Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Perception

Growing up I never saw people who looked like me.  Now I know you are saying, “Dude you are white.  There are lots of White folks in media.”  Well, that is true.  However as a kid, I had a physical attribute that in my mind was a huge red flag.  In retrospect, it was not huge.  To me it glared at me from the mirror.  It screamed you are different, you are a freak.  What was this attribute? It was my cleft lip scar.  It is a faint scar now, but with the constant surgeries I had to keep up with my growth it was swollen a lot for a quarter to a third of the year.  So to me it was loud and screaming.  When I was young my identity was tied to my disabilities.  By my Twenties, I did not do that as much.  After 14 years with someone whose whole life was about their disabilities, I found myself there again.  Now that part of my life is over, I am reassessing myself and my history. 

I look back at my picture of myself as a little kid.  The only time the scar is obvious was either right after surgery or the one time I tried to shave at the age of 5 or 6.  I was trying to be just like my Uncle who was 13 or 14 at the time.  I think it did not help that my mother kept bringing up my being different.  She did not do it with any malice.  She just did not want me to be disappointed when I was unable to do things other kids could.  Were my challenges as harsh as my friends of color?  Socially, no they were not.  My physical challenges though at times were difficult. 

I never had to deal with people putting me down for being a Harelip or freak.  In many ways I had myself for that.  As a kid I only heard one Harelip joke.  There was on incident where a kid finally went after me for being a Harelip.  Later, I discovered his baby brother was like me with a cleft lip and palate.  Somehow, since I was the only other person he knew that was like that he blamed me. We were little kids, these things happen.  Later as an adult, I have encountered more insensitivity about that subject.  Mostly the problem is about those God Awful Harelip jokes.  I grew up in a predominantly Mexican-American neighborhood and that kind of stuff did not happen.  Here in rural Oregon, I encountered it a lot in my early twenties.  Funny thing very few of the idiots telling the jokes knew that I was a Harelip.  It is less obvious to people, because I wear a full beard and do not sound like the stereotypical Harelip.  Harelip is a common derogatory term for someone with a Cleft Lip and/or Palate.  Most people who have this condition find it highly offensive.  The jokes made present someone with limited intelligence.  The condition almost never affects cognitive abilities.  It also uses the stereotypical speech impediment, which most modern folks with either do not have.

This re-examining came after several articles about people dealing with being minorities in America and what it means.  With me, it has been about perception.  I saw myself as a minority.  I doubt however many around me saw the same thing.  They saw an educated, Blue Collar Caucasian guy.  Honestly, I did not have it that bad.  Due to my father being a career military man, all my surgeries, speech therapy and dental work were covered.  Financially, we had rough patches when dad was on deployment.  Overall, we were fortunate.  Now the only two celebrities I knew growing up who had clefts were Stacy Keach and Cheech Marin.  In high School I saw them as a coke fiend and a pot head.  Now that is not a nice thing to say, but that was my perception.  In the 1980’s Mr. Keach had legal troubles surrounding cocaine.  Mr. Marin’s most famous character is a pothead.  Since then I discovered that Tom Brokaw, Rev. Jessie Jackson, Jason Robards and Doc Holliday had a cleft of some kind.

What I am saying is that sometimes perception is everything.  What I saw as a major thing, was not so major in the big scheme of things.  Many folks overcame their challenges similar or worse than mine.  I did not deal with real discrimination based on my challenges.  I dealt with insensitive idiots.  Compared to what some people deal with it is an irritation.  I need to step out of my skin from time to time to gain perspective.  Lately I have been doing a lot of that.  That Is My Not So Humble Opinion.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Star Trek & Me

So my history with Star Trek goes back, way back.  It goes back to the Original Series from the sixties.  First thing is I am a little young to remember watching the show first run.  I was born in the summer between the second and third seasons.  However in the two areas I grew up in, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon, the show was on via syndication sometimes running on multiple days.  My paternal grandmother was very sick.  Due to this I do not have many memories of doing things with her.  I do have memories watching two iconic TV shows with her.  One I loved, the other went over my head.  The one I loved was Star Trek: The original Series, the one that went over my head was Perry Mason.  I was 5 or 6 during this memory, possibly even younger.  To me Star Trek was adventurous, thrilling, cool, and a roller coaster ride. 

Everyone seemed to think Captain Kirk was the man.  My Favorites were Spock, Sulu and Scotty.  Spock was logical and could stop a person without killing them.  Sulu was the navigator, he flew the ship.  He also was a swordsman in an era of phasers.  Scotty was the chief engineer, he kept the ship going.  He knew it like the back of his hand.  Without these men Kirk could not do a thing.  The Original Series had several Alternate history stories.  A few of them were viewed through the idea of parallel development.  This concept that a planet identical to Earth popped up but the details of it history was slightly different. Alternate history literature continues to be a genre I love to this day, Star Trek started all that for me.

 In the seventies to the mid eighties rarely missed the Original Series.  I continued by following the films starting with Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  That came out in 1979, and I was again enthralled by the world.  Everyone was back.  The story was not in sync with the Star Trek philosophy, but as an eleven year old I loved it.  In 1982, my brother and I were supposed to see a Disney film.  Instead we saw Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  Space Seed was a favorite episode of mine, so this blew my mind.  It is still my favorite of the Original Series Films.  I continued to see all the Original series films on the Big Screen.  In 1989, I saw Star Trek V: The Final Frontier in Eugene, Oregon.  This was first showing opening day.  It was the first time I encountered hard core Star Trek fans.  Several folks were in cosplay to see this film.  I knew this existed, but I had not experienced it for myself.  Now, I like things, but when it comes to fandom I am sometimes reluctant to go whole hog.  I can, just don’t for some reason.  Other than a Star Trek : Motion Picture Captain Kirk Action Figure from Mego and Star Trek III: Search for Spock Taco Bell Glasses I had not had much merchandise.  Lately I have bought  an Original series Enterprise Mug, Original Series Glass set and some symbol buttons.  For the most part I have not gone too crazy there either.

