Why I Will Not Be Watching Star Trek: Discovery (At Least Now)

Tonight is the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery (FB). The first episode will be broadcast on CBS; for the rest, those in the US must subscribe to CBS’s exclusive pay-streaming service, CBS All Access. I’m a long time fan of Star Trek, and avidly devoured all of the TV series from the point where I could choose my television: the animated series, ST:TNG, ST:DS9, ST:V, and even ST:Enterprise. But I’m not going to be watching Star Trek:Discovery beyond the first episode (and possibly not even that). I think that were Gene Roddenberry alive, he wouldn’t be watching it either.

Here’s why.

In how CBS has chosen to broadcast Star Trek:Discovery (ST:D), I feel they are not being true to the Star Trek vision. Gene Roddenberry emphasized in Star Trek an optimistic attitude, a view of the world where barriers between people did not exist. The class distinctions were gone, and race, gender, orientation, religion, and similar divisions were not factors. All of the other instances of Star Trek on the small screen were egalitarian in their broadcast: if you had a TV, you could watch them, be they on NBC (TOS), the UPN network (Enterprise, Voyager), or syndicated (TNG, DS9). But for Discovery, this isn’t the case. Those without Internet access or those who are not paying for streaming service (read: most cable and satellite users) are disenfranchised. They can’t watch the show. Those with Internet access can, but only if they pay. This reduces the audience to a particular wealthy demographic.

That’s problem enough for the Emmys, as I’ve discussed previously. They no longer serve to encourage excellence in Broadcast TV (or basic cable).  Let the plebeians have crappy TV; those with the means can pay to watch the quality stuff on Netflix and Hulu and Amazon and … Streaming provides the wealthy audience that buys stuff, or pays the network directly for their programming.

But for Star Trek? Putting Star Trek on a streaming platform creates the exact class distinctions that Roddenberry fought against. It is a pure grab for money and revenue from technically savvy Trek-fandom who have more money than they need — money CBS feels free to separate from them. Much as I want ST:D to succeed, it should be on a mainstream broadcast or basic cable channel: the CW or SyFy, not pay-streaming.


Written and Spoken Media

userpic=booksThis collection of news chum brings together a collection of articles related to media of various forms:

  • “This is NPR”. Looking for a new job? Here’s one for you: you can be the announcer who reads the sponsors and says “This is NPR” at the end of Public Radio programs.
  • Paperback Writer. QANTAS airlines is commissioning paperback books. Specifically, they are commissioning books designed to take a single flight to read. Though the books for short flights are meant to be read continuously, for long flights, they are factoring in the thought that passengers will most likely put their book down for food and naps. The target audience for the campaign is Qantas’ Platinum Flyers, who tend to skew male. A range of popular airport genres including thrillers, crime and nonfiction are included, with titles such as “City of Evil” and “Australian Tragic.”
  • Feeding the Trolls. If you’ve been reading my posts, you know I find reading comments on news articles infuriating because of the trolls. Here’s an interesting article where one fellow got fed up sufficiently that he went and interviewed the troll.  What I found interesting was that the troll was just like you and I, and he was doing it just because he found it fun.
  • Cutting Up Paper. Last weekend was the congregational meeting at our synagogue. The outgoing president was presented a beautiful papercut by the husband of one of our Rabbis (the official title is “Mr. Lucky”, derivered from something the now ex-husband of one of our favorite rabbis said when asked what you call the husband of a rabbi — his response… “Lucky”). Isaac, the artist, posted a picture of the papercut on the website along with an explanation. I particularly like how he used cut-up synagogue promotional material.

Bonus Media Item: “Star Trek: Into Darkness” – The Spoiler FAQ. I hadn’t had a strong urge to see this picture, even though I grew up with Star Trek and loved the franchise. Reading this, I think I’ll wait until it is on the small screen.


Remembering Harry Harrison

Harry Harrison has died.

Harry Harrison was one of my two introductions to the genre of Science Fiction*. Back when I was in high school, the Science Fiction Club at Pali High (in Mr. Layton’s room) introduced me to Harrison’s novel Captive Universe. I can still remember the lines:

“Now follow closely my thoughts because they are of the lougest importance. This man is of the valley yet he cannot return to the valley. I will tell you why. It is written in the klefg that the people of the valley, the derrers, shall not know of the Watchers. That is ordained. This one will then not go back to the valley.

“Now listen closely again. He is here, but he is not a Watcher. Only Watchers are permitted here. Can anyone tell me what this means?”

There was a long silence, finally broken by a weak voice which said, “He cannot be here and he cannot be in the Valley too.”

This was the start of a long love of Harry Harrisons books. Through the Deathworld trilogy, through all the Stainless Steel Rat books, through his teen work, and especially all of his alternate histories — I devoured it all.

