29 February 2012

Writing Wednesday: Randomness and Rome

Many do not know that my daughter, Ayanna, went to Rome for the mid-winter recess with her high school.  She spent nine days visiting: Rome, Florence, Pompeii, Assissi, and  Sorrento.  She chose a trip to Italy versus a Sweet 16, smart girl!  She knows I "got her" for her wedding when she is older.  :D

Here is Rome told in pictures:

The National Museum in Rome.

The city park's fountains meet the river. Not sure which park or river.

Locks are placed by couples crossing the bridge to symbolize their everlasting love.  Nice!

The ceiling of one of the many churches the group toured.

Ruins made into a cat sanctuary.  The ruins were caused by the extraction of the metal that supported the columns.  They were recycled and used elsewhere in Rome.

This is the exterior of one of the buildings my daughter toured.  Translation please?

Modern day market stalls in a piazza surrounded by lovely buildings.

A beautiful fountain on a busy street.  Ayanna said they must have seen at least ten different fountains including the Trevi Fountain.

Angels & Demons anyone?  I love this structure and all the angels surrounding it.

This is  . . . *drum roll*. . . the ruins of the Roman Coliseum.

This is my baby girl in front of the Trevi Fountain.  It was dark and I don't know who took the photo.

All roads lead to Rome.  I couldn't help myself.  This is an ancient Roman road that is approximately two thousand years old.  Looks good, doesn't it?

And last is a photo of the sunshine trying to burst out of the cloudy sky.  I have many more photos but will save them for my next post.  That's all folks!

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

21 February 2012


Having just discovered (literally minutes ago) that I was up for this week's 'topical' post, I immediately went to Google news and had a look-see at what was currently going on in the world. Not that I'm completely ignorant of what is happening, you understand, it's just that I needed a reminder.*coughs* 

It's quite depressing reading. But then, to be fair, it usually is. It's a rare occasion indeed to find anything happy in the headlines. Amongst today's offerings were the usual weapons concern in far-flung countries, some techy news regarding Smartphones, a little more (yet again) about Whitney Houston, a few articles on the greedy Fat Cats in the banking world... like I said, nothing surprising.

It's all so very gloomy. Nothing but doom, mostly. And you know what? I don't feel like writing about doom. So instead, I am going to talk about food. Because I LOVE food, and it always makes me feel better (as the current size of my hips will attest to).

In this day and age, it's probably not something that I should admit to, but food really is one of the only things that can cheer me up sometimes. Yes, I know that I should be eating healthily, and I know that there are people in the world who don't have enough to eat at all, but I am not being unfeeling or anything, I am just admitting to a guilty pleasure.

Receiving a box of chocolates, for example, is lovely. Not that it happens to me very often, but when I get them I smile. It's the thought behind the gift that makes it matter, granted, but I can't deny that tucking into the chocolaty goodness doesn't have the feel good factor.

Sometimes it's a cream cake that will do the trick. If I am feeling a bit down in the dumps, I find that a nice cream cake will work wonders. I make sure I walk pretty fast to the bakers and back (in order to justify the extra calories), and I figure I'm good.

It doesn't have to be the naughty stuff either. I had a lazy day yesterday and decided to skip the usual Sunday shenanigans (I'm not confused, yesterday WAS Sunday, I am typing in advance) and cook something simple for our main meal (the 'cooking something simple' was made even easier when I decided to skip the cooking altogether and order a Chinese instead, which is actually still naughty, but I digress...).

Anyway, I figured I'd cook a full roast today instead. A joint of pork with roast potatoes, lots of veg, Yorkshire puddings, the whole she-bang. Mmmm, lovely. It's cold outside, rainy and dark... and a  little (like today's news) depressing. But when I eat my roast dinner, I will be a happy bunny indeed.

Sometimes it really is the simple things in life that make us smile, eh?

PS...the picture is borrowed from here. It's looks lovely and everything, but there's not nearly enough gravy for it to be my plate...

