Thoughts on shipping.

A ship-shipping ship, shipping shipping ships. source (for the image, as well as the caption)

A ship-shipping ship, shipping shipping ships. source (for the caption as well as the image. I’m not that clever).

Not that kind of shipping. Shipping. Like when you write fan fiction (on paper or in your head) in which fictional characters fall in luuuuve with each other and (presumably, at some point) have sex and/or are permanently joined together in sacred and/or fleshy bliss. It comes from the word “relationship” – hence “shipping,” as in: “I ship Harry and Ron, everyone knows they were the real love story at Hogwarts!”

And if you don’t know it yet — yes, that really is a thing, all across the various realms of geekdom, and recently more broadly in popular culture. So you’ll have fan communities who create art or write stories or make videos that bring together two (or more) characters who were not imagined by their creator as romantically involved.

Coupla things. Thing the First, and let’s just get this out of the way: I have a thing about canon. The creator is, to my mind, God in the universe of these characters to whom we feel so attached, and thus, if JK Rowling didn’t think that Harry and Ron would fall in love — well, she would know. Plain and simple. It’s one thing to create fan art that builds on the creator’s world, but I honestly think it’s another thing entirely to upend the story as the creator intended for it to be told. In my always humble (and probably minority) opinion.

But here’s Thing the Second, and Thing the Second is actually the thing that I believe is most important.

Most of these imagined relationships (Harry-Ron, Kirk-Spock, Jess-Jules [Bend It Like Beckham], Arthur-Merlin [Merlin], Katniss-Peeta-Gale, etc and so on, ad infinitum) don’t just upend the story as originally conceived, they upend the sexuality of those involved, often because the characters are so close — their relationship runs so deep — that we do not know how to let it be friendship. We do not know how to understand need and longing and fierce loyalty, unless it’s about romance and sexuality.

And thus, to my mind, when we ship Kirk and Spock, or Arthur and Merlin, or Sam and Frodo, we’re not only doing a disservice to the creator’s vision, we’re dishonoring the characters, and revealing more about about ourselves and our society than we may have intended. 

Note, for instance, that most shipping seems to entail male characters — as a society, we’re usually ok with girls and women loving each other and expressing that love in a way that is not romantic or sexual. Men on the other hand? We really don’t know what to do with that.

So we change it. We diminish and dismiss men’s capacity for loving each other — truly, deeply loving each other — and insist that such love can only find true expression in something akin to 21st century notions of romance and sexuality.

Once upon a time, in mid-19th century America, men wrote love letters to each other — honest to God, “I haven’t been able to stop thinking of our last hours spent together,” love letters to each other. Like, it was thing. You wrote to your friends and told them how you felt.

And true to late-20th/early 21st century form, letters such as these have led some to conclude that Abraham Lincoln himself was gay, despite copious evidence to the contrary — because why else would he express such tender affection for a man? Even though I presume that at least some of the men writing these letters were, in fact, expressing an emotion to which they were otherwise unable to give voice, sheer statistics would suggest that most of them weren’t. Which is to say: We weren’t always like this, America.

I do understand that some fan fic/shipping comes in response to the appalling dearth of LGBTQ love stories in our culture, and I guess it’s easier for me, a straight woman, to not want to validate the work that some people create around a love they’d like to see expressed. I will concede that.

But beyond that, mostly it just cheeses me off. You cannot tell me that a romantic, sexual relationship between Sam and Frodo would have been deeper or more real than the relationship we are told they had; you cannot tell me that Merlin’s love for Arthur was any less because they didn’t have sex.

I’m tired of telling boys and men that they cannot, may not love each other — frankly, shipping of this kind is little more than the flip-side of guys who yell “No homo!” after a big hug. There is nothing wrong with men falling in love with other men; there is also nothing wrong with men having loving friendships.

And with that, I have likely sealed my fate in the geek community, and so I bid you adieu. It was fun while it lasted. I’ll just be over here, reading my books.

What space sounds like.

You heard me.

From NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

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Voyager.

captures.sounds.

of.interstellar.freaking.SPACE.

I mean. I just.

Did you hear me? You heard me! You heard SPACE!

And now, just for snicks, throw in the fact that Voyager has left the solar system. It’s gone. Se fue. And we have no idea whatsoever where it will end up and what it might find. I honest-to-goodness have chills just writing that.

It’s only a matter of time….

kirk voyager

On Star Trek and male tears.

kirk and spockSo behind. On so many things. OMG.

Among the things on which I am no longer behind, however, is Star Trek: Into Darkness; I am, however, behind on writing about it, which I intended to do the day after we saw it, which was like, what was it now (counts on fingers), ten days ago? Ish?

Be forewarned: Spoilers ahoy. (But you should have seen it by now, anyway).

