Heading into the October international break

LA Galaxy have dropped two in a row and in both cases their defense was the culprit. As a result, they go into the MLS playoffs in fifth place. Which team will show up? The team that took three straight wins or the one that then gave up two straight losses? As it is, they could get bounced in the first round or make a run all the way to the finals!

Meanwhile, their crosstown rivals LAFC are on the top of the standings and the odds on favorite (53% according to 538) to win the whole thing. They have the most points ever with 72 and Vela has the single season goal scoring record with 34.

In the Swedish top league, the race for the championship is close among the big city clubs Malmo and the three Stockholm teams (Djurgardens, Hammarby, and AIK).

My family teams Elfborg and Falkenberg have their goals. Elfborg is in eighth and realistically the gap to seventh is too far. However, they could slip down so finishing eighth would be satisfying at this stage. As for Falkenberg, avoiding outright relegation is the goal. They have 19 points in 15th place. They are close enough to Sundsvall (20 points) to move up into the playoff relegation spot.

Over in England, Liverpool is off to a 8-0-0 start outpacing traditional top dog Man City and venerable top-6 Arsenal. Leicester City and Crystal Place are surprise top-6 right now. Chelsea sit in 5th. Shockingly, typical top-6 Man U is 12th and Tottenham is 9th. LFC's eight wins include some nervey one goal wins. Will this be the year they finally win a EPL championship after so many decades?

Defending the Champions League title would be a bonus but having gotten it last year I think they would not be too disappointment if they don't win it again. However, I think they would like to at least get out of group stage. Thus far Liverpool's champions league performances have been shaky with a loss to Napoli and a too close for comfort win against Salzburg.

QPR is doing stunningly well! They are ninth! However, will they be able to hold it together in the marathon 46 game season that is the Championship. They only have one draw as they give up goals but score them as well. They have managed to come out on top more than not.

LA Galaxy report card

How has the new front office (Dennis te Kloese) and sideline (Gullermo Barros Schelotto) done?

Definite thumbs up on the willingness to run out the youth occasionally!
Cuello, Traore, Efrain Alvarez, and Araujo have gotten some minutes and have showed varying degrees of promise.

Polenta and Gonzalez signings have firmed up the back line so a thumbs up there. GBS and company were "stuck" with Feltscher and Skjelvik at the outside backs and remain a liability. It is too much to ask Traore and Araujo to get the lion share of those minutes at their stage of development. The defense is better but it has weaknesses.

The midfield signings remain a question mark. Corona, Antuna, and Favio Alvarez have had some good moments. However, I feel that more was expected. I had hoped Corona would provide some defensive cover allowing JDS to get forward more. But I don't think that has happened. And if Corona was supposed to occasionally provide some offense, I don't think that has happened either. Is he an upgrade over Kitchen? Yes. But did we expect more. Yes.

Antuna and Favio seem fit and lively but in the end, the two have combined for just 4 goals and 4 assists. Considering the press clippings they had coming in, I would have thought we would get more production from them. As it stands, center back Steres has 3 goals, more than either of them and center/left back Polenta has 4 assists equal to the two of them put together.

The Pavon move will be a big test of the talent scouting and player development. There are 11 matches left in the season. Am thinking we should hope to get some combination of goals and assists totaling 10 from Pavon. That is the kind of impact fans will be expecting considering all the fanfare around him.

In terms of tactics and game management, one has to question GBS at times. Yes, he likes to play attacking football and that worked to perfection against LAFC in that 3-2 stunner.

But one has to take into account talent on your side of the field. Given the injuries and suspensions that have occurred over the season, sometimes, given the options to picking the XI, it might just be the better part of valor to "park the bus" and try to grind out a draw. Sometimes the match-up against a particular opponent means you play more conservative as seen in the thrashings LAG suffered at the hand of San Jose and Atlanta.

# # #

QPR season started off with a nice win! Expectations are low at the club as they are still under the shadow of the FFP ruling against them. Realistically, QPR has to concentrate on staying financially viable in a very competitive soccer landscape. Hopefully, their talent scouts and player development departments will be able to keep them in the Championship. As it is, they are in a financial pinch and getting relegated would make a bad situation worse.

Falkenbergs FF probably is at the low(est?) end on wage bill for the Allsvenskan. Their goal is simply to avoid gettting relegated. I'd say it is 50-50 regarding this. At the moment, they are outside the relegation zone! Go FFF!

Elfsborg is mid-table which is about where you would expect them as they don't have the resources of the big city clubs from Stockholm (Djurgarden, AIK, Hammarby), Gothenberg (Hacken, Goteborg), or Malmo (Malmo). Breaking into the top 6 would be punching above their weight and qualifying for European competition would be a spectacular season. Historically, they have often punched above their weight but it hasn't been true the last few years. They last won the league in 2012, broke into the top 6 in 2016, and got into Europa League in 2014.

In the global game of soccer following Elfsborg and FFF is following a minnow but enjoyable in its own way!

QPR budget is probably bigger than LA Galaxy but LAG is my home town team! Nonetheless, I do enjoy checking in on how QPR is doing since the only English soccer match I attended was at their home on Loftus Road!


Presidential Bracketology After Debates II

July 30 debate participants
Marianne Williamson
Tim Ryan
Amy Klobuchar
Pete Buttigieg
Bernie Sanders
Elizabeth Warren
Beto O’Rourke
John Hickenlooper
John Delaney
Steve Bullock

July 31 debate participants
Michael Bennet
Kirsten Gillibrand
Julián Castro
Cory Booker
Joe Biden
Kamala Harris
Andrew Yang
Tulsi Gabbard
Jay Inslee
Bill de Blasio

So where do they stand now?

Biden's has a level of loyal support among those Obama loyalists and Democratic voters who fear a sharp turn to the left. This voting block is probably about ~ 40%? Of course, not all 40% will support Biden because they might view him as gaffe prone, his age, or preference for someone else to carry the mantle.

I wonder how large is the block that wants a leftward move as articulated by Sanders and Warren? I suspect this group is between ~ 40%? Of course, Sanders and Warren together do not account for all 40%. Some in this group may feel Sanders may talk a good game but might not be able to get things done as he can come off as cranky. Likewise, Warren may appeal to true believers but how will she play with more pragmatic voters?

Thus, where does the remaining ~ 20% of the Democratic voters want to go?

Where does Harris (~ 10%) draw her voters from? If she dropped out of the race would they go to Biden? Or would they go to Warren/Sanders?

The same question for Buttigieg (~5%). Where do they go if he drops out?

If you add the top 5 vote totals at the 8/6/2019 RCP poll averages, they account for almost 80% of the votes. The remaining 20% are spread out among the rest of the field. Where do they go? And what is the percentage of "don't know/undecided" voters?

I think the top tier top five hasn't changed.

The scramble will be for the best of the rest because the next debate will have higher requirements for inclusion of which only 7 (marked in bold below) have currently met.

Left regional (~35%)
  1. Warren 
  2. Sanders 
  3. Booker 
  4. Ryan 
  5. Gillibrand 
  6. de Blasio
Governance centrist regional (~34%)
  1. Biden 
  2. Klobuchar 
  3. Delaney  
  4. Hickenlooper 
  5. Bennet 
  6. Bullock
  7. Inslee 
Unconventional regional (~7%)
  1. Buttigieg 
  2. Yang
  3. Williamson
New left regional (~14%)
  1. Harris
  2. O'Rourke
  3. Castro
  4. Gabbard
Those above in italics have met one of the two criteria. 

