Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give-Away

Welcome back to another installment in the 391 & the Army of Astraea Bandcamp hosted Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give Away.

Today's issue is the first in a series of four releases of the instrumental score of Nevekari Enterprises' narrated short film, "The Dark Wood". Created just in time for last Halloween and released on-line in November, the soundtrack for this "creepy pasta" type ghost story features layers of environmental sounds, electronic sound-scapes, and acoustic piano.


Till next time.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

A Gauntlet Guest Star and 6,000th Page View Celebration

As the Gauntlet is poised to commence its lucky eighteenth month online, coinciding coincidentally with the site breaking six-thousand page views from readers located in well over thirty countries on six continents, I thought it would be nice to mark the occassion with some spiffy new promo art. This darling little pic features a guest "appearance" by my be-gauntleted daughter, with whom I have collaborated with on several music, film and art projects.

Thank you all so much for your continued interest and support of his crazy artistic-political social media experiment. The best is yet to come.

Till next time.

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Natural Rights of Free Speech, Controlled Social Media, and Nativists vs. Islamists in the United Kingdom

As an American I think that I always assumed, as I imagine many others do as well, that since the United States of America was culturally and philosophically derived from the Classical Liberal values of the Enlightenment, and in general, born of the "Anglo-sphere", that many, if not most of our two nation's laws were shared. Obviously this assumption was based more on notion rather than an exhaustive study of English legal code, but regardless, I think that the idea of Anglo-American "same-ness" is embedded fairly deep in the consciousness of my fellow countrymen.

I have to admit that over the last couple of years, this perception has been shattered for many of us who have been keen on studying, at the very least, how cultural shifts in the US have been paralleled by similar if not identical ones around the rest of the world. The skeptic rebellion against "Gamergate", Intersectionism vs. Free speech anti-PC culture, and the mounting dichotomy between the globalists of the left and the sovreignists of the right has forced these issues to the forefront of internet lifestyle and legacy media polemic, especially since the highly contested elections of 2016.

In America this was overtly reflected, of course, mostly by the election of Donald Trump, and in Great Britain, not so much by the re-election of Theresa May, but more so by the Brexit referendum.

While Trump's style is a bone of contention, even to many of his most ardent supporters, the issues with Theresa May run a lot deeper. Unlike Trump, who for all his bravado, accomplishes his agenda piece-meal, Theresa May is perceived as a feckless mouth-piece who does not reflect what the Tory party and its voters actually want. Even in the push and pull of Brexit, May is in essence a "remainer" who only moves forward with her parties agenda because she must.

The Conservative impulse is strong in Britain, but it must be wielded by the right leader, and May is not that ideal helms-person. This phenomena of right party-wrong personality was made demonstrably clear in the last election, where May was barely able to maintain the slightest margin of a majority (with the aid of a coalition) against the her Trotskyite anti-Semitic Labor Party foil, Jeremy Corbyn, who I wouldn't trust to cat sit, let alone run a party and nation. The American equivalent of Theresa May in the 2016 election would have been if instead of Trump, that the anointed candidate was a Republican-in-name only, Neo-Con Corporatist like Lindsey Graham receiving the nomination.

In the US, there is a reason why Neo-Cons, like war-hawk John McCain, legacy scion Jeb Bush, flunky-stooge Chris Christie, and mealy-mouthed Graham ranked at the bottom of the pack, and were firmly trounced by actual Conservatives, Libertarians, and in the end, by a Socially Liberal "rabble rousing" Populist. This was of course because of the Tea Party, and the slow reformation of the Conservative movement in the US over the last decade. As the rightist spectrum widened to take on a diversity of platform, this forced the "factions" to move to acknowledging their shared policy, rather than enforcing an outdated pecking order and forging yet another coalition of "frienemies". The right in essence came together to combat the left's dominion of the media, academia, and in general, in our society at large. Due the far left's increasing radicalization, embrace of Intersectionalism, and their abandonment of our once shared Classical Liberal ideals for the greener pastures of Marxism, the mantle of these values fell firmly to the right.

But, in Great Britain, this was not so obvious.

Brexit certainly reflected the desire of a portion of the voting public to escape the micro-globalism of the European Union's circular economy, and the left predictably framed those who vied for sovereignty as "old", "nativist", and of course, "racist" - as if British citizens would no longer be able to call their friends in France, or visit Ibiza for summer vacations if Brexit came to pass.

