Archive for the ‘Star Trek’ Category

Is Our Future Really Dystopian?   Leave a comment

Japanese Robot

One can argue that this is a great time for things dystopian. There’s a lot of discord in this world and in our country in particular. School shootings seem to happen so frequently they hardly get a notice in the news. Climate change is a reality more than a concept. Now measles is roaring back…is smallpox next? And superviruses and superbacteria threaten us all, with no cures or countermeasures in sight. Racial tensions are again on the rise, while the gig economy undermines workers’ abilities to save for the future or just be secure.

And so on…

It’s easy to picture a future without hope or purpose. I’m even going through a rough patch myself and wonder if there’s any sparkle left to dream about. Any one of those scenarios above could make great fodder for a novel. And have.

But just image if one day we all took stock of what we have and set about to make it right. Make changes that benefit all, not a precious few. Pollyanna as that sounds, one rather famous series used an evolved humankind as its background. Yes, that’d be Star Trek. In it, those who inhabit the Earth (and not necessarily humans) have eschewed wealth for equality and humanity. Sure, each episode mirrored what’s happened here on the home planet, but the outcomes often were positive, if not hopeful.

Would it even, I daresay, be an odd sort of dystopia if everything went right and nothing went wrong? Can you imagine? Sure, it’d be boring but the movie Pleasantville is based on a premise of a perfect TV world turned upside-down with the introduction of color.

I suppose it’s somehow easier to believe things’ll blow up than to bloom. There’s a certain comfort in knowing that you or me don’t have it so bad as they will in the future. Or in the past. Or on planet Zorthon. Think about it. Isn’t it cathartic to complain? A downhill slide from justice into injustice, because somehow society needs to be punished. Bombs will blow, diseases will conquer, war will end all.

Again, does it have to?

There are a few simple things we, as humans, can do to change things. They are (in no particular order):

  • Don’t like who’s in office? Vote! Or better yet, run yourself. Take an interest in your town, your county, your state, your nation. Because, believe it or not, your vote matters. Ditto for…
  • You don’t like it that school kids are being shot? Or our environment’s being polluted at a crazy rate? Or something else? Contact your congressman, senator, mayor, governor or even president. You might get the runaround. Attend town halls or village meetings. Speak up. Make your voice heard. And if that doesn’t work, see the above point.
  • Stop wasting everything. Buy enough food that you’ll actually eat so it doesn’t turn into a dystopian event in the fridge. Use one sheet of a paper towel roll instead of two. Or better yet, use a rag and wash it out. Buy household paper that’s been sourced from recycled paper.
  • Don’t litter.
  • Walk instead of drive…if you can. It’s better for you in a myriad of ways. And don’t run the car. Turn it off.
  • Here’s something to ponder: Toothbrushes. Count up the number of toothbrushes you use in a year. Six? Eight? More? Then count the number your family uses. Add that up. Now apply that number to everyone on your street. Or multiply that by the population of your town. Or the population of the United States (or whatever country you happen to live in. You throw all of that away and it lands in a landfill. It lasts longer than humankind. All for clean teeth. What’s the solution? While there are bamboo toothbrushes, which is a step in the right direction, we need to come up with something better.
  • Ditto with needles – the injecting kind – but that’s human waste…and dangerous. But it’s not recyclable either.
  • Or baby diapers. An infant goes through thousands. Add that number up by the number of births in one year. All going to the landfill…

Before you get totally depressed, all of the above can be changed. This is a nation of innovation, or was, anyway. We still can be. Let’s hand it to the upcoming generation of engineers and scientists (and anyone else who’s inspired to join in) and create/invent materials that will biodegrade and/or can be developed from renewable sources.

And maybe, our future will be that much cleaner, clearer and less dystopian.