Thus, if I had to select a "bakers dozen" to make the next debate stage, this would be the list:
  1. Biden
  2. Warren
  3. Sanders
  4. Harris
  5. Buttigieg
  6. Booker
  7. O'Rourke
  8. Yang
  9. Castro
  10. Klobuchar
  11. Delaney
  12. Gabbard
  13. Bullock





2020 Presidential Bracketology updated

Previously, had this bracket and just recently, there was the debate field of 20.

Thursday, June 27, 2019:
Marianne Williamson,
John Hickenlooper
Andrew Yang
Pete Buttigieg
Joe Biden
Bernie Sanders
Kamala Harris
Kirsten Gillibrand
Michael Bennet
Eric Swalwell

Wednesday, June 26, 2019:
Bill de Blasio
Tim Ryan
Julián Castro
Cory Booker
Elizabeth Warren
Beto O’Rourke
Amy Klobuchar
Tulsi Gabbard
Jay Inslee
John Delaney

Thus, the updated brackets:

Left regional

  1. Warren 
  2. Sanders
  3. Booker
  4. Gillibrand
  5. Ryan
  6. de Blasio
I think Warren has gained some ground while Sanders is re-running the 2016 campaign. Admittedly, Sanders is better at it than in 2016 but the field is more crowded. The rest of this regional is lagging behind and the rankings are essentially interchangeable. 

Governance centrist regional
  1. Biden
  2. Klobuchar
  3. Hickenlooper
  4. Inslee
  5. Delaney
  6. Bennet
Within the regional itself, I don't think much has changed as Biden has a huge advantage as the former VP. However, his standing relative to the other candidates in the other regionals took a bit of a hit with the sharp attacks on him during the debate. As it is often said, his experience is both his advantage and disadvantage!

Unconventional regional
  1. Buttigieg
  2. Yang
  3. Williamson
This regional has thinned out as others in this group haven't gotten enough support to get on the debate stage. The bright star of Buttigieg maybe fading out but reports are his fund raising numbers are spectacular so he maybe able to weather this rough patch. 

New left regional
  1. Harris
  2. Castro
  3. O'Rourke
  4. Gabbard
  5. Swalwell
Harris has put some distance to the rest within this group. O'Rourke's stock is going down. Castro's ties to the Obama administration give him some street credibility but it might not be enough against the megawatt abilities of Harris.

Running but didn't make debate:
Bullock (governor of Montana)
Gravel (former senator from Alaska)
Messam (mayor of Miramar, Florida)
Moulton (congressman from Massachusetts)
Sestak (congressman from Pennsylvania)

Star Trek Discovery Season Two Episodes 13 and 14 - Season Finale Two-parter

"Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow"
From Romeo and Juliet
By William Shakespeare

***
Beware

Spoilers

Ahead
***

And so the Disco Season Two two parter was named, "Such Sweet Sorrow" as there were many partings in the season finale.

The Disco crew records emotional farewell messages to their loved ones as they prepare to take their ship to the future.

Fans say good-bye to Pike, Spock, Number One, and NCC-1701.

Burnham is separated from Spock, Amanda, Sarek, and Tyler, perhaps forever.

Additionally, Cornwell sacrifices herself to save the Enterprise. And as the show takes a new direction, Chancellor La'Rell will no longer be bringing her unique flair to the proceedings.

As I've been saying all along, the acting and character development has been solid as has the production design. In this two-parter, we get all the character moments of the rah-rah variety as well as the tear-jerker ones in good measure.

Some observations and complaints in no particular order follow .....

It was a delight to see the Klingons and the Baul ships riding to the rescue when things looked bleak. My "canon complaint" is that the Klingons in Disco season one and season two seem vastly more powerful than the more evenly matched "Cold War" analog foe we saw in ST-TOS.

As for the Baul Fleet, let's hope that Saru's people didn't wipe out the Baul in an uprising and that the Baul fleet led by Saru's sister Saranah was a Joint Mission that united the two long time enemies of Kanimar.

Though the writers did toss in the line that munitions engineers were all busy when the photon torpedo got lodged in the Enterprise, it is rather strange to have Admiral Cornwell and the First Officer Number One play unexploded bomb technicians for so many minutes only to be followed by the Captain Pike joining Cornwell in trying to figure out "which wire to cut" in the torpedo. Of course, all of this was to set up the send off of Cornwell in a blaze of self-sacrifice and for Pike to reflect on his own future as he could have been the one to sacrifice himself.

Pike does have an interesting problem "knowing his fate." When faced with a dangerous decision, does he take the view that he will survive because he knows his fate that leads to death lay elsewhere? Or will he be more cautious? It was an interesting plot move to "lock his fate" as the price of obtaining the time crystal. But as a matter of story telling, the writers backed off this idea rapidly as everyone else who touched the time crystal saw much more limited views of the future and the perspective of those visions was that they represent only one possible future.

Some quibbles about the Control AI residing in Leland. The whole point of artificial intelligence is that it can reside in a dispersed fashion; thus, the shut down of the section 31 attack fleet when Leland died was a little too easy.

The biggest story hole though is the 7 red bursts and the 7 red signals. At the beginning, when Pike is authorized to take charge of Discovery, he talks about observing 7 red bursts that could not be accurately located. Eventually, there are 7 red signals seen one by one through the season that can be located that are consistent with the locations of the red bursts.

We find out the red signals are generated by Burnham as she uses the time suit. After each jump, she sends out the signals as a spatial-temporal bread crumb trail.

But what about the red bursts?

What are those?

Are the red bursts the wormhole openings?

If so, Mama Burnham made HUNDREDS of jumps so there should have been hundreds of red bursts!

And of course, as I noted in the very first episode, are these red bursts-red signals light based phenomena? If so, the writers failed to recognize that the distances of galactic space are hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands of light years. The writers treated the red bursts and red signals as largely instantaneous events, a major science boo-boo.

Overall the Disco writer's room sending Discovery and crew 950 years into the future was the easiest way to free the show from "canon constraints." One wonders what the show would have been like if they made that choice up front in season one? Did they feel they needed to link themselves to the TOS timeline to collect fans for the first two seasons? And after doing so, they then felt free to move to their own world building?

There have been nice "easter egg" moments a TOS fan like myself enjoyed. I think the most effective use was things in and around Captain Pike. Anson Mount was fantastic as Captain Pike. Would the Star Trek franchise have been better served if the series was based on Pike-Spock-Number One? During season one of Disco, I thought the show might have been better served being based on Georgiou-Burnham-Saru.

Besides a Pike based show, how would a Georgiou led show have been received? Instead, what we have is the noble prime Georgiou killed off in season 1 episode 2 and the Terran-evil with a some good Emperor Georgiou transferred over to the Prime universe. Perhaps the latter character would be more interesting to write for in some ways but look at how much fan support there has been for Captain Pike's unambiguously good role model captain! Wouldn't there have been great stories to mine for the noble prime Georgiou?

Instead, the show runners opted for the long arc of season one's convoluted war with the Klingons which had the Mirror Universe diversion! It felt a bit like the show 24 where the main arc of the threat that Jack Bauer had to deal with gets "padded" out with some sometimes silly side tracks to get the show out to the full 24 episodes.

In this regard, season 2 was better managed where some what at first glance appeared to be "side tracks" turned out to be part of the bigger arc. Indeed, even the "short Trek" preseason episodes plugged in some narrative points picked up in the season.

Overall, I think season two was better than season one. Will see how they take the show in season three untethered from any timeline of prior Trek!

Live long and prosper!

#StarTrekDiscovery


Liverpool 4 Barcelona 3 (agg)

Screen grab from the Liverpool Echo.


Messi's magic gave Barcelona the 3-0 lead in the semi-finals.

But the atmosphere of Anfield brought what could be considered one of the biggest comebacks in European football history!

It was truly a team effort by LFC.

