Star Trek and Conflict

The word went out last week that Star Trek: Discovery will be ditching one of the long-standing rules of the franchise: that the main crew must not have conflicts with each other.

Good!

This rule has not only been an impediment to Star Trek‘s story-telling but represents a misunderstanding of Gene Roddenberry’s original hopeful vision for the future. Unfortunately, it is a misunderstanding perpetrated by Roddenberry himself, in his later years.

Star Trek has always been at its best when it embraced conflict among the crew. What is important is that those conflicts arise because different members of the crew honestly represent different points of view, not because they are driven by pettiness, jealousy, spite, greed, or other base instincts. The vision of Star Trek is that human conflicts driven by these basic flaws are unimportant distractions that we can overcome. When we achieve that, it doesn’t mean that we stop having conflicts, it just means that we can get down to the ones that actually mean something. We can argue passionately for our own points of view without devolving into petty sniping and backstabbing. We can disagree with someone else’s ideas and still respect and work with them.

This is why Deep Space Nine has always been my favorite version of Star Trek. It shows us characters who strongly disagree with each other, even to the point of yelling and storming out of rooms, but who still respect one another and work as a team. Their conflicts don’t get resolved at the end of the episode with one side proven right and the other wrong, because the conflicts that really matter are the ones that have no simple resolution. Exploring those kinds of conflicts is what Star Trek is about. It is why we have Star Trek. It is what Star Trek does.

If Discovery is going to give us more of that, then I couldn’t be happier. In these days of internet flame wars and political absolutism, the idea that we can argue about things that matter and still work together as a crew to escape the mysterious space energy field of the week is utopian enough for me.

Images: “Damn it, Spock” via Imgur. “No, but it is interesting” via Giphy. Sisko and Kira via Star Trek Gifs.

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

Wonder Woman Transmog

I loved Wonder Woman so much that I decided to try my hand at putting together a Diana-themed transmog. Here’s what my protection paladin is sporting now:

It may not be perfect, but I’m pretty happy with the results.

Here’s a link to the set, if anyone’s curious about the pieces. Anybody got any better suggestions? I’d love to see someone else’s take on it!

(And, of course, she has a horse.)

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Temporary Exhibition: a Viking Age Village in Finland

The Viking age apparently is a bit of a thing in the Nordic countries this year: in addition the brand new museum in Stockholm, Vapriikki museum centre in Tampere will host an exhibition on Viking-age life in Finland starting this summer.

The exhibit covers village life in 1017. It’s based on the discovery of and archaeological finds from a whole Viking-age village called Tursiannotko in Pirkkala at the shores of lake Pyhäjärvi.

Birckala 1017 runs from June 09, 2017 to August 19, 2018. The exhibit description (from their 2017 brochure) reads:

“It was the time of the Vikings. In the village of Tursia, people cultivated the land, traded, made sacrifices to the gods, and ate large amounts of pork. Both the Vikings and the Novgorodians sought the riches of the Häme wilderness; however, one small village of indomitable Häme folk still held out against the enemy…

“To celebrate the centennial of Finnish independence, the Birckala 1017 exhibition allows visitors to travel through time and visit a village in Northern Häme a millennium ago. You will get to know smithing skills, about cooking outdoors, and the principles that guided life for the Finns of the past […]”

On display will be, for example, bone arrowheads, decorated spoons, beads, tools, and a sword dated to 1050-1200 and its replica. Many items are being shown to the public for the first time.

Yle Birckala 1017 Swords

Apart from the exhibit indoors, a yard with replicas (and non-replica sheep!) is available for trying out some of the iron age skills.

Yle Birckala 1017 Tursiannotko Cottage

Vapriikki in housed in an old factory hall whose oldest parts date back to the 1880s. All the exhibits are covered by a single entry ticket. More info on the Vapriikki website.

Images: Swords by Antti Eintola / Yle; Cottage interior by Jussi Mansikka / Yle

Wonder Woman Theme Bagpipe / Metal Cover

This irresistible version of the Wonder Woman theme is played on a bagpipe and an electric guitar and backed up by a heavy metal drum track:

Wonder Woman Theme Bagpipe Cover | Metal Version | The Snake Charmer by TheSnakeCharmer

Produced and guitar by Karan Katiyar, bagpipes by Archy J / The Snake Charmer.

I was wondering how on earth it might work, but it did and so, so well: the hair on my arms stood up within the first five seconds—surefire way to know a piece of music is really great!

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Roman Dice Tower

People have been playing games with dice for a very long time, and for as longs as we’ve been playing with dice we’ve been worrying about how to make sure we (and everybody else we’re playing with) get a fair throw. One solution to this problem is the dice tower, a box you can toss your dice into and have them rattle out the bottom. Dice towers are nothing new, either. Here’s a Roman version.

