[little flag]'s diary

1078487  Link to this entry 
Written about Monday 2009-05-11
Written: (3754 days ago)

Biting the Bullet: The Plotmeister Reviews JJ Abrams' "Star Trek."
...Otherwise known as "Jar Trek," or "New Trek."
Beware spoilers. Do Not Read if you haven't seen the movie, and that's an order.



"Abrams has trashed our fictional history. More than that, he has trashed Roddenberry's vision of the futrure. I am disgusted that so many are willing to take this pill just because it says Star Trek on it."
- "ClaudeParish," TrekSpace.org.

"This latest movie was not Trek. It was a standard "made for TV" style movie of the week on sci-fi channel... It's so juvenile."
- "Tony in Hawaii," TrekSpace.org



That pretty much sums it up. Details below.



This review is intensely personal, just like Star Trek is intensely personal. It is the response of someone who identifies deeply with Star Trek and proudly claims the name Trekkie... so, someone who alternately somewhat enjoyed watching the film and wanted to throw things at the screen.

This review is a combination of my responses to various people as we discussed the film, and is probably not the end of my thought on the matter. I'm writing it to clarify my thoughts about this New Trek further, and because anyone who has seen the film and liked it (read, mostly everybody) has failed to understand my reasons, and my rage, against it.

From what I've seen on <a href="http://www.trekspace.org">TrekSpace</a href>, I'm in a minority. There are few who agree with me. Of those, I've quoted the best at the end of this review. Their words are well worth the read; they spotted many things I didn't.

In part, my difficulty with this movie is my problem with most new movies (my other recent example is X Men Origins: Wolverine.) What really pisses me off is Star Trek is now just another part of this category.

Essentially, there's a graph format to movies lately. Everything is "epic." It all tends uphill on the graph--not necessary in quality, but in style and the kind of epic being aimed for--culminating with, at the peak of both this style and pure awesomeness, The Dark Knight. Everything after that has been a gradual (or not so gradual) decline in quality, originality, and taste. The worst example I've seen is Wolverine. Unfortunately, JJ Abrams' new Star Trek also fits on this chart. Although it's not quite as bad as Wolverine. The soundtrack was also highly disappointing. The best part was in the middle of the credits, when strains of the original theme song were discernible.

What I've been hearing a lot of from friends (who, by the way, mostly aren't Star Trek fans anyway, which makes me want to ask why the have the right to judge this movies place in Trekdom overall,) is that I should "take it for what it is."

Well, Abrams has said what it is, and that is unacceptable. From "This isn't your father's Star Trek" to "Forget everything you know," this a complete rewriting of the original scope and focus of the idea of Star Trek. Which makes this not Trek, but a subverted, Dark Knight-wannabe, bad fanfic "star trek." It's a ton of bullshit, is what it is. It's a "decent" movie, from lax modern standards which require only loud music and lots of explosions. Despite including quite a few "sop" lines for real fans, Abrams has taken the soul of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry's original vision, and made it as commonplace and unexceptional as every other "epic" movie and fandom coming out of modern times. This is his greatest crime against Trekdom, but not his only one.

The movie has its good points, but in that way it's like the Harry Potter movies: individual okay moments, while overall... no. Actually, it's quite likely you'll enjoy it. While watching it, I enjoyed parts of it, although I'm not sure I would a second time, now that I've had a chance to process it. The more I think about it the more I realize what they've done, what the future movies will do, and it hurts, it really hurts, to think they've brought something so amazing down to this level of stupid.

So it can be fairly enjoyable, depending on your taste in movies and stance on Star Trek. Big deal. Family reunions can be "fairly enjoyable" depending on who's around. But there's none of the spark that made it originally brilliant. They're just riding off already-present fame, and if new comers see this movie, they probably won't like what it was based off, and I wouldn't blame them for not liking Star Trek at all if this was their only introduction to it. As in the quoted reviews below, even Leonard Nimoy just "walked through his lines" in this one; even granted the alternate timeline, the way this movie plays out is an alternate universe. The characters are not themselves. The audience it's aimed it is not people who can appreciate what has always been Star Trek's strengths--it's ideas, and, as even William Shatner admits, (on Star Trek biography) its themes of friendship, tolerance, loyalty --but visual affects-oriented teenagers.

Or, as someone else put it, it's "Galaxy Quest: the Serious Movie." What I call "cannon fanfic." Although I'm beginning to question the "cannon" part, despite it's "official" source.

Also, the way it resolved--or rather, didn't resolve--is going to eat at me. I was pleasantly surprised by the casting of Scotty; I thought for sure that was going to be a disaster, but it wasn't. It wasn't Scotty, but it could have been worse.

The two great characters in this movie, and the best acting, were Captain Pike, and, to my immense relief, Bones. The idea that they might do something godawful to Dr. McCoy and the memory of DeForest Kelley in the role was the first possibility that had me watching this movie on tenterhooks. But while definitely different in style, and appearance, overall I have to applaud that actors efforts and the scriptwriters who did his lines. Pike's performance was the strongest of the film, and I think they did justice to this previous Enterprise captain.

The worst casting/acting, besides Sarek, was Sarek's wife. Couldn't they have found anyone else to play her? Yikes. Also, her death was... as contrived as Kirk's "pushing" Spock into emotional upheaval. Their invention of that regulation was entirely unnecessary, too. As Chief Medical Officer, McCoy could have declared Spock unfit to command at any point. But that would have been too easy. Too cannon.

Chekov really threw me. His hair was short, curly, and blonde, for one thing; his accent was incredibly thick; and his sudden skill with transporters was... out of nowhere. He is, apparently, now the TOS Wesley Crusher. Eesh.

Nero was also lame. Khan was a much more chilling villain. Hell, Shinzon or whatever Picard's double's name was, was better, and the TNG movies are... well, that's another kettle of fish entirely, although I immensely prefer them to this movie. Nero's best bit was his introduction, and it was practically comedy. "Hello Christopher..." They're playing at Star Trek, but aren't... really it. Not to mention, Nero's motivations were old hat, and the "science" involved for his "great revenge" was fuzzy at best. In fact, there's not a whole lot holding the plot together except explosions. The amazing thing about Trek technology was that, internally, it made perfect sense. The "red matter" at the heart of this "adventure" was... a placeholder. What happened to good old Trek ingenuity? I guess that's what happens when you have a big budget and only commonplace inspiration.

