Sunday, July 30, 2017

Star Trek and God

Esquire reports on an upcoming Entertainment Weekly story in which we're informed of the following exchange on the set of Star Trek: Discovery:
The director halts the action and Lorca, played by British actor Jason Isaacs of Harry Potter fame, steps off the stage. The episode's writer, Kirsten Beyer, approaches to give a correction on his "for God's sakes" ad lib. 
"Wait, I can't say 'God'?" Isaacs asks, amused. "I thought I could say 'God' or 'damn' but not 'goddamn.'  
Beyer explains that Star Trek is creator Gene Roddenberry's vision of a science-driven 23rd-century future where religion basically no longer exists. 
"How about 'for f—'s sake'?" he shoots back. "Can I say that?" 
"You can say that before you can say 'God,' " she dryly replies.
The director Kirsten Beyer is factually full of shit. Let's look at some examples of Roddenberry's vision from when he was alive and writing it:
"We are gathered here today with you, Angela Martine, and you, Robert Tomlinson, in the sight of your fellows, in accordance with our laws and our many beliefs ..." -- Kirk, Balance of Terror
That could be beliefs about anything, right?
"If you're speaking of worships of sorts, we represent many beliefs." - McCoy, Bread and Circuses
Still kind of fuzzy...  but in the same episode...
"You've got it wrong, all of you. It's not the sun up in the sky. It's the Son of God." - Uhura, Bread and Circuses 
Oh, SNAP! Not only is it THE God we're talking about here, it's Christ. And not in a bad way, either. This isn't some alien God-impostor that is to be struck down. In fact, Uhura waxes eloquently about the fact that the Roman broadcasters tried to make fun of the religion and could not. This episode was written by Gene Roddenberry and Gene Coon, the two men who created "Roddenberry's vision".
"Murder is contrary to the laws of man and God." M-5 Computer, The Ultimate Computer
Aw jeez, they just keep comin', man! Star Trek finding a basis for morality in religion? Yet it did. And morality is what saved the day. Not phasers. Not photon torpedoes. Not Spock. Not science. Not force. BTW, this is a recurring theme in Star Trek. There are inumerable times when Spock's logic fails. An entire episode ("The Galileo Seven") was devoted to this. Spock offers the utility of logic and reason. But Kirk is in charge because he has Heart. So what does Kirk say of God..?
"Mankind has no need for gods. We find the One quite adequate." - Kirk, Who Mourns for Adonais?
Who is the "we" that Kirk is talking about here? He didn't say "they".
"What does God need with a starship?" - Kirk, Star Trek V
Many, many times, the Enterprise crew encounters alien "gods", from Adonais, to Trelaine, to Vaal, to Landru, etc. But you should note that at no point does the Enterprise crew (no bloody "A", no bloody "B"...) ever take issue with worship or the concept of God. They do take down numerous pretenders to the title. Playing God is a problem for the crew. But meeting God seems a perfectly reasonable possibility to them until they discover that it's one more pretender.

And what does Gene Roddenberry's vision for Star Trek say of those who would have religious beliefs that differed from their own? Well, Kirk said it early in "Balance of Terror", but if that were just too blatant and terrestrial, it was couched in metaphorical terms as a Vulcan philosophy:
IDIC - "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations."
All of these examples are ten years or more AFTER the Discovery timeframe.

I'm cautious about the new series, because now more than ever, they're advertising to the world that they don't know jack shit about Star Trek.


To be sure, many people don't know jack shit about Star Trek, and many of them have been writing for the show. The dumbest, most head-scratching and abysmally obvious inconsistencies have resulted, such as the Federation doesn't use money. Except the many times when it does (from credits to gold-pressed latinum to replicator rations). Or that the Federation is vegan... except the numerous times when they're demonstrably not. But I've written about these things before. A friend of mine once asserted the veganism of the Federation until I pointed out the counterexamples. Then she got mad. At me. Because in today's imperfect world, facts are fucking inconvenient, and those that bear them are evil.

In the Sixties, Roddenberry created an episodic TV show, there to tell stories. Canon wasn't really a big deal, and fit in the show's "bible" (writer's guide). But the "utopia" of Star Trek as originally envisioned was a celebration of individuality and exceptionalism where you could believe what you want and do as you will as long as it didn't infringe on the rights of others. That is the very heart and soul of the Prime Directive.

