SPOCK THOUGHTS


I’m down in Dallas visiting my parents. Since my dad & I always liked watching Star Trek together, when we were in a video shop down here I bought a copy of the director’s edition DVD of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (ST:TMP) used for eight bucks. Now I know that ST:TMP is the most boring of all the Star Trek films. But the extras looked very interesting. Because of my work, I’m interested in how Star Trek went from a cult item to a major film franchise.

Anyhow, here’s my assessment of the director’s edition DVD. First off, CGI SUCKS! When I bought the DVD I did not know that the Star Trek guys, just like Star Wars guys, went back and “improved” their old special effects with computerized enhancements. When I am president of the world this will be a capital offense. OK. Sure. The effects look more”realistic” — whatever that means. But they lose all personality and taste, instead turning into generic muck. Sure the Photoshop created backdrop of the futuristic San Francisco (home of Star Fleet HQ) may look more “real” than the old matte painting, meaning it looks more like a photograph. But it also sucks dead donkey dicks. One of the extras has all these smug CGI effects “artists” commenting on how they improved upon the old effects. It’s disgusting. You cannot compare the effects created by real sweating human beings with real objects to guys who sit in front of computer screens clicking their mouses all day. Give me a plastic shuttle craft model supported by piano wire in front of a painted sky over some generic CGI crap any day of the week.

Deep breath.

So the thing I always think about whenever I watch Star Trek is the way the various alien characters represent the producers’ ideas about various cultures. The Klingons are quite obviously the Cold War era Soviets. The Romulans seem to be the Chinese. The Vulcans, I’m convinced, represent Japanese style Zen Buddhism. The Japanese as a country, by the way, were represented in the 80′s by the Borg. They all look alike, act as a group, and try to assimilate everybody.

Anyhow, in the beginning of ST:TMP we see Mr. Spock about to complete his Vulcan training which will remove all traces of emotion once and for all. But he refuses to accept his transmission certficate when he feels a presence calling him from outer space. You can look the film up on imdb to find out the rest of the plot. But in the end, Spock finds that the real truth lies not in getting rid of his emotions, but in embracing them.

Now Gene Roddenberry didn’t really get Buddhism at all. But it’s pretty evident he read a lot of books about it. He even got married in a Buddhist ceremony in Japan. I’d venture a wild guess the books he read about Zen were mainly the works of DT Suzuki and Alan Watts. In those books he must certainly have encountered the Buddhist idea of suppressing emotions. But, having never really experienced what that means, he had no way to envision it but to imagine that getting rid of emotions would turn a person into something like a robot.

It doesn’t. But it’s very hard to explain this matter. It may be the use of the word “emotion” itself that creates confusion. It’s a natural reaction to laugh and cry. But we tend to abuse our natural reactions by manipulating them with thought, turning them into what we call emotions. We hang on to our happiness and sadness far longer than is healthy. We long for happiness and fear sadness, thus missing out on most of our lives which are neither very happy nor very sad. We crave those emotional highs and lows.

When we avoid this “emotional abuse” our lives become much more stable and comfortable. I’ve never met a single Zen practitioner who turned into the kind of steely cold alien Mr. Spock is at the beginning of ST:TMP.

Whatever. Anyway, back to the DVD review. Even though the CGI enhancements SUCK ASS the ST:TMP DVD is pretty cool for the extras. You get a few brief clips from the “lost” Star Trek series, Star Trek: Phase II, which never made it into production. Looks like they were gonna use the old mini-skirt uniforms and everything. Hubba-hubba. Too bad they ditched that idea for the futuristic pyjamas everyone wears in the movie. I haven’t taken a look at the deleted scenes, but it’s hard to imaagine this film was once even longer than it is now. The one documentary does show you a few of the original special effects sequences before they were “improved.” In every case the originals are far superior. They should give you an option to watch the unimproved versions. The new sound mix is much cleaner and clearer, so I’ll forgive that, although the music is way too loud in relation to the dialogue. I had to turn the sound up each time someone was speaking and down for each musical bombast.

All in all, though, I enjoyed this release, even if just for the chance to complain about it.

ADDENDUM: See, I know big words! Actually, that’s probably spelled wrong. Anyway, I took a look at the extras on the DVD and discovered that all of the unenhanced special effects scenes are on there as extras under the category of “deleted scenes.” So when I’m president of the world I will take this into consideration and possibly go easy on the producers of this disc.