20 February 2012


Erm. Apologies to Sir Mix-a-Lot. Seriously though, when it gets all wintery outside sometimes the only thing I want to do is curl up with an enormous book and live in it for a while. And since I read VERY fast, and sometimes New England storms can last a day or more, when those big fat books are part of a series and I can bury myself in them for the whole thing - as long as the lights don't go out, I'm in heaven. So here are my snowbound reads, in no particular order except for the first, to whit:

Outlander - Diana Gabaldon

This one's first 'cause I stole the "Big Books" thing from her blog. :-) There is pretty much nothing I don't like about this series (other than the wait time between installments, that is!). They're funny, they're well-written, they're HUGE, they're Scottish (you knew that was coming), and they are utterly unclassifiable beyond the catch-all label "fiction", 'cause we've got history and romance and time travel and medicine and politics and, not least, lots and lots of kilts. Yum. Spinoffs like the Lord John series and various shorts found in even-more-various anthologies can help bridge the gap between the main entries; she also has something called "The Methadone List" on her blog that contains suggestions for things to read in between releases. :-)

Asian Saga
- James Clavell

Same source as the previous one (paired with Gabaldon's on her suggestions for a "Big Books" display), but since these were some of the few books my dad had in the house when I was a kid, they did snow-day duty for me in junior high so why not add them in? I would probably read them much differently now (for starters, I went to college with a heaping pile of people from that part of the world, so I understand more of the customs {and swear words} than I did as a 12-year-old) and should just suck it up and buy the series for myself one of these days. Anyway, multi-generational storylines, westerners in the Far East, opium and pirates and all manner of crudity (I'm surprised my dad let me read them, actually... then again, I'm not sure HE read them...), the writing's not always polished but sometimes I just don't care.

Earth's Children - Jean M. Auel

Yeah, I know, caveman sex, whatever. They are BIG, there are SIX, and they got me through some boring high school snow days (or the first 3 or 4 did, anyway), so they go on this list. :-) For those who have themselves been living in a cave for the past 30 years, the series focuses on a Cro-Magnon girl and her life circa 30,000 years ago, from being orphaned in an earthquake around the age of 5 and adopted by a tribe of Neanderthals, to her later travels with a man of her own species with whom she falls in love. While scientifically much of the story is debunkable (for example, recent research indicates that blue eyes are a recessive mutation only 5-8,000 years old, despite a character in the 6th volume remarking that nearly everyone has blue eyes), and the aforementioned caveman sex is seriously over the top in at least 3 of the 6, they definitely fit the escape criteria to a T.

Anything by - Phillippa Gregory

So once again the history's a little suspect and the romance perhaps a bit over-the-top - these still make great blizzard reading (I know this because I bought three of 'em in hardcover for half off back when there was still such a thing as Borders, and proceeded to read them all during {you guessed it} a blizzard). Most people know The Other Boleyn Girl, but she has a good dozen more that certainly make the cut, some of which are based on actual historical figures and some of which are wholly original creations. There's the set dealing with the Tudors and their associates, there's the Wideacre trilogy, and others focusing on topics as disparate as gardening and the slave trade.

Harry Potter - J. K. Rowling

Well, duh, this had to be in here somewhere. Seven big old escapes (pictured here in a nice neat box, how lovely). My dear old friends, having been read and reread and discussed and dissected and analyzed and (in the case of most of my fellow Burrowers) expanded upon and/or rewritten, and I still love them. Anything that can stand up to that kind of treatment is a total keeper. If there's anyone reading this who doesn't know the basic story line (or, let's be honest, can't recite large hunks of the text verbatim and pick out word errors in the audiobooks {errrrm... or is that just me?}), you should really not be reading this blog post, you should be reading Philosopher's Stone! (Yeah, I know I'm in the US but the original title just makes so much more sense.)

The Inheritance Cycle - Christopher Paolini

Maybe a bit flawed, maybe a bit under-edited, but really big and full of dragons, so it totally fits today's criteria. I've mentioned this one before, but since then the long-awaited fourth and final volume has been released, so I'll focus on Inheritance. We finally have the wrap-up to this epic, and it's definitely a wrap - all storylines brought to a satisfying close by the end. I've noticed a trend in first-time authors writing trilogies (and quartets, as this turned out to be) - the final volume is much bigger than the others because the author underestimated how much wrapping up was needed. Paolini underestimated so much that the final volume turned out to be two volumes (Brisingr and Inheritance), and there's a considerable amount of story left even after the grand dénouement. (Angela, as always, remains a bit of a mystery.) Epic battle scenes, lots of strategizing, and of course, dragons dragons dragons!

