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The Wrath of Potential

Reading numerous articles lately, I have come across no less than three separate descriptions of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, as a classic – perhaps THE classic – Star Trek movie with the original cast.  Not sure why it is coming up now, but there it is. I know a lot of people have that opinion, but I have never thought so. I always thought the movie lacked what it needed to meet its potential.

Full disclosure: I am a big fan of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I know many will disagree with me. But to me it was always Star Trek for adults, what the world of Star Trek, if it existed, would actually look like: crewmembers who acted like professionals, doing their doing their often-dangerous job in a serious and thoughtful manner. Yes, the movie had its problems. The flyby scenes were certainly too long, although I think they were trying to give us a sense of the scale of the whole thing. Still, they should have known better.  The movie was somewhat esoteric, not an action flick like the Star Wars movies or all the Star Wars wannabes that came out around that time. But when all was said and done, I think the movie they gave us was worth the price of admission.

Star Trek number Two, on the other hand, made me very angry when I first saw it. It was Star Trek for kids. It even had a kid from the Disney movies in it. There were many problems from the opening scene. Kirk is an admiral? I thought we settled that. The enterprise is a training ship? Seems an awful waste of a good ship. Spock is training new recruits? Seems an awful waste of his skills. As things progress, they only get worse.  The crew was all over the place and not acting in a logical manner. The space battles are often laughable, especially in the nebula, where the major problem seems to be static on the viewscreen. “Spock, send crewmen to every major observation port and have them sing out if they see anything.” Seems an obvious solution. Spock’s code of “days for hours” seems like it could be broken by anybody above kindergarten age.

Now I do realize that part of the problem with the movie is that they were trying to keep costs down. The first movie had actually made a decent profit, but compared to the Star Wars films, it seemed anemic to the studio brass. So their solution was to make a movie using little more than the standing sets from the first movie. Very little new was built and there was almost no location work. So, within the confines they had to work in, maybe it wasn’t that bad of a movie.

But what really makes me think that they missed their mark is that they totally wasted their main villains. These guys were super soldiers, with tremendous strength, endurance, and intelligence. They were a physical threat to anybody who came upon them. Yet, they spend most of the movie locked in a spaceship which, as the movie displays, they are ill-equipped to actually pilot and use. That is, in essence, the solution to Kirk’s problem: they don’t really know how to use their ship.

We only see them using their great skills on a couple of occasions. Chekhov gets himself hoisted into the air early on. And a bunch of namby-pamby scientists get killed in a grizzly, off-screen manner. Where was the threat that we should have felt from these retro supermen?  At no point in the movie to the two crews actually come into contact with each other.

This was a horrible waste of potential.

Maybe they should’ve kicked loose with some funds for location shooting. You can imagine what it would be like if the two forces met on a planet surface. You can imagine Kirk’s speech to his crew.

“Attention all hands, this is the captain. Half of you are about to receive orders to descend to the planet surface, where you will defend the colony from Khan’s troops. For those of you who remain on board, we will almost certainly face the Reliant again, a battle that will almost certainly end in either us boarding their ship or them boarding our ship.  So let’s think about this: Super Soldier. It is a name out of history. People bred for war, people bred to subjugate. I understand the fear you must all feel. However, it is best to remember that these super soldiers were defeated, twice, first centuries ago, which is why they are here now, and then again a few years ago, aboard this very vessel. They can be defeated. What you have to remember is that they are creatures of their time. The world you grew up in is foreign to them. Things you take for granted, they do not understand. So I want you all to remember your training, to use your equipment and your weapons the way they were meant to be used. Use your advantages to prevent them from using theirs. Set your phasers on heavy stun, but if they get inside your perimeter, use whatever force you require. Good luck and good hunting.”

The resulting battle, with technology set against brawn, would have been a film classic, I think. With the space battle above and the land battle below, I think audiences would’ve been very entertained and it would’ve compared well with what George Lucas was doing at the time.

That, anyhow, is my feeling on the matter. A great potential was squandered, and I think the resulting movie would have far out grossed the extra money spent on it. But I do not run a film studio and I do not know the office politics involved in trying to get a film made. Maybe they did the best with what they had to work with. But I do not think that film qualifies as a classic. At best, it kept the franchise alive long enough to make better movies and more television. In fact, better television. I always thought The Next Generation made episodes of a higher quality than most of the movies Star Trek was putting out.

I now await your righteous indignation.

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Categories: Pet Peeves

Mouse Transit

November 24, 2015 Leave a comment

Just got back from a trip to Disney World.  Took my mother and her friend – and my wife! – for a five-day, non-thrill-ride tour of the parks.  A good time was had by most.

I often talk and write about Disney World.  I am a fan.  And I also mourn for the Disney of old, who seemed to give a better deal to their guests and had a better vision of what they wanted to accomplish.

If there is one place where Disney is really falling down, it is in their internal transit system.  The monorail is okay and their many ferries do pretty well.  But the bus system is terribly strained, to the breaking point.

