Archive for September, 2010

I’m a Getty Images contributor!

Saturday, 11 September, 2010

About a year ago, Getty Images started a partnership with Flickr, which allowed any Flickr user to elect to place a Getty Images licensing request link on their photos. I did so. Recently someone expressed an interest in licensing one of my photos via this link, and so I’ve been invited to become a Getty Images contributor! So far, four of my photos have been selected for inclusion in the Getty Images Collection.

As an invited contributor I can now submit up to 25 new photos per month for consideration by the Getty editors. They’re very selective about which images they accept, but hopefully my contribution there will grow over time. :-)

Star Trek 1.4: The Naked Time

Thursday, 9 September, 2010

The Naked TimeAh, now this feels like Star Trek as we know it. The fourth episode to air (and the 7th produced), the series has now gotten into stride, and all the familiar elements are now in place. Nurse Christine Chapel makes her first appearance, completing the regular cast (with the exception of the later addition of Chekov), and she gets a dramatic scene with Spock in which she admits her love for him (under the influence of an inhibition-removing space disease).

The story opens with a bizarre case of crewman Joe ignoring basic safety procedures, by removing a glove of his contamination suit and wiping his nose under his face mask while investigating the mysterious deaths of researchers on the planet Psi 2000. In fact, one wonders what good those contamination suits are when there’s clearly a completely open gap at the neck of the face-covering mask. This lapse of protocol is drawn attention to by Spock a few seconds later when he actually tells Joe not to touch anything – a warning that Joe brushes off by not bothering to mention that he’s already touched something that may be dangerously contagious.

Naturally, the disease gets brought aboard the Enterprise. The spread of the disease produces real drama, making this a very compelling episode and probably the best of the first 4 episodes I’ve reviewed so far. The mystery disease causes, as Spock calls it, “some form of space madness“. This leads to the classic scene involving Sulu wielding a rapier and terrorising fellow crew members. Incidentally, Sulu’s interest in botany is mentioned again early on (I commented on this in my review of 1.1 The Man Trap), leading into a conversation about how botany is old hat and Sulu’s new hobby is fencing. (A reader commented on my post about that episode, mentioning that Sulu originally had Fleeting Passionate Hobbies as a character quirk – he was supposed to change his interests every episode, but this later faded away.) We also see the return of the Space Checkers 3D game in this early conversation in the rec room.

Combined with the space madness is the fact that the Enterprise is observing the natural destruction of a planet, by some process referred to as the planet “condensing”, during which, Spock notes, it reduces in mass, while increasing in gravity. Interestingly, to get out of a spiralling death orbit about this planet, Scotty needs to restart the engines from a cold start in double quick time, and complains that he can’t do it because “I can’t change the laws of physics!” Spock naturally comes to the rescue, inventing a new antimatter/matter mix formula on the spot. This shows off a skill he’ll later use in Star Trek: The Motion Picture to fix the ailing Enterprise‘s warp mix ratios. It also leads to this episode being the first time the Enterprise enters a time warp, which Spock comments on by saying, “Since the formula worked, we can go back in time, to any planet, any era.”

Kirk replies, “We may risk it someday, Mister Spock.”

Finally, we see more complexity to Yeoman Janice Rand. When Kirk is under the effects of the inhibition-reducing disease, he complains to Spock about Rand: “You’re allowed to notice her! The captain’s not permitted!” This implies that he would like to have a romantic relationship with Janice, but is not. Hmmm. We see why he might be attracted to her, because during the medical emergency in which Sulu is swashbuckling around, Rand is assigned to take control of the helm of the ship. No mere administration assistant, this yeoman! All in all, an excellent episode, with plenty of drama and character moments.

Body count: 6 researchers on planet Psi 2000. Typhoid Joe the safety-protocol ignorer.
Tropes: Goggles Do Nothing, Idiot Ball, Recycled In Space, Fleeting Passionate Hobbies, You Fail Physics Forever, Gravity Sucks, Fork Fencing, Fake Irish, Shirtless Scene, All Love Is Unrequited, Tin Man, Scotty Time, Foreshadowing.
(Image © 1966 Paramount Studios, used under Fair Use.)

Leconfield Coonawarra 2009 Merlot

Thursday, 9 September, 2010

Leconfield Coonawarra 2009 MerlotI read a review of this wine somewhere – I forget where. It was glowing. And with the wife having Merlot as her favourite varietal, I knew I had to find some bottles of it. Our local wine shop had Leconfield’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, but no Merlot. I found a shelf label for it at another bottle shop, but they’d sold out. However, they managed to order some in and I grabbed them.

I must say, despite my wife’s opinion, I’ve never really been enamoured with any of the Merlots I’ve had before. But…

This was something else. Let’s start with the colour. It’s a deep, rich purple garnet colour, thick and opaque. This is the colour of wine a vampire would drink. It felt heavy in the glass. I know I’m probably imagining it, but this wine exuded a gravity and presence just by looking at it. The aroma was pretty much what I’ve come to expect from a Merlot by now. A berry-heavy fruitiness with a whiff of alcohol. Honestly I didn’t get much out of the smell beyond that, but I still need practice on the reds.

The flavour. Wow. The first thing you notice is the richness and roundness – it fills the mouth. It makes you want to talk in plummy English tones like Professor Henry Higgins. It has a real solidity to it, but velvety in softness. The taste was blackcurranty, maybe some dark cherry, a bit of plum, and a distinct hint of mint. There was some tannin there at the end, but soft and smooth, not harsh, creating a nice dryness in the mouth. Even in my limited experience, I could tell this was something a step above any other Merlot I’ve had before. Really good.

I might try to grab a few more bottles, and hang on to some for a few years – the label recommends cellaring for 5 to 10 years. I imagine it will be brilliant then.