Otherland - Tad Williams

Four books, 1000+ pages each, virtual reality. Yup, ideal retreat from the weather! In the near future, virtual reality has become a preferred escape from the trials of real-world life... at least until people start falling into comas upon entering. A diverse and fascinating band of adventurers are searching for answers in this scifi/fantasy hybrid, including South African Renie (whose brother is one of the comatose), her student !Xabbu, a Bushman, an American teen with progeria, and - oh, forget it, this series is so massive that no summary can possibly do it any justice whatsoever. Just read them all, in order, and you'll see what I mean (and when you're done, try Diane Duane's Omnitopia - similar concept, different style).

Chronicles of the Cheysuli - Jennifer Roberson

The two-books-in-one-volume omnibus editions I have of these are bricks, but the story is awesome and you don't notice the number of pages flying by. It's one of those multi-generational, prophecy-driven high fantasy epics which I just adore, but for some weird reason not too many people seem to know about it. Warring factions in the land of Homana make it a rather inhospitable place for the shapeshifting Cheysuli; invaders from neighboring Solinde and Atvia are wreaking havoc and the prince of Homana is exiled. The saga follows the long line of descendants of both the Homanan royal line and that of their sworn enemies, a race of sorcerers known as Ihlini. Fortunately, family trees are provided. I admit it, I read these in the summer, but they're an amazing escape and perfect for being snowbound.

Diaries - Michael Palin

Currently two volumes available, these are really long and utterly engrossing (granted, I am a massive Python fan AAAAAAAAND I got to meet him at a book signing for the first one, but still!) Okay, so if you're NOT a Python fan you probably won't care, but what the hell are you doing hanging out with us Burrower nuts if you're not a Python fan? ;-) Anyway, the first volume covers 1969-1979 and contains tidbits from the main Python years (in fact, that's the subtitle - The Python Years), while the second (Halfway to Hollywood) takes care of 1980-1988. While they certainly don't contain every word he wrote in those time-spans, they do contain a plethora of behind-the-scenes tidbits for everything from Python and Ripping Yarns to Brazil and A Fish Called Wanda, much information about Palin's personal life - wife, kids, parents, sister - and the simple minutiae of the everyday. He was cool enough to sign my copy on the page with the entry for my own birthdate - this is possibly because I'd handed him his fresh pint, which had been passed to me as I approached the signing table. :-)

The Baroque Cycle (or anything else by) - Neal Stephenson

A departure from his more usual cyberpunk (but with ties to Cryptonomicon), this is a massive trilogy that'll see you through any snowstorm and keep you thinking for quite a while afterward (for starters, there's a whole subplot on the Newton vs. Leibnitz calculus mess. Yep, I said calculus. In the same novel with pirates. Deal.). These are books to be savoured, digested, and pondered, with a huge cast of characters (both historical and imaginary) and more topics than you can shake a Shaftoe at (that being "Half-Cocked" Jack Shaftoe, if you're wondering). In case you get hammered with a real thumper of a storm, you should also have a few of his other books on hand (Snow Crash and The Diamond Age being two in his more "usual" style, while the latest two, Anathem and REAMDE {Read Me with a typo, get it?} skew off again. The only thing you can expect from Stephenson is the unexpected...

Inspector Lynley Mysteries - Elizabeth George

Yeah, I've had these on here before, but they're such great escapes (besides, our shared birthday is coming up AND she just had a new one released {pictured}). Though set in the UK and with bona fide policemen (and -women), they're neither cozies nor police procedurals; on the contrary, they tend to be rich character studies in which the actual murder(s) sometimes seem almost irrelevant. This time, Lynley is called in to look into the death of young man in a case where murder isn't even officially suspected. You know this is not your usual upper-class family as soon as toilets are mentioned (the Faircloughs manufacture them, you see), and as you meet the twin daughters and the returned prodigal son, it is quite clear that all is not quite - well, quite. Throw in the disturbed son of the (possibly) murdered man, a bumbling 6'8" redheaded Jewish reporter, and some decidedly 21st-century medical procedures, and you have a rich stew fit to see you through quite a whopper of a blizzard.

Collegia Magica - Carol Berg

More lovely high fantasy, and with the trilogy recently completed you can lose yourself in this world for days if you read slowly enough. Some of you may know that I'm terrified of flying; the first one of these got me through a flight from California back home to Boston with only a couple of mild freak-outs, so you know they're engrossing. Anyway, the world-building is superb, the characters are real and flawed and all those things characters are supposed to be, and there's a fantastic science-vs.-magic thing going on at the core of it that just makes my geeky little heart go ZING! The point of view character switches with each volume, so the voice never gets stale, and there's intrigue and conspiracies and people who are (duh duh DUN!) not what they seem. That's all I'm saying - you need to discover these for yourselves.

