Thursday, August 30, 2012



“Who here is dead?” So begins a film where myth and memory take a turn for the weird. This movie is simply too bizarre NOT to be written about. Tonight, I was at the OSU’s Wexner Center for the Arts for a presentation of Guy Maddin’s The Keyhole. (My first movie with a student discount!) It’s a trip through the house and hideout of a criminal gang leader and husband Ulysses; Guy Maddin’s tribute to The Odyssey.

The house is haunted, and each room locked represents a repressed memory. Ulysses is trying to save his wife Hyacinth from the ghost of her naked father, to whom she's chained. But first, he must separate the ghosts from the living and unlock the doors, thus regaining his memories of places and who’s dead and who’s not. What’s real and what’s not.

Guy Maddin, the presenter reminded us, as a director, is comparable to David Lynch. “The dialogue is cryptic…scenes don’t make sense…” and to that I add, there is a lot of trademark quirky eroticism that I suppose is meant to toy with memories and emotions. “All of the happiness a house remembers vanishes,” we’re told in a narration. “But, sadness…Sadness must linger.” Ulysses must sort out his gang, and regain his memories: There’s Bighead, Rachelle, (who speaks French.) a blind woman, a kidnapped man bound and gagged, and Ulysses adopted black son, Heedly. I find that the aloofness of Ulysses' character adds some humor to what would otherwise be a grim Kafkaesque horror story.

But, it’s not particularly horror. It’s Guy Maddin. It’s disheveled, tragic, and quirky. The presenter said (and the opening credits remind us.) that Guy Maddin directed this film with a grant from The Wexner Center, and it is likely that they chose the themes, and this is Guy’s response. A Freudian gangster/horror-comedy to represent sense memory. If you know his previous work like The Saddest Music in The World, you know it’s almost typical.

For a “typical” Guy Maddin film, I must say I was equally disturbed and amused. After his adopted son is shot, he goes off with the blind woman to find his actual son, who it turns out was the kidnapped man all along walking behind him. Then, he eyes his wife through the keyhole, and quickly surmises she won’t remember him unless he orders the room how she remembers it. He catches his adopted son in bed with his daughter, but remembers that he’s dead, and that this is his house.

This is weird, surreal, psychoanalytic stuff. It fired off a lot in my emotions and imagination. The humor comes from the surrealism and the character’s amnesia. He finds his other son in a closet. Shall I say, this film is not for the weak of heart? For although it has a crust of comedy and quirky sexuality, at its heart is Freudianism; which means a lot of nudity. From both genders. But, here it drives home the film’s central premise. Happy memories fade quickly, but sadness lingers.

All in all, it’s a surprising film. I’d certainly watch it again. The dialogue was cryptic, the scenes themselves riddles, but they all lend themselves to the idea that in order to set your house in order, you have to get rid of your old ghosts. Plus, some VERY funny scenes, like when Ulysses is hooked up (By his gang!) to an electric chair operated by bicycles! But, do not go into this movie expecting a comedy! Prepare instead for a deeply subliminal and awesome freak out flick!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Newest Buckeye: Notes on Linguistic Confidence and Extraversion

The Newest Buckeye: Notes on Linguistic Confidence and Extraversion

Well, I’m officially a Buckeye! I’m registered at OSU, and had my first class (Cotemporary German Society) yesterday. I go back tomorrow. I just want to take time and talk about my first day re-entering academic culture. One thing is, I have a lot more enthusiasm and ambition. There is a lot to be said about working towards a visible goal, even if its schoolwork. The van dropped me off in front of the building (Scott Lab) and I didn’t have much further to go. I can say though, that everything was one hundred times bigger than Edinboro. Scott Lab made me mentally and unconsciously flash back to the old political science/history building in Edinboro; Hendricks Hall. Long halls, but disproportionately scattered with students sitting on benches or clutching books.

It is possible that the overlap of the memory will disappear in time, but what stood out to me was that once I had the goal in sight, I was not nervous. As soon as I entered the German class, the instructor began talking German to me, (Getting my name, signing the audit form etc.) and my confidence immediately rose.

There must be a link between linguistic confidence and the negotiation of space. I enjoyed helping my fellow students with German words. Also, I noticed many students are 19-20. I immediately found a place to park and was joking and talking with the students (during our introduction game.) like we had known each other for years.

Perhaps I’m already beginning to make a name for myself! The students seem to already know that I’m the guy to go to when they don’t know words; it makes me smile. I overheard several confident German speakers, as well as a few shaky ones. Both make me happy, and I swear again, there is a link between linguistic confidence and focus. It’s when I switch to-and-from linguistic settings (German/English) that I become nervous, and that makes biological sense, because it confuses the brain momentarily; speaking of course, as a non-native. In general, I find that Americans wander into chit-chat and venting while Germans do not. It could be too, that I’ve only ever been a student.

