Sunday, September 17, 2006

40 Years Of Star Trek

Good lord. Can it really have been 40 years since Star Trek first came on the air?

A local movie critic just wrote in his weekly column that the 40th anniversary of the first episode of Star Trek was a week ago. Can that be possible that those characters we've lived with for so long have been around for, well, so long?

Guess so. It's all part of the general feeling I have that my life is being spent in a starship going at warp factor 9.

Forty years ago this month I was in bed, sicker than I've ever been, either before or since. I'd picked up a nasty strain of infectious mononucleosis coupled with tonsillitis. I had to quit my job (no sick leave), I couldn't eat (only a diet drink called Metracal, and is that still being sold?) and my girlfriend dumped me. I was sick in bed for about a month, but after a couple of days she got bored waiting for me to get better.

I was a science fiction fan, so I may have watched those early episodes of Star Trek, or maybe not. I don't remember. In those days I was usually out doing something. I hung out at a local club and listened to music; I had friends, and I had dates. I didn't spend a lot of time in the 1960s watching TV. The only reason I might have seen them on their first run is because I was too sick to do anything else.

When I did watch Star Trek, which was in reruns after my discharge from the Army, I just didn't care much for it. I know its original fans point to it with great affection, but despite the ground it did break--racial diversity in the cast members, for one thing--it was still, as creator Gene Roddenberry had said when selling the concept to network executives, "Wagon Train in space."

Science fiction often leaves out the "science" part of its name, but Star Trek was especially bad at that. The Enterprise's "warp drive" notwithstanding, things in space are very, very far apart, which is probably why we're not zipping over to other star systems right now. I found the Enterprise's ability to hop from galaxy to galaxy really hard to accept.

People who love Star Trek don't worry about that, though, not letting reality intrude on a good fantasy.

It's really been forty years, though, since Star Trek and my bout with mono? Good lord a'mercy. Beam me the hell outta here, Scotty.


Reality TV is one thing, but really good realistic fictional TV is hard to find. HBO's The Wire is that show for me. It's in its fourth season now, and I've followed it since the first episode of the first season. I find it as challenging to follow as any novel, which it's been likened to.

The characters live in a dystopian version of the city of Baltimore, which can't make the real mayor and citizens, and especially the Visitors Bureau, very happy. The show is about inner city crime, drugs, despair, politics, more despair…

Jacob Weisberg of Slate Magazine has written a review of the series which really puts to shame anything I could write about it. Read this, because he has put into words what I want to say.


I went to a union picnic Saturday. As my union is wont to do, they planned it weeks ago and the date happened to land on the coldest Saturday since last winter. Dark, threatening clouds filled the sky. The picnic was inside a pavilion which acted like a wind tunnel, funneling the cold air right over our barbecued hamburgers, giving the refrigerator effect, instant chilling.

I'm sure the weather dampened everyone's spirits. Not too many people showed up. My coworker, who is our union rep, was the MC, working the microphone, giving away door prizes. Someone commented about him, "Somebody take that hambone's mike away," but no one could have wrestled it out of his fingers.

I looked around at the several dozen people (out of a potential several hundred members plus families) who did show up, and except for my buddy on the loudspeaker, not one of them was anyone I knew. I've been with the school district for 30 years, and don't know most of the people I work with. It's the problem of working for an organization with thousands of employees, teaching and non-teaching alike.

The cold and not winning a door prize finally drove me out. I'm sure the goal of the picnic was to sign up new members and I hope they were able to do that. In today's world a working person needs all of the help he/she can get. Plus, they need hamburgers that haven't gone cold by the time you slap the condiments on them.

Ciao for now, El Postino

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