Friday, May 08, 2009

Not Your Father's Star Trek

So, my beloved Star Trek has been given a new, 21st century treatment this week in a new release by Paramount Pictures. I just got back from the showing, and, although it’s almost 0100 hours, feel compelled to put some of my thoughts down as I regurgitate the film in my mind.

Let me begin by saying that I enjoyed the movie very much. I went in with high expectations and wasn't disappointed - that’s a bonus (and is saying a lot for me). However, despite the fact that it was a truly great movie in and of itself, I have to say that the 2009 version of Star Trek, slightly offends the inner-Trekker in me. Yep, it's true... though, probably not in the way you think. I mean, never mind the fact that this movie offers the first-ever product placement in a Star Trek production, or that it features a poor performance from Eric Bana as the movie’s villain, Nero. I can overlook all of these things. It’s the fact that this movie radically alters the Star Trek universe to which I have become accustomed over the last 20 years that really gets to me. And what’s worse is that I kinda of liked it. Let me start with a few basic facts.

First, it’s no secret that the Star Trek franchise has been in trouble for the past decade or so. I admit this, despite the fact that I genuinely enjoyed the last television iteration, Enterprise, and fought hard to save it from cancellation. So even I, the most die-hard of fan, had to admit that things weren’t the same. Perhaps after 5 series, 10 movies, a cartoon and a gazillion episodes based on the same format, I knew something had to change if the overall concept was to survive.

Second, and I need to be honest and candid here (and let my true colors show at the same time), I loved the Trek universe. By that I mean I loved the so-called “canon”, or established back story that intertwines all of the Star Trek movies, television shows and books together. A canon where every fact or plot is checked for consistency against the other shows in the franchise. A daunting work for anyone willing to take on the creative task of writing for something based in this universe. And something that producer J.J. Abrams of the 2009 movie obviously felt was holding the show back from its potential, which is why he departed from it altogether. Had I been given a choice, I would have fought tooth and nail to make sure this quasi-religious canon was adhered to, strictly, in any future movie. But, because I wasn’t consulted, tonight’s film took me in directions I would have never allowed, or expected. The movie boldly went where no Trek movie has gone before… and you know, it wasn’t all that bad.


Third, as a Trekker, I feel somewhat obligated to support a large part of the fan-base that was utterly pissed off at this movie. Let’s be clear, not only does this movie depart from canon, it rips some of the accepted Star Trek universe to shreds. Vulcan is destroyed. Spock’s mother is killed. Fans of the show know that all of these things play major roles in the movies that are set after this prequel. How can you call a movie Star Trek when Spock’s homeworld is destroyed, yet is there again in older movies that are chronologically set after the events in this prequel? The answer – and this is pure genius because it is all too familiar to Trek fans – use a plot device that is so Trekkish, fans can’t possibly scoff at it: time travel.

Yep, this movie crushes the Star Trek we know, and creates something new using something that is entirely within the possibility of the canon, and at the same time, utterly frees any future writer from having to worry about canon again. In a nutshell, because Spock went back and time and altered the past, the future that we all accept as historical canon (bear with me, I know this is confusing) is wiped away. There can be 10 sequels to this movie that don’t have to worry about anything that went on in previous movies or television shows, because Abrams has created a brand new universe! I know, it poops on what we’ve come to love about the show, but did it by using the things that made the show so much fun to love: science fiction!

Can you see why I’m torn over this movie? It was fun, but it wasn’t Star Trek because it was Star Trek! Get it? Only a Star Trek show could take the viewer for such a ride, forcing him to abandon his preconceived notions and boldly take him on a strange, new mission!

But does the viewer have to go through this transformation alone? No! He has a cast of characters who were developed to phenomenal perfection for this movie. The old chemistry that exists between Kirk, Spock, Bones and Scotty are all here, easing the viewer into his new surroundings with stunning familiarity. The cast (with the exception of Bana) was positively fantastic. If we’ve lost everything else, we’ve gained a new depth to the characters that made Star Trek into one of the greatest franchises the entertainment world has ever seen. To see this cast work together in the spirit of Trek is worth the price of admission.

