Monday, April 27, 2009

Top Ten Next Gen

Monday, April 27, 2009
Once, a very long time ago, an unabashed and undeniably evil Positivist/Progressivist named Gene Roddenberry invented something called Star Trek.

(Continue reading Thomas' overview of 'Trek' after jump. Many strange photos to follow.)

Ta da!

Also, it was the 60s...

The effects were bad...

Did I mention the effects were bad?

The characters were hollow. The writing was obvious and preachy. And Star Trek's vision of the future was generally short-sighted. But it was the 60s...

The Original Series should be discussed, absolutely. But not here. And not by me.

Due to the aforementioned 60s quality of The Original Series (and the unavoidable continuity issues involved in a 20-year span between it and The Next Generation), it is fitting, I think, to recognize two Star Trek canons: one including Kirk, etc. and their escapades, and another including everything else (i.e., The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and movies VII-X.

On 28 September 1987, The Next Generation premiered, ushering in a new era for Trek. Finally, Star Trek's take on science fiction could be realized. There was only one problem. It was the 80s...

Did I mention it was the 80s?

But, the fundamentals were there, and, more importantly, Next Gen fought against its inheritance (of both The Original Series and the 80s).

At the end of Season One, Tasha Yar, Head of Security=dead...

Her death, though tragic as it was somewhat meaningless, was a blessing in the end. With her went one of the 80s-est elements of the show. Ironically, she was killed by the 80s-est of aliens. I give you Armus...

Tasha was replaced as Head of Security/Tactical Officer by Mr. Worf, resident Klingon (a much more sensible choice for the position, obviously)...

Just look at all those forehead ridges! He must mean business.

Worf angry!

Season Three introduced new uniforms, with an all-new 90s cut...



Deanna's hair grew less permy as the seasons progressed, and in Season Six she finally abandoned her 80s catsuit...

Oh, and they got that damned kid off the bridge. What the balls were you thinking Picard? This is fecking Starfleet, not Lake Winnebago Summer Camp!

Look at him. Look how dumb he is. Jesus.

But I said that Next Gen fought against its inheritance of The Original Series. Quite. Next Gen redid the Klingons (now with forehead ridges, as we saw). They were a culture this time, not just hand-me-down Mongols. Next Gen redid the science part of science fiction; i.e., it kinda started to make sense. More importantly, the stories became compelling, and their effect on the characters. Of course, it's Star Trek, so the dialogue was still preachy, but hey.

In the spirit of recognizing the solid storytelling in Next Gen, what follows is a list of the 10 episodes everyone should see.

10 - The Drumhead

Jump for an episode preview.

Speaking of preachy... This episode epitomizes one of the major elements of the entire show--Picard taking a stand on moral issues, in the face of a corrupt bureaucracy. There is always this tension in Picard, between the Progressivist ideas he's adopted as a Starfleet captain and the Traditional values he was brought up France...even though he has a British accent.

9 - The Nth Degree

Jump for an episode preview.

By far one of the best things about the later seasons of Next Gen was Lieutenant Barclay. Nervous, neurotic, and accident prone make for good ingredients in a lovable character.

8 - Masks

Jump for an episode preview.

Captain Picard could have been an archaeologist. In this episode, he gets to show off his skills. Also, Brent Spiner gets to play a bunch of characters (which happens several times actually...)

7 - Elementary, Dear Data + Ship in a Bottle


Jump for a preview of Elementary, Dear Data.

Jump for a preview of Ship in a Bottle.

These two episodes (the first from Season Two and the second from Season Six) are basically the two halves of the same story. Data and Geordi are messing around on the Holodeck in Season Two, playing Sherlock Holmes, and the computer accidentally creates a holographic version of Holmes' archvillain Moriarty self-aware. Trouble ensues.

6 - The Best of Both Worlds, Parts I & II

Jump for a preview of Part I.

Jump for a preview of Part II.

By far the most important contribution Next Gen made to the Star Trek universe (aside from the badass-ness that is Captain Picard) was the Borg. A hive mind of cybernetic drones bent on galactic domination. In this amazing two-parter, Captain Picard becomes one of them! Ack!

5 - Cause and Effect

Jump for an episode preview.

Always in Star Trek (that is, until the travesty that was Enterprise) the coolest episodes involve time travel. They rarely hold up to logic, but they're awesome just the same. In this episode the Enterprise gets caught in a time loop. ...Oh yeah, also, Frasier Crane makes a cameo appearance. Baha.

