Ask Abbie, Part 1: Whatever You Do, Don’t Wear a Red Shirt; and, Keeping Up With the Cardassians

Last month, I reached out to my Facebook friends, asking for ideas for posts. It could be a topic they’d like me to discuss, or a question they might have for me. A few of my friends took me up on my challenge, and now, I’d like to weigh in on their questions.

Question from Marie M.: Will our future match up with Star Trek? Although, we already missed the Eugenics War, there could be a huge nuclear war in 2033.

Interesting thought! I love writing about topics that make me do in-depth research, and I’ve found a few things along the way that have made this question really enjoyable for me to consider. Let me answer your question with a question: When considering the current global political and social climate, would you consider yourself more optimistic or pessimistic about the future? Even if you don’t pay a whole lot of attention to politics, everyone has an opinion about it. But, if you’re asking me, my answer would be: No. It would be wicked cool, but no — although I can easily imagine a world transformed by a nuclear war. However, that nuclear war would have to cause a lot of social and political reform. Let me explain…

In my Googling for thoughts and evidence to support my position, I ran across an article on (and I can’t believe I’m typing this) Fox News that made perfect sense to me in this case. It discusses Bruce Willis’s new film, Looper, and what it tells us about the future. In it, the author, James Pinkerton, compares two possibilities for the future of America: the one of Star Trek and the one of Blade Runner. While we could look at the timeline of the franchise, starting with Star Trek: Enterprise (2001-2005) since it is set closest to our own time, beginning in 2151, and find comparisons or probabilities for the future, to really answer the original question, we have to consider the existence of the franchise, period.

Existentialist Kirk wonders about his true essence… and also the location of his pants.

Created by Gene Roddenberry in 1964 and airing from 1966-1969, Star Trek came on the heels of JFK’s challenge to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. All that was space-y was in en vogue… just look at the fashions, home decor, and concept cars. It only makes sense that TV networks would want in on the action, too. (Lost in Space and The Jetsons, anyone?) The 1960s was obviously harbored plenty of optimism and general “Team America” spirit. The  space program enjoyed a great deal of support, which was fueled by a race against the Ruskies to reach the moon amid Cold War fears. Roddenberry, as Pinkerton points out, constructed a not-so-distant future where “the world would be safe and prosperous,” and Earth would join with other worlds in the United Federation of Planets. Several people who prefer more of an isolationist-style of foreign policy would liken this to a large scale, futuristic United Nations, and there’s the first point where all hopes of having a Star Trek future are dashed. Since William Shatner first uttered those immortal opening lines at the beginning of the original series, the world has witnessed several wars and acts of terrorism, leading one to believe, as Pinkerton states, that Earth just isn’t ready to lead a federation like that. Also, while we have recently seen excitement over space exploration with the landing of the Mars Curiosity rover earlier this summer, NASA will be faced with huge budgetary cuts through the next several years. 

Would you just look at those eyebrows?!

The other reason why our great-great-great-great-great grandchildren won’t be marrying Vulcans or Klingons in the future is that the United States, as a whole, isn’t that great at math and science. According to the National Science and Math Initiative, “U.S. students recently finished 25th in math and 17th in science in the ranking of 31 countries by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.” Issues of funding plague all levels of education, from elementary schools all the way through colleges and universities. American students have a hard time competing globally when text books are outdated and materials and equipment are either scarce or in serious need of upgrades. Young girls and women need more encouragement to explore the sciences; when more people are able to contribute to innovations in the STEM fields, I believe we’ll see our global rankings go up. Earlier this year, the Obama Administration announced the “creation of a new, national STEM Master Teacher Corps comprised of some of the nation’s finest educators in STEM subjects.” The growing career fields that will spur American innovation in the future will require the knowledge and skills gained from studying the sciences. Heralding this commitment to STEM education, President Obama said “If America is going to compete for the jobs and industries of tomorrow, we need to make sure our children are getting the best education possible. Teachers matter, and great teachers deserve our support.” If, someday, we can crack the top ten in those rankings, we may have a shot at making Star Trek a reality.

I will use any excuse to include a picture of Captain Kirk.

So there’s my argument. While it might be really cool to explore the galaxies on a ship three times the length (height?) of the Eiffel Tower, I just don’t know that it will happen. I don’t entirely agree with his underlying sentiment, but Pinkerton thoroughly sums it up at the end of his article:

And yet at a time when politics seems like a downer and the popular culture seems even more down-bound, it will take more than hope to change the future to a better course for America and for humanity.  Each and every optimist will have to stand up and do something positive and constructive toward that better course.   To borrow a phrase from “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” we will all have to do our part to “make it so.”

