31 May 2009

Film: "Up"

Up
Directed by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson
Written by Bob Peterson
Starring the Voice Talent of: Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai, Bob Peterson, Delroy Lindo, Jerome Ranft
Date of Screening: 31 May 2009
MPAA Rating: PG (For Some Peril and Action)

The Film
Carl Fredricksen (Asner), faced with his twilight years, elects instead to fulfill a lifelong promise to his deceased wife, Ellie: he will undertake her childhood dream of landing her clubhouse (which has evolved into their home) atop Paradise Falls. Carl is inadvertently joined on his adventure by Russell (Nagai), an enthusiastic wilderness scout in over his head. They encounter Carl and Ellie's childhood hero, Charles Muntz (Plummer), who is on an Ahab-esque quest of his own. Years ago, his reputation was tarnished when scientists balked at the specimen he provided of a rare bird, and he intends to capture one at all costs.

The Recommendation
Pixar has managed to bring in a wealth of emotion into a seemingly simple adventure story. Of the modern filmmakers, only Steven Spielberg so casually toys with the emotions of his audience and co-directors Docter and Peterson expertly navigate the nuances of this approach to storytelling. Ellie has very little screen time, and yet she looms throughout the entire film; even when Up has reached a point of fantasy so absurd as to include dog pilots, the audience is already so emotionally invested in Carl's story that thoughts of an Evil Snoopy do not occur until after the film has finished. Young ones might find their attention span tested early, but will be rewarded for their patience. I was surprised at how attentively the children in our audience followed the film, and even smiled a few times as one little boy vocally cheered on the protagonists. A film is supposed to capture the attention of its audience, and the rare ones capture their hearts. Up is indeed a rare film.

Louisville Exclusive Films - Village 8

Louisvillians seeking less mainstream/more artistic cinematic fare this summer should check out the Louisville Exclusive Films series at Village 8. The lineup so far is as follows:

5/22-6/4 Everlasting Moments
5/29-6/4 Lymelife
6/5-6/11 Sugar
6/12-6/18 Goodbye Solo
6/19-6/25 Hunger
6/26-7/2 Enlighten Up!
7/3-7/9 Tokyo Sonata

For more information, including show times and synposes, visit their webpage here.

Louisville Gay & Lesbian Film Series - Village 8 2009

Once more, Village 8 Theatres is hosting the annual Louisville Gay & Lesbian Film Series this summer. The lineup is as follows:

5 June through 11 June
Tru Loved (1:00, 5:20 and 9:35 daily)
Ciao (3:20 and 7:35 daily)

12 June through 18 June
Serbis (1:15, 5:25 and 9:45 daily)
Antarctica (3:10 and 7:20 daily)

19 June through 25 June
The Amazing Truth About Q (1:30, 5:30 and 9:55 daily)
I Can't Think Straight (3:20 and 7:20 daily)

26 June through 2 July
Sex Positive (1:30, 5:25 and 9:45 daily)
Breakfast with Scot (3:10 and 7:15 daily)

Learn more about this series by visiting the official online presence here.

Summer Movie Clubhouse - Cinemark Tinseltown Louisville 2009

Cinemark Tinseltown Louisville has announced its Summer Movie Clubhouse lineup for the summer. Their schedule is as follows:

6/2 & 6/3 Mr. Bean's Holiday
6/9 & 6/10 The Tale of Despereaux
6/16 & 6/17 VeggieTales: The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything
6/23 & 6/24 Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
6/30 & 7/1 Hotel for Dogs
7/7 & 7/8 Kung Fu Panda
7/14 & 7/15 Bee Movie
7/21 & 7/22 Space Chimps
7/28 & 7/29 Dr. Seuss's Horton Hears a Who!
8/4 & 8/5 Alvin and the Chipmunks

All movies start playing at 10:00 AM. Admission is $1.00 at the door, or you can prepay a $5.00 fee for admission to all ten features.

2009 Summer Children's Film Festival - Oldham 8

Every summer, the Great Escape Oldham 8 Theatre screens a movie for children free of charge. They have announced the following lineup for this summer, and it is as follows:

6/9 & 6/10 Dr. Seuss's Horton Hears a Who!
6/16 & 6/17 Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
6/23 & 6/24 Kung Fu Panda
6/30 & 7/1 The Tale of Despereaux
7/7 & 7/8 Surf's Up
7/14 & 7/15 Hotel for Dogs
7/21 & 7/22 Charlotte's Web (2006)
7/28 & 7/29 Space Chimps

Doors open at 9:00 AM, and movies start at 9:30 AM. Seating is free, but limited.

29 May 2009

"Wait Till Next Year" by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Wait Till Next Year
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Date of Publication: 21 October 1997
Cover Price: $25.00
261 pages

Another of my reading objectives for 2009 has been addressed; my mother gave me this book for Christmas in 1997 (possibly 1998).  I just never quite got round to opening it until a couple of weeks ago.  Anyway, you might recognize Doris Kearns Goodwin from either her appearances as a talking head on TV (I saw her on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart not too long ago) or as author of Team of Rivals, the acclaimed look at President Lincoln's cabinet.

In Wait Till Next Year, she revisits her own childhood in 1950s Brooklyn.  There are eight chapters, each more or less dedicated to one year of her youth.  Because of the growing nature of childhood, each year also addresses its own themes--even though the underlying theme of this memoir is her relationship to the Brooklyn Dodgers.  I rarely find myself visualizing any written work particularly clearly, and so it is a great compliment I pay to Doris Kearns Goodwin when I say that I lost myself in a vivid, nearly tangible, recreation of her childhood.

