Star Trek: The Animated Series

I have been using Netflix to re-watch Star Trek.  And I mean all of the Star Treks.  I’ve already completed DS9 and the original series.  Both were excellent.  I just finished the animated series.  I had never seen any of the animated series before, so I figured I’d give my impressions.

For starters, it was weird.  It wasn’t exactly bad, but it certainly wasn’t good.

It made me wonder about copyrights and studios and ownership.  It was clearly Star Trek.  It was called Star Trek.  Gene Roddenberry was listed as executive producer.  But, the theme music was different.  It was clearly intended to sound similar, but it was different.

Larry Niven wrote an episode (The Slaver Weapon).  That’s an awfully big Sci-Fi writer to pen an episode of a second rate cartoon.

The animation was mostly bad.  But it was nice the way they actually had alien looking aliens.

Most of the actors are not really voice actors.  When Nichelle Nichols and Majel Barrett did voices other than Uhura and Nurse Chapel, they sounded just like Uhura and Nurse Chapel.

William Shatner impressed me.  He was the one that seemed to know that voice acting is different than regular acting and rose to the occasion.

There are only 22 episodes.  So, if you’re curious, it is relatively painless.  But, I’d only recommend it to someone who has a strong desire to see everything Trek (like me).

Now, I’m really excited for Next Generation.

David Letterman

I actually know what I was doing on August 30, 1993. I had just arrived at college for my freshman year. I was going through the usual college freshman feelings of fear, nervousness, loneliness, etc. And I had unwittingly signed up for the all black dorm. I wasn’t inclined to care. My roommate was a nice guy. But it became clear pretty quickly that I wasn’t wanted. There was another white guy, Matt, down the hall who was in the same position as I. Only he was a little older, a transfer student rather than a freshman. And he had a TV in his room. Needless to say, we bonded. And it turns out, we were both fans of Stevie Ray Vaughan and David Letterman. That’s as good a place to form a friendship as I can think of. So, on August 30, 1993 at 11:30 at night, I sat in my new friend’s dorm room and we watched Dave premier his talk show on CBS.

I think I’ve watched more episodes of Late Night than any other TV show.  The only thing I’ve probably watched more is NESN’s coverage of the Sox.  It’s been a few years since I’ve watched Dave regularly, though.  I’m old, work two jobs and have a young daughter.  I just don’t stay up that late anymore.  But, starting last week, I’ve been watching again.  It’s the same old show, and I mean that in the best way.  It’s been like hanging out with an old friend.

Tonight is Dave’s last episode.  I will definitely be watching.  David Letterman was my first good college experience and helped me find my first college friend.  Even though Matt and I haven’t spoken in over 20 years, I hope wherever he is he will be watching, too.

The News Media’s Lexicon

I hate the news.  I suppose I don’t hate the news per se, but I really hate the people who deliver the news.  They do a horrifically bad job.  Everyone complains about meteorologists, but their job is really hard.  The weather in incredibly complex and they are trying to tell us things about the future.  The news media, on the other hand, is only supposed to inform us of what has already happened, but they mislead much more often than they inform.

I blame a lot of the misinformation on the vocabulary they use.  One word that consistently bothers me is, “Slam.”  Any time one politician disagrees publicly with another politician, the headline will read, “Smith slams Jones over important issue.”  Sometimes, this is accurate, or as accurate as it can be using figurative language.  I would say that Lloyd Bentsen did slam Dan Quayle with his, “You’re no Jack Kennedy,” line.  Other times it is completely ridiculous.  After the last State of the Union, the headlines said that Boehner slammed Obama by saying, “Veto threats and fantasy land proposals from the White House will not distract the people’s House from the people’s priorities.”  I’m surprised no punches were thrown.  At least he kept Obama’s mother out of it.

The reason this bugs me is because, as a news consumer, I have no sense for what actually happened from reading the headlines.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately while reading the news out of Baltimore.  There are two words that keep getting used, riot and protest, and neither seems right to me.  They seem to show the ideology of the news organization doing the reporting, but they don’t describe what is actually happening.

When I hear the word riot, I think of something senseless.  It is disorganized and destructive.  The people calling what happened in Baltimore riots seem to have a pretty negative view of the people of Baltimore.

When I hear the word protest, I think of something focused.  It is about something specific.  The people calling what happened in Baltimore protests seem to have a pretty positive view of the people of Baltimore.