Two goals by Origi who started in place of Firmino who was injured.

Two goals by Wijnaldum the sub who came in at half-time for the injured Robertson.

Two assists by the youngster Alexander-Arnold.

One assist by Shaqiri who started in place of the injured Salah.

Mane didn't get on the score sheet but was a threat.

Becker got some big saves in goal to preserve the clean sheet.

Henderson and Milner, the quiet midfielders were where they needed to be on offense and defense.

Center backs Matip and van Dijk and D-mid Fabinho patrolled the field - you can't stop Barcelona from getting their chances but you can attempt to limit them so they don't completely over-run your club and these guys made Suarez and Messi earn their chances.

See the amazing highlights at Bleacher Report!

#YNWA

Star Trek Discovery Episode 2.12

The second season is over with the two-part finale but I’m still playing catch up having seen episode 12 the set-up for the finale .....

*** Beware ***

*** Spoilers ***

*** Ahead ***

Two arcs in latest episode and as always the acting and production values are superb but story line a bit muddled. In arc A, we follow Pike’s visit to Klingon monastic planet Boreth and Anson Mount knocks it out of the park. He chooses his fate willingly consistent with his character. But the premise of a sealed fate for him is opposite of “open destiny” that was the emotional finish to episode 11. Also whole time crystals idea seems haphazard to me and allows for “deus ex machina” options for the writer’s room.

Meanwhile in arc B, Spock and Michael face Control that looks a lot like the Star Gate SG-1 adversary The Replicators! We all could guess it was a trap and was just waiting for how it would be sprung. As for the story line, what is Control’s obsession with Michael? Does Control have time travel knowledge independent of Red Angel? And red burst thing remains confusing. Will see how it all resolved in the final two episodes?!

#StarTrekDiscovery

2020 Presidential candidate bracketology?


With March Madness just concluded, it is time to attempt 2020 Presidential Candidate bracketology!

I think there are four broad category of candidates:

Governance centrists regional - Joe Biden would be a prime example of someone who has been in the system a long time. As a seasoned senator and vice-president, he has immediate name recognition and a measure of credibility as having "been there and done that." It is hard to say who else is running to fit that role. However, I'm listing the governors (Hickenlooper and Inslee) in this regional. Governors almost always have to be more moderate and make deals to get things done. Senator Klobuchar is the most "moderate" of the Democratic senators. If you look at her rating at 538, she has voted with the Trump position 30% of the time. That number is high compared to other senators running for President. She has pitched herself as from the Mid-West and more moderate compared to the coastal Senators also running. Delaney, a House member, has voted with Trump 34% of the time which is among the highest. This group fears that tacking too far to the left will allow Trump to win re-election in 2020.

Left regional - Sanders has high name ID from running in 2016 and a long history of being a gadfly with very left positions. He comes into this race with a lot of supporters from 2016. Warren seems be running in "the same lane" and also high ID from all the clashes with Trump. I put Gillibrand and Booker in this group but they could be in the "New Left" also as they are younger than Sanders and Warren. However, I think of the "New Left" as being candidates that tack Left but are also so new to the point of having THIN resumes on the Federal level. Gillibrand has been in the House and Senate since 2007 which isn't long but longer than the "New Left" candidates. Booker has administrative experience as a Mayor (2006-2013) and Federal level experience in the Senate since 2013. Tim Ryan has been in the House since 2003 that also provides some Federal level chops.

New Left regional - I distinguish the new left on the basis of the relatively short time they have been on the national scene and generally being younger candidates. Harris is probably the most charismatic of the group but has only been a Senator since 2017. Her challenge is to fully convince the hard left that she is left enough since she served in political law enforcement offices (California Attorney General and SF DA). O'Rourke is a social media phenomena for his fund raising in the losing effort to Ted Cruz. As a House member his profile previously wasn't high. As a social media phenomena, there could be the charge that he may lack substance behind the flare. Castro was an Obama era cabinet member and mayor. Gabbard and Swalwell are House members under 40 with very little profile. Of the senators in the "left" and "new left" regional, their vote with Trump percentages are among the lowest of all the senators according to 538.

Unconventional regional - Buttigieg has leveraged his unique biography with authentic appearances on TV to become the leader of the pack of the unconventional regional. The remainder are trying to get oxygen and it is an interesting mix of Yang (business) and his universal basic income proposal, Messam (mayor of mid-sized city like Buttigieg), Williamson (author described by some as "new age" and "spiritual adviser to Oprah), and Gravel (part-time libertarian, anti-intervention foreign policy).

Star Trek Discovery Episode 2.11

I’m still catching up so don’t tell me about 2.12 yet and I’ve only just digested 2.11!

*** Beware ***

*** Spoilers ***

*** Below ***

Hmmmm…… am not sure I’m okay with where the writer’s room is going …..

Leland has been taken over by the Control AI and it sure looks Borg-ish! Don’t think they really need to go there. Maybe they will pull back from it but the visual style sure looks Borg-ey!

Techno-boo-boo alert: In the previous episode, Leland had to LEAVE the bridge to over-ride the computer so they can get more power to close the wormhole???

That would be very poor starship design. Have never seen any other crew member leave the bridge to over-ride the computer! Of course, the scriptwriters had to get him off the bridge so the Control AI could poke him in the eye!

Dr. Burnham (Sonja Son) was well acted. Her half-defeated, half-defiant demeanor would make a lot of sense for someone who has been time traveling to fix the impending disaster only to find whatever she does actually doesn’t change the outcome. Playing time-line whack-a-mole is something Sisyphus would understand.

This ground was well trodden in the Terminator series of movies. In the original, machines send Arnold, the Terminator, back to the past to kill Sarah Conner to prevent the eventual rise of human rebel leader John Conner. The terminator fails. The timeline is not altered.

In Terminator 2: Judgement Day, the machines send a T-1000 (Robert Patrick) to kill Sarah and John Conner (still a youth at this point). John from the future sends Arnold, the Terminator, this time a good guy to protect John, the youth. The T-1000 is defeated. Additionally, Sarah and the team destroy the technology behind Skynet to prevent the rise of the technology thus “changing the timeline.” “No fate but what you make” is one memorable line from the film.

However, in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, the machines send a female terminator to kill John Conner and future wife Kate Brewster. Once again Arnold, the Terminator, as a good guy once again is sent back in time to protect them. But in this case after defeating the female terminator and before being destroyed himself, he gets John and Kate into a nuclear fallout bunker because Skynet goes live and nuclear destruction ensues. Skynet happened but it just took a few more years.

I have seen ads for additional Terminator films but haven’t seen them and have no idea what they are about.

All of which to say, Dr. Burnham is trying to stop Control for ever happening and found she can’t seem to stop it much like how Skynet can only be delayed but eventually causes the near destruction of humanity. All of which to say again, her performance was fantastic.

At the end of 2.11, Dr. Burnham is sucked back to the future along with the Red Angel suit but since the Red Angel suit is damaged, there will be no more time travels for her. Spock tells Michael at the end of the episode it is now up to them to stop Control in their timeline with no help from the future. The emotional wrap up is nice.

However, I think the scriptwriters made a techno-boo-boo: Mama Burnham reports seeing Michael at many key moments in her life. We are told that in her many travels in the Red Angel suit, she saw Michael many times. However, when she travels in the Red Angel time suit, a wormhole opens up and she enters the timeline. From the end of the last episode, it is pretty hard to miss the appearance of a wormhole and the arrival of the Red Angel! She has many hundreds of mission logs and NOBODY ever saw the wormhole appearance? Nobody ever saw the Red Angel arrive (with the exception of Spock apparently and those whisked off to New Eden in Ep2.2) or moving through space - shown dramatically at the end of episode 2.10? And of course, the wormhole re-appears and sucks the Red Angel back 950 years into the future and again that was pretty hard to miss! Thus, with every time jump, there are at least 2 times the wormhole appears -- and nobody ever saw it?