In the end, am I sad that history has been changed (or should I say, future)? Yes. I loved Vulcan. Yes, it hurts that there are only 10,000 Vulcans left in the universe down from 6 billion, and that their great civilization has been destroyed. I mourn them. I truly do. But to quote a true legend from the Star Trek universe, I need to keep some perspective and remember that in the end, “it’s just a TV show!” And let me tell you, once I did that, I truly enjoyed the picture for what it was – a great Star Trek movie!

Monday, March 02, 2009

A Little Exercise in Futurism

Reading about the economic tumult in which our nation finds itself, I have come across little bits and pieces of information that paint an even grimmer picture for Europe and Asia. We’ve been so consumed with our own problems, that most of these stories have been buried and put on the proverbial back page. However, when you look for the information, there is an abundance of it – and it scares the hell out of me for several reasons, first and paramount among them being the long-term security of the United States.

There appears to be the real possibility of unrest in the Ukraine as major banks fail and its citizens are being locked out of their bank accounts. It’s an ominous sign, and not because the same thing could happen here (it could), but because nations like the Ukraine and other eastern European countries have been very friendly to the United States. They have (up until now) provided a sturdy bulwark against the designs of Putin’s Russia. And as they begin to topple like dominoes, the notion of Russia stepping in as savior seems less the vision of fantasy, and more like a real possibility.

If you push this scenario even further, there’s another element to consider. The people of these nations have a history of turning to strongmen when things go south. And as unpopular as saying such things can be, I’m afraid the same can be said for much of Europe. Just look at how Germany has utterly capitulated to the Russians. I quote from Stratfor:

NATO faces a substantial split, conditioned partly by Germany’s dependence on Russian energy, but also by deep German unease about any possible resumption of a Cold War with Russia, however mild. The foundation of NATO during the Cold War was the U.S.-German-British relationship. With the Germans unwilling to align with the United States and other NATO members over Russia or Afghanistan, it is unclear whether NATO can continue to function.
Now granted, Germany’s thick headedness is clouded by their attachment to Russia’s energy-teat and not so much by a love for Russian leaders. But still, on whose side shall they stand when push comes to shove?

And things aren’t any better back home, where Obama plans to relinquish American plans for a missile defense shield in Europe if only the Russians can help us in dealing with Iran. Clearly, America is no longer interested in projecting strength. Now it’s all about maintaining celebrity status.

So my question is this, do any of you see a scenario where a weakened United States and an economically devastated Europe might lead to the creation of a new political strongman there, who uses his position to intimidate and threaten the west while his policies give Europe and Russia the visions of power that they so desperately crave? Does anyone get the feeling that there is something more sinister at work here?

Let’s speculate!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama's First Campaign Speech of His Presidency

Yes, I'm talking about his inauguration speech. I call it a campaign speech because surely no President would ever use such hateful, biased and ignorant rhetoric in his very first speech in office, right? Hmm. I just don't think our new President knows how to give a proper speech because he's been campaigning his whole life. The man has never led. But these obvious observations aside, let me better articulate my thoughts on his inaugural speech by quoting the following by Jay Nordlinger from National Review Online (they start getting good at number 3):

Quick Inaugural Reax

1. Interesting musical combo: Itzhak, Yo-Yo, Anthony McGill, and Gabriela. I have written about them all, for many years. (Incidentally, McGill has a brother, Demarre, who is a very good flutist.) But how were they chosen? How were they brought together? A curious thing.

Was ethno-racial variety a consideration? Perish the thought — perish the thought fast.

Also, I wonder whether Gabriela (who’s from Venezuela) is an American. I don’t give a rip, believe me: This is music, we’re talking about. I just wondered. And it was interesting that she participated in a John Williams arrangement, because her specialty — her claim to fame — is improvisation. Did she break from script?