I liked introducing myself to the class. Although, for good measure, I said I came from PA, which is half-true. I went to PA for college. But, you can read that on my profile. The professor then explained the syllabus and course materials. We’re reading the story Tschick, and the professor emphasized (in German) that the theme of the class would be COMMUNICATION. (KOMMUNIKATION, all in caps.) rather than projects. So, we have to interact with each other to improve our knowledge of German culture and current events in Germany. My heart jumped as I heard this. If you take anything away from this post, let it be that I purpose there is a link between linguistic confidence and space. When I went out of the class, I wasn’t worried about getting lost or when my next aide comes, my focus was on a goal. As you can see from previous posts, I’ve always been an advocate of goal-oriented, concrete communication. I didn’t worry about such vacuous things as “care” and all it‘s various misuses. This was concrete; go home, do my work, help people learn German. And I’m happy to do that.

In fact, foreign languages give me concrete reference points to deal with, and so I think it helps my focus. Also, I get to help people. Mainly, I think it shifts my brain from introversion to extraversion by focusing thoughts not on what might go wrong, but on what I know is right, and the what I can do for the world around me. It may seem frivolous to attribute my extraversion to controlled conversation, but for me, language is the extension of ability, and when I can’t express myself is actually the only time I feel disabled; and even then not because of my body, but because of fighting with others. It’s like a muscle cramp.

Anyway, afterwards, I went to the German House where German Club meets, but no one was home. Next time, I plan to ask when they meet. It feels great to have something to contribute in that class, and I look forward to going back. Also, if anyone can link me to scientific evidence between linguistic confidence and extraversion, I’d love to see if my hypothesis (i.e. “controlled conversation focuses on external objects.”) holds out. I can back it up culturally and historically for Germany, but it would be nice to have a scientific, biological reason for myself.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Star Trek DS9: Statistical Probabilities

Star Trek DS9: Statistical Probabilities
Dr. Bashir: "It's not our place to decide who lives and who dies! We're not gods!"
Jack: "Maybe not, but we're the next best thing."
Dr. Bashir: “Can you hear yourself? That's precisely the kind of thinking that makes people afraid of us!"

Dr. Bashir welcomes four institutionalized individuals to the station. Each of the individuals has a strong “hidden” disability because of genetic manipulation. He hopes to help them move out of institutionalization. There’s Jack, who I think is bipolar (he speaks a mile-a-minute and has mood swings.) Lauren, who is a nymphomaniac or narcissist, always flirting with him and barely ever moving from a bed; Patrick, who has no emotional filter, and Serena, who is from what I see, catatonic. She can’t express herself at all.

Jack in particular is at first skeptic of Bashir’s intentions and calls him “Mr. Productive-Member-of-Society” often teasing or threatening to kill him because he’s not a “mutant”. In his eyes, Bashir gave up who he was, and Jack says he’s not going to let that happen to him. Jack keeps complaining about a noise, and Bashir admits he hears it, too. It turns out its a shorted power coupling. Their hearing is so sensitive, Patrick can help O’Brien with the engines just by listening.

    Bashir decides the easiest way to help them all adapt is to give them jobs.

After hearing a speech from a Dominion leader, they already know the whole history of the Dominion War. Dr. Bashir puts them to work on creating a truce for when the Dominion delegates arrive. There’s just one problem. Every solution they find has the Federation surrender to the Dominion, which will supposedly save 900 billion lives.
When O’Brien hears about it, he doesn’t buy it, saying it’s just probability. But, Bashir walks a fine line here between being unethical and defending his friends. He tells O’Brien that he’s just being “uncomplicated”, because he’s not genetically enhanced.

I find myself divided on Dr. Bashir’s actions. He wants to fit in, but he forgets his ethics.
Meanwhile, they have a celebration with dance and music in honor of the negotiations. O’Brien takes off Patrick’s party hat, and he starts to cry. Jack ties up Bashir after they disagree on the results. He still has bad blood about what “normal“ people have done to him. (seen above.)

Bashir convinces Serena to untie him. Eventually, Bashir sees he has no choice but to institutionalize them as long as they remain under Jack’s influence. After being caught by the psychiatrist, Jack offers thoughtfully: “If we find a way to beat the Dominion, will you let us back?” Bashir says he will find a way. O’Brien points out in the end, that since they didn’t include Serena in their analysis, its further proof that one person can make a difference.

As far as a disability episode, this raises a number of points. People are institutionalized for the wrong reasons some times; on the other hand, sometimes we as a disabled community fall victim to us vs. them thinking in response. (“normal” vs. “not normal”) I think the most important thing is to be judged for what we contribute, not for what we appear to be. Dr. Bashir honestly tries to help his friends, but Jack cares too much about revenge for perceived wrong-doings.

I do have mixed feelings about this episode, but it really does show DS9’s maturity in dealing with disability. Also, it completes Bashir’s arc, and he learns that although disability is a large part of whom he is, it isn’t the whole picture. I feel like sometimes I’ve forgotten who I was while I was looking for friends. But, in the end, Bashir decides that one person can make a difference.

