2

Can AI write good novels?

I expect that this is probably the year I’ll need to consider how my profession will change if students start relying on AI writing software. Like many people in my social media feed, this summer I’ve been playing a bit with AI image software, and thinking about how all the photographers and artists whose work is being sampled and remixed, without compensation or credit, to supply a commodity that serves someone else’s needs. “Julia was twenty-six years old… and she worked, as he had guessed, on the novel-writing machines in the Fiction Department. She enjoyed her work, which consisted chiefly…

The Wire (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 22) While examining an ill Garak, Bashir discovers a mysterious implant

Rewatching ST:DS9 While sparring with Bashir over literature, Garak gets unusually cranky and headachy, but insists he’s fine.  Bashir pays a house call to Dax’s quarters, where he treats a plant that’s languishing because it’s away from its natural environment (an apt metaphor for Garak’s situation). This bit not only delivers exposition as Bashir talks to Dax about his arms-length friendship with the mysterious Garak, but also neatly establishes something that we take for granted some 30 years later — that Bashir can diagnose and treat an alien plant he’s never seen before, because he has access to a good…

The Maquis, Part 2 (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 21) Sisko must stop the dissident Maquis from reigniting a war with Cardassia

Rewatching ST:DS9 Hudson and Sisko have at it with the rhetoric on a casual stroll across a cheesy-looking jungle soundstage. Hudson admits he can’t prove the Cardassian government is arming its settlers, but he’s not interested in working with Sisko to find that proof. Instead, he phaser-stuns Sisko and escapes. Back on DS9, Sisko gives orders to continue the search for the kidnapped Dukat, and does not mention Hudson’s defection  during a 2-minute meeting with Admiral Necheyev (that could have been an e-mail). Sisko tells Kira that Earth is the cause of the problem — the Federation leaders who wrote…

The Maquis, Part 1 (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 20) Dukat pressures Sisko to deal with armed Federation colonists in the Cardassisan demilitarized zone

Rewatching ST:DS9 A man in a gold Starfleet uniform tampers with the hatch of a Cardassian ship. Dax and Kira are sparring in a sisterly way about their tastes in men when that same ship goes boom. The investigation implicates Federation technology. Sisko’s old friend Lt. Cmdr Hudson visits from the demilitarized zone, reporting tensions from Federation colonists who found themselves on the Cardassisan side of recently redrawn borders. On the promenade, the Vulcan Sakonna meets discreetly with the saboteur we saw earlier, then seeks out Quark to do business — though he seems mostly interested in pleasure. Intrigue mounts…

Blood Oath (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 19) Glory to Dax and her three aging Klingon chums

Rewatching ST:DS9 A rowdy Klingon customer overstays his welcome reliving a battle in Quark’s holosuite, and ends up drunk in a cell, where a second Klingon leaves him with contempt. Realizing that she’s stumbled across some of Curzon’s old friends, Dax (re)introduces herself. Kor is willing to go with the flow, but stickler Koloth believes Kang “must not have known” about Dax’s new host, and considers it a “mistake” to include her now. Kang says he has found “the albino,” but formally releases Jadzia Dax from the blood oath that Curzon swore. Trek nerds will of course recognize each of…

Profit and Loss (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 18) Quark is reunited with, and punched by, the love of his live

Rewatching ST:DS9 A damaged shuttle brings three Cardassian civilians to the station. Natima is a professor who wants no trouble with the Bajorans and hopes she and her two students can be on their way quickly. When Quark sees Natima on the promenade, his face lights up. The smack she gives him, and his elated reaction, hint at their very Casablanca-esque past. We soon learn Natima’s shuttle wasn’t damaged in a meteor storm, it was fired on. She describes herself as a professor of politics. The student with the intense “Kubrick forward stare” is a nice touch, which helped keep…

Playing God (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 17) Dax mentors a too-eager-to-please Trill initiate