Finally — and irrelevantly, of course — I have met her, and she’s a total babe. (I can say that on the Corner, right?)

2. A European friend (mix of nationalities) called me, a few minutes to 12. Wanted to share the last moments of the Bush administration with me. (I wasn’t able to take the call, but never mind.) Credited me with awakening his appreciation of Bush (I blush to say, but what the heck). Was nice.

3. What a great, great shame that Chief Justice Roberts screwed up the oath-administering. A great shame. This is a video clip for all time — an “iconic moment.” I’m sure he feels terrible about it. Possibly, he was “nervous as a whore in church,” as an old southern friend of mine used to say. Obama wasn’t.

4. I thought Obama did the minimum about Bush — the barest minimum: “I thank him for his service,” or something. He could have done a lot more: not with more words, but with better, truer, more gracious words. Bush has certainly done a lot. For one thing, he is passing on to his successor the means with which to fight the War on Terror.

5. Obama said something like, “It’s time to quit putting off the unpleasant decisions.” Geez: Making unpleasant decisions, in both the domestic and foreign spheres, was Bush’s specialty. In fact, he sacrificed a good deal of political popularity because of it.

6. I liked Obama’s nod to Dorothy Fields, the lyricist — who wrote, “Pick yourself up, take a deep breath, dust yourself off, and start all over again.” And, by the way, my favorite recording of that song — a Kern song — is by McNair and Previn, on this album.

7. Obama talked about “restoring science to its rightful place.” I thought that was a cheap, stupid shot. The opinion-makers will love it, of course.

8. He suggested — more like said — that Bush had jettisoned American ideals in order to pursue security. That is a slander, pure and simple. Slandering your predecessor is not a good way to start a presidency.

9. He said that “we are ready to lead once more” — ready to lead the world in the search for peace and dignity. That, my friends, is just what Bush has been doing for eight years. It would have been truer to speak of continuing to lead.

10. Obama said that we must now “leave Iraq to its people.” Well, it’s chiefly because of George W. Bush and the U.S. military that Iraqis have any say at all over their own country. No Bush, no U.S. military: no Iraqi democracy, or semi-democracy, or even hope for democracy (or decency or non-tyranny).

11. Obama said that we must “no longer ignore the suffering outside our borders” (if I heard him correctly). Oh, since when have we been doing that? In fact, one of the biggest criticisms of Bush is that he has gone too far in trying to alleviate the suffering of others — “imposing our values” and all that. And will Obama better Bush’s Africa program? Fat chance.

12. You may call this picky — and perhaps wrong — but I don’t consider the presidential oath of office a “sacred oath”; I consider it a civic one — despite the “So help me God.” (And yes, I’m familiar with the phrase “our sacred honor,” thank you.)

13. Obama did not give a bad speech — although I think there were bad, even disgraceful, lines in it. But I don’t think he gave a particularly good speech. I admired its brevity, however. And I hope his presidency continues better than it began. Time to stop knocking (and sliming) Bush and do something on his own.
So Jay sums things up better than I could have, and he makes great points about how a President, especially on his first day, needs to keep himself above the shameful slander Obama appears to have committed.

You know, we keep hearing about how we need to "put the divisiveness of the past behind us" (usually spoken by people who have done nothing but spew divisive rhetoric for the past 8 years) now that Obama is here to heal all wounds. Well, if his inauguration speech is any indication of the way he'll lead, we're in for a particularly bad next 4 years.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Obama's First Challange: The Bear's Paw

I don't know if any of you saw the article on Drudge this morning about what's happening in Russia, but I find it extremely troubling and think that the power moves taking place over there are a direct result of Obama's victory.

First, There are rumors coming out of Russia that Putin is maneuvering himself for an unprecedented power-grab. This is from Reuters:
Medvedev Wednesday proposed increasing the presidential term to six years
from four years, a step the newspaper said was part of a plan drawn up by
Vladislav Surkov, who serves as Medvedev's first deputy chief of staff.