Well, it’s been one heck of a trip to examine Star Trek through the lens of the ADA and disability issues. For me, Star Trek has always represented a hopeful future where science improves life. But looking back on it, I see it grew in its maturity as society did. Kirk wasn’t afraid to voice his opinion that “Every rose has its thorn.” but DS9 looked at the whole rose. I think more shows like Star Trek need to be on TV. I worry that we’ve gotten so used to technology failing us, that we forget how it gives people purpose, and improves lives.

When I look at the gamut of sci-fi today, I see the dominance of pessimism and cyberpunk. (And I’m all for cyberpunk! My favorite author is William Gibson: its “father”.) From Battlestar Galactica to Nolan’s Batman. Perhaps one of the things we can learn from Chris Pike (Star Trek TOS: The Menagerie) is that escapism isn’t always a bad thing, but we need to not avoid reality. Star Trek is ultimately an optimistic dream world. But as Dr. Bashir shows, we need to have purpose and to do things in the world to fulfill our lives. And that is what I hope for disability culture: A true purpose that isn’t afraid to dream!

(Scheming Jack, Lauren, and worried Patrick.) 

                                                                         (And Serena!)

Star Trek DS9: Dr. Bashir, I Presume?

Star Trek DS9: Dr. Bashir, I Presume?

“Jules Bashir died in that hospital, because you couldn't live with the shame of having a son who didn't measure up!"
- Dr. Julian Bashir

The episode begins with Quark’s brother Rom trying to ask out Leeta, a Bajoran barmaid. He can’t work up the courage to ask out Leeta. Meanwhile, Dr. Lewis Zimmerman (Robert Picardo, the medical hologram from Star Trek Voyager.) says to Dr. Bashir that he needs to improve the medical hologram’s bedside manner, and wants to use Dr. Bashir as the holographic model. Dr. Bashir requests that he not contact his parents while collecting the necessary profile data.

However, he contacts them right away, and brings them onboard. Richard Bashir is an architect who never finishes a project. While at dinner with Julian, he mentions how proud he is of “Jules” for becoming the holographic model, and a top medical officer. The tension in the scene is so thick you could cut it. Usually confident, Dr. Bashir avoids eye contact with his parents, slumps down in his seat, and stares blankly while his parents talk around him and call him Jules. Finally, Julian explodes and tells his father that he hasn’t been called Jules since age 15, and all he is to him is another unfinished project! Here, it’s revealed that he was genetically enhanced against some form of mental disability, (Autism seems to be hinted; he couldn’t identify shapes, and was shy.) and Richard calls him ungrateful.

After the argument, Julian confides in Chief Engineer O’Brien his genetically-enhanced status, which is a Federation crime due to Khan in Kirk’s era, as O’Brien explains. Bashir isn’t comfortable with hiding his status anymore, and requests that, instead of him leaving Starfleet, that Starfleet arrest his parents, with none the wiser. Meanwhile, Richard Bashir feels remorseful for their argument, and tells “Jules” that they only did it because they loved him. He is unaware however, that he’s talking not to his son, but the medical hologram, so the secret is out.

Dr. Bashir scolds Zimmerman for letting his parents onboard, and tells him to get them off the station, or he’ll inform Starfleet. In a shocker of a moment, Dr. Zimmerman tells him “A full psychological profile was necessary,” and that the hologram already knows. His parents have made a bargain with Starfleet. They’ll go to jail, while he is allowed to remain. At first, Julian defends his parents, but the Starfleet officer explains that “For every Julian Bashir that could be created, there’s a Khan Singh waiting in the wings.” Julian says he’s sorry to his parents, and before their carried off, they say to make them proud.

Finally, we return to the subplot with Leeta and Rom. Dr. Bashir helps Rom ask out Leeta. Dr. Zimmerman then leaves, realizing he can’t interfere with the doctor’s good work. Chief O’Brien and Bashir play darts, with Bashir standing further back so there’s no unfair advantage.
I like this episode mainly because Bashir, for all his perfections, has a secret. And he gets talked around, and underappreciated for all his hard work. I think it makes his character easier to identify with. Secondly, I’ve been in that silence before, where you feel like you’re being talked around, and then just explode. The key though, seems to be to confide in friends. After all, it was more than childhood embarrassment on the line, it was Dr. Bashir’s recognition as a human being; his anger comes from being sidelined, and O‘Brien listens.

I would be remiss however, if I didn’t mention one last reason why I love this episode, and it has nothing to do with disability issues or sidelining. Here’s why: It picks up the Khan storyline. Originally, this was all but dropped from TNG because of continuity errors (Khan having been a dictator in the 90s; which is later attributed to war criminals destroying records.) and because it interfered with Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the Federation as a utopia. Here, genetic engineering is still practiced, and some good came out of it: Dr. Bashir. So, kudos to DS9, for resurrecting issues of genetic manipulation (and mention of Kirk’s greatest adversary!) with more complexity than the original series or TNG ever could have. With respect to Captain Kirk…okay, and Captain Picard!

