Star Trek: The Original Series :Movie Review

As a self-described "Trekker" since "Star Trek: The Original Series" first warped into syndication, the prospect of this movie inspired in me feelings of both keen anticipation and dread. For years, many of us Trek fans have wanted a movie about the Starfleet Academy days of the original crew, but we wanted it to be true to the spirit of "Star Trek" while adhering to established canon.

Nowadays, however, such sentiments are likely to cause you to be labeled a "diehard Trek supergeek" and berated for being such a dour spoilsport nitpicking over details instead of sitting back and letting this flashy new thing carry you off on a wave of giddy delirium. Well, I don't mind being called a geek, but when other geeks call me a geek, then they need to shut up. In other words, you really can't point out the mote of dust in someone else's eye if you have an action figure stuck in yours.

Anyway, I went to see director J.J. Abrams' big, new, glittering, pulsating, eye-popping STAR TREK movie today, and I must say first of all that it is a grandly entertaining cherry-red fire engine of a space flick. Watching it is like getting up on Christmas morning and finding out that Santa Claus really went all out on your house because you were extra good that year. There's an endless parade of stunningly imaginative set design, amazing special effects, and some action setpieces that made me glad sci-fi movies were invented. The new USS Enterprise looks great on the outside, and the bright, snazzy interiors felt like home after I had some time to settle into them.

Best of all, there was actually a story buzzing around amidst all these cool state-of-the-art visuals. It involves an enormous Romulan warship that has elements of both (a scaled down) V'ger from STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE and the Romulan warship "The Scimitar" from STAR TREK: NEMESIS, and a vengeful Romulan commander named Nero (Eric Bana) who is reminiscent of the vengeful Khan from STAR TREK: THE WRATH OF KHAN and the vengeful Romulan commander Shinzon from STAR TREK: NEMESIS. (An aside: the widely-reviled NEMESIS is one of my favorite Trek movies. Shows you what I know.) So basically, Nero is really pissed-off, he hates Earth, he hates Vulcan, he has a practically invincible starship that can travel through time and destroy worlds, and he's coming to get us. Check.

Meanwhile, we get to see young Kirk and Spock in their formative years, with Kirk a rebellious orphan born in battle and raised in Iowa, and Spock the half-Vulcan, half-human misfit who's unsure which path to take in life and must suffer discriminatory taunts from his full-Vulcan peers. Spock chooses to enter Starfleet (partly to spite the smug Vulcan tight-asses who patronizingly deem him fit to attend the Vulcan Science Academy despite his "inadequacies") while Kirk stumbles into it like a bull in a china closet.

We see Kirk cheating his way through that fabled Kobiyashi Maru test, meeting Spock under less-than-friendly circumstances, hitting on Uhura, and being whisked into a frantic mission to rescue the planet Vulcan from oblivion even though he's been suspended from duty, thanks to an obliging Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy. Once aboard the Enterprise, of course, it isn't long before the young hot-shot proves himself Alpha Male #1 and is sitting in the captain's chair. But first, he must get forcibly ejected from the Enterprise in an escape pod, meet both Scotty and the original Leonard Nimoy version of Spock on an ice planet, get beamed back aboard the Enterprise during warp, and fight to the near-death against Spock to prove the emotion-prone Vulcan unfit for command.

Just how much of this sticks to that pesky "Star Trek" canon that us diehard supergeeks are so nitpicky about becomes irrelevent as soon as the time travel factor enters the equation. Nimoy's "Spock Prime" is there to remind us that whatever happened between the moment the TV series first became a gleam in Gene Roddenberry's eye to the last time Patrick Stewart said "Make it so" is now part of a different timeline that has gone on its merry way into history. Thanks to the Romulan villain Nero and his temporal meddling, we now have a Star Trek universe in which most of the old characters are still there but in which anything can happen.

This rules out what many of us have wished for over the years--a retro-Trek origin story that accurately sets up the later adventures with a steadfast adherence to continuity--but maybe by this point it's not such a bad approach to take. I certainly don't like the idea of ignoring the old fans who have been loyal to Star Trek for all these decades and courting new ones who don't care about its history. Indeed, if it weren't for us the show would've died back in the late 60s and we wouldn't even be discussing it as a big-budget summer blockbuster here in the 21st century.

