Thursday, June 30, 2005

Home for the Holidays

I'm taking three weeks off from Hole's, and none too soon. I haven't been this exhausted in a long time. I plan to veg out for about a week, then see if I can't get a little creative writing done - something good enough to publish professionally.

We shot four more episodes of Enjoy Gardening with Jim Hole yesterday. It was a nice change of pace and a different kind of challenge, not so much a creative one as organizational. If all goes well, the first completed episodes should air on Shaw on Monday.

P.S. - I just added a photo using Blogger's new "Add Image" button, which allows you to use post images directly from your hard drive. My mom won an award for this particular picture, and it has a "vacation-y" feel, so I thought I'd test this new Blogger feature here.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Another Vending Machine

Since my last vending machine photo was so popular, here's another, taken at the Edmonton International Airport earlier today. Many exotic delights can be had with the simple insertion of coins!

Sylvia's Back

Oh, the Moon in June is a Big Balloon

Squishy McMonkey has returned from her trip to Fort St. John! I brought her balloons and a Dave Chappelle DVD, then gave her a good squishing. Victory is mine!

She's Arriving, On a Jet Plane

Sylvia's back today! After a whirlwind cleanup, the condo is fit for female habitation again. Time to head down to the airport.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Tales of Time & Terror #3: Lost Pilots

Publicity photo for DuMont Network's "Air Girl and High Toad," 1984.

The offhand comment was more insightful than Peter knew: "Hey, that looks like a publicity still from an 80's show."

Sometimes a photograph is more than frozen light; sometimes, a photograph is a window to another world. The photo Peter saw, hung in a corner of Earl's office, was one such window.

The engines of time run at different speeds on different worlds; the world Peter saw but did not recognize ran ten years slow. His friend Earl was born in 1959, rather than a decade later. Earl's friend Kim, the young woman in the photo, was born in 1960.

And because time ran slow on this other world, television history was changed...


Actually, I can't think of where to take this story tonight - besides, I hate sticking real people into them, even when the original inspiration seems to demand it. I just thought Pete's remark, made in real life last Saturday, was cool.

The photo, of course, is of me and my friend Kim Erickson; I won a professional sitting at a draw, asked Kim if she wanted to sit in, and this amusing shot is the result.

I thought for a few minutes about what sort of title a show with this sort of publicity shot would have, and for some reason the short-lived comedy/drama "Tenspeed and Brownshoe" came to mind. Kim's scarf and my leather jacket brought an aviation theme to mind, thus, "Air Girl." "High Toad" is Admiral Woods' old callsign from back in the Freedom/Bonaventure BBS days. (I still remember Jeff Shyluk's remark: "High Toad? That's a terrible callsign!"

So I figure the show is probably set in the '50s, during the Cold War, and Air Girl is the pilot; High Toad, her mechanic. They probably work for the OSS/CIA, undermining Commie plots, maybe finding a lost kingdom or two along the way. Sounds like fun, huh? The world needs more shows like that.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Tales of Time & Terror #1: Gag Order

All Choked Up

Earl J. Woods, secret agent, crept into the apartment, eyes darting back and forth in search of hidden foes. But there was no one - the secret plans would soon be his.

But suddenly, from out of a dark corner leapt the fiendish Peter Harris, deadly assassin of hate, known colloquially as the Chuckling Choker. Harris vanquished his foes by strangling them from behind, and Earl's eyes goggled as he felt steely fingers close around his hapless neck.

"Ha, ha, ha!" chuckled the perfidous Peter. "I shall choke the life out of you, interfering swine! Dirty spy!"

"GAK!" said Earl. "I'M CHOKING!"

Earl's tongue lolled grotesquely as his tortured lungs wheezed desperately for precious oxygen. But to no avail! The Chuckling Choker's fingers were tight as a vise, squeezing Earl's windpipe into a lethal cinch.


The Chuckling Choker giggled malevolently, knowing that the spy's gruesome end was near. His victim's eyeballs rolled back in their sockets; his tongue swelled to twice its normal size; and his nostrils flared like the wings of a butterfly caught in a vacuum, as though subjected to cruel experiments by sadistic astronauts.

But then, just as Earl was about to succumb, the Chuckling Choker developed a sudden case of carpal tunnel syndrome - in all ten fingers! The deadly digits sprang open as the maladroit murderer howled in pain.

"Aiieeee!" he screamed. "What is this - my fingers - my precious fingers! THEY ACHE SO!"

Earl, wheezing for breath, staggered into the corner, chest heaving. In between ragged gasps, Earl explained his would-be assassin's fate:

"You...forgot...that with my Chronal Crainium...I can...speed up or slow down...the flow of time! I simply...aged your fingers into infirmity!"

