Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L. (emo_snal) wrote,
Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.
emo_snal

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Star Trudge

The Original Series
   Hark! Last night I achieved a cultural accomplishment 66 hours in the making! I have watched the entire Star Trek Original Series. As a fan of science fiction I'd felt for awhile like it was something I should do. I fondly remember watching The Next Generation in the 90s. Since that time I haven't been as fond of the later Star Trek frenchises, but the cultural references to the original series always seemed perplexing yet authoritative, like references to Egyptian hieroglyphs only a very erudite egyptologist could understand. I wanted to be in on these arcane secrets, and verily, I have looked upon these ozymandian works ... and may have despaired if I hadn't started to have it on the second screen while doing other things. Anyway, like the tourist's quick perusal of the Sphinx's mysteries whilst eating at the pizza hut across the street, let me give you my general observations:

   It begins with a "I'm not used to having a woman on the bridge" comment in the first five minutes by then-captain Pike. Certainly anchors it firmly in the sixties right there from the start! One of my favorite classes in college was actually a Soviet film class, which I liked because all the themes were so clearly a product of their time and place (the hero was always a humble worker and themes focused on the group effort), and altogether the whole Original Series was just as much distinctly of the 60s. Themes almost obsessively hit on the triumph of human emotional intelligence over "cold logic," whereupon it was Spock's role to be the foil. It's a real testament to him as an actor that he became so beloved considering he was essentially the fall guy in many episodes. I was annoyed because often what he was claiming to be "logical" and our "heroes" disagreed with was actually clearly illogical and the "right" decision should have been arrived at by his logic anyway. And in at least one episode he ends up in charge of the Enterprize and does so incredibly badly at it for "lack of emotion" that it was really painful to watch and I felt very bad for him and angry at these idiotic writers.
   The theme of over half the first season's episodes seems to be that they've stumbled upon a hyperintelligent race with godlike powers who looks exactly like humans but wants to test our protagonist's heroic benevolence yet again. I felt this same plot conceit was starting to get really old but by the last season they had more interesting plots.
   It's really true that Kirk gets with a woman in nearly every single episode. If an attractive new bridge ensign walks in in the first scene you can sit back and say "oh I guess there will be no attractive alien to seduce in this episode, it will be this girl," and sure enough he smiles leeringly at her and makes some comment about never seeing her before and you know it's on. Again, very interesting insight into a culture where apparently it was laudable for the big boss to be flaunting his sexual sovereignty over all in his domain. Watching from the vantage point of this day and age one just keeps thinking of the rampant HR complaints he would be getting.
   Kirk spectacularly overacts everything. I know this is kind of a meme but seriously he's a terrible actor. And a sub-theme of the series that seems to grow as the series goes on is that Kirk is a smarter better commander than anyone else can possibly be and even if he's not the one writing the scripts it starts to seem kind of tediously self-congratulatory.
   As mentioned, eventually I just had it going on my second screen because the slower pacing of shows back then and plots that I sometimes found annoying made it tedious to try to give it my full attention but I did want to get through all of it.

The Next Generation
   Towards the end of my OST watching really I was just chomping at the bit to get into TNG, of which I had fond memories. And as I'd only caught the tale end of it really, the likes of "Tasha Yare" were just an obscure name from history for me, I wanted to know how does it begin?? As such, I've watched the first episode now and intend to continue on through the series.
   Observations on the first episode: Wow Picard is really kind of a hardass in the beginning. He comes across as stern and scary, though he can turn a sudden smile which is all the more valuble because he was just scaring the bajeezes out of a subordinate. And unless they do a sudden turnaround in episode 2, so far it doesn't look like he's just putting on a scary act to scare the new crew but actually was more stern and scary in the beginning.
   Counselor Troy is like third in command, right after Riker? I don't rememeber the latter episodes all THAT well but I feel like her relative importance must have gone down later, because I remember as more of a background support character and I think Data or someone was the third in command.
   Also no one has gratuitously angered the contemporary HR gods or otherwise seduced any green alien women, though Riker and Troy have been eyeballing eachother something fierce. I guess by 1987 they had figured out that workplace romance is supposed to involve thoroughly mutual desires, unrequited angst, and possibly consummating any acts off-screen on your own time. They also imply the two had a history, which also makes workplace angst more understandable.


And here's a totally unrelated picture that didn't fit in the Dominican Republic entry but I liked it and every entry needs a picture so here it is!

