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Posts Tagged ‘Star Trek’

Procreation, Pleasure, Pain, Passing away…  Sex and death are entirely connected, yet so divorced from each other in how we perceive them.  Or should I say, our Western society chooses not to connect them.  Ever.  Now that I think of it, “we” are uncomfortable speaking about both sex and death, even separately.  Sex ed, STDs, terminal illnesses, school shootings, the afterlife, bodies…  Uncomfortable creepy crawly conversations.  Taboos.  For such an “advanced” age, it’s no wonder there are so many problems.  Why have I chosen this as a topic for a blog post?  It’s one of those convergence of things that I came across in the last couple days, along with stuff I have thought about for ages.  Now… I wrote too long a blog post last week.  I’m prone to this.  So instead of writing voluminously, I’m just going to post links and photos and videos.  Let’s see if you all can connect the dots.  Or at least enjoy this seemingly meaningless set of things I’m presenting.  At least sex and death, as topics, can be pretty…interesting…on their own.  Enjoy your mortality, folks!

Your Friendly Neighborhood Mortician

Caitlin Doughty went to the University of Chicago right after I did, and through mutual theater acquaintances on facebook, I came across her website, The Order of the Good Death, and her incredibly funny and informative videos.  Her mission: to bring back mortality into daily life.

Fuck the Pain Away

Your friendly post-feminist ultra out-there rocker, Peaches,writes and plays the instruments and performs all her own work.  I think it’s brilliant.  Years ago I created a performance piece that some of you may have seen in Chicago entitled Inventing Eve.  We closed with “I’m the Kinda“.  Here’s her breakthrough song, “Fuck the Pain Away.”

Alien Diseases in Deep Space 

In the season 5 Star Trek Voyager episode “Disease,” love is likened to a disease. Young Ensign Harry Kim has sex with a gorgeous alien and develops a biochemical bond.  His skins starts to glow and everything, and leaving the alien causes him to suffer lots and lots of aches and pains, and could be potentially fatal to him.  Here’s the “dramatic” trailer.  Oooh, steamy!

Send Your Remains to Outer Space – FOR REAL

I’ve been researching ways of disposing bodies. Why?  Watching Caitlyn’s videos got me thinking seriously about how I want to be disposed of.  Yes, this is going to sound a lot like “what I want to be when I grow up,” but instead is, “what I want to be after I die.” So, after I donate as many organs as possible, I want to donate my body to “science,” and after they’re done with me, there’s a sort of “green” chemical liquification sort of alternative to cremation they’re doing in England, and then I want my remains sent out to space.  Yes, space, as in outer space!  For a few small thousands, they will fly a few ounces of your cremated remains on a rocket into space.  I MUST do this.  Check out this amazing company Celestis.  They really ham it up – each launch has it’s own “mission” name, like “The New Frontier Flight,” and they call the dead, “The Participants.”  There are several options, an orbital flight, a return flight, a deep space flight, and even a final resting place on the moon!  If I can’t get there while I’m alive, I might as well get there when I’m dead.  Lots of famous people have done it, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, his wife, actress Majel Barrett,  a few Star Trek actors and astronauts, and lots of ordinary people ride alongside them.

I can’t help but think about the ramifications of sending human remains into space.  I know that ashes have no remaining DNA.  But I can’t help but think of this Star Trek TNG episode “The Chase,” where the crew of the Enterprise is in a race with other alien species to solve a genetic puzzle.  Some sort of algorithm was imprinted in the DNA of many species of aliens, a result of a very advanced species who were alone in the galaxy who scattered their DNA among many planets.  I’d like to imagine my DNA bringing life to other planets.  See this moving video clip:

So I ended up writing a lot.  So what.  I hope you enjoyed the videos.

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My book of the week: talk about blasphemy!