While doing my research, I came across a few entertaining bits, including an analysis of the Kirk/Spock/McCoy triad as the Ego, Super Ego, and Id. Having minored in psychology in college and being particularly fond of Freud’s psychoanalytic theories, I thought it was great. (I always felt that Kirk was more of the Id, considering he romanced a life form on almost every planet.) However, while studying the highly detailed timeline that intertwines each series, down to the episode, I came across a species with which I was unfamiliar. Admittedly, I’ve only watched The Original Series because I’m a huge fan of William Shatner and I love the 60s kitsch of it all, so I’m not familiar with other crews. The species I encountered was the Cardassians, and, you guessed it… my mind went immediately to “Kardashian.” Therefore, I will from now on imagine this is what the Kardashians must look like without their makeup:

Next, on Keeping Up With the Cardassians…

But reading about this extra-terrestrial species, there are some similarities. Compared to many other humanoid Star Trek races, Cardassians prefer warmer and darker climates. I like to assume the Kardashian equivalent is being in “da club,” as it were. Cardassians tend to be predatory in nature, like wolves always seeking a dominant position in social gatherings. In normal courting behavior, Cardassian couples routinely act bitter and snap at each other. (Five minutes of Keeping Up With the Kardashians will back this up.) I’ll never be able to listen to that show for background noise the same way ever again.

How’s my argument of why our descendants will probably never get to wear cadet uniforms? Agree? Disagree? I want to hear your thoughts! If you have a topic you’d like for me to discuss, or even have a question you’d like to ask, leave it in the comment section.

I Have Met the 5k, and I Have Vanquished It.

This past Saturday, I completed my semi-short term goal of participating in a 5k. I’ve been training for it in earnest since the beginning of the year, taking in more miles on the ellipticals and on the track at the Rec Center than I ever had before. Once what snow we did have was gone and it was warm enough, I moved my training outside. A week before the event, I had my mom drop me off at the starting point so I could walk it on my own. Finally, after weeks of walking and jogging,  it was St. Patrick’s Day — 5k day. The Campbell-Dickinson St. Patrick’s Day 5k Run/Walk is a fundraiser for the Trinity Foundation’s Trinity Emergency Assistance Relief Fund, which helps provide financial support for cancer patients and their families. It is named for cancer survivor Jenny Russlee-Dickinson, a teacher in Toronto, and the late attorney William “Pat” Campbell. Through St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a charity helping children with cancer, people could donate $10 to have their heads shaved in front of everyone. Nearly everyone was out in their greens, or wearing the leprechaun shirt you got if you registered by a certain date. (Oh darn, a “free” t-shirt that I didn’t get… shoot.) I, however, as an Irish Protestant, was rocking the orange, making me stand out in a sea of green and white.

I look like the leprechaun compared to that guy behind me... (Photo via Facebook, TEMS Joint Ambulance District)

I walked with my best friend, Kara, who was registered with Team Hospice of the Valley (the people in blue). According to an email sent out by the group organizing the event, 819 people were registered to participate. After the runners took off at 11:30am, everyone else lined up almost around the block to start the walk. I was a little disappointed we didn’t get the starting gunshot for our part; they must have used their one blank for the runners… People were lined up on the sidewalk cheering on all of the participants, and as we headed north through town, others were on their front porches cheering for us. One little girl stood at the edge of her porch giving everyone a thumbs up as we passed by, so I turned around and returned the gesture.

My boyfriend came down the night before to support me, which was pretty awesome of him. In the week prior to the event, my sister would tell me all the things she was going to do as I walked by our house on the route, including booing me (out of sweet, sisterly love), throwing confetti over me, giving me the Gatorade shower, and holding signs with slightly questionable inspirational messages. I’m glad she opted for signs. When I passed my house, these are what she and Brian were holding:

Actually, this is true. By 4 days. I guess a lot of people got a kick out of this sign.

Hey, Dad's forehead, where did you come from? Also, don't mind our sad fence garden. The flowers should be in soon.

Can I be honest, though? 3.1 miles seems like a lot longer than it actually is. Maybe it was the turn-around point, or maybe it was because I’ve driven the route so many times… I’m not sure. And it’s definitely different from walking a track or running the same distance on an elliptical. I came in at 1:02:38, which is about what I expected for a 3-ish mile walk (I’ve got short little legs, remember?), but it was still shorter than the times of some people who chose to run it. Maybe next year. As I rounded the corner to go back to the main staging area, I saw my mom, sister, and boyfriend walking towards me to congratulate me. I was informed that I could use a shower, but they still took me to McDonalds for me to indulge in a large Coke and fries. I didn’t give either of those things up for Lent, but the day I inexplicably went on a Coca-Cola hiatus just happened to coincide with Ash Wednesday. I’m very glad that I challenged myself with this 5k. Giving up excuses for Lent really helped me prepare for this, and blogging about my goal probably helped, too. Thank you all for your encouragement, tips, and suggestions along the way. So what’s next for me? I don’t quite know yet. Let me graduate in May with my Master’s degree and we’ll go from there. But, it’s very likely that I’ll be accumulating more race bibs in the future!

Best of Pop Culture in 2011, an Art Review

Wow, 2011. Hundreds of years from now, anthropologists will look back at this year and wonder what in Zoltar’s name we were thinking. (Assuming we’ve connected with extraterrestrial beings by that time and they turn out to be oddball, Mr. Furley-style landlords of the universe, of course.) It seemed like everyone was getting in on their piece of the crazy while they could, although some figured out how to ration it out to make it last as long as possible.

