK? No wonder the "Star Trek" universe required a reboot.
The venue chosen was Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York, circa 1990. It had taken the two ensigns a week to sign up the necessary amount of teammates, but there was enough enthusiasm that the grandstands were filled not only with holographic images but real-life crewmembers who, while declining to play, still wished to watch. The two teams, dressed as the 1939 Kansas City Monarchs (Siler's) and the 2024 London Kings (Ciam's), shaped up like this:
|The Kansas City Monarchs||The London Kings|
| Jennifer (2B)|| Allman Karen (CF)|
| Simon Tarses (LF)|| Young Kim (RF)|
|Jason Lamb (CF)|| Jeff Rodgers (3B)|
| Don Mann (SS)|| G. Nickulls (1B)|
| Will Abelsaan (1B)|| Dave Saunders (LF)|
| Jim Bourg (3B)||Rich Svetlik (SS)|
| Gaiai (C)|| Mary Singer (C)|
| Mr. Siler (RF)||Ciam (2B)|
| Brenda Biernat (P)|| Mr. B (P)|
Although the majority of the participants were humans from earth, it was still one of the most diverse group of ballplayers ever assembled. Jennifer, for example, was Betazoid, and a protest was lodged when she led off the first with a single; Ensign Ciam claimed she was using her telepathic powers to figure out the pitch before it was thrown. She claimed innocence, yelling from first that Mr. B “threw shit.” Simon Tarses, a doctor's assistant with Romulan blood in him, sacrificed Jennifer over to second and into scoring position.
"Logical move!" Ensign Ciam yelled good-naturedly from second base.
"I am not...Vulcan," Simon Tarses answered confusedly, trotting toward the dugout.
"Yeah, yeah," Jeff Rodgers shouted from third. "We know all about you, ya Romulan bastard!" Rodgers, while human, had grown up on Qo'noS and had adopted many of the more confrontational Klingon ways. Simon Tarses' head visibly shrank into his shoulders at the insult.
"Ignore him," Mr. Siler comforted the young Romulan in the dugout. "His insults show no cool."
The Monarch dugout had the last laugh when a sharp grounder from Jason Lamb bounced off Rodger's glove and into left field. Sensing the error, the Betazoid Jennifer scored from second. Don Mann was then called out on strikes (Umpire Harrison, in keeping with the Japanese tradition, widened the strike zone for the stocky slugger), but the Bolian Bill Abelsaan kept the rally going with a sharply-turned double that scored Lamb. Unfortunately, the unfortunately-named Jim Bourg, a human from earth, quickly went to an 0-2 count ("Resistance is futile!" Rodgers shouted down from third) before popping out to second base, ending the half-inning.
The first batter for the Kings was Allman Karen, a Bajoran lesbian, who promptly grounded out to short.
"Don't hit it there!" Rodgers cried from the dugout. "Mann's got the area covered like stink on a Romulan!"
Young Kim, a human of Korean extraction, strode to the plate; he strode back three pitches later.
"She's got a wicked low fastball," he said, shaking his head in the dugout and eyeing Biernat on the mound.
The inning was kept alive by the foul-mouthed Rodgers, who looped a single to center; but G. Nickulls, the first Nausicaan to serve aboard a Star Fleet vessel, struck out looking, and lived up to the short-fused reputation of his species by trying to brain the umpire with his bat.
"Captain!" Jennifer cried from second base.
Everyone froze as the tall, bearded creature raised the bat high in the air; everyone, that is, except Captain Harrison, who covered the distance to the Nausicaan with one quick step, spun to his left, and swiped the bat from the big man's hand.
"Clubbing your commanding officer is a mutinous offense, Ensign," Captain Harrison mentioned matter-of-factly, tossing the bat towards the on-deck circle, "even during a pick-up baseball game."
"Hurgh?" Nickulls' eyes narrowed, and his rage grew.
