Battle Royale: Kirk vs. Picard

Star Trek Movie Logo 2009 Beneath our society, a war has been raging. Two factions have drawn an invisible line and stand on either side, defending their honor — nay, the honor of the leaders their philosophy is based upon. It is a debate so fierce that the very mention of it will turn the most rational adult into an angry, spewing wreck, and every level-headed nerd into, well, an angry nerd.

And those are the worst kinds of nerd.

I’m talking about a debate that has plagued the civility of our world for more than two decades: Who is the best captain of the USS Enterprise?

I assure you this is not a topic I approach lightly. The last time I was caught in this I was an innocent bystander, trapped in the slobbering, gibbering ravings of angry nerds — I consider myself lucky to have escaped unscathed. Also, my car. I half expected to find my car covered with “PICARD RULES” and “KIRK IS AWESOME” in shaving cream. But I was lucky. I lived to fight another day.

Today is that day. Today I will compare James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard and determine who reigns as definitive captain of the starship Enterprise.

In order to have a fair comparison, The Editor and I sat down and watched the first Kirk episode (The Man Trap) and the first Picard episode (Encounter at Far Point 1 & 2) back-to-back.

Note:The first episode of the original Star Trek featured Captain Pike, so we watched the second episode, which had Kirk. Also, since Encounter at Far Point was actually two episodes, I wanted to keep it fair and give Kirk the same amount of face time. You know, because Kirk is an attention whore and would demand equal viewing had he been told of this discrepancy. So I also watched episode 3 of the original Star Trek (Charlie X).

While The Editor and I watched these shows, we commented on the strengths and weaknesses of each Enterprise Captain.

The argument against using only the first two episodes is that the characters continue to develop through the entire series, so it might be unfair to base it on a small, early snapshot. However, this is the fairest way. Though everyone in both series continues to change and develop over time, these beginning episodes reveal what lies at each character’s core. Also, many years have passed since I have watched a Star Trek episode (original or otherwise) so I went into this without any preconceived notions of who would reign supreme. All I could recall was that the two captains were entirely different, but nothing more.

Let’s get into it.

Kirk vs. Picard

As much as anyone would like to deny it, appearance plays a significant role in the way people identify leaders. Studies have proven that when voters have no information on candidates, they vote for the more attractive person. Researchers aren’t entirely sure why this is, we only know that it is. So we have to talk about it.

Captain Kirk
Kirk is generally known as a ladies’ man, even to people who haven’t watched a lot of the original Star Trek series. We don’t see a lot of his sexual prowess in the first two episodes, though the support for attractiveness is there, especially in all of his close-up shots: when the camera gets up close and personal, the mood lighting comes on and it’s Ridiculous Bedroom Eyes Time – even when he’s talking about a disgusting biological ailment and/or death.

I guess you could say Kirk has muscles. Times have changed and the definition of a hunky physique has changed, too, but back then I suppose you could call him “built”. Or “substantial”. Yeah, let’s call him substantial.

His mannerisms have flair: he employs a cool tricorder flip move and, when there is drama to be had, he flits around, then stops abruptly and holds bizarre poses. Possibly he’s playing Red Light-Green Light in his head. My favorite part about Kirk is that he crawls around in the dirt, performing silly fighting maneuvers. This behavior adds to his ruggedness.

And is it just me, or do none of his shirts fit?

Kirk Shirt

Captain Picard
Yep, he’s bald and he’s British. Good work, Sherlock.

Picard’s first appearance is as a black silhouette, Alfred Hitchcock-like. Then he emerges and is revealed as a short bald dude. I wouldn’t say that was a letdown; it was more of a surprise because immediately he is very un-Kirk-like. Though he was voted as “TV’s Sexiest Man” in 1992, I have to say that Picard’s attractiveness isn’t made by his physical appearance. It’s made by his persona. Don’t get me wrong, Picard isn’t unattractive. But he doesn’t fit the characteristics that typically make mainstream folks get hot over. And I may not even have brought all this up if not for the fact that on this version of the Enterprise, the captain’s chair sits between two others – where they seat Beardy McVirile and Bubbly McBreasticles, two people who are clearly put there to increase the sexy quota on that ship. This, to me, makes Picard’s physical attractiveness a question – or even a farce. If they had sat him between two regular people, I wonder if it would have been noticed. If they had sat him between Wharf and a gorgon, he’d be considered George Clooney in comparison.

On the bridge
Don't worry, audience -- here are two hotties who will save you from looking at the regular people!

And is it just me, or is Picard’s head shaped like an Alien head? I’m not saying this is a bad thing. Alien is bad ass. You are no match for Alien.

Picard-Alien Cranium

I declare their appearances a stalemate. Kirk scores with the chicks, but Picard has a sweet, Alienesque cranium.

