Monthly Archives: November 2013

Sportsmanship

Carey, Diane - The Great Starship Race (1993 PB)

Carey, Diane – The Great Starship Race (1993 PB) (Photo credit: sdobie)

“I’ll be a good sport and shed my bars when my ship crosses the starting line,” he [James T. Kirk] said, “but until then, you watch your sportsmanship.  Fairness doesn’t get anybody anywhere.  Every running river knows that.  Some rocks get washed away.  Some hold their ground and eventually they turn the river.  Why run a race where everything’s ‘fair’?  You’ll never know how you really did.”

 

Captain James T.  Kirk in Star Trek: The Great Starship Race by Diane Carey

 

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War

Louis L'Amour

Louis L’Amour (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The art of war can be learned,” he told me.  “But after the principles are learned, the rest is ingenuity, the gift that goes beyond learning, or the instinct born of understanding.

“There are good ways and bad ways of attacking fortified positions, of crossing streams under attack, or withdrawing when the situation is no longer favorable.

 

“Learn the accepted modes of attack and defense, then use the variations that are your own.  Masters of battle know what has already been done, then go beyond it with skill and discretion.  Alexander, Hannibal, Belisarius…study them.  They were masters.” – Louis L’Amour, Sackett’s Land

 

James Kirk, Carol Marcus, and Nyota Uhura

Marcus and Kirk

Hey – DiNozzo!

That is my drink!  Hands off! 

First you shortchange me on the Klondike bars, now you go after my drinks – do you want another round of Torture DiNozzo Week?

Then hands off!!

Right.  Now that I have my drink back, we can resume probing the final frontier. 

Yes.  I got Black Widow out of my system.  But I have not gotten The Avengers out of my system.  So don’t expect me to keep talking about Star Trek for the rest of the week.

Come on, DiNozzo!  This is what makes life interesting!  Besides, this is my forum.  I get to talk about whatever I want whenever I want. 

Anyway, back to my real reason for stopping by.  One of the things that I noticed about Into Darkness is how Kirk handles the film’s two leading ladies: Lt. Nyota Uhura and Carol Marcus, Admiral Marcus’ daughter.

In Uhura’s case, Kirk now respects her as a friend.  He is no longer contemplating pursuing her, as he tried to in the first Star Trek movie.  This makes sense; it would not be smart for Kirk to continue chasing her after she so obviously showed her preference for Spock in the previous film.        

One scene that I enjoyed from Into Darkness occurs after Kirk, McCoy, Sulu, and Uhura have returned to the Enterprise in one piece.  It is the scene where the volcano Spock is attempting to stabilize begins to erupt. 

Kirk tries to find a way to safely beam Spock back to the Enterprise from the heart of the volcano, only to come up against numerous physical dead-ends.  As the situation escalates, it is easy to see that Uhura is becoming overwhelmed by her fear for Spock’s life. 

Kirk sees this, too.  He is watching her during the discourse with Spock over the comm. and he sees her beginning to lose control.  He keeps shooting her glances that say, “Hold on!  We’ll get him back!”  A couple of times Kirk even raises his hands to waist level, palm up, as if to say, “Just keep it together!  We’re going to get him!”

When the situation reaches its crisis point, the one where Spock says, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” Uhura nearly bursts into tears.  Kirk looks at her, looks back at the screen, then asks what Spock would do if their positions were reversed.  It is possible that Kirk said this to snap Uhura out of her emotional spiral, trying to get her to concentrate more on saving Spock than on the idea that she would never see him again.  Whether or not that was the point, McCoy jumped into the breach and crassly suggested that Spock would let Kirk die.  This is proved untrue later in the film, but we covered that in my post ‘Into Darkness,’ so I am not going to rehash it now.

After Pike is killed and Kirk gets the Enterprise under him again, the brash young captain discovers that Uhura and Spock are having a fight.  This shocks him.  Actually, it is a bit of a surprise, because in the first film it was implied that Uhura and Spock understood each other very well and had a perfect system of communication.

