Star Trek: Correspondences

October 7, 2019

trek0

Watching Star Trek is always an exercise in déjà vu, because I was nine years old when it premiered, and because just about everything in it is borrowed from something else.  Maybe the borrowings are on purpose, maybe they are just accidental in the sense that some themes are always “in the air” at certain times, but the shows are always a bricolage of themes and images.  Part of the fun…

In this episode from the first season, Kirk is trapped on a planet with a lost scientist who has transformed himself into an android to preserve his mind when his body was dying of frostbite.  (Mind-body issues run rampant through Star Trek).  It takes a while for the doctor’s true nature to come out, but he is surrounded by androids he has constructed as part of his insane scheme to overrun the universe with superior beings, you know the drill.  Andrea is one of them, clearly designed for more than protection and conquest, much to the chagrin of the doctor’s erstwhile fiancee who has joined Kirk on his search for the missing scientific hero.

trek3

Ruk, an android surviving from the old days of the planet, looks like he escaped from a local production of Pagliacci, is played by Ted Cassidy, aka Lurch, who, it happens, lived just a few minutes from where I was growing up in Woodland Hills, and whose ashes (he died prematurely) are scattered in the house’s back yard.  He is easily befuddled and tricked by Kirk’s superior logical wit.

trek4

Kirk on the run, after flummoxing Ruk, makes use of a handy phallic formation for protection.  You have to wonder if he’s just playing hard to get.  The episode is filled with “transgressive” same-sex kissing and fondling, as is the norm for Star Trek’s intrepid exploration of racial and sexual taboos.

trek6

The android love nest gets to be too much for Andrea, who “loves” her maker, and who can’t abide rejection.  Another correspondence:  The Strange Love of Martha Ivers comes to mind.

trek1.jpg

Barbara Stanwyck and Kirk Douglas (hey, another correspondence!) are locked in their love-death embrace in the finale.

trek-ivers-2.png

Not exactly clear who pulls the trigger, but it’s curtains for the two of them, the only way it could be.

trek2.jpg    trek-ivers.png

A final correspondence:  As Captain Kirk is being duplicated into an android Kirk, he shouts out an insulting phrase about Dr. Spock being a half-breed, knowing that the android will then repeat the sentiments when he is sent to the Enterprise to impersonate himself.  Of course, Spock, receiving the insult, realizes that the “Captain” is an imposter, and takes proper action.  It’s all reminiscent of the “Rolo Tomassi” sequence in L.A. Confidential, the best part of that flick, I think.

rolotomassi.jpg

 


Trumpy Channels Joe

June 12, 2019

Too good to pass up! McCarthy and his secret list, backed by Trump’s favorite lawyer, Roy Cohn; Trump waving his secret “agreement” with Mexico.

 


Ivan Chonkin

October 23, 2018

ivan chonkin

Ivan Chonkin is the hero of a trilogy of satirical novels by Vladimir Voinovich, of which I’ve read the first two, The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin, and The Pretender to the Throne:  The Further Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin.

The image above shows a still from a film version of the the first novel in which Ivan, an archetypal everyman who is not too sharp, is sent by his army superiors to guard a Soviet plane that has crash landed in a rural boondocks.  He is forgotten in the disaster of the opening weeks of Hitler’s invasion of the USSR, but dutifully performs his mission, while taking up romantically with a single woman near whose cottage the plane is kept.  Through bureaucratic confusion and a lot of Soviet-style self-serving malice, he gets classified as a deserter, and a squad is sent to fetch him for trial.  He refuses to relinquish his post, fights off the troops for some time, but is eventually arrested and taken away by The Right People (the NKVD, or secret police) to the Right Place (the local prison where enemies of the state are interrogated.)

In the second book, during the “investigation” into his crimes, he is somehow connected with an aristocratic emigre family and an array of totally fictitious German spies.  The NKVD puts him on trial for conspiring with the Germans in a plot to collaborate with the invasion in return for his restoration to the Tsar’s throne!  During part of his interrogation, after being beaten and tortured for a while, we have this bit of wonderful dialog that is Voinovich at his best:

Chonkin’s torments ended when Major Figurin took charge of the case again.  Having examined the situation, Figurin had Chonkin fed and brought tea, treated him to long cigarettes, which made Chonkin sweetly dizzy, and spoke to him nicely, man to man:  “Unfortunately, Vanya, not all our workers are saints.  It’s the work they do.  Sometimes it makes you cruel without your knowing it.  And besides, the people who end up here do not always evaluate things soberly, they don’t always have a correct sense of what is demanded of them.  Let’s say we bring in a man and we say to him, ‘You are our enemy.’  He doesn’t agree, he objects, ‘No, I’m not.’  But how could that be?  If we arrest a man, naturally he hates us.  And if, on top of that, he considers himself innocent, then he hates us twice as much, three times as much.  And if he hates us, that means he’s our enemy and that means he’s guilty.  And so, Vanya, that’s why I personally consider innocent people our worst enemies.”

