Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Let's Blow-Up the Enterprise, Star Trek Beyond

When J.J. Abrams took over the Star Trek Movie franchise, he did one really smart thing: he reset the Star Trek Universe.  Some fans hated it, but in one fell swoop, Abrams got rid of the weight of the Star Trek cannon which had become a cumbersome beast.  It was, I thought, brilliant.  He then made a blunder or two.  He blew up Vulcan which was a change that was just too much and kind of unnecessary. He also tinkered with the nature of the relationship of crew members, most notably giving Uhura and Spock a love relationship that hadn't been there before. He also gave us some new and really good back story as to who some of these characters were and something of an interesting villain in the character of Nero.  

Flash forward, Abrams made a great movie but again he made the blunder of trying to remake one of the most popular storylines in Star Trek.  Yes, the timeline had been reset, but one does not change the very nature of Khan and "Space Seed" and Wrath of Khan and completely reset it. All he actually had to do was just not name the character, played brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch, Khan and not steal lines from Wrath.  True, they were nods to The Original Series (TOS). 

Don't get me wrong, I loved these first two movies. They were creative and more action/adventure oriented for a new generation of Trekkers. There were some things, I just wish had been done differently, and I wanted new adventures, not retellings of TOS episodes. I have loved this series since it first appeared in 1966. Yes, I am that old a Trekker.  With Star Trek Beyond, we finally get one of those new adventures. While some of the unnecessary character tinkerings are still there, Beyond takes us to a new world where the Enterprise is in its third year of its five-year mission, and Kirk (Chris Pine) is starting to wonder what his place is in the Federation.  Meanwhile, Spock (Zachary Quinto) struggles with his own issues as we are none too subtly reminded that Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy), one of the icons of TOS, has passed away.  

The movie is original and well balanced with action and humor, something that has always been a mark of the Star Trek franchise. Star Trek Beyond has both that old familiar feel and new creativity that will make the movie work for both old and new fans. The trope of blowing up the Enterprise is used well.  Ever since, Star Trek III, it seems like every few movies, it comes time to blow up Enterprise so there can be a new one. It's like destroying the Astin-Martin in Bond movies.  I hope we get to keep the next Enterprise for a bit. 

Star Trek Beyond has a new director.  J.J. Abrams has moved on to direct Star Wars, so Justin Lin, best known for Fast and Furious movies, has taken over "helm" duties. Gone are the lens flares that I personally found pretty annoying in Abrams cinematography.  The movie also was re-written when the first script was found to be unacceptable.  The new script was created by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung which explains the inclusion of a much stronger humor element. The new TOS cast has returned, and we have an interesting new villain and possibly a new character to add to the crew. I must admit, it was at times, given his recent death, difficult to watch Anton Yelchin.

Kirk and company are drawn into a trap by the insane Krall (Idris Elba) who wants a weapon to destroy the Federation.  We also meet Jaylah, (Sofia Boutella) who is both natural warrior and engineer. Jaylah is a fun and interesting character, and it's clear that she could return in the next movie. If there was any major issue I had with the movie it was Krall's make-up but mostly delivery which reminded me a bit too much of Jerry Shigan (Louis Gossett Jr.)  in Alien Mine. Then again, that could just be me. Still, Krall was the right level of maniac and killer making him a pretty good villain.

The movie reminds us why we love Star Trek.  It isn't just action and adventure.  It is also about acceptance and the strength that happens in unity. Individuality may make us stronger and independent, but unity makes us unbreakable.  All the cast have integral parts to play. It's not just Kirk wins or Spock saves the day, but each, from Chekov to Sulu to Uhura to Scotty to McCoy, all has a part to play. We see the relationships that we came to know and love with Shatner and Nimoy and company are now forming with Pine and Quinto and company.  After fifty years, Star Trek seems to be in pretty good hands. I will buy the Blu-ray. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

And now in the Center Ring...

Now that the clown car is almost empty, I am sure you are wondering why, oh why, I have not blogged about the politics and the reason is simple: until the candidates were settled there was little to say. I would point out that before Ted Cruz was supposedly the first candidate to announce, there were actually 194 other candidates, including 55 Republicans, who beat Cruz to the punch. Still, the clown car on the Republican side was so overflowing with candidates a few were required to ride on the running boards or grab on to the bumper while riding a skateboard.

Bernie Sanders
I watched in fascination as they railed against the front-runner of the moment even before Trump led the pack. It was fascinating to watch them attack each other, especially Trump on everything except for the fact that all of them held pretty much the same opinion. Trump and extreme points-of-view are monsters of their own making. The same is really true on the left, too. Let's face it, the Grand Old Party began courting more than evangelicals a few years ago. They also wanted the less lovely groups more . As ye sew, so shall ye reap. The establishment candidates ranted and raved that they would not support Trump, and as soon as the loyal base elected him, the party leaders announced that maybe they would support him after all. Sad to stand on such principles as to vote for the party before country.