Not great. My list seems so much more ambitious than I thought.  Some things I’ve done:

  • Because of a cold, for almost a week I drank endless cups and pots of herbal teas and infusions, meaning, I got plenty of water.  Now, not so much.
  • Sleep – still averaging 5-ish hours. Not good at all.  The discovery of late-night Star Trek TNG on this odd Christian cable TV channel has me mesmerized.  I love the show, it’s never on here, and I find it so incredibly strange that it’s METV that airs it.  I’m sure it’s a “recruiting tactic” – they’re also the only channel broadcasting American football, and quite a lot of it – rare and popular pastimes for certain populations.  I wonder if they actually know what they’re broadcasting – the futuristic Star Trek world is yes, quite an optimistic one, but the show regularly presents messages of tolerance (thinly veiled themes on gay rights and euthanasia come to mind) – basic respect for acceptance of the traditions and values of other cultures, whether or not we agree with them.  Things I feel that evangelicals clearly oppose.  It’s a very liberal show.  Squeezed between shows like the 700 Club, Harvest, and Christian rock shows, it’s so entirely bizarre for me, a firm and unwavering atheist, to watch.  This channel has these shows where a Christian “psychic” talks to spirits of dead family members in front of a studio audience.  There’s even a show geared to converting Jews, with a host who is a formerly-Jewish, now devout Christian evangelical, spinning the gospel for the “chosen people.”  Anthropology.  All I can say.  I’m happy for TNG.  Not sure it’s OK that I’m patronizing them.

    This kiss between Riker and the self-identified female “degenerate mutant” from a gender-less species.

  • I have, however, been seeing friends – twice per week is realistic, and as it’s emotionally quite pressing, it seems to be a high priority for me.
  • I went on a date. I thought it went very well, but I may have received the brush off.  Waiting.  It’s OK, life goes on.  The effort is important.
  • I read a whole novel in excellent speed – fantastic feeling. Though not really my cup of tea, I’d been putting off reading the cult-classic, Good Omens.  Was a nice way to pass the weekend.
  • Creativity and culture – I have made a concerted effort to stop and notice the art displayed in the windows of the galleries in my area, and I did actually attend a group exhibition opening a couple weeks ago.  I’ve been thinking about pulling out my clarinet – back in high school I wasn’t a bad player, and I did bring my excellent Buffet Festival with me when I moved to Israel.  AND I DID PAINT! Last week I got out a bunch of expensive Italian ink I purchased years ago, made lovingly with things like real gold flake, and I found a box of old thick “panda” oil pastels of my grandfather’s, a prominent Israeli artist until his death 11 years ago.  All shades of his favorite color – blue.  Here are some of the results, taken on a crappy camera phone.

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    A sort of water-soaked inky gouache, and a pointillism landscape made with an incomplete set of crayola markers, inspired by the “International Naive and Primitive Art Gallery” near me. You can’t see the gold flake on the left, but it’s pretty cool up close. And yes, the inks came complete with a quill – very difficult to use, hence I abandoned it.

  • Bills – not being paid. Weird.  I have the money.  I can’t open the mail – it’s overwhelming. It’s quite urgent. And pressing on me.  Psychological oddity with me, also keeps me from cleaning my room for months.  Though I make a decent effort on the house, the kitchen, public things, some other tasks are near impossible to internalize.
  • I’ve been pretty successful at shutting the computer at night and not thinking of work, so I’m proud of myself in that respect.  I do need to move forward on expanding my professional goals.

So there is the update.  A rather mundane blog entry, but as I felt I needed to keep up the writing momentum, here it is in all its glorious dullness.

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OMFG they must be joking. That’s what I first thought when I saw the headline in the Green Prophet: Jordan’s Crazy Star Trek Park Will be a Cleantech Showcase.  A Star Trek theme park?  My kind of vacation.  As some of you know, I’m a bit of a nut about Star Trek.  Apparently King Abdullah II is a huge huge huge Star Trek fan, too, and he even managed to get himself a role as an extra in Star Trek Voyager.  So now he’s gone and found over a billion dollars to build a Star Trek theme park in Aqaba?  Meters from Eilat, Israel’s year-round scuba-snorkel-spa resort-city?  Umm.  Wow.

Here are the related articles.  Have a blast.  Check out some of the titles (giggle giggle). I’m sort of in shock.

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USS Voyager's Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and her daily replicated cup 'o' joe

There are a bunch of news stories and interesting new-science factoids I’ve learned from friends recently all related to food.  Fascinating stuff.  Again, as it’s been a while since I’ve blogged, I feel more than a bit blocked – pressure to make this an awesome, stellar, better-than-ever, award-winning kinda entry.  It will be what it is.  This is interesting stuff.  Process as you will. (LOTS of cool videos below, too).

A real end to world hunger? Maybe?  Think again…

Child eating Plumpy'nut

Last week the New York Times published an article by Andrew Rice about Plumpy’nut, a new peanut-based food product that has already saved the lives of many severely malnourished children in Africa, Haiti, Asia, and who knows where else.  It’s basically a peanut butter packed with lots of other nutrients that can very quickly bring people back from the brink of death.  This is not a small feat, and I am certain of the fact that this is a great invention.  The issues as I can see it are these: the patent, the cost, the actual (long term) effectiveness.