So there was no new interesting technology; actual Trek-sounding dialogue was re-used from old movies, so the funny bits were missed by half the audience and the serious bits felt tacked on; and there was no cerebral content to it by any stretch of the imagination. Star Trek has often been based on Shakespeare, and, to misapply a "Spock vs Q" quote, "Shakespeare would be apalled."

Character assination: Sarek is the obvious one. By re-doing him, they re-did Spock. Mark Lenard is probably turning in his grave right now. That's not alternate timeline, that's re-writing the fundamental essence of who these people are, and why they are. Kirk wasn't just headstrong, but a delinquent; and, as it took me embarrassingly long to realize, by making them all this young, they cut out significant parts of the development of each character. Spock's development is almost nonexistent, and what is there is completely opposite Spock--and Kirk's is worse. He never met Gary Mitchell. Don't understand how important that is? Most of his whole personal history isn't there. He's not just alternate-timeline different, he's an ill-matured, ill-qualified, completely different person.

Then there's the "romance" bit. It completely threw me. If Uhura gets with anybody, it's Scotty. Everybody knows that. But that was a distinct impossibility the way this Scotty was set up, and anyway shouldn't happen til they're quite a bit older. Her with Spock was worse than Caspian/Sarah in the new Chronicles of Narnia movie. Awful. Even plot-wise--it was superfluous and out of nowhere. And again, it violated what we know about how the Trekverse works. Fellow officers don't PDA on transporter pads like that, certainly not as the setup for a cheap comedy line.

Then there's the destroying of Vulcan... all things considered, probably my absolute most detested part of the movie. Are they completely insane? This isn't just an alternate timeline, it's practically flat out war on Gene Roddenberry's creation. You can't have the Federation with Vulcan. It helped found the Federation, it helps guide it and shape it. What they did to Vulcans in this movie, from Sarek to the planet as a whole, was simply despicable. Instead of being major players, they're simply props for comedy, stick figures of tragedy in the background. Even Spock... they used him, they used his humanity, as the driving gear in what little character development there was.

Spock's conflict between his heritages has always been the great strength of his character, but in this movie they showed only two things even remotely connected to that, and showed it for another purpose entirely: 1. Violent!Spock, and 2. Love-stricken Spock, and they did it to paint a stronger difference between TOS!young-Spock and New Trek!young-Spock. The latter is completely OC. Like Sarek, he simply shares a name with his original blueprint. Leonard Nimoy has said he had a hard time with the third season of TOS because the people in charge didn't care about the characters and kept trying to steer them in ridiculous directions. ("Spock's Brain" was one of the worst examples that actually made it to air.) I can't believe he didn't have the same problems with this movie. But apparently not.

This is not to say there were moments I didn't enjoy, but even those parts--like Spock's greetings to Kirk in the cave--were "sops" to fans. Just gauging the reaction of the group in the theater to those bits, both humorous and sentimental, I'd say maybe a 1/4th of that small group knew anything about the original series, and overall, while there were a few blatant "Awesome!"s at the end, I think most of them were about as confused as I was.

In one way, the movie rushes headlong into the familiar set-up, at least in the sense of everyone on the bridge at their appropriate places. But the Kirk/Spock friendship begins developing not of its own accord, but because older Spock tells young Kirk it ought to be doing so, so snap to. This is the worst sin an author can commit, especially a fanfic author--using outside influence to get the universe to the point you want it to be at without letting what makes it special happen at all! All appearances, no heart. So much for the claims of New Trek fans that this movie is all about friendship and character development.

Speaking of plot devices: the alternate timeline is one of the biggest problems with the movie and it's saving grace. They get to screw with the amazingness of the original series but at the same time leave it untouched because it's "an alternate timeline." The problem is, the new generation of fans is only going to know this version. Plus, like every other action movie coming out these days, it's "epic" without being epic. Not to mention, it fails to be internally consistent. They didn't just create a new timeline, but a new universe, violating all the sci-fi laws Trekverse has abided by concerning other timelines and how these things work. As noted above with character development.

Star Trek lasted 40 years before getting "reinvented..." I gues now we have to deal like other fandoms. Unfortunately, Star Trek is not like other fandoms. It's unique in the history of television, and in the range and depth of this 'verse. (Sure, Star Wars is big, detailed, yada yada yada. But that's not under discussion here, or under attack by a new movie. Go with it for a minute.) Those who wished to contribute officially to this 'verse have always had a great deal of respect for what has gone before, for the fragile vision of hope and liberty at the heart of Gene's creation. Even when they made changes, they did so in ways that harmonized with the larger whole. The first example of this is, of course, TNG. When it revolutionized the Trekverse, lots of people were unhappy. But it was still Star Trek. Most people came to realize that, and to love it for the same reasons they loved the original series. This movie blew that tradition of creative, positive change to hell.

As much as I wanted to like this movie, I just can't. Like the Harry Potter movies, it has bits and pieces that are decent, but as a whole, and especially considered its place in the wider Trekverse, I feel that as a fan of the original spirit and intent of Gene's genius vision, I cannot support this movie or the direction its sequels are most likely headed.

It was perhaps inevitable. But now, however awful the thought, there are two Treks: Gene's, and Abrams'. It's going to split fans ten ways from Sunday, and this beautiful creation will never be the same again.

But I do believe there are enough people out there who understand what Star Trek is and is supposed to be, who believe in Gene's original vision enough, to hold fast to the true core of thought and love that made this series great. And when push comes to shove, this is the core that will survive. When our grandchildren are introduced to Star Trek, this will be the reason they love it. They, too, will have to come to grips with all the Wannabe's and frauds out there, but maybe they'll do a better job of creating real Trek, so that unfortunate... misunderstandings... like this new movie can be prevented in the future.

So, it appears I am in yet another fandom minority... opposing "New Trek." It's just not Star Trek. Like it if you must, but, if not for God's sake, then at least Gene Roddenberry's, at least get that straight.

Live long and prosper, Star Trek. And Trekkies. Your series needs all the help you can give it.



Despite JJ Abrams' best efforts...

STAR TREK LIVES!



~ * ~


Quoted Reviews: (trekspace.org) :


T'Bree: "Yes, elder Spock is there to be the guardian of what went on before, however, despite what they're telling us, it's all moot. What once was, isn't. And will never be again."

