Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Star Trek XI: The Reboot

Dear Readers,

If there's one thing that Star Trek* fans hate, it's continuity errors. You know, like if in episode X someone says that Deep Space Nine was built in 2346 and in episode Y someone else says it was built in 2351. You see, we like Trek, and therefore we pay attention. Now, I'm the kind of fan that likes to look at the larger ethical and social issues discussed instead of tracking a timeline of the production of space stations, but even I can't help but be annoyed when Data uses contractions even though it's clearly stated that he is incapable of doing so (and this inability is a major factor in various episodes). Glaring contradictions in history, dates, character traits, and the like make us fans feel like we care more about Star Trek than the writers and producers do, or that the writers and producers don't realize the attention we pay to the shows in the first place, and we hate that. Furthermore, they know that we hate that. So I'm just a little confused when Paramount announces that the next Star Trek movie is going to be a reboot of the franchise.
For those of you who are unaware, a reboot occurs when The Powers That Be clear the slate and start all over again, taking the bare bones of the franchise and doing whatever they want with it. This means that the writers have an incredible amount of freedom and will have the chance to make Star Trek into what they believe will be more accessible (read: marketable) to a new potential fan base. Basically, they want to attract people who haven't already watched the 700-plus episodes and ten movies that comprise the franchise, believing the old fan base has had their fill of Trek and can no longer do anything but buy DVDs and action figures.
First of all, I find it hard to believe that it is necessary to trash 40 years of well-loved stories and characters in order to make way for something that may or may not work. Star Trek as it was originally conceived has managed to withstand the test of time, and I really fail to see why it is suddenly so inaccessible. One of the advantages that Star Trek has always had in the first place was its innate timelessness. Because it is set in the future and deals with universal themes, it has the unique ability to transcend the time in which it was originally produced. Now, I realize that some episodes are dated because of their special effects, but the majority might as well have been made yesterday. I don't see how material that timeless could be considered inacessable. TPTB may think that it is impossible to continue to build upon the franchise, as all of the ideas have been so so completely exhausted that it is impossible to come up with more. Two words: fan fiction.

Second, the idea that you have to watch every single episode in order to be a fan is complete bunk. A new Star Trek fan can be made in the time it takes to watch a single episode. I've considered myself a hardcore fan all of my life, and even I didn't get around to seeing all of TOS (The Original Series) until recently. Sure, there are fans who criticize the newbies, but most of them don't realize that some of us weren't alive until well after 1969. Ignore them. All that is needed, in my opinion, is a good movie that can stand on its own two feet, draw the attention of the masses (if Matt Damon is needed, so be it), and create an interest in the franchise that would eventually lead to the other incarnations. The current writers seem to think that this is impossible without wiping the slate clean. I think that we need new writers.

Third, I think that one look at the Trek fans today would be incontestable proof that we are not only still interested in the Star Trek that has already been made, but also that we are hungry for more Star Trek to come. Take a look around. We're so hungry we're making our own episodes out of our own time and money, for Pete's sake! Nothing says "hungry for more" like average people who wear Spock ears and build CGI starships at near-professional quality.

So that's the rundown. I realize it's unfair for me to judge a film that is still in pre-production, but it's just not looking good so far. I'll be satisfied when we get to see what happened to Voyager.
Best wishes, regards, and pet peeves,

-Cecily Jane

P.S. And in the category of Reboots, the Thanks-for-Sharing Award goes to . . .

Ronald Moore for his comments on why he left Star Trek to reboot Battlestar Galactica:

"[T]hey just love torture and rape and killing babies . . . I have been allowed to do the show I want to do."

*I'm using Star Trek here to refer to all of the shows under that name, just to be clear. This means Star Trek, Star Trek: The Animated Adventures, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise, and the ten Star Trek films.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Sister Moment #1: Adventures in English

My Dear Reader,

As you may very well know by now, HermanaMayor and I are both English majors, which has its positive and negative aspects to it. On the negative side, I have the same major as my sister. On the positive side, we can edit each other's papers, and we end up being stuck late in the library together when it comes time for finals. So last time finals rolled around, there we were, in the library on a Saturday night writing papers like good sisters do. I was doing research on a poem by William Blake and getting nowhere, and she was writing a paper on The Rings of Saturn by Sebald and something else I don't remember. As we were sitting back to back in the computer lab, HermanaMayor tapped me from behind. She asked me how I was doing with my paper, and I told her I was about to pull my hair out. I asked her how she was doing, and she gave a similar response. Then we decided that it might be a nice change of pace if we switched places.