Under the plan, Medvedev could implement changes to the constitution
and unpopular social reforms "so that Putin could return to the Kremlin for a
longer period," the newspaper said.

"Under this scenario Medvedev could resign early citing changes to the
constitution and then presidential elections could take place in 2009," the
newspaper said, citing the unidentified source close to the Kremlin.

The paper said Putin, who is currently prime minister, could then rule
for two six year terms, so from 2009 to 2021.
This is troubling because it reflects not only Putin's ICBM-sized ego, but because it represents a play by Russia to move itself into the dominating role it held during the Cold War. Putin recognizes that with the election of Obama, international opinion will likely turn in favor of the United States. Europe is already fawning over the guy, which is making Putin extremely nervous. The current leader of Russia, Medvedev, doesn't have the international savvy or political acumin to adequately represent Russia on the world stage in a room full of players like Obama - who has an equally large ego. And while I don't necessarily think that keeping Russia on its toes is a bad thing, I don't believe that Obama is up to the challenge of maintaining the balance required to keep us from a positive outcome in a confrontation.

Judging from the way democratic presidents inexperienced in world affairs have fucntioned in the past (Carter, Clinton), I fear that we are setting ourselves up for another disaster. Although this time, the stakes are higher. Democratic presidents have the uncanny ability to pick the worst (and rabidly partisan) foreign policy advisors, and as a result, find themselves victim to indecision and infighting that leaves the Commander in Chief without a clear direction in which to move forward when there is a crisis. And now, because the president himself lacks the ability to make a solid decision, he is setting himself up (and thus, the country) to be bullied around by players (like Russia and China) who are more aggressive in foreign policy.

My thoughts are that Putin can't stand to see Obama take the world stage, and sees himself as the only person with the charisma (and based on his narcissistic photos, the machismo) to counter someone like Obama. It's killing him to take a backseat to Medvedev. Also, Putin will be able to tap the strong nationalist vein that runs through Mother Russia - a place that has traditionally embraced strong leaders throughout its history. We may indeed be looking at another Cold War brewing.

So Biden may be right after all. Obama will likely be tested in ways that should scare every man and woman who voted against him this election. And soon.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

CNN: The Left’s Mainstream Propaganda Machine

For as long as I have been browsing the web (going on 14 years). CNN has been my homepage. Even though I’ve never cared for their reporting, I always found their website to be somewhat balanced and extremely well-designed and easy to navigate. However, over the last year I have noticed a marked shift on the page in the direction of becoming a left-wing propaganda machine. Today, it became too much to bear.

Just take a look at today’s headlines. The lead story: “iReporters Call Debate for Obama”. The fact that Obama’s performance tops their version of today’s news doesn’t surprise me (despite the very real economic meltdown taking place). The fact that iReporting is considered mainstream news, does. But it gets worse. Listed under their top stories are no less than 4 articles negative of McCain (down to 3 by the time I copied the picture). Negative articles about Obama? Zero.

When an opinion is repeated often enough as news, people start to believe it as fact. This is proven psychology and has been tested again and again by left wing dictatorships throughout history. In CNN’s case, it’s their spin that is the most frightening. They can’t come right out and lie about a candidate, or report their own opinions as news. So they contract that job to their liberal iReporters, and punt risky headlines under their “ticker” banner. The net result is a list of top news stories that portray republican candidates negatively.

What CNN is doing is nothing less than propagandizing. They’re just a little less “in your face” than their fast-becoming contemporaries like the Daily Kos.

CNN has employed underhanded techniques like this for over a decade. Years ago, I wrote them a letter blasting them for shameless bias in their reporting of political scandals. I catalogued a series of stories in which democrats in trouble were simply referred to as “A Congressman from Illinois,” or “A lawmaker on the Hill...” When a republican found himself in similar hot water, the story was always, “The republican Congressman from Illinois,” or “A republican lawmaker on the Hill…” You see? Blatant.

