Sunday, May 17, 2009

Wisdom Figure

Last fall I sat in on a six week memoir writing class. We'd be given a couple of topics during class time and just do some free writing for 15 minutes on that topic.

One of the first exercises we did involved first making a list of five wisdom figures, people who've assisted us in our quest for meaning, who've helped shape our core values. I scratched out a list with a little difficulty and picked one of them to write on. Here it is.

Okay, so he's got pointy ears. So what? Big deal. Yes, he's from another planet. Yes, he lacks emotions. Yes, he's fictional. But Spock is there, in my memory, in my views of the world, in the views of my own life. He stands there erect, hands clasped behind his back in an "at ease" position that I still mimic to this day. Every Sunday as I recite the Apostle's Creed, I'm standing straight and still like Spock. He's loyal. Rational. Yes, I have to say it, he's logical. He appreciates the scientific method. and while he maintains a cool reserve, we all know that underneath he's got a seething cauldron of raw feelings boiling away, kept under control by a single upturned eyebrow and a healthy curiosity about all things new. Puzzles are a challenge, a way to learn something new. And while he's been known to throw a punch or two in his time, he mostly handles conflict with a zen-like detachment, coolly pinching an opponent's shoulder, dropping the villain instantly into a cold, deep sleep. He's a stranger amidst a crew of irrational humans, trying to understand the foreign language of emotional responses.

For a kid who kept moving to new houses, new cities, new friends, why not rely on someone constant, someone whose judgment you could trust, who would loyally appear in your living room weekday afternoons at 4. Kirk got the girls. And that's certainly an appealing trait to emulate. But Spock truly understood -- if not himself, at least the world - the universe - around him. Maybe, one day, I'll be able to say the same. It's not logical, I know, but maybe, someday, it will be true. Could he actually be a part of me, lurking deep within, forged in childhood, shaped in high school?

Speech contest. Do a dramatic monologue. I come up with a selection from Leonard Nimoy's book, I Am Not Spock, an internal dialogue section, in which Nimoy wrestles with the Spock inside himself. Maybe, inside me, there's still a Spock, a logical creature, trying to get out.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My Two Cents (Thoughts on Star Trek as Originally Posted to Film Score Monthly)

So, rather surprisingly, I got out of the house and made it to a movie theater. On an opening weekend. It’s harder than you think with my two kids. They’re high energy, they’re fun and they like to do everything together as a family and by the end of a day it’s all I can do to drag myself into bed.

But I wanted to see Star Trek. I’d hoped to see it sooner rather than later, but it was proving tricky. I didn’t really want to go by myself (although I was ready to resort to that). My wife decided from the promos that the film was aimed at 18 year old boys and would be “too much” for her. The friend I have in town who’s closest to a Trek fan already had plans to go see it with his girlfriend. I figured I’d get to see it at some point with another friend – and, frankly, I had no idea of his history with or opinion of the Trek franchise. But then he called Friday evening. “You want to go see it tonight?”

The kids tucked into bed, I ate a bowl of ice cream to help guard against sleepiness and headed to the theater. I think I was expecting to see at least a few people dressed up in Starfleet uniforms of some vintage or other, but there was nary a comm badge in sight. And I left my Spock ears at home (in the package where they’ve always been, to be fair).

Like Mark Ford and Jeff Bond and, I’m sure, many others around here, I grew up on the reruns. I discovered the show circa 1970, around second grade, and it quickly became a staple. The first books I ever bought with my own money were some of the Blish novelizations and David Gerrold’s making of books, The World of Star Trek and The Trouble With Tribbles. I searched in vain for toys that bore any real resemblance to the actual series props. But in the hinterlands of Iowa, there were no conventions – at least none of which I was ever aware – and it remained only a beloved show and, later, a beloved series of films, but I never became a raving “We’re not Trekkies, We’re Trekkers!” kind of guy. I finally allowed myself to enjoy the Next Generation, but I only caught one or two episodes of Deep Space Nine (yes, the Tribbles episode was one) and gave up on Voyager after the pick up truck in space episode (although I did begin watching again when Seven of Nine showed up. Yeah, I know, so sue me.) It took me a couple of weeks to finally catch Insurrection and I almost didn’t bother to see Nemesis in a theater at all (but the hype about Jerry’s score finally sold me a ticket).

I tried not to find out much about this new installment. The whole idea seemed a little, well, lame. Why do they keep trying to do prequels? Who cares already? And as for JJ Abrams, I know nothing. Haven't seen lost or anything else he's done. I don't even really know what else he's done right off the top of my head.

So now that I’ve seen it, I thought I should blog some thoughts about it here. But with a coupla message board threads and blog posts already bursting forth with opinions, it seems sort of anticlimactic to add my tiny opinion to the fray. But I loved it. I had a great time. I don’t care that it killed old Trek continuity. I mean, come on, one of the first episodes of the original series called him James R. Kirk and the term Federation didn’t even show up until, I don’t know, late in the first season. So let’s not kid ourselves. It’s just a show. We should really just relax.

And, in it’s latest form, it’s a rousing good time. Sure, the fights and editing are a little Bourne-ish at times (cut so quickly it’s hard to follow what the hell’s going on) and the plot’s not going to withstand a whole lot of critical explication, but it hit the right buttons and never had me glancing at my watch. The character introductions were spot on, the little nods here and there to the big nerds (like seeing an Admiral Komack) were sprinkled in nicely and it was just a lot of fun,. I haven’t had this much fun seeing a movie since, well, I don’t really know. Granted, I don’t really get to see movies anymore, but still…

As to the score, well, since the days of Goldsmithian Hornerosity are long gone and never to return, I thought it worked well. I’m eager to hear it on cd. I was never a big fan of Courage’s theme apart from the justly iconic opening fanfare, but it really made me smile to hear it again in this new setting. Everything old is new again.

Now if I could only justify buying the amazingly awesome prop toys that are being made these days.