16 February 2012

Delusional Anagram Thursday




Unload isle.

Allies undo.

Ail nodules.

A duels loin.

Lone laid us.

Dial ole sun.

Use land oil.

Sun aloe lid.

El slain duo.

La nude silo.

An oil duel.

Denial soul.

(Now sing it to the tune of "Old MacDonald"...)

15 February 2012

The Beauty of the Fool

So yesterday I was in the midst of a Facebook conversation, where all great mind rushes seem to start, yes? And somebody pointed out the Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert fact of the day... they... the comedians... seem to be the only source of truth these days...

Image from Wikipedia
But this is not new. During the great European monarchies it was the Jester, the Joker, the Fool... those were the only people who could say the great truths without risk of execution by the king. Because of this, Shakespeare used them fairly frequently—they were both a historically accurate detail and a brilliant plot device. Some fools even acted fool, even while they manipulated their masters. Rumor has it Terry Pratchet's Discworld series uses this device—I have had these on my list forever, but my local library selection is either bad, or the books are too popular—I have trouble getting ahold of any at all, let alone the beginning.

So for Writing Wednesday I thought maybe we'd explore characters and techniques involving humor/fools for advancing plots.

Who is Eligible to be the Fool?

You know, I am not sure I think the fool works as an MC, because I don't think the reader can be in on their inner workings. I think the fool works best with a note of surprise. They should shock us. Or else they should make us laugh so we underestimate what they say, having it hit us only later. I suspect Terry Pratchet would make me eat my words, and a fool intent on actually controlling things would be a different sort of character—capable of carrying a story. Mostly, though, rather than a literal fool, I like a sidekick—a close friend willing to give uncomfortable truths and add some humor to an otherwise darker tale.

I've written such a character for my cozy mystery series. Much of the humor is in the form of Annie Schulz, BFF to my MC. And Annie speaks with my Tart voice, advising the heroine to do such things as 'go grope your boyfriend, or I'll have to do it'. But at the same time, she is the strength behind the MC.

Other likely fools however, can appear in surprising places. Consider the strange case of Professor Trelawney. She is an out of touch fruitcake, yes? I used to be fond of the saying, 'she has the sight, but hasn't a clue.' Meaning she could see the future, but was lousy at interpretation. This essay does a nice job of summing it up. Though the essay misses one of the big interpretations:

“When thirteen dine together, the first to rise is the first to die.”

Sybil comes and thinks she makes thirteen. But in fact there were already thirteen at the table before she got there—Peter Pettigrew is in Ron's pocket... and then ALBUS rises to greet Sybil. So in fact her prophecy is TRUE. She just applies it wrong.

And it is things like interpreting the Grim as death that make us not trust her, when it is not a Grim at all, but Sirius, she is seeing. Note she gets much better at interpretation as things get darker—by the Half Blood Prince almost every prediction she makes is accurate, if sherry doused.

Trelawney is a brilliant fool. She is so easy to dismiss. And yet it is her prophecy that sets the entire story in motion—Voldemort ACTS because of what she said, and by his acting, makes it true.

I love the idea that because they are funny, the fool can tell readers things they need to know in a way that they will still be surprised when they prove to be true, later.

What about all of you—have you ever used the fool to enrich your tale?

14 February 2012

Reading Monday

I'm late...very late. You see a few weeks ago my computer crashed and I lost access to the schedule and then forgot. Now, all is good, thanks Tartlette, but I'm late...

Here is what I am reading and why I am reading it!

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray. I read it years ago, the man and I watched a very good movie and I was inspired to read it again. It is ideal to read while I'm in heavy revisions because my book is nothing like a book written circa 1845! It is a sweeping hilarious non-family saga - Thackeray is a genius and although he and Dickens could've been crib-mates - a totally different approach. The heroine or anit-heroine, Becky Sharpe, is so obviously the model for Scarlett O'Hara - an ambitious little vixen - with her foil, Amelia Sedley ( Melanie) and her man, Rawden Crawley (Rhett). Well, I could go on. It is fun to read and Thackeray's skewering of the greedy upper-class is brilliant.

