11 July 2020

Coronavirus #12: Heading for the global peak

While new cases continue to come down across much of Europe, the virus is very much in full 'rage' in many major countries outside it.

Most notably the United States of America, where the woeful incompetence of Donald Trump is being shown up in a way much worse than hoped. There are those who feared he would spark a massive war with his approach, but to the most extent, he prefers to pick on small targets that can't fight back. Now he faces an enemy he can't tweet bully into submission. 200,000 American deaths out of all of this is a real possibility; all the economic loss of the first lockdowns has been for nothing as governors opened up too early, Trump supporters refuse to wear face masks and the virus remains downplayed by many Republicans.

India, unable to fully lock down in an economy where millions live hand to mouth and South Africa that is largely the same, are also facing large increases in cases, with their testing systems unable to keep up.

It's likely we will get a number of healthcare collapses in the next few weeks as systems even in developed countries like the United States are unable to cope with sheer numbers, bringing up overall death rates.

It will not be a nice time.

****

While only a small percentage of people are dying from this, a significant minority of around 10% seem to be developing longer-lasting health problems as a result of this virus and rehabilitation for them is going to be something that will be a major cost going forward.

This virus doesn't seem to be Ebola or the flu... if anything, it's seeming a lot like polio - most won't have serious problems, only a few will die, but a lot of people will be seriously messed up by this.

****
I continue to pray for those working to tackle this situation. I would suggest you do so to if you are a believer.

04 July 2020

This Earth Thing Called Kissing 2: Electric Choke Collaroo (Review: 'Star Trek' 2.16, "The Gamesters of Triskelion")

Other titles I considered include "Game of Weird Clothes" and "Whip It Good".

****

As they are about to beam down to a planetoid, Kirk, Uhura and Chekov are 'yoinked' out of the transporter bay and taken to a strange planet in a trinary system i.e. one with three suns, where they are captured by some bloke who looks a bit like Ming the Merciless. Their intended fate - to spend their lives as slaves fighting for the entertainment of unseen beings called ""Providers".

****

Written by a woman - a comparatively rare thing in science fiction television even today - this episode has a load of concepts that I am sure I've seen in other works, including control collars used to ensure discipline, an array of very weird costumes (William Ware Theiss clearly had a field day) and brain aliens.

Indeed this episode has been parodied in a number of other shows, including Futurama and South Park.

The overall story is frankly rather poor; there's no true impression of the size of the enslavement operation, the whole security of the operation is reliant on a single person (what if he's asleep?) and the resolution involves some rather lucky misses with spears.

The regulars are mostly pretty good with Scotty, McCoy and Spock getting some fine material on the Enterprise. The main issue is Kirk, who again loses his shirt (good thing they've got a replicator) and falls for an alien woman. His willingness to bet this entire shp is rather worrying...

Speaking of alien women, we have Angelique Pettyjohn as Shahna, a humanoid woman wearing a silver cutout leotard more appropriate for BDSM and with green hair. She has no concept of romance... and generally no concept of acting with her dialogue very clipped. Kirk kisses her... twice. Because he's Kirk and that's what Kirk does.

The other guest stars are also nearly all poor; with the same stilted acting and some more ridiculous costumes. One of the slaves tries to rape Uhura on the grounds that he has been "selected" for her. After she fights back, the whole thing is never mentioned again. Something true of a lot of sexual assault survivors even now.

At least we don't get a comedy ending. 

****

Conclusion

To be rather frank, I wouldn't pay 10 quatloos for this, let alone a hundred.

5/10

20 June 2020

Coronavirus #11: Two metres or not two metres?

The government is reviewing whether the two metre guidelines for social distancing can be reduced to one metre, something many hospitality businesses feel is necessary to for their survival as their capacity is severely constrained at two metres to the point of unprofitability.

The science around the distance ultimately goes back to the 1930s and is subject to a lot of caveats; coughing is more likely to spread the distance than talking for example. Time spent at the various distances is also important. In a way, it's rather like radioactive exposure; a little won't harm you, but a lot will.

However, it is a lot easier to get rid of viral droplets than radioactive substances; the former can be destroyed with just soap and water.

Ultimately, a lot of this will come down to hygiene; a lot of the mini-spikes have been around meat processing plants where a lot of people work in close quarters, some of them not exactly with full legal papers (so they will be reluctant to speak up about any issues) and where hygiene practices can be sketchy. It's a good thing that proper cooking kills the virus too.

I'd personally favour Germany's 1.5 metres with an increased emphasis on face masks; you could wear them while not eating in a restaurant of course i.e. while waiting for the bill.

But I'm not a scientist.

13 June 2020

On the removal of statues

I'm perfectly fine with statues of slave traders coming down; it is not erasing history to remove a statue that is there to venerate someone. Churchill and Baden Powell, while holding views definitely unpleasant now and dubious even then, ultimately did more good than harm.