Dice tower, photograph by Rheinisches Landesmuseum via Wikimedia (Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn; 4th c. CE; copper alloy)

This tower was found on a villa in Germany, near the Rhine River. Dice tossed in the top cascaded through a series of baffles to randomize them and then down a series of steps a the bottom. On their way out, they would have knocked and rung thee little bells (only one of which survives).

The Latin text on the step face reads: “The Picts are defeated. The enemy is destroyed. Play in peace.” This text helps date the tower to the fourth century, when the Picts first emerged as a power on the Roman frontier in Scotland. The Rhine was an important trade route that connected across the North Sea to Britain, so it is no surprise that people in the German provinces might want to celebrate a victory over the Picts with a game of dice.

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Rating: Leverage, Season 3

We’ve been rewatching and rating Leverage and we’re through season 3. (For more on how our rating system works, see here, which also covers season 1 of Leverage.) Here’s how the season looks to us.

Leverage, season 3

  1. “The Jailhouse Job” – 4.5
  2. “The Reunion Job” – 5
  3. “The Inside Job” – 7
  4. “The Scheherazade Job” – 4
  5. “The Double-Blind Job” – 5.5
  6. “The Studio Job” – 5.5
  7. “The Gone-Fishin’ Job” – 7
  8. “The Boost Job” – 5.5
  9. “The Three-Card Monte Job” – 1
  10. “The Underground Job” – 6
  11. “The Rashomon Job” – 8
  12. “The King George Job” – 7.5
  13. “The Morning After Job” – 4.5
  14. “The Ho, Ho, Ho Job” – 8
  15. “The Big Bang Job” – 4.5
  16. “The San Lorenzo Job” – 6

Season 3 has a lot of decent but not excellent episodes in the 4-6 range, but the average for the season is brought down to 5.6 (just a hint below season 2’s 5.7) by one real stinker.

To get the bad stuff out of the way first: “The Three-Card Monte Job” is the season’s worst episode and only total bomb. It’s a story about a father and son who have a bad relationship and are bad at communicating with each other. Snore. We are so, so over father-son angst. Even a few clever on-the-spot caper bits by the team can’t save this episode. This season also includes a half-hearted attempt at an arc which never really pays off, but at least it doesn’t get in the way of the usual heists and capers too badly.

On the other hand, we have two solid episodes tied for best of the season at 8. “The Rashomon Job” is a sparklingly clever take on the heist genre as the main characters all recount, from their own perspectives, how once, before they all started working together, they were all after the same priceless work of art at the same time. The main cast really shines in this one as they get to play out different versions of the same scene, and so does John Billingsley in a brilliant guest performance. “The Ho, Ho, Ho Job” is a feel-good Christmas episode that also features the return of Wil Wheaton’s pain-in-the-ass hacker Kaos. There are lovely character bits in this episode, too, including Parker’s childlike love of Christmas and Elliot playing the grumpiest Santa Claus ever.

Any Leverage fans out there want to weigh in? Got a different pick for the best or worst episodes of the season? Let us know in the comments!

Image: Leverage cast via IMDb

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

How to Helsinki: Shopping in Finland

Worldcon is in Helsinki this year. As a Finnish-American couple, we are very excited about this! In the coming months, we’d like to offer some practical advice about visiting Finland to our fellow fans who are considering going to the event but haven’t had experience with Finland and Finns before.

Eppu here. Shopping in Finland has changed quite a bit in my lifetime. For most of its history, Finland was a poor relative to and fought over by Sweden and Russia. After the second World War, though, and especially after 1970s, Finland has changed drastically and is now one of the most stable, orderly, and prosperous countries in Europe. Nowadays you can find pretty much the same things in Helsinki as you would in any other Western European capitol—spiced with the Finnish flavor, of course.

Shop at Suomenlinna by Jennifer Woodard Maderazo on Flickr
Shop at Suomenlinna island fortress by Jennifer Woodard Maderazo

Like Erik mentioned already (HTH: Eating in Helsinki), 1- and 2-cent euro coins are not used in Finland. While legal tender, shopkeepers might nevertheless decline accepting the coins. Everything is instead rounded up or down to the nearest 5 cent number. (If you’re a coin collector and want a full set, there are 1- and 2-cent coins to buy.)

Perhaps a shock to visitors from outside the EU is the high sales tax or value-added tax (VAT; in Finnish, arvonlisävero or ALV). EU member states are required to collect VAT, but each state is free to set its own rate. Currently in Finland, VAT is 24% for general items, but there are lowered rates of 14% for food and restaurant services (excluding alcohol and tobacco) and 10% for books, medicines, and transportation or cultural event tickets, among others.

Marking the tax may also differ from what you’re used to. After I moved to the U.S., having to do calculus to find out the final purchase prices was an annoyance to me. In Finland, all prices already include any applicable taxes; what you see on the price tag is what you pay.

People living permanently outside the EU or Norway may be able to make VAT-free purchases, but note that retailers are not obligated to offer tax free shopping. If they do, there’s often a sticker at the door or at registers, and a number of requirements apply. See Tax-free sales to travellers in Finland for more.