Regardless, the predictable tropes of the identitarian left rang out as they accused everyone but themselves of racism, an ironic phenomena as they focus almost exclusively on the subject of race, class, and gender warfare, like the well-meaning, and for the most part unknowing, Marxists they have become.

This media backlash was highlighted a few months prior in Luton, when after years of internet activism, the press decided it was now time to turn their guns on the "Britain First" movement, and the bile soon followed.

For those of you who don't remember, or don't know, Britain First is a Christian and nativist group that intentionally baits England's Muslim community by marching through their neighborhoods. Conversely, the Muslims of Luton are very adversarial and abusive to the group, claiming in response that "England is theirs", and regurgitating almost ISIS-like Caliphate rhetoric. All in all an exercise in tension building and so, well, un-English.

For me, this situation vexes me in that the group, or at least their leader, Jayda Fransen, was brought up on hate speech charges - a not so minor offense in England, suitable of substantial jail time. Now, I may not like the adversarial nature of the group, and I might be suspect of their racism, or religious zealotry, but to make cast their protest as illegal is just too authoritarian for me. But this is the case with May's Britain, as humorous YouTube videos, what I would call "light trolling", and even just expressing an opinion that someone else does not agree with, has brought police into many a home.

Oh yes, didn't I mention? The police are not required to have a warrant to do that in England - they can just waltz right in. Oh, and they also don't have what we something else we have in America, a Constitution that guarantees our right as citizens to free speech. Who'd have thunk it?

Discourse has been historically open in Great Britain due to tradition, and one's right to express one's opinion has always been insured by the sensibility of "fairness" that is part and parcel of "British-ness". But as I said, Marxists trade their natural born traditions and natural rights for what they feel is a better code, that of an unrealistic future utopia, that has of yet has had sketchy results at best, and has led many a nation in Totalitarian Communism and caused the deaths of over 100 million persons in the twentieth century. 

But back to Fransen and her little group. To draw another parallel, I find the equation of Britain First's marches quite similar to an intentionally immodestly dressed woman walking through a Chasidic neighborhood in the US or Israel and having stones thrown at her. As a staunch secularist, I believe religious extremists have no right to impose their way of life, be it guided by Sharia or Halacha, on communities who do not share their religion or culture. However, on the other hand, while I believe that the woman has the right to dress any way she pleases, I guess I also feel that she should have known better than to "push it in their face".

In my opinion, religious minorities who settle in other nations must adjust to some extent to the dominant culture. They are free to practice their faiths and to speak their languages, etc., but national secular law must be viewed as transcendent of their personal religious code. In this the majority or Christians, Hindus and Jews have accepted this Post-Napoleonic paradigm, though I must add that a great number of Muslims, worldwide, have not reached that cultural and philosophic level in their development yet.

If a certain percentage of the Muslims in England continue to envision their dominance in Britain as a means to coalesce it into "Pakistan North", they will eventually be faced with much harder push back than a handful of Christian-nativist activists carrying  a few placards through "their" enclaves. Perhaps it will not be a "V for Vendetta" future, but if Britain continues to turn a blind eye to literally some 30,000 known ISIS devotees and "grooming gangs" who live within their borders, I'm sure that the British people from the ground up will not fail to oblige nationalist expectations in the future. If the largest surveillance state in the world is unwilling to take action, except for censoring internet opinion of its native born citizens.

In the aftermath of the group's attention in England, President Trump, for some reason felt the need to re-tweet the video, which of course, triggered the anti-Breitbart / anti-Bannonite media, and ushered renewed cries of "the sky is falling" Trrump-race-apocalypse. I for one was not surprised by Theresa Mays placation of the media and moderate Tories by condemning Trump's twittering, but then again, she is a feckless mess of a PM.

Obviously, as is said in every case involving any Muslim, I agree - "It's not all Muslims". However, I must point out that historically, when Muslims achieve a certain population level within a dominant society, including lands that are now Muslim dominant, they start to push their agenda in a very overt way. Islam, as a machine, was designed as a community conforming vehicle that only truly understands the inevitable outcome of its own numerical domination. Because of this factor, there is always the danger of a Muslim society coalescing into a theocracy.