Ultimately, we should honour God above people. However, when we do honour people, we really do need a wider range of people represented. More than just white men made this country.

06 June 2020

Coronavirus #10: Coming down from the peak

The 'peak' has now very much passed in Europe; in Britain this was in the first week of April. Europe is starting to open up; 15 June will see full openings of many of the internal borders in the Schengen Area.

The UK quarantine regulations start on Monday, but I really don't see them lasting for too long - summer holidays abroad will definitely possible... but in a somewhat different form. Clubbing is likely to be very much off the menu, along with buffet breakfasts.

Fears of a 'second wave' are widespread, with every little rise in cases jumped on by people who believe we shouldn't be lifting lockdown now. We are going to see these mini-spikes across Europe, often hyper-local ones linked to a specific workplace or community. The overall trend in cases is something that needs to be taken into consideration and localised increases in restrictions may be needed as we continue to damp down this fire.

Ultimately, it will be imperative on us to 'stay alert' and take reasonable personal precautions to prevent further spread. That will mean wearing face masks, even if they are pretty uncomfortable, which will be a small price to pay to save lives.

05 June 2020

More than a grain of greatness (Review: 'Star Trek' 2.15, "The Trouble with Tribbles")

This is an episode that's rather hard to review. Firstly, it is considered an absolute fan favourite with a main alien that has turned up throughout the history of the franchise in some form or another - 14 times in fact, with the last appearance being in 2019 in a Short Trek that I don't think I've watched yet because it's not on Netflix in the UK...
Secondly, I've already seen it once.

Anyway, a Priority One message warning of disaster leads to the Enterprise racing to its next destination, a space station called K-7. There is in fact no disaster, which leads to a very annoyed Kirk... but there is a Klingon ship. There is also a trader selling small furry little creatures.

****

For a first professional script, this is a superb effort by David Gerrold (who would write two animated series episodes and was involved with the first season of The Next Generation before quitting after a dispute with Gene Roddenberry over a story idea that was dropped) with Gene Coon providing rewrites. There's a lot of humour, a great plot and an excellent 'threat'.

The regulars are all great, except for Sulu, who isn't in it (George Takei was away for much of the season filming the pro-Vietnam War film The Green Berets). Not just the top three, but Scotty, Uhura and Chekov all are very well catered for in this story; their character traits are wonderfully brought out here. Spock's "I don't feel emotion... until I do" trait gets an excellent appearance here.

No less than 500 tribbles were made for this episode; many went walkies after the episode, others would turn up around the set for months after the fact. They're fairly adorable, although I prefer my cute things to have eyes. The sheer number allows for some wonderful scenes, including Kirk half buried under the things when opening a storage hatch. This in fact took eight takes to get right, with Shatner visibly wondering when this will stop. Well, there are worse indignities an actor can suffer. At least the props were dry.

The bar fight in this episode, when a drunken Klingon insults Scotty's true love - his ship - leads to some truly epic Kirk-fu (without Kirk) that just works here whereas it doesn't where the stakes are truly mortal. Many points to James Doohan for doing most of his own stunts.

The Klingons themselves of course lack the refinement, not to mention the makeup, of their 'later' versions. They're portrayed rather like Cold War Soviets here, engaging in a spot of sabotage for gaining influence. There's a rather interesting bit that foreshadows a certain Star Trek: Discovery character...

One minor flaw - and it's enough to stop this getting a 10 - is that the tranquilising effect that Tribbles supposedly have on people isn't very consistent.

****

Conclusion

An absolute classic. Small and nearly perfectly formed, much like a Tribble, only it won't eat your grain. The Hugo nomination for this episode was justly deserved although another episode would win it.

Those tribbles was robbed, I tell you. Robbed.

9/10

02 June 2020

George Floyd

Many controversial police killing are often cases where a jumpy officer misinterpreted the actions of a person, often with mental health issues that mean they don't understand how to act around police officers.

Not the case with George Floyd, where kneeling on a man's neck for nearly nine minutes had no tactical justification whatsoever, especially once he become unresponsive. The officer who did this has been rightly charged with third degree murder and to be frank the others need charging as accessories.

There have many protests, there have also been riots. There has also been some real police brutality. Donald Trump has managed to set a new low, even by his standards, with his staged photo opportunities at churches... with peaceful protestors forced out of his way by tear gas just so he could do one of them.

Should Joe Biden become President in 2021, he will need to do a lot to heal the United States. The rot runs deep - Trump has some genuine popular support, there is deep-rooted and probably institutional racism in American police forces (including in Democratic cities like Minneapolis) and the justice system has real problems - like the grand jury system, which often fails to indict.

I pray for his success.

RIP George Floyd. You didn't deserve what happened to you.