‘Star Trek’ Is Dazzling Fun

We got invited to a morning advance screening of ‘Star Trek’, the new J.J. Abrams re-imagining of the original Trek TV show. The movie is destined for accolades. It simply rocks — as the kidz say — on so many levels. The jaded pre-screening invitees (mostly media and then general assorted parasite types) offered rousing applause at the close.

This is easily the best Trek movie since ‘Wrath of Khan’ (yes, we know, we know). The script is intelligent and taut. Like the best Trek of old it combines action, humor and sustained character interaction. The casting is inspired — these really are our old friends Kirk, Bones, Spock, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu and Chekov again. It’s uncanny. Seeing them in 2009 makes one realize how much they’ve been missed.

Chinese Children pondering what it means as they put it all together

The project could have easily flopped. Trek has developed into a listless pop culture joke. Abrams himself says he was terrified every day he might actually be making a sequel to the hilarious Trek spoof ‘Galaxy Quest.’ This Trek has one advantage none of the other movie incarnations had; for once, Paramount didn’t try to make space opera on the cheap. On a big screen the production values are gorgeous. The cinematography is lush and fluid. And we get starships and space battles as we always wanted them to be.

This Movie Could Be Titled “Yes, We Can”

Our own take is that Trek as science fiction in this movie easily eclipses Lucas’ fantasy camp with its oddly national socialist emphasis on the La Noonan ‘mysterious’ mystical and Aryan ‘Mitichlorian’ (wtf?) biological superiority. One scene encapsulates this for the Stiftung. A young Kirk, before joining the Academy, rides his motorcycle across the Iowa cornfields. Lyrical and beautiful on its own, the camera pulls back to reveal the starship construction site of the Federation flagship, Enterprise. It’s a completely integrated tableau, harmoniously mixing the ultimate in Americana sensibilities with the space faring industrial future.

One could be excused thinking the movie is a paen to Obama. Once again Trek is unabashedly about idealism, duty, and leadership. The energy crackling in every frame has a netroots aura. The look, feel and sheer creative energy harkens back to the Apollo and New Frontier dynamism. The movie could be called “Yes, We Can!”

Kirk 2009 is once again the embodiment American cowboys let loose among the stars. The cowboy who so enraged 1960s European chattering class sensibilities. Kirk again is an unabashed ladies man. Kicks ass in a fist fight? A big hell yes. Naturally assumes command, becalms the crew, and saves the galaxy? Natch. The American cowboy as *before* the Warlord ruined that iconography, too. A double plus good thing in the script is how they write around Jean Luc Picardism and erase the way TNG writers out of spite wrote that awful punk death for Kirk. Great stuff. You’ve just been pwned, Ron Moore.

Abrams rightly points out that production began three years ago, before Obama announced his candidacy. True. Besides the point as well. By so successfully bringing the best of Star Trek back to us, it can not help but be where Obama and the Nation are today. Here we see an America without cynicism, without expedient duplicity. In short, nothing for the Movement or what’s left of the Republican Party.

Not that the Right won’t try. Besides trying to turn Kirk into a poster boy for waterboarding-hardheaded-national security Bauerism, the Right dwells on Star Fleet and the Enterprise as 100% a military organization with a chain of command. (“A place for everyman and everyman in his place.”) An old point to Trek fans as ‘Wrath of Khan’ already went there 25 plus years ago. It’s a typical mistake for many on the Right given their cultural isolation. The Right has a curious relationship with pop culture generally – they’re at once fascinated by it while determined to destroy it. Making them the perpetual outsider looking in. We doubt their attempts to re-purpose this entertainment will succeed any better.

We could go on but will close with this — when Kirk steps onto the Enterprise bridge wearing that famous gold uniform, today’s audience burst out in spontaneous joy. Even if you’re not a Trek fan we think you will, too.


  1. Aldershot says

    A while back I got a couple handfuls of Asimov mags from the library free bin. I could have gotten more, but as with Comment, shelf space is at a premium. I also just found I have one Analog, January ’68.

    I thought it was neat when Costas did Mantle’s eulogy he related a story about Bob’s mom asking if she should get rid of his old baseball cards, and he told she could, except to keep the Mantle.

  2. Dr Leo Strauss says

    My brother will vouch for that. He had original first issue series Iron Man and X Men from the 1960s and didn’t bother to keep them. He still kicks himself for that.