"I realized I was watching Galaxy Quest: The Serious Movie." (missed the username on this one)

TrekkieGal:

"I was told JJ Abrams was a Star Trek fan. Can I argue? No, because evidently his views differ from mine. So what exactly am I scared of? Well it's not change. It's losing something dear to me. Like the State repossessing my home thats been in my family for Generations. Like being tortured by a Cardassian being told I see 5 Lights. Like telling me "Forget what I know", and "This is not your Fathers Star Trek". Trust me, I don't watch Star Trek for my father. But what was started 40 years ago when women wore pants, and were able to handle a First Officers Position. Where, a Russian, an Asiam, and an African can share equal rights as humans. Where it was about the People, primarily since the budget sucked. Star Trek was never a Hot Rod among Muscle cars. It was never the Death Star, or Tie fighters. It was never a "Mind Blowing thrill ride that is this summers Iron Man". I never saw Iron Man, why would I want to watch this?"

(unknown username:) Agreed, this movie was lousy and made for male teens who are easily impressed by loud explosions and tatoos.


Tony's in Hawaii's review:

Star Trek XI: Another Disappointment

I know, I know, this movie is on another time line, (which was confusing and not explained in great enough detail) but, it’s not on an alternate universe. The characters in this movie should be recognizable enough that they are identifiable enough to the originals. The only character I liked was the McCoy character. Kudos to that actor, Urban I think his name was. All the other acting was sub-par. Even Nimoy just walked through his lines. Nimoy was in the movie just to help sell movie tickets to those 40 and older who were thinking about going to the movies. Oh, the actor who played Pike, he was pretty good.

The movie plot was non-believable and a rip-off of so many other sci-fi generic plots where some energy beam is bombarding a planet intent on destroying it. Initiated by a tall generic bad guy with tattoos… or bald… or both.

And speaking of rip-offs:
Kirk jettisoned to a snow planet and chased by huge local fauna. (Ripped from Star Wars Hoth planet and the Snowbeast)
Huge local fauna getting eaten by even bigger fauna while in pursuit of our hero (Ripped again from Star Wars in Jar Jar Binks water world scene)
Scotty in the water tube scene (Ripped from Men In Black and Futurama)
Checkov saving Sulu and Kirk with his fancy transporter skills (He’s basically Wesley Crusher with a Russian accent)

Just not Trek: Uhura’s and Spock’s public display of affection on the transporter pad. Unless your under some alien influence, this just does not happen in front of your shipmates. I think the Uhura character was discredited when she convinced Spock to assign her to Enterprise when the cadets were being assigned ship duty. You got the impression that she so easily manipulated Spock because she was “sleeping with the professor”. Not that this doesn’t happen in real life, but it’s just not the wholesome attitude Roddenberry first projected.

In my view this movie was not worth the $9.50 I paid to see it. I would not see it again. I will not buy it when it comes out in DVD. I’m presently looking for the receipt from Burger King so I can return the 4 Star Trek collector glasses I bought there last Thursday.

All the other Trek movies were better then this one, except the first one, which was worse. Most ST:TNG TV episodes were better then his movie. All ST:E episodes are better then this movie. The Futurama cartoons with Trek characters in them are better then this movie.

The movie made a few lame attempts at humor but it only worked with the McCoy character. This movie was not made for the thinking man. It was made for the visually stimulated individual. It you like special effect and watching things blow up with big sound, you’d probably like this movie. If you like figuring things out or watching character development, don’t bother, watch some of your old reruns on DVD.

JJ Abrams, please don’t make anything anymore. Any Trek filming should be left to Berman and Braga

Grade: D (or 1 ½ stars out of 5)

1075185  Link to this entry 
Written about Saturday 2009-04-18
Written: (3778 days ago)


This is the story of the night I partied hard on the last Friday night I spent in Florence, Italy. Those of you who knew me in high school (whom this little tale is really written for) may not believe it, but trust me. Every word is true, and it was hysterical.

Almost our entire study abroad group went, so, nearly twenty six people. We started off with a sparkling wine, shared around while we waited at the bus stop.

The first bar of the night was spacious, friendly, and Irish. So, perfect :P We commandeered a whole room, made friends with random people and took pictures with them, fought off an old lady stripper, and I downed, in chronological order, part of a Kilkeney, a red bull and voda, a jack and coke, and a deliciously fruity sex on the beach. Along with tastes of everybody else's drinks, of course. The conversation was eclectic and the company was wonderful. Fun times. But I wasn't smashed... yet.

The second bar was the highlight of the night. Thanks to a misunderstanding I ended up with an entire bottle of cider. When no one wanted to share I just shrugged and drank it all myself. Well, the first half, because then we were distracted by Irish Car Bombs. Who knew I could chug that fast? It was, as one of the guys says, "...DUHlicious!" That was probably the point where I gave up and when people asked me how I was, started answering them cheerfully, "Drunk as shit!" I finished the cider and helped cheer Brad on as he out-chugged the bartender.

In a move that strongly reminded me of [Irishman], Brad promised to look after me, though he was drunker than I was. After our brief stay at the third bar, where there was no drinking (on my part) but much uncoordinated dancing, this resolution was put to the test. Ignoring the more sober warnings of one of the other guys, we staggered off in search of the previous bar. Why, I have no idea. This is all very fuzzy. We ended up lost on the streets somewhere, asking for directions from someone whom I want to say was a police officer, but was probably a cab driver. Or just some random guy in a car. There was a can or two of beer in there Brad picked up, which thankfully I was too drunk to taste, and we never found the bar, but I did manage to re-twist my already sprained ankle and scrape a hole in my knee falling off the curb. Brad carried me til I could put weight on it again, and miraculously we met up with some other people at a bus stop. I guess we gave the bar up for lost.

We had a trilingual conversation on the way home. I could no longer tell the difference between Spanish, Italian, and English, but it all made sense, so it was all good. Eventually I passed out, unintentionally using Brad as a pillow.

We made it back to the Villa alive and mostly well. I downed a bottle of water faster than I'd chugged the car bomb earlier, and passed out again. Until 8 a.m. this morning, when I woke up dehydrated and conscious of the hole in my knee, but otherwise ready and raring to go. And the best part? Completely hangover free.

It was the most amazing time ever. Honestly. Good people, good drinks, and a great way to start off our last weekend in beautiful Firenze. I'm going to miss this place.