4 - All Good Things...

Jump for a preview of Part I.

Jump for a preview of Part II.

Is it not the worst when good shows just kind of fizzle away, or jump the shark and end on a low note. Thankfully, Next Gen wasn't one of those. Its finale really satisfied. Plus, it involved time travel.

3 - Darmok

Jump for an episode preview.

Now this is just a really, really good episode. One of Trek's biggest cop outs has been the Universal Translator. Basically it makes everybody speak English. Which is dumb. In this episode, it stops working--rather, it can't translate these guys' language. So they've gotta figure it out. Turns out it's a super cool language, P.S.

2 - Chain of Command, Parts I & II

Jump for a preview of Part I.

Jump for a preview of Part II.

Captain Picard steps down as captain of the Enterprise and goes on a black ops mission. Also, he gets captured and tortured by Russians...I mean...Cardassians.

1 - The Inner Light + Lessons


Jump for a preview of The Inner Light.

Jump for a preview of Lessons.

The Inner Light is the best episode ever. So effing good. Seriously. Lessons isn't as good, but it builds on The Inner Light, and Picard falls in love.

Look forward to future guests posts by this author. Next up: The Top Ten Star Trek: Voyager episodes everyone should see.

Read, Kindly Light...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Poem # 4: To Jane

Monday, April 20, 2009
For our fourth poem, I have chosen one from an author few at the college like. In fact, I consider it part of my life mission to convert Dr. Shank's from her scathing sentiments concerning him. That's right; I'm speaking of Percy Shelley.

"To Jane", by He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named-Except-For-5-Seconds-Ago-When-I-Did-Above-In-The-1st-Paragraph.
The keen stars were twinkling
And the fair moon was rising among them,
Dear Jane:
The guitar was tinkling,
But the notes were not sweet till you sung them
As the moon's soft splendor
O'er the faint cold starlight of heaven
Is thrown,
So your voice most tender
To the strings without soul had then given
Its own.

The stars will awaken,
Though the moon sleep a full hour later,
No leaf will be shaken
Whilst the dews of your melody scatter
Though the sound overpowers,
Sing again, with your dear voice revealing
A tone
Of some world far from ours
Where music and moonlight and feeling
Are one.

I DARE you to tell me it's not a good poem. Just try me.
Read, Kindly Light...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Poem # 3: Janet Waking

Saturday, April 18, 2009
Now for another favorite:

"Janet Waking", by John Crowe Ransom.

Beautifully Janet slept
Till it was deeply morning. She woke them
And thought about her dainty-feathered hen,
To see how it had kept.

One kiss she gave her mother,
Only a small one gave she to her daddy
Who would have kissed each curl of his shining baby;
No kiss at all for her brother.

"Old Chucky, old Chucky!" she cried,
Running on little pink feet upon the grass
To Chucky's house, and listening. But alas,
Her Chucky had died.

It was a transmogrifying bee
Came droning down on Chucky's bald old head
And sat and put the poison. It scarcely bled,
But how exceedingly

And purply did the knot
Swell with the venom and communicate
Its rigor. Now the poor comb stood up straight.
But Chucky did not.

So there was Janet
Kneeling on the wet grass, crying her brown hen
(Translated far beyond the prayers of men)
To rise and walk upon it.

And weeping fast as she had breath
Janet implored us, "Wake her from her sleep!"
And would not be instructed in how deep
Was the forgetful kingdom of Death.

Hmm. I'm beginning to see a pattern in the poems I've chosen. What is it? DEATH.
Read, Kindly Light...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Superheroes Are ALL The Rage!

Thursday, April 16, 2009
This is an old post that never made it; I was going to publish it a month ago, but I sidetracked for some reason.

Anyways, over at the Hero Factory, you can design and download your own superheroes. It's quite an enjoyable little time-waster, and as an enthusiast in the sport of procrastination, I highly recommend it. The only annoying thing (besides the music in the background) is the fact that you can't name your superheroes; the game makes up one up based on the powers/gadgets you gave them. Still, it's a fun bit of silliness.

Wanna see MY gallery of superheroes? Well, too bad! I'm going to show you it anyway.

(See a bunch more after the jump.)

Create your own hero HERE.

Read, Kindly Light...

Poem # 2: Losses

It's time for poem numero duo!