"Watch out, Captain!" Jennifer cried. "He's going to--"
The Nausicaan charged: all 340 pounds of him at the 110-pound Captain. At the last instant, the Captain executed a deft side-step to his left, and then, gently, swept his right arm over the back of the Nausicaan as it roared past. The Nausicaan's steps slowed, and, without looking around, it suddenly, heavily, crumpled to the ground.
"What did you do to him?" Rodgers wondered from first base.
Gaiai, a green-skinned Orion animal woman (and the catcher at the time), lifted her face mask and said admiringly, "He incapacitated him."
"Yeah," Mr. B echoed, looking around slyly, "and he knocked him out, too."
"Aren't they the same thing?" Mr. Siler wondered, looking down at Mr. B.
"It was a joke," Mr. B admitted. He held out his hands. "Incapacitated? Knocked him out? Hah? Hah?" Several nearby people dismissed the first officer with a wave of the hand. "Aw, come on!"
The Captain removed his umpire's mask, and, under his breath, muttered something about the idiocy of attacking a fully-protected adversary, and what kind of training were they giving these new recruits anyway, and maybe he should have conducted a martial arts seminar rather than a baseball game. With his shirtsleeve he wiped sweat from his brow, and then tilted his head up toward what appeared to be blue sky. "Harrison to Doctor Failor."
The only response came from the fans, who, although theoretically neutral, were in a rage over the sudden loss of the home-team clean-up slugger. In true New York tradition, they voiced their concern in an increasingly vituperative manner. Umpire Harrison's vision was questioned; his mother was insulted; his lineage was considered dubious.
"What exactly is...vaseline?" Harrison asked his first officer.
"A 20th century emulsifier made from water and chemicals. It was used to soften skin."
"The ump takes it up the ass? No vaseline?"
Mr. B turned to the holographic fans chanting this phrase. "I am confused, too. I think they are implying that you prefer same-sex activities."
"Which would be...?"
"Pejorative in this time period, yes."
"Barbarity," the Captain muttered, and then, louder, and again at the sky (as if he were Job pleading with an absent God), "Captain Harrison calling Doctor Failor."
The voice that answered was a mixture of the long, drawn-out vowels of the upper classes, and the skittishness of the frequently mistaken. "Failor here, Captain. Did you call earlier? I'm sorry if I didn't answer but I'm in the middle of a fascinating text on Lord Bumperfield and lost complete track of time. Is there a problem?"
"We have a fallen Nausicaan on our hands."
"Oh my. Is it G. Nickulls by any chance?"
"Then I would suggest beaming him to sickbay right away. Unless of course you want me to come there. Are you on Holodeck One? Yes, that's right, the day of the big game. I'm sorry I couldn't attend, but I did want to get to Lord Bumperfield. I'm at that moment during the British Class Wars of 2063 when he dressed as one of his servants in order to--"
"Doctor. The Nausicaan?"
"Oh," Dr. Failor replied, bothered. "Beam him to me in sickbay, I suppose. Can you do that?"
The Captain raised a sarcastic eyebrow towards Mr. B, who shook his head in commiseration. "I think I can manage, Doctor."
"Fine. That would be the best plan of action, I think. By the way, what's the matter with him?"
"He struck out."
The Captain smiled. "He was felled by a Grj'albuut."
"That's equally incomprehensible, I'm afraid."
"A Tellarite maneuver."
"Well. That doesn't sound very nice. I hope the rapscallion who did this to him has been locked up in the brig, as it were."
The Captain nodded. "He will be dealt with appropriately."
"That's good. Well then, over and out, I suppose."
"Over and out, Doctor."
Harrison called over his security chief. "Put a man on Nickulls. I don't trust him with the good doctor."
"Want me to go?" Lt. Mann asked.
"Are you kidding?" the Captain answered with mock-surprise. "Your team needs you."
"Not with the strike zone you're giving me," Mann muttered.
Meanwhile several players had gathered around the fallen Nickulls.
