Star Trek

Yesterday was the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek, and man, it made me so excited to see my Facebook page light up with Star Trek love. I don’t know if many people realize this about me, but I am kind of a nerd, and I really always have been. In my school days, I was not really popular, but that was fine. My school didn’t really have “bullies” and the popular kids were actually pretty kind. I wasn’t really friends with them, but there was no animosity between the many social groups. I generally enjoyed learning and wasn’t particularly athletic. I actually really liked playing sports, particularly football, but I wasn’t really that good at it. After one year on JV, I decided to quit football because I felt like kind of a fraud, I wasn’t the type of person that should be on a school sports team so I quit. Looking back, that is a shitty reason and I wish I would have kept playing.

Anyway, Star Trek has a very special place in my heart. I remember gathering around in front of the TV with my siblings and our binder of ST: TNG Customizable Card Game cards to watch The Next Generation whenever it came on. We would identify cards in the show as they happened and feel a sense of pride when we knew some obscure fact about the plot or characters. It was more than just a show to me because it was more than just entertainment. It made me feel like there were like-minded people in the world, people who longed for exploration and adventure. It was also my only real introduction to science outside of the classroom (which was mostly stiff, boring, and textbook based). Star Trek didn’t bore me with periodic tables, it showed me what you can do with science and technology, and the ethical questions that can arise. I grew up in a relatively anti-science environment and Star Trek challenged me and encouraged me to problem solve instead of trusting things based on faith. I distinctly remember when Lt. Barclay began de-evolving because of a virus or something and I had a moment of discomfort because I was raised to believe evolution was a lie spread by Satan. To be honest, I’m not really sure why my parents let me watch it while growing up.

It was also my only real introduction to science outside of the classroom (which was mostly stiff, boring, and textbook based). Star Trek didn’t bore me with periodic tables, it showed me what you can do with science and technology, and the ethical questions that can arise. I grew up in a relatively anti-science environment and Star Trek challenged me and encouraged me to problem solve instead of trusting things based on faith. I distinctly remember when Lt. Barclay began de-evolving because of a virus or something and I had a moment of discomfort because I was raised to believe evolution was a lie spread by Satan. To be honest, I’m not really sure why my parents let me watch it while growing up.

As I work my way through Voyager I find the show still has value, even for someone in their mid-30’s. Like all good science fiction, the issues it raises are often universal and applicable to our current time and place. They are human issues that make our lives complex, challenging, and rich. Sure, the acting and writing can induce some eye rolls, and the special effects are clearly dated, but the real value of Star Trek is the universe it creates and the vision for the future. My own idealism about humanity rests, at least partly, in the potential universe shown in Star Trek. My love of a Basic Income Guarantee and my belief that science and technology can get to the point where we all have our needs and desires met without labor come from Star Trek. The words “Live Long, and Prosper” bring guidance for how to behave, as well as hope for what we can become. Maybe I’ll see the day when 3-D Printers evolve to Replicators and death is finally cured, but even if I don’t I am glad to live in a time and place where I can view human potential through Star Trek.

 

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TV Shows

A friend of mine on Facebook requested (I love requests!!!) that I share my TV shows and book recommendations. Both of those lists are probably pretty long so I am breaking it into two parts. First, the TV shows.

Television or, more accurately, Netflix and Amazon Prime and Hulu tends to serve three purposes for me. I watch it actively, passively, and for sleeping. Active shows are the ones that I watch without distraction because I love the show, they cover deep issues, and they tend to require information about previous episodes to follow the story lines. Passive shows are the ones that I have on in the background while working, they provide white noise and the occasional break from work, but they aren’t distracting enough to make me unproductive. Sleeping shows are the ones I put on at night before bed, they are shows I am familiar with and provide a certain level of comfort and consistency to me. So, here we go…

Active:

Black Mirror – I’m completely in love with this show right now. I like it when television shows make you think and this show consistently lead to deep conversations with my partner about technology, transhumanism, human nature, philosophy, political institutions, and where we, as a society, are heading. There are going to be a lot of new ethical questions in the coming years as technology advances. I also really like that each episode is a stand-alone episode, you don’t need to commit to the show to get a lot out of it. It is a universe focused show instead of a plot or character focused show. I can’t recommend it enough.
See also: The 100, The Man in the High Castle

Six Feet Under – This show is representative of the “new tv” that has come from cable television (and later online providers). Without worrying about censorship from the government or commercials they are able to tackle more mature and serious issues. Some shows use this as an excuse to show lots of tits, but Six Feet Under doesn’t do that. There is some nudity and sex, but it is very real and appropriate to the story lines. The show takes place in a mortuary and makes you think about serious issues like family, love, mortality, and how our society views death. The characters are very real and human, there are no good guys or bad guys, everyone has moments of good and evil, they are all flawed people who are just doing their best.
See Also: Hannibal, Sense8, The Wire, Orange is the New Black, Game of Thrones, American Horror Story, Transparent

