Posted in Monday Mayhem

From Utopia to Dystopia

I’ve been watching a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation lately—benefits of having a Netflix subscription. So far, I’m halfway through Season 4, and by the time you read this, I will have blown past Season 5’s premier. Having watched the series during its first run back in the late 80’s, early 90’s, I’ve come to appreciate all the hard work that went into the show. From props, makeup, set design to story, music and characters, there is a bit of everything for everyone.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Crew
Star Trek: The Next Generation Crew

First, I will have to agree with you that it’s a strange conversation to talk about space, aliens and worlds from a far distant galaxy for my Monday Mayhem post. The thing is, I’ve always found something interesting when I watch Star Trek in that it has appealed to my sense of optimism. No one can say The Next Generation wasn’t way ahead of its time.

For instance, tablets of every size grace the hands of all those aboard. Many scenes with Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) features him in his ready room reading a report on what looks like a prototype for an iPad. He then quickly switches to a small device that looks like an iPod touch. From there, he scans the small display standing upright on his desk—again, another prototype for LCD monitors.

It is evident Star Trek is forward thinking in design and intent. Even today, the show does not look dated in any way. It still has lessons for all of us who are looking for something that would put life into perspective.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Captain Jean-Luc Picard

My biggest lesson I’ve gleaned from many of the show’s social commentaries is that the Prime Directive rules. For those unfamiliar with the Prime Directive, it is a moral code devised by the United Federation of Planets to prevent members from interfering with cultures, either at the cusp of development, or unwilling to have outsiders to work with them in any way. The idea is meant to discourage Federation members from imposing rule on a less than developed civilization against their will.

Funnily enough, many civilizations, in the context of progress and time, are not looking to change, but want to remain stagnant—drawn in their own ways, unwilling to progress from the ameba stage—whether intelligent or not.

One of those civilizations in the show, for example, is the perfect utopia. Visitors to the planet notice the difference immediately. The stark contrast of it citizens wearing a minimal amount of clothing in comparison to their visitors is intentional. Also, their laws are simple to follow and provides a sense of security to all those who follow the law. The planet, however, has one flaw. It isn’t immediately visible. If anyone breaks the law, even the least of these laws—perhaps accidentally stepping on a flower in a greenhouse—the sentence is quick and immediate. Death.

For this planet, the Prime Directive is a no-no. They will handle their own affairs in their own way.

And that’s what I’ve learned most from Star Trek—you cannot help those who do not want help. Try if you may, a person convinced against their will is of the same opinion still.

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

Have you watched any of the Star Trek shows or movies? What have you learned from the series?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

The Decision

You’re gonna think I’m strange. In fact, you’re not only gonna think I’m strange, but you’re also gonna think I’m just plain weird. I wouldn’t blame you. If I were you, I’d think the same way. I mean, I typically have a high regard for the decisions I make. I don’t make them in a rash manner. I think about things. I ponder the consequences. And sometimes, I’m slow to act in order to gain the benefit of the doubt.

Cable
Cable

I gotta tell ya, though, for this decision, I dropped the ball.

I know what you’re thinking, “Hey, Jack. For Freedom Friday, don’t you usually write about things that are on your mind? What could be so terrible that you feel you can’t talk about it?”

Good question.

Here’s the thing—a few weeks ago I cancelled cable.

Yeah, I know—big step.

Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating when I say it was a big step. You have to understand the context from where this decision came. I cancelled cable and got Netflix.

Yikes! And here we go?

“You mean you’ve never had Netflix? What’s wrong with you? Have you been sleeping under a rock? Aren’t you a guy who likes growth? Netflix? You couldn’t afford Netflix? Where have you been?”

Okay, okay. I got the message. Yeah, I’ve been living my life in a box stuck on a shelf. Smack me.

But I have it now. That’s what counts, right?

Good.

Netflix
Netflix

Listen, this isn’t an ad for the service. I’m not going to get a commission or anything mentioning Netflix on my site. But know this—why hadn’t I subscribed to the service earlier? It’s great!

Let’s see, I can choose my shows and add them to a queue, which I find really cool. I can search for movies I’ve wanted to watch but never had the time to fully appreciate. The service makes recommendations based on my viewing habits. It even goes so far as to separate my watch list with those of the other members of my family. They’re not into zombies. That’s a good thing, right?

The best part about the service, and I’m not exaggerating here, is its ability to remember where I left off with a program I was viewing. By far, this has to be the one and most useful feature of the service.

I can begin watching Star Trek: The Next Generation from my TV in the family room, pause the program and continue watching the show on the TV upstairs in our bedroom. Then, if I want, after dinner I can pick up from where I left off on my phone at the kitchen table.

You might consider this a “meh” moment, but you gotta realize I’ve come out of the 20th century by getting rid of cable. Cable, folks. You know—where you only get twenty-eight channels and the best you can come up with for entertainment for the night is some guy balancing a chair on his face while someone’s sitting on it playing a rendition of Ride of the Valkyries on a clarinet.

Anyway, that’s what happened with me these past few weeks while I prep my upcoming book for release on October 20.

What have you been up to?

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

Have you tried Netflix? What do you think of the surface? It is all that you thought it would be?

Posted in Freedom Friday

My Tools

I’ve never been much of a tools guy. While other men may enjoy collecting tools, the only thing my tools collect is dust. Yep, not much of a handyman, if you know what I mean. If I had it my way, I’d sit on my rump and enjoy the summer sun while I hire someone to look after everything that needs fixing around the house. Actually, that’s not too far from the truth.