Not so much so in Into Darkness.  I am with Kirk.  What the heck is it like to be in a lover’s spat with a Vulcan?  I would think it would be absolutely exhausting.

In the end, of course, Uhura and Spock re-establish ‘communications’ and stop fighting.  This is achieved on Kronos, of all places, when she and Kirk both express their disappointment with Spock’s attempt to switch off his emotions.  Ironically, Uhura becomes upset at Spock for controlling his emotions in the volcano when she was fast losing her hold on her own feelings at the same time!

Hollywood lovers’ spats – gee whiz!  How dumb can it get?

Still, I cannot get over Kirk’s attempts to calm Uhura down earlier in the movie.  It is a well-performed scene that shows just how far their friendship has progressed since the first film; Uhura trusts Kirk enough that she will pay attention to him now, and Kirk shows here that he respects her.  I guess it comes of the two of them having a mutual friend in Spock.

That, and even starships are too small for people to completely avoid each other.

Now we come to Kirk’s ‘friendship’ with Carol Marcus.  From the minute he lays eyes on her, the audience can tell Kirk likes her.  For her part, Marcus appears to totally blow him off.

The last time someone blew Kirk off successfully, it was because they already had a boyfriend: Uhura studiously refused all of Kirk’s advances in Star Trek.

This time around, though, Kirk has run into a lady who is very hard to impress.  While Carol Marcus seems to think as highly of Kirk as he does of her, she still keeps him at arm’s length. 

Honestly, I think this may be one of the reasons he likes her so much.  Carol shows more spark during Into Darkness than any of Kirk’s previous dates.  This is established in the shuttle bay when, while discussing the torpedoes her father sent with the Enterprise with Kirk, she begins to get changed after telling him to turn around.

Of course, Kirk’s curiosity gets the better of him and he turns back around too soon.  At which time Carol sternly reminds him in a calm, firm voice, “I said, turn around.”

What she was actually saying was, “You may be the captain of this ship, but I am getting changed.  And that is none of your business because it has nothing to do with the safety of the ship.  So turn around and let me finish.”

Kirk’s regard for Carol grows throughout the film.  When she and McCoy go down to the surface to inspect one of the ‘special’ torpedoes Admiral Marcus gave the Enterprise for this mission, McCoy accidentally triggers the weapon and gets his arm trapped in it.  Although McCoy and the bridge crew urge Kirk to beam Carol aboard the Enterprise to safety, Carol strenuously argues that she be allowed to stay.  And she is doing this as she frantically works to disarm the torpedo.

Deciding to trust in the woman’s talents, Kirk is rewarded when Carol safely defuses the torpedo and frees McCoy.  This scene shows her competence under extreme pressure; I would hate to think of how any of Kirk’s previous girlfriends would have reacted in the same situation. 

Later, Carol again proves her mettle when she attempts to convince her father not to annihilate the Enterprise, arguing that if he wants to destroy it, he will have to kill her with the rest of the crew.

But while Admiral Marcus may be prepared to send the galaxy into the tailspin of war, he proves that he will not harm his daughter when he beams her aboard the Vengeance.  Carol subsequently proves that she seems to have inherited some of her father’s stubbornness when she slaps him to show her contempt for his decisions.  She may be his daughter but she’s still got a firm grasp on the principles he so deliberately tossed aside.

Finally, Kirk shows how much he has come to respect Carol at the end of the film.  When Kirk walks onto the bridge as the crew is preparing for their five year mission, he checks on each member of his command crew individually, finishing with Carol.  Having lost his father when he was an infant, and more recently his father-figure, Admiral Pike, Kirk understands how Carol feels about her father’s death.  When he speaks to her, Kirk makes his tone and words as comforting as possible. 

In this scene, he shows that he does not consider Carol Marcus as simply a friend, or even as a run-of-the-mill one-time date.  He considers her his equal, a woman who can keep up with him no matter where he goes or what he does.  And that shows just how much Kirk has grown during the trials he has undergone throughout Into Darkness.