From her mother (ailing with "the heart of a seventy year old woman") to next door neighbor Elaine, from Jackie Robinson to the local Giants fan butchers who called her "Ragmop," no one is simply background for her life.  I am still in awe of how, at six years of age, she would listen to every radio broadcast of every game and keep score throughout all nine innings so she could recreate the games in their entirety for her father at night.  There are heartbreaking passages of loss; I literally teared up during the epilogue.

I came of age forty years after Kearns Goodwin in a small town outside Louisville, Kentucky and yet her vivid portrayal of so many universal themes made this one of the most accessible memoirs I have yet read.  Do not Wait Till Next Year; put this at the top of your reading queue.

28 May 2009

George Strait

Last night, CBS aired a special tribute concert to George Strait in honor of his winning the Academy of Country Music's Artist of the Decade award.  The performances were all great, and I wish they would be made available to download.  Highlights included Toby Keith performing "Unwound" (which he mistakenly cited as Strait's "very first number one single;" it was his first single, but it peaked at #6), Brooks & Dunn with "The Cowboy Rides Away," Taylor Swift with "Run" and Jamie Foxx turning in an amazing r&b styled performance of "You Look So Good in Love."  "King" George himself performed "Ocean Front Property" before leading all performers in a show-capping rendition of his recent #1 single, "Troubadour."

To commemorate the milestone achievement, ten of his most popular hits have been grouped into an iMix on iTunes.  Each song is only 69 cents, or you can pick up the whole lot for just $6.90.  Not sure how long this reduced pricing will last, so click here and add to your library!  The songs are:
  1. "The Fireman"
  2. "All My Ex's Live in Texas"
  3. "Heartland"
  4. "Blue Clear Sky"
  5. "Unwound"
  6. "Ace in the Hole"
  7. "Carrying Your Love with Me (Edit)"
  8. "Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind (Live at the Astrodome)"
  9. "I Can Still Make Cheyenne"
  10. "The Chair"
Strait's latest single is "Living for the Night" from a forthcoming album titled Twang.  It is currently scheduled for a fall release.  I, for one, cannot wait!

Guitar Hero Finally Has "The Touch"

If you've seen anything in this blog by now, you know that I have obsessed for months over Stan Bush's "The Touch" coming to Guitar Hero: World Tour.  As of today, the wait is over!  First, the bad news.  This is the 2007 version, not the original recording that entered pop culture as part of the soundtrack to 1986's The Transformers: The Movie.  Still, it's a very faithful recording and is a blast to hear and play.  Plus, it's free!  I've already played it twice, and my wife snuck in a stab at it during her lunch break.  Most assuredly, this is everything I had hoped it would be.

25 May 2009

"Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began" by Art Spiegelman

Maus: A Survivor's Tale II - And Here My Troubles Began
Written and Illustrated by Art Spiegelman
Date of Publication: 1 September 1992
Cover Price: $14.00
144 pages

For those unfamiliar with this project, Maus tells two stories.  Predominantly, it is the story of how Vladek Spiegelman survived the Nazi regime and Hitler's concentration camps.  Interspersed throughout, though, is a present day depiction of the interaction between Vladek and his son, Art.  Art expresses both admiration for, and exasperation with, Vladek.  This is, for me, the most meaningful part of Spiegelman's story.  We have a habit of reducing history to a one-dimensional existence in our minds.  The Jews who were targeted by the Nazis were all pitiable victims, the Nazis were all inhuman monsters, etc.  What Spiegelman has done with Maus is show that the survivors were admirable...and that they were much more than that, as well.  It turns out, they were also human and got on their children's nerves the same as nearly every other parental generation.  Rather than undermining the dignity and resilience of Vladek, Maus makes him more relevant because he's a whole person and not a cardboard cutout.

Spiegelman took an awful chance bringing his father's story to the medium of graphic storytelling in the 1980s.  Even in 2009, the same year that a movie adaptation of Alan Moore's Watchmen (long considered unfilmable), the notion of telling of a holocaust survivor's story in comic book form seems destined to offend.  The fact that Spiegelman presents ethnicities as animals (i.e., Jews are depicted as mice, Germans as cats, etc.) would seemingly further remove from the story its proper sense of weight.  Remarkably, Vladek's story is perhaps even more striking told through Art's presentation.  There is, strangely, a heightened sense of humanity throughout Maus that I often find absent even in History Channel programs drawing on actual video footage of the described events.

Simply put, I cannot offer a higher recommendation than the one I give to Art Spiegelman's Maus: A Survivor's Tale.  Originally, Maus was serialized in Spiegelman's comic anthology series Raw; I read the two volume collected edition.  Since then, the entire work has been collected in a singular volume.  Whichever incarnation you find available, I urge you to take the time to read the tale of Vladek Spiegelman.

21 May 2009

DVD: "Grandma's Boy" - Unrated

Grandma's Boy
Directed by Nicholaus Goossen
Written by Barry Wernick and Allen Covert & Nick Swardson
Starring: Linda Cardellini, Allen Covert, Peter Dante, Shirley Jones, Shirley Knight, Joel David Moore, Kevin Nealon, Doris Roberts, Nick Swardson
DVD Release Date: 27 June 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
List Price: Currently Out-of-Print

The Film
Alex (Covert) is a 35 year-old video game tester forced to move in with his grandmother (Roberts) and her two roommates (Jones and Knight).  So as not to lose the admiration of his younger co-workers, Alex spins the story to suggest that he has taken up with three sex-starved nymphos.  In truth, though, he has set his attention on new supervisor Sam (Cardellini).