Since I’ve moved back home, I’ve rearranged my bedroom, trying to make more space for  another bookcase. However, the new arrangement has left the wall right across from my bed painfully bare, and I’m thinking I could use some new artwork to spruce it up. Now, if you’re a 20-something girl in college, or have an appreciation for handmade crafts, you’ve surely heard of Etsy, an e-commerce website focused on handmade or vintage items as well as art and craft supplies (or so says Wikipedia). I happen to fit into both categories, and while I could simply hang a painting my boyfriend did for me, or my framed Abbey Road poster, I thought I should peruse Etsy to see what there is to be had. I blanked on what terms to search, so I just put in a few keywords or names from this past year to find something wall-worthy… I must admit, there are some serious contenders.

So, here is the pop culture year in review, interpreted by the artists of Etsy:

1. Charlie Sheen

There should be a hashtag in there somewhere, right?

I feel like Charlie Sheen probably tried to recreate that scene in Scarface where Tony Montana dives face first into a pile of cocaine, and his meltdown is the result. Everyone was all, “I’ve got tiger blood” and “I’m a frickin’ rockstar from Mars” while tweeting about how they were #winning all the time. I still have a hard time taking people seriously if they spent the first few months of the year saying “winning” after they did something mediocre, if that. Unfortunately for me, the listing for this delightful cross-stitch is just for the pattern, not the actual completed work. No thanks.

2. The Royal Wedding

At least his bald spot probably isn't as apparent here.

For the record, there were over 6,000 items that came up when I searched for “royal wedding.” As much of a big deal as it was over here, it was even bigger across the pond. I know at least one Dame (Joni) who got up to watch it at about 4am our time. Lacking cable and sleep, I waited to watch the Today Show’s coverage of it the following morning online. Unlike other things that will show up on this list, this pop culture moment wasn’t so bad. Honestly, who doesn’t love a nice fairytale wedding? It was lovely and tasteful, and good Lord, that Alexander McQueen dress by Sarah Burton was incredible. However, the artwork I need has to be something I can put on a wall, although this could make a nice bookend or something.

3. The Republican Party

This one was truly a toss-up, so I’ll let you decide which is best. In my eyes, neither one of these is better than the other, and since they were created by the same artist, perhaps I could get a discounted shipping rate.

I find Pelosi’s mouth terrifying in this painting, and I fear for Secretary Clinton’s safety. Also, I assume Romney and Cain are playing GOP tag, and Cain is now it.

I’m really intrigued by the explanation the artist gave for this painting of prominent women in today’s political scene. He states in the listing, “I believe I find myself in the middle of the road politically. I believe the best thing we can do for Pelosi and Bachmann is have them suit up with a real politician, Hillary Clinton.” The artist also has a video giving more background on his thoughts on the subject. (OMG, no, seriously, watch this video.) Between Bachmann and Cain (and Perry, oh my!), this year, I was convinced the Republican Party was going to pick their candidate based on who spewed the most crazy. At the time, these two were the top contenders, but as of today, both have (conveniently) suspended their presidential campaigns, still allowing them to raise money to put towards the campaigns of other candidates. To avoid the chance of any bad dreams, I think I will pass on this political folk art, but thank you all the same, Denny Pinkham.

4. Occupy Wall Street

But if the pig is the 99%... well, now I'm just confused.

For the longest time, it seemed like many of the big name news outlets didn’t bother to cover the Occupy Movement, which started in New York City’s Zucotti Park in mid-September 2011, or when they did, they basically said they didn’t get it. Douglass Rushkoff, a media theorist, got it, and probably said it best: “Anyone who says he has no idea what these folks are protesting is not being truthful. Whether we agree with them or not, we all know what they are upset about, and we all know that there are investment bankers working on Wall Street getting richer while things for most of the rest of us are getting tougher.” Since then, several other Occupy demonstrations have taken place, including on college campuses. This is one moment of 2011 that isn’t going away anytime soon. However, to speak aesthetically, I like the minimalist, contemporary look of this shadow box, but I need something that packs more of a visual punch…

5. Kim Kardashian

MY CORNEAS!!!!

Kim Kardashian, you are all that is wrong with society. Other than making a sex tape, what have you done to be this famous? If it’s not worth having a camera shoved up your nostril while doing it, you probably won’t do it. While I’m sure your wedding was a real boost to California’s economy, filing for divorce after 72 days is more of a threat to the sanctity of marriage than any marriage between two loving, committed people who happen to be of the same sex could ever be. Besides, didn’t you all see Sex & the City 2? (No? Just us? Really?) Stanford and Anthony’s wedding was just as opulent as Ms. Kardashian’s, and I can imagine the gift registry was just as insane — just think what that could mean for the economy. Besides, everyone deserves the right to marry the person they love. Units of time can now be measured in Kardashians: my sister and her fiance, who are getting married on June 2, will have their first Kardashian on August 13. Kim wasn’t the only one to get the Andy Warhol treatment: check out this refurbished window covered in Snookis.

On second thought, maybe I’ll just stick with the Abbey Road poster…