Even though Judaism and Islam share many facets of belief, practice and cultural sentiment, there is a good reason why Israel is an intentionally secular state. Jews understand all too well the danger of letting "the beards" run the show. The religious impulse dragged them into several wars with Rome that led to a massive decrease in their population. The same goes for Italy. In the middle ages no one thought there was anything odd about a Pope leading military campaigns. Now pretty much any Catholic would find that notion literally insane.

Objectively, I must point out that Muslims are only 1300 or so years into their development and, if you parallel that with where Judaism or Christianity were at that same point, both were massively violent.

Islam, in my opinion, presently requires a "reformation" of a sorts, but that shift must spring from within their community, not from without. Until this occurs the radical "jihadist" element will continue to be problematic. It took the Romans beating down on the Jews for half a millennia, and about the same amount of time with Christians killing one another in Europe till they both said enough is enough.

As stated, Islam and Judaism possess many culture and legalistic similarities, and if you look at the Roman period, the distinction between what defined a Jew as politically nationalist was tethered to local family bonds and the faith. In many cases this was extreme and even eschatological, such as in the Bar Kokba War, and Jesus' movement. Christians generally envision JC as the prince of peace, but in a larger cultural context, and I'm sure to Romans at the time, little difference between he and a member of ISIS would have been discerned. After all, Jesus' second in command, Judas, was a leading "Sicari" or "Iscariot", who were political assassins that targeted Judean "collaborators" with Roman rule.

Around the time of the events in the gospels his group had just succeeding in murdering the High Priest who ruled in conjunction with Herod and Pilate.

So, what I'm saying is that Muslims in general possess the same inward, romanticized view of their "activists" that Jews and Christians possessed in the past and which pretty much does not match how non-Muslims view them.

Over the course of being diminished to a minority through war and dipersal, Jewish halacha (religious law) came to state explicitly that national secular laws takes precedence over Jewish religious law. Jews in one country can expect to be in an army and fight and kill other Jews who are citizens of the enemy nation. Christians also grasp this paradigm. But I expect that though Islam does state compliance, the more extreme a Muslim is in practice, the more they would have a problem with this notion, as their concept of community vis-a-vis separation of church and state is extremely limited. At best the Islamic world has only embraced toning down their both their sectarian violence by way of pumping up military nationalism, as in Egypt and Turkey's case, or Ba'thist Socialism, as under Saddam Hussein and Assad Sr. And Jr. in Iraq and Syria.

To the left, someone like Jayda Fransen, SHOULD be imprisoned, and "white" people in England should be no longer free to propound their opinions. Yet, they turn a blind eye to  Islamists who spout hatred toward Christianity, because in their Marxist identitarian hierarchy, and cultural imagination, Muslims rank very high, and they must be afforded "special allowances".   

Sadly, from the truly indoctrinated leftist perspective, Muslims in Luton should be free to desecrate church statues of the Virgin Mary, harass native English girls for their western dress, or worse, but it's absolutely horrible when one British pro-Christian woman gets in their face about it! Imprisoning Fransen for her activism, which I imagine is drawn from her sense of the impending doom that her culture is dying does not seem like the fair-play the for which the English are reputed. Is not free speech for people of all religions? I firmly believe that Fransen's group should not be sacrificed on the alter of political correctness in the number one surveillance state and controlled internet outside of China and North Korea, especially when both sides are equally belligerent to one another.

Unlike in Britain, according to the US Constitution I am free to say, for example, that I think Mormonism is at best a religion based on a 19th century sci-fi fantasy book, and unless I attempt to blow up a Mormon church, then who the hell cares what I say? By the same litmus of May's internet censorship initiative, then such statements would be a jail-able offense.

If the English just bend over for the Islamo-fascists and Britain "takes it with a stiff upper lip" then I truly think that they are not fully grasping the socio-cultural dynamics and realities of middle-eastern and Asian populations. Step one should be that the Koran should be required reading, well, everywhere.

My personal historical specialty is in the ancient near east and medieval Spain. I have family members who hail from Egypt and Iraq, and obviously, Israel. I have Christian friends from Iraq who families lived under harsh Muslim oppression, and I have Muslim friends from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. I have written award-winning scripts that feature Muslim subject matter and have I been lauded for my deep understanding of Muslim culture. So, once again, while I dislike the conflict between the "factions", there must be parity in how both sides are treated in the media and in regard to free speech.