Without a terrific crew, captains would be flying solo, doing it all themselves. Great leaders are people who rely on their crew’s expertise, utilize their crew to the fullest, and inspire. This is where we get into substantially different territory on our captains.

Captain Kirk
What’s different between the two series openers is that with the original Star Trek series, Kirk’s been captain for a little bit and he’s already established a relationship with his staff. Picard is new to the ship and he’s picking up a couple of new senior staff members. Kirk has already established his expectations. He yells at McCoy at one point, rebuking him for putting his emotions over logic and duty. He constantly relies on his senior staff for opinions and facts, which he pieces together in order to solve a mystery. And why wouldn’t he? He has Spock. You’d have to be a real moron to disregard Spock…

More on that in a minute.

Captain Picard
…is Kirk’s opposite. He’s introduced as a man of great intelligence who prefers to verbal combat over a physical one. In fact, in the first two episodes he is prone to long, rambling know-it-all statements.

He’s smart and knows a lot of facts. We get it.

But I also found him to be a contradiction. He gets pissy a lot and doesn’t like anyone stealing his thunder. Every staff member around him is apparently an idiot who needs to be corrected, from the lowly yeoman to the chief security officer. And correct them he does, in his long-winded way. Funnily enough, the only person on the ship who dares to be correct in Picard’s presence is a kid. And when it happens, Picard turns into a raging jerk and exiles the kid from his presence.

Apparently Picard doesn’t like it when someone steals his thunder. The only time I did see Picard attempt to rely on someone wasn’t really relying at all. After his new first officer (William Riker, AKA Beardy McVirile) comes on board, Picard orders him to connect the two halves of the ship together. You know, stick the big thing inside the little hole.

Riker
Euphemism, anyone?

I don’t consider that as asking Beardy to be useful. It was more like Picard wanted Beardy to prove he wasn’t a waste of space on his ship.

I can’t give Picard points for utilizing his crew, unless it’s because he wants practice at being smarter than someone. Sorry, Picard fans. Kirk comes out way ahead when it comes to utilizing and inspiring his crew.

Okay, so we’re at Kirk 1, Picard 0, but we haven’t even gotten to the most important issue: what are they like in action? The methodology of each captain in a dangerous situation can make or break their mission, as well as save lives.

Simply put, Kirk is a mover and a shaker. Sure, he hates mysteries. He says they give him a bellyache. But when danger abounds, well, screw danger. He rushes headfirst into a threat like a scantily-clad blonde in a horror flick. The safety of his crew is of utmost importance, so that’s probably why he prefers to do the dirty work himself. When it’s time to act, he and random, unnamed, red-shirted crew members protect everyone else.

But is it really that hard? Kirk generally only fights dumb enemies. He was first up against an alien woman who sucks salt from your body. His second combatant was against an incredibly annoying (albeit powerful) kid.

Charlie X
I’m pretty sure this kid was the inspiration for that whiny brat Anakin Skywalker.

Since Kirk dislikes mysteries, it’s probably for the best that the enemies are so stupid. If he encounters anything smarter than a box of rocks, he might be screwed — if it weren’t for Spock.

Unfortunately, Kirk has some quirks that compromise the Spock factor. I could (and probably should) have included this little tidbit when I talked about utility and inspiration of crew, but I decided to wait and mention it here: Kirk hangs up on Spock. At least, that’s what it looks like. When he’s on the planet and Spock is on the ship explaining something important, Kirk seems to cut him off and close the conversation a little too soon. It’s amazing Kirk survived as long as he had. Of all the people in the universe you’d want to listen to when you’re faced with danger, it’s Spock. Probably a bad idea to cut Spock off before he gets to the good part. You know, like how to stop something that’s trying to kill you.

Kirk Communicator

As I said earlier, Picard is Kirk’s opposite. He’s a deep thinker. When the crew is in mortal danger, his strategy is to send all of the pretty people into danger while he stays on the ship. And why not? There’s air conditioning. Granted, if he was using that time on board to actually think a way out of the mess he’s in, I wouldn’t mention this. However, in the episode I watched, Picard sent his crew into danger, then used that time to wander down to the sick bay and stare at Beverly Crusher’s breasts.

Now, most straight men and gay women probably find this a perfectly acceptable usage of time but I fail to see how breasts will rescue anyone from mortal peril. Okay, breasts are great. I get it. But they aren’t magical.

No. They really aren’t.

Stiff Posture
My posture isn't the only thing that's stiff, Doctor Crusher...

I got the impression that Picard really wasn’t too concerned about the predicament they were in, which was pretty serious — a powerful, all-knowing being was putting Picard on trial for all of humanity. If Picard couldn’t redeem the entire human race from past to present, everybody was screwed.

And I’m not talking about Bev Crusher’s breasts.