" FIEND!" shrieked the Chuckling Choker.

"I believe that's my line," chuckled Earl. "And now - off to turn the temporal tables on more enemies of democracy!"

Closing his fist around his nose, Earl squeezed once, and vanished into the timestream. WHAT MAD ADVENTURES WILL HE HAVE NEXT!?!?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Debris of My Life

The Tyee, an independent news outlet based in BC, is running a "Teen Angst Poetry" contest. I wrote a lot of very, very bad poetry during my teen years, so I scoured my old duo-tangs and picked out the cheesiest poem I could find. The Tyee's editor has responded with a simple "Thanks. This is fantastic." Who knows what that means in this context, but I guess it's kind of cool; maybe it'll get posted next week. If it does, I'll post a link.

But in the meantime, I thought I'd share something a little more interesting than my poetry. While reading through hundreds of pages of handwritten stories, poems, essays and speeches, and more than a few hand-drawn maps, I stumbled across pages of quotes, scattered here and there among the duo-tangs. Some are mundane, others are silly, but a few are, I think, genuinely interesting for one reason or another. All are from people I know, or knew.

Here are a few.

"Woods: take a pill."
-Joanne Wotypka, fellow Main Kelsey resident, and fellow ex-captain of the University of Alberta Star Trek club. Joanne has a very husky voice, and is a master of sardonic wit; I wish I had an audio recording of this, so you could understand how funny it really is. Joanne had a knack of reminding me to keep things in context.

"Earl, you're an understatement."
-Mr. Cormie, one of my high school teachers. Wish I could remember what I'd done to make him say that, but I love the line - I'll have to use it in a story sometime.

"Earl, you're my hero."
-Rob Vogt, fellow Main Kelsey resident. Rob is a very jovial guy, and you have to imagine him laughing as he says this. Again, I wish I remember what provoked this response - probably something goofy I'd done. Rob once said he had plans to write some kind of history of his years at Kelsey, and I'd dearly love to read it; I wish I'd kept more notes myself.

"Earl's depressed."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because you told us."
-Jennifer Peters (fellow Main Kelsey resident), Earl J. Woods (me). I can only imagine "us" must have included Jennifer's roommate Kim Erickson. I have no idea what I was depressed about - probably something involving unrequited love - but I think my absentmindedness is pretty funny here.

"Kill - Kill - KILL!"
-Vernon Ryan, one of my grade school friends, probably shouted during a tabletop roleplaying session.

"Nothing's the matter with my arm - it's just broken."
-Jeff Pitts, one of my oldest friends, uttered this classic missive during a session of the roleplaying game Villains & Vigilantes. He was a human-looking cyborg, and one of his robot arms was damaged during a mission; when confronted with someone who didn't know his secret, Jeff made this inept attempt at hiding the truth. Strangely enough, Jeff is quite an accident-prone guy, and I can easily imagine him saying this in a real-world context.

"Earl, how come you're never around when I'm getting wet?"
-Kim Erickson, fellow Main K resident. Sadly, this quote isn't nearly as lurid as it sounds; Kim was a favourite victim of the pranksters on our floor who liked to carry their fellow Main K'ers into the shower for a good dunking. Kim expected me to rescue her, but at the time I was a very small guy, and had little hope of defending her from people who had six to twelve inches and sixty pounds on me. I wish I could remember what my response to the double entrendre was; I was probably too shy and intimidated to even come up with a witty retort.

"Earl, what the fuck are you talking about?"
-Rob Belau, fellow Main K resident. I probably wrote this down because many people have repeated this very sentiment over the years, in various forms. Whatever I'm talking about, it always makes sense to me...which reminds me, Sean and I were talking about Superman's invulnerability, and I remarked how cool it would be to shove a pistol up each nostril and fire away if I had an invulnerable nose. Although it occurs to me now that might be a good way for Superman to get a bullet lodged in each sinus cavity, and since he's invulnerable, there's be no way to get them out. Unless he could sneeze them out...wait, never mind, if we're talking about the pre-Crisis Superman, he could just vibrate his molecules into intangibility, and the bullets would fall right through him. Oooo! What if he shot himself in both ears - would the bullets travel through his Eustacian tubes and come out his nostrils? I guess he'd have to remove his eardrums first under a Red Sun lamp...

"We are totally, completely, almost innocent!"
-Phil Cresswell and John Stewart, fellow Main K residents. Said in unison when accused of pulling some prank or other - I can't remember what. I loved the fact that we had a John Stewart on the floor, because, of course, John Stewart was the backup Green Lantern for Hal Jordan. When I told John this, he said, "Earl, what the fuck are you talking about?"