"So much for the great Nausicaan experiment," Jim Bourg lamented.
"One incident between two disparate personalities does not necessarily extinguish decades of diplomacy," Mr. Siler commented.
"Is he conscious?" Young Kim wondered, laying his hand close to the Nausicaan's back.
"I feel he's in stasis," Jennifer answered. "Neither conscious nor unconscious."
"That clears things up," Jason Lamb commented.
"What about the game?" Jeff Rodgers pounded his fist into his glove. "We're a man short. We lost our clean-up hitter! Kahless!"
By this time, the New York crowd, angered over the loss of Nickulls, and even moreso by the delay, began tossing items at the players: scorecards shaped like airplanes, popcorn, ice cubes, hot dogs, beer. When a small battery whizzed by Jennifer's head, the Captain shouted, "Computer: freeze program!" A vein, roughly in the shape of the coastline of California, throbbed in the middle of the Captain's forehead. It was a sure sign, Mr. B knew, that he was about to blow his top.
"Who constructed this program?"
Ensign Siler stepped forward. "I'm afraid that would be my fault, Captain. I didn't know much about baseball during this period. I simply assumed that one of the more famous ballparks would be an appropriate site for this grudge-match."
"That's fine, that's fine," the Captain said. "That's good. But couldn't you have programmed in, if not a more docile crowd, then at least one less inclined towards interference?"
"This is the most docile New York crowd the computer would allow," Mr. Siler admitted.
Lt. Mann, who grew up in New York City, gazed around the stands. "About right," he said.
The Monarchs lengthened their lead in the sixth on a 2-run homerun by Don Mann; but in the bottom of the ninth, leading 4-1, Brenda Biernat began to tire. Mary Singer led off with an opposite-field single, and when Ciam walked, the crowd, long since unfrozen, but tempered by an extra contingent of holographic police officers, went crazy.
"Uh...can't we re-program this?" Jason Lamb called futilely from center field, as hot dog wrappers and paper airplanes rained down on the field.
"Time!" Ensign Siler jogged in from right field; he was met at the mound by the catcher, Gaiai, and Will Abelsaan, the Bolian first baseman.
"How's your arm?" Siler asked.
"Fine." Biernat was big-eyed and tight-lipped.
"Is there any chance you have three more outs in it?"
She nodded; but in her tight-lipped worry one could sense the game slipping away.
"I have a plan," Gaiai mentioned cheerfully.
"Nothing illegal, I hope," Ensign Siler said.
She turned a flirtatious shoulder towards her manager. "It wouldn't be me if I didn't at least skirt the edges of illegality."
Ensign Siler put a hand on her shoulder. "Just don't hurt anybody."
The meeting was broken up and everyone made their way back to their respective positions. Gaiai, however, did not walk back to homeplate so much as sashay, her hips swinging like a bell in full motion. The public address system, to taunt Biernat for her recently-surrendered base-on-balls (her first of the game), was playing the 20th century rock 'n roll classic, "Wild Thing" by the Troggs, and the green-skinned catcher began to move her body to this beat. Ten feet from homeplate she tossed her glove at the next batter, Mr. B, who caught it, bobbled it, and then secured it tightly to his chest by dropping his bat. She smiled with a mixture of sympathy and lasciviousness as her hands slowly, languorously, traveled upward from the middle of her waist and disappeared behind her neck; her head kicked back, and, as her baseball cap flew off, a profusion of orangish-green hair spilled forth. She bent her body backward and then rolled forward again, eagerness flashing in her eyes. The crowd, suddenly quieted, followed these motions as if they were dazed ship-board passengers swaying to the motions of the sea. Her rhythm led her in an ever-shrinking, teasing circle around the batter, until she dropped to her knees, and, with her hands suggesting a whisper of a touch, slowly rose up the length of his body, past his moustache drenched in sweat, and placed her lips ticklingly close to the reddening, fleshy lobe of his ear. "You ready?" she whispered.
