Thursday, April 30, 2009

Star Trek & 1960s Design, 7: Cream and Pepper

bink photoshopped this, at my request.

If you lived in the 1960s, you probably remember the iconic cover of this 1965 best-selling album, Whipped Cream & Other Delights, by Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass. (If not, it's here.)
My parents owned the album, and I loved its brassy, south of the border sound (though none of the band was Latino), and food-oriented songs. Still do!

And you know I love Star Trek, but not necessarily for the reasons some people offer. People often say Star Trek is optimistic, for instance, and I'm never quite sure what they mean. Sure, it's optimistic compared to the futuristic Stalinism of Blakes 7 and other dystopias. But Star Trek doesn't reflect my wildest hopes for the future. It's too much about the triumph of white, male, hierarchical, American, middle-class values, with Kirk as its West Point champion. Starfleet crew members don't necessarily have white skin, but have you noticed, they are pretty damn white.

As a child of the '60s, I was more intrigued by Be Here Now (1969) author and teacher Ram Dass, whose aim was transcending the limitations of consciousness; or by Angela Davis, for that matter, who surely would have had no truck with the Federation.

The optimism, such as it was, of the 1960s is better summed up for me by the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, with its iconic album art reflecting a very different design sensibility. [links to list of images on cover]
It came out in July 1967--a year and a half after Whipped Cream. (Herb Alpert--and Star Trek--was hopelessly square by comparison.)

Thanks to Annika for pointing out that the Beatles' uniforms look like relatives of Star Trek's shiny dress uniforms (2nd below, from "Journey to Babel").

                              [bottom image ^ by rabbittooth]

I wouldn't want to wear a Starfleet uniform and follow Kirk's orders, not then, not now.
But I'd be more than happy to lick whipped cream off his naked body. And I don't even like whipped cream. That's a wild hope for the future...
Other post linking Trek and the Beatles: "Tight Trousers and High Heels"
and Star Trek and 1960s Design
As always, Star Trek screencaps from Thanks!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Star Trek & Sixties Design, 6: The Wright Stuff

[See also Starship & Museum posts]

"Space. The continual becoming: invisible fountain from which all rhythms flow and to which they must pass. Beyond time or infinity."
--Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959)

"Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its 5 year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before."
--Star Trek, The Original Series (1966 - 1969)

The starship Enterprise (above).

Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of New York City (above, top and below), which opened in the fall of 1959, six months after Wright's death.

Looking backward takes as much imagination as looking forward.

Once something comes into being, it's hard to remember or imagine the world without it. In the mid-1950s, for instance, Saarinen envisioned his Tulip chairs and tables, with their supporting central pedestals, as clearing the cluttered lines of office spaces, or, as he put it curing "the slum of legs." Now they're so normal, they're almost boring, unless you re-imagine the time when four-legged tables and chairs were the unquestioned norm.

Just recently I started wondering how the look of Star Trek reflected the world of 1960s design. More or less on a whim, I started looking around. I tell you, it's blowing my mind, all the intersections of ideas and images I'm finding. I was born into the era, in 1961, and in some new ways I'm seeing my life as History.

The humanmade things around us are not accidents--whether they're real objects, like coffee pots and boots, or imagined ones, like starships and alien planets. Their design expresses the collective imagination of a place and a time. So when we look closely, imaginatively, at these objects, we see where we were and who we were.
If we can do this, if we can imagine our history, we can imagine the possibility of future designs, designs that might free us from the slum of habit, a slum we may not even know we're in until we realize, gee, it--that chair, that building, that wallpaper of my life--doesn't have to look like that.

My Vote for the New Capt. Kirk: Seth Rogan

He's Canadian!
He's a hazel-eyed Jew!
He's softbodied!
He's joyously ridiculous!
Women love him; guys like him!
He's an Aries! (April 15, 1982, so he's just 27.)

And... turns out he cleans up pretty good!

It's moot, of course, but Seth Rogan meets many of the criteria to portray a William Shatneresque Captain Kirk. True, he usually plays more of a Type-B schlump than a Type-A captain, but he's cast as the Green Hornet (to be directed by Michel Gondry, the antithesis of J. J. Abrams), so we'll see how he pulls off superherodom. I bet I'll like him in that role more than I'll like blue-eyed Chris Pine as the new Kirk.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Star Trek & Sixties Design 5: Tulip Chairs, Tables, and Space-Age Visors

I  Tulip Chairs

Mortmere has alerted me that Star Trek's chairs and tables were a variation on the Tulip Chairs (below, left) and tables designed by Finland-born Eero Saarinen for Knoll in 1957. *

I went looking and sure enough, there they are.