On the left, the clown car was more spacious. It was fascinating how Bernie Sanders, essentially a one-issue candidate, convinced people he was a Washington outsider, even though he has been in office in D.C. since 1990, has been in politics since 1980 and became a Democrat in 2015 just before announcing his run for President. Since his loss, he has maneuvered to control what goes into the Democrat platform. The platform whether Republican or Democrat is that wondrous thing that most folks running for office tend to ignore. It's there for the base. It is true that Sanders has moved Hillary to the left which is about as much "Feeling the Bern" anyone is actually going to get.

Gary Johnson
So now there are two. Donald J. Trump, Republican, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat, will be the major contenders.  I am actually in a somewhat interesting position in that I actually know people who know both Trump and Clinton. There is actually I think only one other candidate that hopes to be on the ballot in all 50 states besides these two: Gary Johnson,Libertarian, about whom I know very little.

It has been a long time since two candidates were so disliked by the general electorate.  Hillary has long battled the trust issue which, in all honesty, is a narrative that has been constructed by her and her husband's opponents over many years.  Is it well deserved? Saying that a politician doesn't lie is like announcing sharks are vegetarians.  Is she guilty of poor judgement? With the email thing, yes. Then again, private emails were used on a regular basis by several Secretaries of State, or for that matter, by many government officials.  John Kerry is the first Secretary of State to use solely a U.S. government account. The separate server is not new either.  There was even one in the George W. Bush Whitehouse that some 22 million emails were deleted from when congress asked for information about the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys. 
Hillary R. Clinton

I also know that up until the email scandal and the Benghazi incident, perhaps the most investigated incident in congressional history which has pretty much come up with nothing new, Clinton was actually pretty popular as Secretary of State and New York voters were satisfied with her as a senator, but then again her polling has always been up and down since she first came into the spotlight in 1992.

Still, the trust issue is very real, although, despite all the memes and pundits, she has not been convicted or even tried for anything. Like it or not, in the U.S.A. we still have a presumption of innocent until proven guilty, although you would think of late that isn't true, at least on social media. Nevertheless, she will still carry the "Teflon" Clinton name.

What people who know Hillary think, or so I am told, is that she is smart, and it is all about Hillary when she is in the room. 

Then there is Donald Trump.  Trump has zero political experience.  He is litigious by nature. He or his companies having been involved in at least 3500 court actions.  His record on lying is not much better. According to Politifact, 180 statements made by candidate Trump, only 19 fell into the true or mostly true category while a whopping 135 were rated  "mostly false" to "pants on fire." He even won the 2015 "Lie of the Year." He was a major supporter of the Birther movement. He has regularly attacked women and minorities in his speeches and on his twitter feed. While some think that his statements are just an appeal to the base, I wonder if that's a base to whom we really want to appeal.  It seems to me that at some point, Trump's seeming racist and misogynistic statements cease being appeals to baser beliefs and begin to reflect true beliefs of the candidate.

Donald J. Trump
He has announced different positions on the same ideas often within days. Like Bernie convincing people he is not a Washington insider, Trump has convinced people that he understands what it is like to be without money, despite the fact that Trump's father, also a real estate developer, was worth between $250 to $400 million dollars at his death. Trump has never lived pay check to pay check.  He did take his part of his inheritance and build it into his fortune of today, although no one is actually sure what the real numbers are. He is a billionaire but what he is worth depends on who you talk to. Trump says 10 billion while experts like Bloomberg and Forbes say it is more likely between 2.5 and 4 billion dollars. 

There are no economists I could find who believe that his statements will do anything but lessen the tax burden on the wealthy even more and not cause a massive recession.  How does one become a master at economics when his companies have used (or abused) the laws to file for bankruptcy four times. 

His wall is, to put it bluntly, ridiculous and so is his idea that he will somehow make Mexico pay for it.  His ideas on trade are not the only thing that will create massive economic problems. His ban on Muslims would be unconstitutional, harken back to the days when we put another group of non-combatants into camps in WWII, and it would also prevent the Mayor of London from entering the USA for any negotiations, since he is Muslim, not to mention other Muslim leaders and business people from around the world

He has claimed to be a moral leader, despite the fact that he is on his third marriage.  Look, I get it, people are angry at Washington. Putting support behind the one true outsider, whose trust quotient and obvious lack of understanding world events, is not a good answer-it is the wrong answer.  

What people who know Trump think, or so I am told, is that Trump thinks he is the smartest person in the room and he wants it to be all about Trump.  

We have much at stake to put it simply. 
A truly disturbing picture, and
yes,it blinks.