Feed My Dear Dogs by Emma Richler (daughter of the amazing Mordechai) - this is also a re-read. Oh, what a wondrous book this is - it follows the foibles of a girl in a wild bohemian family as it moves from London to Montreal. It is so obviously a love letter to her own wonderous family, and is written in the most amazing prose - I love it. Get it. Read it.

A Zillion Books on Writing and Revising - Lamott, King, Bell, Koch, and so on. I pick one up every time I take a break from my wrting retreat. They keep me going in what seems at times to be a fool's errand. Well, aren't they all, ultimately.

Sorry I'm late - here goes...

10 February 2012

Friday Free For All: On Love

My hands were shaking as I walked into the Assistant Principal's office for the second part of my interview. The A. P. asked if I would sit at the table outside her office as she was talking to a staff member.

There you were, eating Chinese food with chopsticks. You greeted me with the most dazzling smile. We exchanged pleasantries. You asked if I was interested in any of the new positions posted. We talked for all of ten minutes before I was called into the office. I got the job. I got you too. You had me at "Hello."

Image courtesy of Scott J. Waldron.

09 February 2012

The People Vs Tara Smith

We are here, my friends, to prove the fact that Tara Smith is insane. It will be a short trial, with little dialogue and some photographic evidence. But we have little need for a long trial, as you will see...

Let's begin.

The People: We are here today to accuse you, Tara Smith, of insanity. How do you plead?
Tara Smith: Not guilty?
The People: You sound a little unsure.
Tara Smith: Well, I'm pretty sure I don't have to answer without the presence of my lawyer.
The People: You don't have a lawyer.
Tara Smith: That is correct.
The People: So you are defending yourself, then.
Tara Smith: Oh, right.
The People: So your plea is?
Tara Smith: Er... not guilty.
The People: Good. This is how things will proceed: We will present some evidence. and you will rebut it.
Tara Smith: *blank stare*
The People: Just respond after each piece of evidence, OK?
Tara Smith: OK!

The People: I present exhibit number one:

This, I believe, is a 'person' that was created in your place of work.

Tara Smith: Yes! That is Eric Spartan, Zombie Hunter Extraordinaire! But, you can't use this against me as I had no part in his coming into being. *nods firmly*

The People: That may be the case, but we will now turn to the events of Saturday evening, February 4th, 2012.
Tara Smith: *shifts uncomfortably in seat*

The People: Did you, or did you not create two other 'people' on this occasion? And name them 'Ginger Ninja' and 'Penelope Purple.?
Tara Smith: Well, erm...

The People: And then, Tara Smith, did you, or did you not, proceed to scalp these newly born people?
Tara Smith: Well, I wouldn't say that...

The People: And then, after this massacre, did you decide that cross-dressing your imaginary person would be an acceptable thing to do?
Tara Smith: Well, I've always believed that a little cross-dressing never hurt anyone.

The People: And after this cross-dressing, did you then decide that using a scalp as a beard would be funny?
Tara Smith: You have to admit, it is kind of amusing...

The People: And once all the shenanigans were over, did you ruthlessly throw your new friends into the corner while you continued consuming copious amounts of vodka?
Tara Smith: I wouldn't say we were ruthless. A little unsteady on our feet, perhaps, but not ruthless.

The People: And finally, Tara Smith, did you, or did you not, don one of the scalps and laugh like a hyena?
Tara Smith: *tries to look innocent*
The People: After seeing all of the evidence, which cannot be refuted, what say you now, Tara Smith? We, The People, say that you are insane. What is your response?

 Tara Smith: Oh alright... it's a fair cop...

08 February 2012


This isn't really a "Writing" Wednesday post... it's more about my current failure to write, unfortunately. It's not for lack of trying this time - I was all hyped up to give it another go, I swear - see, I went to a lunch on Monday with the lovely Margot Livesey, whose latest book (The Flight of Gemma Hardy) is totally awesome, by the way, and you should go get a copy, especially if you like Jane Eyre, Scotland, or coming-of-age stories. Since I like all three, I signed right up.

So okay, have a pleasant hour of listening to her read and talk (mild Scottish accent, which is always nice), and I'm thinking, okay doofus, you really need to get back to work on some of your WiPs. How 'bout the one that's actually set in Scotland? Okay, why not? I hop into my car to head to work, and oh hello, Bruch's Scottish Fantasy is just starting on the radio. Hey! That's, like, a totally major part of the story, man! Karma says go write!