Of course this is not really about Islam, Christianity or Socialism, per say, it's really about extremists. Muslim extremists, Christian extremists, and Marxist extremists. However, at present, a Christian extremist won't bake a gay wedding cake, a Marxist extremist concocts street brawls with assumed "nazis", and a Muslim extremist blows up British children at Ariana Grande concerts, or throws gays off of roofs. Not quite the equivalent we're looking for.

This sort of problematic Christian-Muslim cultural interaction is by no means solely an English problem. It is an European problem. French women are now being chased out of Muslim owned cafes in Paris if they are not accompanied by a man, just like back at home. Problem is they are not at home, these immigrants chose to come to France, a country where women are free to go where they please.

Let's not even get started on Sweden.

After the Manchester bombing, provocative singer, Morrissey, simply stated that perhaps its time for Britain to review its immigration admittance policy. No shock that the left ate their own and turned on him on a dime. Always considered a firm leftist and anti-Tory, he was, no surprise, accused racism by even raising the questionable policy of admitting immigrants who might be ISIS operatives. Sorry Morrissey.

But this all flows from the font of Marxist deconstructionism of classical liberal values of the enlightenment. It is entirely propagandist, anti-American, anti-free speech, and for me, is very painful to watch or read. Marxists trade exclusively in Class, Race and Gender Warfare. However, the disconnect occurs because they do not function in a world of Religious Warfare. Marxism is an exclusivist ideology and thus it is structurally at loggerheads with Islam, another exclusivist ideology. Marxists think that they can convince Islamists that they possess shared goals, and that Islam and Marxism can function together, but Marxism can not or will not compete with other ideologies and attempts to destroy all religion, since their very existence threatens their ideology. Ironically, Islam proposes the same. Make the state subservient to the ideology of Islam.

So take care United Kingdom, you'll have to suffer Theresa May and the European Union a tad bit longer, but I expect that the unassailable Jacob Rees-Mogg will soon step up and straighten out Brexit, the economy, and infuse some core "British-ness" back into the cultural milieu and public discourse of our brothers across the pond.

Till next time.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give-Away

Welcome back once again to the Gauntlet of Balthazar's Bandcamp hosted 391 & the Army of Astraea Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give-Away.

Today's little number is called "Root, Knife and Twine" and it is an admittedly peculiar track that is the second in a series of pieces built around a variegated rhythm composed and performed in the spiffy Drum Jam Mobile Music App. It jarringly devolves into a syncopated cacophony in the latter half.

As an aside I should probably point out that the title refers to the necessary implements required for use in certain magikal invocation rituals.


Till next time.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

From the Writers Studio: The Roddenberry Philosophy, Ensemble Scripting, Abram's Revisionism, and Star Trek Discovery

Like many, many millions of other people my age, and I guess even younger, I have been a life long fan of Star Trek. I am by no means a total fan boy, geek, or purist, and it’s not that I’m not a fan of other Science-Fiction outings, in fact, quite the opposite. I have been enamored by many franchises, films and books in various Science-Fictions genre and particularly of Space Opera. But for me, Star Trek is probably THE starting point for any comprehensive media entity worth its salt. Six multi-season television series (with a total of almost 750 aired episodes), not counting the animated series, thirteen feature films, toys, books, and enough geek references to shake a stick at in popular culture.

I will confess that I watched from the very beginning, and the Original Series is still a vague memory of my earliest childhood along with Felix the Cat, Gigantor, and a number of other shows that I saw, (gasp!) in black and white. But, to be honest it wasn’t until the mid-seventies, when Star Trek: TOS was first re-broadcast in syndication that I truly started to understand the importance of the series to science-fiction specifically and to popular culture in general.  

There were of course clear antecedents to Star Trek: The Original Series, most notably the 1956 feature film “Forbidden Planet”, which stared Leslie Nielson as Commander John J. Adams of the Starship C-57D, en route to Altair IV to discover the fate of an earlier earth expedition led by Doctor Edward Morbius, played by Walter Pidgeon. Rather than build this universe from the more fantasy and action elements of popular Pre-World War II science-fiction radio plays such as Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, the producers, director, and screenwriter, instead attempted to present a situation that seemed for the most part based in the real world.

In structure the Cyril Hume re-write of Irving Block and Allen Adler’s 1952 script, “Fatal Planet”, is essentially a re-rendering of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, and for this alone Forbidden Planet has received many accolades and credit for successfully grafting science-fiction film into a more literary framework.