It is either feast or famine.  The buses are either very empty or very full – and by “very full,” I mean every seat and every square foot of floor space is taken.  People are encouraged to push in as tight as they can get, some standing where they cannot even grab a handrail.

Now these buses often run at highway speeds on Disney World’s many roads.  It does not take too much imagination to envision one of these fully-packed buses striking a car, bus, stanchion, or rolling over in the ditch.  This kind of accident would have a body count, without a doubt.  Please understand, during the morning rush to the parks and the evening rush back to the hotels, the buses are generally just this crowded.

Adding to the problem, many guests are on scooters or wheelchairs and these take time to load and unload and take a lot of space inside.

I do not have an obvious solution.  The Disney folks must sit around thinking about this very problem.  I don’t think that adding another monorail track would solve the problem – neither does Disney or they would have done so already.

But I don’t think the monorail is the right template in any case.  Instead, they should consider something more along the lines of Tomorrowland’s People Mover.  Running on elevated tracks, cars holding no more than four people, propelled by linear induction, loading and unloading passengers on moving platforms, these cars would run slowly and closely together in the stations but would separate and speed up between stations.  The tracks and stations would all be covered, helping keep the cars lightweight.

Naturally, the system in Tomorrowland only has one station and is, therefore, easy to control.  The new system I have in mind would take that basic system and add more complexity to make it work well for people.  The track would not have to be one big loop; there could be a high-speed switching mechanism allowing branching and there would also be a branch leading into each station.

The first thing a guest would do upon entering a station and again when getting in a car is to select his destination and, if there is more than one person in the car, different destinations can be selected if wished.  Cars would only enter a station if one of the passengers had selected it or if it was empty and there were passengers waiting.

There would be a few depots along the way where excess cars can go and wait for demand to pick up, thereby simplifying routing and saving power.  There would have to be a few quick response teams – mechanic and EMT – driving around on Disney World’s streets, ready to respond to problems as they arise.

Each hotel, theme park, and other destination would be its own station and there would need to be at least one cast member at each station when open.  But compared to – what? – a hundred bus drivers on a shift, that probably constitutes a savings.  Maybe, depending on the level of automation, some stations might be unmanned during quieter periods, with random inspections by security and local cast members.

The theme parks would, in some way, have higher capacity stations, maybe multiple stations.  It would behoove Disney to stagger the closing times of their parks, which they probably already do for the sake of their bus and road systems.

For all the scooter drivers and the handicapped?  Maybe this system could be designed to accommodate them in a manner that does not act as a weight on the rest of the guests.  Maybe special cars that would synch up with a particular spot on the rotating platform where the needful guest is already waiting for it.  If not, perhaps a separate van service, like many cities run for those with mobility issues.

Thinking more about it as I type, this would need to be a very flexible system, with many branches, parallel tracks, and very scale-able.  This would allow Disney to introduce it in phases and work out the bugs as it grows.  It would be everything that the monorail system and the bus system are not.  It would be a twenty-first century answer to today’s problem, not a twentieth century answer with bright paint.

What I am describing could well be a billion dollar system.  Still, Disney has been known to spend that sort of money from time to time.  Maybe it would be worth it to them not to have their guests wasting so much time getting around their campus, not spending money.  To get from a park exit to a hotel can easily take over an hour sometimes.  And the increase in safety has to be worth something as well.

I do not expect that they will build something like this, however.  But they have to do something – the bus system is well past the breaking point already and only getting worse.  As for myself, next time I go, I may well use Uber to get around Walt Disney World.  When you are spending hundreds of dollars a day already, spending another twenty or thirty dollars for transportation can be a wise investment, if it gives you more time to enjoy.

Maybe that is the twenty-first century solution.

Categories: Disney, Pet Peeves, Travel

A Little Cross

So they put in this new Walk sign on our crosswalk.  To explain, our company lunchroom, which many refer to as Panera Bread, is across Montauk Highway from us and we must, perforce, cross this major road for food at regular intervals.  We have had the standard Walk/Don’t Walk sign with the usual idiot button for years.  Now the powers that be have replaced it.

The first thing that happens is that, when you tap the flat arrow button, a disembodied voice shouts at you to “Wait!”

No, really.  It shouts.

Then, as you wait for the light to change, it keeps shouting – ordering – “Wait!” at about ten-second intervals.  This is a “slow” light, so this shouting can go on for some time.

Finally, when the light changes and the sign turns to “Walk” (or is it an icon – can’t remember), the voice says something about crossing Montauk Highway, by name, but exactly what it says is difficult to know because you are already halfway across by the time it finishes it’s sentence.  Meanwhile, a steady beeping is coming from the opposite side of the road – to keep you focused, I suppose.  There may be a countdown timer running too, but the road is really too busy for me to watch anything but traffic; just because the thing *says* it is safe to cross does not mean that it is.