Mr. B struck out on three pitches.
Ensign Ciam, as if waking from a trance, objected from the dugout. "Hey! What's that? You can't do that!"
Gaiai tossed the ball back to Biernat and raised her hands innocently in the air. "Captain, I'm just doing what comes naturally to me. Do you deny the Vulcans their logic? The Ridlians their laughter? So how could you deny from me what I do best?"
The Captain exhaled slowly. "I'm sorry," he said, "but the rules of inter-gender baseball, circa 2021, specifically state that flirting in order to gain strategic advantage is strictly prohibited."
"But Captain," she pouted. "You're interfering with who I am. What about the Prime Directive?"
"The Prime Directive is all well and fine," the Captain stated firmly, "but this is baseball." He fit his umpire's mask snugly over his face and pointed at his first officer. "Mr. B, you're out. Gaiai, no more sexual shenanigans. Everyone else: play ball!"
Allman Karen, perhaps equally distracted by Gaiai's dance routine, popped out to short; but with two outs Young Kim lifted a short fly ball that fell in-between Simon Tarses and Don Mann, and with Singer and Ciam running with the pitch, both managed to score. Kim stood proudly on second, representing the tying run. The fans stomped up and down in their seats, hooting and hollering, and clapping their hands in rhythm; Jason Lamb was almost lost in a blizzard of paper.
Another conference was held on the mound; Rodgers stared sternly from the on-deck circle, taking practice swings.
"That Orion animal woman shit ain't gonna work on me!" he shouted.
"Yes," Ensign Siler responded, "I hear you prefer targs."
With Barry Busick on-deck, Mr. Siler determined it would not make sense to pitch around Rodgers, and, after asking for advice, tossed the ball into Brenda Biernat's glove. "High heat," he said.
The first two pitches were indeed high and fast, and Rodgers grew increasingly frustrated trying to keep up. With a quick 0-2 count, Biernat wasted two pitches before coming back with another high, hard one that Rodgers managed to lay off of. Now the count was full. The crowd was on its feet. The infielders were on their toes. Rodgers rocked back and forth in the batter's box as Biernat nodded, wound up, and delivered. Another fastball. Right down the heart of the plate. Rodgers swung and there was a loud crack and the ball soared in a high arc toward dead-center field. Jason Lamb raced back. At the warning track he leaped...and the entire stadium suddenly rocked sideways, sending fans and players alike sprawling. For a moment the stadium flickered, revealing the exo-skeleton design of the holodeck. Several virtual fans in the first row of the upper-deck bleachers fell over the railing.
"What happened?" Ciam shouted.
"Get our crewmembers out of the stands!" Captain Harrison instructed Lt. Mann, who corralled Saunders and Abelsaan to help him. Captain Harrison then contacted the bridge.
Lt. Langley's voice filled the stadium like an old-time P.A. announcer. "We appear to have run into something, Captain. Or something has run into us."
"There is damage to the forward hull as if we just collided with a large object; yet sensors do not reveal anything in our immediate vicinity."
"I'll be right there. Go to yellow alert. Harrison out." The Captain waved his arms to gather his crew together. "It would appear that our game has been...postponed."
"That ball was gone!" Jeff Rodgers shouted. "So we win."
"I don't think this is the--" Captain Harrison began.
He was silenced by Jason Lamb, who raised his glove, revealing a small white ball tucked firmly in the webbing.
The Kansas City Monarchs cheered and patted their center fielder on the back, while, above this sound, louder even than the noise of the holographic fans fleeing for safety, Klingon curses rang through the stadium.
My "Star Trek" Novel - A Routine Science Expedition
Read the intro here, or, you know, below.
First Officer Michael Busick of the re-fit Excelsior-class U.S.S. Brock didn't believe in routine science expeditions, because, invariably, there wasn't anything routine about them. He could cite thousands of examples from Star Fleet records about disasters that resulted when starships were sent to study this or that space anomaly or map such and such a star cluster.