Picard’s lack of focus on the immediate danger made him flippant and uncaring. At one point he flatly states that he would be willing to destroy his ship to beat “Q”, the all-powerful, all-knowing being who is calling the human race to account. Notice what I am saying — the point wasn’t that he wanted to “save everyone”. It’s that Picard would destroy the Enterprise to win.

We’re back to throwing tantrums when someone one-ups his ginormous brain.

Based on the episodes I watched, Kirk comes out as the clear winner in his methodology. Despite hanging up on Spock, Kirk personally gets more done. Plus, I feel that Kirk’s motives are more genuine. He cares about his crew while Picard just doesn’t like it when someone steals this thunder. Maybe he’s smarter than Kirk. But he throws too many stupid tantrums. Maybe I should give him more credit. After all, he does sit next to Bubbly McBreasticles, who is the most annoying senior officer in the history of science fiction and would also drive me into a rabid fit. McBreasticles is an empath. While that sounds really neat, all she does is sit around and report the obvious.

Sensing Things
I sense joy! And hunger! And I think someone has to go Number Two.

If Picard were a man of action, he would blast her out of the airlock. Or have someone beam her to another planet. Too bad he’s a thinker. He could ask Beardy to do it, but it only makes sense for the two beautiful people on the ship to have some sort of sexual tension. No way is Beardy going to jettison his opportunity for some bedroom action.

But I digress. Though mental intellect would be a key driver to outstanding performance, emotional intelligence reigns. Kirk simply shows more. Picard needs to get out of his head. The score is Kirk 2, Picard 0. Kirk is the winner.

Verdict: Kirk captain is best captain.

Captain Awesome Continue reading “Battle Royale: Kirk vs. Picard”

Games You Should Be Playing: Skyrim

Skyrim Logo
I play video games. And yes, I am a girl.

I’ve been playing video games since the day my parents brought home an Atari 2600. My brother and I made forts in the den, rolled out our sleeping bags, and played Pac Man all night long. From that day on, I was hooked. The fact that I became an avid gamer at such a young age still astounds me because my parents have always been technologically challenged. Case in point, they only got cable television five years ago.

Get with the times, Dad. Internet TV’s where it’s at.

There’s a widely held misconception that women don’t play video games. That’s crap. I have a lot of cool female friends (who aren’t ugly toads, virgins, and/or live in their parents’ basement) who play video games. We’re rare, I’ll give you that. There are few things funnier than being the only girlfriend who is invited to the boys’ all-night gaming party.

Don’t worry. I’ll bring the beer and kick your ass.

As times have changed, I’ve noticed more women are open to video games but they don’t know what to buy. Girls want different things in video games than boys do: We want to feel rewarded early on, we want to be able to play for shorter spurts and still get things accomplished, and we want an avatar who isn’t a gross exaggeration of our sexual features. Most importantly, we want to kick ass, too. But games are generally marketed to men — how will we know where to start?

Let me help.

Skyrim In-Game Banner

Skyrim is a game that would have caught your eye in the store or with online ads, except that their logo shows a big hairy man surrounded in mist, clad in armor, and covered in dirt. And maybe all the boys get excited about a big hairy, dirty dude. I don’t. So I went and made us an avatar that we might be a little more excited to play:

Awesomesauce

I named her “Awesomesauce”. No, really. That’s what I named her. She shoots fire and lightning bolts from her hands. In fact, here’s a shot of her lighting everyone on fire! Sadly, that includes the guy who is helping her escape. I was still working on my aim:

Awesomesauce Lights Everyone on Fire
Is it warm in here?

And in case you’re wondering, my level 20 warrior is named Pumpkin. She kills dragons. Bad ass.

In Skyrim there are lots of races and you can choose to play either a male or female character. What’s funny about the character creation is that there are a plethora of customizable options — one could spend hours creating a custom avatar, but in the end you’re going to stick a big hat on their head and you’ll mostly be looking at them from behind. So don’t waste too much time on it.

The game starts out in this long, exhausting sequence where you discover you’ve been captured and are being sent to the chopping block for execution. As you get down on your knees and the axe is lifted, a dragon shows up.

Dragon!
Hi! I was just wondering if I could borrow a cup of sugar?

The dragon starts breathing fire all over the town and, naturally, no one is concerned with you anymore. You get up and run for it. This is where your story begins.

If you haven’t played a lot of video games and you’re worried about your skill level, let me assure you: modern role-playing games have implemented systems so that you always know what to do. If you have a quest, an indicator will float above someone’s head so you know to talk to them. If you are on a journey, a map indicator will tell you where to go. In that regard, Skyrim is no different. So if you’re an experienced gamer or a novice, Skyrim will help you along.

In the screenshot below, you’re still a prisoner and need to escape the town and the dragon. Notice the indicators above both doors (yellow circles are mine). Here, you have a choice to make: escape with the soldier or with the resistance.