27 Responses

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  1. door knob
    door knob August 15, 2006 at 4:46 pm | |

    You’re right about ST:TMP being the most boring of the series, but I also think it’s the best of the series.

    I’m not a fan of later “improvements” either. What are they going to do next? Colorize Casablanca? (Oops, I think they did that already.) Lucky I still have copies of the original Star Wars trilogy before the “special edition” improvements.

    Anyways, that’s my Zen for the day.

  2. Anatman
    Anatman August 15, 2006 at 5:37 pm | |

    Is it just coincidence that we have been discussing this topic of emotions over at flapping mouths for the past several days?

    Different people have very strong opinions on the subject. I think it is a very important topic for anyone interested in meditation or Buddhism, so thank you addressing the issue.

  3. Igor
    Igor August 15, 2006 at 5:45 pm | |

    Hi Brad! I really like this post especially the “Deep breath.” – part. I really enjoy wasting my time on your blog :)

    Be well!
    /Igor

  4. FireChild132
    FireChild132 August 15, 2006 at 6:10 pm | |

    It is interesting that you use a blog full of so much negative “emotion” to make a point downplaying emotions. I guess my prajna is not paramita enough yet to get it. I’ll be off staring at a wall if anyone needs me…
    Love the blog by the way.

  5. Jinzang
    Jinzang August 15, 2006 at 6:20 pm | |

    In those books he must certainly have encountered the Buddhist idea of suppressing emotions. But, having never really experienced what that means, he had no way to envision it but to imagine that getting rid of emotions would turn a person into something like a robot.

    Yep, this topic always comes up with new students. Explaining the difference between enjoying something and being attached to it is difficult. The other question that always comes up is “you say you shouldn’t desire anything, but shouldn’t we desire to be enlightened?”

  6. Jinzang
    Jinzang August 15, 2006 at 6:21 pm | |

    It is interesting that you use a blog full of so much negative “emotion” to make a point downplaying emotions.

    Will people ever get tired of playing “gotcha” with Brad?

  7. FireChild132
    FireChild132 August 15, 2006 at 6:26 pm | |

    Sorry, not trying to play “gotcha” with Brad, just trying to help understand…

  8. cromanyak
    cromanyak August 15, 2006 at 7:19 pm | |

    It is interesting that you use a blog full of so much negative “emotion” to make a point downplaying emotions.

    Brad’s post wasn’t full of negative emotions, you were. It’s very common for people to read something and project their own response onto the author. I’m a memeber of several e-mail groups and I catch myself doing it all the time.

  9. Dan
    Dan August 16, 2006 at 2:52 am | |

    has anyone seen that south park episode where steven spielberg and george lucas are plotting to make yet another cgi version of one of their films? hilarious. that rant against cgi reminded me of that.

  10. Drunken Monkey
    Drunken Monkey August 16, 2006 at 4:59 am | |

    Bwahahahah, funnah post!

  11. Lone Wolf
    Lone Wolf August 16, 2006 at 10:04 am | |

    I enjoy filmmakers who stick to the good old fashion roots of specil effects, instead of using to much CGI crap. (Like Eli Roth did in Hostel) But I have to admit, some can add a little bit of CGI in spots to get a nice effect. Take for instance Go Go in Kill Bill 1. Tarintino stuck to the old style of special effects but added just a bit of CGI when Go Go used her spiked ball on a chain weapon against the Bride. But movies that use a high amount of CGI Suck. (There are a few exceptions, like Sin City.) I would take the old way over CGI, if I had to choice. No CGI could create the display of say, the guts of the guy in the heart rate machine in the original Dawn of the Dead.

    As for emotions, I enjoyed Brad’s comment. Because sometimes I am afraid that Zazen is going to turn me into a lifeless robot.

  12. Lone Wolf
    Lone Wolf August 16, 2006 at 10:04 am | |

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  13. Lone Wolf
    Lone Wolf August 16, 2006 at 10:04 am | |

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  14. scottknudstrup
    scottknudstrup August 16, 2006 at 6:03 pm | |

    A few things:
    I didn’t know Japan was represented by Japan in the 80
    s by the Borg. I thought it was just globalisation in general. Interesting.

    I never got the feeling Alan Watts was trying to suppress emotions. Seems like from what I read, he was trying to communicate the idea of just watching emotions and thoughts without judging good or bad.