Okay, I suppose the device was put in for the multitudes of blind people known to inhabit Hampton Bays and needing access to Panera Bread, but whatever highway department is responsible must think these blind people are all deaf as well.  It is loud and distracting, which is the very last thing you should want in a culture that sees traffic lights and lane markings as challenges.

I, for one, resolve never to use this loud, electronic pip-squeak again.  It will be safer for me to cross the street if I can focus on whatever it is my fellow citizens are actually doing, versus what they should be doing.  There is probably some traffic engineer, somewhere, who thinks he is saving lives with this thing.  Like most engineers, he is really just pissing people off.

 

Categories: Pet Peeves, Technology

Mozilla Magilla

Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich has resigned his position, which he held for two weeks, because somebody discovered he had donated $1000 of his own money to an anti gay marriage group back in 2008.  What stuff and nonsense!

There is no evidence that he ever used his positions in any untoward or unfair way and he has upheld Mozilla’s inclusion policies.  So, this little Firefox firestorm seems to be about nothing other than purging non-believers from positions for no other reason than they might make somebody uncomfortable.

The strident left is using this tactic all too often of late – note how anyone who questions climate change is publicly branded a “denier” – and I suspect this is going to backfire on them in the fullness of time.  You cannot claim to champion diversity while doing all you can to expel diverse opinion.  People will catch on.  The pendulum will swing back.

Here is hoping it swings back soon.

 

John Lott points out that our soldiers are sitting ducks – when on any military installation.

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/04/03/fort-hood-attack-my-son-our-soldiers-are-defenseless-sitting-ducks/?intcmp=HPBucket

He is absolutely right about this.  Not much of a surprise, however.  The average civilian would probably be stunned to find out how much the military treats its people as children and idiots.  The brass sees no incongruity between using our soldiers – as cannon fodder, if necessary – to defend the nation and allowing the soldiers absolutely no means to defend themselves.

There are stories told about Vietnam, that I have no reason to doubt, where Viet Cong would throw grenades and other explosives over the fence onto a military base, but the guards were forbidden to shoot at them.  Why?  Well, it seems the Cong wasn’t actually trying to enter the base, so they were not to be deemed as targets.

 

Categories: Pet Peeves

Texting

I find it rather odd that, whenever I use the word “texting” while texting on my smart phone, it gets one of those red squiggly lines under it – misspelled word.  That seems rather odd.  Even if it is not in a recognized dictionary, it is a word we all use.

In fact, WordPress also underlines it.

Texting (v): the act of sending a text.

Come on, dictionary makers.  Learn it, live it.

 

Categories: Oddities, Pet Peeves

Who’s the Boss

A few days ago, many websites were showing their support for the very trendy #banbossy campaign.  What is it?  The little bit I read about it – before searching for, you know, news stories of import – is that it is trying to correct the attitude some, mostly male, have towards female bosses.  They say that when a man is in charge, he is called a “leader” and is respected for making decisions and giving orders, but when a woman is in charge, she is instead called “bossy” and receives little respect.

Well, as is often stated, he (or she) who defines the rules wins the debate.  I, on the other hand, challenge the precepts.

I have had many bosses over the years.  As it happens, other than a shift manager at McDonalds in my teens and one of my drill instructors in basic, I do not recall working directly for a woman.  I have, however, worked for many, many men.

Did I respect all of them as leaders?  As bosses?  I did as they directed, when I had to, but I hardly respected all of them.  Many of them were just plain bad bosses, some from the perspective of the employees, some from the perspective of the employer, and some from both perspectives.

They were just plain bad at the arts of leadership and management and they should never have been put in those positions in the first place.  Many of them were fine people, many were technically competent in their industry, but they could never seem to navigate to the twin goals of Mission and Morale.  They could not lead the team to their goal or they could not do it without damaging the team in the process.  Of course, a couple of them really were immoral bastards.

Such bad bosses were often called names, sometimes behind their backs and sometimes to their face.  Bossy?  They probably would have enjoyed being called bossy.  Instead, they were called far worse, “asshole” being about the mildest.

So, no, I do not have much sympathy for women in leadership roles who are being called “bossy.”  You have far more important things to worry about than whether your team is using hurtful words to describe you.  You have a job to do.  Go get your team together, get the job done, and try not to drive your team to other employers while you are doing so.  Grow a spine and quit complaining.  If you cannot do that, then find a non-leadership role that you enjoy doing and, in any case, move on, just like the failed male leader you probably replaced.  Do not be upset if you have to do this; leadership is not a job that everyone can do.  Find a job you are good at.

As for the rare team member, male or female, who constitutionally cannot work for a woman – there are some, of course – then you will have to decide how to move him on to another position or, if he turns out to be more important to the mission than you are, how you can move onto another position.  You are not going to change him.  If this is the issue, then whether or not he refers to you as “bossy” – or other words starting with “B” – is really not all that high on the priority scale, now is it?

In the end, whether somebody commands respect is the responsibility of the leader, not the follower.  Get on with it.

 

Categories: Pet Peeves, Trends