Saturday, May 31, 2014

Captain's Log, Supplemental

This post might seem like something of a detour, but I think it’s necessary in order to better understand me.  This will give some additional insight into my geeky side.  I was born in 1976, one year before Star Wars would hit movie theaters, and three years before Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  This marked the birth of the blockbuster, the transition from the film industry being more about art to being more about money.  While the original Star Trek series had run in the 1960’s , science fiction was given new life when Star Wars showed the world that it could not only make money.  It could make a lot of money.  Being born when I was, I had the privilege of growing up with the science fiction industry as it was entering it’s heyday.  

As a small child, I can remember being fasciated anytime I could watch re-runs of the original Star Trek series or the campy Batman television series.  I did see the original Star Wars in a theater, but, of course, I wouldn’t remember it if I had seen it in 1977.  It must have been re-released at some point.  I’m guessing it must have been in preparation for the release of The Empire Strikes Back because the now familiar Episode IV had been added to the beginning.  

I remember when my mom purchased our first copy of Star Wars for home.  She was so excited to be able to get it for me.  This was back in the day when it wasn’t clear whether VHS or BetaMax was going to win the VCR war.  My parents actually decided to side-step that debate and had purchased a video disc player.  The movies were actually on what were basically giant DVD’s about the size of a vinyl record, and they were contained inside a plastic case.  The entire plastic case would be slid into the player which would release the disc, and, then, you would slide the case out.  You, then, grabbed a lever on the front of the machine and moved it up to play.  Wow.   You’re actually going to get a history lesson with this post, too.  I was actually able to find a picture which you can see below.  The picture is from Steve’s Tech Blog.  If you’re interested more in the technical aspects, he goes into much greater detail.

Video Disc Player and Star Wars
The day that my mom brought home Star Wars on video disc, I was so excited to watch it that night.  As fate would have it, our electricity went out that night.  I was crushed.  My mom knew how much it meant to me; so, she called some neighbors that lived a couple of miles away that also had a video disc player and also happened to be on a different electrical circuit than we were.  They still had power and they were happy to let us come over.  I don’t think they were too excited to watch Star Wars though.  They ended up hooking their player up to a small television in one of the bedrooms.  The adults all say out in the living room and talked while I sat in that bedroom staring at that tiny television screen.  I might as well have been an Omnimax screen though because I was completely drawn in.  It was Star Wars, and it was mine to watch whenever I wanted.

Now, I want to bring us back to the main focus of this post.  In 1987, when I was in the 5th grade, Paramount Pictures gave me, and so many others, a tremendous gift.  They released a new Star Trek television series.  I was like a kid in a candy store sans the candy.  The Enterprise D was my candy store.  I also remember that, shortly before or after the show began airing, Cheerios ran a contest in which you could win a spot as an extra on the show.  You better believe I ate a lot of Cheerios during that contest.  I’ve pasted a pic of the back of one of the cereal box’s below that I found on another blog.  It’s nice to know that I wasn’t the only one geeing out over this stuff.

ST:TNG Cheerios Contest

Paramount also broke ground with this series in that they decided that rather than deliver it through a single network, they would distribute the show entirely through syndication.  As we all know now, the show was a huge success and ended up running until 1994, the year that I graduated high school.  This means that it was a voice in my life throughout both middle school and high school.

The NBC affiliate in my hometown would end up picking up the show, and they ran it on Sundays at 11:00.  This time slot followed a show produced by a local televangelist.  I would often catch the tail end of her show while I was waiting for ST:TNG to come on.  It was one of those shows that featured gospel singers and she was always calling people down front so that she could pray for them and they could be healed.  Well, to a young child whose only church experience had been occasionally attending the small country Baptist church that his grandparents went to, that seemed like a special slice of crazy.  This would definitely impact my perception of religion and generate a certain amount of skepticism as I approached religion going forward.

Star Trek itself would be a huge factor in how I approached religions.  The Prime Directive would suggest that I respect the religious beliefs of others and not interfere with them.  From this perspective, I could observe and seek to understand the religious experiences and beliefs of others while not engaging in them myself and maintaining a certain amount of intellectual, emotional, and, when possible, physical distance.

I realize that the Prime Directive is not part of everyone’s daily language, and I should probably offer some explanation.  This explanation comes from a site called Memory Alpha.  It is the Wikipedia of all things Trek.

The Prime Directive, also known as Starfleet General Order 1 or the Non-Interference Directive, was the embodiment of one of Starfleet's most important ethical principles: noninterference with other cultures and civilizations. At its core was the philosophical concept that covered personnel should refrain from interfering in the natural, unassisted, development of societies, even if such interference was well-intentioned.

Hopefully, this provides some additional insight into why I would have been hesitant to jump into any kind of religious community at this point in my life. 

- Culbs

© Joshua Culbertson 2014

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