  3. Comment says

    We’ve been checking ebay for a while – The ones from the early 60s – generally fetch a good price – from 2-10 an issue, then some Asimov ones fetch a good price later on.

    Overall – we think we’ll probably keep some and give the others to a friend who is a serious fan. We have a tough time parting with anything – books or mags – but at some point it becomes overwhelming storing and carting and moving and storing and planning to read and putting aside etc.

    One thing we do know — If we give away a lot of them, they will surely be very valuable 30 years from now and then we’ll kick ourselves for getting rid of them like we did our ’57 Mantle to pay for Spring Break back in the day.

  4. Dr Leo Strauss says

    re Analog back issues, honestly don’t know. What’s the situation look like on eBay?

  5. Comment says

    Newt’s “get up in the morning and punish” was definately a “tell” – in the poker lingo – He is projecting some hostility and inner turmoil – Obama is so obviously a cool persona and basically a nice guy that Newt is doing himself little favor setting up a contrast. Newt is not without his good points too, but like many of us – he has issues and people are aware he has issues. If Newt was nominated now and ran against Obama now – he would get the pro torture vote (minorities excluded) – maybe 25 percent tops

  6. Comment says

    “Which should tell all of you about the abuse of power inherent in this administration. They now control General Motors, they basically control Chrysler, they control Citibank, they control AIG, and they are prepared to punish people. I think that’s very dangerous, to have a president who thinks he should get up in the morning and punish Americans. You know, appease foreigners, bow to the Saudi king, embrace the Venezuelan dictator, and punish Americans? I think that’s a very dangerous attitude,” – Newt

  7. Comment says

    via Colbert we see a clip of Kristol saying “bring it on” w/ torture prosecution and let Steve Bradbury face his accusers who are not 1/10 th the lawyer he is.

    We doubt Kristol believes that – Bradbury might not be a total shmuck like Bybee, but he is obviously an ideologue order-taker and the hypothetical lawyers would must likely be far superior to him.

    But – Kristol is right in the sense that any prosecution now – instead of say 5 years from now – will definately unleash and strenghten reactionary forces that Kristol
    likes –

    The worst thing for Kristol is to let things simmer off and let evidence accumulate slowly and painfully over a long judicious time. Many pro torture people and tortures will flip by then – conscious clearing etc.

  8. Comment says

    re SciFi – Hey Leo, do you think our ol Analog Science Fiction Science Fact mags from the 60s we inherited have a future value higher than their storage costs?

  9. Comment says

    We just read a semi-interesting interview with Ashcroft and Gonzales at The Daily Beast – Dan Abrams is sort of a self important interviewer who does not really ask good questions (he ran some cheesy shows on msnbc) with lots of pretend-controversy and pseudo-outrage used to gloss over actually important question – But Gonzales still comes accross as the ultimate little man – who constantly assserts the need to defer to so-called experts who supposedly know better (but common sense suggests otherwise since support for legalized and secret mystery law torture seems pretty dumb)

  10. Comment says

    Btw – Condi was ‘clearly’ flustered by the Stanford students – She is probably wondering why she isn’t being treated like Henry K on Charlie Rose. Might be time for her to roll out a memoir about her childhood in segregated Birmingham.

  11. Comment says

    “The president instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside of our obligations, legal obligations, under the Convention Against Torture. So that’s — and by the way, I didn’t authorize anything. I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency.”
    ~Condi Rice
    (Defending her role in Bush torture to Stanford
    students who had little patience
    with her weak casuistry)

  12. Anonymous says


    Speaking of formative cinematics(and national mythopoetics), what was ultimately even greater for myself than RotJ by far was Smithsonian’s Air&Space, not only the pragmatic sculpture of X-15s and the like hanging from the ceiling, but more especially the Pachebel and purple-screen prefaced magnum opus of To Fly, and also Fliers (since discontinued, it had a great Corsair crash landing sequence). Now “To Fly” is one of the greatest movies ever, by far. It’s semi-documentary, somewhat a dream sequence; both historicist and futurist allusive (at the end). Now, I am absolutely convinced that Thomas Pynchon made this movie “To Fly” into a book, which is called “Against the Day”. There are other influences in “Against the Day”, but I’m (with no real evidence) convinced the beating heart of the book is that movie. Everything in the book takes place in other parts of that cellusphere.