And it's cheap drinks.

1042050  Link to this entry 
Written about Wednesday 2008-08-20
Written: (4019 days ago)

Disclaimer: This is far from my best work. Just a response to annoying Twilight fanatics, written on the fly because something had to be said. I lack time, energy, and inclination to make it better. So take it as it is ;)



Top Ten Reasons Not to Be a Vampire
Or, ‘why Twilight fanatics get on my nerves’


So you think vampires are cool. They’re suave, good-looking, drive shiny Volvos and fall in love with humans with surprising frequency. They’re mysterious, powerful, and, not to mince words, sexy.

Or so goes the modern misconception. The point of this essay is to explain why vampire-centered universes like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twilight, and the novels by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes are illogical, inaccurate, and perpetuators of a destructive modern myth: the coolness and desirability of evil.

But before I begin, and before anyone can start ragging on me again, I have to set the record straight. I used to be a fan of Atwater-Rhodes; still own most of the books, in fact. Demon in My View and In the Forests of the Night were two of my favorite books for years. I’ve watched extensive hours of Buffy, seen Dracula 3000 and Van Helsing, read Interview with a Vampire, The Historian, the original Dracula, and various snippets about the original beginnings of the legends of vampires. In short, it’s safe to say that, for the most part, I know what I’m talking about. What I have not read is Twilight, but I don’t have to—I’m not critiquing the story or the storytelling, merely its premise concerning the coolness of vampires, which, thanks to my obsessive friends and endless streams of Facebook flair, I know far too well.

With that settled, let’s move on: top ten reasons not to be a vampire. (Please note the order is not necessarily that of degrees of importance. Several seemed to tie for number one, for example, so I simply listed them in an order hopefully conducive to lucid reading.)


Number 10: Blood.

Blood: it’s icky. Vampire writers these days like to go on about how sweet it tastes, but anyone who’s ever gotten a cut in their mouth or sucked a painful paper-cut ought to know better.

Vampires are often construed as glamorous, but sucking blood is far from that. In fact, it’s something certain drug addicts do when severely messed up. When put like that, how many of you Twilight fans are up for a round of hemoglobin sharing?

That aside, why is it that vampires take blood? It could have been anything else, but it’s not; in fact, it’s one of the few constants across variations on the legend.

In his novel Hogfather, Terry Pratchett uses an old bit of folklore, a belief about “magic so old it isn’t even magic anymore.” If you take a bit of someone—teeth, hair, nails, anything—you can control them. In his novel Carpe Jugulum, which features the “modern vampyres” of Uberwald, the victims of vampires become docile, like cattle—completely under the control of their oppressors.

So the taking of blood is partly about power.

It’s also, as the methods of obtaining it show—assault, murder, seduction, deceit—about glorifying “the beast.” The Beast is Terry Pratchett’s term for the dark, animal place and rage inside a man; the part that doesn’t listen to reason, the pure instinct and predator factor that is fundamentally a part of man, but also, most importantly, fundamentally mostly under control. To embrace the beast completely, to the exclusion of all else, is to reject what makes you most human. (To take an example from the new Batman movie: when Batman struggles to resist killing the Joker, he’s battling the beast. When the Joker does what he does—he is the beast. In a twisted sort of way.)

Sucking blood is also the work of parasites, such as ticks, leeches, and mosquitoes, just to name a few. Vampires are parasites with intelligence—which ought to be a contradiction. Intelligence exists in part to give us the ability to choose right or wrong. Vampires by nature are inherently evil, paired with a parasitic nature; hence the underlying contradiction in most modern vampire literature.

In a Buffy episode, she tells some potential Slayers this: “He has to kill to live. That tells you everything you need to know about him.” The “intelligent parasite” theme violates “traditional” morality (that is, Christian and Christian-based) as well as morality conceived of in other systems, such as Robert M. Pirsig’s “morality as evolutionary process” theory. If a vampire is not a higher life form than a human, then it is immoral for said parasite to destroy humanity.

Not to mention, a vampire’s blood is entirely taken from other beings, which raises another interesting point: this “being” is a fraud, an imitation of life, without its own claim to the life force; a patchwork of stolen moments from those who do live. A vampire is a thief of the lowest order: a thief of the divine life-spark. Theologically, this makes all vampires a part of Satan.

Lastly, blood is the life force itself, the driving power behind our biological existence. Vampires steal it away; they are inherently opposed to life. Assuming that life is good—using whatever argument you wish to arrive at that conclusion, from evolutionary to theological—and seeing as how vampires, by their very biological requirements to “survive” must oppose life, and take it away—this places vampires firmly on the “evil” side of the game board.

Which brings me to:


Number 9: Corpses – Yours and Others.

Biologically, a vampire simply doesn’t function. There’s no way. Not even “Magic” (a highly overused and misconstrued concept to begin with) can explain the fact that a vampire, whose heart does not beat and whose blood (entirely taken from other beings) does not flow would fall apart and rot and otherwise be messy; that even if something “supernatural” is holding this being together does not change the nature of flesh and blood, and what happens when the two die.

If you were to be a vampire, you’d have to get used to other people’s corpses, as well, not just your own molding carcass. One of the most disturbing scenes I found while watching Buffy occurred in an episode that flashed back to Angel and Spike’s early acquaintanceship. They are riding in a carriage with the bloody-necked corpses of a would-be bride and groom, still in wedding regalia. A vampire is a murderer of happiness.

The point of death is that it is fundamentally different from life (although not necessarily its opposite.) A vampire is considered “undead,” but that is a meaningless term. A vampire sleeps, eats, walks, talks, and, according to some, falls in love. How is this any different from life? It’s simply a different kind of life (and/or the devil’s version. Maybe a good comparison here for what I mean is in Tolkien’s The Silmarilion, where the first evil guy “creates” the orcs.)

In Terry Pratchett’s satirical (and wise) Discworld novels, a side character, a zombie named Reg Shoe, tries to rid the city of Ankh-Morpork of prejudice towards the “differently alive” with inspirational slogans like “Undead yes, Unperson no!”

What does it really mean to be not human? Why is a vampire not human? Biological factors aside, today’s popular vampires are, in fact, human. Yet also “evil” and “soulless.” Hence the contradiction. The point that is that people are either people, or not; you can’t be pure evil and human enough to love and hate both.