The DVD
You get the original R-rated theatrical cut as well as the unrated version, and if two cuts of the movie aren't enough, you also get two commentary tracks.  The first is by firsttime director Goossen; the second is by the trio of Covert, Dante and Swardson.  The former is more engaging than one might expect from a director on his first outing, and the latter benefits from the behind-the-scenes roles of the three actors (all three have producer credits, and Covert and Swardson co-wrote the screenplay).  There are a handful of deleted scenes, presented individually and as part of a montage with some outtakes; each commentary references additional cutting room floor fodder not presented on this release.  The actual behind-the-scenes material is scant; a look at the filming of a scene in which Covert is caught masturbating and another discussing the chimpanzee.  The meatiest material is a simple segment of FOX Movie Channel Presents: Casting Session.

The Recommendation
There have been countless stoner movies over the years, but there a few things that make Grandma's Boy a (somewhat guilty) pleasure.  First, I don't know of any other amalgamation of stoner flick and The Golden Girls.  Second, the running theme of video game culture is sincere, yet frequently hilarious--including an especially memorable Dance Dance Revolution showdown.  Finally, the party scene.  Somehow, this party scene--which occupies a full ten of the ninety-four minute run time--rises above being an obligatory inclusion.  In fact, it's so fun that it is actually a party I would love to have attended.  And if wanting to be there isn't the sign of an engaging movie, then I don't know what is.

Despite being out of print currently, I found a copy a week ago in a $5.00 dump bin at K-mart.

18 May 2009

Library Thing & "Beat Crohn's"

I can't now recall how I was introduced to Library Thing, but I cannot recommend it more for bibliophiles.  It's an online resource that permits to you electronically catalog your library, adding things like ratings (up to 5 stars, and in half-star increments) and personalized tags.  The free version lets you add up to 200 books; beyond that, you must pay to upgrade.

Anyway, I was browsing just now and discovered a section of books set aside for early reviews.  Essentially, the publishers provide X number of copies of select books per month, and Library Thing in turn sends them to members to review prior to the release of the book.  I was rummaging through the list of books on this list for May when I discovered Beat Crohn's! Getting to Remission with Eternal Nutrition by Margaret A. Oppenheimer.  Rather than generate a synposis of my own, I will simply copy and paste the one provided to/by Library Thing:

Description: Learn about an effective dietary treatment for Crohn's disease that has been nearly forgotten in the United States. The treatment involves using special liquid formulas (referred to as "enteral nutrition") instead of, or in addition to, regular food and beverages in order to induce and maintain remission.

Enteral nutrition has been used by people with Crohn's since 1969 and has been tested in numerous clinical studies. Beat Crohn's describes who can benefit from enteral nutrition, why patients might want to use it, what symptoms respond best, and how it compares with medications. Readers will also find practical tips on using enteral nutrition and stories of kids and adults who have tried it.

Special features include a chapter on enteral nutrition in children, and another for people with ulcerative colitis, indeterminate colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome who have questions about enteral nutrition. The last chapter describes the latest research on supplements and special diets for people with Crohn's (fish oil, probiotics, and more!).

The author of this easy-to-read but comprehensive guide has worked as a medical writer for more than 10 years. She has personal experience with enteral nutrition.

Now, I do not claim to know a thing about "eternal nutrition," but then, that's the point of a book about the subject, isn't it?  Will this bring victory to my fellow Crohnies struggling to find a semblance of normality?  I don't know, but when you're desperate for anything you haven't already tried, it's certainly bound to be worth the time it will take to read the book.  Amazon.com has it listed for a 15 June 2009 release date, and can be preordered here for $16.95.

15 May 2009

Mobile Blogging and Late Night Baseball

I set up my phone for mobile blogging, but it's simply too hard to type and send any kind of meaningful blog post that way.  It's great for Twitter, but a blog entry should be more fleshed out than a few hundred characters permit.  Plus, there's simply no way I'm using a nine-character keypad to type up anything relevant.

Anyway, as I mentioned in my experimental mobile blog post, I have always loved staying up for the Reds' west coast trips.  I can still remember being about ten or eleven, staying up way later than usual to watch the Reds and Dodgers.  In those days, we had two TV's in the house; the main one in the living room and a portable, black and white TV in the kitchen.  I remember curling up on the couch in the living room with the volume turned down as low as it would go (which wasn't quite silent, because the volume control was somehow jammed and wouldn't go down all the way).  I can't remember now whether that series was over the weekend, or if school had let out for the summer, but I know that not having school the next day was the only reason my mom permitted me this late night game.

When you're young, any chance to violate any of your normal rules is exciting; staying up late to watch a baseball game?  Simply sublime.  I was used to games starting around seven and ending right around my bedtime; drawn out games (or, God help me, extra innings affairs) were always dicey.  Sometimes I could hem and haw my way to the end--if the players cooperated and wrapped things up within a half hour of my bedtime.  Othertimes, I simply had to wait until the next day to find out how my Redlegs had fared.

The last few years, west coast trips have not favored my team.  I blame the schedule makers; it seemed that the Reds were expected to make a road trip starting on the east coast and ending on a tour of half the west coast, while every other team in the National League got to have more sensibly planned road trips.  In any event, I have been thrilled to stay up late so far.  The Reds completed a three game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks (made even sweeter by Brandon Phillips's strong outing in the series, as I am not only a big fan of his, but have him on one of my fantasy teams as well).  Tonight, they start a set against the San Diego Padres and I'm hopeful that the day off between series won't have a cooling effect on them.

I have just finished reading Julius Caesar's The Gallic War and began a new book last night.  I had it down to two, and decided to wait on Cold Mountain (which I scored in hardback from the library for a buck).  Instead, I'm finally reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's Wait Till Next Year: A Memoir.  Political wonks will likely recognize her; she's been on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart several times.  Anyway, this is her recollection of her childhood in Brooklyn.  The impetus for this, as explained in her preface, was being interviewed by Ken Burns for his documentary, Baseball.