"Losses", by Randall Jarrell:

It was not dying: everybody died.
It was not dying: we had died before
In the routine crashes-- and our fields
Called up the papers, wrote home to our folks,
And the rates rose, all because of us.
We died on the wrong page of the almanac,
Scattered on mountains fifty miles away;
Diving on haystacks, fighting with a friend,
We blazed up on the lines we never saw.
We died like aunts or pets or foreigners.
(When we left high school nothing else had died
For us to figure we had died like.)

In our new planes, with our new crews, we bombed
The ranges by the desert or the shore,
Fired at towed targets, waited for our scores--
And turned into replacements and worke up
One morning, over England, operational.

It wasn't different: but if we died
It was not an accident but a mistake
(But an easy one for anyone to make.)
We read our mail and counted up our missions--
In bombers named for girls, we burned
The cities we had learned about in school--
Till our lives wore out; our bodies lay among
The people we had killed and never seen.
When we lasted long enough they gave us medals;
When we died they said, "Our casualties were low."

The said, "Here are the maps"; we burned the cities.

It was not dying --no, not ever dying;
But the night I died I dreamed that I was dead,
And the cities said to me: "Why are you dying?
We are satisfied, if you are; but why did I die?"

(It's another one Mr. Lacey introduced me to.)

Read, Kindly Light...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ah, Poetry

Tuesday, April 14, 2009
They tell me (and by "they" I mean Whitney Matthison) that April is 'National Poetry Month', or some such. I'm proud to say I am one of the few [the proud, the Marines!] who still believe in poetry. Thus, I have decided that I shall try and post a GOOD poem every few days until the end of April. (Feel free to critique my choices...)

So, to kick off things, here is an old favorite of mine. It is a traditional Scottish ballad called "TWA CORBIES":

AS I was walking all alane
I heard twa corbies making a mane:
The tane unto the tither did say,
'Whar sall we gang and dine the day?'

'—In behint yon auld fail dyke
I wot there lies a new-slain knight;
And naebody kens that he lies there
But his hawk, his hound, and his lady fair.

'His hound is to the hunting gane,
His hawk to fetch the wild-fowl hame,
His lady 's ta'en anither mate,
So we may mak our dinner sweet.

'Ye'll sit on his white hause-bane,
And I'll pike out his bonny blue e'en:
Wi' ae lock o' his gowden hair
We'll theek our nest when it grows bare.

'Mony a one for him maks mane,
But nane sall ken whar he is gane:
O'er his white banes, when they are bare,
The wind sall blaw for evermair.'

GLOSS: corbies] ravens. fail] turf. hause] neck. theek] thatch.
From the always wonderful collection at Bartleby

Also, feel free to suggest poems for me to post, especially if you have written your own. At the end of the month, when I have exhausted all the good ones, I might resort to my own sorry verse. (Consider yourself warned!)

Read, Kindly Light...

Monday, April 13, 2009


Monday, April 13, 2009
With Thursday night came the second season finale of NBC's quirky crime drama "Life". I hope and pray alongside many others that this episode will not end up being the show's series finale as well. Life is a sensational (not to mention Zensational) TV show, and it would be a crying shame if it fell through the cracks while other run-of-the-mill crime series (read: anything with a 'CSI' prefix) went on strong. Yahoo's TV blog puts Life at #2 of its top-ten 'Shows That Are Really, Really Awesome But Which Will Almost Certainly NOT Pick Up Another Season Because...Because...Well, because, let's face it, The Majority of the American TV-Viewing Public Is Just Plain Stupid. It's STUPID. Seriously.' List (that was something of a paraphrase, if you hadn't guessed). While I haven't yet watched their #1 pick (i.e. "Chuck"), and I cannot fathom why something as tame and mundane as a reality show ("Celebrity Apprentice", to be precise!) makes their cut, it is overall a great list with good assessments of the shows. Besides Life, I'm rooting for "Dollhouse", "Fringe", and "Better Off Ted", by the by.

But what about Life makes it worth saving?
I mean, is it not just the latest version of the now-tread 'crime-with-a-twist' genre? Is it not just another "Monk" or "Psych"? The answer, as is probably obvious by now, is an EMPHATIC "NO."

(Continue for the full review after the jump.)

