Friday, June 04, 2010

Another fascinating episode of "STTNG" (for short) worthy of some moral reflection, and I know that Bryan Cross and I have discussed it:

"Half a Life"--A noted scientist, one Dr. Timicin, (played by David Ogden Stiers of "M*A*S*H*" fame as Major Charles Winchester) is attempting to revitalize the core of a star as a test to save his own world, Kaelon II. The test fails after a promising start, and Timicin is comforted by Ambassador Lwaxana Troi, mother of ship's counselor Deanna Troi. Mrs. Troi, as per usual, is amorously attracted to Timicin, who returns the feelings. In the process of their discussion, Troi learns that Timicin cannot continue his experiments and cannot pursue a long-term relationship with her because of a peculiar cultural practice--"The Resolution." In four days, Timicin will turn 60, surrounded by friends and family who will celebrate his achievements and their mutual love. When it is concluded, Timicin--as have almost twenty generations of his people--is expected to kill himself. Troi voices her strenuous opposition, and attempts to enlist Captain Picard to intervene to stop what she regards as a barbaric practice. Picard, citing his responsibility to uphold Starfleet's Prime Directive of cultural non-interference, refuses. Troi and Timicin argue over the morality of the practice, with Timicin lamenting the loss of vigor in the aged, and the tendency to lock them away in loneliness. Troi notably declares, "You got rid of the problem by getting rid of the people." Driven by his affection for Mrs. Troi--a widow for many years--and the frustration that his people will not even listen to new insights on the failed test gleaned from observation, (Timicin has already become something of a non-person to them) Timicin requests asylum aboard the Enterprise. In response, the leaders of Kaelon II send warships to potentially fire on the Enterprise. Timicin wavers, never wanting to be the cause of a diplomatic incident. In addition, Timicin's daughter (played by Michelle Forbes, more notable in this series later as Ro Laren) comes aboard the Enterprise to convince her father to go through with the Resolution. Noting that Timicin had taught her to cherish the practice, and that Timicin's renunciation of it means that he will not be buried with the family, she concludes poignantly: "I love you, but I am ashamed." Timicin eventually concludes that his motivations for rejecting the Resolution are selfish, and elects to return to Kaelon II to carry it out. In an odd twist, Mrs. Troi elects to be among Timicin's loved ones at the Resolution, though she never says that her opinion of it has changed.