                                           (Dr. Zimmerman introduces Julian to his hologram.)

(Captain Sisko looks on the Bashirs.)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Star Trek DS9: Melora

Star Trek DS9: Melora
(Bashir asks Melora on a date!)
"I'm sorry if I seem overly sensitive. But I'm used to being shut out of the 'Melora' problem. The truth is there is no 'Melora' problem. Until people create one."
- Melora Pazlar

When Dr. Julian Bashir replicates a power wheelchair for DS9, Trill Science Officer Dax remarks she hasn’t seen one like that in 300 years. Bashir explains it’s for their guest Melora Pazlar, who’s alien body hasn’t adjusted to Earth level gravity. She’s an assertive woman. She doesn’t want anyone’s help, and does her best to be independent.

Then, Dr. Bashir asks her on a date. At first she is sarcastic, and asks if they’ll go dancing afterwards and how nice of him to think she needs a friend. When Bashir shows honest concern for her and tells her she’s on the attack, she relents and they go to a Klingon restaurant. During these outings, Dr. Bashir mentions a surgical procedure that could free her of the chair. She accepts his offer and they go back to her quarters and kiss in zero gravity.

Melora is in a roundabout with Dax, and mentions the procedure to her; including that it may reduce her ability to be in zero gravity, and she feels like she has to choose between two worlds. I’ve experienced this feeling of two-ness thousands of times. It comes from having to prove your ability so often, and the fear of loss of control. Dax calls her situation “Like The Little Mermaid”. After the second procedure, Melora falls down and is taken to the infirmary. She asks “What kind of architect would deliberately design a raised lip before an entryway?” which I thought was a distinctly ADA-sounding remark, and show Star Trek’s maturity with that.

In a subplot with Quark the bartender, an assassin, who’s name I’m not sure how to spell so I won’t butcher it, is out to rob and kill him. The assassin steals Melora and Dax’s roundabout to get off the station with Quark. Melora deactivates the gravity, and knocks him out. Afterwards, she decides she can’t give up zero gravity, her homeworld, but still joins Dr. Bashir in the Klingon restaurant at the end.

I don’t have a single bad thing to say about this episode, in fact, it’s my favorite. One of the advantages of DS9 is that it’s a post-ADA, post-Gene Roddenberry series, which means they weren’t required to show the Federation as a utopia. So, you get to see more conflict. Specifically, Disability Rights conflicts, like Melora’s defensive nature, or her complaints about the building, and Little Mermaid dilemma. Bashir wants to help, and I think he does him teach her to be less defensive, but her path has to be her own. Lastly, I identify with Melora being in a wheelchair.

I liked that it showed a bit of romance too, which was one of the things missing with Geordi. The romance made me more emotionally invested, and I think it let me see how Bashir was able to get her defenses down by addressing her as someone worthy of love; not just a patient. Off-handedly, I wondered if Bashir’s own disability had something to do with his wanting to date her and hide his imperfection. But, I’ll address that in the next episode.

                                              (Eating at the restaurant. Note the perspective!)

                                                  (Melora in zero gravity. Superb angle!)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Star Trek TNG: The Masterpiece Society

Star Trek TNG: The Masterpiece Society

Geordi La Forge: "Oh, that's perfect."

Hannah Bates: "What?"

Geordi La Forge: "If the answer to all of this is in a VISOR created for a blind man who never would
have existed in your society."

                                                  (Geordi La Forge and Hannah Bates.)

Last week, we discussed Counselor Troi adapting to a “disability”. Now, let’s focus on a post-ADA episode (1992) that deals not just with disability issues, but finally Disability Rights. The Enterprise encounters a society of genetically-engineered humans, who are about to be destroyed by a “stellar core fragment.” At first, the head administrator Aaron Connors, tells them to leave as one disturbance to the engineered biosphere could throw the whole gene pool off balance, but they soon become intrigued by Enterprise’s advanced technology.

When they beam down, they meet a judge who tells them they’ve violated their founder’s intentions by polluting the gene pool. He says that they are all perfect and do not need their imperfections corrected, like Geordi, who is blind. Geordi says: “I can see just fine!” and goes to help their top scientist, Hannah Bates, work on avoiding the stellar fragment.

She is intrigued by Geordi’s VISOR, and Geordi let’s her study it. Hannah comments that it was their founders intention that “no one have to suffer a life of disabilities.” Geordi fires back: "Who gave them the right to decide whether or not I might have something to contribute?" Yes! Geordi points out not only his right to redefine his disability, but also the contribution that his disability has to the society, which they are blind to.

As seen in the above quote, they soon discover that the technology in the VISOR will help increase the power of the Enterprise’s tractor beam to move the fragment, but they need to construct power generator’s on the planet’s surface, which angers the judge. Also, there is a subplot with Aaron Connors wooing Deanna Troi; she tells him that she’s interested in him as a student of human nature. This part really makes me mad, and highlights the fact (to me.) that Geordi is not having a romance at all; when all the potential is there!