I often reflect on baseball and how it connected to my younger days, and I'm a sucker for reading how it connects to others.  I was surprised--and a bit jealous--that she was instructed in scorekeeping by her father when she was just six years old.  (I wasn't introduced to it until about ten.)  It's vicariously thrilling to read these thoughts; even though our backgrounds are quite dissimilar (she grew up in New York forty years earlier than I did in Kentucky), the common thread of baseball is instantly recognizable.

14 May 2009

"The Gallic War" by Julius Caesar

The Gallic War
Gaius Julius Caesar
A new translation by Carolyn Hammond
Date of publication: 30 April 1999
Cover Price: $8.95
320 pages

Julius Caesar wrote ten commentaries, covering his campaigns in Gaul (modern day France) and the Roman civil war.  The Gallic War collects the first seven of these, with an eight commentary by Aulus Hirtius.  Carolyn Hammond's translation comes with a lengthy introduction, a chronological list of primary events, illustrations of referenced geography, a glossary and end notes.  Personally, I loathe end notes, because they provide relevant information but interrupt the reading process to access.

Caesar's years in Gaul are generally glossed over in most history courses.  This is a phase in which Caesar's conquests brought prestige to himself and expanded the empire; that's nearly all I remember being discussed of these years (and I hold a degree earned in the field of history).  Whether the credit for the ease of reading goes to Caesar or to translator Hammond is unclear, but I was impressed by how easily I followed these descriptions.  Caesar refrains from bogging down his accounts with minutiae, and combat omits graphic detail.  Remarkably, though, Caesar's narrative manages to paint vivid imagery with such ambigious writing.

If there is one complaint, it is that Caesar's campaigns all follow the same formula.  A Gallic uprising is leaked, Caesar musters his legions from their winter quarters, the forces jockey to cut off one another from corn and seize the other's baggage, the courage of the Romans overcomes the pettiness of the Gallic forces, the Gauls send envoys to sue for peace, Caesar accepts hostages and grants them his customary clemency.  Still, these eight commentaries offer fascinating insight into the mindset of one of history's greatest figures.

For instance, Caesar frequently mentions that the Gauls fight to win their liberty from the Romans.  He makes no effort to downplay this motive; at no point does he suggest that the Gauls ought to be content to live under the rule of the empire.  In fact, Caesar worries a few times that if he is unsuccessful in quelling a particular uprising, that the rest of the Gauls will be encouraged to fight for, and possibly win, their liberty.  Simply put, this is the unadulterated perspective of a conqueror being shared.

My favorite commentary is the sixth, for it is in that book that Caesar offers some biographical information about his Germanic adversaries.  More of this kind of information would make the rest of the commentaries more compelling, I think, but this is the perspective of a reader whose stylistic preferences were formed more than two thousand years after these texts were composed.

09 May 2009

"Star Trek" Canon and My Grudge Match with David Mack

So, like a good little Trekkie, I bought (and reviewed) Star Trek Countdown, the graphic novel prelude to this year's Star Trek film.  And, in true good little Trekkie fashion, I revisited the official message boards at startrek.com for the first time in...I honestly don't know.  I've had my account for quite a while, but I sincerely could not tell you if I had ever posted before last night.  Anyway, I stumbled upon a thread about whether or not Countdown is considered canonical.  You can link to the whole thread here.

First, though, some background for you Trek newbies.  For decades now, all kinds of comic books and novels have been published taking place in the Trek creative world.  These are good for Simon and Schuster (whose imprint, Pocket Books, has held the literary license for quite some time now) and the various comic book publishers (currently IDW Publishing) who have forked over respectable sums of money in order to produce stories that will hopefully turn a profit for the license holder.  So as not to incumber the writers of the actual movies and television episodes (who have already complained for years now that they are entirely too beholden to things established in previous movies and episodes), there is an operational rule.  Namely, only things that appear on screen are accepted as "canon," no matter how interesting the story may be.

My response to the aforementioned thread elicited a back-and-forth debate with David Mack, author of two episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and several paperbacks.  I have copied and pasted, verbatim, the entirety of each of our posts to one another for your benefit.  (Partly to document the debate as it was, without summation, and partly because I suspect I won't have an active account with startrek.com for much longer.)

ME
I disagree with the notion that Countdown "never happened."  It takes place in the post-Nemesis 24th Century of the "original" continuity.  Because the comic story explains the impetus for Ambassador Spock and Nero arriving at the black hole through which they time traveled, it cannot be shirked as something entirely of the old timeline, either.

The rule of thumb has always been that only things that go up on screen are canon (excluding even anything added to a novelization of something in the canon), and so Countdown would seemingly be dismissed as non-canonical.

However, because the story originated with screenwriters Orci and Kurtzman, I am inclined to accept it as canon; I suspect that, were they not afraid of the movie becoming too confusing for the lay audience they hoped to bring into theaters, the events of Countdown might have found their way into the beginning of the film.

MACK
^ It doesn't matter who wrote it: if it wasn't on the screen, it's not canon. Period.

Star Trek Voyager executive producer and co-creator Jeri Taylor wrote a pair of Voyager novels about Kathryn Janeway. Both were later contradicted by later seasons of Voyager itself. Ergo, her books = not canon.

ME
The unique nature of this project, though, I think offers more allowance than previous continuity.  Essentially, Orci & Kurtzman are the founding authors of the 2.0 continuity.  Granted, the actual events of Countdown are in the 1.0 timeline, but as they are validated on screen in Star Trek, I accept them as canonical until and unless superseded on-screen based on this logic.

