Tag Archives: star trek

The Reading of Books # 24

So, another series of books devoured, this time Bernie Sanders, Matt Taibbi, John Scalzi and Dayal Patterson’s work was in my sights.

Bernie Sanders – Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In

source: Goodreads

I became aware of Bernie Sanders quite late during the campaign, but something about this Vermont senator struck me quite soon. It’s that unabashed honesty, hard-working mentality and no crap attitude of the man that truly humbles anyone who follows what he does. Bernie is not for sale and Bernie genuinely worries about the people he represents. This book is therefor not some hollow rhetoric by an establishment politician. I would even argue that Bernie might nog have even put his face on the cover if he could avoid it. Sanders wanted to talk about issues, about change and about a grassroots movement that was looking for something new. This is something rather close to my own politics and I felt strong affinity to the Sanders campaign after reading this.

The book is part diary, where Sanders really describes his own experiences and life in a rather sober manner, the way the man is when asked about himself. Sanders focusses on his politics, even when its persona and that makes him such a specific specimen. He rarely pats himself on the shoulder and when he does, he always includes others. It’s  a pleasant read of a straight talk politician. The other half is his politicas and vision, so a more manifesto like article. In this part Sanders also takes all the time to really explain those views in detail. I’ve had bad hopes for the future, but the succes of Bernie’s campaign, the grassroots movement and these good ideas make me feel that we can sort it all out. A great book for those interested in finding out more about what is happening in the United States among real people. Worth your time for sure.

source: goodreads.com

John Scalzi – Redshirts

Imagine that you are living your life the way you feel it should go, only to realise that all of it was leading up to the inevitable and horrible death of you in a situation that screams irrationality. Imagine that you realise that going on a mission with the officers of your star ship leads to an almost certain death. Well, that’s pretty much the world that the characters of Redshirts live in. It is surprising that when officers come in looking for members to go on a ‘away team’, a lot of the crew disappears. That is not even the weirdest stuff that happens, There’s even a box that goes ping and solves complex, scientific mysteries. It only works in the nick of time though, as if to provide Dramatic effect. A very peculiar situation indeed.

This is an interesting and highly entertaining read by Scalzi. A group of redshirts realise that they are… redshirts. It creates a strange series of stories, where reality becomes the most trivial part. Real or not real, people are dying because of bad script writing. That is the main theme of the book, but the way Scalzi takes that and runs with it is just amazing. The characters really become real and every cliché is present in a hilarious journey. What I liked best about this book is actually the added parts, where characters from the story reiterate their experiences from their perspectives. It leads to philosophical, but also very human passages, that show science fiction is more than just fun and still holds interesting aspects for our reality. This is by far one of the most fun books I’ve read in a while, so this is indeed highly recommended.

Dayal Patterson – Cult Never Dies: The Mega Zine

source: goodreads.com

I was a bit puzzled by this choice to do a Mega Zine, for a bunch of reasons. First of, the word magazine always makes something more contemporary, more fleeting and less urgent, where I like that Patterson works on a continuous series of works on documenting extreme metal. Secondly, it results in a cover that looks less fitting in my  collection. Now, after having read it I also have to say that it really downplays the fact that is is very close related to the previous titles. Actually it’s a great addition with bands that simply don’t fit the regular categories you imagine with the black metal genre. In this book Patterson interviews some of the most peculiar groups from the grand and intriguing black metal scene.

Interesting fact is that the author adds other interviewers to this book, doing the work he’s pursuing with more knowledge and experience with certain bands. It makes the titanic work of documenting the scene more managable, but creating a matching format and form of expression does become more daunting. There are no problems with that though in this book, with bands lik Reverend Bizarre and Slegest to the strange organ sounds of Lychgate. The includees in this book do feel slightly random, but it’s what you get with the strange and the weird. Another great book for the lovers of the dark and heavy music genre.

Matt Taibbi – Insane Clown President

source: goodreads.com

It seems like an easy title, but Matt Taibbi really followed the tornado of madness that ravaged America in 2016. Taibbi is a writer for Rolling Stone Magazine, who has indeed been on the bus during the elections in the United States. Watching the burning car wreck of a result that this created, Taibbi looks back at those elections and gives his critique, but not without taking part of the blame himself as member of the writing press, who are definitely part of the rise of Trump thanks to their hungry camera lenses and continuous interest in the most maddening campaign the elections in the States have ever seen. Taibbi looks at the history of writing in the political business, of media attention and previous campaigns to find out about a disturbing path that all of this has been following for a long, long time.

It was never jus about Trump, it was about the victory of the spectacle over content. Outrage triumphing over decency and one-liners before truth. It’s a monumental power switch from the elite to the uneducated, the disenfranchised… People picking instead of a sort of semi-decent system, a completely abyssal insanity as their future. Why the fuck did Trump appeal to these people? Well, he definitely didn’t charm them alone, he was the most remorseless, insane and outrages candidate of 16 terrible options.  This book is filled with great essays about different stages in the electoral proces, which are filled with venom and wit from experienced writer Taibbi. It’s the postmortem of the American dream, the end of equality and the start of the  white nationalist dark ages. God save us all from the clown car’s master… but worse, from ourselves. This book is really for you, if you like the black humor of the time and age we live in. Enjoy.