Later, Geordi is able to detect that Hannah is tampering with the results in order to seek political asylum on the Enterprise. She realizes her society is wrong to think they are perfect. But, Aaron Connors argues that she can’t leave without affecting the gene pool. Captain Picard argues in her favor, saying she is human and has the right to grow. However, they come to agreement that the Enterprise can return in 6 months, giving those who want to stay time to adapt to a new gene pool. As they return to the ship, Picard remarks that they may have been just as dangerous to that society as any stellar core fragment.

Honestly, I don’t have much good to say about this episode, other than Geordi defends his disability rights. The rest of the cast is hopelessly ignorant. Troi is duped by Aaron into romance, when it is painfully obvious that what they’re doing is wrong, and that it (the romance.) can’t last anyway. The last 15 minutes of the episode is a debate on whether or not Hannah can leave the society, and whether it can last without her. Aaron babbles about how much he’ll miss Troi, and yet Hannah says nothing about Geordi; he was arguably the hero of the episode, who made her see the light. Again, I blame this on TV audiences. The counselor can have a romance, but not Geordi. What a wasted opportunity!


(Aaron Connors and Deanna Troi.)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Star Trek TNG: The Loss

Star Trek TNG: The Loss

"I look around me and all I see are surfaces without depth; colorless, hollow. Nothing seems real."
- Deanna Troi

Last week, we discussed an excellent episode, Loud as a Whisper. But, what happens when one of the crew members suddenly becomes disabled? In The Loss, Counselor Troi loses her empathic abilities after the Enterprise becomes trapped in a cosmic string of 2-dimensional beings. At first, she is shown to be confident in counseling a woman, but then loses her confidence after she announces that she no longer has her empathic ability.

She becomes frustrated and says that she feels people walking on eggshells around her, or being overbearing in wanting to help. When First Officer Will Riker comforts her at first she’s sarcastic and says he’s “reaching out to help the old blind woman.” and she’d rather be alone. Fittingly, Riker says, “Too bad!” and gives her a hug.

Feeling useless, she offers to resign as counselor. Picard tries to tell her that when one ability is lost, the others grow stronger, but she tells him that is a myth invented by normal people who felt uncomfortable around the disabled. Hearing this expressed by Troi was immensely relieving to me. But, I still felt uncomfortable with how defensive she was; even though it mirrors my own defensiveness. How can the others recognize the depth of her loss? She has in essence become accustomed to superficial judgment, and tries to avoid the pain.

But, if anyone really shines in this episode, it’s Will Riker. He is there for Troi, and helps her because he cares for her, not because she’s disabled. He points out that her empathy gave her a sense of comfort and control that let her "aristocratic" empathic half dominate and effectively shunt her human half to the side. Still unaware of what she can contribute, she goes to Ten Forward, the Enterprise bar, and drowns her sorrows. Guinan the bartender (Whoopi Goldberg) says she’s interested in taking up her position as Counselor, because she talks to people all day like her, and she has instinct. This motivates her to take some interest in the Enterprise’s situation again.

During a briefing with Data, Troi says that she feels like the 2-dimensional beings. This gives her the idea that: “We need to get 2-dimensional.” The creatures are acting on instinct pulling the Enterprise to its destruction in the cosmic string. Communication won’t work, all they need to do is push them out of the way. Data successfully mimics the vibrations of the string and causes them to free the ship. So, all that was happening was she was empathizing with 2-dimensional beings.

Her abilities return, and she senses the beings were trying to get home. Watching this episode, I couldn’t help but think of my own fears of being judged superficially, when I know I have my own special abilities. Thankfully, there are Rikers and Guinans out there, who can see into my depth, even when others can’t. I have even been called “aristocratic” in the past, which I think is due to the “eggshell” feeling I experience daily; so wonderfully expressed here.

My only complaint about this episode is that while it expresses these emotions, its too temporary, and in the end she’s not really disabled. It would’ve been interesting to stretch out that theme, or make her condition permanent: But TV audiences have short memories. Everything is back to normal by the end of the episode.

                                             (Riker shows Counselor Troi some tough love.)   

                                          (Guinan sneaks up on Counselor Troi.)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Star Trek TNG: Loud as a Whisper

Star Trek TNG: Loud as a Whisper

"Then Riva, the mediator is..."

- Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Riva's chorus

So, we turn now to Star Trek: The Next Generation and Picard’s crew as they tackle disability issues. In this episode, a war-torn planet is finally ready to make peace after 15 centuries of planetary war. The mediator is Riva, who is deaf and communicates through hand gestures and a three-piece chorus, the scholar, the intermediary, and the libido. When Captain Picard speaks to the chorus as to how it works, Riva shouts “Speak to me!” through the libido, which I thought was poignant. He wants the crew to address him, not the chorus. In particular, Riva takes to liking Counselor Troi, who has empathic abilities. He also likes Geordi, who says that since his VISOR is a part of who he is, he doesn’t resent it.