MACK
^ What you "accept" has nothing to do with it. "Canon" has a strict definition in regard to Star Trek. It includes only what was expressly depicted and stated in the TV series and the movies. Nothing else. The determination of what is or isn't canon is not for fans to make; it is set by the licensor --- in this case, the current rights-holder, CBS Television. 
ME
Maybe it's this attitude toward fans that has alienated so many of us over the years.  "Your money is good enough to put food on my table, but your opinion isn't good enough to be discussed--even if we do officially make statements to the effect that we're courting it."

I'm not a license holder, so I'm not concerned with what the lawyers say does and does not matter.  And I'm not just a fanboy; I hold a degree earned in history and see the franchise through those eyes.  You know, there are supplementary texts like the Mishna and the Hadith that are not part of the singular religious texts of Judaism and Islam, but they are accepted as valid within those faiths because of their relationship with the primary texts.

What a seventeenth century imam has to say may be interesting, but is not relevant; what Muhammed said is relevant.  In this instance, Countdown, by virtue of its authorial origins and on-screen validation in the new film, exists on this secondary level.  And you, Mr. Mack, sound like a jealous imam begrudging the acceptance of the words of the religion's founder over your own.
MACK
^ Wow, projecting much? I am just someone who writes Star Trek stories professionally and knows what the rules are. The fact that you don't like them doesn't make them less true. And I don't have an attitude toward fans --- just toward people who presume to think they know more about my business than I do. 
ME
If you define canon as the regulation that licensed writers may not contradict things established on screen and that there is no guarantee that anything they write will be respected by anyone else, then yes, defer to the small fine print in your contract.

If, however, you realize that Star Trek, at the end of the day, is still a work of art, then you must accept that once an episode airs or a book is published...it is in the hands of its audience.  Of course, the franchise has been regarded almost exclusively in monetary terms for so long, I can understand that its participants have forgotten its existence as a collaborative work of art.
MACK

Those of us who write Star Trek stories professionally have forgotten no such thing, and it is extremely insulting and presumptive of you to accuse me or my peers of such. I strongly recommend you never try to pull this stunt to my face.
ME
Mr. Mack, I am greatly disappointed that you have chosen lording your status as a paid writer as a means of bullying dissenting opinion rather than participating in a meaningful discussion.  Questioning things is not "pulling a stunt."  Shame on you for your embarrassing behavior.  I sincerely hope your peers lack your hot headed machismo.

Star Trek does not belong to you or your peers.  Without an audience, a work of art is meaningless.  Star Trek, as a work of art, is imbued only with the relevance its audience gives it.  Your behavior in this thread makes clear the regard that you have for the franchise's audience--and, again, I sincerely hope you are not representative of your peers.

As for the perception that the franchise has been dominated by monetary considerations, Michael Dorn's Worf was brought to Deep Space Nine for ratings.  Jeri Ryan was cast to add sex appeal to Voyager.  Enterprise originally did not include "Star Trek" in its title so as to break free from the franchise and when its ratings dipped, the title was added to try to cash in on its association.  These are but a handful of business based decisions from recent years that were not made with storytelling in mind, but money.  I do not begrudge these acts, nor the reasoning behind them; I do, however, insist upon calling a spade, a spade.

Remember when stories about the Klingons were really about the Russians?  Sorry to say, but while I do not question your patriotism, as it were, I do in fact question whether you're serving your country...or your government.   There IS a difference, and most of the licensed stories have been entirely too interested in building on the mythos (or, more realistically, name-checking the mythos) to tell a meaningful story.

I also submit that the incessant crossing over of characters that has plagued the licensed novels for the last decade does not, in fact, contribute to the mythos.  Instead, it smacks of fan fiction rather than the thoughtful storytelling we had come to expect from Star Trek all those decades ago.
MACK
^ Your comments are insulting and arrogant beyond belief. I have nothing but love and appreciation for fans of my work and of Star Trek in general, and I am more than willing to engage in polite debates about the content of my work. However, I will not sit back and let you or anyone else impugn my motives, character, or professionalism, nor will I be lectured to by someone such as yourself.

And I really have to wonder what you meant by this remark:

Quote
Sorry to say, but while I do not question your patriotism, as it were, I do in fact question whether you're serving your country...or your government.

Excuse me? In all seriousness ... what the hell are you talking about? Is this merely a failed metaphor? Or did you just dare publicly to question my loyalty to my country?

If my reaction earlier shocked or disappointed you, maybe you should first learn to consider your own remarks much more carefully, especially when you're lobbing insults without provocation and accusations without evidence.
Me
It was, in fact, a metaphor and its lack of clarity would seem to suggest it is of the "failed" variety.  My point was that your gung-ho allegiance seems to be more to the business side of the franchise.  You were quick to quote contract stipulations as the definition of canon, and to cast yourself as representative of your novel writing peers.  The franchise, though, has more facets to it than simply who gets to cash a check, and I wonder whether you've lost sight of that.

If, by your own admission, the stories written by yourself and your peers have no bearing on anything whatsoever, then the only distinction between them and fan fiction is that you get to cash a check and see your work on a bookshelf.

As a fan, I long for a return to the days when 
Star Trek stories were allegories for our own social issues and not namedropping Trek minutiae.  Not only do other fans agree; the powers that be agree too.  That's the whole reason, after all, for the new movie eschewing established continuity.  Your vehement defense of old definitions make me wonder whether you get the purpose of this new project at all.