  1. Patent: can one company brand and profit off of this kind of product and its recipe? Pumpy’nut is a trademark owned by Nutriset, a French company.  The inventor, French pediatrician Andre Briend apparently never meant to create a brand and profit off of this product.  AND there are two other companies trying to do similar work.  In my eyes, can such an important product be “owned”?  Can you patent peanut butter?
  2. Cost: it’s not cheap.  A two-month supply of Plumpy’nut for one child costs $60.  That’s a dollar a day — pretty steep in the food world, especially for such a simply product.  AND the main customer of Plumpy’nut (90%)  is UNICEF.  Sucks.  Essentially our tax dollars going to a private company.  We need to feed the world.  But it’s jacked up miracle peanut butter, folks.  It echoes the situation with AIDS medicine going to poor countries — they need it desperately, but do companies want to let go of their product at prices much closer to cost? Nope.  But people are dying…how do put a price on life?  Tricky.  But should it be?
  3. The long term: the company has marketed Plumpy’nut as a cure for hunger.  But is it?  The problem is that the vast majority of “hunger” in the world is not acute malnutrition, the kind we see on the news and celebrity TV appeals – results of famines, war, major ecological disaster.  Most people afflicted by hunger suffer chronically.  They are not on the very edge of death’s doorstep.  They suffer daily, whether a condition of their poverty, agriculture failure, lack of certain essential nutrients in the food they do have, etc.

Here is an excellent Huffington Post article written by Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Read it!

Replicator: Star Trek‘s solution to world Hunger

Ever heard of 3D printing?  I have for a while, but it was difficult for me to picture.  Well, I found some videos, and I’ll post one below for your viewing pleasure.  Basically, there are printers that make objects – and they work just like real paper printers.  It’s fascinating.

Ever heard of a food replicator?  This is a technology that is used in the invented scifi world of Star Trek.  Much like a 3D printer but working on super-futuristic advanced-science principles, this machine can create objects (including food) from any type of other matter by recombining its subatomic particles.  If it has the recipe on file, that is, whether it be for a cup of Earl Gray tea, the Klingon favorite Gagh, a ray gun, a dry martini, or a clarinet.  Scientists over at MIT (in a project called Cornucopia) have been trying to create a real life food replicator.  So far, it doesn’t work on such an advanced level (this futuristic contraption is really just as complex, if not much more complex than the Star Trek transporter).  As far as I can tell, MIT’s Digital Fabricator works by arranging an array of raw ingredients that are designed to print out 3D food to the sub millimeter level.  But no steak dinners here.  They’re working on chocolates and pastries – things that can be assembled, not whipped up out of thin air by recombining protons.  Goodness, I would kill to eat a real hot steak – faux beef that is exactly like real beef – without the killing…can you imagine that???

MIT's Digital Fabricator

Still, it’s interesting (and in my opinion, important) that this kind of technology is being seriously thought about.  It’s another example of contemporary science being influenced by scifi, our imagining of our better future where hunger is unimaginable.  Take a look at a clip of one of my favorite Star Trek episodes, including a demonstration of a replicator:

Here is a video on 3D printing.  Pretty cool stuff.  I like that everything is reusable.  Much like a real replicator.

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“A Friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of Nature.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

My American adventure is two-thirds over, and let me tell you, I’ve had a ball.  No, I’ve not kept up this blog as much as I could have – and you know what?  For good damned reason.  It’s that old raging debate – if you’re busy recording, are you actually in the living experience? Humbug. Let me tell you why this trip has been incredible:

Friends.

I have exceptional friends.  Beautiful compassionate intelligent hardworking friends.  Besides laptop-working out of myriad Starbucks across this great nation of ours, I have spent most of my time seeing old friends.  And as they’re some of the world’s best people, I’d like to tell you about them.  Besides, this is the most accurate way to describe what this year’s American adventure has been.

Philadelphia: I’ve already blogged about Philly, but I just feel the need to spread the love to my pals Bruce and Kate.  Bruce, dear friend and mentor of mine is the founder of the Philadelphia City Paper, and his wife Kate is the founder of a unique design firm.  It is always a pleasure hanging with them and meeting their friends.  Over our dinner celebrating their 25th anniversary, I met Ariel Ben-Amos, a proud young Philadelphian urban planner.