Face Off – One of my guilty pleasures (okay, it isn’t a “guilty” pleasure, I don’t feel any guilt for the things I enjoy) is reality tv competitions. My favorite is Face Off. I am not a very creative person and it amazes me when I see the creativity and talent that some of these artists show. I love that we live in an age where people can pursue their passions and have opportunities that didn’t exist a decade ago.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – I know this is blasphemy but I think DS9 is my favorite Star Trek series. It is a little slow moving but having a series on a space station allows for some long story arches that tackle issues there were ahead of their time. It was made from 1993-1999 but talked a lot about terrorism and how to combat it, religious conflict with secular societies, military occupation, and the proper role of the military and government. It also was one of the first shows on primetime to show a lesbian kiss, which was highly controversial at the time (1995).
See also: The X-Files, Modern Family

Jessica Jones – I love just about everything that is happening in the Marvel universe right now. The use of TV and movies to create a cohesive universe is an amazing evolution for the art and would likely be impossible just a few years ago. Jessica Jones is my favorite in the series, likely because it is very adult. It definitely isn’t for children and tackles subjects like rape, PTSD, and how society treats those who are different. This is definitely a show that causes you to say “just one more episode” at 2am.
See also: Arrow, Flash, Gotham

 

Passive: 
The Biggest Loser, Pit Bulls and Parolees, Top Chef, Ancient Aliens, American Ninja Warrior, The Voice, Shark Tank

Sleep:
The Office, Parks and Recreation, Star Trek: The Next Generation, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Firefly, The League

Sex Nerds

I had a great article from Vice brought to my attention yesterday. The article, which hit home for me in a lot of ways, is about sex nerds. Not nerds having sex, that is a different (but can be overlapping) category. Sex nerds are people who enjoy being nerdy about the subject of sex. We like to read about it, write about it, and ponder it from every angle. It isn’t about having a high sex drive or pursuing personal orgasms (truth be told, my sex drive is probably about average), no, it is about analyzing, questioning, and discussing the different aspects of sex.

Like most nerds (a positive term in my mind), sex nerds like to throw out social norms and see what is left. They aren’t content to just view the world or do things that are popular unless they hold up to greater scrutiny. “That’s the way it has always been done” is blasphemy. Instead, things like gender, relationships, kinks, and fetishes are all open to analysis, experimentation, and confirmation. And what nerds are finding about sex is fascinating.

Sex nerds tend to be open to multi-partner relationships in some form. Whether it is polyamory, monogamish, or a variety of “open” relationships we have found that jealousy and “traditional” relationships are not the only way to happily organize intimacy. Jealousy may be more of a social construct than a natural reaction. We are told that we should be jealous when our partners are flirted with, make out with someone, fantasize about another person, or have hook up… but why? Can’t jealousy, like many other negative emotions be controlled, subdued, and shown for what it is… an unnecessary display of anger towards something that may not happen and is often beyond our control. Jealousy is about possessing another person’s body and mind, it is about controlling them, treating them as an object. It may be “normal” but that doesn’t make it good.

Nerds also tend to be much more fluid with their gender and sexuality. Why should we view 1/2 of the population as off-limits to intimacy and love simply because of the way they were born? Certainly, we all have a certain level of sexual orientation. We find some things more attractive than others and are turned off by certain attributes, but is that purely biology or has there been immense pressure by churches, governments, and society as a whole to subdue sexuality. Men receive constant pressure to have no attraction to other men while women are often told they must be “pure” for their future spouse. Gender, like sex in general, has been a way to control the actions of others. And nerds, as is often the case, don’t give a fuck about social norms and are going to surround themselves with more accepting people.

Technology and the internet has really created revolutionary opportunities for nerds (and anyone who has interests that aren’t “normal”). There is an ability to connect and discuss things that would normally be off-limits. No matter how strange you are the internet allows you to find similar people… which of course complicates things. As nerds figure out that sex isn’t always just vanilla, that relationships can thrive with multiple people, and as gender is recognized as being non-binary new terms are needed. Polyamory, pansexuality, and all the different types of kink start to be defined and enter mainstream. And I hope it does continue to enter the mainstream.

Being a sex nerd is more nerd than it is sex. It isn’t about putting on a Tidus outfit and finding a cute Yuna to bend over a hotel room bed at a conference. It is about diving deeper into one of our most carnal drives to find a way to do it better, more intimately, and boldly try things that have never been tried before. And isn’t that what we all really want? To be able to explore a vital part of human existence safely, with consenting partners, and without fear of unfair judgement from others?