Or, in the words of Jim Kirk: “You know what, Spock? Everybody’s human.”


Number Eight: Selfhood and Justice

In one flashback Buffy episode, Angel tells Spike, “You can take what you want, but nothing is ever yours.”

In short, this is a horrible way to have to live. It speaks of a world—an existence—without trust, morality, or fairness. The only rules are the ones you make, and they are going to constantly be in conflict with the rules everyone else is making, because they are all, to a vampire, based on pure self-interest. The truly shortsighted and selfish kind of self-interest, that is, which thinks it must stomp on everyone else’s in order to survive.

To illustrate that point, a parable that someone once told me: There are two tables, each exactly the same, filled with all kinds of delicious food. Both tables are filled with people hungry and ready to eat, but there’s one problem: they cannot bend their arms to bring their forks to their mouths. Here is the difference between the two tables: at one, it’s utter chaos, each man fighting against each other and the inevitable, unable to reach the food despite all their efforts. At the other, all is calm and cheerful, and everyone is eating—because they’ve learned to feed each other.

A healthy society or individual is one who has more or less learned to feed himself by feeding others. A vampire’s very nature is completely opposed to this arrangement, however. A vampire is not only a social anarchist, but an anarchist of the soul, as well.


Number Seven: Murder

Another example from the Buffyverse: In one episode, Dawn has gone to hang out with Spike, and he’s telling her a story about how he terrorized some people. He’s killed everyone except a small girl hiding in a coal bin, and Dawn is hanging on his every word, waiting for the bloody climax of the anecdote, when a furious Buffy stalks in. Spike tries to cover his mistake, ending the story with himself as do-gooding hero: So I got the little girl out, cleaned her up, and gave her to a nice family where she didn’t get locked in coal bins anymore. Buffy, of course, doesn’t buy it, but even more disturbing than Spike’s obvious pleasure in the memory of his sick actions is Dawn’s response. “That’s lame!” she says.

Lame? It’s lame when he doesn’t get to finish his reign of terror? It’s lame when an innocent little girl doesn’t suffer a cruel death at the hands of a twisted maniac?

When you’re the one being persecuted, when the tables are turned, everything is different. Then it’s not “lame” when you’re spared, it’s “unfair” when you’re not. Our generation spends all its time in its heads (the internet doesn’t help with this)—everything sounds fun from a distance, and then you get faced with it up close, and suddenly it’s not so fun anymore.

Hardly anyone seems to notice anymore these days, but life is precious. All life. Here are a few reasons why:

First - It’s the first, fundamental, foremost building block of the universe/human universe. The one natural resource we can’t create or synthesize for ourselves. Even cloners start with what’s there, and AI isn’t human, or, depending on who you’re talking to, the case, and the definition, “real.”

Second - Because we value it. What we value (in some cases) takes on value.

Third, and most importantly - Life is precious because Being is Good. All things strive for what is good, on whatever evolutionary level they may be, whatever definition of good they bow to. Our cells and genes propagate because reproduction, the continuation of their kind, is a good hardwired into their genes; evolutionists say we strive for life because our genes tell us to; theologians and philosophers might agree that we seek the good and/or life because in it we come across a spark to that which is beyond life: the divine. (And what is a vampire’s “life,” if it is only evil? A “life” without that divine spark – i.e., hell; damnation. But that will be discussed below.)


Number six: Souls

The mistreatment of the concept of the soul is one of my greatest pet peeves. Vampires are supposed to be soulless, but has anyone thought about what that really means?

It means nonexistence. It means there is no “you” any longer. In short, J.K. Rowling got it right: as a soulless person, you’re an empty husk.

Yet here these soulless creatures are, walking, talking, having personalities and otherwise acting human.

In Buffy, especially, the misuse of the concept is particularly grating. It seems that to be a vampire is to be soulless; without a soul means to be evil and incapable of love; but to have one doesn’t mean you stop being a vampire, it’s more like gaining a conscience. A soul and a conscience is not the same thing. A conscience is, in part, formed by society, and part an “inherent moral sense” (to borrow James Q. Wilson’s phrase.) You can ride your moral sense into the ground, but there’s no “on/off” switch for it.

In short, modern vampire legends really abuse the concept of good and evil, blurring the lines and confusing the issue until it doesn’t matter at all anymore. Which sounds great, until something truly important in real life happens; and then followers of this thought pattern are completely incapable of meeting the challenge.


Number Five: Eternal Damnation

There’s a big misconception floating around that paints God as the big bearded father-figure in the sky who condemns people to Hell, seen as a big fire pit Down Stairs if they don’t do what he says.

This is not how it works, and that’s not what hell is.

Hell is a choice. You can’t be “condemned” to it against your will, an innocent prisoner victimized by an unfeeling rule-and-punishment legal system, rejected by God forever. Hell is what happens when you make the choice to reject God. The definition of Hell is “absence of God.”

Hell, like Heaven, is God giving people what they want. If people want an existence without truth, justice, morality, order—God—then He will give it to them. Theologians, philosophers, and Average Joes can argue all they want about what “rules” constitute morality (a badly worded concept in its own right, but that’s another subject), but no matter where the final truth on that matter really lies, that doesn’t change the fact that Hell—eternal damnation—is the experience of total Divinelessness.

Vampires are a contradiction on this count too, because while supposedly damned, are still in a Divine world—for God is everywhere in creation, for God is goodness, and creation is Good.

Which brings me to:


Number Four: Loveless Evil

Vampires are true evil; true evil cannot love. This is closely related to the section on damnation, because since God is love, an existence without God is existence without love.

If you cannot love, you’re incapable of truly enjoying anything, or any good feeling. Possibly, depending on how you want to argue the nature of emotions, you’re incapable even of hate: you’re mindless, a force of chaotic destruction; a tool of Satan.

And yet, fans of Twilight, and Buffy, and etc, want to say, in the books these vampires do love! They’re… practically people! They’re good!

Sure they are. In the fantasy. But there’s nothing holding that fantasy together. It’s pure mirage—and a dangerous one.

A very intelligent philosopher once told me that Milton made a mistake when he wrote Paradise Lost, in making his fallen Lucifer a more interesting character than the good guys, from which I draw this conclusion: Milton made it seem like evil could be related to, but an evil you can empathize with is not pure evil, because then it’s partly human. Humans have always been the middlemen, between angels and demons, animals and gods.