"It's a fact," he informed his newly-appointed captain. "38.9% of starships sent out on routine science expeditions never complete their designated assignments. It's like the red-shirt phenomenon a century back. Remember? When beaming down to an unknown planet, a red-shirted security guard was 99.4% more likely to be killed than his captain or first officer. It got to the point where, in at least one known incident, the security guards demanded the yellow shirts of command or the blue shirts of science before beaming down. Apparently they thought the problem might lie with the color of their attire: red attracting trouble, as it were; inviting blood and death. But even in blue and yellow, these men bought it. Similarly, in this century, starships seem to have a difficult time completing routine science expeditions. Heading out on one seems to invite disaster. Calling it 'routine' seems to anger the space gods, who decide to make the expedition as far from routine as possible."
Captain Tim Harrison raised an eyebrow as expertly as a Vulcan. "Space gods, Mr. B? Don't tell me that after all these years you still believe in space gods?"
"My term for...karma. Mojo. Kridloh in Klingon."
"Besides, don't you think you're being a bit pessimistic?"
"What do you mean?"
"If 38.9% of starships never complete their designated assignments then 61.1% do."
Mr. B smiled. He was of average height and build, with a tendency towards rotundity, but his most obvious physical attribute was his head, which was almost perfectly round, and bigger by a half than the standard. His thin, reddish hair was clipped long in back with bangs in front, and he was the only officer aboard ship to sport a moustache, also reddish, which hid all aspects of his mouth except for a puffy, wet underlip. Only two weeks aboard the Brock he was already famous for his slow, leisurely pace. This was especially noticeable next to the usual go-getters and career-crashers of Star Fleet, and it occasionally got him into trouble. During Academy days one of his gym instructors was so fed up with Busick's--quote--lackadaisical attitude--unquote--that he blew up at him. "Busick!" he shouted. "You move so slowly you make me feel like a goddamned Scalosian!" Mr. B, rarely at a loss for a quip of his own, replied good-naturedly, "I wondered what all that buzzing was around here" and then gestured as if shooing away flies. He failed the class, of course, but managed to graduate from the Academy anyway; his wit had seen him through. It was this wit that he now turned on his captain.
"By such optimistic accounting even my record with women would look good." He bounced on his toes, hands behind his back.
Captain Harrison folded his hands across his stomach and said matter-of-factly, "Your record with women does look good, Mr. B. How's that woman of yours. Miss her?"
"Oh, nothing that a few trips to the holodeck couldn't cure," Mr. B replied in the same jocular tone.
Captain Harrison smiled and stared out his window at the familiar stars of Sector 001. He liked his first officer, but at times it was difficult getting past the jokester. Yet it was this very jocularity that Harrison desired in his Number One. In ranking first officers, other captains tended to prize Vulcans for their unimpeachable logic, Klingons for their strength, Betazoids for their empathic abilities, and Trills for their wisdom; but nothing was ever said about the tactical advantage a sense of humor might bring. Captain Harrison felt it just might throw off and confuse combatants in the middle of negotiations, and he was willing to test his theories with Mr. B.
He slapped his hands on the desk of his ready room and stood up. "Anyway. I'll be sure to include your objections in my report, but I don't think it will mean much to the biguns at Star Fleet. The fact that we might run into something more interesting than a star cluster is why we're out here, after all." He smiled again and patted his first officer on the shoulder. "If you're not careful, my friend, pretty soon they'll be calling you Mr. C."
"Could be worse. Coward. Cardassian."
Captain Harrison smiled and moved from his ready room and, acquiring a stiffer gate, onto the bridge of the U.S.S. Brock.
"Ensign Ciam, we have our first assignment. Are all hands on deck?"
"Then take this ship to coordinates 3701 at Warp 5 on my mark."
Puzzled, the helmsman turned in his chair. "That would put us awfully close to the neutral zone, Captain."