Rewatching ST:DS9 In a nice long tracking shot showing off the set, Bashir strolls through an airlock talking with Arjin, a mild-mannered Trill, who is nervous to meet his mentor Dax, who has a reputation of being hard on candidates for the symbiotic joining process. Of course that was Curzon Dax; the next few scenes are designed to highlight Arjin’s surprise to see Jadzia Dax gaming late at night with Ferengi, chatting with visitors in the morning wearing just a towel, and gleefully phasering vermin. In a runabout, Jadzia is mildly annoyed that Arjin is working so hard to impress…

Shadowplay (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 16) Odo investigates disappearances in an idyllic colony

Rewatching ST:DS9 Just like last week’s episode, this week a hitherto unexplored pairing of main characters are motivated by scanner-confusing plot contrivance particles to beam down to a planet, and the teaser ends with the landing party facing an unhappy colonist’s weapon (which gets lowered almost as soon as the opening title sequence ends). Protector Colyus explains that nothing much happens here in Grover’s Corners (no I mean River City, no I mean Mayberry, no I mean Yerida II), except that a few months ago people started disappearing. The elder Ruigan explains his daughter was the last to disappear, just…

1

Paradise (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 15) Anti-technology colony welcomes Sisko and O’Brien a bit too enthusiastically

Rewatching ST:DS9 In a runabout on a survey of star systems near the wormhole, Sisko asks O’Brien to take Jake on as an apprentice.  They find a planet giving off low-level plot contrivance particles. When they beam down, none of their technology works. They also find a thriving agrarian human colony, built around the empty hull of their non-functioning spaceship, which landed here 10 years ago en route to a different destination. The colonists ask questions about Starfleet, sports, and fashion. The leader Alixus gives a speech about how proud they are of what they’ve accomplished on their own, without…

Whispers (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 14) O’Brien Must Suffer: shunned and on the run

Rewatching ST:DS9 In a runabout, O’Brien sets a course for the Parada system, starts a personal log carefully designed to tease the viewer, and flashes back to when it all started — the morning after he returned from a mission to Parada. He wakes to find Keiko is up very early, and Molly won’t kiss him good morning. Keiko gives weak explanations for these and other minor things that trouble O’Brien. He finds an underling has already started on a big project setting up security for upcoming peace talks, saying he’s acting on Sisko’s orders. On his way to talk…

Armageddon Game (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 13) Bashir and O’Brien become targets after helping warring factions eliminate their bioweapons

Rewatching ST:DS9 In a lab on an alien cruiser, Bashir technobabbles a container of orange goop, turning it green, which we are made to understand is good. The T’Lani and Kellerun races have recently made peace after warring for centuries, and the script required them to reach out to the Federation for help destroying their stockpiles of weaponized ooze. O’Brien wants to go home after being away for a week, but Bashir talks him into staying one more day for the peace celebration.   Just as Bashir finishes de-weaponizing the last of the orange goop, two Kellerun soldiers storm the lab…

I did not know how much I would appreciate this detailed exploration of Star Trek: TOS prop computers.

I’m amazed at the level of detail that went into analyzing the prop computers created over 50 years ago for the original Star Trek. Not only has this website collected screen shots of the various props, but some include diagrams indicating which practical buttons on the props activated which lights. (The same website has sections on reused set elements, changes in the depiction of Klingon foreheads, and more.) Back in the 60’s and early 70’s the thought of having a portable desk-top computer was unthinkable. This made the computer props from Star Trek so intriguing and just plain cool. During…

The Alternate (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 12) Odo helps a Bajoran scientist investigate a shape-shifty clue to his own origins

Rewatching ST:DS9 As Odo squelches Quark’s latest scheme, a Bajoran man greets the constable with an air of familiarly, leaving Odo on edge. Dr. Mora is the scientist in charge of investigating the liquid substance that we now understand is the at-rest state of the shape-shifter Odo. In Mora’s presence, Odo acts like a teenager humiliated by an overbearing parent. Mora’s praise for Odo’s accomplishments is laced with surprise; his compliments carry passive-aggressive barbs.  By contrast, Sisko is SuperDad, calmly affirming to Jake of the value of a broad education, including Klingon opera homework. Jake: Just because you suffered through…

