The last and the least: ‘Star Trek: Nemesis’ closed out the ‘Next Generation’ films on an unsatisfying note

May 22, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 22, 2015

The 2002 movie Star Trek: Nemesis has an awful reputation. This, I think, is somewhat overblown — somewhat.

Nemesis is the film that broke the Star Trek franchise’s Rule of Even-Numbered Outings, which posits that every other movie is excellent. As it happens, I was never a big believer in that rule, not having particularly liked the eighth Trek movie, Star Trek: First Contact.

Nemesis is widely considered to be the worst Star Trek movie. Perhaps so, but isn’t that sentiment excessively flattering to Star Trek V: The Final Frontier?

Trek’s tenth cinematic outing is also widely believed to be the movie that killed the Star Trek franchise. While it’s true that the next Trek film wasn’t released for seven years, creating the property’s longest-ever absence from movie theaters since its 1979 debut, there are plenty of signs that Nemesis was always meant to put a wrap on The Next Generation movie series. One of them is a plot point in Nemesis itself.

Read the rest of this entry »


Coffee aficionado, merchant, outer space adventurer: The philosophical meanderings of Angelica Gorodischer’s ‘Trafalgar’

May 18, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 18, 2015

Trafalgar is an engaging anthology of stories about the adventures and misadventures of Trafalgar Medrano. This mischievous space-faring merchant hails from Rosario, a key Argentinian port on the Paraná River. (The city, which is real, is about 185 miles upriver from Buenos Aires, the nation’s capital.)

The book was written by Angélica Gorodischer, a longtime resident of Rosario who won a World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement in 2011. Trafalgar was first published in 1979; an English translation by Amalia Gladhart appeared in 2013.

All of Trafalgar’s tales are literally that — stories told by the merchant. A few come to us secondhand — in one account, Medrano describes one journey to a group of men playing cards; in another, the narrator’s 84-year-old Aunt Josefina relates a story that Medrano told her the other day about a tragic love affair on a distant world. There’s also a monologue delivered to an unknown individual.

Most of the time, however, Medrano seems to be speaking to a woman in Rosario — typically, one presumes, the author herself, or at least someone who shares her profession. (The story told in the group setting, about a beautiful scientist who joins the mysterious frenzied dances of a primitive race on a remote world, appears to have been passed on to the author by one of those present, although it’s not clear whom.)

By framing her narrative this way, Gorodischer is exploring the experience of hearing stories.

Read the rest of this entry »


Driven: An anecdote (part 2)

May 15, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 15, 2015

Earlier, I wrote about starting to drive home from a restaurant in northwestern Raleigh. Having set the stage in that post, I now return to my mildly amusing anecdote!

There’s a relatively desolate stretch on U.S. 70 on the northeastern edge of  Raleigh-Durham International Airport where an array of two-lane overpasses hang over the road. I had a heavy foot on the accelerator as I topped the rise that leads to this section.

And then I lifted my foot from the gas.

There appeared to be a police car parked in the median. I was pretty sure that the speed limit on that part of the road is 55 miles per hour. When I topped the rise, I was going too fast.

Read the rest of this entry »


Driven: An anecdote (part 1)

May 15, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 15, 2015

Something funny happened Wednesday night on my way home from the poker game.

This is the 13th of 26 weeks in the current World Tavern Poker season. (Quick reminder: World Tavern Poker is free poker, with absolutely no buy-in or monetary outlay required to play; the business model depends on players voluntarily buying food and drink at the bars and restaurants that host games.) The midway point is when the circuit holds All-Star Tournaments. The winner of each venue’s All-Star Tournament, which is actually a pair of tournaments, gets entry into a national World Tavern Poker event along with a commemorative victory medallion.

I didn’t do particularly well in Wednesday night’s first tournament, finishing 18th out of 44 participants. After some early struggles in the second tournament, my hands started hitting, and my stack grew. At the end, I was heads-up against a young woman whom I’ll call M. (Heads-up refers to when two and only players remain; it can refer to a single hand or to the conclusion to a tournament, as in this case.) Lately, I’ve had a lot of difficulty winning heads-up matches, and that was the case this time: M. won the game, leaving me in second place with a respectable haul of more than 10,000 points.

Read the rest of this entry »


The pleasant but punchless ‘Star Trek: Insurrection’ continued the march of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ movie mediocrity

May 14, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 14, 2015

Roughly midway into the 1998 movie Star Trek: Insurrection, Jean-Luc Picard is faced with a moral dilemma. The captain of the good ship Enterprise has discovered that Starfleet Admiral Matthew Dougherty is conspiring with the Son’a, a sinister alien race, to secretly relocate the Ba’ku, the 600 peaceful agrarian residents of an isolated and idyllic world. Dougherty and the Son’a leader, Ru’afo, want to exploit a unique natural resource — the radiation emitted by the planet’s rings, which reverses the decrepitude of aging. Unfortunately for the Ba’ku, the only way to collect this radiation in industrial quantities involves a process that will render the world’s surface uninhabitable.