Now, I wasn't about to go and write HermanaMayor's paper for her or anything (plus, I hadn't read the book, so it wouldn't have done much good), but I thought maybe I'd write something that would give her an idea on what she could write, as that was what her problem was in the first place. So going from the outline that she wrote, just started writing whatever popped into my head. The result was the following paragraph:

"Sebald’s setting in his novel, however, is so ambiguous that even Sebald himself has trouble keeping up with it. This is evident by his cries of 'and what was I talking about again?' and 'Who am I? What is my purpose in life? I need to get 112 pages out to my publisher by Monday and all I have so far are two sentences about how Vogel ate a carrot for breakfast. So I think I’m going to change the setting around here, mainly because I forgot where we were last time' (156, 9875). In the novel, the main character seems to be in this setting, by page 76, however, he is obviously not there anymore, as he talks about being on a beach and going surfing when before we thought he was in Minnesota sipping tea with grandma. By page 145, the setting seems to have changed again, when Sebald describes a violent snowstorm, causing the reader to wonder how it could possibly snow on the beach. When confronted with a seemingly nonsensical setting such as this, the reader can become confused and want to throw the book at a despised enemy or treasured loved one, but luckily Sebald has enough writing skill to keep the setting ambiguous in a way that is more confusing than enraging, or otherwise he would probably be sued for malpractice. This creates a somewhat ethereal effect on the reader, as the setting turns into some kind of dreamy wasteland full of billy goats and hippies. There is obviously a reason as to why Sebald decides to do this, and this is what I’m eventually getting to. The reason is simply that Sebald hates us and wants us to die without running the risk of being sued for malpractice. I guess that if you want a narrator who loves you, you’d have better luck reading Dr. Seuss."

Okay, so I was probably having too much fun with that, but there you go. Classic words straight from the brain of Cecily Jane.

In the meantime, HermanaMayor actually helped me find some useful articles. Go figure.

Regards, best wishes, and the sebald code,

-Cecily Jane

*This leads to the misconception that either we are exactly alike or that I was so desperate to choose a major that I just copied her. First of all, there are many big differences between HermanaMayor and I, even in the way in which we each approach the major. For example, I can spell. She can't. She does outlines and pre-writing. I don't. She is on the reading side, and hates writing, while I push myself through the reading so I can get to the writing that I love so darn much. In the end, she's going to law school, and I'm hopefully going to sell a book, so yeah, we've got some differences there. Secondly, it took me three years to choose my major because I really didn't want to choose the major my HermanaMayor chose. I chose the English major because I tried doing just about everything else and it just wasn't working. After that, I avoided actually declaring my major until the beginning of my fourth year of college because I was so embarrassed about having the same major as my sister. So there.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

You Know You Live in Utah When . . .

My Dear Reader,

You know you live in Utah when your hair is bigger than your waist, or when your best hair products are high in protein and cholesterol and come from the fridge.

You know you live in Utah when the weather report is the most exciting part of the 11:00 news.

You know you live in Utah when you go to see what they have to sell at the sell, or you just bought a new four-weller, or you want to praise the lard and sing all hell to Jesus' name.

You know you live in Utah when you put the play in pleasure.

You know you live in Utah when you start talking about Relief Society or Nephi or BYU in the supermarket and the people around you actually know what you're talking about.

You know you live in Utah when everyone around you asks what it's like to be an only child.

You know you live in Utah when you and your soda pop are on a last-name basis.

You know you live in Utah whenever anyone utters the phrase "Oh my heck!"

You know you live in Utah when you get brownies at your doorstep at least once a week, or when you're sick and five separate people show up at your door with chicken soup.

You know you live in Utah when you only have to lock your doors on Sunday during church.

You know you live in Utah when your neighbor gives you a 2-liter of root beer dressed up as Rudolph for Christmas*.

You know you live in Utah when you consider hanging out a sin, or when you're over 20 and single and people give a care.

You know you live in Utah when a question asked is not as important as the creative way in which it was presented.

You know you live in Utah when everyone plays some kind of musical instruments, or when the ward actually has talent.

You know you live in Utah when people use apostasize as a verb and recommend as a noun as if they're actually supposed to be used that way.