Still, by the mid-late nineteen sixties there was still no “serious” televised “Space Opera” series on air, at least not yet. Most science fiction film and television writers of the time were well-versed in the dominant action format of westerns, and their science-fiction was derived from the installation focused pulp magazines of the 1950’s and novels by much earlier authors like Edgar Rice Burroughs.

In this, Star Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, was no different. He knew that structurally, what the networks wanted was a “monster of the week” premise, or in the western sense “villain of the week", series. Network executives at the time did not see the appeal of a fully episodic series, or even the extended ensemble cast, and they wanted fans of a show to be able to jump into a series at any time without needing to know very much at all about the character back-stories and having to understand the complexities of situations that had gone before. Obviously, in retrospect this sounds exceedingly silly to us now, as consuming episodic series, well, literally serially, or as it’s called, by “binge watching”, is currently the most desirable trait a network could want for a property, any property, that they deem worth of distributing and presenting. That, and the merchandising of course.

But Star Trek, as it came to be, would encompass so much more. Through the episodes it presented a clear philosophy, and it definitely had a vision of the future, our future. That vision was unlike the epic good vs. evil duality of Star Wars, or that of a cautionary dystopia like Blade Runner, and it is best described as an utopian logical positivist-futurist vision of humankind’s destiny.

Politically, as a secular skeptic with a contrarian nature based in non-emotional reality, I’ve always had a great problem with utopias in general, as well as messianic tendencies, or any philosophy presented as “the great fix” to the worlds problems. But I must admit that I always gave Star Trek the pass here. Why? You may ask. Because Star Trek had the greatest fictional “cheat” you could possible have. In the Star Trek mythos the earth had been destroyed by a series of wars that included a conflict born out of experimentation with Eugenics and a global nuclear war that had killed off a huge portion of humanity. This was followed by the arrival of an advanced alien race, the Vulcans, who slowly guided our culture and technology into what would become Star-fleet and the Federation of Planets.

Hunger, poverty, war, illness, money, and even having a job in the Star Trek future were things of earth’s past (not in space, mind you) as if it was all some kind of altruism-powered Socialist day camp. But, human endeavor of the self-promoting sort still persisted. Apparently, all of the “go-getters” still existed, and they just joined Starfleet, and jockeyed for promotions and got paid in "some" kind of currency. Who knows, maybe all those lower-ranked crewmen and ensigns were just daredevils who liked risking their lives going into combat with Klingons and Romulans for the heck of it. Objectively there is nothing in history that consistently points to being able to rely on humans to sacrifice at such a grand level simply out of principle. This is highly unlikely, and is one of the factors why the series has been generally considered "utopian".

As an aside. I should point out a pet utopian peeve of mine. I mean, come on, we only see one person, ever, Lieutenant Barclay, who is addicted to the holo-deck? Really? It's not an endemic galaxy-wide issue? That is definitely utopian screenwriting.

Of course, there was always some disconnect with real life as the series' continued. This was perhaps best highlighted by former Star Trek: Next Generation / Deep Space Nine Emmy-award nominee writer, and the force behind Battle Star Galactica: Redux, Ron Moore, who stated (and I’m paraphrasing here); that deep down he had a a hard time fully believing the crew of Picard’s Enterprise, because they were just too removed from real world relatable experiences. The bridge was carpeted and looked like a spacious living room, and the uniforms were admittedly, pajama-like. You see, Ron had been on actual naval vessels, and he wanted to see a more nuts and bolts, current world, running ship, which is exactly what he did when he re-conceived Battle Star Galactica.

But what Next Generation and Deep Space Nine did successfully, and to a lesser extent Voyager and Enterprise attempted to do successfully, was to write a series and series episodic scripts that worked as full ensemble pieces.