My Tools
My Tools

For this Freedom Friday post, I’ll be talking about my tools—what I do with them, and what I think I ought to do with them.

Let me start by saying, I have a lot of tools. I’m going to qualify that statement. I have a lot of tools I didn’t purchase on my own. What’s more? I have a lot of tools my wife purchased for me. There’s a hint in there somewhere.

It all started a few months before my wife and I got married. One day she noticed I didn’t have that many tools and decided to do something about it. Well, I didn’t have that many tools because I didn’t like working with my hands. Anyway, let’s keep on topic. One Saturday evening, I popped over to her basement apartment for a movie night. At the time, Star Trek: The Next Generation was one of our favorite shows and we agreed that she’d tape the week’s episode and we’d watch it on the weekend when we got together. There was a period when we could only see each other on weekends since she lived on one side of the city and I lived on the other.

Although Toronto wasn’t as big as it is today, travelling back and forth in a beat up Honda made the one-hour trip interesting. I once broke down on the highway and had to call for a tow from a gas station ten minutes away. Let me say this, ten minutes is nothing to walk. But when it’s cold, with no cellphones available at the time, and you’re heading up a rural pass in the middle of the night—I’ll admit—it got kinda creepy.

Anyway, back to the story. When we finally settled into a cuddle, she remembered she had something to give me. We did that all the time and we still do. Sometimes we don’t give each other gifts during those mandatory days of giving—Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, birthdays, etc.—but we’ll surprise each other with gifts throughout the year for no apparent reason other than to show our affection for one another. Besides, gifts mean more that way when we don’t have to give the gift out of obligation. All right, ‘nough said about that. Where was I? Right, her gift. She gave me a gift and it was heavy. I didn’t have a clue as to what it could have been. All I knew was she’d always given me things that I needed or wanted. Much like today.

I unwrapped the present, and there in front of me was a screwdriver tool set with a variety of bits and ratchet heads. Believe me, when I first saw it, I wasn’t sure why she would have given it to me, considering I wasn’t a tool guy. Let me tell you. That gift was a stroke of genius. I still have it in its original case.

Since she gave it to me, I’ve hung pictures, taken apart phones, computers, built shelving, put up curtains, built desks, cupboards, tables, chairs, wired cable and more. Do I sound like one of those $19.99 TV commercials?

Adding to my collection, she’s given me a hammer, pliers, drill bits, a drill, of course, measuring tapes, more screwdrivers, a few bottles of crazy glue and garden equipment.

Like I said, if it were up to me I’d sit on my rump and hire people to do the jobs around the house. But I’ve grown. I’ve changed. I’ve gone on to build two basements with my tools—very different from doing nothing around the house.

And it all started with a toolset my wife gave me.

It’s true. Sometimes starting small does bring big things in life.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

What’s your favorite tool? Are you a collector or handy-person?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Today’s Technology

Here we are again, Freedom Friday. If you’re joining this series for the first time, you can search for all the posts by simply clicking on the Freedom Friday link above this post. For those who need a refresher, I use Freedom Friday to express my views about what’s current, what’s not or anything else that may trickle into this brain of mine at the time of writing.

27-Inch Hitachi Tube TV
27-Inch Hitachi Tube TV

At this moment, I’m thinking technology. In particular, I’m thinking about how far technology has come from the good ol’ days when a large 27-inch TV and a VCR dominated our entertainment centers. Anyone remember this? For some of us, we had two VCRs—one for recording and one to watch recordings. It made for a simplistic life, but much of what the 80’s had, delved on simplistic.

We cherished those cold, winter evenings when we got back home from work, prepared a warm soup for dinner and plopped on the couch to watch the latest episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: The Next Generation

Let’s not forget those autumn Tuesday night comedies. How can I forget taping  episodes of Home Improvement so I can watch them later. Those episodes always shattered my funny bone for some reason.

Home Improvement
Home Improvement

So much has changed.

Today, we live as a traveling society. We bring our entertainment with us. We can download any episode of any series we’d like; plop it on our iPods, iPhones, Nexus 7’s, Samsung Galaxy Tab’s, whatever—and we can watch them on the go. Gone are the days where we sit in front of the TV as past generations. The media we consume, at the rate we consume it, is unbelievable to those who’d lived in the VCR age.

Take, for instance, music. I remember a time when I’d recorded my favorite tracks on a cassette tape in a specific order based on how the songs meshed. Then, when I traveled with my Sony Walkman, I could listen to them on the go.

Boy, that no longer happens. At least, I don’t think.

Mixtape
Mixtape

Today, I can carry my entire music library I had carefully culled over the period of decades on my iPod. I have mixtape playlists, compilation playlists and even live playlists (those used when rating songs during my travels).

Insane!

This is what our technology has brought us. We can carry our whole media library anywhere we go and consume it at a bus station, truck stop, library, museum, deli, newsstand, restaurant, friend’s house, wilderness, bus, train, woods, park, walking, hiking, boating, sailing, running, riding, traveling, etc. all in the confines of our realities.

I laugh. How did we do it back in the 80’s?

Anyone else notice how far technology has advanced? Anyone else have the same idea I have with the way we consume our media? What about books? Do you like hardcover books or do you read them on a Kindle or another reader?