Harrison had a way of writing that I just love; that just gabbed you. Just look at the first line of Bill, the Galactic Hero:

Bill never realized that sex was the cause of it all.

Great opening line. Then there was the fabulous Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers, a parody of all the EE Doc Smith 1950s-style SF. Again, just listen to those opening lines:

“Come on, Jerry,” Chuck called out cheerfully from inside the rude shed that the two chums had fixed up as a simple laboratory. “The old particle accelerator is fired up and rarin’ to go!”

“I’m fired up and rarin’ to go too,” Jerry whispered into the delicate rose ear of lovely Sally Goodfellow, his lips smacking their way along her jaw towards her lips, his insidious hands stealthily encircling her waist.

This is a story where Chuck and Jerry, two fun-loving students at an American College discover a faster-than-light space drive, and install it into the football team’s Boeing 747. They, together with the lovely Sally Goodfellow, crusty Pop, and loveable old John veiw with horror a practical joke gone awry as the plane screams off to Titan. But that’s only the beginning. When loveable old John’s true and awful identity becomes known, a wild batter across the Universe and through centuries ensues. But love triumphs in the end, in the oddest way.

There are his alternative histories, such as A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah where America loses the Revolutionary War, and Geo. Washington’s great grandson now is building a network to connect England to the Colonies. There are the Civil War books, the Eden series, the Wheelworld series, and the Technicolor Time Machine. Books I just loved.

Thank you, Mr. Harrison, for your words over the years.

*: The other author that got me started on SF was Kurt Vonnegut in the short story collection, Welcome to the Monkey House.


Going Where Many Millions Have Gone Before

By now, you’ve come to expect theatre reviews in this space, especially when you see a graphic. But we do occasionally set aside the live theatre for the big screen. Today was one of those exceptions, when we trotted down to a local cineplex to see the new Star Trek movie, which was meant for the big screen.

I’m not going to rehash the plot for you. There are plenty of summaries of the movie, and I figure that by now you either have seen it, have had the plot spoiled, or are not bothering to read this because you’re afraid I will spoil something. Fear not, for I’m going to put my plot specific comments behind a cut. I’ll divide my comments on the experience into three areas, and you should be able to safely read the first two.

Comment Area the First: Wherein Pacific Theatres Is Taken To Task

We don’t see films that frequently. When we go, we expect certain things: a clean theatre, a clean print, and a clean experience. We really only got the first. The movie has been in release for three weeks, and we already had the occasional line in the print. More significantly, we had numerous sound drops, as one gets from the satellite system occasionally. This shouldn’t be the case in the theatre, and indicates poor equipment maintenance and monitoring. As for the overall experience, we had the projectionist playing with the focus during the previews, and (until the volume was turned too loud), we had bleed-through bass from the adjacent theatre (Dance Flick). Pacific needs to do better.

Comment Area the Second: The Theatre Experience vs. The Cinematic Experience

As we go to movies infrequently, I was much more aware of the differences between live theatre and the movies. In this, I mean much more than the fact that the live experience is different every time, whereas everyone sees the same movie. There’s much more than that.

First, there’s the volume. The cinema booms at you, and blasts your eardrums, especially with the score. The theatre is softer — more natural voice — and you thus don’t find yourself wincing (except, perhaps, for loud shows like Rent). But even more is the difference in how you watch. In theatre, you are choosing where you are watching on the stage. Stage effects can try to distract you, but you can watch that extra upstage, or focus on a particular actor. In cinema, I’ve become much more aware of the role of the cinematographer and the editor. The cinematographer (and the director) composes the shot for you to see, and permits you to watch and focus on the nuances of the face and the movement. The editor builds the pace and the mood through the cuts and the tightness of the pacing. Combine this with the loud score, and you get much more of an experience. It is extremely different than the stage, and it makes me appreciate much more the actors who are skilled in their particular area, and those that can move effortlessly between the two.

There’s also a large difference in the credits. In the theatre, you have the time to read the program. In the cinema, the names just scroll by, and you have no idea what the people are. I imagine that in the early days of movies, there were programs. Nowadays, the cast and crew are so large that you are lucky to recognize a few names and roles. Still, I respect them for all the work that goes into a production. [However, I really didn’t like the style of the Star Trek closing credits.]

Comment Area the Third: The Film Itself

Read More …


Some tidbits from the news, plus a few other things…


Bill knew that sex was the cause of his problems…

I know that many people on LJ, and on my friends list, like to read science fiction. I know I do — I started with books like “Captive Universe” by Harry Harrison and “Welcome to the Monkey House” by Kurt Vonnegut, and went on by there. I have a small book collection; I have friends (such as ixixlix) that have much larger collections. Back in my undergraduate days at UCLA, I even took a course on Science Fiction — I have no idea if it is still offered.