The Merriest of Holidays To All!   Leave a comment

Despite all of the recent hubbub about the latest entry in the Star Wars saga, I’m sure Darth and Yoda (referred to and briefly seen, respectively in TLJ) would still prefer if all of you laid down your light sabers and made peace with your worlds. After all, this is the season to be cheerful and light, isn’t it? So grab a cup or two of Bantha milk and raise a toast to a continuing storyline with many more adventures to go.

And if you want a comparison, look at Star Trek. Gosh, that’s been around since, what, 1967? You want to talk about inconsistencies? Check out the original Enterprise vs. any later timeline (or earlier timeline, if you count the reboot movies) and that ship’s got more design changes than Padma does in Episode III.

Here’s my holiday wish for all you Star Warriors and fellow space junkies: Be grateful you have a Star Wars to watch. Imagine how barren our world would be without it.

Now go out and celebrate the holiday and watch your favorite Star Wars episode(s) like a real Rebel.

Merry Christmas! Happy Kwanzaa! Joyful Festivus! Happy and Merry Everything Everyone!

 

 

Driving the Geek Bus   Leave a comment

img_1982    img_1983  img_2002

Scenes from this year’s New York ComicCon, October 2016, at the Jacob Javitz Center in NYC

With all this talk of division these days, it’s important to consider what unites us. Brings us together. Makes us feel like we belong to something bigger. Accepts us for what we are, or who we might like to become. You know, all that feel good stuff.

That world not only exists, it’s growing stronger by leaps and bounds. I ought to know. I’m part of it.

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That world, my friends, is the world of geeks. These people unabashedly embrace who they are and not only that, want you to join them in their quest to conquer evil wherever it lurks. To triumph in the face of disaster. Build worlds and foster development within them. Laugh in the face of adversity, while secretly plotting to overcome the dark forces, regardless of risk, expense, resources, plausibility, practicality…never mind the rogues or plot twists that stand in the way.  Who cares what you look like or where you come from? Of course, that depends on what part of the universe one hails from, but no one will truly hold it against you.

 

It’s no wonder sci-fi and the geeks that create it/live it/love it is growing more popular with each breathing minute. It’s the ultimate unifier. Who cares if you’re 6 or 92? Bald or pencil-necked? CEO or clerk? Azerbaijani or Upper Volta (actually, that’d be pretty cool). It’s all about the costume, the twist, the particular world inhabited outside of the damned mainstream, the brutal reality we’re all forced to live in.  Geeks regularly meet up on the sci-fi bus and drive it out of ridiculousness and into the beyond.

It takes a lot of guts to put on a costume and convince the world you’re a superhero or fictional character of unknown origin. But once these cosplay characters meet up, man, it’s golden. We all get along, just fine, thanks, and sure, there’s jealousy and maybe a bit of resentment that your competition snagged an actual James T. Kirk standard-issue uniform from the November 8, 1968 Season 3 Star Trek, Episode 8:  For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky. That only means at some point you’re going to have to dig a little deeper in your pocket and eBay yourself one.

Couples meet up because they engage in cosplay. I work with a guy whose alter ego is Superman and his girlfriend is Supergirl. Perfect pairing, if you ask me.

Most of all, science fiction shows us what’s possible, to anyone. In its best form, it reaches beyond the limits of the people we are and directs to to consider the impossible.

Maybe it is time for the geeks to drive the bus. After all, we’re out to conquer evil, wherever it lurks. Come with?

A Ticket To Heartbreak and Heaven   Leave a comment

2016 NY ComicCon

I got excited when the yearly reminder to sign up for October’s NY Comic Con appeared in my inbox. For years, I swore I’d love to attend but life always interfered somehow: had to work and couldn’t get off, or something was up with the kid, or after all the bills got paid, the till’s empty and so were my pockets.

This year, however, was different. The stars aligned in my favor. For once.

Upon receiving the notice I needed to fill in my fan verification form, a method of preregistration, I counted the days until the site opened. As one can imagine, in years past, tickets to this event were hotter than asphalt in Florida on an August afternoon, and acquiring them often required a Ferengi’s ability to pilfer, smuggle and trade. So who can blame the folks at NYCC to try a new method of ticket selling so that anyone who wanted to attend actually could…legitimately?