"Thank you for the geography lesson, Ensign." Then, less harshly: "Even star clusters near the neutral zone need to be mapped. Are you ready?"
Ensign Ciam punched in the proper numbers. "Coordinates 3701 at Warp 5 on your mark, sir."
It was the moment that every youngster dreams of, every freshman at the Academy hopes for, every low-grade officer plays over and over in his mind: the moment when you take your first starship out on its first mission. The Brock, admittedly, was not every plebe's dream. Seventy-odd years ago it was the fastest ship in the fleet, but since then it had been surpassed by the many Ambassador-class and Galaxy-class starships that Star Fleet had seen fit to turn out. In fact when Mr. B had first seen the ship, two weeks earlier, he half-joked, "I just hope we don't run into any Pakleds." But Captain Harrison quieted him. The Brock had just been overhauled and re-fitted with a new, state-of-the-art warp drive engine which made it, in theory anyway, the fastest starship in the Federation. It just didn't have the power of Galaxy class starships. Besides, it was his ship. For the first time he was to command a starship with 572 crewmembers. Thus it was with a submerged but electric thrill that Captain Harrison walked with hands behind his back around the bridge, sat in his command chair, crossed his legs, and prepared to give the signal that would send over 12,000 tons of metal and machinery zipping through space at faster than light speed. He watched with raised pointed finger as, on the viewscreen, the Brock inched past Pluto, and then Pluto's moon, Charon. This was the moment. He brought his finger down.
Once again Ensign Ciam turned his puzzled face to the captain. "Sir?"
Harrison shook his head. "Sorry. Too many years leading away missions. I meant 'Engage'." He brought his finger down authoritatively. "Engage!"
The stars on the viewscreen, pinpoints of light, suddenly elongated into straight lines, and with no more than a mild lurch the Brock had left the earth far, far behind.
Coming up: holodeck baseball, Romulans, the Borg, and Planet Scott!
My "Star Trek" Novel - Intro
Mine isn’t about Kirk and Spock, or Picard and Data, or any of the other characters from the Gene Roddenbury universe that, as it expanded (into other shows), contracted (my interest). No, I wrote about a friend, Tim, a huge “Star Trek” fan (his interest never contracted), and it resulted from hubris. In the mid-1990s, at one of his birthday parties, someone gave him a homemade, five-page “Star Trek” short story as a present. My thought: “I can do better.”
Three years, over 100 pages, and a dog-eared “Star Trek” encyclopedia later, the present, expanded to include Mike, or Mr. B, who would play first officer to Tim’s Captain, was finally delivered.
I think I had the main plot in mind from the start. In fact—more hubris—I still think my plot should’ve been the plot of the first “Star Trek—Next Generation” movie: a Borg attack on the Romulus empire and the inevitable Federation response. Not only would it have been epic in scope but would’ve allowed an appearance by Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock, last seen on Romulus, and thus incorporated, in a natural way, both “Next Gen” and “Original Series” characters. I doubt I had a resolution to this plot—a way to defeat the ever-adaptive Borg—but, reading over it now, I like the solution I came up with. It’s both humorous—particularly if you know Mr. B—and, to borrow a loaded word, logical.
The parallel, character-driven plot about the U.S.S. Brock being filled with the fuck-ups of the Federation is strictly autobiographical. At the time we were all working at University Book Store in Seattle, and the book became, in essence, less “'Wagon Train' to the stars” (Roddenbury’s original conception) than “bookstore to the stars.” It was us, fuck-ups all, trying to make do with what we had. It was my complaint at the time. Other employees became characters, some memorably (hello Brett, Jeff and Mark). Others are no longer with us. (See "My Address Book" here.)
This week, as a lead-in to the new J.J. Abrams-led “Star Trek” movie, or reboot, I’ll include excerpts from the novel. It’s me at my most “Star Trek”-y. Please be kind.