Thus, I read with interest (while my tea cooled) an article in today’s LA Times about UC Riverside (one of the UC campii that you don’t hear much about)… in particular the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. This collection is the largest publicly-accessible collection of science fiction, fantasy, horror and utopian fiction in the world. It consists of hardback and paperback books, pulp magazines, fanzines, film and visual material, comic books, and ephemera. It consists of over 110,000 volumes of material.

The Times article talks about how the initial curator was initially derided by the other faculty on the English department staff (“Oh, you should collect Joyce instead”), but as time has gone on, the respect has grown. It also notes how they are still growing the collection (one wonders if this is a good place to donate your SF when you die). It also talks about how they are now talking about starting the first doctoral program in Science Fiction (now there’s a PhD I could go for). One wonders if they will posthumously award a doctorate to Asimov?

This is definately something worth exploring next time I head out to Perris.

(Can anyone explain the title of this post, which I quoted from memory and likely have wrong).


FIA_HPU.1 Identification and Authentication in the Harry Potter Universe

Seen on securitymentor2. Somehow, this just appeals to the Computer Security side of me. Of course, this report is absolutely right: they do need a stronger Identification and Authentication Scheme. I do hope they implement the recommendations for the next term… 🙂

This report is for the exclusive use of Hogwarts and no other party is entitled to rely on it. Violators of any part of the legal boilerplate will be subject to the Hyperodious Curse.


Physical security: offices and dormitories

The current password-based access system is inconvenient (blocking legitimate users who have arrived after begining of term), thoroughly insecure, and is being breached almost routinely, placing confidential data at risk up to and including private thoughts of the Headmaster stored in his Pensieve.

The gargoyles which guard the Headmaster’s office, and the portraits which control access to the dormitories, do not maintain a list of authorized personnel. Instead they allow anyone who knows the current password to enter.

Passwords are easy for an intruder to obtain. Possible password compromises include, but are not limited to:

  • Tailgating an authorized user
  • Accompanying an authorized user: incredibly, a student being taken to the Headmaster’s office for discipline will learn the password to the Headmaster’s office.
  • Eavesdropping. Unskilled intruders can easily overhear an entry password by standing near the door in an Invisibility Cloak or by purchasing Extendable Ears, available to the public from readily accessible suppliers such as the Weasley brothers.
  • Guessing. Passwords are allowed to be dictionary words and phrases such as “lemon drop”.
  • Compromise of an authorized user. A user under the Imperius Curse could reveal a password or could enter the premises with hostile intent


  • Gargoyles and portraits should be re-enchanted to deny entry after seven unsuccessful guesses at the password and report the incident to Argus Filch
  • Gargoyles and portraits must be protected against mind-reading spells and trained in Occlumency
  • Gargoyles and portraits should be protected against eavesdropping with an Imperturbable Charm during password entry
  • Gargoyles and portraits should be instructed not to accept passwords from clearly unathorized people, for example students trying to enter the Headmaster’s office. The necessary charms could be derived from the one at the girls’s dormitory which turns the staircase into a slide when a male student approaches.
  • All portals should screen users for traces of Polyjuice potion and evidence of the Imperius Curse
  • Consideration should be given to scrapping the password system altogether and having all portals controlled by wands, which are unique to a given user and could be supplemented with passwords to guard against stolen wands.
  • All entries to sensitive areas should be logged with an enchanted sentient quill

Entering a Place Name on Mars

As folks know, I’ve been researching my family tree of late. Last night, I uncovered the first, verified, famous connection that is actually blood-line, not marriage. Drum roll please…

It turns out I’m related to (2nd cousin, once removed, if memory serves correct) Stanley Grauman Weinbaum. Stanley’s father was Nathan Weinbaum; Nathan’s father was Solomon Weinbaum, whose brother was Asher. Asher’s daughter, Rosa (Rose) was my great-grandmother.

So who is Stanley Weinbaum, and what’s this about Mars? Stanley G Weinbaum was a famous science fiction writer who burst upon the scene in 1934; he was dead of throat cancer by 1935. In his brief career, he wrote a number of significant items. He is most noted for the groundbreaking SF short story, “A Martian Odyssey”, which presented a sympathetic but decidedly non-human alien, Tweel. Subsequent American science fiction writers who read Weinbaum’s stories considered Stanley to be one of the key shapers of plot, theme, and direction in science fiction’s pulp history. The writer/editor Horace L. Gold claimed that there was anti-semitism among the New York editors and publishing houses in the pre WW II era, forcing the use of pen names for Jewish writers. Gold credited Stanley Weinbaum’s popularity as the major force in breaking down those religious barriers in the pulp fiction industry. In 1973, Stanley G. Weinbaum (along with H. G. Wells & John W. Campbell) was honored by having a crater on Mars named after him.

So, last night, I got to enter a miscellaneous fact about Stanley Weinbaum… with a location of Mars.