Once the Fan Verification site went live, I filled in my name, my husband’s name and my son’s. It asked for email addresses. Since I was treating the family for tickets, I put my own email in all three. I’ve purchased tickets for various and sundry trade shows in the same manner, so why should this be any different?

Several days later, I received a notice that tickets were now open for sale for verified fans. After waiting in an electronic queue for well over an hour (lucky I hit the button right as it came live!), I purchased three tickets and was instructed that I’d need to go to another site to complete the sale. I got excited. Not only was my family going, I planned to surprise my son with his ticket, since the event takes place right before his birthday.

As I opened the site’s page to complete the sale, I noticed my email address went in on my designated field, but not on my husband’s or son’s. Strange, I thought, and went to read up on what I might be doing wrong. As it turned out, each person needs his or her own email address. What? Aren’t I buying the tickets? How come? From NYCC’s twitter feed, I quickly learned that many boyfriends, girlfriends, uncles, aunts and cosplay girls and boys believed as I did.

Suddenly, we were all shut out of living our dream. No 2016 NY ComicCon for us.

I called. The helpful and polite person on the other end verified what in my heart I realized was true: every ticket needs its own email address. If not, we’re very sorry, but we have to refund your money.

First, I wanted to cry.

Then scream.

Then kick myself for not following directions the way I should.

Enthusiasm and past Javitz Center purchasing experiences clouded my decision-making for this event. I hated myself for not following the directions carefully, but then again, why shouldn’t one person be able to buy a couple of tickets? It comes down to a factor more than just hoping to surprise someone with a nice treat: fraud. This convention is so rife with people elbowing out the legit crowd with overpriced scalped tickets, the powers that be decided to try another way.

Unfortunately, there were an awful lot of people like me, and all of us, including me, let NY ComicCon folks know how devastated we all were. All we wanted was a good time, fanning it up with our ilk, grabbing autographs and a pile of merch to take home and savor.

Yet, inside of me, a gut feeling told me to hang on. Just wait, it said, there’s going to be good new yet…

And there was.

Out of the blue, I received a nice, polite email from NY ComicCon. Apparently, they heard us. Chose to do the right thing. Gave us a second chance.

We had a brief window to verify the fans we wanted to purchase tickets for, only 24 hours, but that was more than enough time. I scrambled online and fan verified both my husband and kid. Twenty-four hours after that, I purchased tickets for all three of us.

My heartbreak turned out to be a ticket to heaven. Now we’re all going!

Hope to see you there.

Local Aliens   Leave a comment

Alien Fest - Sue & Gretche

Susan Crawford, Gretchen Weerheim and a Photobombing Alien

Pine Bush, NY Alien Festival is a local institution celebrating that town’s rather long legacy as the Hudson Valley’s premier UFO visitation site. And while it might not compare with, let’s say, ComicCon, it’s a small, charming, earnest festival that welcomes aliens and their friends from all over the universe. Sure, you have a crowd of abductees retelling their stories of horror aboard a ship of untraceable origin. Local authors hawk fiction and nonfiction stories of the weird and strange. And if you’re hungry, there’s always fried dough to munch on.

My sister Gwen and our friends Susan and Kate (actually, they’re sisters too) gathered together to check out the festival. Having never actually attended, none of us knew what to expect, which was a good thing. Yeah, sure, alien stereotypes abound.

Alien Fest - Porch Aliens

Porch Aliens

Oh, so what. Who cares? The whole town’s having a great time, a silly laugh and an excuse to dress up. What’s wrong with that?

Alien Fest - Mispelled sign

If things got too much, aliens can always esape…or escape…to a special hideaway created just for them.