Anyway, 3 episodes left to wrap up season 2.

#StarTrekDiscovery

Star Trek Discovery Ep 2.10

Star Trek Discovery Ep 2.10 - the Red Angel

With the season coming toward a close, the scriptwriters are going to try to write themselves out of the corner they painted themselves into.

*** Spoilers ahead ***

The opening was the farewell to Airiam who was lost at the end of the last episode. The cast and crew shared their feelings in their remembrances of her. Nicely done.

The story then took the first twist when Tilly barged into a meeting with the information she found about Project Daedalus and the identity of the Red Angel …… Michael Burnham. Dr. Culber than reports the bio-neural signature was a 100% match. Of course, all of this sets the audience up for the second twist at the end when the Disco team spring their mousetrap for the Red Angel and Burnham shouts in recognition, “Mom?”

Argh.

Would Burnham’s “bio-neural” signature be a 100% match to her mom’s?

Children have 50% of their DNA from each parent, so would that apply to their “bio-neural” signature? Somewhat dishonest by the scriptwriters to have the Disco science nerds speak so confidently of the “bio-neural” signature without giving any hint they could be completely wrong!

The episode pacing was a welcome break from the usual headlong action set-pieces allowing for more character interactions. One good moment was Nahn talking with Burnham about their final moments with Airiam. Still another was the conversation between Dr. Culber and Admiral Cornwell. And still another was the thaw of hostility between Spock and Burnham. And lastly, Mirror-Georgiou continues to beautifully deliver wicked lines.

On the whole, I think the Disco scriptwriters have done pretty well on characterizations in both season 1 and season 2. I do question placing so much of the story telling burden on one character. Although there are other characters in Disco, their roles are much smaller compared to Burnham. TOS had the big three and their interactions. TNG had strong leads and a solid ensemble cast as did other flavors of ST.

My main problem has been the scriptwriters very uneven track record on the big plot points. Last season there was the twist of the Mirror Universe and the way the Klingon war ended. This season the twists are that the Red Angel is technology from a Federation Section 31 secret project and the enemy in/from the future is the “Control” AI also developed by the Federation.

Time travel stories can work very well as in the movies Star Trek – The Voyage Home and in Star Trek – First Contact and various TV episodes like City on the Edge of Forever (TOS), Cause and Effect (TNG), All Good Things (TNG) and a number of others.

It remains to be seen how this season cashes out.

My immediate reaction to the whole Red Angel time travel suit and time crystal just didn’t work all that well for me. One would have to assume time travel would require a tremendous amount of energy transmitted from some fixed but distant power source through the micro worm hole into the Red Angel suit channeled through the time crystal. This would mean the Red Angel would have very little flexibility in its forays into various time points. But hand wave all of that aside, the biggest problem is the Red Angel is not omniscient. How would Mom know from whatever point in time she is inhabiting that Michael is in danger? She would have to be constantly checking the timeline!

Anyway, we are as always asked to suspend disbelief in sci-fi but I was left a bit dissatisfied with this plot development.

To end on a positive note, Jeff Russo’s soundtrack work remains top notch: ratcheting up the tension when needed and hauntingly beautiful at other moments.

#StarTrekDiscovery

Latest political news .......

The news of the Mueller report's AG summary seemed expected. Of course, it sounds like a scrubbed version of the full report will be released to Congress and the public at some point in the near future.

In following the story, it seemed to me that many experts thought the Trump campaign was so disorganized that they could not pull off such a conspiracy. Some have thought the run for the presidency was the ultimate Trump PR game and the campaign was just as shocked as anyone that they actually won.

Unless something else comes up fairly soon, I would think level headed Democrats will shelf any impeachment talk. The Constitutional method to remove a President is defeating the President in the next election. If the Democrats run anyone even sort of near competent and close to the center they should win a landslide and they will LOVE the electoral college once again! On the other hand, if they run a far-left candidate, they could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

The Mueller team found mostly financial crimes by the various members of Trump-team. There are tons of ongoing investigations on that front that were referred out to other entities. Are the financial crimes of sufficient magnitude that the impeachment process should be invoked?

In the end as been repeatedly said: not all crimes are impeachable and impeachment doesn’t necessarily require a crime.

The Clinton impeachment entailed clear wrong doing by Clinton but did it rise to the magnitude that the impeachment process should be invoked?

It failed and the GOP was hammered in the next election cycle.

The Democrats could take everything in 2020 – win the White House with a landslide, expand the margins of their control of the House, and take slim control of the Senate. A failed impeachment could backfire and cloud up their 2020 hopes. We shall see how strong the pro-impeachment faction is within the Democratic Party.

#######

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to get my head around the EU’s position on Brexit.

Does the EU actually want the negotiated Brexit deal?

I would think they do since they approved it and await the UK to approve it. They could be playing a game of chicken – offer the Article 50 extension only to the degree it makes the choice binary: Brexit deal vs. no-deal Brexit? And at the last minute offer a longer extension if necessary.

Does the EU actually want the UK to crash out?

I suppose it is possible. Are there any other EU nations considering exiting the EU? If so, the EU might find it is in their best interest to have the UK crash out so other nations will be hesitant to follow the UK.

Does the EU actually want the UK to remain?

I suppose it is possible. Again, their actions could be a form of chicken and they are hoping at the last minute, the UK will ask for a LONG extension and the EU will make the condition of the extension a new referendum with the EU hope that REMAIN wins that vote?

Within the UK, those who would want to remain in EU probably need to bring down the May government. If they can crash the government, all negotiations with the EU on Brexit comes to a halt until a new government is installed and the Parliament would HAVE to ask for a long extension giving time to set up a new referendum.

On the other hand, those who want a no-deal Brexit could also want to topple the May government and block any requests for extensions.

Seems a bit like the classic game theory of the prisoner’s dilemma?

Star Trek Discovery 2.8

Hats off to the script writers for how they integrated the oldest part of Star Trek with this current flavor of the show.

What I wonder about is how well do ST fans who do NOT know the story of The Cage (first pilot) and TOS The Menagerie (2-parter that recycled The Cage) feel about the latest episode? Was the “previously” enough to get them up to speed along with some of the exposition within the episode?

Anyway, some quick observations about the latest story. The “canon police” will note that the shuttle craft computer (voiced by Julianne Grossman) provided more information about Talos IV than you would think for a forbidden world. Perhaps, the writers felt that factoid would help those not familiar with Talos IV. On the issue of nitpicks, Starbase 11 is said to be 2 light years from Talos IV? Is there anyone in the writer’s room that knows even a little about astronomical distances?

The black hole visualization seemed to be a visual homage to the film Interstellar. On the planet, we got the same sound of the singing plants as was in The Cage. The make-up work on the Talosians takes advantage of the extra $$ The Cage didn’t have. The landscape above ground and the setting below ground is likewise a step up in quality yet still consistent with the feel of the old story. Double hats off to the actors’ work in the scenes between Vina (Melissa George) and Pike (Anson Mount). They really captured the emotions that felt true and honoring of the experience they shared in The Cage and how it would have affected them in the intervening years.

As for the exploration of Spock’s youth, they have drawn upon and expanded upon the animated series episode Yesteryear that established his difficulties as a child. This difficulty was also touched briefly and effectively in one scene in Kelvin-verse Star Trek (2009).

Will be interesting to see how the arc proceeds concurrent with the resolution of the Red Angel plotline. At this point have know idea how that is going to resolve!