So, the reason? I cite the same ones as the above-linked critic: star Damien Lewis and the intriguing, engaging character he plays -- Det. Charlie Crews.
Don't get me wrong about the crime-with-a-twist thing. While I enjoy any ol' Law & Order as much as the next guy (which I hope means "a lot, for the most part"), I'm much more in favor of the above-scorned "characters wanted" approach. The difference is that whereas the quirks of many other 'characters-wanted'-type detectives serve merely as props or gimmicks, as bits of comedic relief and distraction from the dark crimes they are solving, the Zen-y so-called "quirks" of Detective Charlie Crews are really the representation of the show's central-most tension -- Charlie's personal crisis; his internal struggle; his soul's teetering between the abstract and the concrete.

Of course, I understand that the show's basic premise is more than a little bit gimmecky and far-fetched. If you're not familiar with it, here's a summary of what wikipedia has to say:
Life centers around Detective Charlie Crews, who at the start of the first season (set in 2007) is released from Pelican Bay State Prison after serving twelve years of a life sentence. In 1995 he was wrongfully convicted of the triple murder of his business partner and the partner's family. Thanks to the efforts of his lawyer Constance Griffiths, DNA evidence exonerates him of the murders. Having lost his job, his wife, his friends, nearly all contact with the outside world and even his grip on reality for a time while in jail, he emerges enlightened by the philosophy of Zen, a fixation with fresh fruit and an obsession with solving the murder that nearly cost him his life and exposing the conspiracy that framed him for it. After successfully suing the city of Los Angeles and the LAPD, he is reinstated to the police department and receives an undisclosed but substantial monetary settlement.

But if you accept the basic premise and watch the show, then Charlie Crews, his life, and the people that surround it -- all of it will grow and grow and GROW on you. Again, what makes the show so compelling is Charlie himself, and what makes Charlie so compelling are his seeming contradictions (and actual contradictions). In short, he is something of a conundrum.

Despite the fact that his settlement has made him fabulously wealthy, Crews continues to work on the force, trying to bring the conspirators who framed him to justice. However, this vengeful pursuit of justice sometimes borders on revenge, which flies in the face of his apparently Buddhist philosophies. Crews is constantly listening to the advice given by a series of Zen self-fulfillment audio tapes, but at the end of Season 1, when he has the chance to kill the real murderer, he tosses one out of his car window. Yet when he digs a grave in which to bury the true killer, he fills it back up again, as a Zen exercise, and goes on to turn in the man rather than murder him secretly. Afterwards, he goes back to the country road and picks up the damaged audio tape from the dust.

Though his unusual outlook on life often aids him on his cases, Charlie CANNOT become a true Buddhist and remain a good cop; nor can he perfectly do what a police officer ought without abandoning some of his Buddhist principles. The question surrounding his character then is whether the mystical and transcendent ideals of Zen will rule the day, or whether the grounded, common-sense sentiments and notions he holds as a human being and a cop will overcome the dangers of his abstract philosophies. In short, shall he transcend the dirty, nitty-gritty details of LIFE, become distanced and disassociated from it, or shall he engage LIFE, embrace it, and deal with the pains and harsh truths and unpleasantness of it all?
Perhaps this exchange from the penultimate episode of Season 2 puts it best, when Charlie discovers his partner has been kidnapped by a criminal mastermind who was supposed to be behind bars (Here be SPOILERS!):

TED EARLEY: Charlie, what are you thinking?
CHARLIE CREWS: I'm thinking about what I want, and what I need.
TED EARLEY: What do you want?
CHARLIE CREWS: I *want* a peaceful soul...
TED EARLEY: And what do you need?
CHARLIE CREWS: I *need* a bigger gun.

Or perhaps this exchange, from the season finale, when Charlie prepares to hunt down the men who have taken his partner:

BOBBY STARK: Is this a private club, or can anyone join?
CHARLIE CREWS: That depends on if you got me what I asked for.
[Bobby opens the car trunk]
BOBBY STARK: It's not Zen, Charlie.
CHARLIE CREWS: It'll just have to do until Zen comes along.
[CUT to trunk interior, where an assault rifle is revealed. Crews picks the gun up, loading a clip.]

No, I know -- the climactic scene of the season finale, when Charlie's in the hands of Roman, his arch-nemesis:

CHARLIE CREWS: Do you wanna know how I survived twelve years of prison?
ROMAN NEVIKOV: Your 'Zen'? [laughs]
[Charlie whips his hand back, smashing Roman's windpipe. Roman slowly chokes to death...]
CHARLIE CREWS: Like *that*.
(Here endeth the SPOILERS...)