Errrrrrrrrmyeahno. Sat here with the notebooks for HOURS. I have bugger all to show for it.

06 February 2012

Alpha Reading

Dear Writer,

First of all, since I am a nice person, let me say that this is not all bad. It’s mostly bad, but not all of it. You employ an immaculate use of punctuation, even if you do seem to adhere to a foreign punctuation system rather than the British English one you attempt (and not with great success, I might add) to write within. Oh, well.

Your entry is too short. The request was, specifically, 1000-2000 words, and at a meager 267 you are clearly not quite there yet. Further, the length of the deadline you were given (which, I might remind you, was extended, twice, and you still failed to meet it yesterday) indicated that you spend considerable time on this. As it stands, it looks a whole lot like the text you provided was composed during a few delusional hours one Sunday afternoon.

If your 267 words had been brilliant words – or at least the order in which you put them had been brilliant – you might have gotten away with it. Sadly, this is not the case. An extended usage of “the”, “to” and – for some reason –“orchard”, diminishes the text further. Do you not own a Thesarus?

Further, the characters are bland and not at all fleshed out. The scandalous accusations your main character and narrator addresses the others with are not sufficiently founded in the plot (if there is such a thing as a plot in your – ahem – “story”). The ending seems pulled out of thin air, and whatever “foreshadowing” you were trying to employ did not hint at anything other than your poor writing skills.

It seems to me that you once wanted to be a writer, but you forgot why, and how. It looks as though you have wasted a lot of time writing other things – academic papers, perhaps? Your structure, language and incredulous use of footnotes indicates that you have forgotten what fiction is supposed to look like.

My soundest advice – apart from giving up writing altogether (but I suspect you’re too stubborn for that) – would be to take your text back to the drawing board (frankly, it never should have left it). There, you have to start over. Really. From the beginning. Find a purpose for your text, and transform it from a “text”, into the story you intended it to be.

I am a fan of sandwiches, even in criticism. Thus let me sandwich in another positive comment at the end. You clearly have a vivid imagination. Use it.

Your Harshest Critic

02 February 2012

Shared Delusion Thursday: Clearing Up a Few Things Trek

This is about Star Trek. Superficially, judging by my title, you might think that Trek-related misconceptions are a pet peeve. Nothing could be further from the truth, because if you truly lack any misconceptions, you'll have no reason to read my blog.


The Actors Love It
Or at the very least, they like it a great deal.

It's easy to think that actors don't like being typecast. George Takei (Sulu) said as much in a cameo on The Big Bang Theory where he portrayed a figment of Trek-fan Wolowitz's imagination ("You try and stretch as an actor... but all they want is, 'Course laid in, Captain!' ") Worse than typecasting is being identified as one's character. Leonard Nimoy went so far as to publish a 1977 autobiography titled I Am Not Spock.

But such is the hazard of acting fame, regardless of genre. And if it's slightly more pronounced with Star Trek, it only translates to more fame and more opportunities. You could fill an entire wiki with post-Trek acting and directing credits for former cast members.

More importantly, they get it-- "it" being the message and broad theme of Star Trek, Roddenberry's original vision of a successful future for humanity. Nearly every Star Trek actor ever interviewed speaks in glowing terms about the message of hope and their pride at being associated with such. In one of his autobiographies, William Shatner waxed nostalgic at being the celebrity du jour among NASA engineers in the heyday of lunar exploration. He understands Star Trek's role as an inspiration to scientists and engineers.

As for Nimoy's identity crisis, he followed his earlier work with a 1995 volume titled I Am Spock, telling how he'd come to terms with-- and even embraced-- the character identification. He also realized how much input he, as an actor, had on the character's development. And speaking of Spock...

Vulcans and Androids Do Have Emotions
If you've seen the 2009 Trek reboot, you already know this about Vulcans, having seen the young Spock lose control of his anger. You're probably thinking Data is covered by his emotion chip that he acquired after the death of Dr. Soong.

Yeah, yeah. But that's not what I'm talking about.

Even pre-chip Data and Vulcans in their most coldly logical state are emotional entities. Such is evident from the fact that they don't flop over, lay on the ground and wait to die.

Deliberate action is a means to an end. That an end is aimed at implies the existence of an alternative, and a variance in satisfaction among possible outcomes. The existence of satisfaction implies emotion.