Things like this may seem small, but they leave a lasting psychological impression: Republicans are bad and democrats are, well, not really. Over time, and repeated often enough, you have a generation of people who have effectively been brainwashed. Is it any wonder why Obama supporters can’t really articulate why they like him so much (despite not having achieved anything of importance), and why people who hate Bush repeat the same things they heard on the news, over and over without adding any original thought of their own?

So as of today, I’m removing CNN from my browser. I suppose it’s about time, too. After all, I stopped watching the ratings-starved channel years ago.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Obama's Muslim Faith

Hey, I'm not saying it... HE is.

I love how Stephanopolous, a supposed impartial reporter, rushes to correct him.

And hey, I know it was a gaffe, but do you think the press would give President Bush a pass on a mistake like that? Also, we're starting to see cracks in Obama's facade here. He's getting rattled and confused under pressure. Great leadership qualities if you ask me...

Monday, September 01, 2008

Someone is Using My Email

If you received any strange emails from my old Yahoo address between August 1 and September 1, 2008, please disregard. Someone pretending to be me has been busy posting things around these here interwebs using that address...

Some people...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Basically, Homo Sapiens Rule!

Every so often, we’re treated to one of those experiences that seems to define who you are a person by virtue of the way you see the world. For example, have you ever looked at a piece of scenery – a sunset or mountain range, for example – and suddenly realized how extraordinary this world actually is?

These moments don’t come very often, unfortunately. Well, at least for me they don’t. I’ve discovered more about myself with how bitter and annoyed I can get with my fellow human beings rather than how amazing some of them can be. However, this morning, all of that changed for a few minutes as I walked out of the Metro station jamming to some piece of shallow music on my iPhone.

At the top of the escalator were two people playing instruments. Now, in a city like DC, that’s not necessarily noteworthy as there are hundreds of aspiring musicians who seem to flock to the entrances of our subways. However, this time the people seemed to be playing with a burning intensity that I’ve only seen in some of the best musicians on the planet. So, and not without some guilt thanks to this article, I took out my earbuds. Instantly, I was treated to some of the most unique and awe-inspiring music I’ve heard in a long time.

On the left was a beautiful woman playing the violin. She looked like she might be of eastern European descent. And on the right, was a interesting looking man (frizzy, burnt orange hair) playing the bass guitar. Now, you’re probably thinking… “Oh geez, I’ve seen similar combos and they sound like crap.” And, they probably did. However, in this case, nothing could be further from the truth. These two people (not to mention instruments) were excellent together! They were playing a familiar classical tune (I don’t know the name, so don’t ask) with unbridled passion that is 100% unusual in this type of setting. It was intense!

Naturally, I opened my wallet and dropped in a few bucks so that I would feel comfortable as I planted myself to watch them for a while. I actually got goosebumps listening to the sounds. They had sheet music in front of them, and a bucket of cash that my fellow commuters seemed eager to add upon. The bass guitar was hooked up to an amplifier, and the violinist just played her heart out (no amplification needed).

As I sat there for about six minutes, I lost myself in imagining what it must be like to have a talent like that. But even without such skills, I brimmed with pride at what wonderful things our fellow human beings are capable of. And it was then when it hit me: humans are not the monsters most people think them to be. Yes, we’re capable of some pretty crappy things… but the things that we achieve, the things that we are capable of warrant so much more respect. I’m glad that for at least a few minutes this morning, I was able to show some.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Multimedia message

Back in the OBX

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Flooding in Point Pleasant, NJ

Our weekend at the Jersey Shore ruined by flooding. At least we got one day of sun!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Boarding the Chase Boat

Deploying the Buoy

Another view from the bridge of the Frank Drew.

On the Bridge

Deploying on the USCGC Frank Drew.

Rescue at Sea

United States Coast Guard in Action.

On the Aircraft

Luxury accomodations.