#StarTrekDiscovery

Star Trek Discovery 2.9

At a micro or personal level, I thought this episode was top notch. At a macro or conceptual level, I have some lingering concerns.

*** Spoilers ***

*** Below ***



Will start with the micro/personal level and give a huge hat tip to Hannah Cheesman (Airiam), scriptwriter (Michelle Paradise), and director (Jonathan Frakes). One story motif in Star Trek history is the death of anonymous Red Shirt personnel. Disco turned that one upside down with a nearly anonymous Blue Shirt crashing into an asteroid in the season two opener. In this episode, we get a moving backstory that setup the poignant demise of one of the bridge crew members. The performance by the entire cast highlighted the sadness of Lt. Cmdr. Airiam’s death as we got to know more about her in this episode only to see her killed in the climatic act of this episode where her passage was in the tradition of Star Trek’s high ideals. The end credits rolled with the sound of ocean waves made me think of how 24 would honor the loss of a key character with the silent clock.

On the larger story arc level, it remains to be seen how it will pan out. It appears that the Red Angel is in a battle against some cybernetic entity (those destruction bots seem a bit like a reference to the Matrix movies?) in the far future. It also appears that both are raiding the past to help with their battle for the future. How it will shake out is unclear and it is clear that the writers room likes plot twists.

The key twist in this episode is that Section 31 that had been pitched as the hidden hand behind what ails the Federations turns out to be just a pawn of an AI run amok that the future entity is trying to co-opt. Section 31 in all other flavors of Star Trek was very shadowy and barely known by Star Fleet personnel. Will see how thing shake out so perhaps there will be some way in which Section 31 gets reined in by the end of the season. The inconsistencies are that Cornwell knew something was fishy about Admiral Patar being part of the logic extremists and yet Patar appeared to be a high ranking official without any questions asked. One would think Sarek and others would have blocked her rise. How big will Section 31 continue to be in the final episodes? And of course, how the AI in its current form connects to the future entity opposed by the Red Angel is to be revealed?

The big plot line of the destruction of all sentient life in the galaxy will also get wrapped up in the next 5 episodes. In my view, the writers have generally been making better choices this season. On the other hand, by raising the stakes so much (destruction of all sentient life in the galaxy is about as high as you can get) they may write themselves into a corner that isn’t going to be easy to get out of without some ridiculous plot moves. This was my major quibble with season 1.

Another quibble I have is the direction hinted by the final words of Airiam about Project Daedalus and how Michael is the center of the whole conspiracy. Am guessing we will get some exposition on Project Daedalus in episode 10. That part I’m looking forward to.

As for Michael’s role in the whole thing, it will get worked out over the last third of the season but I just hope it doesn’t get ridiculous! After essentially pinning the entire Klingon war on Michael, the scriptwriters seem to be again making her the center of all history by placing “the end of all sentient life in the galaxy” on her shoulders. As much as we all like the “great person” theory of history, as a plot device, the great escape by the end could involve wild plot twists that severely tests the “suspension of belief.” As for the writing of the conflict between Spock and Michael, it does provide some emotionally resonant moments that I’m sure many viewers can feel deep inside and is a tribute to the actors. However, if that tension only serves only as a prop for Michael’s character, then I feel that is a rather cheap use of Spock as a plot point given how beloved Spock is as a character in his own right. We shall see.

Writing some backstory for Captain Pike this season has been just fine to me as he is a fairly blank slate in Star Trek lore with only the general knowledge that he was one of the greatest in the field captains in history. On this front, they (the writers and actor Anson Mount) have done an excellent job.

#StarTrekDiscovery

How about a little “fan fiction?”

What would Captain Pike write in a letter to Airiam’s next of kin?

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Airiam,

It is with deep regret that I am informing you of the death of your fine and courageous daughter, Lieutenant Commander Airiam. I share your grief in your loss and know that no words can lessen your sorrow. Our shipboard family grieves as does your family. Our solace is the sweet memories of her kind friendship. I hope what I share with you about her would bring some warm feelings about the life of exploration she choose amidst the anguish you feel. On board Discovery, she was a vital member of the senior staff. She carried out her duties with excellence under the most difficult of circumstances. And in ordinary times, she enjoyed her crew mates and was beloved and now deeply missed.

I feel you should know that her death occurred in the line of duty while on an away mission. The situation was critical and her last thoughts were of the safety of her comrades aboard Discovery. She willingly faced her death to protect our lives. Though your current sorrow of her loss will be overwhelming, you should be proud of what she did with her life in Star Fleet and the courage she exhibited in the final moments of her beautiful life.

Please extend my condolences and regards to other family members and friends saddened by her loss.

Sincerely,

Christopher Pike, Captain, USS Discovery

Star Trek Discovery 2.7

It was a transitional and expositional episode. The scriptwriters had to advance the story line about the Red Bursts and the Red Angel on one hand. And on the other hand, they had to finally get Spock onto the screen. Both were accomplished but as a result the episode as a stand-alone entity didn’t feel like much happened. It serves as a bridge to the latter half of season 2 but that was about it.

*** spoilers ahead ***

Okay, so we have had hints the Red Angel might be a time-traveler and this episode seems to go headlong in that direction when Tyler and Pike take the shuttle into the spatial-temporal anomaly. The igniting of the plasma on the shuttle was an easter egg for TOS fans who remember that same move in “The Galileo Seven.”

We shall see how the writers room works out the Red Angel story. It is still not clear whether the actions of the Red Angel are good or bad for Disco and the inhabitants of their timeline. The whole idea of altering the past to change the future is well trodden territory in Star Trek. The TNG film “First Contact” had the Borg travel to the past to block humanity’s entry into the community of civilizations by sabotaging Cochran’s historic FTL (faster than light) spaceflight. This intervention prevents the formation of the Federation allowing the Borg to assimilate the Alpha Quadrant including Earth.

The Xindi arc in ST-Enterprise was about a future race making incursions into the ST-Enterprise timeline to prevent their defeat at the hands of the Federation in the distant future. Archer and company eventually figure out what is going on and manage to convince enough of the Xindi leadership to turn against their shadowy benefactors from the future.

Will the Red Angel motivations prove to be evil? Or is the Red Angel good and in its own battle in the future having to draw upon the past to assist in its battle in the future? The Disco timeline initially saw 7 red bursts and was able to only visit one of them (season opener). Thus, there are six other incursions into the timeline by the Red Angel we know nothing about as of yet. Since the initial 7 there have been two more that resulted in the rescue of the people of New Eden and the revolution of Kaminar. Where will the writers take us going forward?

As for Spock, we get some more backstory about his life and the cliffhanger moment is when Michael figures out that Spock’s numerical recitation is the spatial coordinates for Talos IV! For TOS fans, we know that Talos IV was in the first pilot episode “The Cage” that NBC didn’t like. Roddenberry and company retooled and made a second pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before” that green lighted Star Trek for its three year run on NBC. The material in “The Cage” got repurposed to very good effect in the TOS two-parter “The Menagerie.”

Will be interesting to see how the Disco writer’s room use Talos IV. Will there be a discussion of General Order 7 that says no one shall visit Talos IV, a policy advised by Captain Pike and Science Officer Spock?

The reliance on TOS ideas is a delicate balance. On one hand, it is fun to fill in details and use details from TOS to guide the show story lines. ST-Enterprise used this device in some story lines in season four. However, it could become too constraining and stifle efforts to world build on its own merits. ST-TNG, ST-DS9, and ST-VOY were set in the future and free to introduce newer story ideas effectively. The ST Kelvin-verse film “Into Darkness” had good moments but it was constrained in many ways by having to have touch points with ST-The Wrath of Khan. Disco’s creative team could run into such problems if they are not careful.

