Sunday, May 19, 2013

Star Trek into Darkness

Star Trek into Darkness, the latest iteration of Gene Roddenberry’s creation, hit the screens last Wednesday. Finally a rollicking good movie in 3D, albeit a post-production conversion.  Ah, well. Maybe next time. And IMAX which I have not yet seen.
It opens with a chase scene—Kirk and another member of the Enterprise crew being chased by spear-chucking aboriginals intent on doing our boys harm, while Spock is busy trying to save these self-same natives from the destructive forces of nature on their undeveloped world.
Chris Pine does an excellent job of Kirk. Gung-ho flyboy, arrogant with a touch of innocence that comes across as vulnerability and caring.
Zachary Quinto is a commendable Spock, much better looking than the real Spock (Leonard Nimoy.) But I miss the voice.
Zoe Saldana as Uhura speaks volumes with those flashing eyes when her significant other, Mr. Spock, behaves irrationally. What kind of Vulcan behaves irrationally?
The rest of the cast is fine. They interact with each other in spot-on Trek fashion. Argumentively independent, yet always loyal and supportive in the end.
And Benedict Cumberbatch. I’ve saved the best for last. He has the looks, the voice, the bad guy role. Or is he the bad guy?
I liked the movie. I will see it again. So visually stunning, in fact, that I am seriously toying with paying the extra money to see the IMAX version.


Oh, yes, I know. Unoriginal, predictable, completely lacking in any hint of the next big thing. I don’t care. I enjoyed it. Star Trek is my generation’s fairy tale. Fairy tales retold, must always be recognizable, therefore, originality and surprising turns of event are not only unnecessary, done to excess they can be disturbing.
Oh, dear. But wasn’t that the point of the original Star Trek? That it be original and disturbing? In a time when sixteen of these United States still enforced anti-miscegenation laws and women weren’t allowed to wear pants in most schools and work places, didn’t the Enterprise crew include members without regard to race, gender, or specie? Of course the women didn’t wear pants. Perhaps that would have been too disturbing.
That original Star Trek dealt with two opposing super powers, The Federation and the Klingons. Not unlike Earth during the late sixties. In later TV series, the Federation and the Klingons found ways to work together. It seems America’s relationship with the former Soviet Union has not yet reached that level. Although this production is set prior to that kinder gentler time in Federation/Klingon relations, these Klingons seem more like pests on the periphery than real threats. Harrison/Kahn is the true ‘other’ super power.
I’ve read statements from cast members and PR flekkers who say what they think the overarching themes of Into the Dark are. Terrorism. The danger from within. Kirk’s crisis of faith in the hallowed concept of leadership.
Perhaps, had they spent time developing any one of these themes it would have been more than a fun afternoon at the movies. But the overarching themes were chase scenes, battles, noise, flashing lights, and ACTION. Certainly fills the time and probably less expensively than the additional writing necessary to give this excellent cast more story to work with.
I want another Star Trek. I want new communicators, not the old flip phones. I want tomorrow’s music in the night clubs and bedrooms. 3D from the get-go. If some fool mentions the loss of gravity on the ship, I don’t want to see folks falling all over the place. I want to come home thinking about the universe and humanity’s place in it in a new way.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Children's Book Week

"Books erase bias, they make the uncommon everyday, and the mundane exotic. A book makes all cultures universal."  Grace Lin is the author and illustrator 2010 Newbery Honor book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.

May 13 – 16 is Children’s Book Week. If it is not one of the most important weeks to celebrate at your house, it should be. For those of us who read and for those of us who write and for those of us who think we do neither, Children’s Books open the world to us.
Some of us were lucky enough to listen to our elders tell stories of our families’ histories. About the old country, or when they first came to this country, or this city.
But somehow, if the story or one very like it was in a book, it seemed more real. We got better acquainted with the family down the block and across town and over the ocean because their stories were written in books.
How old were you when you first read, or had read to you, or saw an adaptation on television or in the movies Goodnight Moon, The Tale of Peter Rabbit? Where the Wild Things Are? Charlotte’s Web? Black Beauty? The Diary of Anne Frank? Harry Potter?
Most of the children’s books on today’s Best Of lists, I didn’t read until I was an adult. Of course most of them weren’t written when I was a child. But the significant thing about these newer children’s books is that I enjoyed them as an adult. Not in the same way my children and grandchildren enjoyed and do enjoy them as children. But a good book is good no matter the recommended age of the reader.
When I was a child reading was a part of our bedtime ritual. Bath, pajamas, and a book. We started with books that my brother and I could not yet read. Books my mother had loved as a child. As our reading skills improved we became participants. Mother would read a bit, then I would, then my younger brother. Heidi and Black Beauty are the ones I best remember from those bedtime readings.
It was a time to talk about the story. How it related to us, to our family. We learned to pronounce the words we saw and what exactly they meant. We explored ideas back and forth each on our own level and challenged to understand as the older ones did.
Gradually, the time came when each of us read too well to share a book like that. Reading to ourselves got us through the stories so much more quickly. We could read more than one chapter a night. We didn’t have to wait to find out what happened.
And we could read a book that neither of the others was interested in. Then instead of discovering things with family, we were discovering stories and ideas with our friends at school. And then we were grown and comparing our discoveries with other grown-ups and critics and their reviews in the paper.
Then, like magic, we had children. Sons and daughters, or nieces and nephews, or children of friends. And we were reading to them and with them. Books we’d loved when we were children. New books. Old ideas and new ideas.
We journeyed from sharing our parents’ past into sharing what was our present into our imagined future. And now we have the opportunity to share our past and the many pasts before us into our children’s and grandchildren’s present into their imagined future.
Read to your children and talk about what you are reading. And when they are too old for that, read something your children are reading and talk to them about that. And when we are too old to read for ourselves, if we are lucky and they have time, our children will read to us and talk to us about everything.