Monthly Archives: March 2013

Commander F’ing Riker.

I’ve been watching and reading along with this GREAT column about Star Trek; The Next Generation, my favorite tv show. I stumbled upon, and a Star Trek TNG Rewatch series by Keith Decandido. Apparently he’s very active in the Trek World – as an author, blogger, etc… Frankly I had never heard of the guy. I never read Star Trek comic books, never read the novels. And, in fact, I don’t much watch any of the other shows besides TNG. I’ve seen them, sure. And who DOESN’T do a Shatner impression? But that said, The Original Series (called TOS in Trek circles) wasn’t on long, and despite some truly fantastic sci-fi ideas (like the Generation Ship in For the World is Hollow and I have Touched the Sky), the poor quality and lack of overarching stories never drew me in.

When I was about 8 or 9 years old (age reveal for those of you who can do math),  I sat down with my family and saw the pilot episode of TNG (which was bad, but I was a kid and didn’t know any different) and never stopped watching. Sir Patrick Stewart would go on to inspire me in many ways. I’d go so far as to say THIS is the kind of show that made me want to be in television. It was far enough removed from the real world that I couldn’t necessarily draw any direct parallels with my own life which, at that time, was a fairly closed-in environment in Anchorage, Alaska. But the general morality those people lived by and the positive vision of where humanity would be in the future was very appealing, as I was not super impressed with the way people treated me or one another in school.

So I watched every episode. Every week. Maybe with my step father. Maybe my Mother. Maybe alone. It didn’t matter as long as I got my fix. And it made me feel smart. I remember watching a 2-parter called Chain of Command, wherein Sir Patrick Stewart’s character, Captain Picard, gets captured and tortured in a similar way to a book we were reading in english class: Am obscure little sci-fi book called 1984. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Without anyone knowing, I was getting a supplemental education straight out of pop culture. I was literally growing up with this show.

When I stumbled upon the Rewatch about a month ago, I started rewatching it myself. I’ve watched each episode and then read this guy’s breakdown. The great thing is that there are 7 SEASONS(!!) so its taking a long time. It’s more or less nothing new to me – Though I kept my interest in the show close to the vest as a youth, I’ve seen the entire series probably a couple times over already and basically know everything, save for some interesting behind-the-scenes tid-bits. For example, I didn’t know there was a writer’s strike at the end of Season 1. I’d always assumed they simply didn’t know if the show would be picked-up, and so weren’t TRYING to lay groundwork for future seasons. That is completely wrong. Turns out, they were, in fact, putting story lines together and just had to wing it with incomplete scripts, making the end of the season rife with loose ends.

Anyway, I’m about half way through and I’ve started thinking about which characters I relate to the most. There’s Captain Picard, the leader. Commander Riker, the capable sidekick. Lt. Commander Data, whose desire to be human teaches us what it means to BE human. Lt. Commander Geordi LaForge, the Reading Rainbow. Lt. Worf, consumed with honor and duty. And of course, the WOMEN, who have grown on me over the years. Dr. Crusher, Picard’s near equal. Counselor Troi, the local shrink. And Enseign Ro, the rebel. I’m including her instead of Acting Ensign Wesley Crusher mostly because (sorry Will Wheaton) she doesn’t make me want to throw something at my computer.

To me, it’s obviously Captain Picard who I’d wish to emulate the most. As a youth, he was athletic, studious, and a total ladies man. And at the same time, he was brash, took risks, and ultimately assembled all the pieces of his experience to become a great man. Captain Picard is basically a total badass. He has this way of being patient and picking his spots when it comes to solving mysteries, seeking out new life, negotiating treaties between blood enemies, etc… that lets him take in all the information and see the big picture, often with this sense of poetry and humanity that ultimately defines him. I think he’s just great. But that’s more of a “wish I was like that” than “that’s just like me!”.