Anyhow, here I am, and bottom line: It was good. Not great, certainly not as good as the original reboot (can we say that? “Original reboot”?), but pretty good, and absolutely enjoyable. Worth the money. I laughed out loud at the reference to Christine Chapel.

I do remain flummoxed as to why the men of this generation of Blockbuster Filmmaking appear congenitally incapable of writing/directing/producing so much as two female characters who actually interact with each other (seriously: JJ, Joss, Peter? What the hell?), but I’m so used to that by now that I’m not even going to bother going into it here. (More women in Hollywood would be boss, but honestly, before we even raise that question, you’d think that these men, of all men, might have cracked that particular nut on their own. Honestly). (Anyway).

No, while the women/lack of women/lack of diversity of female shapes/I could go on but I won’t… bothered me, I was more struck by something else, something positive: The men.

I’ve been a Star Trek geek since I was a child, and I believe that Star Trek, in its many iterations, is part of what is makes today’s world better than the one into which I was born. Truly. Over the course of the various series and movies, Star Trek has brought into our culture a multi-hued universe in which women could hold positions of authority, sexuality was (a little) fluid, diversity of culture was valued, and serious questions about the nature of humanity and human interaction were broached (nearly) every week (also, there was some bad fashion and way too much of Riker’s trombone, but I digress). The universe that Star Trek presented was never perfect, but it has generally been better than the one in which we actually live.

And the men have always been, ya know. Manly.

Mucho manly. Strong. Stoic. Occasionally weak at the knees over a dame, or possibly a life-altering experience, and everyone knows that Spock has been, and always shall be, Kirk’s friend. And once that’s been established, Kirk yells (ahem): “KAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHNNNNNNNNNNNNN!” because he’s manly and his friend has just died and men vow vengeance reallyreally loudly when their friends die.

But in Into Darkness, Spock and Kirk aren’t just friends. They’re loving. They love each other. When Spock looks absolutely baffled when Kirk says “I would have missed you,” Kirk rolls his eyes and sighs loudly and walks away, clearly stung and frustrated. When Uhura complains about how withholding Spock can be, she ropes Kirk into the conversation, who initially resists being roped into the conversation, but then joins in (and then, you know, somethingsomething the shuttle’s in danger! something).

By the end of the movie, Spock is no longer visibly baffled by expressions of affection, and Kirk weeps and tells Spock he’s scared, and then Spock does the little he can to try to help his friend with his fear and then, when he yells: “KAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHNNNNNNNNNNNNN!” — well, ok, that moment might be too abidingly linked with William Shatner’s Kirk to work as well as you want it to, but still, it carries a different kind of wallop.

And there are other moments in which men get to demonstrate a range of emotion and affection they are rarely allowed in mainstream film, and: Wow. I was moved, and I was grateful.

Because while there is clearly nothing wrong with love scenes between men — that is not the only way in which men love each other. That is not the only way in which men can feel tenderness and vulnerability with each other. Men shouldn’t have to be gay in order to openly love each other.

And that’s what I have to say about Into Darkness. Late, jumbled, much too rushed, but there it is. Thanks, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto – you did great.

And now I’m off to the next thing I’m behind on.

All the Spocks. All of them.

You’ve probably already seen this. Or maybe you haven’t and now you’re going to be endlessly grateful to me. I’ve shilled for a cool car with geek cred in the past, and hereunder, I do so again.

OMG. So awesome.

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(The only thing is, I kind of want to give Mr. Nimoy a haircut).

h/t my old pal Bobby, and Jalopnik.

UPDATEUPDATEUPDATE

It has been called to my attention (see comments) that I skipped a Spock! And so I did. Here is the best Spock of all – what he lacks in acting skills, he more than makes up for in good-dogginess:

Spock may 2013

h/t my sister, aka: Spock’s mom.

Star Trek. (Real Star Trek).

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We’ve begun to introduce the boy and the girl to the original Star Trek, because: Tradition! And they have to know their roots! And like that!

And when I say “we,” I mean “I,” because the husband could probably go the rest of his life without seeing another episode and be just as happy. Happier, maybe.

The thing is, he was never into Trek to begin with, and only kind of got into it with Next Gen. He’s both four years younger than me (nearly a generation, in pop-culture terms), and not American-born, so though he is for-sure-and-for-certain a geek — with all the Douglas Adams/Whovian/Babylon 5/LOTR/Game of Thrones/oh-and-he’s-a-software-engineer bona fides to prove it — he has no real working knowledge of just how unusual Trek was in its day, how many gates it opened, how hard they tried with what little they had. All he can see is the corny scripts and the ridiculous old-school FX, and William Shatner’s teeth, doing too much of his acting for him.

But he loves me (and you know. He doesn’t hate it!), and so for my birthday, he found a list of Top Ten TOS Episodes, and figured out how we could start catching the kids up (it involves Amazon Prime and my son’s brand-spanking-new-for-his-bar-mitzvah-PlayStation3), and off and on since my birthday (the 21st, since you’re asking, and I’m 48, since you’re quietly not asking), and with much fanfare (and literal clapping of hands and squealing [again, literal]) on my part, we began the journey!