I don’t think the word riot works because the events weren’t senseless.  It might have been disorganized and destructive (although that’s debatable), but it is clearly understandable.  I don’t think protest works because the events weren’t focused.  Sure, Freddie Gray was the spark, but there was a lot under the surface that led to this.

If I had to put a label on what happened, I would go with outcry.  It seems to capture both sides.  It is almost like a sensible riot or an unfocused protest.  Unfortunately, the news media’s lexicon is so small, they can’t even try for a more accurate word.  And that leaves us all ill informed.

Eastover

I am from a mixed family.  We range from devout Roman Catholics to more-Jewish-than-you-probably-think-of-when-you-think-of-Jewish.  I am neither, but it has given me a different perspective on the different traditions.  This is the week when my family’s different worlds collide.  The biggest holiday of the Christian tradition coincides with one of the big three of the Jewish tradition.  One thing struck me this year, and I’m surprised that I’d never thought of it before.

Last week, I was talking to someone who said, “What do rabbits and eggs have to do with Christ rising from the dead anyway?”  I just shrugged and didn’t think much of it until I was sitting at the Seder the other night.  As I was listening to the thorough explanation of the meal and what each thing symbolizes and why we follow the rituals that we follow, it struck me that this is a major practical difference between typical Judaism and typical Christianity.  Jews always explain their symbols while Christians embrace their mysteries.

If Easter were a Jewish holiday, the Easter Egg Hunt would open with a speech.  And during the speech, someone would say, “And the eggs are hidden to remind us of the long winter and then found to remind us of the rebirth of spring, eggs being used to symbolize new life. . .”  If Passover were a Christian holiday, we’d just get, “Bless us O Lord for these gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord, Amen,” and everyone would start eating.  Someone would then say, “What’s with the matzah?” and everyone would shrug, some older person would say, “It’s tradition!” and everyone would keep on eating.

I don’t really have a preference.  On the one hand, I like a little mystery in my life.  It’s somehow comforting to do things just because that’s how we do them.  On the other hand, it’s nice knowing there is a real reason behind the rituals.  I’m kind of lucky to get both.

Commercials Are Good For You

I don’t hate commercials.  I know that makes me a freak and you probably don’t want to be my friend anymore, but I don’t hate commercials.  As a matter of fact, I often kind of like them.  I really think you should give them a chance.  If you think about them, I’ll bet you’d like them, too. First, I should say that I’m thinking about television commercials, but really this can be applied to any advertising, print, radio, internet, etc.  At their worst, they are a relatively painless way to lower the price of things I enjoy.  At their best, they are as entertaining as the show I’m watching.  I know, the second one is too obvious.  If all commercials were entertaining, everyone would like commercials.  So, I want to focus on the first one.

I was born in the 1970’s.  Cable TV was a thing, but not ubiquitous.  It was in the late seventies and early eighties that cable really exploded with CNN, ESPN, MTV and TBS.  My family didn’t get cable.  I was sort of jealous of my friends who had cable, but not really.  And the reason I wasn’t really jealous is I never felt like I was missing anything.  I’d watch when I had the opportunity, but more as a novelty than as something I wanted.  All of the shows that I cared to watch were on broadcast TV.  24 hour news coverage has always been a bad idea.  ESPN didn’t show any real sports.  I enjoy lumber jack competitions, but not enough to pay for it.  I wasn’t a fan of 80’s pop music, even in the 80’s, so MTV didn’t do much for me.  I would’ve enjoyed being able to watch Braves games, but, again, not enough to pay for it.

By the time I got out of college, things had changed dramatically.  In the nineties, cable showed real programming.  The only way to watch baseball was with a cable package.  ESPN started showing baseball, basketball, tennis, and eventually football.  Cable only stations started developing their own content instead of just recycling old broadcast shows.  It got to the point where I decided I wanted the cable only content badly enough to start paying for cable. I was never really happy with this.  Frankly, NESN and the Red Sox are mostly responsible for all of my cable bills.  The reason I’ve never been happy with this is that I feel like I’m being ripped off.  If broadcast TV can have better shows with better production values and basically the entire cost is covered by commercials, then why am I paying a monthly fee and still sitting through just as many commercials?  It just feels wrong.  But, I love my baseball, so I keep doing it.