Alien Fest - Star Trek Fans

 

To break of the monotony of green, we’ve got a little Star Trek thrown in. As Gwen and I wandered around, we came upon these two from the local chapter of the Star Trek Fan Club from Poughkeepsie, NY. These two reps from the club were about as enthusiastic as can be, offering me a chance to snuggle the tribble, offer me a piece of Double Bubble, and graciously giving me a copy of their newsletter. They’re open to new members and have MeetUps often. Visit their website for more details, if you’re interested.

 

Alien Fest - T-Shirts for SaleAlien Fest - Tom Q

Of course, any festival has great souvenirs of all kinds. Everyone seemed to be selling T-shirts and although I really thought they were cool, $20.00 is a bit steep. Thomas Quackenbush, a local sci-fi author, sold his books.
Alien Fest - Band

And what kind of festival is it if there isn’t some kind of ear-splitting music echoing down the streets? This particular band, First Round, actually was quite good. They played a good selection of covers extremely well. I liked them. Down the other end of the street, however, was a high school band with a horribly off-key wailer, accompanied by kids playing their instruments without any discernible rhythm.

I’m saving the best for last – the parade. The Parade.

Sure, it’s tiny and if you blink, it’s over. But man, those streets jam up and everyone cheers ’em on! Alien Fest - Saucer FloatAlien Fest - Green Aliens

Alien Fest - Green KiddiesAlien Fest - SW CarAlien Fest - ST CarAlien Fest - White AliensAlien Fest - UFO Patrol

As you can see by the above pictures, the parade was well attended.

Alas, the day came too quickly to a close, so we ran for the car, seven blocks away, and drove off before everyone else thought about leaving. On our way home, as we got diverted down a road none of us ever saw because of an accident, we recounted our adventure on a lovely Saturday afternoon. Already we’ve made plans for next year.

Oh, and it’s been decided: we’re going as Coneheads.

Unconventional Mothers   2 comments

alien-bursting-from-stomach

Surprise!

What mother doesn’t enjoy a wonderful surprise on Mother’s Day? And with today’s fluid definition of genders, mothers come in all shapes and sizes. So here’s my brief tribute to what motherhood might mean, in modernspeak.

 

trouble-with-tribbles

 

While our friend Captain James T. Kirk certainly wasn’t what I’d consider a motherly figure, he sure knew his way around reproduction, given the amount of female alien types he seemed to pick up and hit on. So it’s completely fitting that he’s burdened with a whole piles of lovable, adorable tribbles, who seemed to have taken a real shine to him. They kind of popped up all over the place in the space ship, giving rabbits a run for the money. Since Kirk was in charge of the ship, he fostered an environment for motherhood, since these things were determined to have been born pregnant.

 

 

Enemy Mine Baby

How about Lou Gosset, Jr. playing a reptilian Jeriba, of the Drac people, an asexual race. Jerboa gave birth and then died, leaving an alien (to Jeriba, at least) Willis Davidge (a.k.a Dennis Quaid) to raise him. It’s not the best way to parent a child, but that’s why Dennis/Willis showed up, so at least the kid had a role model of sorts.

 

body_snatchers

 

Here’s the completely parent-less delivery method called Body Snatching. It’s important to remember that these aren’t zombies, or the undead, or whatever. These life forms are a likeness, a substation, a stand in, much like margarine stands in for butter on occasion. Sure, it tastes all right, but it’s not butter, but it does what it’s supposed to do, so what difference does it make? And while anyone who’s fallen victim to the body snatchers can’t distinguish the difference between their original selves and the new-and-improved version, why should you, as a child, complain? After all, these new bodies just might believe all those half-baked lies you deliver when you want to stay out with your friends way past your bedtime on a Saturday night?

So folks, I surely hope you treated your moms right, bought flowers, dinner, cards, called, paid tribute, genuflected, thanked from the bottom of your heart and pledged to be the perfect child from today on forward. One day, Mom won’t be around to tell you what to do, and believe me, as one who knows, you’ll miss her like you can’t image.