I'm pretty bad at this. I often think, "I should link that," but never get around to it. But here's a few articles/posts over the last few days from the usual suspects that are worth reading —or, in one instance, not:
- David Carr returns to form with his post-Oscar analysis, particularly this necessary reminder: "Despite all the planning and guile of production executives, directors, producers and marketing executives, movie magic is still something that occurs in the space between the audience and the screen at the front of the room."
- Andrew Sullivan stays in form while live-blogging Pres. Obama's speech.
- I missed some of the speech — I was in French class — but heard bits of it on the radio and TV afterwards and may watch the whole thing when I get the chance. In the meantime, I love the way he finds the greater truth between two intractable extremes: "Living our values doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us safer and it makes us stronger. And that is why I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture."
- I read Oliver Willis a lot during the campaign, but he's floundered a bit since, and he's got some pretty ugly ads on his site now. Can't blame him much for that — we live in tough times. But he either needs to stay out of the movie business or dig deeper as to why he feels what he feels. Particularly if he feels, as he says he feels, that "Casablanca" is overrated. To me, he's just showing his youth.
- Researching an article at work, we came across this site about William Henry Harrison, our 9th president, and the etymology of the word "booze," which is a lot of fun.
- Leonard Cohen returns.
Last minute addition:
- Forgot Tim Arango's great piece on the killing of a newspaper editor in Oakland and how, in an age of cutbacks, a team of investigative journalists was formed to do what the police hadn't done. Someone call "The Wire" guys.
We've Been Down
Much Ado About Flashcards
Dancing with the universe
5Top Cinematic Stoners
Latest MSNBC piece. Not bad for a guy who never really smoked pot.
"'Never really,' Mr. Lundegaard? Are you telling us that you did smoke pot?"
"Well. Implying it anyway."
"So you inhaled." (Laughter from the gallery)
"You know, Pres. Clinton got a lot of flack for that line, but I understood it. The first couple of times I smoked pot I got nothing out of it because, not being a cigarette smoker, I didn't know how to inhale properly, which is what I assumed he was saying. He smoked, but he didn't get the effects. Also, Jimmy Carter was never attacked by a killer rabbit, but that's another story."
For more on pot, check out Dan Baum's book, Smoke & Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure.
"There's always a kid, isn't there?"
Even though I couldn't play a hand of poker to save my life (or yours), I wrote a piece for MSNBC on the five top card movies, to coincide with the opening of the card counting flick, "21." My friend Brett, who's got a pretty good poker face even when he's not playing poker, helped me. Also a dude I met at the 5 Spot on the top of Queen Anne. Interestingly, both he and Brett liked the same film, "Rounders," for the reasons I state in the article. I had problems with it, which I also state, but I like how anti-Hollywood, even anti-American the movie is in this sense: Its tagline went something something like, "You play the hand you're dealt." That's the film. You are who you are. You can't overcome it. Forget Nietzsche or self-help books. "Would you make a different choice?" one character says, to which another replies, "What choice?" There's something truly freeing in this notion.
It's a short piece, but enjoy. Martin Scorsese's next.
A little background.
The articles on this Web site that weren't written for publication were often written so I could retain my thoughts on a book or movie: not just what I felt but why I felt it. In a broader sense it was a way of preserving the past. So everything doesn't just...go.
But it still does. Last month a friend mentioned that Errol Morris' Fast, Cheap and Out of Control was one of his favorite movies, and I nodded, remembering some vague things about it. A few days later I was gathering material for this Web site and I came across my review of Fast, Cheap and Out of Control. And it's pretty in-depth. But it's like it's written by another person. Which it is. It didn't make me think, "Oh yeah, I remember that. " It made me think, "Wow, I gotta see this movie sometime."
Is that the main conflict? Between trying to hold onto everything...and just letting it go? Sometimes it feels like it.
I'm in a letting-go mood right now. Probably a consequence of reading over every crappy thing I tried to hold onto.
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