He arranges a date with Counselor Troi, and explains that (via sign) words are not important, but the meaning underneath them. Since the conflict has lasted so long the details don’t matter, and the solution will have to be personal to both sides. He then meets with the delegates after being beamed down, and his chorus is shot by a rebel who interrupts him. As they fizzle away, Riva becomes frightened, and they quickly beam up.

Jean-Luc Picard becomes frustrated by Riva’s angry frantic gesturing, and tries to calm him down: "Listen to me! You are not alone! We are all in this together... now." This frustrates Riva even more and he demands to be taken back to his planet. Troi surmises that he is feeling guilty, and fears he’s lost control. Picard gets a clever idea and sends Data to learn his sign language, which he does at android speed, and from the ship’s computer.

While Data can interpret for Riva on the Enterprise, he refuses to go down to further the negotiation: "Data is a fine machine but he cannot take the place of my chorus." Instead, he takes Deanna Troi, who he trusts the most. Thus, each crew member insists him differently.

 While teaching her some of his negotiation tactics, Riva says (now through Data.) that the trick is to “turn disadvantage into an advantage.” When Troi asks why he can’t do that, Riva gets an idea to teach both sides his sign language, hoping that ‘by learning to understand him, they’ll understand each other.

This episode really showcases disability issues in action, and its about communication, which is my field. We see Riva go through his comfort zone to culture shock, loss of control, and again to learn to let people try to understand him. Too often, (Far be it for me to speak for Deaf Culture.) when we are too long at ease with adaptive mechanisms, we retreat, fearing our flaws may be exposed our that we have no one to understand. However, by realizing the factions now had a common experience in him, he rejoins negotiations confidently in the end.

It’s a wonderful piece of pre-ADA (1989) disability drama. I was pleased to learn that the actor who played Riva, Howie Saego, is actually deaf and uses American Sign Language. It had a classic feel to it, with Data and Troi coming together to help; and shows the uniqueness and world of Deaf Culture, if only by Riva’s example. Sometimes, we have to let people into our world, if they are there to help. We can learn more including others than we can excluding them out of arrogance and misplaced confidence. If I were to rank it, it’d probably be the third best disability episode of Star Trek as a whole. First comes later, with the second in my opinion being the previous review.

                                                        (Riva confronts Captain Picard.)

                                        (Frustrated, Riva talks to Counselor Troi via Data.)

Star Trek TOS: Is There In Truth No Beauty?

Star Trek TOS: Is There In Truth No Beauty?

"The glory of creation is in its infinite diversity."
"And the ways our differences combine to create meaning and beauty."

- Miranda and Spock, before she departs

The Medusan ambassador Kollos arrives in a box with a beautiful woman, Dr. Miranda Jones. Medusans are so ugly that any sight of them drives people mad. Spock escorts Miranda on board, and he notes that she is a telepath who studied on Vulcan to control her ability. She comments that she, although human, agrees with the Vulcans. “Violent emotion is a kind of disease.”

The crew prepares a formal dinner in Miranda‘s honor. McCoy wonders aloud how she, as someone so beautiful can condemn herself to look upon such ugliness. Spock chides McCoy for subscribing to the "outmoded notion promulgated by your ancient Greeks that what is good must also be beautiful." Kirk naturally defends McCoy. After that, Miranda sees that Spock is wearing the Vulcan IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations) pin, and asks if he wore it in her honor, which Spock concedes.

In a subplot, an engineer named Larry Marvick falls in love with Miranda, and begins to wonder what he can give her that he can’t. So, he looks into the box without a visor, and goes mad and blind. In a fit of rage, he throws the Enterprise full speed into The Galactic Void. Since the Medusans are known as brilliant navigators, Spock reasons that he can attempt to telepathically meld with Kollos, and guide them out. Miranda objects, saying she has more training, but McCoy reveals she is blind, and can’t pilot the ship.

She says that is why she hates human emotions. Pity worst of all! Her dress is coated with a sensor web so that she can detect her environment, and she demonstrates her ability by telling the crew actually how far away the door is. Kirk takes her to the arboretum to relax her. Smooth operator, Kirk.

Meanwhile, Spock temporarily becomes Kollos, and comments on language and poetry, before guiding them successfully back on course to the Medusan homeworld: "This thing you call language though; most remarkable. You depend on it for so very much. But is any one of you really its master?" However, when Spock attempts to break the link and return Kollos to his box, she makes Spock forget to put on his visor. He too, goes mad, attacks the crew, and Kirk stuns him with his phaser.

Jones, with her Vulcan training, may be able to repair Spock's damaged mind, but she is reluctant to do so. Kirk confronts her with her jealousy and accuses her of not wanting Spock to recover: "With my words, I'll make you hear such ugliness as Spock saw when he looked at Kollos with his naked eyes! The ugliness is within you!" She successfully melds with and heals Spock and gains her desired ability to link with Kollos in the process.