Sanctuary (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 10) Many refugees from the other side of the wormhole seek a new home

Rewatching ST:DS9 Sisko mildly brings up the fact that Kira has spent all day shouting at a Bajoran minister instead of finishing a report. He’s not upset, but he clearly means “Don’t ever let that happen again.” A Bajoran musician charms a crowd with a tragically beautiful cover of the DS9 theme song, but Quark is annoyed because entranced customers spend less. A distressed ship comes through the wormhole. Sisko beams the new arrivals to Ops. A woman with a tall hairdo and three cowering men can’t understand Sisko’s welcome, because for plot reasons the computer has trouble translating their…

Scat “boop oop a doop” and variations (Esther Lee Jones, Helen Kane, Betty Boop, Marilyn Monroe); hippie “coo coo ca choo”; Beatles “goo goo ga joob”

A few years ago I was working regularly with a director who filled any conversation pause with a descending musical vocalization “doo de-doo de-doo.” While the similar “dum de-dum de-dum” means “I’m just sitting here minding my own business,” the brighter, more cheerful “doo de-doo de-do” was a cross between a satisfied sigh and a scat, and seemed to convey motion, or anticipation. It was so bright that maybe I should render it “doot te-doot te-doot.”   Not “attention!” like the CSI “dun-dun” gavel sound, or impatience, like the “writing down your Final Jeopardy response” theme song.  I remember looking into…

Rivals (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 11) A charming entrepreneur opens a casino to rival Quark’s

Rewatching ST:DS9 A man in a fancy suit charms a wealthy widow at Quark’s, as she reveals her secret investment plans. Just when Martus asks about a partnership, Odo apprehends him for a previous con. O’Brien, in schlubby workout clothes, trundles into an angular, futuristic racquetball court and is crestfallen to find Bashir already there, doing fancy warmup exercises in a spiffy outfit. The good doctor cheerfully brags about being captain of his team in med school. In a jail cell with Martus is an ill-looking humanoid with a blinking sphere that he plays with (it keeps making an alien…

Second Sight (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 9) Sisko falls for a woman who keeps disappearing

Rewatching ST:DS9 Sisko narrates a personal log about almost forgetting the fourth anniversary of his wife Jennifer’s death. Jake shares a dream about being lost and wanting to find his father. (The young actor, Cirroc Lofton does a good job portraying vulnerability.)  Later, Sisko is looking out the window on the Promenade deck when a beautiful woman appears. They talk about the stars, she introduces herself as Fenna, he offers to show her the station — and she vanishes. Kira notices that Sisko has walked into Ops cheerfully, instead of needing to wake up with raktajino (Klingon coffee).  Visiting the…

Necessary Evil (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 8) Odo revisits his first case — an unsolved murder under the Cardassian occupation

Rewatching ST:DS9 On a stormy night on Bajor, a widower in an elegant salon with no electric power offers to pay Quark to retrieve a box from the shop her husband used to keep on Terek Nor (the Cardassian name for what we know as DS9). Inside the box Quark finds only a list of Bajoran names, and sends Rom to “get me an imager.” A thug appears, steals the list, and shoots Quark. Sisko and Odo play good cop / bad cop to get the rattled Rom to spill details. When Odo enters the scene of the crime, the…

Rules of Acquisition (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 2, Episode 7) Plucky waiter Pel offers Quark sound financial advice

Rewatching ST:DS9 After-hours at Quark’s, Dax is gambling with the Ferengi and casually challenging their uber-patriarchy. A spunky young waiter named Pel makes a business suggestion to Quark; Rom is envious. The Grand Nagus Zek (Ferengi financial leader) makes a video call, offering Quark an “opportunity.” Zek negotiates with Sisko for permission to hold a conference on the station, and sweetens the deal with an offer of fertilizer for Bajor. Zek’s plan is to have Quark negotiate for tulaberries from the other side of the wormhole. Rom is proud of his brother, but Pel advises caution, and winds up a…