During my sophomore year in University, Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted.  I loved it, I was happy to se a new kind of Trek on every week.  It was different from the original show.  The Captain was a diplomat not a cowboy.  The First Officer was in charge of most missions to the planet.  The show was definitely different in tone than the show from the 1960’s.  In some ways it was more cerebral.  I followed it up till Season 5 or 6 in 1992.  I watched the first two seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and tried a few episodes of Star Trek Voyager.  Neither show really hit me.  I am not saying Deep Space Nine was bad, it just did not resonate with me at the time.  I may go back and catch it plus the seasons of Next Generation I missed.  Later I was onboard for the first Season of Enterprise, but that fell flat for me too.  The Next Generation Films were OK, but not great.

In 2009, two things happened that brought Star Trek back into the minds of the general public.  Well actually one was world wide and the other only in Portland, Oregon.  That was the year the J.J. Abrams re-imagining of the Original Series came out in Theaters.  I wanted to see that but Barbara, my ex, refused to watch it.  She thought it was sacrilege and blasphemy to redo the Original Series.  I finally watched it with my brother and his family when it was released on DVD.  The second thing was Atomic Arts began their production of Trek in the Park.  The idea behind this was similar to the tradition of Shakespeare in the Park.  That is holding productions of Shakespeare plays in parks during late spring and summer.  Atomic Arts did this with Original Series Episodes, starting with Amok in Time.  Following years Atomic Arts put on productions of Space Seed, Mirror Mirror, and Journey to Babel.  I tried to go the first three years, but I encountered resistance thanks to Barbara.  Last year I finally went.  It was hot as Hades, but I had a great time.  This year, 2013 in August they will have their final production with Trouble with Tribbles. So if you are in Portland, Oregon in August head out to the Cathedral Park on a Saturday or Sunday.  For more Information go to: http://www.atomic-arts.org/

I saw the sequel to the J.J. Abrams film, Star Trek into Darkness.  I enjoyed it, but it had some things about it that missed the target of the Star Trek philosophy.  I still have a closer relationship to the Original Series than with the others.  That is just where I am and where I am coming from.  So That Is My Not So Humble Opinion.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Zeitgeist

For Whatever reason, I seem to be hooked up with the Pop Culture Zeitgeist.  The reason I believe this is that I have had ideas that have turned up in Television and Comic books.  Since I am not paranoid, I do not believe I am being plagiarized or my mind is being data mined by aliens or what not.  I feel somehow I tapped the same part of the collective unconscious that other creative types have.  Also the bigger concepts are the same but the details are very different. 

In the early 1980’s I was a teenager with way too much imagination and time on my hands.  I created a lot of worlds and concepts.  I was a huge Doctor Who fan back then.  I came up with an idea of a Gallifreyan who had an affinity with American Culture.  He was a Military man.  Funny thing is twenty years later; we get Captain Jack Harkness an American Time Traveler in the Doctor Who Universe, who later finds himself immortal.  Now there are differences, my character was from Gallefrey and his rank was Major.  Am I claiming I came up with the idea first?  No there probably were many American Whovians who came up with a similar idea.  I am just pointing out the interesting thing there is that a similar idea ended up on the show.

In the mid 90’s I had this idea.  What if Superman’s rocket landed in the Soviet bread basket of the Ukraine?  A decade later Mark Millar put out his great series Red Son.  The Series was in development since the late 90’s.  It is considered one of the best Superman and alternate reality comics of all time.  My idea had the superheroes spread out in more countries.  Lex Luthor was Soviet as opposed to being American as he was in Red Son.  I was not surprised this happened.  There are a lot of cultural parallels between Kansas and the Ukraine in their importance to the two countries they were a part of.  Early Superman was very pro the common working man which some people translate as Communist.  So I was not surprised that more that one person came up with this idea.

Also in the mid- nineties, I had the idea that the members of the X-men aged in real time and were as old as the year they were introduced.  So the original five were teenagers in the sixties so today they would be in their sixties.  The original New Mutants would be in their Forties, and so on.  In 2006 Marvel announced GeNext.  It was supposed to be similar to my concept; however it ended up a sequel to X-men: The End Trilogy.  I think the original idea would have been fun and interesting. 

Another idea I had back in the Mid 90’s was a few other X-Men related ideas.  Most of it has come to pass.  The idea was to integrate the New Mutants into the X-Men.  This was a concept that Chris Claremont had implied as the natural progression of their story.  Thirty years later they are only a few years older.  Some have become full fledge X-Men.  With the recent integration of the Avengers and X-Men, Cannonball and Sunspot are Avengers.  I also thought with integrating the New Mutants/ X-Force members, that the idea of the X-Force should be a black ops team headed by Wolverine.  This team would utilize Mutants with Covert ops backgrounds and those with powers that lend themselves with those kinds of missions.  In 2008, Marvel did just that.

Now in all this I am not claiming responsibility for any of these ideas.  I just think it is interesting these ideas could not be contained to one person.  They came out regardless of my own situation.  It is weird how some ideas will do that.  These ideas came along with parallel inspiration.  Others came up with them independently of me.  It is like we were tapping into the same part of the creative ether.  That Is My Not So Humble Opinion.