You know you live in Utah when people pass on the right, run red lights, and think of turning signals as an added bonus.

You know you're in Utah when license plate frames that say things like RULDS2? are completely pointless.

Regards, best wishes, and signs of warning,

-Cecily Jane

*Okay, that's a true story; it happened to my aunt. It was a very cute Rudolph.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

An Extremely Awkward Experience

My Dear Reader,

I suppose that I could tell you that I'm the most awkward person on the face of the planet, but luckily enough for me I've met enough people that I know that's not the case. I think that if I was on an awkward scale of one to ten, ten meaning Fonzi and one meaning Steve Urkel, I'm probably somewhere in the neighborhood of a six*. This means that I am comfortable around boys only when it's clear that we're just friends, and that I am constantly sticking my foot in my mouth without knowing exactly how to get it out again. Every once in a while I'll run into a person at level four or five, and I love it. Now, I know it's wrong, but I get a certain satisfaction from knowing that there are people out there who are more awkward than I am. And then, of course, I always try to be extra nice to them because I know what it's like to be in their shoes.

For example, in my job at the Missionary Training Center (where we train the guys who show up at your door in ties and name tags), I often see missionaries with name tags in many different languages. Each missionary has a name tag with the Church's name written in whatever language they are assigned to speak in their assigned area, and I can recognize the Spanish, French, Mandarin, Japanese, and other languages, but I also see a lot that I can't recognize at all. A while ago, I saw a missionary wearing a name tag in words I didn't recognize, so I stopped him and asked him to satisfy my curiosity. The situation went something like this:

Cecily: Hey Elder**, what language is that on your name tag?
Elder: It's Croatian***.

Now, at this point, he had stopped as if he expected to start talking with me about Croatia, and not only do I know next to nothing about Croatia, but I also I hadn't expected to start a conversation on the subject. I could have just said something like, "That's great!" and moved on with my life, but I wasn't sure what to do, and I made the mistake of letting sound escape from my lips before I had figured out what I was actually going to say:

Cecily: Oh, wow, that's . . . great. You're . . . going . . . to be . . . one of the few . . . Americans . . . in . . . Croatia?
Elder: I'm not American.

Now a bad situation got worse. At the MTC we accommodate every missionary who needs to learn a language for their mission, and since the membership of the church is worldwide this means that we have missionaries from everywhere between Samoa to Spain. So even though I swear he looked and spoke just like your typical American, I had just insulted his heritage and dug my hole just a little deeper:

Cecily: Oh . . . well . . . uh . . . where are you from?

I was originally going to guess Canadian but thought better of it. I'm glad that I did:

Elder: I'm from Sweden.
Cecily: Wow, that's . . . great. You have, like, a really great accent. . . . Is English your second language?
Elder: Yes.
Cecily: Well, that's just . . . that's great. You fooled me! I thought you were . . . well . . . you have a great day Elder.

What I really meant was that his English was impeccable and would he mind if I just curled up and died? But I was still able to stop talking, which was what I desperately needed to do.

I have tried to figure out what creates awkward situations, and while I've come up with explanations such as a lack of experience or a brain that runs faster than the mouth, I think the best explanation I can come up with is that awkward people generally have a small comfort zone, and when a person is uncomfortable with something, people get nervous and things become awkward. And people usually become uncomfortable when they break one of the unwritten rules of society. If you don't believe me, try standing in a crowded elevator with your back facing the door, and you will experience what it's like to break one of those unwritten rules. We have these rules for everything, especially when it comes to conversations. That's why it's awkward to talk about a certain thing with a stranger when you can have the same conversation with a very close friend without a worry, and vice versa. So I guess I need to expand my comfort zone? I'm not sure about how to do that one. I've got to think about that some more. Anyway, the entire purpose of this story was to provide you with a story that will let you know, Gentle Reader, that there are people out there who are more awkward than you are, and I think I've accomplished at least that much.

Regards, best wishes, and Croatian,


*I'm just hoping that life grades on a curve.

**All Mormon missionaries spend their entire mission being called by their last names only, and instead of using a first name, they use their title. The men are all called Elder, because that is the priesthood office that they hold while on their mission. The women are all called Sister, because they don't hold the priesthood and because it acts as a reminder that we are all the children of God. I have some guesses as to why it's done this way, but I'm not sure.

***Okay, so I don't really remember what the exact language was, but it was something like Croatian. Like I said, it was a while ago.