And the Travel Writer From Hell
   Er, I mean "Do Travel Writer's Go To Hell?. After the Bounty I decided to leave the South Pacific for a bit and wander in the darkness of, say, dark ages Europe with John Gardner's Grendel, which I remember hearing about years ago like it was something special. I found it kinda stupid, full of overwrought attempts to be really deeply philosophical. Usually I choose my books based on recommendations or having seen references to them or heard of them but the next one just popped up on the usually terrible Audible "you might also like" list, a book about an aspiring travel writer's first gig, subtitled "A Swashbuckling Tale of High Adventures, Questionable Ethics, and Professional Hedonism." Being very interested in travel writing it sounded interesting, and having just read the Foraging Afar book that was also kind of about one man's voyage into the world of travel writing, maybe it would fit into my usual pattern of reading books on similar themes for comparison.
   It can be hard to judge an audiobook separately from the quality of the narrator, though Grendal had been read by the same narrator I had just been lauding for reading Don Quixote and Typee, and yet even he couldn't make me like Gardner's book. In the case of Do Travel Writer's Go To Hell, the narrator is pretty uninspiring. He reads in kind of a monotone and yet when he comes to what should be a deadpan suddenly he finds the enthusiasm to read it like the "applause" sign has just been turned on, turning what might have been funny into a an eyerolling groaner. He does do varying accents better than _I_ could do a variety of accents, but even there while quoting an Australian it weirdly veered Irish in the middle. So in sum the narrator isn't helping (so if you're using audible and are on the fence about a book narrated by Paul Boehmer run the other way).
   The tone of this book is pretty well established by about the third sentence when he says "and I laid more than my share of fetching local women" or some such. Like, well, okay, that's a crass way to put that but okay. The book begins with the authorho living in Manhattan working for a predatory wallstreet firm like a douchey chadling, when while medatating on the office's conference room table he gets an email from Lonely Planet offering him a gig with advance payment to go to northwest Brazil to update the guidebook. He promptly quits his job, breaks up with his girlfriend of years so cavalierly I am convinced he must be a psychopath, and embarks on a two day drug fueled bender in New York City which he describes every minute of. This girlfriend of several years, he talks up the relationship for two or three sentences, followed by "but really the relationship was [here the narrator pauses for dramatic effect right before very enthusiastically and cheerfully saying the word...] GARBAGE!" and other then a sentence or two explaining how the break up happened (over the phone) she is never again mentioned.
   I'm not going to dissect every part of his book but the first sentence about actually being in Brazil has him waking up next to a naked blonde stewardess there. What I think is noteworthy about this is his editorial decision to start with that rather than leading up to it. Romance and salacious adventures in travel can be good reading, I'll readily recognize that, but starting with the pursuit of her would make more sense to me. To start with her already "conquered" is emblematic of putting braggadocio over narrative. She's not a story element, a goal he as a character pursued, she's a trophy, a tribute to the glory that is the author on the road. Anyway he then gives us a play by play of 48 hours of drug addled binging in Rio (in which, in case there was a chance one didn't fully see him as a megadouche, he sleeps with another girl while this first one is waiting for him back at their room. She then flips out and of course he acts like she's a psycho).
   What's most perplexing is the rave reviews this book has gotten from some major publications, with New York Times saying "A comic rogue who seems to have modeled his life and prose on Hunter S.Thompson's… I could not get enough of the most depraved travel book of the year." and things like "The best-written, funniest book of travel literature since Phaic Tan." ... but what's interesting is in contrast the reviews on goodreads.com more frequently roundly deride the book.
   And to it's credit it's well written enough that I keep reading to see where this goes. I'm actually only about 40% of the way through it (but on day 3 of his countdown to his deadline 60 days away so I guess his pacing becomes more compacted after the beginning), though after perusing some of the reviews, spoiler alert, he apparently continues to mainly binge drink and womanize. And apparently he created quite a scandal because he freely admits he plagiarized or made things up in his travel guide. Looknig at his list of publications I see he has also written the Lonely Planet guide to Venezuela. Oh great.
   But as far as comparative literature goes, Blomstedt in his book did also seem to mention drinking to excess any time his narrative abutted an evening, and being badly hungover any time the morning was mentioned. I had felt Blomstedt shied away a bit too much from mentioning romance we can only deduce was there. Looking back at my own entries I do mention for example meeting and pursuing a beautiful young lady on occasion but generally don't mention waking up beside anyone because that's crass, not actually important to the narrative, and I rather feel disrespectful to the person involved. To trumpet to the world the finer details of one's "conquests" in a published book as Thomas Kohnstamm has done requires a psycopath's disregard for the dignity of all involved.
   But at least by comparison to both these two in terms of alcohol consumption and nights spent partying, my own travels are incredibly straightlaced and mundane, full of going to bed early and never, ever, missing breakfast!

Tags: book reviews, media reviews, star trek, travel writing
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