The debate between the two main characters on this issue is excellent; A Christian finds himself applauding Troi (played by Majel Barrett-Roddenberry) as she pleads with Timicin. Why the character decides to join him (suggesting at least tacit support) is mysterious and inconsistent. The Prime Directive, when applied to sovereign states and diplomacy, seems a wise policy. (I must confess unfamiliarity with the term, "Westphalian state sovereignty" as a theory in political science. The Wikipedia article on the Prime Directive [wow, disturbing.--ed.] claims a linkage.) In any case, when applied to morality, it is utter relativistic nonsense. [I'll take 'Natural Law' for $1000, Alex!--ed.] Even our dear Captain Picard can muster full-fledged moral outrage when necessary, which is pretty silly for those attempting to uphold cultural relativism. [They don't have logic at Starfleet Academy.--ed.] Clearly not. [Side Rant/Thought: Two movies related to this 'life/death' theme that need to be watched are "Million Dollar Baby" and "Seven Pounds." The former stars Clint Eastwood (automatic good movie) and Morgan Freeman (potential classic every time) alongside Hillary Swank; the latter stars Will Smith, AKA Mega-Star and Still Obscenely Underrated. Both times, we entered the "I Can't Affirm This, But What An Incredible Movie" Zone. I inadvertently read 3 negative reviews of "Seven Pounds," and I couldn't believe we watched the same movie. Sheesh.]
An awful lot's happened in 2 days or so. Rue McClanahan, most famous for her turn as Blanche Deveraux on The Golden Girls, has died. For the record, that show was and is absolutely hilarious. Most people don't know this, it seems, because unless you are an elderly person or headed there soon, you wouldn't be a natural viewer, or so you would think. But I have watched it somewhat randomly for part of my teenage years and twenties, because like so many things from the 1980's, people my age and slightly older are getting nostalgic, and you can find it if you want (or even if you don't). I'm not sure how many full episodes I've seen; I think 30 or 40 is reasonable. Anyway, I've never failed to laugh at an episode once. [You think everything's funny.--ed.] I don't think I'm just saying that because there was a death. Try it out; it's funny. And you won't have to go to confession or the equivalent, though I won't promise that it's G-rated. Rue's character was a naughty minx, quite frankly, and though that's not good per se, it can be funny.
Surely everyone knows about Armando Galarraga's perfect game that wasn't, when umpire Jim Joyce mistakenly called the runner safe on what would have been the final out at first base. No, they shouldn't change it; yes, it really does suck; no, I don't think replay should be expanded, but I'll bet it will. Everyone has been really classy about it; poor Jim has been tearing up for two days. Jeremy Schaap is right: this was a "teachable moment," and it seems like everybody passed.
I'm on page 64 of "The Faith of the Early Fathers" by Jurgens, the first of three volumes. I'll make no other comments but this: Justin Martyr was a great apologist, and he is also a flaming papist. [Sidebar: For the record, I am reclaiming the adjective "flaming" from its normal usage in the semi-affirmative phrase, "flaming homosexual." I am doing this because it seems good to be "flaming" about things that are good, and because I would guess that the current homosexual culture in the stereotypical is about affirmation in the first place, and (though the things mostly affirmed are bad, if the Bible is to be believed) I am about affirmation whenever possible. If I do decide to be a flaming papist, I'm definitely "coming out of the closet" (another great phrase needing unmooring from its origin) in a large way. In fact, however this turns out, I'm throwing a party, and I'm inviting as many of my good friends as I can. And I will play "I'm Coming Out" by Diana Ross as my entrance music, either to say, "I'm a loud, proud, Catholic" or, "Look at all these various Christians who've been ignoring each other, but they're all my friends." Like I always am, I'll be the mollifying glue that joins people who'd probably despise each other. And yes, though I am not overly fond of "hip-hop," the sample-infused "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems" is partially responsible for my appreciation of the Ross tune. Thanks, Puffy, or P. Diddy, or whatever your name is.]
That's all.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

It must be anti-neocon week at the BBC. [Isn't it always?--ed.] Another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation was amazingly timely and political on BBC America:

"The Drumhead"-- Starfleet Admiral Norah Satie (played by Jean Simmons) comes aboard to investigate an apparent sabotage of the dilithium crystal chamber which powers the warp drive. A Klingon who came aboard in an officer exchange turns out to be a spy for the Romulans. Following a lead prompted by the intuition of Satie's Betazoid assistant, (for Betazoids are telepathic) Ensign Simon Tarses is discovered to have lied on his application to Starfleet. He lied about the race of his grandfather, saying he was Vulcan when he was, in fact, a Romulan. Satie uses this revelation to expand the investigation well beyond its initial goals, even after the crew determines that the explosion was an accident. Satie brings Captain Picard under the scrutiny of her tribunal after Picard tries unsuccessfully to stop the hearings. Admiral Thomas Henry ends the proceedings, which were quite different from the able decisions of Satie's father, a famous jurist.

Intriguingly, Admiral Satie is mentioned as the one who ordered Picard to take command of the Enterprise. ("All Good Things...", the final episode of the series) I find it compelling that the disaster or terror scenario is given as the pretext for the abridgment of liberties. Though it may be dismissed as idealistic, this episode ably shows that the disaster scenario provides an opportunity for the limitless expansion of state power.
5 Random Wednesday Thoughts

5. Better to be a theologically inconsistent Protestant than one with no love.

4. I will try to listen this time. Will this be a date?

3. I'm hoping for a 'Star Trek' night with Chris and Dan tomorrow. [If that was slated to be a date, you just lost it.--ed.] Whatever! Real intellectuals love the Trek, baby!

2. Happy Birthday, Donica Liu.

1. A note on social networking: Being clever with your religious views only serves to make me think you are: 1) ashamed of Jesus, or 2) a pagan. On the other hand, "Jesus is the Lord and Savior of my life!!!" suggests: 1) I am an emotionalist, and/or 2) I'm one of those "hot" girls who won't have premarital sex, but I'll enjoy being a flirty tease for the next ten years. Sad but true.