Star Trek Beyond and Spock: a reviewism

Stardate 24 december 2016, Captain’s log. For those who have read the more nerdy bits on my blog before, you already know that I’m a Star Trek fan. I had not watched Beyond yet and not really penned anything about the death of Leonard Nimoy. Christmas seems to be as good a time as any to do so.

Christmas time is an odd time for me. It’s a moment where everything winds down.  Suddenly the time presents itself to do some things you normally never get around to. For me this is particularly so. So yesterday I cancelt the christmas party at work, didn’t go to two great shows in Eindhoven, but instead crashed on the couch with a glass of stout, a pizza and Star Trek Beyond.

[Spoiler Alert: though I tried to keep things foggy]

Star Trek Beyond

I’m someone who grew up with Generations, not The Original Series, so I have a bit more of a modern view on the show perhaps than others. Also, I did see TOS as a child, so characters like Spock, McCoy and Kirk are as vividly present in my subconscious as those of other childhood heroes from other universes. Still, I liked the intellectual quality of Star Trek. It was a static show, hard to get into sometimes, but so rewarding if you were in the flow of things. It was rather opposite the ‘other fandom’  of Star Wars, with its lightsaber wielding, blaster bursting action.

The rebooted series lacks that static element and is as action packed as any Hollywood blockbuster of these days. I remember reading in Leonard Nimoy’s biography, how he felt that Star Trek gave people something to think of. This was his biggest pride in the series, the fact that scifi changed reality. This part is hard to see on first glance in the new film. The characters, don’t get me wrong, are great picks. They really fit the shoes they’re stepping into. Maybe for me Chris Pine as Kirk does lack some of the bravado that William Shatner has, who did of course make his name as a Shakespeare actor.

So the action packed story is great, though perhaps slightly unlikely, but so are the original Star Trek films. Perhaps the near-death experiences are a bit too numerous. Where old Kirk took gambles, that luckily worked out, new Kirk jumps into the fire and rolls out unscathed a bit too often. But that’s part of the spectacle of current day cinema, particularly the fantastic. Simon Pegg was co-writer on this film. Regarding his view on nerd culture, that might be a good thing for the future, keeping Star Trek in line with its past.

To equality and beyond

But to the subtext, are there still provocative elements in Star Trek? Well, though Uhura would be the sexy lady of the film, she is now also a strong, independent woman, not just that one at the intercom. Looking back, that was something new in TOS, a woman in a professional position, but in a way it was a glorified secretary.

Sulu meets his ‘husband’ (implied by the fact the two have a child), which of course still counts as controversial in many parts of the world. It is peculiar to know though that George Takei’s homosexuality was never part of the show (though many will say it was evident). Takei didn’t like the decision, because it was contrary to the characters history and identity, and rightly so. So though it was intended as being forward thinking, the result feels forced and not very sincere.

So what remains? There is a story arch, culminating in a fight between Kirk and a former soldier, who believes war is what shapes us and can’t deal with the peaceful way the federation works. The obvious triumph of Kirk can be read as peaceful means of bureaucracy to be always preferable over war. It suggests that flawed organisations like a NATO or the fledgling EU are atleast attempts at something that is better than the sword. As a friend of mine told me once: “Ask any veteran who has seen battle, they’ll all tell you that to prevent war any alternative is better, any situation is preferable over war…”.

United in diversity… Food for thought for a generation or perhaps two that only knows discontent in peaceful times.

Also, before I forget to mention, the actor who plays Chekov, Anton Yelchin, died before the release of the film in an accident due to a problem with his car. No recasting for Chekov follows in the future.

Spock

One scene that makes an impact, is where the young Spock is informed of the old ambassador Spock’s death. A wordless scene, only briefly a picture of Leonard Nimoy shows on the screen as the elder Spock. There’s a moment that touches you. Nothing needs to be said, but Star Trek itself needed this good bye. We’ve said goodbye to Nimoy and now also to Spock.

The next mourning, I watched Star Trek II: Wrath Of Khan, with the end scene where Spock dies as well in the reactor chamber. It now really hit me that Spock is gone with Leonard Nimoy. Sure, Zachary Quinto is an excellent actor, but he is not Spock. The loss finally really sank in for me and it saddened me greatly.

A legacy

Leonard Nimoy has for me become someone who is larger than life. I read his biography’s and even though he’s just a man with failings, he is also a role model. He did so much in his life, which is hugely inspirational. I love how he spent his latter years exploring poetry and photography and vigorously opposing smoking. His first biography was titled ‘I’m Not Spock’. In this Nimoy is denying the connection between him and the character (check my bits on those books here). This book was difficult and felt like an identity crisis, but also conflicted on different levels. In the following book, 20 years later, Nimoy was free of those concerns. The title is ‘I am Spock’ and in it Nimoy embraced Spock as a part of Nimoy (and I guess of Nimoy as part of Spock).