It’s a dangerous mirage because it makes us forget that. What would you do, if confronted with a real life vampire? Most likely be led to your death, imagining your dark Prince Charming had come for you at last.

There are no Edward Cullens, there are no Angels or Spikes. There are only people, the angels that save them, the fallen angels that fight them, and the demons they create.


Number Three: Backwards Power

Let’s break it down – what’s really the allure with these modern vampires? Power; sexiness; glamour? In “real life” there would be none of these, although, like so often in our lives, there might be an illusion of power.

“Sexiness” is really a subdivision of power—control over another person via lust. What these vampires really stand for, what you’re really idolizing, is the “honest criminal.”

He’ll look you in the eyes, tell you exactly how he’s going to rob you, and while you’re laughing at his wit and honesty, he’ll take you for all you’ve got. (Idea courtesy Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal.)


Number Two: Immortality and Beyond

Live forever? No thanks. And yet they can “die,” by stakes and by fire – another contradiction – so what happens afterwards? Since by nature vampires cannot repent (like fallen angels—a choice made instantly for all eternity because of their nature and timeless existence) they must go wherever damned human souls go. Or if they never die? What then? A “hell on earth” until the end of time?

Immortality: not all it’s cracked up to be.


Number One: And the number one reason not to be a vampire is…

Not easily summed up by a catch phrase, unfortunately. So bear with me through one more analogy.

In C.S. Lewis’s classics about Narnia, the (chronological) first book, The Magician’s Nephew, features a young boy who wants to save his terminally ill mother. Aslan sends him on a quest that seemingly is unrelated. He is to find a walled garden, far beyond the boundaries of the newly-created Narnia, and, entering by the gate, to pluck a golden apple from a tree. This apple, once planted, will grow a tree that will protect Narnia from the evil this young boy inadvertently brought to Narnia in the from of Queen Jadis, formerly of the world Charn, who would later become the more familiar villainess The White Witch.

The boy finds the walled garden, and the apple; he also finds Jadis there. She entered without permission, climbing the wall, and ate of the fruit. Part of the garden gate’s inscription reads, “For those who steal or those who climb my wall / Shall find their heart’s desire and find despair.” Later, Aslan says that since the Witch ate an apple without permission, “All the rest are now a horror to her…The fruit is good, but they loathe it ever after…Things always work according to their nature. She has won her heart’s desire; she has unwearying strength and endless days like a goddess. But length of days with an evil heart is only length of misery, and already she begins to know it. All get what they want; they do not always like it.” (Emphasis mine.)

Vampires are seen as cool for the same reason the Jadis became powerful by sneaking into the walled garden to eat the apple; for the same reason Satanists (at least certain ones; I wouldn’t know about the philosophy in general) see Lucifer as a “liberator”; for the same reason Christian theology is so badly stereotyped and misunderstood.

Ultimately, we’re all after the same thing, whether we think we see it in vampires, superheroes, the Divine, chocolate, or people. But means and motivations matter, and the riddle of existence is a simple kind of complicated that will tie your brain in knots until you find the one thread that binds the pattern together.

Those who idolize vampires, like Twilight fans, miss the tapestry altogether, unaware that it is what holds them together while they read it; that while they’re busy chasing reflections and mirages and getting everything exactly backwards, the real thing is right beside them, patiently waiting for them to realize which side of the garden wall it is they’re on.


Thanks for reading.

1031917  Link to this entry 
Written about Tuesday 2008-05-27
Written: (4104 days ago)

Ever feel unappreciated? On the sidelines? Wrongfully in the wrong?

Welcome to my summer. This is so unbelievably crappy I cannot even believe it.

It's just been one of those days. So was last night, come to think of it. And on top of it all my entire afternoon was shot and I have a headache from staring at this computer screen.

My parents are mad because this trip is important to me. I'm mad because they won't listen to me, about this or anything else--like house hunting, for example. It seems like everyone has got something going for their summer except me. Significant others, saving money, seeing friends, just hanging out--whatever. Whereas I get to fight with my parents, never have enough money no matter how many hours or jobs I work, and never get to see anyone. Partially because some of them, not to mention names that begin with "S" and end with "hane", are too busy being workaholics and obsessing of their idiot girlfriend to care about their friends.

The world is unfair and it doesn't matter whether I'm right or not, no one will LISTEN to me.

I don't like being helpless, I don't like being treated as though I'm worthless, and above all I don't like the way my life is being directed, shaped and molded by stupid people who have no business doing anything of the sort.

In short, I'm fucking furious, and there's nothing I can do about anything.

In the words of Terry Pratchett: Sometimes it's better to light a flamethrower than to curse the darkness.

1021013  Link to this entry 
Written about Saturday 2008-03-29
Written: (4163 days ago)

Inspired by terry pratchett, the sibling society, jazz guitarists, and a sad conversation. And probably a bunch of other stuff.



I am delighted
I am a raving lunatic
I am notes in the belly of a tuba

laughing at you

I am wordless inside
where the beasts reside

in the dark behind the eyes

I am standing at the foot of the scroll
it stretches behind me for paragraphs
only the smudges are mine

another hand moved mine

I am not I Am
I am not inconceivable
I am not certain

thinking in three's like a triangle






The "sad" conversation brought back rather sharply some events I sort of wish had never happened.

"Regret" is not the word. "Annoyed" is better. "Angry" might even be more accurate.

He was an idiot. I was still reeling and vulnerable from the "asshole boy fiasco". And so a friend became a bad choice. God that makes it sound so serious and dramatic. But all that happened was toes got stepped on and feelings got hurt. And I didn't speak to one of my good friends for a few months, but whatever.

I never would have guessed any of that idiocy actually bothered me in and of itself (or still could, I guess) and then... wow. Whamo.

It's probably that whole being used and discarded sensation. The double-whammy of you're not good enough. Yeah. I can see how that would have a negative affect on someone.

But seriously, he is the only person I know who actually lives in a stinking romance movie.

My "movie" had a rather different ending. If ending it be. No one knows the future...

"We can never see past the choices we don't understand."

Funny how random movie quotes talk sense.

I'm not depressed. I'm just a little out of whack. Like a time traveler. Culture shock kinda thing. Slightly disoritented, a bit conflicted and confused.

And annoyed. Underneath it all, really, really, REALLY annoyed.