"You are unique. Each one of us is unique."
"Making none of us unique."
-Daryle Tilroe (fellow Main K resident) and Earl J. Woods (me). I can't remember which of us said which line, and it's not an original concept anyway, but this sort of dialogue typifies our relationship.

"I am the square root of minus 1."
-Daryle Tilroe, fellow Main K resident. I don't remember the context, but I love this quote - it's very Daryle.

"Earl, you are exactly like Clark Kent."
-Stephanie Gillis, fellow Main K resident. I think I may have said this before, but this is the highest compliment anyone has ever paid me; Stephanie blurted it out while we were watching the Smallville scene in Superman III. It was a remarkably kind thing to say at a very vulnerable moment in my life, and I'll always remember Stephanie fondly for it.

"Don't be dissin' me. You be Charlie Ervine. I'll break it down to ya."
-Ravinder Singh, fellow Main K resident. I don't remember dissing Rav, and I have no idea who Charlie Ervine is (Google, here I come), but Rav had a real way with words.

"I kill you in the name of Allah! I kill you in the name of Buddha!"
-Paul Ravensdale, friend from way back. This was said, of course, during another session of Dungeons and Dragons, or perhaps Twilight:2000 or Recon. Paul was an equal-opportunity assassin, and his delivery really needs to be heard to be believed.

"Earl, put the cleaver away."
-Jeff Pitts again. I really, really wish I could remember the context. Jeff, any idea?

"Earl, can I back your car out of the driveway?"
"Well, I don't know, Val, women drivers and all that..."
"Oh, come on, just out of the driveway."
"Well...all right. I don't know why I'm doing this. We'll probably crash."
"Gee, make a big deal of it!"
"It won't start."
"Aw, geez, what did you do now?"
"Nothing, it won't start!"
"Boy oh boy, this is what I get for letting a woman take the wheel..."
"Here, take a look."
"Well? Earl?"
"I...uh...I left the lights on."
-Valerie Koenig (grade school friend), Earl J. Woods (me). I imagine this probably happened in grade 9 or 10; a richly deserved humiliation on my part. Karma will get you for perpetuating stereotypes...

"For if you give your mind to the Realm, you will be strengthened as the Realm is strengthened."
-Mark Lede, grade school friend, playing a mad beaureaucrat in a 1984-ish short film we made in high school. The film itself is lost, much to my chagrin; I took it in as a demo tape for a job shooting wedding videos, and lost the address of the place. They never called me back for the job, so I never got the tape back, along with another video I shot of random friends at the high school. I'm still angry at myself for losing two sets of irreplaceable memories.

"Let the pigeons loose!"
-Keith Gylander, grade school friend, said in response to something I'd hoped was profound, but was actually silly. I think we were recording one of our "radio dramas."

There's more, but it starts getting pretty personal and embarrassing. Sifting through your own past is like that.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Perry Bible Fellowship

This has got to be my favourite comic strip ever: The Perry Bible Fellowship, a treasure trove of absurdist humour with a malevolent twist. Click on the link above and read every strip - you'll be as hooked as I am. New strip every Sunday.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Shred Things Up

Back in the day, my friends and I used to hold Smash Things Up parties (well, to be fair, there were only two, and I missed the first one because I decided to lose my virginity instead). Smashing things up is incredibly cathartic - ask about the video we shot, and you'll see what I mean.

In the meantime, my friend Susan offers this incredible link to SSI's website, where you can watch videos of waste, appliances, and even vehicles put through their industrial shredder. HOLY SMASHAMOLEY!

A Forkful of Dollops


Before taking Sylvia to the airport, we took my brother to Mom and Dad's place for a Father's Day lunch. Dad took this incredible photo, in which Sean and Sylvia look great, and I look like a complete dork. Couldn't have turned out better.

She's Leaving, On a Jet Plane Fort St. John, she's going North, the rush is on...

Well, Sylvia hopped on a WestJet flight to Fort St. John, BC this afternoon, and now she's enjoying the company of her parents in their motor home. I hope she has fun! As for me, it'll be Bad Movie Night every evening until she returns. Haven't cracked open Mad Mission 3 yet...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Argh! Channel

I despise the reality TV phenomenon, and yet I keep thinking of new ways to exploit it. In a dark, dystopian future, I envision an entire channel dedicated to those incredibly painful accidents that often figure into reality shows: it's called Argh!, and here are a few potential shows:

Canada’s Most Chilling Bandsaw Accidents
Amateur woodworkers compete to create ashtrays, candlesticks, and other useless geegaws - all without a single minute of safety training, or for that matter, equipment. Of course, private clinics are close by for fast (if expensive) treatment.