Things are changing again.  Cable is losing its dominance, but not in the way I had hoped.  There is all this talk about cable cutters, which sounds great, but it is really moving in the direction that cable started anyway.  There are now a bunch of online TV services like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon and they are all developing exclusive content.  And, from what I understand, this content is really pretty good.  So, if I want to watch it, I need to start subscribing.  But by the time I’ve subscribed to all of them, it will cost me as much as cable.  And they still don’t have live TV, so no sports.  Then, there is Sling TV for live television and supposedly Apple and Google are developing similar products.  These are supposed to be part of the cable cutting movement, but they require subscriptions to watch live TV, so how are they different than cable? What I’m getting at with all of this is there has been a constant march away from the old broadcast TV model that was funded by commercials, and every change has been bad for the consumer.  It makes it harder to get the content you want and more expensive.  And people act like each new development has been great, but why do they think it’s great to have the same product that’s less convenient and more expensive?  It doesn’t make sense.

Now, I’m not saying things should never change.  The internet is a great way to provide TV service.  I remember rabbit ears and fuzzy reception (and no reception) and I don’t want to go back to that.  What I want is for Yahoo’s model to be the one to catch on.  I knew nothing about Yahoo Screen until they signed “Community” for its sixth season.  I was a fan of “Community” on NBC (which is most likely why it always got bad ratings and NBC was constantly messing with their best show).  If I didn’t pay attention to news about the show, I’m sure I never would have heard of Yahoo Screen.  But, last week when “Community” aired, I downloaded the free app and watched the show.  It was great.  In exchange for sitting through a couple Honda commercials, I got to watch a TV show I enjoyed and didn’t have to pay or subscribe or anything.  Anyone with an internet connection can do the same.  This is how television should work.

So, to get back to my main point, I’m grateful for commercials.  I hope they make a comeback.  And I hope others will support them.  We can start a movement of true cable cutting rather than cable switching.  Then everyone will be happy.

My Semi-Annual Daylight Saving Rant

I hate Daylight Saving Time.  I hate everything about it.  It makes my electric bill go up.  It means I have to try to wake up and wake my daughter up while it is still dark.  It means I have to try to put my daughter to sleep while it is still light.  It takes me a full week to adjust.  The days we switch are two of the most dangerous days for drivers and pedestrians.  I hate the fact that the commonly accepted reasons for it don’t make sense.  People talk about farmers, but farmers will work with the sun whether we call it 8 or 9.  They talk about saving energy, but at best it’s a wash and many studies show that it wastes energy.  Everything about it is awful, terrible and makes me a less happy person.

Phenoms

I have two super powers.  One is that I can turn any light red just by approaching it.  I’m a nightmare to drive with.  The other is that I can guarantee a TV show will get low ratings just by enjoying it.  If I enjoy it from the beginning, it will get cancelled before two seasons are complete.  If I don’t like it at first, but grow to like it, it can be Parks and Recreation.

Parks and Rec was a wonderful show.  But, when I watched the show’s premier, my reaction was, “They’ve already made The Office twice.  Do we really need another one?”  I didn’t watch it again for some time, but ran into it by accident.  I was expecting 30 Rock, I think, and I found myself chuckling for 30 minutes straight.  I’ve been a faithful viewer ever since.  I’d like to apologize to the cast and crew right now.  If not for me, you probably would have been the biggest show on TV.

The series finale was great.  It wrapped everything up and reminded me why I liked the show so much.  But, I couldn’t find anyone to talk to about it because no one I know watched it.  That’s kind of frustrating, but it is the way of the world now.  There are no more cultural phenomena.  The last thing that I can think of that qualifies is Santana’s Supernatural, and that was 15ish years ago (I was going to say Harry Potter, but that started before Supernatural and it was also more than 15 years ago).

The things that are supposed to be huge just aren’t in the same way anymore.  I’m not saying that this is a bad thing or a good thing.  It’s just different.  When I was a kid, Gremlins was a phenomenon.  I have never seen the movie, but I know not to get them wet or feed them after midnight.  Frozen is a modern phenomenon.  That means that if you have regular dealings with a prepubescent girl, you have heard “Let It Go” a billion times.  But if you have boys or don’t have kids, you probably don’t know what I’m talking about.  Lady GaGa is supposedly a phenomenon, but I’ve literally never heard one of her songs.  There was no one alive in 1983 who could say that about Michael Jackson.

Like I said, this isn’t really good or bad.  But, after watching the Parks and Rec finale it did make me a little sad.  This show was truly one of the all time great shows.  It deserved to have people start saying, “Treat yo’ self.”  It deserved to have people start calling each other, “workplace proximity acquaintances.”  I’m going to miss it.  I just wish I had others to miss it with me.