Before she leaves, Kirk gives her a rose and tells her: “Every rose has its thorn.” Then, she and Spock exchange the quotes about the IDIC, and they give the Vulcan salute. ( You know it, it looks like this: |V| .) I love this episode for many reasons. One, it features a strong blind woman trying to “pass” as able-bodied and who despises pity. Two, for it’s criticism of Greek standards of beauty (which certainly would’ve been welcome in the Pike episode.) and three, for it’s exploration of the power of speech to overcome hate and jealousy.

Sometimes, I found that I agree with Miranda. I too, agree with the Vulcans. But, she became jealous of Spock when she perceived pity from the crew. Kollos speaking through Spock though is correct that to be part of a world of language means to be limited and vulnerable; Kirk knows best how to make people confront violent emotions, so he acted on Kollos’s words, using his language to make her see. That’s my captain!

All and all, it’s a great examination of disability, bodily norms, and the power of language to break through those norms. It is a bold episode, and truly stands for all that makes Star Trek great: Kirk being the romantic, Spock being logical and Vulcan, McCoy being the blunt country doctor…and in the midst, a strong blind woman, who the crew accepts, and she learns to accept herself! What could be more IDIC than that?

         (Spock looks at Kollos.)


                                                             (Vulcan IDIC "iddick" pin.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Star Trek TOS: The Menagerie Pt. 2

Star Trek TOS: The Managerie Pt. 2:

“Because when dreams become more important than reality, you give up travel, building, creating. You even forget how to repair the machines left behind by your ancestors. You just sit, living and reliving other lives left behind in the thought record.”

- Vina, explaining why the Talosians need human slaves

Last time, we talked about the Menagerie Pt. 1. Spock is on trial and shows a video of his former captain 13 years ago, which will apparently explain why Chris Pike, former Captain of the Enterprise, needs to return to Talos IV. This is his story. He went to Talos IV originally to rescue a crew, but they turn out to be illusions and Pike is knocked unconscious by a wand. It turns out all the Talosians (and their big old heads!) have the power to create telepathic illusions with their huge brains!

The Talosians brag that they captured him and keep him in a cage, where he gets acquainted with Vina, supposedly one of the crash survivors. The Talosians create illusions from his memories such as a picnic, a battle with a giant medieval ape-like warrior on Rigel VII, and even turn him into a sultan, with Vina being one of the famously seductive green Orion women. Pike logically deduced (as Spock explains in court.) that if none of these memories had Vina in them before then, the Talosians must be tricking him, and playing with his memories.

Meanwhile, Vina begs him to stay and pick some dream with her to live in. He makes her promise that she’ll tell him about the Talosians first. She agrees, and tells him that the Talosians became so involved creating illusions they forgot how to operate the machines of their ancestors. Vina is punished by being telepathically choked, until Pike gets angry and tells them to stop. Later, a Telosian comes by with food in a tube, and Pike refuses to eat. He soon deduces that Telosians can’t read violent emotions after he throws himself at the jailer.

Then, they kidnap two other women from the Enterprise and put them in the cage with Pike, hoping he’ll select a more agreeable mate and give in to their illusions. But, Pike takes their guns and blasts a hole in the cage, which does not appear to be there, but he reasons it’s an illusion. Vina begs him to stay, and the Talosians offer him one more chance. Then, Captain Pike threatens to kill himself and they let him go. Before he leaves, they reveal Vina’s true appearance, a horribly disfigured woman, and the only crash survivor. Her desire to stay was honest, and he leaves her with her illusions.

Now, Kirk sees why Pike must go back to be with Vina and live a full life. Behold! The whole courtroom scene was an illusion created by the Talosians in order to welcome Pike back. Kirk asks Chris Pike if he really wants to go back, and he blinks “yes.” With that, Spock wheels Pike out and he meets with Vina again, now able-bodied (Able-bodied Pike is played by Jeffrey Hunter, of 1958’s The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.) The Talosians on screen tell Kirk that now Pike has his illusions, and Kirk has his own reality.

I like this episode primarily because it is about using fantasy as a coping mechanism for disability, and yet achieving a balance between fantasy and reality. Although at first Pike treasures truth so much that he escapes the illusions; when he is disabled, he sees the benefit of using fantasy to make good realities, and possibilities, even though Vina warns him of the dangers of living too much in the imagination: if you don’t believe you can do something, even with a helpful myth, you give up trying. Though it was highly illogical, Spock gave his former captain a better life.

(PS: The Menagerie is reportedly Shatner’s favorite episode, as well as one of mine.)