Nude Paintball Championships
Post-secondary students desperate for cash for tuition and books have a chance to win it all - if they agree to compete, nude, in a no-holds-barred paintball championship played in an abandoned cement quarry.

Dart Fight
Drunken fools fight with darts for free pitchers of beer.

Hammer Fight
Convicted felons fight with hammers for the chance to win early parole.

America’s Funniest Falling-Down-the-Stairs Videos
The title says it all. There's more of this sort of footage than you may think.

Xtreme Bottle to the Teeth Trials
Xtreme Teens prove their street cred and win Xtreme prizes by allowing their friends to assault them with glass bottles - bottles full of the hottest new energy drinks and sodas.

Sledgehammer Soccer
All the excitement of soccer, all the mayhem of sledgehammers.

Marquis de Sade of Queensbury Rules Boxing
No gloves? No mouth protector? No problem! Slip into your gonch, wrap your fist around a roll of quarters, and step into the ring to fight other desperate souls for a shot at winning a month's ration of Victory Gin.

World’s Dumbest Rednecks
Bread and Circuses in the sticks! Keep the population ignorant enough, and they'll do anything...from voting for reactionary candidates in spite of their own best interests to blowing up old refrigerators with found munitions, the World's Dumbest Rednecks will provide ample distraction from the issues of the day.

Celebrity Coconut Fight
The people love their celebrities almost as much as they hate them, and now they can punish their most despised has-beens by nominating them for Celebrity Coconut Fight! Washed-up celebs (in particular, those pinko liberals) are rounded up and tossed into Coconut Plaza, where they'll fight their fellow stars by hurling hard, milk-filled coconuts at each other! They're not just fighting for chimp change - they're fighting for their lives!

Let's Make a Bloody Mess
Monty Hall's clone hosts this exciting new game show, in which members of the studio audience act as inconspicuously as possible, hoping to avoid Hall's evil eye. Losing contestants are marched onstage and forced to pick door one, door two, or door three. One door hides a glamorous prize; another, a man-eating tiger; a third, a claymore antipersonnel mine. Everyone's a winner on Let's Make a Bloody Mess! Well, not really.

Cooking with Dynamite
Subversive chefs are rounded up to prepare tasty meals for the ruling class. If the meals fail to please, the cook must try again - but this time, the meal is prepared with an extra ingredient: sweaty dynamite. One false move, and the cook's goose - along with all other ingredients - is cooked!

Guns and Butter
Starving proles have a chance to earn groceries for the week - but only if they're willing to turn the aisles into a shooting gallery. Armed with a shopping cart and a six-shooter, each desperate shopper must survive flying bullets while racing the clock to fill their carts with as much desperately-needed food as possible. Cleanup in aisle 4!

Playground Pandemonium
Children know all about social Darwinism, and now they can experience it in all its brutal glory. It's bullies versus geeks and outcasts in the ultimate showdown: brains against brawn, with no holds barred, and no teachers allowed! (Except to watch in horror.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Rolling Tongues, Rolling Eyes

Tonight after dinner, I began to absent-mindedly roll my tongue, making it into a U and sticking it out into the open air.

"Hey," I said to Sylvia, "What do you think would happen if someone threw up while rolling their tongue? Would it shoot out in a thin stream? Wouldn't it be cool if you had enough self-control that you could keep your tongue rolled while throwing up? BLUUURRRGH!" I mimed the action I imagined.

Sylvia, who had been pinching her eyes closed and making gagging sounds during my inquiry, responded thus:

"Wouldn't it be cool if you had enough self-control to stop thinking out loud about this stuff?"

I laughed.

Monday, June 13, 2005

You Seem Wise, for a Woman

You Seem Wise, for a Woman: Gender Roles in Star Trek's "Who Mourns for Adonais?"

Star Trek has been praised for its progressive vision of an egalitarian future, where men and women of all cultures work together for the greater good.

Star Trek has also been derided for advocating everything from communism to imperialism – and for its sexist attitudes. The show’s central figure, Captain James T. Kirk, is commonly regarded as an intergalactic Lothario, with a woman in every starport.

There is ample evidence for both views. If one examines the Star Trek canon, one discovers that the show is both progressive and reactionary – and often in the same episode. “Who Mourns for Adonais?”, the second broadcast episode of the show’s second season, is one such episode.