Hopefully by now you have a rough feeling of what I'm trying to say about Det. Charlie Crews' internal struggle. While he longs for harmony and union, there is none to be had with monsters like Roman, and so Charlie picks and chooses his Buddha-sayings, getting a "bigger gun" instead of "a peaceful soul", and doing what he's got to do "until Zen comes along."

So, is Season 2 better than Season 1? Yep. The reasons? Donal Logue as Captain Kevin Tidwell and Gabriel Union as Detective Jane Seever. Plus, of course, the plot thickens, the conspiracies widen and change, the bizarre mixture of death, hilarity, and surrealism doesn't miss a beat. And Detective Charlie Crews gets to kill the bad guys. That's not very Zen, Charlie!
So, so, so, if LIFE gets canceled, a little piece of my life will shrivel up and die. I mean, we'll keep watching that d-bag in Miami take on/off his sunglasses, but not Charlie with his personal pineapple? Anyway, y'all say a prayer for Life, Dollhouse, Fringe, and Better off Ted.

Ciao, folks. If you read this far, you are truly blessed.

Read, Kindly Light...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Albanian: Krishti Ungjall! Vertete Ungjall!
Arabic: Al Maseeh Qam! Haqqan Qam!
Armenian: Christos harjav i merelotz! Orhniale harutjun Christosi!
Belorussian: Khristos Uvoskros! Zaprowdu Uvoskros!
Chinese: Helisituosi fuhuole! Queshi fuhuole!
Coptic: Pikhirstof aftonf! Khen o methni aftonf!
Czech: Kristus vstal zmrtvy'ch! Skutec ne vstal!
Danish: Kristus er opstanden! Ja, sandelig opstanden!
Dutch: Christus is opgestaan! Hij is waarlijk opgestaan!
English: Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen!
Gaelic: Erid Krist! G'deya! n erid she!
Georgian: Kriste aghsdga! Cheshmaritad aghsdga!
Greek: Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!
Hebrew: Ha Mashiyach qam! Ken hoo qam!
Italian: Cristo e risorto! E veramente risorto!
Japanese: Harisutosu Fukkatsu! Jitsu Ni Fukkatsu!
Latin: Christus resurrexit! Vere resurrexit!
Norwegian: Kristus er oppstanden! Han er sannelig opstanden!
Polish: Khristus Zmartvikstau! Zaiste Zmartvikstau!
Portuguese: Christo Ressuscitou! Em Verdade Ressuscitou!
Romanian: Hristos a Inviat! Adeverat a Inviat!
Russian: Khristos voskres! Voistinu voskres!
Serbian: Hristos Vaskrese! Vaistinu Vaskrese!
Slavonic: Christos Voskrese! Voistinu Voskrese!
Slovak: Kristus vstal zmr'tvych! Skutoc ne vstal!
Spanish: Cristo ha resucitado! Verdaderamente ha resucitado!
Syriac: Meshiha qam! Bashrira qam!
Ukranian: Kristos Voskres! Voistinu voskres!
Welsh: Atgyfododd Crist! Atgyfododd in wir!

Read, Kindly Light...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Um, Well, I Hate To Say "I Told You So!"...

Friday, April 10, 2009
...when "I told you so!" means "suicide."

Don't follow?

Well, you probably thought my Watchmen review was a bit too over the top. It may have been somewhat scathing, but hey, I didn't blow my brains out in the theater. Oops. Too soon?

Now I know that we are taught suicide is like a one-way ticket to Hell, but I also know that God in his infinite mercy understands all extenuating circumstances -- like viewing three excruciatingly long hours of calculated cinematic mind-rape. I think we can all safely say that is only by God's grace that most of us have avoided the full blunt-force soul-trauma experienced during that torture masquerading as a movie.

In short, Watchmen is a film scientifically proven to make you want to kill yourself. Literally.

All kidding aside, we should probably say a prayer or two for that brave but all too empathetic movie-goer. Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, my friend.
Read, Kindly Light...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Long Time, No Read...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009
I apologize for my absence of two fortnights. School and laziness have consumed me. But no more! Today my spring break begins, and I plan to spew forth a barrage of blog posts this week, and hopefully continue on into the next. So rest easy, dear readers; the Coolage is back in Cowtown.

~Tyler, That All-Around Awesome Guy~
Read, Kindly Light...