We’re working our way through the top ten list (by airdate, since I know you know that matters), and the kids are digging it! Kinda. I mean, they’re enjoying it, but let’s face it — it’s a little old-school. And their actual introduction to Trek was the movie reboot, and honest to blog, it is simply hard to top JJ Abrams, even if you’re Gene Roddenberry. So one night, I took the trouble to assure them that it’s ok if they don’t love Mommy’s “favorite TV show ever,” and the husband almost visibly blanched.

“Oh c’mon,” he said in a tone of some horror. “Your favorite? Even you say that you like Next Gen more!”

And it’s true, reader, I do. I like Next Gen more.

But Star Trek has been, and always shall be, my favorite TV show. Ever.

Because their is no Next Gen without it. There’s no Picard, there’s no Data, there’s not even Wesley’s sweaters without it. There’s no Abrams reboot, there’s no Galaxy Quest, there might not even be any Star Wars. There’s no “live long and prosper,” there’s no “the needs of the many outweigh…” “…the needs of the few.” “Or of the one,” there’s no “I have been and always shall be your friend” (and if you’re noticing a pattern as to the source of my favorite Trek quotes, you get to go to the head of the class).

And I don’t care what you think or say: William Shatner can ding-dang act. Sometimes, he just got a little carried away, is all. It was 1966, for God’s sake. Everybody was acting with their teeth.

So yes: My favorite TV show. Ever. Possibly my favorite pop culture artifact, across all the years and all the genres. Ever.

When we’re done with the Top Ten of the Original Series, we’ll move on to somebody’s Top Ten (or, I don’t know: Twenty? It lasted a lot longer!) of Next Gen. And then maybe The Wrath of Khan. And then the reboot again. If the kids’ spirits flag, we’ll spread it out a little! Just because I was clapping my hands and squealing doesn’t mean they have to, too. And we’ll squeeze Galaxy Quest in, too, while we’re at it.

But if I share nothing else of my internal world with them, I have to share this. Because it really kind of is who I am.

See?

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PS Just a reminder: Another Jewish holiday will be underway as soon as the sun sets here in Middle America, so I won’t be posting on Monday, and if your comment gets caught in moderation, I’ll fish it out as soon as I can. A happy and healthy Sukkot/Monday to one and all!

 

 

Mr. Obama? I don’t think Vulcans smile.

…but I’mma forgive you.

PS I’ll just remind readers that the famous Star Trek kiss shared by Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura) and William Shatner (Capt. Kirk) was the first interracial kiss on American television. When, back in the day, Nichols told Martin Luther King that she was considering leaving the show, he apparently told her that she absolutely must do no such thing, “because not only do little black children and do women see you and aspire… but everyone else sees us for the first time the way we are supposed to be – on an equal basis, and on a level of dignity and authority and with the highest of qualifications.” And there she is, in the Oval Office, with the country’s first black President. Some things are just insanely cool, I don’t care who you are.

h/t BuzzFeed

As if I needed one more reason to follow Capt. Picard into the black.

Patrick Stewart, aka Captain Picard, has just given us yet another reason to love him:

I grew up in a home darkened by domestic violence – which I wrote about two years ago. My father was an angry and unhappy man who was not able to control his emotions, or his hands. I witnessed violence against my mother and felt powerless to stop it. When Refuge, the national domestic violence charity, asked me to become a patron, I accepted without hesitation. I accepted for my mother. As a child, there was little I could do to help her. But now I can give support and encouragement to women who live in the same sort of fear that she did.

….

Refuge – along with other women’s charities – is facing its toughest year to date. The gradual erosion of statutory funding has made Refuge even more reliant on voluntary income, but fundraising is an uphill battle. Domestic violence is still shrouded in myth, and too few people truly grasp its prevalence in this country. More money is given to the Donkey Sanctuary than to the UK’s two largest domestic violence charities.

It saddens me beyond description that women and children experiencing domestic violence today are being left to deal with fear and abuse on their own – just as my mother was, more than 60 years ago. The government says that its ambition is “nothing less than ending violence against women and girls”, but there is nothing ambitious about its relentless demolition of a sector that protects the most vulnerable members of our society.  (To show your support visit http://www.refuge.org.uk or www.justgiving.com/PatrickStewartforRefuge)

To read the entire piece at The Guardian, click here: “Domestic violence blighted my home. That’s why I support Refuge.”

(And yes, I am aware that in the title to this post, I mixed my geek references. Sue me).

Jean-Luc Picard on the dangers of limiting our liberties.