    Star Trek:
    Star Trek the show actually pretty good. I take it back. Can definitely jive with the progressive spirit of the show, especially in the 50s and 60s. I’ve heard excellent things about it from people in my parents’ generation, especially given what ever else was on TV at the time, it was quite an advance. Putting partisanship aside, that is. I can definitely dig the spirit of progressive cooperative scientific endeavor.

    And StarWars has more problems as paradigm-setting than I really would want to or have time to go into. Many criticisms, of course. Of course. It’s a movie, and eventually our conceptions and imaginations overpower the productions that spark their development. I still appreciate it as a stimulus to imagineering of all sorts.

    More generally, I don’t watch TV, and I’ve seen about 1 or 2 movies per year for the last 3 years, and I like it that way.

    Doc, highly highly recommend “Against the Day”, for that vibe. It’s called the ‘Inconvenience’ instead of the ‘Enterprise’ but the basic idea is very similar.

  13. Comment says

    Ofcourse – the most unkind cut for the Bishops will be the rousing cheers Obama will get from the (relatively conservative compared to other top schools) the
    student body.
    Those cheers will grate on the ears of the Bishops and they will rend their garments and curse the flock for it. They will interpret those cheers as a big f*** off aimed them.
    Obama alwaysgets the best opposition.

  14. Comment says

    Another classic case study is the way some right wing rabble misunderstand Springsteen’s Born in the USA,

  15. Comment says

    We watch the Leon Charney show today – He has some former Deputy Mayor under Rudy on – Both are totally wigging out about the OLC memo release and both are repeating neuro-libguistic phrases about good faith legal advice etc. Both
    are hearing about people having to hire lawyers and spend money etc.
    This elitism is hilarious – No one cares about the Liddy Englanders.

  16. Comment says

    The right’s relationship to pop culture is best exempified by their campaigns constantly getting sued
    by liberal musicians for using their songs.

  17. Comment says

    Warlord is no cowboy – It was unhealthy mix of eastern media ignorance and Bush propaganda that allowed that term to catch on and take a negative bend in Europe.

    Bush can’t even ride a horse. He has no cattle.

  18. Tbilisi says

    @ Good Doctor re: “One could be excused thinking the movie is a paen to Obama. Once again Trek is unabashedly about idealism, duty, and leadership.”

    I’m sorry, but it was my impression that Obama was cynically exploiting the American people’s sense of idealism, duty, and leadership just as Bush exploited our ideas of freedom and rugged cowboy individualism. Am I mistaken?

    Re: Starfleet as (not) a military organization. This is something I’ve thought about for years since raising myself on TNG. My take was that the military aspects of Starfleet were purely pragmatic, namely how else could an organization send so many (armed) people so far afield without some kind of military type command structure to prevent mutiny and disintegration. Great observation that the Right never gets this, just as they don’t get that just because our military, intelligence, and security agencies serve a vital role, they are not – nor should they be – the defining elements of a democratic American society. Security is not the biggest virtue (which is heresy in those circles).

    Back to Star Trek, that’s why I always loved the episodes that showed other aspects of Starfleet such as scientific outposts and the various non-affiliated humans scattered around space engaged in trade et al. In that way, The Federation reminds me of pre-Railroad 19th century America, with Star Fleet officers like US Army officers out in Indian country. Part imperial officer, part explorer, and part scientist (or at least protector and promoter of scientists). Picard was just a more Raj/Great Game version, while Kirk is more Lewis and Clark, without the self doubt.

  19. Anonymous says

    First, a disclosure: I saw Return of the Jedi at like age-6yrs in the theatre(I was blown away), and it was major element of the programming of my ethical/political/episteme sensibilities/subjectivity. There were to be sure other major elements(& even more major), but the point’s local relevance stands… Never really got into Star Trek, (although always dug Spock, as should any sensible creature) as the show was before my time–production values, stagnant provincial conception of micro-political climate, (Kirk’s infantile sexism?) … And the movies bored me out of my mind; I found the Klingons grotesque caricatures which were painful to look at (what scatophilia thought that one up?), and the scorpion in the ear scene I found pointlessly disturbing, especially in such an absurdly boring movie (I would have been about 7 or 8 then) …Thus disclosing partisan: pro Star-Wars, agnostic(meh) Star-Trek. In the intervening years I’ve developed my own criticisms of the Lucas space opera franchise; for the most part these are relatively minor blunders, sometimes I just think that certain things could have been more fully explored and/or developed. Needless to say I’ve jettisoned most of it from my subjectivity (ie grown out of it), except for certain of the deeper ethical things, which were reinforced elsewhere). I couldn’t stand to watch these movies now, ie have to sit through the eWok sequences (although the forest rider scenes likeley primed me for mountain biking psychedelia)