Enter the downfall of the franchise under Rick Berman and Brannon Braga auspices. With the flaws of Voyager (the inconsistency of Captain Janeway's writing and relying on the mother-daughter relationship of Seven of Nine and Janeway to the exclusion of the larger ensemble) and Enterprise (the almost complete abandonment of the ensemble for a simulation of the Kirk-Spock-McCoy triumvirate in the form of Archer-T'pol-Tripp) increasingly driving viewer numbers down, and the Next Generation feature films moving from "pretty good" (First Contact) to disastrous (Nemesis), and the box office reflected that as well, Paramount soured to those in control of the franchise, and axes started to fall. I think it was pretty clear to everyone who was paying attention that those who chose to stay true to the vision of Star Trek were all but blacklisted, and this became obvious when we all saw the many failed attempts at series reboots on the internet over the intervening years. Trek writers and actors were essentially left to making fan fiction films. Those who did survive in the industry needed to re-invent themselves, and many did, but this all happened while the big wigs sat behind their desks and attempted to decide just what to do with the franchise.

Clearly, I'm sure they reasoned, there was still a boat-load of cash that could be made here, and so they looked and looked for a savior - a savior they eventually found in the form of director-producer-writer-composer J.J. Abrams, of, well you know, J.J. Abrams fame.

Abrams was going to bring a new feel to the franchise, a new look, and update it for, pun intended, a "next" generation of fans. Now Abrams has gone on record as describing him self as "not being a Star Trek fan", and I believe this is overt in the fact that he opted to introduce an alternate timeline which literally obliterated the reality of all of the past films and series, in his first reboot film, 2009's "Star Trek".

While the new films are all admittedly "fun rides", are well made, and have updated the "look" of Trek in general, they nonetheless fail to rely on the philosophic counterpoint that the earlier series were built upon. While they do attempt to re-create the emotional-logical triumvirate of the Kirk-Spock-McCoy paradigm, they tend to fall short where the Federation versus the rest of the galaxy is concerned, and rely more on a good guy versus bad guy scenario. But hey, it’s back to the westerns, I guess.

2013's "Into Darkness" had a wonderful spark to it, but the writers, led by Simon Pegg, held back, and I suspect that they were afraid to posit more definitive statements about the major themes of the film, imperialism and radicalization, out of a fear of being perceived as "too philosophical" to the new "action-driven" fan base. It was either that, or a lot of film ended up on the cutting room floor that we'll never see.

Speed ahead to 2015.

CBS announced that they were getting a new series off the ground and rumors started surfacing about the details of the new Star Trek outing. The old school fans were very happy as it seemed that some really great people from Star Trek's past were involved, such as Nicolas Meyer, the director of the best Trek film, "Wrath of Khan"; Gene Roddenberry's son, Eugene; and Bryan Fuller (Star Trek: DS9 and Voyager). Screenwriting legend Akiva Goldsman was to be involved, as well as Alex Kurtzman, of the Michael Bay-J.J. Abram's school, so we also knew that it was going to be in some way styled like the recent feature films.

The new series was Star Trek: Discovery, which debuted on September 19th, 2017 on the CBS All-Access Service, and as of the time of me writing this, the show is about to run the last episode of its first season, and has already been renewed for a second.

I have watched every episode thus far, more than once by the way, so let me first start with something that I find really good about the show.

First and foremost, the show has some really good actors on it. There is not a weak link in the chain. Jason Issacs as Captain Lorca is perfect. Shazad Latif, as Klingon Manchurian candidate Ash Tyler (who we previously saw in John Logan's amazing "Penny Dreadful"), is really solid, Sonequa Martin-Green (of The Walking Dead fame), underplays plays the conflicted title role nicely, Doug Jones (of mutli-sci-fi outing notoriety) as First Officer Saru makes his mark past layers and layers of prosthesis, Anthony Rapp as snarky science officer Paul Stamets is very good, and ginger Mary Wiseman is a revelation as the quirky, Asperger syndrome-challenged Cadet Sylvia Tilly.

But confessing this, it leads me directly to the worst problem with the writing of the show. Which is the fact that there are many, many, other characters, particularly on the bridge of Discovery, who, even though we have seen them in almost every episode through a whole season thus far, we know absolutely nothing about them. In fact, I'm not even fully sure what some of their job functions are. Obviously I could go on-line and copy the names of the seemingly talented actors who play these characters and detail who their characters are, but since it doesn't seem to be very important to the writer's of Discovery, then why should it be important to me? Or you?  

In emotion-filled moments, when characters come together to support one another, these intentionally tertiary characters almost rob scenes of their pathos, simply because no one in the writer's room could be bothered to develop them. As far as I can tell, I am talking about five or six characters whose dialog in general consists of jargon-esque snippets like "Yes Sir, firing photon torpedoes now." They might as well have placed an all robot crew on the bridge.

