Saturday, May 9, 2009

Star Trek: A Fan's Review

Warning: No Spoilers. I'm not interested in detailing the movie here, but my impression of it, how it was done and my background when it comes to JJ Abrams.

I was truly excited for the new Star Trek movie for really one reason. JJ Abrams involvement as Director. I'm a hardcore fan of the show Alias which was created and produced and occasionally the best episodes were directed by JJ himself. I've enjoyed the Lost episodes I've seen, although haven't watched much. Both series contain and exemplify the long term planning that makes commitment to the series worth something. He's so good at creating pay offs in the moment and pay offs that set your head spinning two, three or even four years later. This combined with his ability to take a genre, or idea and stay true to the greatest ideals of that idea/genre. I'll give you two examples of directing that illustrate my point.

First is the Kevin Smith, well known because of his New Jersey Chronicles, ie the Jay and Silent Bob movies about doing drugs, swearing, sex and all sorts of crazy mix 'em ups. At doing that type of flick, Kevin Smith is a master at writing interesting dialogue, and giving it a good mix of obscenities centered around and interesting story that keeps you hooked and watching till the end. He's made only one real venture into a different kind of flick with Jersey Girl. I'm not saying it's a bad movie, but it's far from earth shattering. It was cute, there was a sweet father daughter story arc with some swearing and dirtiness thrown in. It's a good little movie but not the kind that will leave most people weeping or feel like they're different people because they've seen it. I'm not gonna ask him to direct a feel good chick flick, or an intense horror/action film, I'm more interested in what he does well, D*%$ and fart jokes, as he puts it.

The second example is one that will reveal a side of me I don't flout very often. It's one of JJs other ventures, one of his first creations, the series Felicity. Yes, I have watched some, although not all of this show, and yes I like chick flicks and feel-good type movies, not all of them. from what I've seen, JJ did great work on character development, twisting plot lines, intense emotional moments, great cliff hangers and overall an interesting story development. His next show was Alias, as I've mentioned one of my favorites, and it was about a badass girl spy who realized she was working for the terrorists that she thought she was fighting against, became a double agent and works from the inside to take them down. not even close to the same dynamic, both very well done.

JJ went all in and didn't rely on anything as a crutch. One of things I love the most is that for him it's not about using the things he's learned in the past on the projects he's currently working on, but learning and using anything that will complete the vision as put forth by the writer that he trusts does their job well. This is why I was very, very interested in watching Star Trek. JJ Abrams actually admitted he's never really been a Trekkie (Anyone who uses the term trekker to describe themselves, or anyone, as a Star Trek Fan is an idiot. I don't go on hikes, I like Star Trek), but that he actually was much more a fan of the Star Wars films. So even without much love for the massive amounts of material upon which he could base this star Trek Film, he was able to study it, and stay true to the heart of why I believe most people love Star Trek, specifically the original series. The action, the characters and their relationships, the subtle jokes, the obvious jokes. It's awesome. He, along with the writers, beautifully sidestepped the problem of making a remake. I won't get specific storywise, but it stays true in those ways I mentioned above and has a perfect excuse not to be exactly in line with a prequel, on top of using that same reason to be able to continue on with sequels to this movie and have pretty much anything they want to be open for development.

And in closing, I fully stand with Wil Wheaton(For those of you non-trekkies, Wil Wheaton is the actor who played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation) on his response to this remake of Star Trek. I too would like to see 10 more Star Trek Movies with this cast and creative team. It would be AWESOME!

PS:Wil Wheaton can be found at his blog and on twitter at

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Narcolepsy, not just for your mom anymore

I'd like to take an opportunity to describe a way in which I live life a little bit differently than most people. I know a great many people I know have heard my stories before but I'm almost always ready to retell them, especially because I usually won't remember who I've told and who I haven't. Moving on.

I first realized in 11th grade that there was something seriously different with my sleeping cycle compared to 'normal' people. The experience I had requires a bit of explanation. I spent the entirety of my Junior under sleep deprivation. I would wander to bed around 2am, wake up at 6am for my extra "zero hour" class at 7am that preceded my first period class. Having that extra class would allow me one more period a day to take naps, which I did prodigiously. There was only one day that whole year that I successfully slept in all 7 of my classes, it was tough though with two computer lab type classes and my TA period in the Library. I would then go home, read, hang out, do my normal routine, which would lead me to going to bed at 2am once more. I'd do this all week until the weekend and on friday and saturday nights I would sleep for about 12-13 hours to catchup. I did this for months, literally through to the end of my junior year. My parents are a bit spacey, and didn't seem to notice my lack of sleeping, but then they didn't really have reason to worry because despite sleeping in 4-5 classes a day on average, I had a b+ grade average.

