A Note to My Remaining Students at the Close of the 2021 Fall Semester

Of course, the power outage meant that we missed three weeks of class, but when I was able to finally meet up again with the few of you who returned, I really felt we got a lot done. Until the fires. Who knew that plugging all of our electrical infrastructure into the same outlet would turn the entire west side into a giant ball of flame? Not me. But I…

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Time’s Arrow, Part 2 (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 6, Episode 1) Data (fate preordained) scrums with skeptical Twain, that’s a-Part-2

Rewatching ST:TNG Some time has passed since Part 1, as Picard and the away team members, passing themselves off as a theatre troupe, are behind in their rent at a boarding house in 19thC San Francisco. (We already know [s5e16 “Ethics“] that LaFoge’s visor lets him see through at least some playing cards, and Troi’s access to emotions and sometimes specific thoughts would presumably help her tell when players are…

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Time’s Arrow, Part 1 (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 5, Episode 26) Data’s head in a mine meets Mark Twain back in time, that’s a-cliffhang.

Rewatching ST:TNG An archaeologist who’s not very good at prioritizing natters on to Picard about finding some old glasses, a revolver, and a pocket watch in an old mine. When Picard asks why the Enterprise-D was recalled to Earth to investigate, only then does the archeologist say oh yeah, here in this old mine that’s been sealed under San Francisco for 500 years we also found the severed head of…

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The Inner Light (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 5, Episode 25) When a probe-zapped Picard lives lives snuffed by a star, that’s a-plot twist

Rewatching ST:TNG When a space probe zaps Picard unconscious, he wakes up in a civilian house, where a woman calls him “Kamin,” and says he has been feverish for days.  Out exploring, Picard happens upon a tree planting ceremony. The leader is Kamin’s friend Batai, who answers Picard’s questions with concern. When Picard returns to the house, a relieved Eline feeds him and listens, baffled, to his questions. As far…

Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death

Simulations are powerful tools for understanding our world. Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death explores the surprising intersection between craft and forensic science. It also tells the story of how a woman co-opted traditionally feminine crafts to advance the male-dominated field of police investigation and to establish herself as one of its leading voices. Frances Glessner Lee (1878-1962) crafted her extraordinary “Nutshell…

Thornton Wilder’s Optimistic Catastrophe: “The Skin of Our Teeth”

From a review of a 2017 production in Brooklyn. “The Skin of Our Teeth” first opened in New Haven, at the Shubert Theatre, in 1942. It was directed by Elia Kazan, and starred Tallulah Bankhead, Fredric March, Florence Eldridge, and a very young Montgomery Clift; Variety wrote that the play “bewilders, bemuses, and befuddles, as it amuses.” When it moved to Broadway, to the Plymouth Theatre, it was met with…

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The Perfect Mate (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 5, Episode 21) Picard fails to bore an empath

Rewatching ST:TNG A fussy ambassador on his way to stop a centuries-old war asks Picard to take special care of his fragile, irreplaceable cargo, but by the end of Act 1, a Ferengi has strolled into the unguarded (and apparently unlocked) cargo bay and knocked over a glowing, floating pod, from which a beautiful woman emerges. The ambassador intends to give Kamala as a gift to seal a peace deal.…

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Cost of Living (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 5, Episode 20) Alexander’s Jolly Holodeck Holiday with Lwaxana

Rewatching ST:TNG Who’d love to see another whacky Lwaxana episode? Who can’t get enough of little Alexander? Who wants a Space Thing subplot that has absolutely nothing to do with the main plot? Because a cigar-chomping producer demanded an action sequence in the teaser, there’s tense music, a kinetic camera, and a photon torpedo kaboom in the first 10 seconds… and that’s about all the action for this episode.. The…

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The First Duty (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 5, Episode 19) Cadet Wesley’s Academy Crisis

Rewatching ST:TNG The Enterprise is en route to Earth so that Picard can give the commencement address at Starfleet Academy, when word arrives that Cadet Crusher has survived an accident that killed another student. When we last saw Wesley (s5e6 “The Game“), he was cheerful and well-adjusted; however, Picard and Dr. Crusher are surprised he not only won’t open up to them, but politely asks them to toddle off when…

Shatner’s live, extemporaneous post-touchdown monologue on mortality was better than Kirk’s death scene

After returning to Earth in Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin private spacecraft, Shatner is delivering an extemporaneous monologue about viewing Mother Earth and reflecting on death. “I hope I never recover from this,” he says, of the emotions he experienced. Much better than Kirk’s death scene in Star Trek: Generations. Someone (I was listening, not watching… I think it was Bezos) says “Beautiful,” and Shatner thinks he’s commenting about the view…

Trying to Tame Huck Finn

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of the most frequently banned books in America. I regularly teach it in my American Lit class. I never use “the n-word” in lectures, and I remind my (mostly white) students of the power of the word, but the version of the text I assign doesn’t edit that word out. I also have students listen to an audio interpretation of Pap’s tirade, in order…

In-person classes heighten age-related hearing problems (opinion)

My family tells me I’m starting to speak louder than I need to around the house. On my campus, all students are required to be vaccinated or masked. I can hear my students much better than last term, when everyone was masked and practicing social distance. Today I got several emails alerting me that students are in quarantine or isolation, and that they should contact me about how to make…

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The Masterpiece Society (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 5, Episode 13) Space Thing Threatens Genetically Perfect Colony

Rewatching ST:TNG When a Space Thing threatens a genetically perfect colony, the wary inhabitants resist Picard’s offer to evacuate. Humans on Moab IV have for two centuries enjoyed a carefully designed society. The charismatic leader Conor speaks glowingly of fulfilling the role he was genetically engineered to hold, while the rigid traditionalist Martin undiplomatically scoffs at LaForge’s blindness. Conor is taken with Troi, who seems charmed by his attention. LaForge…

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Violations (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 5, Episode 12) Telepathic Memory Assaults Beset the Enterprise-D

Rewatching ST:TNG A small group of aliens (with bumps on the *sides* of their heads) demonstrate their ability to collect memories telepathically. The leader, Tarmin, helps Keiko recover a pleasant memory of her grandmother. After Tarmin offers to help Beverly remember more about her first kiss that she’s currently thinking about, his son Jev scolds him mildly for probing a memory without permission. Later while sharing his grandiose plans at…

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Hero Worship (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 5, Episode 11) Orphaned Boy Idolizes Data

Rewatching ST:TNG The Enterprise-D encounters the missing research vessel Vico, which was severely damaged while exploring a Space Thing. Various plot contrivances prevents all our favorite treknology from working the way they usually do, because life form sensors would take away the surprise of finding a young survivor; transporters would take away Data’s need to free by him by impressively lifting a beam; and computer records would easily fact-check the…

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New Ground (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 5, Episode 10) Worf’s Son Visits, Acts Out

Rewatching ST:TNG As LaForge nerds out over the Space Thing of the Week (a test of a new faster-than-light propulsion method), Worf receives word his mother and young son are coming on board for a visit from Earth. The big reveal is that tiny little angry Alexander thinks he’s not going back. Worf’s mother says Alexander has some trouble with obedience and honesty, and needs his father’s influence. Worf apparently…