It shows that unique thing that fantasy can do, which is to change the real world. To affect real people and inspire millions. Spock has become an entity, that used Nimoy as a conduit, or vice versa. He is fictional, but he can’t be, because he impacts the world, no? Maybe our fantasy is much more powerful than we know. That’s what I learned from Spock.

It’s like losing a father figure in a way, someone you truly look up to. Not like a child, blind to the failings of the man, but seeing them as character, like an adult. . I’m glad that there was a good bye moment. I’m not sure if the future of Star Trek will rekindle the fire of passion in me that I felt for it. Let’s hope so though.

Live Long and Prosper.

source: Trekcore.com

[END of Spoiler Alert]

There is a documentary out on the life of Nimoy/Spock, titled ‘For the love of Spock’, made by Nimoy’s son.

 

The Reading of Books #16

I read some interesting books from Leonard Nimoy (twice about Spock), Dostojevski’s ‘The Idiot’ and a theory about Hitler escaping to Argentina.

Williams, G & Dunstan, S. – Grey Wolf: The Escape of Adolf Hitler

source: goodreads.com

It’s the topic of many films and books, most in high fantastic approach, that the nazi’s somehow escaped. To the moon even, if we may acknowledge the film ‘Iron Sky’. With this sensationalist book the writers have posed that Hitler did indeed escape in an elaborate plot to Argentina and lived hout his life there. The truth of this book has been highly disputed and ridiculed by historians. There are plenty of sources though, that state a similar truth. IN fact, there is also public FBI files on the topic. When dealing in absolutes, these still make it highly unlikely that Hitler did escape.

So reading this book should be done as if reading a historical ‘what if’ story, with a string of factualities that might, possibly lead to an alternative ending. The writers are clearly from a journalistic angle and there for really know how to sell the story to you. You’ll find yourself considering the reality of their version highly likely at some point. It’s a captivating read, but should not be confused for fact. Really, it shouldn’t be. There is a lot of dirt to be found in regard to the third reich and its decline and this book is trying to dust of one of the biggest questions concerning the possible escape of Hitler. It’s well written, exciting and full of accounts to prove the theory.
Well worth reading, but probably not believing unless you like tin foil hats.

Fyodor Dostojevski – The Idiot

source: goodreads.com

I’ve been enjoying a bunch of Russian classics lately and I still find them hard to read often. Not because they are boring, but it’s endless details and focus on the internal turmoils of the characters, the focus on the feelings and expressiveness and the endless superlatives that come with it can be exhausting. Ever since Iggy Pop’s ‘The Idiot’ came up as Ian Curtis’ suicide record I’ve been intrigued by the title and the link of that title to the book. It’s far fetched, but I’ve always felt this might get me in touch more with things from that time. So this is one of the Dostojevski books I’ve read and enjoyed.

The book focusses on Prince Mishkin, who is to all extents and purposes an idiot, a simpleton and a fool. This allows for the society he takes part in a strange touch stone with a guy they can just make fun of and mock, but who turns out to have a much deeper understanding of peoples drives and motivations than any other. Unfortunately not of his own and the story continues while everythign unravels and pretty much everyone ends unhappy and dispersed. It’s writing style is elaborate and rich, focussing much on the main few characters. The other characters are even more made fools, flat figures with good harts but little touch with reality, creating a strange disconnected feel for the reader. A recommendation for the Russian literature afficionado, but not one to take lightly.

Leonard Nimoy – I am Spock

source: goodreads.com

I have never been big on biographical works, but the autobiography of Leonard Nimoy was one I could’t miss out on. So I got myself the audio version, read by the man himself. It’s a glorious account of a wonderful life by Nimoy, from his childhood days to directing Star Trek. It deals with the struggle he had with the character Spock and is a direct reply to his previous book, titled ‘I Am Not Spock’. The embracing of this character and making it a part of himself is a heartfelt account of personal identity, acceptance and knowing the self.

Nimoy describes the troubled history of the original series, the switches in directors and the inevitable end the show was heading for. He also is very clear about his strong affinity with the character and his commitment to making it work, causing conflicts with the directors and writers but which have made Spock the beloved character we all love and adore. He is funny enough very limited on his personal life, which is fine but noteworthy. The funniest bits are the dialogues with himself, with Spock and Nimoy, who discuss certain issues with eachother. This is a great listen or read for lovers of Star Trek, but really for any human being that wants to see how far integrity and honesty get you in life. Live Long and Prosper.

Leonard Nimoy – I Am Not Spock

source; Goodreads.com

Strange choice ofcourse, to read the latest autobiography first and only then focus on the original. Well, I did so anyways, which was regrettably not too rewarding. Where the second edition is narrated by Nimoy himself, on this original you’ll have to make do with another guy. He tells you in big lines the same story as told in ‘I Am Spock’, but allows no doubt to exist about Nimoy’s struggles with the character and firmly keeps the door to the future shut.

Where Nimoy seems elated and free in his later autobiography, this one seems apologetic, difficult and written in a time of struggle. Turns out later that this was actually the case. What I did enjoy in this biography, which was lacking in the later edition, is Nimoy’s passionate descriptions of his love for photography and how he started on it and the pivotal role it played in his carreer. It ironically shows a man much more like Spock than the jovial Nimoy in his later version of the life story.