But after seeing this modern reboot, and being, frankly, dazzled by it, I must say that J.J. Abrams and company seem to have had the old fans well in mind every step of the way. There's an awful lot about this movie that can only be appreciated by viewers who are already familiar with the characters and their history. And seeing all the little details fall into place, even if the fit is a good deal different this time around, is a satisfying experience.

As a film, STAR TREK is killer entertainment that starts out with a bang and doesn't let up. The pre-titles sequence is awesome, with the USS Kelvin under the command of Captain George Kirk going up against Nero's ship in a hopelessly one-sided battle while his wife is in sickbay giving birth to their son James. Later, there's a thrilling parachute freefall involving Kirk and Sulu over the planet Vulcan which leads to aerial hand-to-hand combat atop a drilling platform suspended miles in the air. (In one of several nods to the original series, Sulu even gets to display his fencing prowess here.) The space battles which occur throughout the film are intense, action-packed, and beautifully rendered. And as in Spock's demise in WRATH OF KHAN and the destruction of the Enterprise in THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK, there are a couple of major death scenes here that are stunning and totally unexpected.

Perhaps the most important element in this film's success or failure is in the casting. Chris Pine captures the brash arrogance and boyish likability of James T. Kirk without doing a full-on Shatner impression, while Zachary Quinto seems to have been born to play the young Spock. Other actors--Zoe Saldana as Uhura, John Cho as Sulu, and Simon Pegg as Scotty--convey the essence of their characters while bearing little resemblance to their predecessors. As Pavel Chekov, Anton Yelchin manages to actually make me like the character for the first time ever, giving the proceedings a hefty dose of highly-effective comedy relief. Ben Cross and Winona Ryder aren't great as Spock's parents, but they're pretty good, and Bruce Greenwood makes a fine Captain Christopher Pike. Best of all, however, is Karl Urban as Leonard McCoy. He inhabits the role as though somehow possessed by the late DeForest Kelley, and it's a real pleasure to watch him forming an instant kinship with Kirk, developing his adversarial relationship with Spock, and saying things like "Dammit, I'm a doctor, not a physicist!" for the first time.

Somehow, though, I didn't find the film all that cathartic at the end. Maybe repeated viewings will change this, I don't know. It just didn't seem to do that "climax" and "denouement" thing as successfully as an adventure of this magnitude should, leaving me somewhat less than ecstatic after the fadeout. It could be that this hyperkinetic, visually intoxicating thrill ride lacked the kind of deep, emotional resonance that previous "Star Trek" movies have always had to one degree or another. Maybe these revamped characters and this rebooted universe are so new and unfamiliar that they aren't yet capable of making us feel the old magic. Maybe the emphasis on flash and sensation gives the whole enterprise a slightly superficial quality. Or, most likely, maybe we'll just have to wear this new pair of shoes for awhile before they start to feel as comfortable as the old ones.


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ASEAN says Suu Kyi trial a 'grave concern'

BANGKOK, May 19 - Myanmar's Southeast Asian neighbours expressed "grave concern" on Tuesday at the trial of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, but the chair of their regional group, Thailand, ruled out sanctions.

As a "responsible" member of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Myanmar "has the responsibility to protect and promote human rights", Thailand's government said in a statement.

"It is therefore called upon to provide timely and adequate medical care to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as to accord her humane treatment with dignity," it said, noting the generals had ignored ASEAN's previous calls to free her.

Suu Kyi, whose latest detention began in May 2003, is charged with violating the terms of her house arrest after an American intruder spent two days in her home this month. The trial started on Monday and was due to resume today.

Critics say the charges, which could see her jailed for five years, are aimed at keeping the Nobel Peace laureate in detention until after elections in 2010. She has denied the charges.

Since joining ASEAN in 1997, the generals have been a thorn in the group's relations with the West, which has repeatedly urged ASEAN to exert more pressure on the regime.

Critics fear a proposed human rights body under a new ASEAN charter signed in 2007 will have no teeth, given the charter's commitment to the group's mantra of non-interference.

Thailand, which holds the rotating chair of ASEAN, said the group was ready to "contribute constructively" to national reconciliation and a peaceful transition to democracy in Myanmar.

But it also warned that with the eyes of the world on Myanmar, "the honour and credibility of the Government of the Union of Myanmar are at stake".

The military has ignored the international outrage over Suu Kyi's trial as it pushes ahead with a "roadmap to democracy" expected to culminate in elections next year. The West calls it a sham aimed at entrenching the military's grip on the country.