Star Trek 1.3: Where No Man Has Gone Before

Monday, 6 September, 2010

Where No Man Has Gone BeforeThe third episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before“, is the second one produced, and was actually a second pilot for the series, so we are missing a couple of regulars in Uhura and, importantly, Dr McCoy. The other thing you notice instantly is that the Enterprise crew uniforms are of an older style, slightly baggy, with little turtleneck collar thingies. And then there’s Spock, whose eyebrows are extremely severe and upswept – the make-up would be toned down slightly later. We also get the first mention of Spock’s family background, with the fact that his alien father married a human coming up in conversation.

The 1960s intrudes on the science fiction with mention of books being stored on “tapes”. This also came up in “Charlie X”, when Charlie first arrives on board the Enterprise and someone says that they have plenty of “entertainment tapes” to keep him amused. And you notice that when books (and medical records of crew) are displayed on viewscreens, they look like microfiche readers, rather than modern display screens. Obviously this couldn’t really be helped making a TV show in the 60s, but it’s still amusing.

This episode also provides an example of reality overtaking the science fiction future. Gary Mitchell and Dr Elizabeth Dehner share a romantic moment over a sonnet “written on the Canopius planet in 1996”. I wonder if in the mid-60s people really thought that humans would be colonising other planets before the end of the 20th century. Sorry, guys!

The plot of this episode is another “human turns into godlike being”, which is a bit unfortunate, because it follows hot on the heels of “Charlie X” in the episode release chronology, making two episodes in a row with a similar main plot. However, this episode has one of the coolest pieces of background matte art in any episode of Star Trek: the painting of the lithium cracking station on Delta Vega. That painting alone makes this episode worth watching. But you’ll notice one thing on it is the pentagonal door archway. While they look cool, pentagonal doorways are rather silly, as demonstrated when a couple of crew members have to duck under the sloping edges to avoid banging their heads.

And last but not least, we have the first fist fight in which Kirk’s shirt gets ripped! Not content with fighting a mere man, Kirk takes on his old friend Gary Mitchell, who has been transformed into a god-like being with enormous reality-altering powers. No need to tell you who prevails. Although with his powers Mitchell does generate a grave for Kirk, complete with headstone, on which we see the name “James R. Kirk”. I guess Gary wasn’t close enough of a friend to know that Kirk’s middle name would later be revealed to be Tiberius. (It hadn’t been decided when this episode was written.)

Body count: Entire crew of SS Valiant (at least 7 people), 9 unspecified casualties during Enterprise‘s encounter with the Galactic barrier, navigator Lieutenant Kelso (strangled by a cable psychicly wielded by Mitchell), Gary Mitchell (punched out by Kirk and buried in Kirk’s grave), Dr Elizabeth Dehner.
Tropes: Humans Are Psychic In The Future, Glowing Eyes Of Doom, Psychic Powers, Science Marches On, A God Am I, Zeerust, Raygun Gothic, Self Destruct Mechanism, Good Old Fisticuffs, Clothing Damage, Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu.
(Image © 1966 Paramount Studios, used under Fair Use.)

Star Trek 1.2: Charlie X

Friday, 3 September, 2010

Charlie XThe second episode aired (but the 8th produced) is “Charlie X“. Being an early episode, they are still getting into the groove of things with this one. We don’t see Sulu at all, but we do see more of the Unresolved Sexual Tension between Spock and Uhura in a memorable scene in the recreation room. Spock plays the Vulcan lute and Uhura sings a song with suggestive lyrics, indicating her view that Spock is some sort of heart-breaker. Interestingly, as Uhura encourages Spock to play, he flashes an obvious smile – something he tends not to do later in the series.

3D chess plays a plot-important role in this episode, but I also noticed that when it is first shown there’s another 3D game on the same table, which looks a bit like a 3D version of checkers. Some post-viewing research proves this to be so! Well, I’ve learnt something I didn’t know about Star Trek before.

Another plot point is introduced when Kirk mentions that it is “Thanksgiving back on Earth”. I found this curious. Apparently in the 23rd century, the entire Earth has adopted American customs and holidays. We also learn that the Enterprise has a cook, who prepares food in ovens in the ship’s galley. I thought this was odd at first, because later they have food replicators – but some research shows that they only appeared in The Next Generation. Clearly my Star Trek memories are slightly garbled.

I’ve long wondered about the relationship between Yeoman Janice Rand and Captain Kirk. This episode provides an interesting bit of dialogue that can be read in a number of ways. When it becomes obvious that the 17-year-old Charlie has a crush on Rand, Kirk tries to talk some sense into him, and says that any relationship between Charlie and Janice can never happen: “The years are wrong for one thing. And… there are other things.” Does this imply Rand is involved with someone else? We never (in the entire series) see anyone else who this could feasibly be, except for Kirk himself. Hmmmm.

Perhaps it’s obvious by now, but if not, these reviews are not necessarily going to go much into the actual plot of the episodes. I’m just recording a brain dump of things I notice and think are worth commenting on, often in the context of knowledge of the entire series or from our 21st century cultural perspective. I guess most of you know the plots, and if not, I’ll always link to the episode summary on Memory Alpha.

Body count: Entire crew of Antares (number not specified). One redshirt “disappeared”, one junior yeoman turned into an iguana, several crew members’ faces removed, Janice Rand “disappeared”, but all returned as before at the end.
Tropes: Psychopathic Manchild, Reality Warper, Raised By Wolves, Friendless Background, Unresolved Sexual Tension, Stalking Is Love, Surprise Checkmate, Shirtless Scene, Rapid Aging, The Blank, Sufficiently Advanced Alien, Deus Ex Machina.
(Image © 1966 Paramount Studios, used under Fair Use.)