Is it sad the only reason I post in here is because I know no one is ever going to read it? Not really. I just wanted to get this off my chest, and, having deleted all my other blog crap things and not wanting to write longhand, this is the only place to ramble without getting the attention of the other participant in said conversation.

Okay. I've rambled, I've got it off my chest, and now I've got to remind myself that the past is the past for a reason, he's not that stupid anymore, I'm not so short sighted anymore, and I really, really ought to get some sleep because I have a shitload of paper writing to do tomorrow. Today.

One last thought: Democracy is coming to the USA by Leonard Cohen is possibly my new favorite song.


981986  Link to this entry 
Written about Sunday 2007-10-07
Written: (4337 days ago)

Finally no longer 'the librarian's daughter'?
Finally no longer 'the short one'?
Finally no longer 'the smart one'?
Finally no longer... something.
Finally now... what?



Oh good god. Somebody please shoot the emo chick claiming to be me before I strangle her first.



It's these past few days. I know what it is. It's the events of the past few days, driving me insane. Plus that other thing. Yeah.

Sanity level: dropping rapidly.

...And I'm reduced to BLOGGING. on ELFTOWN.

God. I think it's time for... more homework.

Proof that I am really, truly, horribly desperate for something to do, something distracting and all encompasing. The downside is it will eat my soul in the process, damn college classes, but I suppose that's fitting justice for "keith the soul eater."

the matrix may or may not be real, but there is a "splinter in my mind" nonetheless, and it makes me glower darkly and mutter curses that I know both the cause and cure and all the same I am powerless to do anything about it. powerless to do anything about anything, really. still.

hm. maybe i should stop drinking six cans of dr pepper a day. that might help a little bit...

981440  Link to this entry 
Written about Friday 2007-10-05
Written: (4339 days ago)

Hm. I really should delete all the old crap in here. Oh well.

I'm posting here toni--*checks clock*--this morning because I want to make a (hopefully brief) statement about Friends.

You know, the people in your life, not the television show.

It's strange how "friend" and "frienship" mean different things to different people. It's funny how you can be better friends with someone than they are with you, and vice versa. It's odd how some people are just pivotal in your life, even if they were only really present for a short while. Sometimes I wonder about how much chance and circumstance has to do with the friends we make. I tend to think the answer to that is... a lot.

Okay, okay. I have a reason for writing this. It's not just random pseudo-philosphizing. (Although it's that, too.) Since coming to college I've been a bit of a loner. You might think in the dorm setting that I'm forced to endure that would be impossible, but all that renders difficult is privacy. And for some reason tonight I thought of someone, a friend that, I think, meant/means more to me than I do to them, who happens to have once been a pivotal person in my life. I can certainly say life would have turned out quite differently without them, at any rate.

No, I'm not going to say who. (Or is that whom? Oh well.)

And I think I know where part of this is coming from. I was watching movie previews online tonight and there was this one... yeah.

Oooh speaking of which, Alan Rickman and Johnny Depp are appearing in the same movie O_O A movie about a famous murdering barber would probably not hold my attention at all, but they put two of my favoritest favoritest actors in it. I will be seeing that movie. Probably on its opening night. And I will probably love it. *sigh* The things I do for my favorite actors.

(Irony. The above paragraph coming from the most anti-celebrity person ever. Eye-ron-ick.)

Essentially, I thought tonight suddenly and unexpectedly about a friend I haven't seen or talked to in a while and had a sudden urge to go see them and give them a great big hug. End existenstial angst or whatever the hell this psued-philosphizing equals out to be.

l oh well.

ps. i now have a mac instead of a pc.
pps. that fact makes me want to cry.
ppps. want my pc back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