The European Union threatened tougher sanctions against the regime on Monday, four days after the United States renewed its measures against the military government.

But some EU ministers said Asian countries could exert a stronger influence on Myanmar. They planned to discuss the situation with their Asian counterparts at a meeting of foreign ministers in Hanoi next week.

The Europeans are unlikely to secure tough measures from ASEAN, which has shunned sanctions in favour of engaging the generals, although neither policy has worked over the years.

China and India - which have strong commercial ties to the impoverished but resource-rich former Burma - have been silent on Suu Kyi's trial.

Thailand, which shares a 1,800 km border with Myanmar and is a major trading partner, has made clear sanctions are not an option.

"Thailand will not use strong measures or economic sanctions against Myanmar because it is not an appropriate resolution for the current problem," Foreign Ministry official Chavanond Intarakomalyasut told reporters yesterday.

Aside from Thailand and Myanmar, ASEAN's membership includes Singapore, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines.


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48 Per Cent Disapprove of San Fran Nan’s Speakership

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is now as popluar as the Congressional GOP and sinking fast.
Nearly half of all Americans — 48 percent — disapprove of how the California Democrat she is handling her job as Speaker of the House in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Monday, while 39 percent approve of her performance.

ra635686436jpgx400y299q 48 Per Cent Disapprove of San Fran Nans Speakership
That rating makes her less popular than other members of her party — congressional Democrats drew a 51 percent approval rating in last month’s CNN/ORC survey — and roughly in line with the congressional GOP, which drew positive ratings in April from just 39 percent of those polled.

That puts her approval rating at roughly the levels Newt Gingrich had in his first year as Speaker of the House. (Back in 1995, Gingrich’s approval rating was 37 percent; by 1997 — at the same point in his speakership that Pelosi is now — that had dropped to just 25 percent.)

The telephone poll of 1,010 Americans was conducted May 14-17, and has a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.


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Rapper “Dolla” Killed Outside Of Los Angeles Mall

Atlanta-based rapper Roderick Anthony Burton II, aka “Dolla,” was fatally shot yesterday.

The shooting went down at approximately 3:10 pm in the valet area of the Beverly Center, and the alleged killer drove away in a silver Mercedes SUV. Thankfully, police arrested the alleged killer at LAX.

This seems soooo Notorious B.I.G. / Tupac. Rapper shootings are lame and sad.


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Jon Gruden: Monday Night Football

Gruden replacing Kornheiser on MNF team. ESPN

Pens hold off ‘Canes for 1-0 lead in East finals. FOX Sports

LB Harrison to skip Steelers’ White House visit. Sportsline

2009 Is Year Undie Runs Started To Include Dance Contests At University Of Texas.Busted Coverage

For Once, The San Francisco Giants Do Something Smart With Their Money. Deadspin

Nuggets, WWE Fighting Over Pepsi Center Time. Sports By Brooks

Former NBA star Brian Grant deals with diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Ballhype

Top 10 NBA-Celebrity Look-a-likes. The Hoop Doctors

Bresnan and Anderson rout Windies. Cricinfo

Michael Irvin Takes Care of Paralyzed Scout, Pumps His New Reality Show. Fanhouse

Who should be Chelsea’s manager next season? The Spoiler


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American Idol Contestants Kris Allen & Adam Lambert First Press Conference

The remaining contestants of American Idol season 8 Adam Lambert and Kris Allen had their first press conference at the Nokia Theater yesterday. The question that was everybody mind if Adam was straight or gay wasn't even asked (shocker), guess they won't "reveal" it yet till the season is over cause they don't want to "ruin" his image to young girls yet but we already know he's gay. When Adam was asked if he wanted to give out anymore secrets about Kris, he said there is nothing else to tell. Why is it all about Adam and not Kris. I hate how the press is throwing Kris under the bus when he is the better one out of the two and will be successful when the season is over. Anyways, check out the interview they did at the Nokia theater yesterday below courtesy of E online.

Kris, there's been talk that since you are active in your church, that the Christian vote is helping you. What do you think of it?
Kris Allen: I hope that having the Christian vote does not help with anything. I hope it has to do with the talent and the performance that you give. It's not about religion and all that kind of stuff.
Adam Lambert: This is a singing competition, not a church thing.

Kris: Yeah, totally.
Adam: I would hope people vote based on what they like to hear. I don't think it has anything to do with your religious background, what color you are, gender. It doesn’t have anything to do with that.