Hand to God, there’s a Star Trek moment for every reason and every season:

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You know, there are some words I’ve known since I was a schoolboy: “With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably.” Those words were uttered by Judge Aaron Satie* as wisdom and warning. The first time any man’s freedom is trodden on we’re all damaged. – The Drumhead

*a character in the Next Gen universe

h/t Fashion It So (the OMG SO AWESOME tumblr dedicated to the OMG WHAT WERE THEY THINKING fashion of Star Trek: The Next Generation)

 

George Takei & the whole humanist enchilada.

AND he plays Hologramps, a holographic grandfather figure to a group of young undercover ninjas in one of the girl's favorite TV shows.

George Takei:

Infinite diversity in infinite combinations – therein lies our strength & therein lies our joy.

(Takei is currently working on a new stage musical, Allegiance, about the experience of a Japanese-American family in a World War II internment camp — an experience he and his own family had to endure. He is of course best known for playing Sulu in the original Star Trek, but in recent years has gained new prominence as something of an elder-comic statesman of gay rights activism. He’s awesome, is what I’m saying).

h/t Horde friend sara_l_r

Geek is as geek does.

Available for purchase at ThinkGeek.com -- though, in my case, it really should be in the plural.

I’ve recently discovered a funny thing about me:

I’m less a geek, than I am a geek of geek culture.

It’s true that I’ve hit a few of the geek high points all on my own: I’m a life-long fan of the original three Star Wars films, and have nothing but disdain for the latter three; I’ve been watching Trek since the original series was first in re-runs (even I was a little too young when it first hit the airwaves); I’ve been known to watch all three LOTR films on consecutive evenings (extended cuts!); and I recently become a bona-fide Browncoat (aka: stupid-big fan of Firefly). I even have genuine Dr. Horrible cred, having watched it online almost immediately upon its release. Moreover, I’m a certified egg-head, and do things like read history because I want to and get deeply into the minutiae of history that particularly grabs me. So yeah. On some levels, I really am a geek.

But on a lot of other levels, I’m a complete dilettante. I don’t game (online or with poly dice) and never have (unless you count that one game of Angry Birds & a few visits to the arcade in the 80s); I don’t watch Dr. Who; I still haven’t read the Hitchhiker’s Guide. I intend to remedy that last sooner rather than later — especially now that even the boy is quoting lines at me — but I have no interest in either of the former. I don’t have any idea who’s Marvel and who’s DC, I didn’t much enjoy the actual source material for the LOTR films (though I did finally force myself to finish reading them), and I have no intention of ever reading any George RR Martin (I already know too many unsavory spoilers – why walk into that?)

But I love enthusiasm that vibrates in the very bones of the enthusiast. I love wild imaginations and thundering humanity. I love smart people, and especially smart people who really enjoy being smart. And I love hearing people talk about language and words and plots and narratives and what-is-canon.

So of course I love geek culture. After all being a geek — of any kind — is essentially about having ill-disguised, hugely enjoyable (and occasionally excruciating) enthusiasms. It’s about hatching plans in December 2011 to attend the midnight show of The Hobbit on the day it’s released in December 2012 (as I am); it’s about making elaborate plans for just which costumes you’re going to want to make for that event (not me, but my Internet pal kiranmartin [also known in these parts as caoil]). It’s about having opinions about each of the successive Doctors, and indeed, individual episodes in each Doctor’s arc. It’s about being able to describe yourself using Dungeons and Dragons terminology, and actually meaning it. It’s about loving something so much that you are willing to go outside the bounds of normative behavior to express that love, and more often than not, it demands a native intelligence that simply cannot let plot inconsistencies and fucking-long pod races slide (me again).

So I find myself following conversations about games and gaming culture (particuarly at my friend K. Cox’s place, because I also love people who know how to write), developing opinions about how women are presented in comics (it’s bad, man), and trading geek culture epehmera with my buddy anibundel (to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for being among those who hounded me into my late Browncoat-dom). It’s why I love ThinkGeek.com, why I encouraged the boy to read Hitchhikers in the first place, and why just the other day, I found myself watching a show called The Nerdist, despite only catching about half the references — not to mention why I found myself annoyed (despite host Chad Chris Hardwick’s entirely charming presence) with the yawning chasm where the women should have been (“but they mentioned Felicia Day!” I can already hear someone protesting, to which I can only reply: “Right! Only after insulting four hugely talented women musicians, and in the most overtly sexual terms possible! And anyway, one mention of one women isn’t really enough, is it, for the love of God?”). (Please note update, in comments – my second reply to Alison. Squee! Chad Chris Hardwick got in touch directly via the Twitters to apologize!) 

So rock on my geeks! I less-than-three you from the bottom of my less-than-three, and I am so grateful to be allowed into the room now and then. I may not be as great a mind as any of you on any of this, but I will get the  snacks and help you find those buttons you need for your Hobbit shirt. Because you’re awesome. And you make my days much, much brighter.