944416  Link to this entry 
Written about Friday 2007-06-01
Written: (4465 days ago)

Goodness only knows why I should post this here, but, I'm going to. If I had the patience, I would really delete all my previous journal entries here. Oh well. My post:


~~~
~~~
~~~



"Bloody mnhei'sahe again. Not even the (translator) does anything about that word."
"Only people can do anything about it. The day you understand it, that day our wars are at an end."

There's lots of Star Trek quotes I could pick to quote, but that one will do for now. There's no possible way I could really begin to explain here what's been going through my mind lately about that concept, mnhei'sahe, or any other number of related topics, or any real way you, the passerby reader, whoever you may be, if anyone even does read this, can begin to understand or to care without being impacted as I am by the source material.

But I'm going to attempt to do a little explaining anyway, bearing in mind that I am, after all, biased by a completely unconditional love of the best parts of Star Trek, especially the Vulcans and the Romulans (at the moment especially them, anyway.) I've been reading a lot about Rihannsu politics lately. And, more importantly, their, what for lack of a better term must be called their 'code of honor.'

Chivalry is pretty deeply ingrained into the subconscious psyche of British-born cultures. Knights, Camelot, Chivalry, that kind of thing, all tends to go together, being honorable, whatnot. Multiply chivalry by a factor of about three billion or so and you're not even close to mnhei'sahe, but you might be approaching the subject with the right attitude.

I've attempted to define it more concrete--and English terms--which is a pretty hopeless task, but these adjectives come to mind: honor, justice, integrity, love, purity, truth. Particularly honor.

Any code of ethics, or honor system, can be manipulated into something against its original intended intent, or purpose. But for all intents and purposes, mnhei'sahe is a way of life, for the Rihannsu, that involves strict personal honor, and--hm, a term I left out: loyalty.
Mnhei'sahe is about doing what will give everyone honor, including yourself, by doing what's right in a situation. That's why the term doesn't necessarily mean one thing, because the meaning changes depending on the context. It could mean granting mercy or even friendship to your enemies, instead of killing them, or it could mean engaging your closest friend or family member in a fight to the death. Those are, of course, extreme examples. It's not something that's taken lightly, however.

The first interesting point about all this is how it interacts with other philosophies found in Star Trek. The Rihannsu are the distant cousins of the Vulcans, Sundered from them in ages past, in the time of Surak, but for all that, they are still, in many was, one people. But although the Rihannsu are a warrior people, (similar yet vastly different from the Klingons, definitely,) and the Vulcans are, since the time of Surak and the Sundering, pacificts and vegetarians, although I haven't re-read the book I need to to make sure of the information instead of relying on faulty memory, the concepts of mnhei'sahe and the Vulcan o'thia fit together remarkably well--even though the first is based in a warrior culture, full of emotion and battles, and the latter is based in logic, or as o'thia literally translates, reality-truth, and 'waging peace' at all costs. "What matters is doing what's right, not merely blindly defending what is attacked." That is part of the heart of o'thia, besides pure logical reasoning and peace.
The way the two philosophies have the potential to interact is staggering.

Yes, Star Trek is fiction, written by humans and therefore not truly alien, but rooted in our own psyche and beliefs and philosophies, I'm well aware of that, and even if these ideas are merely re-manifestations of ideas that have already been expressed in other times and places, if in slightly differing forms--which is highly likely--I think this manifestation is highly conducive to being recognized as what it is: truth, good, and right.

We learn from our fiction, particularly from our fairy tales. In the truest and, genre-ly speaking, broadest interpretation of the term, Star Trek is one of The fairy tales out of all fairy tales. It is one well worth learning from. Even worth taking its principles to heart, and forging a way of living around.

In a world that is too often muddled and confused and far from honorable or just, mnhei'sahe--and o'thia--are remarkably, brilliantly, clear, and hopeful, and wonderful. Incorporated into a person's belief systems and way of life, they can drastically alter a person's way of being--for the better.

There is a book called Star Trek Lives which in many places explains the real-world benefits of Star Trek and how the show, and its characters and its books, have helped people, and the world, so much. Not the least of its contributions are the ways in which it has changed the individuals who have seen it. Making the world a better place, one viewer at a time. I'd like to think I'm one of those individuals changed for the better.

A Rihannsu proverb: Truth sometimes wears a skewed look while being no less true.

Whatever form the message takes, there is one central message, the basic rightness and moral/ethical/whatever the right word is building blocks out of which the universe is formed, which we, human beings, are made, and this particular Star Trek form is particularly conducive to getting the message across loud and clear. For whatever reasons this form resonates with me so, it is undoubtedly that it is both logical and emotionally fitting for mnhei'sahe, and perhaps o'thia, to become a part of my life--heck, even yours, unknown (potential) reader.
Star Trek is a very bright universe. It is full of hope. The kind of hope we need here, really. Mnhei'sahe is a way of life that is about, on a very basic level, doing what is honorable, and what is right. My vocabulary is insufficient at this point to be more specific than that--but when it means weeding out corruption, caring for those who need to be cared for, and building peace, what more, honestly, can there be left to say?

Undoubtedly, opposition to such "vague", "idealistic," and "impractical" notions will make itself heard, and in more unpleaasent terms than that; but where mnhei'sahe may require a form of idealism in those who dream big enough to conceive of the kind of place where that kind of virtue and honor are common place and the core of every being, o'thia, the Vulcan logic, will require the pragmatic view that tempers it.

No wonder humans were able to invent both the Rihannsu and the Vulcans. We are the two of them, joined, at least at our best; at our best, we are the results of Reunification, where the philosophies of two separate viewpoints, quite different now but rooted in one common ancestry, come together again the better for their differences and time apart.

I can already hear some of the comments about not only the content of this little essay, as it's turned out to be, but it's tone. My response to that is, well, you must experience your own revelations. This has been one of mine. It's quite possibly still occuring. This has been mostly an attempt to sort my thoughts out on the matter.
Mnhei'sahe; not a bad way to live. Certainly an improvement on the way many live, or rather, avoid living, now.

Think about it.

855989  Link to this entry 
Written about Saturday 2006-09-23
Written: (4715 days ago)

I repeat:

It would be nice to feel wanted again.

I can almost remember what it was like, if I concentrate hard enough.

Unfortunately, that's one of those activities that makes me feel like crying. Usually at inappropriate times, in embarassing places, in front of all the wrong people.

I wonder if the right person would even notice.

Life is funny, sometimes. WYSIWYG. Only not...

It was never supposed to be like this.

It would be so easy to adopt a dramatic stance and exclaim in remorse and terror, "What have I done!", but the problem is--

--I already know.

And this particular rhetorical question only drives the pain in deeper.

So much for...

<sigh>.

everything.

851757  Link to this entry 
Written about Tuesday 2006-09-12
Written: (4727 days ago)

Well, fuck.

You know sometimes friends are great

and sometimes the most well-intentioned of pals just...

...fuck everything up.

Fuck.

851059  Link to this entry 
Written about Sunday 2006-09-10
Written: (4729 days ago)

I dislike being ignored.

I have a suspicion, a very strong suspicion, he doesn't see it as ignoring me.

But when I'm feeling bad enough about everything else, I really don't need this uncertainty, too.

It would be nice to feel wanted again.

849034  Link to this entry 
Written about Monday 2006-09-04
Written: (4734 days ago)

Do you have ANY idea how bored I am??

I'M WRITING IN HERE AGAIN THAT OUGHTA TELL U SOMETHING

I also just reread all those past entry things, and WOWEE I'm... I was... eh, forget it.

You know what I really, really, really think?

I don't actually know.

Come back again tomorrow.

Or don't.

phooey on you-ey.

I guess.

Er....somethinglikethat???????

790427  Link to this entry 
Written about Thursday 2006-05-11
Written: (4851 days ago)

I don't think I can take another three weeks of school.

I have this strange simple-minded delusion that as long as I don't have to come out of my room, everything will be okay.

Nothing is ever like it should be or like I thought it would be, all plans come to nothing and there is nothing and no one I can count on.

And the worst betrayal of all I still can't get my mind around. Everything since that is surreal and unimportant. The one person I thought would be there was not, and it doesn't matter why, not really, because that's where it all fell down, right there, and now I am stuck in this horrible in-between state of mind and in the worst possible location, and I know I should never have looked back.

I knew better.

But then, I always do.

786014  Link to this entry 
Written about Sunday 2006-04-30
Written: (4861 days ago)

I had a disney childhood.

In a way, put in perspective, that sucks. Looking at another way, however; what better kind of childhood to have?

I don't know what I'm thinking. In a way I'm doing quite well today, but there's a dark shadow hovering in the back of my mind warning me mayday, mayday, school resumes tomorrow, running out of time, mayday, mayday

fiffilestibas.

/

773048  Link to this entry 
Written about Monday 2006-04-03
Written: (4888 days ago)






















































today was horribly, horribly, horrible.



why am i not surprised?

 The logged in version 

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