Do you have any pre-show rituals leading up to the big night?
Adam: Just get some sleep, which has been tough. We both are used to a lot lower pressure situations…a little bit. I think we're both really excited.
Kris: I'm just gonna spend a little bit of time alone and make sure that I'm focused.

Adam, what did you think of Katy Perry putting your name on her cape last week?
Adam: Oh wow, I mean, I'm a huge Katy Perry fan so that was really cool to see my name. I don't know. She might have been making a double reference to Elvis. I don't know what she was doing. It was very clever. And, it was incredibly flattering. It made my night.

Adam, a lot has been made about your professional experience. What do you think about it and Kris, what do you think about how much experience Adam has come into this with?
Adam: Well, um, this isn't theater. So I don't really see how it affects it at all. I mean, obviously I've had experience onstage performing, but so has Kris just in different venues. Kris has worked with a band. I've worked in theater. We both have experience. I think the thing that is really cool about this competition is that it's an equal opportunity situation. It doesn't matter. The only rule that is set up is that you cannot be in a recording contract. And, American Idol has played by those rules and so have we.
Kris: He's done the theater thing…and, me, I've had as much experience as he has just not in Wicked.

How do you protect your voices before two big shows like these?
Kris: Don't talk too much and don't sing too much right now.
Adam: I think during rehearsals we try not to push it. We're kind of holding back a bit for rehearsals.
Kris: Texting more than talking on the phone.
Adam: On our AT&T phones. [Laughs]

Do you have any superstitions going into the finale?
Kris: I don't, personally. Just make sure that I'm focused. That's it for me.
Adam: I'm not very superstitious either. The one thing I will say for me is that I try to think all in positives, nothing negative. Positive thought is really powerful. Like we said a million times, Kris and I are friends. At this point, we both feel like we've already won. We've arrived. We've gotten to the finales. We get to do a great show tomorrow and on Wednesday. We're just going to enjoy it.

On a scale of 1-10, how nervous are you?
Adam: Five.
Kris: Five or six.
Adam: I'll get more nervous right before.
Kris: Yeah, tomorrow we'll be like 10.

How do you size each other up?
Adam: We're just very different types of artists. And at this point, it's not about out-singing each other. It's not like a direct competition; it's about both of us staying really true to what we do.
Kris: For me, I'm not going to go out there and out-sing Adam. We are two totally different artists. I do my thing and he does his thing. And, it's whoever America votes for.

Simon recently commented on an old photo of you Adam when you were blond and said if you hadn't changed your hair to dark, you might not be where you are right now. What do you think of that?
Adam: My hair has been every color I can think of. I just like to change it up. There's blue in it right now. That's really interesting. Maybe if I was blond I wouldn't have done as well. Who knows?
Kris: And, maybe if I was blond I wouldn't have done as well?

What is your next day going to be like?
Adam: I'm going to get a really big room service breakfast. I'm gonna get a really good breakfast. Do it up right, Hollandaise sauce, the whole nine yards.

What's the best advice you've received and where do you get your strength, courage and confidence for tomorrow?
Adam: One of the biggest constructive pieces of criticism I got was from Kara [DioGuardi] who was like, 'it's great and there's no question about your voice and you look great. But, I just don't believe it.' And, so something that I've taken to heart from early in the competition is to really come into it emotionally and try to make it come from a real place. And, that's actually something that with theater that I had to kind of break my habits with. Everybody goes, 'Oh. He has an advantage because he's in theater.' It's a totally different thing than theater. You're playing to a giant audience in front of you. There's no camera up in your face. So, one of the big things I had to do was kind of turn it around and approach my material differently and make it real and make it come from my heart.
Kris: Probably the Simon [Cowell] [comments] about him giving me so much more confidence because I think at the very, very beginning of the competition I was comparing myself to everyone else and [saying] 'I don't know if I can sing like that' or 'I'm not like that person.' And, so I didn't really believe I could win it.

You guys are friends. What's a little known fact that Adam knows about Kris and Kris knows about Adam?
Adam: I think everybody knows everything now. It's kind of like everything's cracked open. I don't know if there [are] any more secrets.
Kris: We've done press before and I've talked about Adam's nail polish in the bathroom and stuff.
Adam: I've got a very messy bathroom situation. Kris has like three products and I have like every one I can get my hands on.


