Thursday, September 22, 2016


Friday Fragments

Star Trek’s 50th anniversary just passed.  I’ve enjoyed introducing it to the rest of the family.  The Girl really enjoys the Kirk/Spock version, as do I, and it’s fun to see which ones she responds to.  

Recently, for various unbloggable reasons, I’ve been thinking a lot about the episode with Kirk and the Gorn.  An alien race kidnaps Kirk and a zipper-backed lizard man called the Gorn, and arranges for them to battle to the death for their own amusement.  As styrofoam rocks fly and dramatic music swells, the two duke it out, trading temporary advantage.

The turning point comes when Kirk has the Gorn on its back, a wooden stake ready to sink into its chest.  Just before the killing blow, Kirk stops, and tells the aliens that he refuses to kill for their amusement.  Morality matters more.

The aliens decide that there’s hope for him yet, and let them both go.

The Girl and I were both struck by the courage to rise above adrenaline and vengeance.  It has to be a conscious choice, but we can choose it.

There’s hope for us yet, and we don’t even need to throw styrofoam rocks to find it.


Apparently, a few major metros are considering rules to require low-wage service sector employers to provide work schedules at least two weeks in advance.

Yes, please.

I’ve had too many conversations with or about students whose work hours changed abruptly, and whose coursework was thrown into chaos.  

And I’ve read too many policy discussions that assume that you can multiply minimum wage by 30 or 40 and figure out someone’s income.  That’s not how these jobs work.

In addition to being poorly paid, they’re erratic.  Some weeks are busy, and some weeks you’re lucky to get ten hours.  The hours change, making stable class schedules -- let alone child care -- much harder to manage than they should be.  

Two weeks is far less than a semester, but it’s far more notice than many low-end workers get now.  It at least offers a fighting chance.  A student who approaches a professor with an anticipated crisis a week ahead of time is in much better shape than one who brings it up after the fact.  

It brings costs, as any new rule would, but the social good would be considerable.  Yes, please.


Like any erstwhile political scientist, I’ve been following Nate Silver’s this election season.  It mostly focuses on the election, but occasionally it tries something else.  I’m thinking maybe it should stick to elections.

It did a survey to determine the most “re-watchable” movies of all time.  (Star Wars was the winner.)  As one might expect, it’s terribly, terribly wrong.

Star Wars is fine, of course, and it’s hard to argue with The Godfather or The Princess Bride.  But not a single Monty Python?  Not even MP and the Holy Grail?  Puh-leeze.  It lists The Sound of Music, which I can’t endure even once, and leaves off Monty Python?  Phooey.

Heathers, Office Space, Blazing Saddles -- not a single one.  But The Avengers makes the list?  Pshaw.  I’m almost as upset as Milton when he discovers his red stapler is missing.

Nate Silver is a good social scientist, but no.  


The Girl: “After I write my first book…”


Gotta love the "Gorn" episode, in the hi-def Blueray from film edition. You can spot every flaw when you see it as it was filmed rather than they way it looked on a black and white TV with rabbit ears.

Odd list. Did you look deeper, and notice that "Sound of Music" is pushed up toward the top by women, who gave it 50% more votes than men gave their #2 choice?

Looks to me like this is a list made up of fanboys and fangirls who haven't seen very many movies. Why "Pulp Fiction" (21 from men and 8 from women) and "Goodfellas" (16 from men and 6 from women) instead of "No Country for Old Men" or "Full Metal Jacket"? Pretty even as far as being able to turn it on for a random 20 minutes and getting some dramatically interesting impending gore.

More to the point, I doubt if the people who rank "Gone With the Wind" up at the top of movies to watch many times have ever seen it in its entirety in a theater. I have, and the pacing is interminable if you have to stay in your seat the entire time. They probably only recall highlights that they would like to see again, like the burning of Atlanta or the death of a child. iMDB has it at #157.

So I wonder if any of them have seen any of the classics from the iMDB top list, movies like "The Apartment" or "Rear Window" or "Sunset Boulevard" or "Witness for the Prosecution" or "The Big Lebowski". I can watch any of those over and over, and those aren't even at the top of my re-watch list. (Well, one is.) But there are also a few top films, like "12 Angry Men" and "Paths of Glory", that I love and highly recommend but can't stand to re-watch.
I like the Sound of Music and I've watched it many time since I was a kid. As I've grown up I've identified with different characters - Kurt, the youngest boy; Liesl, the eldest girl, Maria and later on the Baroness - it easier to recognise their point of view when you're their age. It's probably because the women's roles in the movie are many and varied and strong - they make big life decisions for themselves - that many women like it especially as it came out in the 60's.

There aren't many men's roles in the movie that make them out as heroes - only the Captain is ready to rise above Nazi-ism whereas all the other men seem ready to embrace it and act to make others embrace it. So I can see why men don't particularly like the movie.

But then, I'm also Catholic, and it's nice to see my culture on the screen in a sympathetic way.
"Arena" (the title of the Gorn episode) is a good one! Star Trek's original series had a lot of good messages; I love the message about not judging by appearances that's in "The Devil in the Dark" and Kirk's "We're not going to kill TODAY" speech from "A Taste of Armageddon." The 12-step approach to murder! :-)

I fell in love with Star Trek in general and Mr. Spock in particular in 1969, when I was eleven. In 1986, I moved into a TV-free household and lived there for a couple of decades, so although I've loved the original series for a very long time, I'm just now starting to watch other Star Trek series.

So far, the other Star Trek shows are just TV to me; they don't have the glow about them that the original series does, possibly because I'm a lot older than eleven now. :-) At eleven, I took it all in uncritically and simply adored it, whereas when my middle-aged self watches the other shows, she's no longer able to take it in uncritically. I guess there's a reason why we need to be careful what we expose children to! Now please go show The Girl "The Devil in the Dark." ;-)
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