Star Trek Discovery Tangent - Philosophy of Mind and Dr. Culber's Return

I wonder what philosophy of mind people make of Culber’s return?

How long does someone have to be brain dead for the physicalist to say the mind is dead? 

Is the restoration of Culber’s body being inexact from his prior state the cause for his mind to feel not fully himself?

At the moment, the physicalist model could fit the story.

However, I suppose a dualist would say the fact that he feels in his mind something has changed is a reflection of the persistence of his mind from his previous body?

For an academic discussion of the entire Star Trek canon in light of the "Mind-Body" problem in philosophy, check out this item published in the Science Fiction Research Association.


Star Trek Discovery Episode 2.6 - good moments but muddleheaded on some plot points

Am finally all caught up.

Episode 2.6 was a frantic story with some good moments (Doug Jones and company are fantastic actors) but overall it left me feeling unsatisfied due to some of the plot points.

As I have mentioned on many previous occasions that I accept that “suspension of disbelief” is a part of story telling and in particular science fiction story telling. On this occasion, I believe the scriptwriters tried to stuff too many things into this story and though individual moments work the whole thing falls down.

*** Spoilers ahead ***

Once again the red bursts and the red angel lead the Disco team on another errand of mercy. However, on this occasion, it is less clear that a positive outcome was assured. To recap, the first time they went to a signal, they found a crashed Star Fleet ship and rescued that crew before the asteroid crushed it. In the second signal, they went to a planet that was going to get wiped out by radioactive rocks dislodged from its ring system. In both cases, the way the Disco crew can help was clear: get the people off the ship in case one and stop the rocks in case two.

In this third scenario, it is much less clear that things will turn out right. There was the obligatory discussion about the prime directive and whether it was the time and place to interfere with the current order on the planet Kaminar. Some Trek fans will object to the blatant violation of the Prime Directive. However, there is in the history of Star Trek story telling many occasions where the Prime Directive was ignored so that doesn’t bother me too much.

One near parallel story from the Original Series was “A Taste of Armageddon” where the society the Enterprise visited was at war with its planetary neighbor. The two sides settled into a “balance” of death based on mathematically launched attacks. To preserve their society, instead of real bombs inflecting real damage and deaths, they skipped the damage part and retained the death part by having the calculated casualties of war die in painless death booths. Captain Kirk determines that the society is stuck and destroys the computers running the war and challenges the two sides to truly deal with their conflict.

Another near parallel from Star Trek Enterprise was “Dear Doctor” when Dr. Phlox and Captain Archer discover a planet where the dominant species is dying of a disease while the subservient species is evolving to greater ability. Archer has to decide whether Phlox should give them the cure and thus interfere with the development of the planet. Ultimately, Archer decides against providing the cure and sets the groundwork for what eventually would be formalized in the Prime Directive of non-interference.

Captain Pike’s decision to interfere in the Kaminar balance could probably be defended on the grounds that the Red Burst and Red Angel entity was interfering and Disco wasn’t in the position to stop that interference. That could be debated - what would the Red Angel have done if the Disco squad left Kaminar the minute the Baul asked them to leave? Could the Red Angel have disrupted the balance of Kaminar without the cast and crew of Disco? It seems not hence the red bat signal for Discovery to go there.

Another possibility would be the defense on moral grounds that one society was oppressing another society and it was within the power of Pike and company to do something about it. That could be debated as the Baul were about to kill all the Kelpiens as a result of Disco’s intervention and it was the Red Angel’s intervention that saved the Kelpiens. Pike could not have been sure the Red Angel would intervene although it was a possibility given their past experience with the red burst signals and red angel actions.

In terms of suspension of disbelief, Pike opting to set aside the Prime Directive I can accept.

However, there were three other big suspension of disbeliefs that sunk the story.

#1 The Baul who claimed to truly understand the dangers of the evolved Kelpien species sure acted very non-chalantly when they captured Saru! If he was so dangerous, why didn’t they kill him right away? If he was so dangerous, why didn’t they have much more aggressive restraints and technology to prevent him from doing his deeds of sabotage?

#2 The sabotage that Saru was able to accomplish was not believable. How could he just whack some of the electronics in his prison cell and hack the Baul communications system and send the vahar’ai signal that transforms Kelpien society? Way. Too. Easy.

#3 The transformation happened so fast! In the previous episode, Saru had a long and agonizing process before his transformation was complete. I suppose you could say the Baul communications network amplified the signal much more than the thing-a-blob from last week.

#StarTrekDiscovery

Star Trek 2.4-2.5 "Things are not always what they seem"

I think you could call the various story lines in episodes 4 and 5 as variations on the theme: “things are not always what they seem.”

*** Beware spoilers ahead ***

In these two episodes there are various situations where it appears one way at first and as the story unfolds, it turns out to be something else: the giant alien globe that snags the Discovery out of warp, Saru entering into the phase of death when Kelpiens either get culled by the aliens that dominate his home world or go mad, “May the ghost” that only Tilly can see, and the species May belongs to are fighting “a monster” that is wrecking the portion of the mycelial network they inhabit.

I think this message of “things are not always what they seem” is a good message as a life lesson. As for how well they work in the respective story threads that is more of a mixed bag. Certainly, the actors play it out extremely well and so as aways I’m a fan of how well they work things out even if sometimes the material they get to work with is a bit convoluted.

As I’ve mentioned before, I think Star Trek is at its best with “seek out new life and new civilizations” stories. The alien globe story line merges with Saru’s story line very nicely and I continue to view Doug Jones as clearly having the most interesting character to work with. We find out the alien globe is dying and wants to impart its knowledge to somebody - anybody - and in this case the computer banks of Discovery. Saru is dying and eventually he realizes it is because he is empathically linked to the death of the giant globe alien. Eventually, the penny drops in his mind and he makes the connection. He and Burnham scramble to the bridge to convince Pike to lower the shields and receive the message thus fulfilling the final wishes of the dying alien giant-thing-a-blob. As Michael helps Saru off the bridge to head to his death, the entire bridge crew silently stand in honor of their comrade, a truly beautiful moment.

No, they can’t write Saru out of the show!

Well, not to fear, after some more dramatic moments, Saru with Michael’s help discovers that by weathering the death syndrome, his threat ganglia fall off and he is restored to health minus the gripping fear that dominated his life! He also realizes that the whole natural order of his home world is a sham. Things are not as they appear to be!

The same thing happens in the other story lines. “May the ghost” is actually trying to get help to save her world and she knows Tilly can help her do so. Eventually, Tilly, Stamets, Burnham, and May figure out that the “monster” is Dr. Culber who was doing everything he could to survive in the mycelial network.

I wonder if the return of Dr. Culber was always in the plans from day one or a result of the uproar from fans when he was shockingly killed off in the middle of season one?

Anyway, this is science fiction and the scriptwriters brought him back through some convoluted intermix of Stamets and the mycelial network. It reminded me a bit of Star Trek III-TSFS when Spock's katra (soul) was download into Dr. McCoy’s mind and Spock’s body was reconfigured when it crashed on the Genesis planet and the his body and soul was reconnected by a Vulcan mystical process back on his home world. Thus, it would appear that TSFS held to “substance dualism.”

I’m not sure if ST-Disco’s Return of Dr. Culber falls into “substance dualism?”

Dr. Culber would up in mycelial network because Stamets had existence in both the ST-Disco world and the mycelial network concurrently. Somehow, he became the gateway for Dr. Culber (dead in the ST-Disco world) to be reanimated in the mycelial network world. However, for some reason, he doesn’t fully belong there, hence his scrambling about wrecking havoc in the mycelial network. And yet, when he tried to cross back into the ST-Disco world, he couldn’t cross over so he doesn’t really belong there either. But somehow, when “May the ghost” uses here pod transportation gadget he is fully restored. Did you get all that?