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Obama statements encourage Palestinian jihadists

Why shouldn't they be encouraged? PLO Ambassador to Lebanon Abbas Zaki said this last month: "With the two-state solution, in my opinion, Israel will collapse, because if they get out of Jerusalem, what will become of all the talk about the Promised Land and the Chosen People? What will become of all the sacrifices they made - just to be told to leave? They consider Jerusalem to have a spiritual status. The Jews consider Judea and Samaria to be their historic dream. If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse. It will regress of its own accord. Then we will move forward."
"Palestinians see Obama statehood comments encouraging," from Reuters, May 18:

...After meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington, Obama said it was in the interests of both Israel and the Palestinians "to achieve a two-state solution".
Netanyahu, in his remarks after the meeting, reiterated that he supported self-government for the Palestinians but made no mention of a state, a position underscoring a rare rift in U.S.-Israeli relations.

"The statements by Mr. Obama are encouraging while those by Prime Minister Netanyahu are disappointing," Senior Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdainah said.


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Sri Lanka: What happens now?

Via Matt Yglesias, Kevin Drum states one of the big unanswered questions about today's big news from Sri Lanka:

And now the hardest part: can the Sinhalese majority bring itself to treat the defeated Tamil minority charitably after a quarter century of brutal war and nearly 100,000 deaths? Stay tuned.

Another question, if the remaining pro-Tamil extremists do indeed return to their "guerilla roots," as many are predicting, to what extend will the internaitonal Tamil diaspora continue to fuel the conflict. Bringing in a COIN perspective, Abu Muqawama's "Carlos" gets at this question though I think he may be overstating the degree to which diaspora support for the Tigers is the result of coercion. As Nirmala Rajasingam wrote for FP last week:

The Tamil diaspora community is isolated by its own nationalism. Co-opted by the LTTE, it has made no contribution to peace. While the ravages of war encouraged Tamils in Sri Lanka to rethink the LTTE's secessionist project, the diaspora embraced it even more firmly, not having been affected by the collateral damage of that war directly.

In other words, even if the Sri Lankan government can improve conditions in the Tamil regions and bring separatists into the political process, it might not be enough if the Tamil communities abroad continue to side with the irreconcilable elements of the independence movement.

One final question, to what extent will we ever really know what happened during the last stand of the LTTE? Throughout this phase of the conflict, reliable information has been frustratingly hard to come by, with most battlefield reports and statistics coming directly from the combatants themselves.

Yes, the fact that the Sri Lankan military blocked journalists from the conflict area didn't help, but I can't help the feeling that the international media dropped the ball on this one. (Notice, for instance, that yesterday's decisive New York Times piece on the Tigers' defeat was written by reporters in New Dehli and Bangkok.)

Not that it's entirely the newspapers' fault. Given the economic realities big news organizations are facing, and the fact that this conflict flared up at the same time that Pakistan was falling into chaos and the world's biggest election was happening in India, Sri Lanka was sadly just one South Asian conflict too many. As the International Crisis Group's Andrew Stroehlein wrote a few weeks back, the battle that just ended in Sri Lanka is a pretty good preview of what a world without foreign correspondents will be like, and it's a discouraging vision.

With the conventional war ending, Sri Lanka will quickly fall from even its peripheral spot in the international media spotlight. At the same time, whatever pressure that international organizations and governments had brought to bear will also dissapate. This means that it will be entirely up to the Sinhalese and Tamil communities (and their international diasporas) to put together a full account of what happened and devise a way of moving forward that avoids more bloodshed. They're on their own now.


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Notre Dame and Obama

A nice policy to come out of the Notre Dame scandal would be a Catholic prohibition on honoring sitting politicians of any kind.

Notre Dame President Fr. Jenkins' motivation in the whole affair is obviously a just a crass desire to gain influence with a powerful man.

Any time an honorary degree or award of any kind is given to a powerful person, it's always safe to assume that the entire event is just a transaction to buy influence. Giving out the award brings a chance to have dinner with (or get attention from) the powerful honoree, and make him or her more likely to remember you: "Here, Senator So-and-so. Please accept this award for being so wonderful. Now let's go chat so I can feel important."

Fr. Jenkins is just a groupie for anyone who can make him feel important and connected, and he seized an opportunity to kiss a sitting president's back side in exchange for a little attention. It's quite sad to watch, actually, and outrageous.

Of course, the fact that Obama has ordered bombs to be dropped on women and children on numerous occasions (like Bush and Clinton before him) causes no one to bat an eye.


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