What’s in a Name?
Adonais, it should be noted, is a corruption of Adonai, one of the Hebrew names of God – fitting, since this episode deals with the downfall of a god, namely Apollo. The name Adonis, a Syrian god of death and rebirth incorporated into Greek mythology, can also be traced back to the Semitic term; Adonis was, according to a fragment of the poet Sappho, the central figure in a cult formed by the young women of the isle of Lesbos. The Lesbians worshipped Adonis, and sowed herbs and grains during a festival dedicated to him – and then mourned when the plants died, grieving not only for the vegetation, but also for the god who represented the cycle of death and rebirth.

According to Walter Burkert’s text Greek Religion,

“…the special function of the Adonis cult is as an opportunity for the unbridled expression of emotion in the strictly circumscribed life of women, in contrast to the rigid order of polis…”

Adonis worship, then, was liberating – and sexual. Even today, to call a man an Adonis is to complement him on his godly physique; he is put upon a pedestal, and becomes both an object of worship and desire. An Adonis, then, could be said to be playing two roles: ruler, and prey.

Adonis does not appear in the episode, but the show’s antagonist, Apollo, certainly plays the role of the classical Adonis.

Kirk and McCoy wonder if Mr. Scott is wise to pursue Lieutenant Palamas.

Losing an Officer
As the episode opens, we learn that the Enterprise is en route to investigate Pollux IV, an M-class (Earthlike) planet of little note. (Pollux, of course, is another son of Zeus, a stepbrother to Apollo.) On the Enterprise bridge, Captain Kirk receives a report from Lieutenant Carolyn Palamas, an attractive young officer who we learn is the ship’s “A&A” specialist: archeology, anthropology, and ancient civilizations. The ship’s engineer, Mr. Scott, is quite smitten with Palamas; he asks her out for a cup of coffee. Kirk and ship’s doctor Leonard McCoy look on, amused:

“Bones…could you get that excited over a cup of coffee?”
“Well, even from here, I can tell his pulse rate’s up.”

Palamas and Scott exchange a few words; clearly, Scott is love struck, an avid pursuer of the friendly but aloof Palamas. Kirk and McCoy worry:

“I’m not sure I like that, Jim.”
“Why? Scotty’s a good man.”
“And he thinks he’s the right man for her. But I’m not sure she thinks he’s the right man.”

At first glance, this seems to be an affirmation of a woman’s right to choose her mate. But McCoy goes on:

“On the other hand, she’s a woman. All woman. One of these days she’ll find the right man, off she’ll go – out of the service.”

Clearly, the assumption here is that should a female Starfleet officer become romantically entangled, she’s expected, by cultural norm if not by law, to surrender her career and, by implication, take on the role of wife and mother. Kirk responds:

“I like to think of it not so much as losing an officer, but gaining…actually, I’m losing an officer.”

Interestingly, here Kirk regards Palamas primarily as a colleague, and a valuable one; he sees no upside to her taking on the role of housewife. But before McCoy can respond, trouble: a giant green hand appears outside the ship, taking hold of the hull and stopping the Enterprise in its tracks.

Grabbed by the hand of Apollo, the crew is once more flung across the bridge.

Apollo’s Vision
Baffled by the apparition, the Enterprise crew quickly brings to bear their scientific apparatus in an attempt to explain the phenomenon. The hand is actually a force field, though an exotic one, and it’s holding the ship in orbit around Pollux IV.

Then, another apparition appears on the ship’s viewscreen: the face of the Greek god Apollo, clad in a toga and laurel wreath. He welcomes the children of Earth, and informs them that they shall worship at the feet of Apollo, just as their ancestors did so long ago.

Naturally, Captain Kirk has other plans.

In the Temple of Apollo
Kirk, McCoy, Scott, Ensign Chekov, and Lieutenant Palamas beam down to the surface of Pollux IV. Palamas wonders why she was included in the landing party, and McCoy informs her that her specialized knowledge of classical civilization could come in handy on this mission. This is a little insulting to Palamas’ character; surely she could have figured out for herself that her specialty could be useful in dealing with a Greek god. This instance, however, is probably not so much overt sexism on the part of the writers (or McCoy); it is simply exposition, a way to explain to the audience why Palamas is involved in the plot. Still, the text is the text, and if we accept it at face value, Palamas, at the very least, comes across as an officer who pays little attention to current events aboard ship, calling her competence into question.

“I am Apollo!” shouts the god, by way of greeting.

The men of the landing party are skeptical:

“And I am the Czar of all the Russias!” says Chekov.

“Chekov…” Kirk chides.

“I’m sorry, sir, I’ve never met a god before.”