So where will it go from here?  Beats me, Tony.  But fingers crossed that the next movie is as good as Into Darkness

Yes, I want the next movie to be better than this one.  But if I go in with my hopes as high as the Seattle Space Needle, I may end up disappointed instead of happy.  So I will go in with my hopes small, and either come out with the same amount of satisfaction or with a mountain of satisfaction.  It is much harder to for me to be disappointed this way.

And you know what else, DiNozzo?  It makes the movie all the more satisfying if it exceeds my expectations!

Later,

Mithril

The Science of Heroes

Avengers

Hello, Marvel Writers!

In my last note I mentioned the ongoing torture of our many Marvel favorites.   I cannot help but think that part of the reason you are mutilating the Marvel greats, fellow writers, is because you are attempting to play the role of scientist or psychologist, whichever one of these two you endeavor to shadow.

Here is the basis for this hypothesis of mine.  Some years ago I found an article in an edition of The Saturday Evening Post which talked about heroism.  The first case the writer(s) for the article used to illustrate his/her point was an incident where a man pulled over to put out a fire in the engine of a school bus.  The driver of the car did not know the bus driver, nor did he know any of the children.   But he still made the decision to pull over and assist.

To ask why he and numerous others have done such things is good.  It is always good to ask why someone did something heroic, or why they did something terrible.  This is why stories (whether they are in comic book form or not) are so important.  They are character studies that help the readers better understand the difference between right and wrong.

The problem here comes when the questioners lose sight of their objective, as the writer(s) for the Post did.  As you have done.  The questioners lose sight of the question when they ‘answer’ their question with such things as, “He just reacted.”  Or, “It was his abusive childhood that made him do/not do x.”  Or, “It is a programmed response due the effects of thousands of years of evolution.”

I am sorry, but these are not answers.  People do not simply ‘react’ unless they have either: a) trained themselves to react in a certain way (such as by practicing a family fire escape drill); or b) have been trained to react in a certain way (as soldiers are trained to react to certain situations before they go into the field).  And even then, they have a choice of reactions.

Other cases of ‘reaction’ are actually a combination of the decision to do something (i.e. pull someone free when they are trapped beneath a car) and the ability to keep thinking during a crisis.

Some would call this last instance a fluke.  In a way, they would not be mistaken; people more often than not freeze or panic when they are frightened.  So when someone keeps thinking and finds a way out of a bad situation, they are an exception to the general rule – in essence, a fluke.

In the other cases I referred to above, a person’s environment, previous or current, does not entirely influence their actions.  Case in point for the comics, Hawkeye’s lousy boyhood would suggest to some that he would take up a life of crime instead of a life as a hero, costumed or otherwise.  Did Clint Barton automatically become a criminal when he reached adulthood?  No.  This is because Hawkeye had a choice before him: follow his father, the Swordsman, and the first Trick Shot’s bad examples or choose a better path.

He chose – chose – to become a hero.  And he remains an Avenger, whether he is actively serving on the team or not, to this day.  (Once an Avenger always an Avenger.)  So his past, and the past of other characters, is not a complete or proper answer to his actions in the present.

As for heroism being a programmed response after thousands of years of evolution, it does not answer why one person in a particular crisis would choose to stop and help instead of running away screaming; or maybe even pushing the crisis along a little bit.

Crime shows such as CSI, NCIS, Castle, etc., prove that this theory does not hold water for individuals.  If heroism were an ingrained human response, like the knee-jerk reaction all doctors are familiar with, then there would be fewer crimes committed – on and off screen.

You know, fellow writers, in a way you are scientists.  You are trying to figure out “What causes a man to turn right instead of left at just the time when it is needed; a woman to say yes instead of no; a child to laugh at something instead of running away in fear.” (Star Trek: Crossroad by Barbara Hambly.)  This is the science of philosophy, the search for the truth for its own sake.  The problem here is that you are chasing down all the wrong answers.

So what IS the right answer, you ask?  I think that the right answer is this: it comes down to a choice.  The choice the individual has to make between good and evil.  Why would a child “laugh instead of running away in fear”?  Perhaps he would laugh because there was nothing to be afraid of in the first place, and he recognized this somehow.