Vladimir Voinovich wrote these novels in the late 60s and the 70s, and he was forced into exile from the USSR in 1980.  He eventually returned to Russia when Gorbachev restored his citizenship in 1990.  He continued to act as a dissident under Putin until his death this year.

VV


Flatrock Moving Water

October 22, 2018

‘These images were taken today with three different pin hole cameras in Flatrock Nature Preserve, in Englewood, NJ.  This is just on the backside of the Hudson River Palisades, i.e., just to the west of those cliffs.  Each image was exposed for approximately fifty minutes during cloudy weather, and I manipulated them in GIMP, adding a bit of sepia toning.

This first image was taken with a coffee can camera, which produces a distorted perspective, although in this setting, it is not so pronounced:  No straight lines in nature!

Flatrock 1Sep

This image was taken with a box pin hole camera set about two feet above the water surface on a rock.Flatrock 2Sep

The last image, below, was done with a box pin hole and a tripod set up.

Flatrock 3Sep


A Scar Is Born

October 18, 2018

1810188191260

About 45 days after the accidental cut, only a thin scar to add to the many I have on my fingertips. Here we go in chonological order! 🙂


NYC Subway Time

October 11, 2018

With all the talk in the City about the poor and overcrowded state of the subways, I thought it would be a nice time to revisit this video of mine – 40 years old! – made as an homage to the trains.  It is followed by a clip paying homage to 2001 which uses some of the same visual themes.

I made the piece during a summer class in video at NYU.  The camera was about the size of a very large dictionary, and the the recording mechanism was slung over your shoulder and weighed a ton!  I converted the video from 3/4″ tape to DVD several years ago at a video restoration lab in San Francisco.

The late sequence of the train moving through the tunnel as the Saint-Saëns music builds to a climax links the piece to the following bit inspired by 2001 and my night driving on the NJ turnpike.  I have always been a time-space traveler! 🙂

These videos, and others I have made, are available on my MUNDO VIDEO!! page at this blog.


That Precautionary Principle

October 10, 2018

football

Long ago, when it was still acceptable to voice doubts about computer projections of the climate apocalypse, people often answered critics who mentioned the uncertainty in the predictions by citing “The Precautionary Principle.”  This self-evident axiom of risk management means that if the consequences of a low-risk, uncertain event are so catastrophically awful, we are prudent to act as though the event will happen.  So, even if the predictions about climate change are not very certain, the impacts on us if they turn out to be true are so horrific, we might as well not argue, and just assume that they are correct.  Case closed.

When I first began to track the issues related to climate change more than twenty-five years ago, that was pretty much my point of view, but after a lot of thought, discussion, and experiences at conferences, I have modified my view to one of rather harsh skepticism.  I’m not going to discuss that process here:  I just want to dispose of this supposedly common sense precautionary principle (PP).

First, a little story:  My sister has an old friend that she has known for many years who suffered significant brain damage a long time ago when he fell and struck his head.  He is severely impaired these days, as though he had been the victim of a stroke.  He was quite robust and healthy when it happened; he just slipped on the ice one winter and banged his skull.  A fluke accident with terrible consequences.  Could happen to anyone, right?

Now, this sad event the befell my sister’s friend was forseeable.  After all, everyone knows that you can slip and fall on the ice, and many of us have done it, although with consequences that ranged more towards embarrassment than disability…but it could happen to us, even if we are not old and frail.  It happened to my sister’s friend!  The chances are not zero.  If you do research on it, you might find that they are not even considered trivial, so this is my question.  Given that the consequences of this accident, with a probability notably above zero, are so life-shattering, why don’t we all walk around wearing football helmets in the winter when there is ice on the ground?  It would seem to be a perfect and unassailable application of the precautionary principle.

The reason that we don’t wear helmets is that we all make our own calculations, knowingly or not, and assume that the risk is so vanishingly small that we need not worry about such a “fluke” happening to us.  We are totally unpersuaded by the logic of the PP.  Some people are so foolish as to never wear seat belts despite the much stronger statistical evidence in their favor.  We might think those people are nuts, but still not don the helmet in icy weather.

In the end, we are left with nothing but data, and our judgment about how powerful a case it makes for taking action.  The PP is simply a way of trying to shut down consideration of the data and the possible courses of action by asserting that only one alternative is possible and logical, but in practice, nobody reasons that way when they actually have to make a choice.