UPDATE: Some folks miss the point here. The point is this... no matter how "advanced" Roddenberry thought people would be by TNG (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Star Trek: Discovery is set 10 years PRIOR to Kirk's era. The appropriate standards to employ, then, are those used for TOS (the original series) (more exactly, this side of TOS). And those are well documented. This is why all of my examples are from the original series. And by those standards, the director is objectively full of shit.

UPDATE 2: some people are missing the point on another important aspect. My intent here is not to show that the Star Trek universe is religious. My intent is to show that the Star Trek universe is tolerant, and by "tolerant" I mean that all viewpoints, including those of religion, are given respect. Infinite Diversity, Infinite Combinations -- IDIC. Those who believe that Star Trek is or should be purely secular certainly do not understand the spirit of Star Trek.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Cricket Doodle!

[CLICK HERE] to play!

Today's Google Doodle is pretty great. It's in celebration of the ICC 2017 Women's Cricket World Cup. It's also a mini-game where you control crickets playing cricket!

The doodle inspired me to explain the rules of cricket to my son, who is now convinced that this is why we invented baseball.

I've seen many variations of the following explanation. This is my version:

The Rules of Cricket
(as related by an American)

There are eleven players on a team.
The twelfth player doesn't play, unless a player who plays doesn't play. Even then he doesn't really play. He can't bowl, bat, wicket-keep, or captain the team. Basically, the twelfth player is a fifth wheel.
There are two innings.
In each inning, one team is out and the other team is in.
The team that is out consists of a bowler, a wicket-keeper, and a bunch of blokes who look lost.
The team that is in plays two batsmen at a time: the striker, and the tosser who's waiting around to be the striker.
The bowler (who is out) tries to get the batsmen (who are in) out.
When the bowler bowls, he pitches the ball. That is, his hand goes over, not under.
Even though the bowler pitches, his pitch isn't a pitch. The ground is a pitch. So he pitches at the pitch.
That's too confusing even for a Brit, so screw it... he bowls.

When the bowler has bowled six balls, it's an over.
The game is not over when the over is over. When the over is over, the bowler's not the bowler. Another bowler bowls another over.
There is no limit to the number of overs before the game is over. Until it's over it's overs over and over.

There are many ways to get the batsman out.
He can be bowled out.
He can be run out.
He can be caught out.
He can be stumped out.
He can accidentally out himself. It happens... they're British.
He can be LBW. This means the bowler hit him with the ball. In baseball, you'd take a base. In cricket you get the hell out.
There are other ways to be out, but nobody cares.

The batsman holds a paddle, not a bat. But "paddleball" was taken.
The batsman tries to keep the bowler from breaking a wicked wicket, and bat the ball out.
If the ball goes full out, that's 6 runs, and nobody runs.
If the ball is in before it's out, that's 4 runs, no matter how much they run.
If the ball is in and stays in, then the players run if they want to.
If the players don't want to run, they stop running.

When a batsman is out, he goes out. Another player who's in comes in until they're out.
When 10 players are out, they're all out, even the one who's not out, and the one who's not playing.
When they're all out, they go out, except the one who's not playing unless he's playing.
When everyone has gone out, that's the ending of the innings, but not the last of the innings.
Then they do it again until all the players who went in go out.
When all the players who were in are out and the players who were out go in and come out again, then the game is over. No more overs.

*shrug*... Nobody says cricket is easy to comprehend... that's why it's called a "TEST"!

You have to watch quite a few games to learn the ins and outs. But it does seem to me that in the 1600s or thereabouts, some Englishman invented Abbott and Costello's "Who's On First" routine, and all of his mates shouted, "Oy! I'll play that!"


Now that the joke's over, I've found this on YouTube. It's probably the clearest and most concise explanation of the rules I've seen.  (a more complete explanation is on Wikipedia)

In the video you'll see some clips where the teams are wearing team colors, and others where the teams are wearing all white. If they're wearing white, it's probably a "test match", which is what I describe above. But there are shorter matches involving a limited number of 'overs', and in these the players commonly wear colors.


And finally, here's a reminder that all of Google's old doodles are available at, including the playable Google Pacman!

[CLICK HERE] to play!