“And you haven’t yet.”

The god and his potential flock.

Palamas, on the other hand, is clearly enthralled by Apollo’s presence; he is powerful, handsome, an Alpha male in all respects. And he isn’t above using flattery to sway the lieutenant:

“Earth…mother of the most beautiful women in the universe…that, at least, has not changed.”

Earth itself is characterized as female by Apollo, and we can infer that to him, womanhood’s chief virtues are beauty and motherhood. He will make his attitudes explicit soon enough.

Apollo makes a dramatic exit, leaving the humans to confer for a moment. Kirk asks Palamas what she knows about the god, and her reply is concise and professional:

“…twin brother of Artemis, son of Zeus and Leto, god of light and purity, skilled in the bow and the lyre…”

Apollo returns, demanding that Kirk and his crew worship him. Kirk is indignant, and starts to make a threat of his own:

“I have four hundred people up there…”

“I have four hundred people,” says Apollo, “they are mine, to cherish or destroy.”

Palamas immediately steps forward to plead with Apollo, imploring him to be kind.

“How like Aphrodite and Athena…beauty…grace…You seem wise, for a woman.”

Apollo compliments Palamas’ physical attributes, and seems genuinely surprised by her intelligence – a sexist attitude if ever there was.

“What is your name?” he asks.

“Lieutenant Palamas,” she responds, using her professional title.

“I mean your name,” Apollo says dismissively. Clearly, he is unimpressed by her rank, which also implies he is equally unimpressed with any of her career accomplishments. To Apollo, a woman is to be cared for, admired, loved – but not treated as an equal.

Lieutenant Palamas' new look.

“Carolyn,” Palamas admits, and Apollo smiles warmly, then promptly uses his power to transform the lieutenant’s Starfleet uniform into one of William Ware Theiss’ infamously skimpy costumes. Rather than recoil at the indignity, Palamas actually preens, looking down in wonder at the dress.

Scotty pays the price for his jealousy.

Scott is rather nonplussed by all of this, and attacks Apollo, only to be struck down with casual ease. As the men tend to the injured Scott, Apollo takes Palamas to another dimension, a wooded glade where they can talk in private. Scott, though winded by the rough treatment, is eager to go after them, but Kirk holds him back:

“I understand your concern over her, Mr. Scott, but she volunteered to go with him, hopefully to learn something about him. She’s doing her job, and it’s about time you did yours.”

Kirk’s statement reveals his contradictory feelings about Palamas, and perhaps by extension, all female Starfleet officers. He uses her as an example of proper behaviour for Scott; but on the other hand, he is merely hopeful that she’s gathering intelligence on the god, rather than pursuing her obvious infatuation with him.

In the garden with a god.

Meanwhile, Back on the Enterprise
In orbit, the Enterprise is still helpless, her engines useless, communications, transporters and sensors inoperable. Mr. Spock cannot contact the landing party, nor retrieve them, nor even gather data on their condition. The ship is blind and impotent. Mr. Spock confers with Lieutenant Uhura, the communications officer, a woman.

“Lieutenant, we must restore communications with the landing party.”

“Well, I’m working, sir, but I can’t do anything with this,” she says, indicating her inoperative communications control panel.


Uhura reconsiders.

“Well, I might be able to rig up the subspace bypass circuit…”

“Good, do so.”

Spock moves on to another station, clearly confident that Uhura will make the necessary repairs. Spock, of course, is well-known in popular culture as a character motivated only by cold logic; emotions do not factor into his decisions or attitudes. Unlike Kirk, Spock’s estimation of character is based on experience; the captain relies on intuition. Shortly, Spock checks on Uhura’s progress:

Uhura, consumate professional.

“I’m connecting the circuit now, sir. It should take another half hour.”

“Speed is essential, Lieutenant.”

“Mr. Spock, I haven’t done anything like this in years…if it isn’t done just right, I could blow the entire communications system. It’s very delicate work, sir.”

“I can think of no one better equipped to handle it, Miss Uhura. Please proceed.”

Foiled by Feminine Virtues
On the planet, the male members of the landing party have a plan to defeat Apollo: using their tricorders (portable sensory equipment), they have determined that whenever he uses one of his godly powers, his energy levels drop. If they can taunt the god into expending enough energy, perhaps the Enterprise will be able to break free of Apollo’s weakened grip. A dangerous plan, Kirk admits, because Apollo’s wrath could easily kill the entire landing party before the Enterprise can take action. But it’s a risk they’ll have to take.