    I think what I was going to say is that the Star-Wars universe is essentially pluralistic and cosmopolitan, almost every scene pushes you into all these alien subjectivities(sorry this is going to be repeated word here) and languages and peoples, and they are presented as at least as valid if not more valid than the audience/camera perspective or the major characters’ perspectives (one gets the sense that the major characters in Star Wars are only the major characters for people watching the movie on Earth (they coincidentally share morphological characteristics) but that sapients elsewhere would get a Star-Wars with different major characters, in a completely alien setup. Of course it’s just a movie, and this can only be carried so far, but the affect is generated and conveyed…) Star-Trek is by comparison strictly a Cartesian affair, with the origin firmly centered on Kirk’s corn-pone slackjawed gaze. By the way, Han Solo is waaaaaaaaaay more Colorado cowboy than anything that could come out of a Trekie. The Falcon was so F-16/Camaro/Silver-miner-hut, (you know they burn blunts in there)… And how come you not address the obvious Republican/Empire motif? …

    As for mysticism, my response here is going to be a tricky one to articulate. I’ll try: First off you may know that Lucas’ intention involved amalgamating the Western with the Samurai/Shinto thing. Rashomon’s radical pluralist (tending mystical) perspectives a major influence? At any rate Kurosawa was stated as a creative jumping-off point. Yoda and the Daoist sage? Clearly elemental, though he brought in all kinds of Kabalistic imagary too (light sabre colouring remarks). (and let me be clear, I reserve the right to qualify this at hypothetical later juncture when I would have clearer data on Lucas’ and Co deeper agenda setups)… Do you mean to imply that Eastern mysticism(broadly or narrowly concieved) as intrinsically bound up with forces that over time tend to the configurations we associate in the Occident with National-Socialism? I think not. There is mysticism and then there is mysticism, and then more again. Jumping fully clear of the cinematic and narrative considerations, we should look at this more carefully. (which object(s) are we referring to? in the abstract field.. (which field?))
    Roughly, I think certain praxes/techniques associated with mysticism have as their object an engagement of the sense and consciousness with extremely subtle (but real, and ultimately tangible) aspects of the universe that we live in; to draw correlations between forces and make use of the harmonics, so to speak. But the thing is that the delicate nature of this program (host) renders it (vulnerable) easily replaced by a parasite object whose essential (intrinsic) power is weak but which has made its program and object the cultivation of control (political control, power over others). Hence you get the effect that all the hosts are occupied by parasites using the programs as vehicles for mind/political-management, and all the obscurantism/irrationalism/obfuscation that goes with that. Quoting Miyamoto Musashi: “People in this world look at things mistakenly, and think that what they do not understand must be the void. This is not the true void. It is bewilderment.” What he is saying is that people are content to glaze over what they don’t know and not exert themselves thinking about things clearly; that they become satisfied with their bewilderment, and maybe they call that God or whatever. But it isn’t God, it’s just their bewilderment, which they have bound up with some kind of atavistic totem. The powers-that-be (in the parasitic sense) encourage this. It allows for the termination of critical thought at pre-arranged points in any given individual’s ,um, subjectivity. So anyway, following Musashi, and the Brahmins, and some others, strict rational progression and the sharpening of the senses to the pitch, to the hilt, will take the subject to conclusions and knowledges that are far from our ordinary pedestrian conceptions. You might call this a kind of “Pure Land” school or something, in these endless attempts to differentiate the pure schools from those compromised in some way or another. The point is that there is a strictly rationalist program which leads the sensory/organismic apparatus way out beyond the pedestrian modes, and it might be called mysticism in some contexts. But the world is filled with bs, and noise crowds out signal.
    Did you know Rudolf Steiner was a big fan of F.Nietzsche (perhaps omen precursor to Deleuze’s eventual re-evaluations) and that he was hated hated hated by the Nazis. I say this because Steiner was a shameless ‘mystic’ (but hardly irrational); and of course I was brainwashed for a year by a Waldorf school in Michigan. So there you go.

    My favorite Spock (Nimoy) movie is ‘The Balcony’, the Genet play.

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