Undermining the larger ensemble is exactly the problem the franchise has struggled with, and has failed under for many years. I suggest the writers of Discovery take a look at an episode of Next Generation like "Below Decks", which entirely focused on crewmen aboard the Enterprise who we had never even seen before, but explained the universe from another perspective. 

I'm not sure if this route will have some slow pay-off later, or the producers really don't care about the bridge crew, but as I said, I think this is a writing misstep that could be cured with all but a smattering of dialog.

Saying this, the season has been great, especially episode nine, entitled, "Into the Forest I go", which I believe is so undeniably good, that it could almost be enjoyed even by a non-Trek fan. The episode also opens up the rest of the season for (warning: spoiler ahead) the Mirror-Mirror universe arc that will, I assume, complete with the season finale.

My other complaint, which may be minor, but I think I share with a few million others, is the physical re-design of the Klingons. Fans are very fond of the Klingon "look", and much Star Trek lore was spent explaining why the Klingons changed from the Original Series to the other series and films. The refit now seems like change for change sake, but it's also not consistent, as all of the other alien races (Vulcans, Andorians, Tellarites, etc.) are all virtually the same as they were all the way back to 1966.

Regardless, I am eagerly looking forward to the season finale of Discovery (BTW, did no one realize that the acronym for this series is STD?), and I still have hope that the writers will remedy this ensemble problem, ideally, sooner than later. As far as the Klingons go, I guess we'll all just have to learn to live with the new look, as Quentin Tarantino destroys (?) the Abrams franchise in the upcoming fourth "new" feature film.

For me, Star Trek will in some form always persist, and that is because of the philosophy, NOT the phasers and lens flares.

Till next time.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

From the Graphic Design Studio: Astraea in Logo

It's been quite some time since I logged a design focused post, but since I've been hitting the "From the Writer's Studio" and "Sculpture Garden" features a little heavier than even my music uploads and political-philosophical rants, I felt that it might be time to go back to some visual arts.

In this case I've chosen to straddle the fine art sphere with marketing design logo in the form of how I developed several images of the Goddess Astraea, in a few pieces, and how they evolved over time.

I adopted her namesake quite some time ago as part of my musical identity, 391 & the Army of Astraea, in homage to a line from one of Salvator Rosa's Renaissance satires, which made a reference to her return to earth as a vengeful force of purity and justice. I first incorporated the 391 part as early as 1983, after becoming aware of Francis Picabia's Dadaist periodical 291. 391 followed a few years later.

But back to Astraea.

According to Wikipedia: Astraea, Astrea or Astria (Ancient Greek: Ἀστραῖα; "star-maiden" or "starry night"), in ancient Greek religion, was a daughter of Astraeus and Eos. She was the virgin goddess of innocence and purity and is always associated with the Greek goddess of justice, Dike (daughter of Zeus and Themis and the personification of just judgment). She is not to be confused with Asteria, the goddess of the stars and the daughter of Coeus and Phoebe. 

Astraea, the celestial virgin, was the last of the immortals to live with humans during the Golden Age, one of the old Greek religion's five deteriorating Ages of Man. According to Ovid, Astraea abandoned the earth during the Iron Age. Fleeing from the new wickedness of humanity, she ascended to heaven to become the constellation Virgo. The nearby constellation Libra reflected her symbolic association with Dike, who in Latin culture as Justitia is said to preside over the constellation. In the Tarot, the 8th card, Justice, with a figure of Justitia, can thus be considered related to the figure of Astraea on historical iconographic grounds.

 According to legend, Astraea will one day come back to Earth, bringing with her the return of the utopian Golden Age of which she was the ambassador.

Astraea has been a favored symbol of Feminists and radical Feminists for obvious inter-sectional Marxist gender war reasons, but I should also point out that she is also a figure that we most commonly see personified as "Lady Justice" whenever we are forced to visit a court house. 

Regardless, I have appropriated her image based somewhat on ancient statuary, and I created several "scenes", some of which evolved into logos, business card designs and the like. While these all started life as pencil and ink sketches, the original images were overlaid multiple times with filters in Adobe Photoshop CS6 to achieve the final effect. To illustrate the process, I've included a series of images that display the slight changes and variations said piece went through over time. I've also included one scene that in the end I chose not to develop into a logo at all.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy, and as always, Till next time.