Why would a woman “say yes instead of no”?  No is easy to say.  Yes is much harder.  How easy was it for Susan Storm to say ‘yes’ when Reed Richards asked her to marry him?  She could not be sure that they would have children.  If they did, there were certain factors which had to be considered.  The children could be born mutants.  There was, and there remains, the very possible chance that someday Franklin and his sister will be orphaned.  Someday, both Sue and Reed fear that they may have to give their lives so their children can live in relative safety, leaving their two children, whom they love dearly, in the care of others.

Yet the Invisible Woman still said, “Yes.”

Why would a man “turn right instead of left”?  Maybe he went right because the path to the left was just too easy.  Maybe because, “Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.” (Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back).  It is much harder to climb upward than it is to descend downward.  Skiing is good proof of this.  How easy is it to walk all the way up the mountain after going down?  If it were easy, they would not have invented ski lifts.

This is the best answer I have been able to find for the question of why people do heroic things.  Every man, woman, and child has to make a decision between right and wrong.  Characters that choose to do what is right – characters such as Hawkeye, Luke Cage, Falcon, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Wolverine, the Hulk, and oh, so many others – prove that good is the better choice although it is also the harder one.  They stand as witness to the rewards of a hard choice.

Just so, characters such as Trickshot, Sabertooth, Emma Frost, Dr. Doom, Mister Sinister, Magneto, Mystique, the Red Skull, etc., stand as warnings about the cost of taking the ‘easy’ path.  When Hawkeye stands face to face with Trickshot, it is easy to see that, while they are brothers, one is the stronger of the two.  And I will tell you this: it is not Trickshot who stands firmer than his younger brother!

In the end, who would we rather be?  The scarred hero or the comfortable villain (I am thinking about the Kingpin here)?  Even with all its hardship, good has more rewards than evil.

So what will it be, fellow writers, fellow philosophers, fellow scientists of the human condition?  What will your choice be?  Do you continue chasing the red herrings, or do you hunt the fox?

For my part, I will continue to hunt the fox.

EXCELSIOR!!!!

Sincerely,

Mithril (A Philosophical True Believer)

A Bouquet of Quotes

Eternity in an Hour

“When fate’s got it in for you there’s no limit to what you may have to put up with.” – Georgette Heyer

Fear is a tyrant and despot, more terrible than the rack, more potent than the snake. – Edgar Wallace

A realist is somebody who thinks the world is simple enough to be understood.  It isn’t. – Donald Westlake

No stupid man ever suspected himself of being anything but clever. – Thomas Bailey Aldrich, from The Stillwater Tragedy

“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” – Dolly Parton

“You don’t throw away a whole life just because it’s a little banged up.” – Tom Smith, Seabiscuit’s trainer

To be content comes of doing a few things and doing them well. – Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor and philosopher

I have not yet begun to fight! – John Paul Jones

It’s a Start….

Memory Prime

Memory Prime (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Mr. Chekov, you have the conn.”  Spock handed the ensign the log pad and headed for the turbo lift.  “I shall be in the main transporter room.”

“Aye-aye, sir.”  Chekov sat in the captain’s chair and, as soon as the lift doors closed, spun it around to survey his new command, which consisted of Uhura.

“What’s wrong with the commodore?” Uhura asked with a frown.

“Simple,” Chekov replied with an all-knowing shrug.  “I have seen the condition many times in the past.”

“And what condition is that, Dr. Chekov?”

“She is a starbase commander.”  Chekov said it as if it was the complete answer to Uhura’s question.

“Meaning?”

“Meaning she is not a starship commander.”  Chekov smiled widely.  “Such as I am.”

“For the next half hour only, mister.”

“Some may think of it as a half hour,” Chekov said mock imperiously, “but I, on the other hand, prefer to think of it as…a start.”

Exchange between Chekov and Uhura in Star Trek: Memory Prime by Gar and Judith Reeves-Stevens