New York: Here the adventure picked up speed.  Besides seeing my sister Ashley (aka “my sister the surgeon”), serendipity is the only word to describe the few days I spent in this exciting metropolis. While strolling in Central Park on Sunday, we happened across the queue for the Public Theater‘s “Shakespeare in the Park” performance.  A longstanding NY tradition, something I have always wanted to experience, I dropped everything and got in line.  Lo and behold, I was one of the last 10 or so people to snag tickets to The Merchant of Venice starring none other than Al Pacino.

Paul Miller aka DJ Spooky

Ashley having abandoned me to my obscure follies, I met up with my friend Paul (aka DJ Spooky) who happened to be in town for just about…15 hours…between his varied gigs worldwide.  I caught up with him between Switzerland and Seattle.   With the number of projects he’s simultaneously involved in (he’s an artist, author, editor, teacher, and much more), it’s hard to keep up.  He recently collaborated with Chuck D of Public Enemy on a remix of “By the Time I Get to Arizona,” in response to the recent outrage down south (really worth a listen).  We met near his place in TriBeCa, had some decent Italian fare (but better wine by far), some more than decent conversation, and happily made our way to Central Park for the show.  Despite the stormy weather (of course I wore a silly short-sleeved tunic and sandals), there was a brief lull for most of the play, aided by yet more wine (thank you, dear Paul).  Rain and wind and all, it was a pretty awesome day.  Amazing how connections just happen.  And yes, Al Pacino was incredible as Shylock.  Incredible.  You, too can get a taste of him in the comfort of your own home from the film version of the same play.  Thank you, dear Al.  I must say that I was even more delighted by getting to see actress Marianne Jean-Baptiste onstage, as well.  I have loved following her career since Secrets & Lies, an all-time favorite of mine, so thank you, dear dear Marianne.

Marianne Jean-Baptiste

New York, New York was a gift that kept on giving.  I got to see Margo, a dear friend who in college had staged managed for me, and who is now a producer on Royal Pains.  Jenny, a talented actress in her own right and now a produced playwright, met me for a brief breakfast at Whole Foods at Columbus Circle.  And Kamilah, a talented editor at the Guggenheim who is also the fiction editor of Make Magazine, introduced me to a gourmet underground cafe in Greenwich Village on the very street that was used as the exterior shot of the Cosby Show’s house.

Even more?  That’s right.  I met with another college theater bud, David (he played Romeo to my Juliet in our Shakespeare acting class), who just graduated with an MFA in Dramaturgy from Columbia University.  He completed his thesis doing a performance project with children in Benares, India.  AND my best friend from childhood, Sarit, just had her first baby.  I had a visit with her new family in lovely South Orange, NJ (which proved a minor public transportation adventure, alone).

James Joyce

The frosting on the NYC cake? Bloomsday on Broadway. No friends could come to this one, but my sister Ashley, my dear sweet sister Ashley indulged one of my exceptionally (and painfully) odd quirks.  We went the 29th annual Bloomsday reading of James Joyce’s Ulysses at Symphony Space.  The readers included Stephen Colbert, Ira Glass, Eilin O’Dea, Marian Seldes (who had just received a lifetime achievement Tony Award two days before), and many others.

Chicago: Sheesh has this post become amateur, sentimental and long long long! I will not be doing Justice to Chicago.  What a pity.  My cousin Danielle Klinenberg is a talented artist.  She has had a very successful year, and her work is more beautiful than ever.  We enjoyed a beautiful

"Driftwood" by Danielle Klinenberg

vegan lunch in her garden in Old Town.  Hallie and Rocco Palladino (she a writer, he an academic in philosophy, and both together amazing cooks and food connoisseurs amongst many other things) were a big part of the reason I came to the States last year – for their wedding in Ojai, CA.  A lovelier wedding I’ve not seen.  We hung out twice, talked about everything under the sun, and let me tell you, better hosts (and margarita-makers) in the world do not exist.

My sister Ashley’s (the surgeon’s) best friend Wendy was in town house hunting.  A brill special education teacher, she and her husband are moving back to Illinois after living in the Quad Cities for 3 years (and according to them, good riddance).