All that information is just the grounds upon which I leap into the relatively weird part. One day in english, I had my headphones on. For those of you who know me this is far from unusual as I have my headphones on for pretty much anything I can manage, and if they're not on my head, they're around my neck and probably still playing something. Anyway, I began a song and laid my head down on my desk, without even a pretense of working as my teacher was used to it and I still accomplished all the work he wanted out of me. I woke suddenly to my friend shaking me and saying, "Are...are you okay?" Responding with the usual triggered response, "Yeah, I'm fine, other than being tired, why?" She proceeded to explain that she had seen my eyes "wigging out" and it freaked her out and so she woke me up. To be clear my family has an issue (I won't dignify something so insignificant as a disorder) that we sleep with our eyes partially open, that's how said friend saw my eyes "wigging out". After eliciting more detail on what my eyes had been doing, I figured out that they had been rapidly vibrating back and forth as described to happen in REM state sleep, which is the restful state of sleep, among other descriptions. That makes this experience so unusual is putting together three things. I mentioned my headphones because I noticed that I hadn't finished the song I'd laid my head down to when taking that little nap, so it had been less than five minutes I'd been asleep. Combine that with hitting REM Sleep and that REM state sleep normally comes at about 90 minutes after falling asleep, which I reached in less than 5. After spurring myself to research REM sleep, I found out that early REM in sleep cycles is a sign of narcolepsy, which contrary to popular belief includes sleeping disorders beyond just falling asleep uncontrollably.

This makes a lot of sense as my Father has a sleeping disorder, although a bit different than I've ever heard of before or since. Everybody has what are called circadian rhythms which is your your body's way of controlling your sleep cycles. You can find all the technical details on the wikipedia page, or a reliable website. Regardless, one of the things that Circadian rhythms control is turning off your ability to move while asleep so as to prevent self injury while acting out the more vivid of your dreams, in sleepwalkers this malfunctions in that they get up, walk around, in some cases even conversing or doing other rather complex activities. In my father, his Circadian rhythms kick that sleep paralysis in early, so he'll be completely awake, on his way to sleeping, but be completely unable to move. Not physically damaging, but pretty F-ing scary if you are a kid growing up and have no idea what's going on.

I know I'd always been good at cat naps, recovering from sleep deprivation, sleeping whenever I felt like, things like that, but I never knew why for the longest time. That's a thought. Granted this is all slapped together by yours truly and having never gone to a doctor because of it, I have no official confirmation, so I advise taking this with a grain of salt, as I could be full of it.

(Some) Atheists are Foolish

My problem isn't with the idea that there is no god or supreme power, it's defining oneself by what one doesn't not believe in. What about this statement. I believe in a universe that is defined by chaos and lack of a supernal patterning. That wasn't so hard, was it? While it doesn't quite roll off the tongue, you can say that and not look like an idiot by defining yourself by what you lack belief in. Please keep in mind I am aware I mention a supreme power in that statement (supernal patterning) but the difference is starting with what the belief is and then defining what that belief consists of. I'm saying I believe in this, defined by this, and by a lack of this. That gives the belief structure, instead of existing defined by a lack of structure entirely.

I don't even have a problem with the phrasing "I don't believe in god." It's the atheists that use that kind of phrase as a budgeon to beat christians, muslims, jews and other god fearing people away from their belief in god. It's not even atheists that try to convert me to atheism, I love a good religious discussion. People explaining to me why they believe what they do and how they came up with their thoughts and feelings on the subject, I can listen to that any day of the week. The problem atheists are the militant about their atheism (I say their because I am definitely a believer in God)and are stupid about it.

I consider myself an Agnostic Theist. What that means is that I believe in God, but don't believe there is any reasonable proof of his existence. I am an empyrical thinker at heart. Logic, scientific/mathematic relationships, equations, formulae, geo-ecological/socio-cultural systems are the bread and butter of my thinking. The idea that life formed on this planet and all of the statistical impossibilities that were required to produce such life is inconceivable to me without the possibility of god.

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