Pike was so influential, he played a key role as Captain of the Enterprise in the alternate (2009) Star Trek universe. After becoming a wheelchair user due to injuries from Nero, he passes Enterprise to Kirk. Pike lives on!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Star Trek TOS: The Menagerie Part 1

Star Trek TOS: The Menagerie Pt. 1

Commodore Mendez: “His wheelchair is constructed to respond to his brainwaves. Oh, he can turn it. Move it forwards. Backwards slightly…”
Ms. Piper: “With a flashing light, he can say yes or no.”
Commodore Mendez: “But, that’s it, Jim. That’s as much as that poor devil can do.”

- Commodore Mendez describing Captain Pike’s condition to Kirk.

The Enterprise is diverted to Starbase 11 after receiving a distress call. It’s later revealed that no such distress call was made, and someone was toying with computer records. It couldn’t have been Captain Pike, says Commodore Mendes, because of his condition after his old “J-style” starship exploded, and Dr. McCoy mutters a question about “Delta rays”. Apart from this meaningless techno babble, it’s discovered that Captain Pike is now in a wheelchair! (He’s a disfigured head on a black dolly, with some blinking lights.)
Whatever we think of this scene, realize this was 1966. As far I know, Star Trek invented the concept of a power wheelchair. Of course, the real reason it had such limited range was that they didn’t have the budget, and they needed to make Pike look injured and hideous. Spock asks to remain with Captain Pike, and reveals that he served with him 13 years ago, on the Enterprise’s journey to Talos IV; now a banned planet. Pike doesn’t want Spock to take him back there (i.e. he blinks “No!” repeatedly.) But, Spock is insistent that he return to Talos IV for some reason.
Undeterred by Pike’s refusal to go, Spock falsifies record tapes that put him in command of the Enterprise, and he sets course for the banned planet. This puzzles Captain Kirk and McCoy, (But, especially peeves Kirk!) and McCoy says it couldn’t be Spock because Vulcans don’t lie, and don’t have emotions! McCoy is also sympathetic to Pike: “Now, that man can think anything we can, and love, hope, dream as much as we can. But he can't reach out and no one can reach in!" Realizing the only one who could’ve had access to the Enterprise computers was Spock, Kirk jumps into a shuttlecraft with Commodore Mendez, and arrests Spock. Spock willingly and logically turns himself over on charges of mutiny.
Now, before we get to the courtroom scene, which is the climax of the episode, let me explain why I like this episode, despite that Captain Pike seems to be the object of pity. First off, that’s what I don’t like about it. But secondly, all the characters respond to Captain Pike as a captain. A man of honor. And Spock wants a better life for his former friend and captain, and reveals his emotions to do so. McCoy seems genuinely moved and concerned, and Kirk seems able to recognize the passion within him (“now a shell of a man…”), which leads to him to hear the rest of Spock’s testimony in court. Despite being royally angry that Spock took his ship. Lastly, it’s a huge episode for a little sci-fi show in 1966; establishing continuity, using several sets, and revealing important character traits, like Spock’s emotions towards Pike.
The episode ends with Kirk and Mendez in court with Spock. Spock plays video from 13 years ago that explain Pike’s voyage, beamed directly from Talos IV. Mendez doesn’t want to continue, but Kirk wants to see the rest. Spock reminds them there is one more officer in the room who must vote. Captain Pike, who blinks “yes.” to continue. Star Trek has always been about a hopeful vision of the future, and that said, I give this episode credit for “inventing” a power chair. Also, for developing the characters through discussion of friendship and disability…but not yet disability rights, which were virtually unheard of in the 1960s! What wonders and horrors befell Captain Pike on Talos IV? Tune in tomorrow for my review of part 2!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Star Trek Tribute Plans

This is a list of episodes that deal with disability in Star Trek. Starting tomorrow, I’ll review each one and discuss it. It’s a Star Trek Tribute. Disability…the final frontier. These are the writings of The blog Through Alien Eyes! Her ongoing mission: to seek out new disabilities events and new narrative experiences…to boldly go where no able body has gone before! (Cue any Trek theme except ENT.)
Where to start? The library of course! Please support public libraries!

Star Trek TOS:

1. The Managerie Pt. 1 (Spock attempts to return Captain Pike to the banned planet Talos IV.) 1x15
2. The Managerie Pt. 2 (Captain Pike telepathically regains his body on Talos IV.) 1x16
3. Is There In Truth No Beauty? (A blind telepath steers Enterprise out of a cosmic barrier.) 3x7

Star Trek TNG:

1. Loud as a Whisper (A deaf negotiator comes abroad the Enterprise.) 2x5
2. The Loss (Deanna Troi loses her empathic powers.) 4x10
3. The Masterpiece Society (Enterprise pollutes a “genetically perfect society”, but Geordi saves it.) 5x13

Star Trek DS9:

1. Melora (Physically disabled crewmember joins the astrophysics team; falls for Dr. Bashir.) 2x3
2. Doctor Bashir, I Presume? (Deals with Dr. Bashir’s hidden mental disabilities.) 5x16
3. Statistical Probabilities (Dr. Bashir helps a group of people with mental disabilities.) 6x9