    Thirdly, I love old Star Trek, but I still have to object to the gender issues in it. I, for one, am happy they switched to the pajama things and quit turning Yeoman into a weak-minded sex object. Did you notice in the first few episdoes of The Next Generation that Roddenberry tried to correct the gender issues by giving guys skirts? It didn’t last.
    Holy shit. I am a huge dork.

  15. Drunken Monkey
    Drunken Monkey August 17, 2006 at 6:09 am | |

    I was watching the ali g show at lunchtime and I was wondering if Ali gs interview techniques could be used on so-called “enlighted masters”, watching their reactions from stupid questions or simply making a mockery of them.

    If I had the money and time, I would like to give it a try. I’m sure there would be an audience for this kind of comedy, even if its only for youtube. It would be called Guru-view, or something like that.

  16. Esmerelda
    Esmerelda August 17, 2006 at 6:41 am | |

    I would totally love Ali G or even better Borat interviews with Enlighted Masters!!

    Brad is not being negative he is being Brad – a little punk rock edge.

    Several years ago I tried to explain what it felt like to be ‘normal’ to a clinically depressed friend who was going off her antidepressants because she was tired of ‘not feeling anything’. She had trouble believing that most of the time, ‘normal’ isn’t sad or happy its just calm and kind of pleasant. Now I know that meditation increases the amount of time you feel that way.

    To quote my favorite Tom Verlaine, Television song.
    “I spoke to a man
    down at the tracks.
    I asked him
    how he don’t go mad.
    He said “Look here junior, don’t you be so happy.
    And for Heaven’s sake, don’t you be so sad.”

  17. John Christian
    John Christian August 17, 2006 at 7:07 am | |

    Nothing “wrong” with CGI. How you use it is important. And if you think its just someone with no real artistic talent just clicking a mouse then welcome to 1980…on the other hand “restoring” an old classic should maybe not include computer inhancments as such.

  18. questZENer
    questZENer August 17, 2006 at 11:14 am | |

    Cool you’re in Dallas. I’m sure you know all the good veg fare around, and SURELY you know “Cosmic Cup” in Oaklawn. Nice, veg Indian fare, with a heap of ‘crunchy’ thrown in for good measure. Around that same area is
    “Queen of Sheeba”. While it doesn’t really compare with Fairfax in LA, for Dallas, it’s good veg eats. Crank up the AC, dude–it’s friggin’ hot down there right now!

  19. kshingo
    kshingo August 17, 2006 at 7:30 pm | |

    “It’s a natural reaction to laugh and cry. But we tend to abuse our natural reactions by manipulating them with thought, turning them into what we call emotions. We hang on to our happiness and sadness far longer than is healthy. We long for happiness and fear sadness, thus missing out on most of our lives which are neither very happy nor very sad. We crave those emotional highs and lows.”

    Everyone seems to be ignoring this… this little gem hidden in the midst of all the movie stuff. Very cool. So what about anger? I have been so controlled by anger my whole life! And now, to begin learning about it, looking closely at this emotion that has been nothin’ but misery forever, well it’s like getting a glimpse of unimaginable freedom and joy. I want to know everything I can possibly learn about anger. Please discuss this, expand on this.

    with gassho,
    kshingo

  20. 3468
    3468 August 18, 2006 at 1:50 am | |

    Just one word: StarWreck. You can download it or by it on DVD.

  21. zen_nihilist
    zen_nihilist August 19, 2006 at 6:23 am | |

    Might be better to read some Alan Watts before commenting on what he must have written. Just a thought.

  22. K'vitsh
    K'vitsh August 19, 2006 at 2:25 pm | |

    Kill Bill had CGI? Do you know what part of Go Go’s scene had it? Like, even more specifically than you already mentioned?

    I love the Kill Bill movies and watch them whenever I get depressed. Like now.

    I’ve been very angry lately. I haven’t been meditating. I need to get back to it.

  23. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 3, 2007 at 11:44 am | |

    That’s a great story. Waiting for more. » » »

  24. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 16, 2007 at 11:29 am | |

    Keep up the good work film editing schools

  25. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer March 19, 2014 at 11:01 am | |

    It’s interesting to me that this post touches on my favorite zen fantasy*. In it sitting zazen will allow me to float over my pain, observing it from a detached zen altitude.

    It’s an attractive fantasy because I have already spent a lot of my pre-zen life trying to crush emotion into non-existence. It’s Spock for me all the way…

    It will be interesting to see what other zen fantasies lurk in my fevered brain.

    Cheers.

    * I am happy when I identify these little brain weevils. I figure you can’t get bushwacked by the enemies that you know…

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