Boarding the C130

Heading down to Yorktown to run missions with the Coast Guard.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Last Day on the Beach

Enjoying the last day in the sun... Outer Banks, NC. The annual tradition for 10 years now.

Monday, May 19, 2008

And This Man Wants to be President...

I'm sure most of you have seen the following Obama quote this morning:

"We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72
degrees at all times... and then just expect that other countries are going to
say OK... "
This is coming from a man who is running for President of the United States. Is this the much-ballyhooed "change" we keep hearing about? If so, I don't want any part of it. Since when has it become a moral crime to make life better for Americans as President? This guy is truly scaring me. And not in the, "Bill Clinton is a despicable man" way the former democratic President scared me. This is true horror. The awfulness of it rests with the fact that so many people are taken in by his message. Self-loathing, it would seem, qualifies you as a better American.

I'm not saying his statement is incorrect. Sure, I would expect others to be upset wth the fact that we use so much. But it's not like the US doesn't share back more of it's wealth with the rest of the world than all other nations combined. And heck, if they don't like it, tough luck. We're not asking them to be "OK" with it. It's not as if the rest of the world will suddenly lift itself out of poverty overnight if we start setting our thermostats at 60 degrees in the winter and 80 in the summer. Zimbabwe won't miraculously turn into a democratic state once the US stops using so much oil. If anything, there will be less American wealth in foreign markets, and things would get worse for those who already have a crappy run at life.

But none of this matters. It's the self-loathing that really gets things done. What is your oppression footprint? Can I buy credits to offset the level of third world-labor that went into making my leather Mezlans? Seriously? What does Obama expect to happen? What do the people who listen to him expect to happen? Do they even understand what he's saying, or are they swept away by his radiant grin?

I'm sorry, but I just can't believe people buy into this crap. It's frightening.

Cellphone Radiation or Bad Parenting?

I have to wonder about studies like this. Is it the use of the phones themselves that cause these children to develop emotional problems? Or is there a correlation between the disintegrating family and these same problems that are being overlooked? The study says:

They found that mothers who did use the handsets were 54 per cent more likely to
have children with behavioural problems and that the likelihood increased with
the amount of potential exposure to the radiation. And when the children also
later used the phones they were, overall, 80 per cent more likely to suffer from
difficulties with behaviour. They were 25 per cent more at risk from emotional
problems, 34 per cent more likely to suffer from difficulties relating to their
peers, 35 per cent more likely to be hyperactive, and 49 per cent more prone to
problems with conduct.

To me, this says more about the mother. Perhaps the radiation from mobile phones (note: the study even says "potential exposure" - they don't even know) is not causing the problems. Instead, could it maybe be the lack of proper attention given to the child due to the fact its mother is always on the freaking phone? I have seen some mothers who are constantly chatting (gossiping) on the phone, almost to the point of neglect of their children. Just last week I saw a kid fall from his high chair at TGIF because the mother was yakking away on the phone. Surely children raised in such a home will suffer the same problems cited in this report?

It seems that we are eager to point the finger at everything except ourselves. Not surprising given today's world without accountability... but nonetheless, very sad.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Air Show at Andrews AFB

I love this country. I love our military. I love airplanes. These three things together make air shows one of my favorite places to visit on Earth. I love the sights, maneuvers and antics of the daredevil planes... but most of all, I love the sound. I love the roar - up close - of aircraft engines. I love hearing the sound of 60,000 lbs of thrust rattling my bones. It makes me emotional, this sound. I can't explain it. It's part pride in what we've accomplished as a nation (both technologically and militarily), and part patriotism from being so close to the mighty power that defends us.

I have compiled a few of the high-definition videos I shot for you to enjoy. Of course, in YouTube they are no longer HD... you'll have to come over to enjoy them in full glory!

Air Force Heritage Flight (4 generations of top Air Force fighters: P51, F4, F15E & F22)

F-22 Raptor Awesomeness

B2 Stealth Bomber