In terms of the acting, it is all well done but the whole concept is so confusing that it doesn’t really make sense within the “rules of the game” set up by the writers.

In ST-Disco, on three occasions they really pushed the “suspend disbelief” button so hard that it was annoying to me: the Tyler/Voq character, the concept of accessing the mycelial network and using it as a transportation highway, and now the return of Dr. Culber.

Suspending disbelief is part of any work of fiction and in particular science fiction so I grant it but if you push that button so hard that it starts cracking or breaking some viewers will throw up their hands and give up. Net-net though I still remain a viewer of ST-Disco. Perhaps, I’m just in too deep: I did go pay actual money to see Star Trek V - TFF, Star Trek - Insurrection, and Star Trek - Nemesis, in arguably the worst of the three movie versions of the Star Trek canon.

Final thought: they have been teasing the appearance of Spock since episode one and still nothing. I guess they are stringing us along as long as they can before he shows up!

#StarTrekDiscovery

Wide World of Soccer February 2019 - the six teams I follow

Time for the expectations round up!

QPR and Liverpool are now in the second half of their seasons.

QPR is constrained by the FFP sanctions so I had forecasted: "At the low end for QPR is the practical goal of AVOIDING relegation [.....] There are 24 teams in the Championship so the bottom half is 13-24 and the upper half of that is 13-18. If they get to 18, they should throw a parade around Loftus Road!"

QPR stands at 18th but have been on a losing streak of late. They are 10 points clear of the relegation zone but the Championship season is 46 matches. Come on you R's, you gotta stay in the Championship!

As for Liverpool FC, my forecast: "a lively race for the title (win or lose) would be wonderful for the long disappointed Liverpool fans. Winning a title of any kind would be nice as well (League Cup, FA Cup, Champions League, or Premier League)."

They are in a close contest with Man City and Tottenham. They crashed out of FA and League Cup. Tonight, they play in leg one of the Champions League against the mighty Bayern Munich! Can they bring home Premier League title? Can they win the European Cup? It is going to be tough as injuries have started to deplete the team. But I'm calling for them to win the Premier League! 

As for the other four clubs:

Falkenberg - They got promoted to the top league! The goal is to stay in the top league!

Elfsborg is in trouble. They finished 12th just 4 points out of the relegation zone. Hard to keep track of the club via English language media. But the expectations of the venerable old club is low at avoiding relegation. They have always punched above their weight considering that their home town of Boras (pop. 66K) is small compared to the big boys in Stockholm (960K), Gothenburg (572K), and Malmo (312K) so they really should be a solid mid-table team (7-10 place) occasionally challenging for European play.


LAFC is an expansion club with a high ceiling and they are living up to it! Last season they got bounced in the knockout round of the playoffs. This season the minimal expectations has to be one playoff win and perhaps even making it to the conference finals (2 playoff wins). They finished 3rd last year so they need to move up to at least 2nd for the season to be considered a success.

LA Galaxy finished last season in seventh place out of the playoffs. Thus, this season they need to make the playoffs and win at least one game. Finishing 4th in the table would be a reasonable goal. There are a lot of question marks for this team as it is largely the same as last year's team plus/minus a couple of players. The key additions are Polenta (centerback) and Antuna (speedy midfield wing) and if they live up to their billing the Galaxy could be competitive in every game. Zlatan is another year older. Will he continue to be a force to be reckoned with? As for the rest of the team, will the pieces fit together and they stay healthy in particular the rather thin defensive line.

Star Trek Discovery 2.3 - a mom's life & a pro-life message?

Good Disco.

Bad Disco.

Good ST-Discovery is the characters and the actors bringing them to life.

Bad ST-Discovery is the multiple story arcs on the assumption more is better.

Story line 1 - the red bursts/red angel
Story line 2 - the complicated lives of Sarek/Amanda/Michael/Spock (he is some how connected to the red burst/red angel)
Story line 3 - Tilly and the alien entity
Story line 4 - Klingon royal palace intrigue
Story line 5 - Michelle Yeoh's character is now part of Section 31

I would hope the writer's room will not be giving equal weight to all five balls they have juggled into the air! Will they all get mashed together into a mass of confusion and dis-satisfaction?

In this episode, in brief, the complex lives and hard times of being a mom in the far away future yet having age old challenges.

Amanda, Spock's mother and wife of Sarek, hasn't had much to do in previous flavors of Star Trek and so it is great to see her life get filled in a bit. Everyone can relate to her dilemma of feeling regrets and responsibility for how her children turned out. Mia Kirshner has done a wonderful job bringing to life Amanda Grayson. Her name seemed familiar and a quick check on the interwebs say I have seen her as the ruthless killer Mandy in 24. I wouldn't have made the connection as the two characters are as different as can be and it is a tribute to Kirshner's range as an actor.

Meanwhile, on the Klingon home world, it is not surprising that L'Rell is having trouble keeping things under control. She came to power under the threat of global annihilation that is not the best foundation for a stable government. And, of course, as a woman in a male-dominated society things are even more difficult for her. And we find out she had a son with Voq while all of this was going on further complicating things.

I've never been a fan of the whole Voq/Tyler plot device. It is such a mess but it is what it is and it looks like Tyler will be spun off into the Section 31 spin-off Star Trek with Michelle Yeoh's Mirror Georgiou and will probably appear a few more times in Disco season 2. Shazad Latif is a fine actor but the character he plays was just too much for me. In science fiction you have to “suspend disbelief” sometimes but some concepts are just way too nutty.

Anyway, after episodes 1 and 2 with tight stories, episode 3 was a mixed bag to me. As usual, high marks for the actors for their performances but the episode just threw too many balls in the air.

Lastly, did anyone notice the Pro-Life message in L'Rell's actions pertaining to her pregnancy? The child was very "inconvenient" for her, yet she had the child brought to full term by ex-utero technology!

#StarTrekDiscovery

Star Trek Discovery 2.2 - science and religious faith in this episode

I think Star Trek is at its best when they lean into the “explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations.” This happens on the “away missions” and especially on ones when the question of whether the “prime directive” applies. Thus, the episode “New Eden” had both elements going for it and I enjoyed it very much.

In the story, the scriptwriters advance the “Red Burst” signal story line some more and raise questions about the role of faith in society.

First, a quick science inquiry about the “Red Burst” signals: are these light based phenomena?

Certainly, it seems so from the way they are described. Science nerds will know that light travels fast. Science nerds will also know that in the scale of the galaxy and interstellar space the distances are vast even at light speed! Thus, if the latest “Red Burst” signal was determined to be ~ 50,000 light years away in the Beta Quadrant, and the Burst is a light based phenomena (like observing a supernova - an exploding star) then the burst was initiated 50,000 years earlier! This “Bat Signal” to come help these people living on “New Eden” would have taken place 49,800 years before the “Red Angel” whisked them away from Earth to park them on Terralisia. Have the scriptwriters worked this into their story arc?

If the signals are intentional from some intelligence, then that intelligence would have to have a completely different perception of linear time. This is not new to Star Trek as this idea was leaned upon heavily in Deep Space Nine where the “wormhole aliens” or the “Prophets of Bajor” were not constrained by linear time.

The other interesting feature of the story was its discussion of religious faith. There are two points that could serve as a springboard for conversation.

One question could be: what is god?

There was a quick conversation by the cast and crew about how a sufficiently advanced technological race would be viewed by a less advanced race as god. This theme has appeared in a number of stories throughout Star Trek’s history. In any case, it is expected that god would be very powerful and capable and in those Star Trek stories those societies become dependent upon and often grossly distorted by that powerful god-like entity.