I’m not an android, nor am I an engineer, a warrior, or a woman. I’m adept at setting up backup. I grew up in Alaska… raised by a single parent. Can you see where this is going? If you watch, it’s gotta be fairly obvious that I’m talking about Commander Riker. As long as I can remember, I haven’t much cared about Riker one way or the other. I do thoroughly enjoy the way his stiff arms stick uncomfortably out to the sides and his head-cock, persistent and everlasting, makes him totally fun to impersonate. Not quite as fun as using a bad British accent (ps: why do the 24th Century French have no more French accents?) to tell people what to do, though I don’t recommend whipping out your Capt Picard impression out when you get pulled over. By the 3rd Season, he’s grown to be a little less ambitious than he once was. When he found his groove as 1st Officer, it seems like he fell into a little bit of what I call a “comfort trap”. He’s happy, he knows what he wants (even though that changed since before he come on beard the Enterprise D), he’s got a great woman in Troi (who will apparently soon be going through some ridiculous sexual peak as a half-human Betazoid), he plays music on the side, and generally keeps the ship running. Even as I write this stuff down, I feel like I’m describing myself. The only thing is I can’t grow a beard.

I have to write more later, but check out the show. Watch The Measure of a Man, then Data’s Day and tell me its not one of the best shows EVER!! 


Fear and The 1st Day Workshopping a New Play

There must be people out there who can relate to this. It’s a personal thing, so WHY post it on the damn internet? The answer is simple: If I don’t confront this at some point, I’ll never get over it. Read on to find out what I’m talking about, but know that the point is I’m not afraid of this feeling, or ashamed of it. It simply IS.

I read a play with some friends & colleagues last night, written by a friend. I don’t know yet if I’ll actually be involved in mounting the show, as it is in very early stages of development.

That said, there’s this thing that happens to me when I’m in a situation where I provide feedback about a play…or really, any kind of literature. I went to good schools, have read plenty of books, and generally understand themes, character archetypes, and story breakdown. Why is it, then, that I always feel like I’m the least intelligent person in the room? Why do I feel like the thoughts I’m having or choose to contribute are paper thin?

This isn’t new. I remember Comp 101 in college. It was a required course for all freshmen, and being that I was lucky enough to go to a good, competitive high school, the class was an absolute BREEZE, bordering on the completely mundane. It was one of those classes for which you could scrape together a paper in a couple hours the night before it was due. And because of the seemingly inept reading/writing level of the other students, I never felt like my work was “less” than any of the other students… Even if I didn’t throw the full weight of my ability toward the assignment. Granted, that’s not a good way to learn or improve. I tend to need to be challenged by my peers in order to grow. Like basketball – the better the competition, the better the player I would become, even if it meant getting destroyed on the court.  Class discussions were often just as tedious as the homework: We would sit in class (mostly dreaming of being outside in the CA sun) and discuss one another’s work & ideas.

Despite my feeling that I was perfectly capable of excelling at the class, I never felt like I was doing very well. And when discussion time rolled around, I would do “the thing”. The trick. It goes like this: Be patient and wait until the discussion gets moving. Eventually, someone says something utterly beside the point, or simply doesn’t understand whatever the writer is getting at. That’s a good time to pounce. That’s when it’s time to throw an idea out there; One that may or may not be exactly what the writer intended readers to consider. As long as it’s a weighty notion, or a grand theme, it would make me “seem” smart and involved.

Keep in mind, this is only a trick. Mostly based on social anxiety and fear of being exposed as a fraud and an idiot – two of my biggest fears (and, I suspect, not unusual fears). So that’s what happened last night. We read this play, which happens so the writer can get a sense of what the play sounds like out loud since, until that point, it had all been a writing exercise. Atypical of my usual M.O., I had actually prepared for this by reading the play before showing up, expressly so I could participate in the talkback. But what happens if I don’t immediately understand what it’s all about? What happens when the inevitable “wrong” thing gets said, exposing my lack of understanding how storytelling works? After 20 years doing show after show after show, a degree in theatre, and a lifetime of reading, how can it be that I am unable to see the basic themes & ideas in a 60 page play?

The writing could be to blame. It could be that the actors didn’t convey their parts “correctly”. But that’s all bullshit. For God’s sake, my senior thesis in high school was about how the same basic themes tend to cross over time and space from Homer to Shakespeare to Mamet. Its about the fact that clearly, there are people who can see right through writing & story to the basic line of thought. And for whatever reason, I feel like I get lost before I reach that plateau of understanding. So I need to pretend. And in faking it, now that I’m working with professionals instead of students, I MUST look like a complete moron. And who likes feeling that way?

What then? Stop participating? Avoid doing new work? Sit in the corner and keep quiet? Or put on my big boy pants, get that zen-cow-eye focus that so many athletes have and plow through, unafraid of failure? I’m gonna run with the latter and hope that it makes me a better player in the long run.