Screencap ^ from the Star Trek episode "Is There in Truth No Beauty?" (1968).

*Mortmere also sent me the link to this web article "Chairs by Burke", which reports:
"The standard equipment chair seen on the sets of the Enterprise were manufactured by a company in Texas called "Burke". They were closely patterned after a similar chair by Saarinen except that they featured a four-blade 'propellor' base instead of the circular 'Tulip' base..."

You can see the base on the chair behind Spock's in this still from the 1966 episode "Charlie X." (It's harder than you might think to find a clear shot of an entire chair.) Eames' chairs also have a propeller base.

II. Tulip Chairs,  and Space-Age Visors

"O brave new world! That has such creatures in't."
--Spock/Kollos quoting Miranda, from Shakespeare's The Tempest, in the 1968 Star Trek episode "Is There in Truth No Beauty?" 

Diana Muldaur (below, left) guest-starred in the episode as Dr. Miranda Jones.


Advertisement, above right, for Eero Saarinen's  Tulip Armchair [links to MoMA page], a classic of mid-century modern design, designed for Knoll in 1955-56.

Miranda Jones is the companion of Kollos, an energy entity so different in appearance from humanoids that they must wear visors to protect against madness if they glimpse him. 

Left, Spock and Miranda transport Kollos (in the box). 

< Note the chair.

An IDIC medallion, which was introduced in this episode, is hereby e-bestowed upon Mortmere, in thanks for her telling me about the Saarinen/Star Trek connection.

Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, indeed!

III. Tulip Table, with Chairs

"When I see you, I... I feel like I'm hungry... all over. Hungry. Do you know how that feels?"
--Charlie X, to Janice Rand

Above left: Tulip Chairs and Table,  designed by Eero Saarinen for Knoll in 1957
Above, right: Charles Evans (Robert Walker) in the brig, from Star Trek's 1966 episode "Charlie X"
[Thanks, as always, to for the Star Trek screencaps.]

Monday, April 27, 2009

Star Trek & Sixties Design, 4: Poppies, My Pretty

"Take your pleasure seriously."
--Charles Eames, mid-century American designer

Marimekko's "Unikko" poppy pattern was designed by Maija Isola (of Finland) in 1964, as well as the "Kaivo" pattern, bottom right.

"The Trouble with Tribbles," aired 1967. Screenplay by David Gerrold, who said, "STAR TREK’S very existence said, 'There will be a future! And we must learn how to make it the best of all possible futures!'”

The fiberglass-shelled 1966 Dash Ninety-Nine chair, designed by Charles Eames for Herman Miller.

Star Trek & Sixties Design, 3: Corbomite Coffee

I may be searching wrong online (help?), but I've yet to find anything relating Star Trek imagery to the larger field of 1960s design. These are my initial matches.

Danish designer and architect Arne Jacobsen created a range of stainless-steel tableware, in vogue in the Sixties, called the Cylinda Line, between 1964 and 1967.

And bygod, Yeoman Janice Rand (Grace Lee Whitney) is boldly going to serve the captain coffee with a descendent of Jacobsen's coffeepot even if everyone is about to die in Star Trek episode "The Corbomite Maneuver" (links to entire episode on youTube). Aired as episode 10 in 1966 but was only the third episode produced, after the second pilot, hence Uhura's gold uniform.

In a 2006 interview, when asked whether Shatner was funny on the set, Whitney replied:
"Oh god yes, he was phenomenally funny, I thought it should have been a comedy. The old show was much funnier than the new shows, the new shows are much too serious."

My thoughts exactly.

Star Trek & Sixties Design, 2: The Geodesic Spaceship

All those years flipping through art & design books, working at the art college library, I have a database of images in my head. It's fun matching them up with Star Trek, but time consuming.