If, as I understand it, the idea is to break free and establish a new incarnation of 
Star Trek, then that must extend to supporting materials as well.  Countdown's role in canon was the question of this thread, and due to the nature of this new project, I think it's a perfect time to reevaluate what canon means.  If it's business as usual, though, then what was the point?

As for contrasting our behaviors, go back through this thread.  Not only were your words inflammatory before I exhibited anything "arrogant," but I am also not a representative of the franchise--as you clearly cast yourself.
MACK
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the only distinction between them and fan fiction is that you get to cash a check and see your work on a bookshelf.

Wrong. There are several important distinctions between professionally authored fiction and fan fiction, as explained superbly by my friend and fellow scribe Keith DeCand!do 
in this post from his blog.

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As a fan, I long for a return to the days when Star Trek stories were allegories for our own social issues and not namedropping Trek minutiae.

If you think that's an accurate description of my work for 
Star Trek, either on screen or in print, or of how I see my work, then you clearly have never seen nor read any of my work and have no idea what you're talking about.

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That's the whole reason, after all, for the new movie eschewing established continuity. Your vehement defense of old definitions make me wonder whether you get the purpose of this new project at all.

Are you kidding me? You think they broke with 43-plus years of continuity for 
artistic reasons? How deluded are you? They did it to make the film more commercially viable to a wide audience. In other words, they did it to make more money.

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Countdown's role in canon was the question of this thread, and due to the nature of this new project, I think it's a perfect time to reevaluate what canon means.

Except that it's not your place, or the place of any fan, to "reevaluate what canon means." The only entity that has the right to make that determination is the copyright owner, which currently is CBS Television. That's not just some petty distinction in the "fine print" of my contract --- that's a right guaranteed by U.S. copyright law. You need to understand this, because it's important: the fans do not own 
Star Trek. They consume it; they support it; but they do not own it.

Nor do writers Orci and Kurtzman, nor does director J.J. Abrams. They might be guiding the film side of the franchise and 
making canon at the moment, but they don't own it, and they don't get to define it. Neither do I. Neither do you.

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If it's business as usual, though, then what was the point?

The same point as always in Hollywood: to make money. Anyone who tells you different is selling you something. In order to make money.

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As for contrasting our behaviors, go back through this thread. Not only were your words inflammatory before I exhibited anything "arrogant,"

Absolute rubbish. I merely stated unequivocal facts about the definition of canon as it currently exists, and provided an analogous example from earlier in the franchise's history.

YOU chose to respond to that presentation of facts by accusing me of taking fans' money but never listening to their opinions (which is demonstrably untrue, based on my years of public online interactions with fans on various sites, especially the TrekBBS), and YOU compared me to "a jealous imam."

YOU made this personal. YOU were the first to level ad hominem attacks. YOU were the one who crossed the line and insulted my work (which clearly you have never read) and impugned my professionalism. You want to see who copped an attitude first? Look at your own posts.
 
Now, here's where it gets fun.  Between Mr. Mack's response and mine were two comments from other posters, which I will also quote in their entirety.

THE_MIGHTY_QUARK
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As for contrasting our behaviors, go back through this thread. Not only were your words inflammatory before I exhibited anything "arrogant,"

Absolute rubbish. I merely stated unequivocal facts about the definition of canon as it currently exists, and provided an analogous example from earlier in the franchise's history.

YOU chose to respond to that presentation of facts by accusing me of taking fans' money but never listening to their opinions (which is demonstrably untrue, based on my years of public online interactions with fans on various sites, especially the TrekBBS), and YOUcompared me to "a jealous imam."

YOU made this personal. YOU were the first to level ad hominem attacks. YOU were the one who crossed the line and insulted my work (which clearly you have never read) and impugned my professionalism. You want to see who copped an attitude first? Look at your own posts.

Davey boy, you are and were the one who started being disrespectful, what with your "What you "accept" has nothing to do with it."  and "Wow, projecting much?"

You have been aggressive, rude, arrogant and inflamatory.

Sir, I have never read any of your works, and I never will.  You are a overbearing jerk with the pissy attitude of a child.  Certainly no professional.

Good-day.
B_4
What in the hell is going on? :laugh:  :laugh:  (eats popcorn) this is just as entertaining as the new movie, lol.

To MinL Shaw: You really have impugned the honor of Mr. Mack and fellow star trek authors with your comments. If Mr. Mack were Really a Klingon he would challenge you to an honor dual and you would be split in half now by his batt'leth. I would ask you to consider appoligizing for your thoughtless comments but I will not since you will not really mean it if you did, so I'll just call you an ass'hole instead. 
:honorable:

To The_Mighty_Quark: It's a good thing that you will not read any of Mr. Mack's novels because it seems a person of your...character would not be able to understand such complex, dramatic, amusing, entertaining stories such as Mr. Mack writes. So, you should continue to read first level picture books that I'm certain you enjoy now and leave such enjoyable mature reading material such as Mr. Mack writes to the adults. I and thousands of other fans certainly read and enjoy all of Mr. Mack's current novels and will continue to do so as long as he has stories to tell. 
:logical:
 
ME
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As a fan, I long for a return to the days when Star Trek stories were allegories for our own social issues and not namedropping Trek minutiae.

Quote
If you think that's an accurate description of my work for Star Trek, either on screen or in print, or of how I see my work, then you clearly have never seen nor read any of my work and have no idea what you're talking about.

I was speaking generally about the entire franchise, actually. As for your work, I did in fact enjoy both episodes of 
DS9 that you wrote. "Starship Down" was a suspenseful submarine story that was fun to watch. "It's Only a Paper Moon" was one of the highlights of the Dominion War arc for me, as it brought a level of realism to that war not seen before in the franchise. Imagine my disappointment when I looked at the summary for "Destiny" and learned it was yet another multi-book crossover story.