Apollo and Palamas return from their idyllic paradise, and Kirk readies the men:

“Look out for the girl,” he admonishes. Out of uniform, Palamas is no longer an officer, but merely a woman – rather, merely a girl, a figure to be protected, or perhaps an irritant to be dealt with. The men begin to taunt Apollo, and the god is wrathful indeed; Kirk knows that his plan will work.

But then Palamas, not aware of the plan and terrified that Apollo will strike her friends dead, intervenes, begging the god for mercy. Apollo relents, and Kirk is appalled, exasperated; she’s ruined the plan, and they’ll have to come up with another. Palamas’ compassion – a quality traditionally associated with women – has botched Kirk’s plan.

"Wonderful...just great. Thanks for nothing, Lieutenant."

A Tempting Offer
Once more, Apollo and Palamas retire to the otherworldly garden, and Apollo makes an astonishing offer: he will make Carolyn his bride, and furthermore, the mother to a new race of gods, to be one day be revered almost – almost – a goddess herself. Palamas is good enough to serve as Apollo’s consort, and as a mother, but she will not be elevated to equal status with Apollo himself.

Palamas’ Predicament
Kirk has one final plan, and it depends upon Palamas’ loyalty. But as soon as Palamas returns from the garden, awestruck, she tries to convert Kirk:

“He wants us to live in peace. He wants to provide for us. He’ll give us everything we’ve ever wanted…”

Kirk’s response is harsh, and designed to appeal not to Carolyn the woman, but Palamas the officer:

“All right, Lieutenant, you can come down from Mount Olympus now. You’ve got work to do. [Apollo] thrives on love, worship, attention. We can’t give him that worship. None of us can, especially you. Spurn him. You must. You’re special to him.”

“Yes…I love him.”

“Lieutenant. All our lives, here and on the ship, depend on you. On you, Lieutenant. Reject him, and we have a chance to save ourselves. Accept him, and you condemn all of us to slavery.”

Palamas doesn’t like the sound of this.

“What you ask would break his heart. How can I?”

"Man or woman, it makes no difference. We're human."

“Give me your hand,” Kirk demands, and she does. “Now feel that. Human flesh against human flesh. We’re the same. We share the same history, the same heritage…man or woman, it makes no difference. We’re human. We couldn’t escape from each other even if we wanted to.”

In contrast to his earlier, more patronizing attitude, here Kirk rediscovers his earlier respect for Palamas as a human being (“…actually, I’ll be losing an officer.”). Kirk never calls Palamas by name; he refers to her by her rank, reinforcing her status as a valued crewmember. On the other hand, by doing so he is subverting her female response to the god – to Adonis. He knows that an Adonis’ greatest weakness is to be wounded by a woman’s rejection. Kirk is using Palamas’ femininity as a weapon.

"It's not me, it's you." Welcome to dumpsville, population: one angry Greek god.

Palamas rejoins Apollo in the garden. She denies her feelings for the god, calling him a specimen, an experiment. She calls herself a scientist.

“Surely you know I’ve only been studying you. I could no more love you than I could love a new species of bacteria.”

Apollo is devastated, and enraged, he threatens Palamas, and her demeanor shifts: while it hurt her to betray Apollo, his sudden belligerence seems to awaken her own feminist impulses. Her face a mask of scorn, she confronts him:

“Is this the secret of your power over women? The thunderbolts you throw?”

Apollo, the very picture of a petulant male, raises his arms to the sky and brings down a storm, forcing Palamas to flee.

Apollo’s Fall
Uhura’s repairs, now complete, enable Spock to reestablish contact with Captain Kirk, and Apollo’s temper tantrum has drained just enough energy for the Enterprise to act. Spock warns Kirk to stay well clear of Apollo’s temple, for it is his power source, and the Enterprise is about to destroy it.

A technological thunderbolt: Enterprise phasers destroy Apollo's temple.

The starship’s weapons raze the temple, and Apollo’s power is gone. But he does not rage against Captain Kirk: instead, he casts his mournful gaze upon Palamas, who stumbles from the garden into the arms of Mr. Scott; unable to keep her own footing, she is dependent upon yet another male for support.

"See what you've done to me."

“See what you’ve done to me,” he tells her, and tears stream down his cheeks. Apollo calls out to the other Greek gods, who long ago allowed their essences to disperse into the cosmos. He spreads his arms wide and disappears, willing himself to death.

Palamas, too, is crying, though the cause is open to interpretation: does she cry because of her betrayal? For the ordeal she’s just been through? Or because a unique life-form has been lost?