As someone who got a D in high school geometry, I'm going out on a limb to say the gigantic spaceship Fesarius, toward which the Enterprise is flying (or being dragged in a tractor beam, I think), is a geodesic dome.
(This shot, left, is from the 2006 remastering of the 1966 Star Trek episode "The Corbomite Maneuver." )

R. Buckminster Fuller didn't invent the geodesic dome, but he popularized it in his design, for instance, of the U.S. Pavilion for the 1967 World’s Fair, in Montreal, left.

Fuller said:
"When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong."
Magnified on the Enterprise's bridge screen, below left (not a remastered GCI), the globes of the Fesarius make it look more like a lava lamp

Edward Craven Walker applied for a patent in 1965 for his invention he called the Astro, but it was marketed as a Lava Lite.

Star Trek & Sixties Design, 1: Kinky Boots

[See also Star Trek men's boots, here.]

I'd love to see a book, website, or museum show that compared and contrasted classic Star Trek design with the look of its era, the Sixties. Does such a thing exist? Should I compile it myself?
This music video, for instance, Nancy Sinatra: These Boots Are Made for Walking, was made in 1966, the same year Star Trek first aired.
Nancy Sinatra: These Boots Are Made for Walking

I went looking for full-length images of Star Trek women in their short red and blue outfits and mid-calf boots, but they are surprisingly hard to find. I did find this great shot of Uhura, [below, right], in the kinky outfit and thigh-high boots of the parallel universe in 1967's "Mirror, Mirror" episode, disarming Marlena, the "captain's woman."

Below, left: shot from Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walking" video, 1966


The star enters in a sparkly top. [LEFT: Nancy Sinatra, RIGHT: William Shatner]

In looking for pix of the women's regular uniforms, I was struck by this one, below, where the captain and the communications officer mirror each other's poses.
(I can hardly wait to see if Chris Pine's Kirk ever sits and runs like a girl too. Somehow I expect not.
[June 2009 NOTE: Yes, he does! At the very end, Pine pays a wonderful tribute to Shatner's body language by assuming his cross-legged pose in the captain's chair, though crossing the opposite leg. Well done.])

And finally, I couldn't resist this parting shot of Dr. Helen Noel and Kirk, walking out of the captain's quarters, from "Dagger of the Mind" (title courtesy Shakespeare). It has intriguing (to me) elements--a glimpse of the skirts' construction; Kirk's beautiful back, and the potted corn plant, a favorite of low-light corporate settings even, it seems, in the 23rd century (Mrs. Conclusion first drew Kirk's potted plants to my attention).

[Thanks, as always, to for the Star Trek screencaps.]

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Krista Makes Me Rice Pudding

It's a rainy, cool, Sunday afternoon, and Krista has come over to make me English nursery food to aid in my continued healing. I was worried that my manner of bounding to greet her, seemingly in the full bloom of health, would nullify her offer, but no! Here she is adding a bit of vanilla bean to hot milk, rice, sugar, and a dash of salt. She is using this recipe: Marie Louise's Rice Pudding, from the Wednesday Chef. (We left out the bay leaf.)

My contribution: whole nutmeg I bought (complete with teeny grater) in Sicily two springs ago:

In fact, two weeks after gallbladder surgery, I pretty much am in full bloom of health, except I still can't lift anything heavy because my insides are still knitting themselves back together. Luckily, nutmegs fall within the weight restrictions.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

"I love you, man!"

Apologies to anyone who was relieved I'd stopped writing much about Star Trek. With the new movie coming out May 7--I have tickets!--my delirious adoration and intellectual fascination have revived.

I. Shakespeare/Star Trek Links

Can't let this slip away yet: here's the link to my latest Star Trek vid on youTube:
Kirk/Spock: The Marriage of True Minds (Shakespeare Sonnet 116).

I googled Shakespeare + Star Trek and found this post, "Trekspeare", on the blog Bully Says: Comics Oughta Be Fun! Bully embeded 20 Shakespeare-related Star Trek youTubes (not fanvids, but only half are The Original Series) on April 23, 2009. I hadn't realized it's Shakespeare's birthday then, or 'round then--perhaps I was picking up messages from beyond the grave: "Make a Kirk/Spock vid with my sonnet."

This article, Shakespeare in Star Trek, provides some of the original Shakespeare texts behind Star Trek references.

II. Cowboys and Spacemen

OK, here's the link to Andrew Collins's review of the new Star Trek film, from today's London Times--no synopsis, no spoilers, just a reassuring overview from someone who, like me, finds "it tricky to accept any substitute for the original cast commanded by William Shatner," but liked the movie anyway: "Star Trek Chimes with the Times".