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Are you kidding me? You think they broke with 43-plus years of continuity for artistic reasons? How deluded are you? They did it to make the film more commercially viable to a wide audience. In other words, they did it to make more money.

Of course they made the movie to make money; that's not in dispute.  But, time and again, Orci, Kurtzman and Abrams have insisted that they would only touch the project once they were told they were free to break away from established continuity in order to tell a story without being burdened by the restrictions thereof.  Other writers over the years have also been quoted as complaining about the restrictions of the continuity as well.  You'll forgive me for interpreting this as meaning that having storytelling freedom was the impetus for breaking from continuity.

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YOU chose to respond to that presentation of facts by accusing me of taking fans' money but never listening to their opinions (which is demonstrably untrue...)

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Except that it's not your place, or the place of any fan, to "reevaluate what canon means." The only entity that has the right to make that determination is the copyright owner, which currently is CBS Television. That's not just some petty distinction in the "fine print" of my contract --- that's a right guaranteed by U.S. copyright law. You need to understand this, because it's important: the fans do not own Star Trek. They consume it; they support it; but they do not own it.

Reconcile those and let me know where I was wrong in my characterization of you.

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YOU made this personal. YOU were the first to level ad hominem attacks. YOU were the one who crossed the line and insulted my work (which clearly you have never read) and impugned my professionalism. You want to see who copped an attitude first? Look at your own posts.

The_Mighty_Quark disagrees.  Granted, B_4 sides with you, but he also thinks you should be a Klingon and cut me in half for not worshiping you.  I'm feeling pretty good about rational, reasonable people understanding my point.
B_4
^^First off, I'm a she and that was a joke about Klingons and honor since you have impunged Mr. Mack's honor, completely rational and reasonable that I would make this joke, lol. I shouldn't have to explain this to you but apparently you have no sense of humor along with a bad attitude. I said nothing about worship :laugh: Apparently YOU are not able to understand the POINT that Mr. Mack has patiently explained to you. I'm feeling pretty good about rational, reasonable people classifying you as a big loser, jerk. :p 


B_4
Enough insults for today, i'm off to lunch. 
MACK
Really, MinLShaw? There are "rational, reasonable people" agreeing with you? I don't see any. All I see are you and one other humpty fan who doesn't like being told when you're off-base, and then gets all high-and-mighty when called on your own B.S.

I stated facts. You responded with baseless insults.

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Reconcile those and let me know where I was wrong in my characterization of you.

You are wrong in your 
every characterization of me. And it is unbelievably arrogant and presumptive of you to think that you "know" me at all. You know nothing about me except that I get pissed off when lectured to by smug, condescending fans who think that just because they buy Star Trekbooks or merchandise that I owe them something, or that I answer to them. I don't.

It's not a matter of opinion that fans do not own 
Star Trek, it's the law. And no matter what you think of it, it's not going to change.

As for 
The_Mighty_Quark, try reading those posts again. I posted facts. You and MinLShaw have posted attacks and insults. If either of you would like to come out from behind your anonymous nicknames and own your words, I'll be very surprised -- because the only time I ever have to put up with this kind of preachy, self-righteous crap is from keyboard cowboys who are too spineless to post under their real names.
ME
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Really, MinLShaw? There are "rational, reasonable people" agreeing with you? I don't see any. All I see are you and one other humpty fan who doesn't like being told when you're off-base, and then gets all high-and-mighty when called on your own B.S.
So let me make sure I've got this straight.  Once upon a time, a long forgotten post asked whether a comic book could be taken as canonical.  I conceded that, tradition holds that the answer is "no," but in the spirit of the new movie's breaking free from established norms, I tried to explore the possibility of reinterpreting those norms.  You responded by saying that fans have no say in anything.  Then you want to know why I feel the fans have been marginalized over the years?

There's a reason that 
Star Trek ratings fell, mass merchandise stopped selling and the franchise went on hiatus for so long: The fans quit caring.  And I don't know what fans you know, but all the ones I know quit caring because they felt that Paramount only cared about milking the franchise and not telling meaningful stories anymore.  If you want to insist that you're a company man, fine, but that means that when we have a beef with the company, that extends to you as well.

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Reconcile those and let me know where I was wrong in my characterization of you.

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You are wrong in your every characterization of me. And it is unbelievably arrogant and presumptive of you to think that you "know" me at all. You know nothing about me except that I get pissed off when lectured to by smug, condescending fans who think that just because they buy Star Trek books or merchandise that I owe them something, or that I answer to them. I don't.

First of all, you have not answered my question.  How can you tell me that I'm wrong about you representing a mentality that sees fans primarily in dollar signs, when your argument rests on your own assertion that fans only get to spend money on the franchise?

Secondly, I never said you, or any other writer "owed" me anything other than a story.  I prefer it be interesting and thoughtful, meaningful if you can swing it, but as long as I pay for a story and you give me one, then the transaction's over.  If I ever buy a book and it has blank pages, then I'll start complaining about being owed something by a writer.

Finally, I have never presumed to "know" you.  You could help little old ladies cross the street, or you could beat the neighbor's dog for all I know.  This isn't about you as a person, and never was. This was always about the franchise of 
Star Trek and, I thought, a discussion about some aspects of it.  It quickly turned into your lecture about how you know the rules because you're a professional writer.

I never questioned the legality of who owns 
Star Trek.  I simply argue that Star Trek, beyond its identity as a copyrighted property, exists as a work of art.  And, as a work of art, it can be (and should be) evaluated by its audience.  I should think a professional writer would understand the nature of art and its relationship with its audience.