More prosaically, the absence of superficial fear, anger, lust, etc. does not exclude the presence of less flamboyant emotions. Commander Data wants to understand humanity better. That's emotion. He has a desire to serve and advance Starfleet, and to see his comrades safe and happy. Spock, like other Vulcans, wants to advance science and peace. He wants intelligent beings to live long and prosper. He wants to seek out new life and new civilizations, to go boldly where no one has gone before. These are admirable emotions, true, but emotions nonetheless.

Picard or Kirk?
Ah, the great debate of the 20th century. Captain Kirk is a swashbuckling hero, and the eponymous face of Trek. Captain Picard is the smooth diplomat, and portrayed by (arguably) the best actor in any Trek series, Patrick Stewart.

But, really, Captain Benjamin Sisko from Deep Space Nine beats them both.

Kirk was notorious for getting into sloppy, 60's-style fist fights, and beat up his fair share of humans & aliens. Sisko matches that at the very least, having taken on both Klingons and the dreaded Jem'hadar.

Kirk also had a bad habit of encountering God-like aliens who had to be tricked or cajoled into leaving the Enterprise alone. Captain Sisko, on the other hand, spent the entire series with the "Prophets" (a.k.a. "Wormhole Aliens") in his head, was forced to serve as their Emissary to the Bajorans, and eventually had to serve as their surrogate in defeating their evil counterparts, the Pah Wraiths.

Now let's talk about diplomacy and juggling various people/interests/things.

Captain Picard was pretty darned good at making diplomatic overtures to the enemies and mysterious entities encountered by his ship. But Picard had no challenges on the ship. The slightly touchy, potentially violent Klingon, Lieutenant Worf, was perfectly obedient; and if there was ever a personal problem with Worf, it was Commander Riker who handled it. The slightly quirky, potentially annoying android, Commander Data, was even more reliable; and, again, his quirks were the responsibility of someone other than Picard-- in this case, Lt. Commander LaForge.

Captain Sisko, on the other hand, was placed in command of a space station that wasn't even part of Starfleet-- it was owned by the Bajorans! Half his crew, including his first officer, were Bajoran, and if such were generally supportive, there were more Bajorans on the nearby planet (e.g., Kai Winn) who despised his presence and plotted against him. Sisko had to placate and/or cajole and/or bully the greedy, scheming Ferengi on the station, frequent Klingon war allies, Romulan allies, Cardassians with suspicious intentions, various factions on Bajor, and-- of course-- those extratemporal Prophets.

Sisko had to do this while none of the aforementioned groups was under his command.

And he did it all while raising a kid as a single father.

Top that, Picard.

Trekkers Are Not Geeks

No, I can't back that up. But it brings me to my last point...

It's All About the Fans More Than the Shows
Young people often look at Star Trek and wonder: "What's the big deal?"

After all, the science fiction is nowhere near as good as 2001: A Space Odyssey. The action doesn't come close to Star Wars. The only Trek series with a solid, continuous storyline is Deep Space Nine, which is not nearly as highly regarded as The Original Series or Next Generation, and none of these come close to something like Firefly.

But back in the late 60's and early 70's, Star Trek was the only Sci-Fi game in town. And thus it was born as the standard-bearer and the rallying point for all kinds of people: scientists, engineers, technology enthusiasts, and those who simply wanted to share a fantasy universe that had been given life on television.

The standard-- and the cliché-- endures. If a movie or television show wants to portray a character as nerdy, that character shows off his knowledge of Star Trek. And in the 21st century world of high technology, geek is the new chic. Star Trek is a matter of identity. Heck, it's not even my favorite show, but I've been known to memorize a few obscure facts just to show off my geekiness.

Thus those famed Star Trek conventions did not draw ravening hordes to suck up souvenirs and reenact the show. The fans came to be with each other.

My own conventional experience centers on a Trek-based trading card game, one that's taken on a life of its own. Some players are only marginal Star Trek fans, and no small number have become fans via the game. But the community of players is relatively small compared to something like Magic: The Gathering, so we travel great distances, often at considerable expense, to play in tournaments. Why? Why not pick up a more popular game? It's the people. It's a game that attracts, even demands, a high level of interest, involvement, and intelligence. It's the experience of flying across the country to spend a weekend with thirty complete strangers who feel like thirty old friends.

Live Long and Prosper,

Post Script: What the hell, auto spell-checker? You don't have "Bajoran" or "Starfleet" or "Picard" in the dictionary? At least it recognized "Klingon". Premise holds. Trek rules.