There's a link on same page to "I Love You Man: A History of Bromance", a look at ten film pairings, including Kirk and Spock, who exemplify romantic male bonding: "Bromance, or to use its correct term homosocialism, isn’t the sort of attraction that’s likely to confuse cowboys."
Well, sure, there's even a Star Trek vid set to "Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other", by Ned Sublette, and while it uses the Pansy Division recording, Willy Nelson found the concept convincing enough to cover it too.

[By the way, I'm wondering--male characters in pop culture, like Batman and Robin Hood and Dr Who, have gotten more complex, but I haven't noticed the same being true for women characters. Am I missing something?]

III. Kirk's Sexy Back

My vids are getting a bit unbalanced, though, with 4 out of the 7 being Kirk/Spock slash vids. While the Kirk/Spock-undying-love theme has been central to the show's attraction for me since high school, (when, in fact, I thought Kirk was unattractive), now not only do I adore Kirk all on his own, in all his ridiculous pomposity, but I'm stunned by the pleasing geometry of the captain's form. The beauty of the curve where his back flows into his waist here, for instance...
But I haven't really focused on the honey bear, except for the one vid, "Kirk: To His Mistress".

My next vid needs to right the balance--I am ready to spend many happy hours looking for examples of Kirk standing like Michelangelo's David, as below, or the rare times when Shatner gave up face time and let himself be filmed from behind. No problem, except I've got a ton of work to catch up with, since I've basically done nothing since Easter, when I had surgery.
I've even got the poem picked out:
"I Sing the Body Electric", by that American master of bromance, Walt Whitman. So perfect for an Iowa farmboy who works in outer space.

(If only Whitman's "O Captain! My Captain!" fit, but insofar as anyone takes for real Kirk's death in Star Trek Generations, which usually we don't, it wasn't that sort of death. [2.25 minute video of Shatner on Kirk's death.])

Anyway, if you don't know "I Sing," it's a big, overblown, sensory, romantic mess (like most of Whitman, I think, or America, or Shatner, for that matter) with a few good images. Here's a sample:

"But the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face;
It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of his hips and wrists;
It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist and knees—dress does not hide him;
The strong, sweet, supple quality he has, strikes through the cotton and flannel;
To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more;
You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoulder-side."

I've said before, I think Chris Pine, the actor playing the new Kirk may be too hard-bodied, too much of what Mark Simpson called a "drag-king/frat boy" for my liking. Of course, this is the current ideal, which prefers machine lean to "strong, sweet, supple" qualities. But it's not mine.

Shatner's Kirk has his brutish John Wayne moments, no doubt about it; but, as I wrote in an old comment, I imagine the young Kirk being more like a sweet-corn-fed homecoming king, just shedding his puppy fat, relishing the homecoming queen like a pig at a trough... while being confused about his strong feelings for his teammates.
Well, we shall see. I'm not really worried because, whatever comes, we'll always have Pyris.

Friday, April 24, 2009

New vid: Kirk/Spock: The Marriage of True Minds (Shakespeare Sonnet 116)

Three weeks before the new movie opens, it seems behoovy to to remember that love survives time, alterations, and even near doom (even if this movie's dreadful, it won't be the first failed Star Trek film). The poem's by Shakespeare, the music is Bach's Cello Suite No. 1, Prelude; and, as always, a huge thanks to for the screencaps.
I didn't set out to specialize in poetry-set-to-Star-Trek slide shows, but I seem to have. Pretty soon you could teach high school English with my vids!
(I also didn't know until a couple days later that April 23 is considered Shakespeare's birthday.)

So, here's the lastest Kirk/Spock: The Marriage of True Minds (click to watch on youTube site). 1 min. 42 sec.

Sonnet CXVI

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
Is is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error, and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

--William Shakespeare

This one's for bink, for staying with me in the hospital, among other things.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

NPM 11: "Let Me Not..." (Shakespeare, Sonnet 116), illustrated by Kirk/Spock

My mother had me memorize this poem when I was about nine:
Sonnet CXVI (116)
"Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments."
by William Shakespeare

[This is actually a video in progress, but it's where I'm storing the images while I put them together with music, etc. Now done: Kirk/Spock: The Marriage of True Minds.]