Wednesday, May 15, 2013
A lot of movies opening this week, including you know what. But will any be better than this one? A classic song about space sung in space. When astronaut Chris Hatfield sings that he's "floating in a most peculiar way," he actually is. The speed-up orbit of Earth at night is as good as any fake special effects, and better than most. This 5 minutes has it all--even lens flares. Not to mention a Canadian Captain. Make sure to watch this on the biggest screen you've got.
Friday, April 26, 2013
As other sites cover every publicity tremor in advance of the new Trek movie, I continue to be impressed by the continuing power and presence of The Original Series and The Next Generation. Frankly I had expected that once the first JJA movie came out, the new actors would quickly replace the first TOS actors in general consciousness, but that has not happened. At all. Fascinating.
Also fascinating is how TOS continues to fuel the future through those still working to create it. There are lots of examples of technologies that were imagined in TOS and are in the works or have since been realized in daily life. Every once in awhile as I stride confidently towards a closed supermarket door, I remember how amazing the idea was for a couple of decades of doors that whoosh open when you approach them.
Some innovations (like the flip phone) even borrow a Trek look. But I ran across an instance that is even more direct in Trek inspiration, in this Slate article on Google that carries this subtitle: Google has a single towering obsession: It wants to build the Star Trek computer.
The writer, Farhad Majoo, begins by noting that he heard people at Google refer to the Star Trek computer in 2010 in reference to their Android phone, but filed away the reference as just another publicity metaphor. "I dismissed it as a gimmick to attract media attention for a struggling brand. Not that he was totally wrong—in 2010, asking your phone to search for something, rather than typing in your query, was pretty cool. It just wasn’t Star Trek-cool."
But he kept hearing Googlers talk about the Star Trek computer, and he kept dismissing the importance of the reference. "After all, Google is very likely the nerdiest large company on earth; of course its employees like Star Trek." And then: "in March, Amit Singhal, who heads Google’s search rankings team, gave a talk at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival—and Star Trek took center stage. Singhal told the crowd that the original series was one of his favorite all-time shows, and he longed to one day meet William Shatner, “as long as he doesn’t sell me a hotel room.” Then Singhal added: “The destiny of [Google’s search engine] is to become that Star Trek computer, and that’s what we are building.”
Now it seemed serious so Majoo went to Google and they confirmed it. “The Star Trek computer is not just a metaphor that we use to explain to others what we're building,” Singhal told me. “It is the ideal that we're aiming to build—the ideal version done realistically.”
The idea, Majoo writes, is to redefine "search engine" towards the Star Trek computer model of high order interactivity so it converses with you. It will answer your questions, rather than show you lists of places where you can look up the answer.
It's not as clear to me as it seems to be to Majoo that the Google vision really matches up with the Star Trek computer. For one thing, I don't think the Star Trek computer requires as much personal information about Captain Kirk as Google wants to collect in order to respond to users. But that this is an aspiration for this huge and influential company is notable.
Now if only an institution with those kind of resources would focus on creating a Star Trek universe beginning with a peaceful Earth united in solving its greatest problems.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Speaking of President Obama, at the Gridiron Dinner over the weekend--another press club gathering in which prominent guests tell jokes--he poked fun at his own "Star" mixing of Jedi and mind meld in a press conference (see previous post.) He ended his speech with this: "And in the words of one of my favorite Star Trek characters — Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise — 'May the force be with you.'"
And speaking of women's issues, the actor who played another Captain of the Enterprise, Sir Patrick Stewart hosted the launch of a global campaign to encourage men to take action to combat violence against women. At the UN Hotel in New York, Stewart talked about his own childhood experience with such violence. "I became an expert," Stewart said. "I knew exactly when to open a door and insert myself between my father's fist and my mother's body."
“Violence against women is the single greatest human rights violation of our generation,” he proclaimed, and issued a call to action: "--not an action that will make things better in six months' time or a year's time," he continued, "but action that might save someone's life and someone's future this afternoon, tonight, tomorrow morning."
Monday, March 04, 2013
It happened because of President Obama in his press conference Friday. He started to refer to the "Jedi mind..." and hesitated, then hit on kind of the wrong word, "meld."
Yes, despite his Vulcan heritage, he was referring to a Jedi mind trick. But who came to save the day but Spock himself. Leonard Nimoy promptly tweeted, "Only a Vulcan mind meld will help with this congress."
Then the White House itself got into the act with the following illustration. Note the appropriate Star Wars and Star Trek typefaces. Somewhere J.J. Abrams must be smiling.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
The talk of Trekdom has to be Captain Kirk visiting the 2013 Oscar ceremony from the 23rd century. William Shatner's dialogue with host Seth McFarland opened the event. He was there to warn McFarland that his first numbers were going to earn him terrible reviews. He used newspaper headlines to prove it, somewhat reminiscent of how Spock used newspaper stories as evidence about Edith Keeler in "City on the Edge of Forever."
The responses on Trek Movie ran the gamut from joy to embarrassment. Many noticed that even given the new JJA movies, William Shatner is still the real Captain Kirk. One post pointed out that the Oscars' huge international audience (upwards of a billion) meant more people may have seen Shatner as Captain Kirk on that night than ever before, perhaps in total. I'd say, surely never as many at one time as the Oscar telecast. But in total, maybe not as many. In the 90s it was estimated that Shatner as Kirk was known to a quarter of the planet's population, and that's several billion.
Still, if you needed evidence of Star Trek's enduring hold on the planetary imagination, this might suggest it.
In other possible Edith Keeler news, political scientist, movie buff and Trekkie Jonathan Bernstein blogged about a 1933 movie called Men Must Fight, and suggested that the leading female character--a pacifist--might be the inspiration for Keeler.
Meanwhile on Earth, a huge meteorite streaked through the sky of Siberia, and caused a sonic bomb that did considerable damage. There was a flurry of excitement afterwards for a few days, with people wondering how endangered the planet is from such impacts, or what the relationship was to the asteroid that was passing close by at the time (scientists so far say none.)
This also inspired several sites to reminisce about asteroid doomsday movies. Here at The Credits, scientists describe their favorites (while the Bruce Willis Armageddon was more popular, its 1998 rival Deep Impact was more scientifically accurate.) Meanwhile, the New York Times interviewed science fiction writers (including Star Trek Into Darkness co-writer and producer Damon Lindelof) on yarns the meteor impact might inspire.
Stephen Baxter suggested that the most prophetic of such tales was H.G. Wells' "The Star," in which Earth watches a wandering star come closer and closer without any means to prevent it. We're probably closer to that situation he said than the wish fulfillment of Armageddon.
The biggest impact on me was seeing a CNN interview with Lawrence Krauss, physicist and author of The Physics of Star Trek among many other popular science books. Krauss explained how the damage in Russia was caused by the sonic boom. But the CNN reporter had no idea what he was talking about. Apparently the idea that sound could create physical force was a new concept to him. People can make fun of the obsessions of Trek fans with techno-babble and geeky points of science. That seems infinitely preferable to the blithe ignorance that is going to be unnecessarily shocked by, for instance, global warming causing bigger snow storms.
Sunday, January 27, 2013
But when imagination is limited to imagining cash flow, Hollywood is easier than ever to figure out.
J.J. Abrams, who previously announced that he had turned down an offer to direct the next Star Wars movie out of loyalty to Star Trek, has now announced that he's directing the next Star Wars movie.
Paramount says he's committed to a third Star Trek movie, in some capacity, and also the next Mission Impossible.
Disney, new owner of Star Wars Inc., hinted that Abrams may direct the next Toy Story movie and definitely the next Pinocchio.