In addition to “power” and “might,” our understanding of god would also include goodness of character. The mythic Greek pantheon of gods had powers of various type but in the end they also had the foibles of humanity.

Will be interesting to see how this story arc plays out. What intelligence is behind the signals? What is the “Red Angel?” If the “Red Angel” could whisk away people from earth and park them 50,000 light years away, what is motivating them to be enlisting our Disco family in errands of mercy? We shall see how the writer’s room works out the role and nature of this “higher intelligence(s)” interacting with more ordinary species.

The other issue the episode raises is the notion of stitching together all the world’s religions into one that all the people on Terralisia can follow. Captain Pike, whose father was a science teacher and comparative religion teacher, observed that the people on New Eden has a faith that works for their society by merging all the faiths of earth. People often say: oh, aren’t all religions basically the same? They all want people to be good. And so it appears that the people on Terralisa have actualized this.

But is this somewhat simplistic story telling on the part of the script writers?

Certainly, at a superficial level, there are many similarities between the major religious faiths. However, upon closer examination, there are differences that would not be easy to paper over. To cite just one: in the non-theistic faiths of Hinduism and Buddhism, the central claim is karma. Briefly, karma is the concept that one’s current life was impacted by the sins of one’s prior life in a series of reincarnations. In the Christian faith that I hold, the central claim is that Christ died for our sins and was resurrected from the dead for our salvation.

The religion project of New Eden would only work if all the faiths merged together were pruned of their major differences prior to putting them all together.

#StarTrekDiscovery

LA Galaxy - hmmmm ....

Polenta and Antuna officially announced.

Still no word on how they are going to get down from 4 DPs to 3.

Latest rumor is a restructured contract for Giovani dos Santos that extends him but at a level below DP.

That was also rumored as a way to keep Romain Alessandrini with LA but not as a DP.

Will LA add someone on the defense before the start of the season?

The roster lists seven defenders but don't see Arellano and Hilliard-Arce getting many minutes except as emergency defenders due to injury of someone from the top five.

Also, really don't know how you can have Zlatan, Ola, JDS, GDS, Alessandrini on the field at the same time. Where do you park each guy?

Am anticipating Lletget and Antuna to also get minutes, how do they fit in with the top five offense-minded players already mentioned.

How about this for position assignments with primary option before the slash and the secondary after the slash (prime/secondary):

2: Zlatan/Jamison, Ola/Boateng
4: Lletget/Antuna, GDS/Lletget, JDS/Kitchen, Alessandrini/Pontius
4: some combination of the main five defenders

UPDATE:
I do wonder if financially, the Galaxy are not in the position to get mid-priced defenders and they are going to go with Skelvik/Polenta/Steres/Romney/Fletcher getting the lion's share of the minutes. Thus, if injuries hit, the Galaxy are going to have to rely on Hilliard-Arce, Arellano, and their best prospects from Galaxy II?


Star Trek Discovery Season 2 Episode 1

Star Trek Discovery Season 2 Episode 1

Stylistically similar to season 1 in that the frantic pace and high production values is kept up in the season opener. But more importantly and positively, is the feeling of visiting old friends felt in season 1 continues in season 2. Saru, Tilly, Stamets, and Burnham are well played by their respective actors.

Will be interesting to see where the "red bursts" story line is going. Will be interesting to see where they are going with Spock/Burnham/Amanda/Sarek story line.

Huge hats off to Jeff Russo and the soundtrack he writes for the show. Check out the short behind the scenes videos. There are a couple focusing on the music of ST-Discovery.

Anson Mount as Captain Pike is a plus and an opportunity to explore a character we don't know much about from the Original Series (Menagerie/Cage) and two small parts in the Kelvin-verse films (Star Trek-2009, Into Darkness).

On Trek trivia, am curious to see if the "red shirt" motif will be transitioned to the "blue shirt" motif as you could see that fellow getting written out of the show the minute he started talking!

#StarTrekDiscovery

LA Galaxy - starting 11 and depth chart for 2019?

There are a few rumors going around so will make the following assumptions:
GDS will be bought out
Antuna will arrive on loan
Polenta will be signed

How about a conventional 4-4-2?

Forward = Ibrahimovic, Kamara
3. Pontius
4. BJIV

Offensive MF = Alessandrini, Antuna
3. Boateng
4. Pontius
5. Lletget

Defensive MF = JDS, Lletget
3. Kitchen
4. Juninho
5. Carrasco

Defense = Romney, Polenta, Steres, Feltscher
5. Skjelvik
6. Need to recruit a solid back-up
7. Need to recruit a solid back-up
8. Hilliard-Arce

GK = Bigham
2. Lampson
3. Vom Steeg

How about a 4-2-3-1 formation?

Forward = Ibrahimovic
2. Kamara
3. Pontius
4. BJIV

Offensive MF = Kamara, JDS, Alessandrini
4. Antuna
5. Boateng
6. Pontius
7. Lletget

Defensive MF = Lletget, Kitchen
3. JDS
4. Juninho
5. Carrasco

Defense = Romney, Polenta, Steres, Feltscher
5. Skjelvik
6. Need to recruit a solid back-up
7. Need to recruit a solid back-up
8. Hilliard-Arce

GK = Bigham
2. Lampson
3. Vom Steeg

Will see if the front office can land an extra defender or two as it stands that is the area where they lack depth.




Star Trek Discovery Season Two - We shall see what the scriptwriters have up their sleeves!

My feelings about the first season: good performances by the cast and high production values; on the downside a few times where the plot got very confusing or inconsistent.

As for season two, we shall see!

The episode will be released tonight and so perhaps some of the mysteries will be revealed.

One thing that strikes me as a bit odd was assigning Captain Pike to take over the Discovery.

In the Star Trek "world," the Enterprise was a Constitution class starship that was top-of-the-line for a long time in Star Fleet. So why are the powers that be transferring Pike to what was a one-of-a-kind experimental-research ship in the Discovery?

From the trailers the mystery is the Red Bursts and the Red Angel. How many ships will the Federation dedicate to solving the mystery?

You would think you want to keep the Enterprise crew together with its Captain as part of that mission?

However, it appears that Spock has taken leave of the Enterprise to deal with how the message from the phenomena has thrown him into turmoil. But even so, you would think Pike would stay with one of the flagships of the fleet.

Of course, you might say that since Burnham has some connection to Spock, the bosses figure we need her as part of the team solving the mystery. In which case it would be easy enough to transfer Burnham over to the Enterprise.

Probably the only practical reason for moving Pike over to Discovery is that the crew still shell-shocked from their adventures in season one need a seasoned Captain to help them in this new mission. Perhaps, since the Discovery was a research ship, it might be stocked with more nerd types that will be needed for the newest mission.

Anyway, then the next question is who is the interim Captain on the Enterprise? I suppose "Number One" seen in the TOS "The Cage" and in the two-part "The Menagerie" that utilized "The Cage" footage would fill that role. And indeed, the show runners have brought in Rebecca Romijn to play that character. How much the series will spend on the Enterprise and how often Romijn will appear remains to be seen.

On another trivia note, according to IMDB, Julianne Grossman supplies the voice of Discovery's computer. Apparently, she is a seasoned voice actress.

UPDATE: Well, that was a rather simply solution to why Pike had to leave the Enterprise ..... they tried to hit control-alt-delete to reboot the Enterprise and couldn't! Or in Mac OS lingo, the Enterprise saw the spinning pin-wheel of death and they had to pull the power plug and tow it back to the Star Base! 



Heading into the October international break

LA Galaxy have dropped two in a row and in both cases their defense was the culprit. As a result, they go into the MLS playoffs in fifth pla...