Here’s to Mom…in whatever shape or form, on Mother’s Day.

 

 

All-Too-Brief Interlude   2 comments

SF 2015 3

Yours truly indicating future site of Starfleet Academy

Okay, so they haven’t even broken ground yet, much less found Vulcans with whom to work, but right behind me is the spot where, in 2161, The United Federation of Planets is going to set up shop and create a Starfleet Academy.

And just exactly what was I doing in San Francisco?  Not casing out potential academy spots, for the future or other purposes.  No, I accompanied my husband on a business trip and then we had ourselves a much-needed break.

G&A in SF

Gretchen and Andrew obscuring an otherwise excellent view of San Francisco, sporting bike helmets

Andrew’s superior officer in command, a wonderfully generous and kind person, offered to guide us out-of-towners on a bike ride from Fisherman’s Wharf to Sausalito, a distance of roughly 8-10 miles, or 13-16 kilometers.  As you can see, it was a gorgeous day, a bit breezy perhaps but fine enough to hop aboard our trusty rented bikes and fly like the wind over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Did I mention wind?  At some points in the trip, gale-worthy gusts puffed up our jackets and nearly knocked us loose from our seats, but that only added to the excitement.  As I chugged up the occasional hills leading to the bike-riding side of the GGB, I reminded myself that my endeavor paled in comparison to those future cadets intrepidly charging forward on into space.  Tucked away in the back of my mind lurked the possibility of THE ONE, you know, that ginormous earth-sinking quake just waiting for the right moment to unleash its wrath.  You laugh?  My first trip to California (Los Angeles, that time) was punctuated by a 6.0 earthquake, forever imprinting in my mind it could happen again.

Shoving that nasty thought away, I turned onto the bike lane and wheeled my way across this legendary span.  About halfway across, I turned my head and noticed the Pacific shimmer in the afternoon sun, and a fog bank in the distance waiting to spread across the bay and city.  Sky, cloud and sea blended into an undulating band of grey matter converging on the horizon.  Hmm, I thought.  What mysterious being, event, alien ship or malady is concealed behind that?  Will it strike now?  Or have the decency to wait until I make it across before it generates wholesale terror?

For me, what’s also kind of remarkable about cycling next to the Pacific is that I grew up on the Atlantic – literally – at a seaside town in New Jersey.  I’m used to seeing sunrises instead of sunsets over the ocean.  That, and it’s a border, the west end of the continental United States, and beyond it lie countless islands, some states, territories and other nations, until it reaches Asia and Australia, among other places.  It’s a bit humbling to regard the Pacific in those terms, but if I were on a spaceship, it’d be pretty meaningless in terms of distance.  Earthbound me thought it was pretty cool, though.

Considering how fast the Enterprise will need to travel in order to traverse the wide expanse of space, I made good time across the bridge.  In fact, I fairly whizzed across, compared to the nearly standstill traffic (there’s no such thing as rush hour here – it’s all blocked up, all the time).  Then up ahead I noticed a sign: YOUR SPEED – 13 MPH.  Me?  Going 13 miles per hour?  WOW!  I’m a rocket ship racing into space!

All too soon, the span ended and we turned down a sharp switchback hill leading to the road that would take us into Sausalito.  Now I was charging ever close to the future Starfleet Academy – I’d go right past it!  Closing my eyes for just a second, I’d be crossing the paths of the places where Spock, Kirk, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, Bones, Chekov and the rest got their start.

Finally, we pulled into Sausalito, a ritzy town housing rich, famous and other personalities.  It’s not exactly my taste, but I’d manage it if forced to move there.  All of us gathered in a group, parked our bikes and celebrated our tour’s end by heading right to the nearest cafe and downing glasses of cool beers or chilled California Chardonnays (and oh! They’re like sipping a slice of heaven).  After, we headed back to San Francisco, ready for dinner and an evening of fun, all the while recounting what an amazing day it had been for such an adventure – all right here on Earth.

 

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