Picard has been ordered to depart the area and allow the Son’a to continue the Ba’ku relocation, which Dougherty claims has authorization from top United Federation of Planets officials. But the captain considers the forced relocation to be morally abhorrent — a violation of core principles that he, the Federation and Starlet have spent years struggling to uphold. In a somber moment, he stands alone in his quarters and begins pulling his rank insignia from his collar…

In other hands, this might have been a dramatic scene. Here, however, it seems preordained — just another script point. Insurrection was written by 1990s Trek television series producers Rick Berman and Michael Piller and directed by Jonathan Frakes, who plays William Riker, the first officer of the Enterprise. And, rather like Generations, which was the first movie featuring Picard, Riker and the rest of the crew of the 24th-century Enterprise, I think that Insurrection would have worked better had it been released and displayed on small screens rather than silver ones.

Read the rest of this entry »


A lovely afternoon in Raleigh

May 12, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 12, 2015

Turnabout is fair play. And in this case, fun play, too!

Sometimes, when I drive north to visit my beloved Parental Unit, I’ll do things the right way: I’ll email my friends several days or a week ahead of time to let them know that I’ll be in town.

All too often, however, I’ll inform my friends of my impending arrival in belated fashion. I’ll send a message a day ahead of when I’m coming…or after I’ve started the nineish-hour-long drive…or, sometimes, after I’ve actually arrived.

Something not unlike that happened last week, except that this time, I wasn’t the traveler.

Read the rest of this entry »


Not necessarily ready for Hillary: Thoughts on Mrs. Clinton’s controversies, past and present

May 9, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 9, 2015

Let’s acknowledge Hillary Clinton’s historic accomplishments up front. She was the the most politically engaged First Spouse since Eleanor Roosevelt. She was the first serious female presidential candidate of either major American political party. And she was the third woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state.

There are reasons to admire to Hillary Clinton. (Henceforth Clinton, in this post; I’ll use “Bill” to refer to the former president.) If one doesn’t think much of her tenure as First Lady, or of her work as secretary of state, even her enemies must at least grudgingly admit that her 2008 presidential candidacy was a historic milestone for these United States.

But it’s equally true — perhaps more true — that there are reasons to think that Clinton may not be an ideal president or presidential candidate. A number of those have been on display recently.

Read the rest of this entry »


Not a perfect 10, but not bad, either: Initial hands-on impressions of Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite

May 7, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 7, 2015

Earlier this week, I thought aloud about buying a new Apple laptop computer. A lot of the comparisons I made were with my current machine, a 13-inch MacBook Pro that I purchased as a new model in August 2009.

Now, I’m going to replace this computer at one point or another. It’s too old, it’s no longer particularly powerful and it’s too prone to failure.

But I’m actually glad that I didn’t replace my MacBook in April, when it needed a new hard drive — and not just because I’m still not sure what machine I’d want to purchase.

Read the rest of this entry »


Comparing Apple laptops, part 2

May 6, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 6, 2015

Author’s note: In my previous post, I considered the pros and cons of three different Apple laptop computer models: the MacBook (no modifiers), the MacBook Pro (full stop) and the MacBook Pro with high-resolution Retina display — or as I like to call them, the MB, MBP/fs and the MBP/r. Today, I consider Apple’s other laptop, the MacBook Air. MEM 

Like the MBP/r, the MBA comes in two sizes. I feel that the 11-inch MacBook Air is a bit too small for my taste, so that leaves the 13-incher.

The 13-inch Air has a 1,440 by 900 pixel screen. Apple doesn’t call it a Retina display, but I thought it was a bit sharper than the screen on my 2009 MacBook Pro when I examined a model on a recent visit to an Apple Store. The onboard memory starts at 4 GB, which is what I have now; the battery is rated for up to 12 hours between charges, which is far, far better than my current computer’s endurance. The Air has two USB 3 ports, which would be faster than the older USB 2 ports my current model has, and a Thunderbolt port, which my 2009 model lacks. On all of these points except memory, the Air is ahead of what I now have.

Read the rest of this entry »


Laptops, laptops in the store. Which one is the best replacement for my laptop from before?

May 5, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 5, 2015

Last month, I paid about $150 last month to replace my laptop computer’s hard drive. As I wrote the other day, repairing the machine was cheaper than replacing it, which would almost certainly have cost upwards of $1,000, factoring in the kind of computer I’d like as well as the cost of taxes and a warranty. (I’m not sure it’s worth purchasing coverage for a desktop computer, but I definitely recommend it for any laptop that’s going to be traveling farther than the distance from your couch to your desk.)

The case for repair vs. replace wasn’t quite as clear-cut as that, however. My 13-inch MacBook Pro is relatively old, in computer terms. I got it in August 2009; while it was pretty much a top-of-the-line computer at the time, that’s no longer the case. Any new machine will almost certainly be both faster and less prone to breaking down (at least in the short term).

Read the rest of this entry »


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 129 other followers

%d bloggers like this: