Thursday, January 28, 2016

Remembering our high-flying fallen: It's that week again

It's not an artful picture, but it is real life... a real-life corner that is the ongoing memorial to what we sadly but resolutely recall each year—what via NASA has come to be known as "Day of Remembrance," or a day within the single week's span in late January when coincidentally over time all three of our American space disasters and loss of life have occurred.

This year, today marks the 30th anniversary of the Jan. 28 loss of Challenger and its seven astronauts at just 73 seconds after launch, as they climbed into orbit, due to overlooked  cold weather effects on the solid rocket booster O-rings that were supposed to keep hot gases in their place. Three of the crew had been among the pioneering women and minorities that Nichelle Nichols had helped to recuit for NASA to open up the astronaut ranks, nearly a decade earlier.

That's their mission patch logo to the left, here at a simple memorial in the original, historic and now preserved Mission Control Room at Johnson Space Center in Houston—nerve center of American space flight from Gemini through the shuttle. I snapped this shot during a visit last fall.

Of course, Jan. 27 was the date in 1967 when the Apollo 1 capsule fire, sparked by an electrical short in pure oxygen with a bulky main hatch, claimed the lives of its crew trio in seconds during a routine pre-launch test at the Cape for what would have been the first use of the new capsule in space; their mission patch is to the right. And Feb. 1, 2002 marks the loss of pioneering shuttle Columbia and its crew of seven as it began orbital re-entry, breaking up under routine stress just 6 minutes from landing due to unexamined damage to a wing's leading edge from ice damage at launch. (That loss happened after JSC's new modernized Mission Control was opened, and this historic place was preserved as it was—without their mission patch as well [though it is prevalent elsewhere].)

All were tragedies... all stemmed from unintended human error and oversight... and all three marked a case when the lives given provided hard education and lessons learned, to move forward after not just mourning but  investigating the loss.

By the way: Between the mission logos, as a reminder of how sometimes tragedy can be averted in a mishap with ingenuity and luck, is the Apollo 13 lunar module mirror claimed from Aquarius after it served as a lifeboat for the safe return of that crew when their command module Odyssey was crippled after an oxygen tank shorted and exploded, turning their moon landing mission into one of simply triumphant survival.

If ever there was a concept that truly evoked Kirk's "Risk is our business!" speech,
NASA's "Day of Remembrance" is it. The NASA webpage has information, video and memorials to all three ships and crews.

It's the kind of day to pause and reflect how far we have come, and how much further the way will be until we realize our future—and the additional lives that will surely be sacrificed as the cost to get there, despite best efforts, along the way. As I always say, I was a NASA kid before I was a Trek kid...and it's one of the reasons why I've always been a booster of all things space and future-looking, including my stint with Enterprise in Space.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Happy 96th, De—a cowboy in and out of Starfleet

Especially this week... if it was ever a secret how I felt about DeForest Kelley and his
creations, and indeed his life, it is no longer—thanks most recently to The Red Shirt Diaries.

It used to be lonely being a vocal De fan—not so much for any negatives for him, but purely for any attention at all. Yet now, with every year that goes by I see more and more appreciation for his long-understated role in the original Star Trek success well as his other roles, including those delicious bad guys.

If you have been a Treklander here for any length of time, you likely know I take a moment on Jan. 20 each year to celebrate De's day by sharing a photo from his life and career. And while many know of all De's TV and film Western roles before Star Trek, in that genre's heydey, few know of those he had after Trek's 1969 cancellation.

And thus comes this year's portrait: Taken during a guest appearance on ABC's short-lived series The Cowboys... In 1974—just five years after Trek's demise. It was the last sojourn in spurs of his career—but boy, De's time in outer space did not dull his feel for the wide open spaces. Don't you think?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Red Shirt Diaries: Ashley, Jason—and who's Bones?!

The truth HAS been out there for some time, but it hit home today: The Red Shirt Diaries is the cutest, bestest and yet heart-felt little Trek parody webseries out there: The fans are flocking, even before last year's "Season 2" Indiegogo that upped the bar this year … the buzz is growing… and now—yes, I got to don McCoy's dark hair and blue tunic once again!


That's Ashley V. Robinson and Jason Inman, of course, who not only announced their engagement recently but also have quite an up-and-coming profile—doing RSD as well as their awesome Geek History Lesson podcast/ YouTube, Jason's  DC All Access webshow co-hosting, and Ashley's burgeoning acting career (listen to this clip!). And of course, they first came on Trekland's STV radar a year ago during that Indiegogo drive (and yes, I still need to post the rest of the vidchat). 

This nighttime fun on Hollywood Boulevard came last Sept. 11 as they held a mini-season premiere screening at IO Club and Theatre for crew, cast and local backers, but I held off the posting until our McCoy spoiler was closer…which, of course, with "Operation: Annihilate!" meant late in the "season." Never fear—you can catch their "finale", RSD's angle on "Amok Time," on Monday next—and of course gotta catch 'em all on YouTube or via the RSD site. (At 5 minutes each, tisn't difficult).

Quite aside from moi's return to solid/dotted-rank, this is quite a landmark episode for Ashley's Ensign, er, Lieutenant Williams as well—and remarkably a big dose of pathos in what is admittedly a winky fun vibe of a series. And how many past World of Williams references can you catch? 

WILL there be a Season 3? WILL their Mirror Universe dream come true? Will Ashley's crack about Commodore Decker bear fruit? It's up to you guys and what they call "online analytics," of course—so, and she says, "SHARE AND LIKE! SHARE AND LIKE!"

Monday, January 4, 2016

CBS/Paramount v Axanar? Some broad thoughts

So, everyone has been buzzing about the joint CBS/Paramount lawsuit filed Dec. 29 against Alec Peters and the "Axanar Works" "fan film" crowdfunded movie. There's been no similar action made against any other fan film that we have heard of—not Star Trek Continues, Farragut, Renegades or New Voyages/Phase II, at least. All of whom, and several more, I've been happy to help promote in the name of a passion fix for fans over this decade-long fallow time for pro Trek—ever since the "gray area" for them to exist as no-income projects was hashed out by New Voyages back in 2004.

But no, this legal action is specific. 

I'm not going to wade into the mushrooming detail points or the back-and-forth here—that's been all over the Interwebs and, five days on, cooler heads are starting to least in public comments and posts. Still, there are issues: Some point to the lawsuit as the answer to a threat perceived by the corporate rightsholders re: the scope or quality of Axanar as crossing the line (at least as has been promised)—but the legal issues, if that broad, would point to shutting down everyone. Some guess this is merely the first salvo against the biggest budget of fan films, and that either the owners enforce their property or they lose it—no middle ground. I hope there's no later, broader action—but, as I have always suspected, this is definitely not a typical mass Cease & Desist or broad-brush campaign (this legal action with outside attorneys is reportedly a second step from the owners after sending Axanar an earlier C&D, despite some direct contact). This is a step up: We've already seen the post-"Viacom divorce" split franchise parents actually act together for once in the lawsuit filing, making the "series or movie?" question moot on this. We'll just have to see where this goes.

I hope it goes quickly.... but as corporations, CBS and Paramount will be notoriously slow to offer any more details that would amount to "fighting it in the press"—although there have been follow-up statements. So we are going to be reduced to reading between the lines, and retconning for past clues and quotes, and a mostly one-sided "he said/they didn't" ... so far. The Intertubes were pretty hot the first day... and t
here are obviously a *ton* of Axanar donors and supporters out there who are not taking kindly to the action. But I have to know this is not 1996, and the big boxes are not blind to that blowback and the potential impact on fandom—and mainstream PR buzz— with a film and series enroute (especially the latter). Thus, the stakes go higher.  There were quick catcalls against big bad CBS, and hoots over the modern nature of franchise ownership vs. fans served after 50 years ... but within a couple days even some online observers started to look at both sides: the immediate hashtag #IStandWithAxanar has now been met with #IStandWithCBS a couple days later... and a host of memes that do not see the production as a martyr, in part in reaction to varied takes on Axanar's public business plan online. And beyond all that, don't make the mistake of thinking that all the world—even all fandom—hangs out on Facebook and blogs 24/7.

As observers, it's also a time to be mindful of who's words we are reading: Who are legitimate journalists versus wannabe bloggers on this, as the "media reports" come out. But it sure has gotten fandom talking—even the mainstream and trade media. And as my buddy John Champion has Facebooked after New Year's Day:  "Congratulations to the 87% of people I follow who have all become experts in the intricacies of federal copyright law in the last four days!"

There's a maxim I learned real early in Hollywood and the Trek business for whenever you try to push the envelope: Just don't do anything to make anyone say "no." A second would be: Don't make anyone ask their lawyer. The fan films exist at all due to the tangle of the legal "divorce" agreements, Paramount and CBS as Hollywood union/guild signatories, etc. … and yet simultaneously their acknowledged obvious value in the pop-culture conversation, especially in a fallow, non-series time. (FREE PROMO! How many tentpole-wannabes would kill for that?)

This is the last way anyone wanted to kick off the big 50th Trek anniversary year, with a movie and streaming series both on the way for summer and then spring—no matter what you may think of them now, sight unseen. So let's hope this gets settled quickly, quietly, and with as little damage to either fandom creativity or the corporate brand as possible.

I've said for a long time that the coming of new Trek weekly adventures, especially, may be what takes a lot of the air out of the fan-film balloon of the last decade, just from the lack of
newly diverted attention and dollars among the masses—without "CBS & Para" having done a thing. It's just human nature... even by fans.

I do know one thing. That filing and the frou-frou sure put me behind on my writing during the mid-holiday "dead week."

And you can bet this will be a deep-dive topic at our Portal 47 Ask Dr. Trek Roundtable in January!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Santa forgot your Trek? Quick, get the Costumes book!

Good on my old friends and colleagues Paula Block and Terry Erdmann for being such a holiday hit: Their new must-have coffeetable book Star Trek: Costumes, Five Decades of Fashion from the Final Frontier was smack front and center (right) in the foyer at my local Barnes & Noble this season!

So, if your Christmas haul didn't include enough of a Trek fix, and maybe somehow the "real" James T. Kirk story is not your cup of tea… maybe you need a heavy-duty dose of Star Trek's incredible costume history… in coffeetable book form (i.e., tons of big photos).

And that's just what you get in Star Trek: Costumes—the other early entry in the book bash for Trek's 50th anniversary.  A huge tome of reprinted, rare and exclusive all-new photos of Trek's finery for any cosplay need out there, this must-have is fresh from Paula & Terry via Insight Editions. Due to our distantly uncrossed paths I can't get you a vidchat here yet (as with David Goodman and other authors in recent months) but take it from me: This is amazing. Including a wonderful intro by TV and film Trek's longtime costume maestro Bob Blackman about his daily life for 16 years, four films and four TV series.

Star Trek: Costumes is 208 pages in 9 1/4 x 12 3/4-inch hardback format, over an inch thick, and covers it all— like the subtitle says, from "The Cage" through Into Darkness. Most of all, Paula and Terry have not only done a host of new interviewing but, for those giants of Trek tailoring and modeling who have passed—led by the great original series' costume designer and motif-maker, Bill Theiss of course—they have pulled together nuggets and insights from others as well from a zillion scattered sources to accompany these vivid, living images. 

The photos are incredible—including all the new imagery of mannequin-adorned iconic designs—but the text is every bit the insight icing on that costume cake. 

The best part is, as with any good Trek research effort, they have have come up with bits that were news to me, too. Anyone who can still give me a fanboy moment after all these years digging in Trekland myself is hardly a dunsel in my book! One was bellydancer/actress Tanya Lemani's revelation that her Kara outfit was a plastic skirt and her own bra, adorned with even more plastic to cover cleavage at studio insistence. Or that the original Motion PIcture Klingon uniforms had been out on loan and tour for five years and had to be rebuilt or recast from tatters for ST III

Most of all, I was tickled and very appreciative to Paula and Terry for a shout-out in the thank-yous, and for annotating some writing of mine from some hot-and-heavy details-talking time with Bob and the film costume designers. Thanks, guys! We'll do that vidchat AND I'll get mine signed then.

Yes, you'll want this one for your shelf for ages. It may even be up in after-holiday sales, now.

Here's some sample spreads, including memories from our lovely friends Mike Forrest and Barbara Luna: 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The new Star Trek stamps: THEY didn't need a petition!

The news today about the four Star Trek stamps for the 50th anniversary next year is welcome, fun news. I love the crisp look by designers The Heads of State, though with a definite Prime TOS  tilt to them… which is, after all, appropriate for the 1966 anniversary. I didn't see a first day of issue listed anywhere, yet, but… Sept. 8, anyone?

And somehow, it is SO perfect that the sight of beaming, a Vulcan salute, the Big E and the delta shield patch with warp stars … should all be emblazoned with FOREVER in all caps.

(Yes, I know that the unending label is about the postage rate. Still,  it's awesome.)

We've come a long way since the USPS finally recognized Star Trek with a stamp, albeit through the backdoor via the 1960s edition of the "Celebrate the Century" millenium-looking decade by decade special stamp sheets, in 1999 (at right). It was a hoot to deal with helping announce the release of that issue in the old Communicator as the official source. Of course, nowadays the Postral Service is hip to giving pop-culturists (and promotion-cooperative media) exactly the nostalgia they crave on a dwindling communication art form.

What's almost forgotten now is that  Bill Kraft, a stamp collector from  Sauk Rapids, Minn., led a lonely, 17-year petition campaign for a Star Trek stamp all through the '70s, '80s and into the '90s to help that along—i.e., on paper with stamps!—way before The Big Bang Theory and the geek revolution made it mainstream. As both a Trek fan and a stamp collector, *I* was a party to that petition as well… and I'm so glad Bill shared the celebrity support letters and the saga of that effort in his book, Maybe We Should Get God to Write a Letter…. still available on Amazon.
How fitting that when news broke about the new bright and shiny pop-art Trek stamps for 2016, I got this short email from Bill about the story:

"I'm assuming it is in conjunction with Trek's 50th anniversary. I didn't even have to campaign this time."

We do still have our Star Trek campaigns to wage, Bill. It's just that commemorative stamps are not one of them! 

Monday, December 28, 2015

STV: David Goodman edits Kirk's bio! —Part 1

Didn't get all the best Trek goodies on your list for the holidays?

If you didn't already grab a copy of David Goodman's The Autobiography of James T. Kirk from Titan Books, maybe now's the time! Available everywhere live and online, it's David's second foray into non-fiction gap-filling, after FEDERATION: The First 150 Years in 2012. (And you know how I am about Trek gap-filling.)

In fact, I grabbed David once again in the off-hours at his office as Family Guy writer-producer to talk about the tome in a new vidchat: his choices, the process, and even fan feedback after Federation

WARNING: Loaded with all kinds of sidelong and unexplained Trek references, of course.

SECOND WARNING: Watch for the remainder of this chat in follow-ups in coming days!

FYI: Portal 47 members got to view this video up to 72 hours early before it went public—one feature of their deep-dive Trekland access.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Gift mail deadlines in Trekland—there's all kinds & prices

Happy holidays! Here's a quick note for you Trekland shoppers and celebrants:

I don't often cross over here from the blog to The Trekland Trunk, the colletibles/gifts outlet for my archival artifacts and oldie/funky retail items. But as the gift season for Christmas winds down, here's a couple of reminders that there's more stuff out of the Trunk than ever before right now, and that some deadlines are fast upon us:

—This week's Sunday-ending "regular" eBay rounds and the "live-n-local" Sunday items on Facebook will be the last that can be mailed in time for easy Christmas receipt. I will catch up all mailings by that next day—Monday, Dec. 21. That hopefully means arrivals by Dec. 24 at the latest. (These photos of TNG door label, James Doohan autograph, Nemesis crew jacket and 2x3x2 TNG Stage 8 stage plan are but a few of what's up this week)

—I"m putting a few other 24/7 items up, both studio collectibles and routine-but-old retail items, as well. They may run through Monday, but I will also get them out the next day.

—For those who are looking for tax-deductible "office decor" or the like, I'll have some items up even through Christmas and until the first of the year.

—Of course, anything can be grabbed at any time if you are so moved.  No need to wait til bid closing dates! I've been putting up a few more "smaller" and yet collectible items, too.

Oh, and one more note: PORTAL 47 has grabbed a lot of my bandwidth this season, but don't forget Trekland: On Speaker remastered archival CDs when you need a great stocking-stuffer for the hungry background Trekfan on your list. The last 3 annual titles are all in stock, and there are multi-disk specials—check it out!

Just order by noon Monday to ensure domestic US arrival by Dec. 24!