Shop Window by Ian Kennedy on Flickr Cropped
Shop window from the Design District Helsinki, detail, by Ian Kennedy

There’s a movement to start charging a small fee on plastic shopping bags in stores, and some chains have already started, but as of this writing no consensus exists. It’s perhaps best to bring your own foldable totes or prepare to pay for bags.

If you’re planning on buying electronics or DVDs, note that Finnish DVDs are region 2, and electric sockets and plugs are Europlug type C or the grounded Schuko type F.

 

A few recommendations

Books

kirjakauppa – kirja ‘book’ + kauppa ‘store’

The biggest book store chains are Akateeminen Kirjakauppa and Suomalainen Kirjakauppa (NB. no English site; store locations listed here). Used books can be found in various antikvariaatti or antikvaarinen kirjakauppa.

Stockmann Book Department by IdeasAlchemist on Flickr
Stockmann Book Department by IdeasAlchemist

Moomins

The iconic Moomin (Muumi) troll family created by Tove Jansson can nowadays be found in many stores and on a great variety of items. Official Moomin merchandise can be found at Moomin Shops, the most centrally located of which is inside the Forum shopping center (link to a map); there’s also a shop at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport.

Moomins by Mike Burns on Flickr
Moomins on dishware by Mike Burns

Design & Fashion

Some of the world’s most imitated and admired designers and architects come from Finland. From Eero Aarnio’s Ball Chair (The Prisoner tv series, Men in Black II) to the Marimekko Unikko poppy pattern (worn by Jackie Onassis) to a new generation of designers, the Finnish style tends towards modern, understated clean lines. Merchandise from design houses and individual designers are often showcased in the Stockmann Helsinki city center department store during the summer season.

Fiskars shopping by Visit Finland on Flickr
Fiskars shopping by Visit Finland

Vintage & Second-Hand

Open-air markets and market halls are good places for finding vintage and second-hand items, including older design. The non-profit Fida and UFF chains sell primarily second-hand clothes. Flea markets—kirpputori or kirppis—may also work.

Window shopping 2 by kallu on Flickr
Window shopping #2 in Kallio, Helsinki, by /kallu

Handmade

Handmade wares vary from high design to mom-and-pop operators. Both types can often be found at a tori (an open-air market) or kauppahalli (market hall), or the former in various souvenir and/or design shops. One hot spot (though touristy) is the south side of Senaatintori (Senate Square; link to a map)—walk along Unioninkatu, Sofiankatu, Katariinankatu, or Helenankatu towards Kauppatori (Market Square) and the harbor.

Hand made by Freeariello on Flickr
A hand made seller at Kauppatori in Helsinki by Freeariello

Some links:

Images: Shop at Suomenlinna by Jennifer Woodard Maderazo on Flickr (CC BY 2.0); Shop window cropped from a photo by Ian Kennedy on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0); Stockmann Book Department by IdeasAlchemist on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0); Moomins by Mike Burns on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0); Fiskars shopping by Visit Finland on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0); Window shopping #2 by /kallu on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0); Hand made by Freeariello on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND-2.0)

In Live and Active Cultures we talk about cultures and cultural differences.

Texts from Wonder Woman: Weaknesses

One of the brilliant takes among The Best Wonder Woman Texts From Superheroes (No Movie Spoilers):

Texts from Wonder Woman Weaknesses

  • Batman: So what are your weaknesses?
  • Wonder Woman: What do you mean?
  • Batman: I’m just making a list. Green Lantern can’t affect yellow, Superman is hurt by Kryptonite, Flash is bad with cold. What about you?
  • Wonder Woman: Put down nothing.
  • Batman: You’re saying you don’t have any weaknesses?
  • Wonder Woman: I’m saying if I did I wouldn’t be dumb enough to tell people what they are.

Go and read more!

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Quotes: Sometimes Silence Is the Greatest Wisdom

“’I think I’m supposed to say something, but I don’t know what,’ he said.

“’Then don’t say anything. Sometimes silence is the greatest wisdom.’”

– The volunteer and N’Kya in “The Volunteer” by Maurice Broaddus

Oh, so much this. Not only because I think it’s true, but because it reminds me of a cultural difference that’s highly personal to me. In my culture, silence is definitely seen differently than in the U.S. Over the years, I’ve struggled to explain it. This is the closest I’ve come so far:

For a Finn to be silent isn’t an indication of inattention or rudeness; far from it. Silently listening is a sign of interest, i.e., not interrupting before the other speaker has had a chance to finish. Silence means attention to the topic and respect towards another person’s life and space. (Finns need a larger bubble of personal space than other Europeans.) And silence can also be an indication of deep camaraderie.

In essece, then, silence means space, and space means respect.

Broaddus, Maurice. “The Volunteer.” In The Voice of Martyrs. Greenbelt, MD: Rosarium, 2017, p. 103.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.