Who Mourns..?
Who mourns for Adonais? As Burkert noted, it is women who grieve for their lost god – and certainly Carolyn Palamas follows this pattern. But the men of the starship Enterprise mourn as well:

“I wish we hadn’t had to do this,” McCoy says.

“Would it have hurt us, I wonder,” laments Kirk, “to gather just a few laurel leaves?” In the end, man and woman are on a level playing field: together, they have defeated God, and together they mourn. But is this a meaningful measure of equality?

Death of a god.

Carolyn’s Choice
Captain Kirk is a man very much in the Dionysian mold: he tries to seduce, or at the very least admires, nearly every female guest star in the series. Kirk’s attitudes towards women, then, may or may not be typical of twenty-third century males. However, as the lead character, Kirk’s is the voice that most informs the fictional world of the series; it is his actions and attitudes that propel the narrative.

But his subordinate, the half-human, half-alien Mr. Spock, is at least as important to the show as the captain, if not more so; certainly his hold on popular culture is as strong or stronger than Kirk’s. And Spock’s attitude towards women, in this episode and others, is unfailingly respectful, even on those rare occasions when he feels a romantic pull towards the female in question.

Scotty comforts Palamas...but her mind is on other things.

Mr. Scott’s role in the episode is also worth examining. Throughout, he behaves like a lovesick teenager, moved wholly by emotion (primarily jealousy and anger), to the detriment of his own health and even the starship’s mission. And in the end, though he is allowed to comfort his beloved Carolyn, we know the romance he desires will never come to fruition: the Palamas character never reappears on the show. Mr. Scott failed to treat Palamas as an officer, and Palamas, we may infer, responds with indifference to his romantic attentions. And it is difficult to blame her.

At story’s end Palamas rejects both the love of a god and the love of an ordinary mortal: she makes her own choices. Does she, as Kirk and McCoy surmise, eventually find a man and leave the service? We never find out. Certainly she wanted to experience the love of a man, and expressed submissive tendencies – but only to Apollo, a god, never to the mortal Scotty. She is clearly confident in her abilities as an officer and a scientist.

We cannot know what path Carolyn Palamas chooses after the episode fades out. But we do know that when the moment of decision came, she rejected a submissive role and reclaimed the right to live as an independent actor, whatever the consequences. Her final choice is an affirmation of her importance as a human being.

“Man or woman, it makes no difference. We’re the same. We’re human.”

Despite inconsistencies in the text, this is Star Trek’s ultimate message. Men and women are, above all else, human, sharing the same rights and responsibilities, the same frailties, the same potential. We can, like Scotty, submit to our baser emotions, or we can, like Palamas, rise above them. Our capability to do so rests not with our gender, but according to our own strength of character.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Mission to Kananaskis

Two weekends ago, Sylvia and I journeyed down to Kananaskis to enjoy the outdoors. Here's our cabin. Scroll down for more shots, and don't forget to go to the next couple of pages for all the exciting action.

"ARTOO...blasted droid...never should have removed the restraining bolt..."

Shadow Snowshoer

I was afraid of being attacked by bears, but as it turns out, rogue snowshoers were the real hazard.




Sylvia scans the horizon for the lost R2 unit, just before being bushwacked by sandpeople.

Musical Mountain

A mountain. The interactive display kiosk thingy played a stirring rendition of "Also Sprach Zarathrustra," or however you spell it. The 2001 monolith theme. I was amused.

Looking Ahead

Looking towards the future.

Stumped Again

Stumped again.

The Sheep Look Out

On our way back home, several sheep tried to run us off the road, but were ultimately unsuccessful.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Celebrity Coconut Fight

I've been trying to come up with some reality show concepts that might actually be entertaining. A while back, I came up with "Blast Zone," which I described to Sylvia, who then demanded that I never speak of it again, so I'll refrain from doing so here.

Last week, however, I invented "Celebrity Rock Fight," which would of course involve today's hottest celebrities clobbering each other with rocks. But then I amended that to "Celebrity Coconut Fight," for that extra frisson of surreality.

In each episode, each celebrity gets a pile of coconuts, and they battle on a themed soundstage - say, if it's two politicians, they fight in a House of Commons set, if it's a pair of boxers they fight in a boxing ring, etc. First celebrity to lose consciousness loses the coconut fight. Winner gets to advance to the next round of coconut combat.

The neat thing about this show is that the television audience gets to vote on which celebrities they want to appear on the show, and it's a binding referendum. Oh sure, the celebrities can moan about civil rights and whatnot, but in my world of tomorrow, the public's thirst for spectacle must be slaked, no matter the cost!

Who would YOU vote for? I'm thinking Carrot Top vs. Britney Spears in the first round.