See beyond the business/legal side of things.  See it as an art form, and I ask how can you not see this perspective?  When you wrote "It's Only a Paper Moon," the transaction consisted of you providing a teleplay and Paramount providing you with a paycheck.  The fact that it is regarded as a highlight of that season of the series is because the fans responded to your work, while other episodes have already been forgotten.  What role does ownership have on that?  And in another ten years, when fewer highlights remain fresh on the mind and another corporate board could have ownership of the property, would that negate any high regard fandom would have of the episode you wrote?

As for "hiding" behind the anonymity of my post, allow me to return B_4's favor and paraphrase a reference from the franchise.  "Who I am is not important; that I have [my point] is."  Who makes an argument ought to have no bearing on the validity of said argument.  Or is it that attacking me personally is more important to you than exploring the nature of the franchise and its relationship with its audience?
MACK
^ You have every right to evaluate Star Trek as a collaborative work of art. I never said otherwise.

My only assertion was that the term "canon" has a specific meaning in regard to Star Trek, one that is not open to interpretation.

The fact that canon has a strict definition for the Star Trek franchise in no way negates fans' right to formulate and espouse critical opinions, favorable or unfavorable, about its body of work as a whole or its constituent parts. Evaluate it all to your hearts' content.

When I and my partner wrote the story for "It's Only a Paper Moon," the paycheck was part of our motivation for doing so. But so was the opportunity to help create a story about a young soldier coping with post-traumatic stress disorder after being horrifically wounded in combat. Would I have been willing to spend all the time it took to pitch, develop, and write that episode if I had been told that I would not be paid for my efforts? That's difficult to say. Maybe. Maybe not.

Basically, I am saying that you have presented a false choice. Being a professional means getting paid for your work. But just because one insists on being paid, that doesn't mean one doesn't care about the quality or integrity of one's work. Art is no less valid because the artist was fairly or richly compensated. The "starving artist" is a romantic myth. Artists who are starving might well be hungry because they are bad artists.

That's how I "reconcile" those statements. Yes, I care about the artistic side of what I do --- but I insist on being paid for it, at a rate that allows me to pay my bills and make a living.

As for why Star Trek declined in popularity over the past decade? I don't honestly know. Perhaps some of what you say was a factor. But maybe it might be attributed to fatigue on the part of its writers, timidity on the part of network/studio executives, the push-and-pull of egos behind the scenes perverting the story-development process, and a hundred other things that can go wrong in such a huge collaborative undertaking that spans decades.
ME
QuoteThe fact that canon has a strict definition for the Star Trek franchise in no way negates fans' right to formulate and espouse critical opinions, favorable or unfavorable, about its body of work as a whole or its constituent parts. Evaluate it all to your hearts' content.

Perhaps we could compromise and have Canon ™ as the definition of what is and is not protected for screenwriters, and canon as defined more abstractly as the essence of Star Trek, informed by the various stories told in various media.  I do not presume to be enough of an authority to make the determination of what would go into such a canon, but surely there must be some way of recognizing such works as Countdown and its relationship with the new film?

QuoteWhen I and my partner wrote the story for "It's Only a Paper Moon," the paycheck was part of our motivation for doing so. But so was the opportunity to help create a story about a young soldier coping with post-traumatic stress disorder after being horrifically wounded in combat.

And, despite some of the unpleasant things you and I have said to one another in this thread, I daresay you (co-)crafted not only one of DS9's finest hours, but one of the most compelling episodes of all the series.  Plus, it featured Vic Fontaine and I loved James Darren in that role.

QuoteBasically, I am saying that you have presented a false choice. Being a professional means getting paid for your work.

That was never my intention, and I take responsibility for failing to clarify that.  My argument over artistry vs. profit was simply that too many of the plot devices of the last several years have come across as marketing contrivances rather than story elements that evolved organically (such as moving Worf to DS9 or replacing Jennifer Lien with Jeri Ryan).

I never meant to suggest that cashing a paycheck invalidates one's status as an artist.  Even Plato agreed that collecting payment does not compromise the identity of a physician as a healer.

I've no doubt that our debate would have been far friendlier in person, where things such as inflection, tone of voice and body language come into play.  Even my closest friends have often gotten into heated debates because they failed to realize how their typed words could be interpreted.

So, if you're man enough to chalk this up to heat-of-the-moment intensity magnified by a failure to more clearly convey meaning, I am.
MACK
MinLShaw, I'm happy to bury the hatchet, so to speak.

To answer one of your questions more specifically, there is a way of recognizing Countdown and other such works. The terminology used by theStar Trek licensing office is that they are "officially licensed Star Trek stories." What this means is that the body in charge of vetting products or stories based on Star Trek has read and approved the stories, and has verified that they do not contradict Star Trek canon as it exists at the time the tie-in story was written.

That's why "canon" needs to have a specific and limited definition in this context; it needs strictly defined parameters that can be used to evaluate licensed material based on it. If the definition were "broadened" or open to outside interpretation, it would not be possible to make objective evaluations of licensed stories, such as novels, comic books, video games, etc.
Now, you may be wondering why, in the last few posts, I became so concilliatory toward a guy I clearly do not like or respect.  It's simple.  I realized that I was dealing with a stark-raving egomaniac and that there was absolutely no way that any outcome in which he publicly rescinded his holier-than-thou attitude would ever come to pass.  I contented myself to simply expose his ego, which I believe I did successfully.  To wit, notice that his tone changed dramatically after I tossed him some flattering comments?  An ego only wants to hear praise.  Once it's heard that, it becomes satiated and approachable.  David Mack is no exception.