Wendy and her sister Dana lived kitty corner to us, and we essentially grew up together since the age of 4 (or 1, as in Ash and Wend’s case). We had a ball hanging in her parents’ house, playing with her new dog Bandit (a “Blue Heeler“), eating spinach and mushroom pizza from Giordanos, and gushing over her dad’s very complete Start Trek anthologies.

My friend Heidi Thompson Saunders, formally the world’s best stage manager and for several years now the best Chicago theater management exec (Court Theatre at the U of C is lucky to have her), hosted her annual barbecue.  There, I reconnected with Elizabeth Levy, actress and theater educator (check out Barrel of Monkeys Theater); Bryson Engelen, an actor whose production of Twelve Angry Men just won the coveted Outstanding Ensemble Award at the Jeff Awards; and John Boller, another U of C theatre friend whom I haven’t seen in years and years. Unlike the rest of us lost souls, John is a mathematics professor at our alma mater.

Aida at the Bailiwick this summer

And finally the last few days: I saw Connor Coyne who has written an avant-garde novel, Hungry Rats, that will be coming out later this summer. Julie Burt Nichols, one of my oldest friends from high school, and I had lunch at a typical old spot for us, The Corner Bakery at Old Orchard Shopping Center.  Julie is part of the producing team that has resurrected Bailiwick Chicago.  Already having produced four or so shows in under a year, they have two going up at the same time, Elton John’s Aida, and Joe DiPietro’s Fucking Men. And this evening I had a refreshing walk all over Rogers Park with Matti Allison and Joe Szentivanyi.  I can’t but nearly burst with excitement when I encounter Matti and Joe.  They are such interesting people, talented artists, that it’s impossible to be bored.  No, impossible not to be fascinated.  They are world travelers, voracious readers, expert cooks, opera connoisseurs, longtime Rogers Park residents, and enthusiasts of dive-curry-shops.  It is essential that each and every reader of this blog who has reached this point check out Matti’s blog, The Squishy Jesus Taxonomy.  I highly recommend the section entitled, Convenient Tit.

Virgin de la Leche with Christ Child and St. Bernard Clairvaux By an unknown artist from Peru 1680 (AKA "the twofer")

And there we have it.  Friends.  My friends.  And there is much more to come.  I’m traveling to Minneapolis tomorrow to see some very old dear friends.  By car.  Alone.  And I had really better get to sleep in order to do that.  Then I’m off to Iowa.  To see more amazing friends.  What a world.  You marvel why there’s any war.

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I’m taking a risk here by potentially admitting to a bizarre fetish. I want to write about it because it’s been on my mind, and I think that it’s something not unique to me.  Perhaps it’s something we don’t speak of, and perhaps it’s something of which we’re probably not even aware.

I like to watch. Don’t get the wrong idea – nothing vulgar here.  People getting haircuts, applying makeup, massages, cooking, painting, quiet repetitive actions.  They put me in a trace-like state.  Sounds weird, but I would almost rather watch a massage than have one myself.  During a massage, my mind races — what should I focus on, what does the masseuse think of me, how do I relax, what am I supposed to be feeling.  When you observe from the outside, the perceived pressure and stress are non-existent.  It’s a kind of meditation.

Living vicariously is part of our way of life.  Reality TV, celebrity gossip, the movies, even reading novels, investing in children’s and friends’ dreams as much as or more than our own — we all have tremendous experience in falling into other worlds.  Daydreams.  Escapism.  Living through others.  And I don’t think these are necessarily all unhealthy delusions.

The worlds in our minds may be a direct consequence of a uniquely human phenomenon — our compassion.  The ability to take upon ourselves another person’s situation and emotions, sharing their experiences, practically succeeding in walking in another person’s shoes, is in itself an extraordinary thing if you really think about it.  Our compassion and sympathy lead us to sacrifice ourselves, help one another, act for a greater good. This ability to share burdens seems to have a positive flip-side — daydreaming.  Our daydreams, a related, pleasurable ability, I think, give us that wonderful opportunity to live out our dreams and fantasies in ways we may never be able to achieve in our everyday lives.  My ability to imagine myself in the place of another who is getting their hair cut must really be an act of some advanced mental acrobatics.

I would kill to lead the first manned mission to mars — but we all know how likely that is.  Imagination is also the source of innovation.  Something else to ponder.  How incredible it is we can hurl our brains about.

So, in the spirit of my admission, here is a video I stumbled upon.  Don’t laugh, OK?  As pleasurable as this massage is to watch, at least for me, you can also learn valuable anti-aging tips.  Enjoy!

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