Choice: Enter the Keep

Two options! Compared to games of old, this seems like a lot! Back in the day, games only gave you one choice! (And get off my virtual lawn, whippersnappers!) But to be honest, this is as restrictive as Skyrim gets. Once you leave the town, you are given the opportunity to continue the game’s main quest line…

…or you can forge your own path.

No, really. That’s not just a tagline. The world is immense and open. There are dungeons, towns, quests, stories, books, trainers, guilds, giants, monuments, treasure chests, etc. in every direction. In fact, you should forget all about the main story and do whatever the hell you want. Just pick a direction and start running. You’ll bump into fifty other things to do. Skyrim dungeons are so different from one another that you’ll never get bored. There are times when I feel as if I’ve entered the ruins of Atlantis, or I’m Indiana Jones in search of lost treasure. As you go, you’ll increase your skills and level up. You could decide to be a warrior mage or a thief who wears heavy armor so you can take a beating in combat. The talent trees allow you to customize your character any way you want.

It’s called an open world, and they mean it. You could become an assassin AND a notorious thief AND a hero AND a skilled tradeskill master AND a bard…

Vampirism

…and apparently a vampire. And I’m not talking the kind that sparkles. I should probably get Awesomesauce to a shrine and get this fixed, but I’m curious to know what will happen next — which is the most exciting aspect of Skyrim.

The bar for open world RPG’s has been raised. Girls, if you’re looking for a game that you can sink your teeth into from time to time, pick up Skyrim and create your own tale.

Your boyfriend can go get his own damn copy. Continue reading “Games You Should Be Playing: Skyrim”

The Mark… and Beyond

pancake_bunny
I couldn't think of a photo to go with this post, so here's a bunny with a pancake on its head.

I want to thank everyone who came out and participated in The Mark. Even though it didn’t go the way we wanted, I hope everyone had a great time. If you want to relive the adventure (and the failure — HA!) you can go to the “Vote Your Adventure” link on the top bar and select “The Mark” or any of the adventures we’ve shared thus far.

When The Mark wrapped up, a couple of people asked me if I was “over” the whole idea of writing Vote Your Adventure stories. My first reaction was “ARGH, NO!” I hope you didn’t get the idea that I was fed up or angry. Part of the excitement of writing these stories is having no control over what happens. You guys really keep me on my toes! Even though we really didn’t set out to do any of the things I had hoped during this last story, the ending really made me giggle. So the short answer is: No. I am not tired of writing Vote Your Adventure stories.

The long answer is a little more complicated. I’m not “over” writing the stories, I’m over the world that our stories have been in. This is why my blog has remained so silent — I was trying to make a decision about it. I love that you guys are so into the stories and the post-apocalyptic demon-infested world, but it’s time for me to turn over a new creative leaf. We’re going to have more Vote Your Adventure stories, I promise. They’ll just be in new worlds and the next one won’t start until next year.

Moving back to the opposite coast has put me in a completely different mindset. I’m thinking about the concept of new. It just hasn’t felt right to continue working on the same projects that I have been for the last couple of years. I’m giving myself permission to set aside the writing projects that I’ve wrestled with for the last couple of years and start new.

Yes, my necromancer book, The Fourth Channel, is going away. It might not ever be released and I’m okay with that. Sorry.

I’ve started a couple of new projects. The first one is straight up science fiction in a future where corporations rule humanity. Jerica Ariden, Universal Prosperity Federation Marshal, is framed for a murder she didn’t commit. As she’s pursued by her coworkers, her newly assigned partner, and a dangerous crime boss, she must find the murderer and clear her name — all while dragging around the dumbest criminal in the universe.

The other project is a series of stories and novels that support the world of my Sunday night GURPS game. Okay, I haven’t played since I moved, but I hope to get back into it soon. For the uninitiated, GURPS is tabletop roleplaying game. You know, where everyone makes up a character and one person guides you through a scenario. It’s like our VYA stories, but in real time. My friend who runs my Sunday night game has created his own world, a medieval place called Albea that’s filled with humans and elves and daemons and cannibals — and whatever else he can think of. I’ve been wanting to write some stories that will really flesh out the lore and history of this world. I don’t have anything to share yet but I hope to very soon. If I can get enough done then maybe we’ll even run a Vote Your Adventure scenario in this world. So stay tuned for that.

Blog posts coming up:

Captain Kirk vs. Captain Picard! The Editor and I sat down and put these two captains head-to-head to find out who is the best Enterprise captain. Which one was dubbed “kind of a dick”? Which one has the best tricorder flip move? Which one was docked points because they should have blasted Troy out of the airlock because she’s so freaking annoying? Find out!

ALSO!

Gaming Reviews for Girls: SKYRIM! My pen pals asked me what the heck Skyrim is? Their boyfriends/husbands play that “gun shooting gaming thingy” (non-gamer speak for Call of Duty 3) but they don’t know Skyrim. I will review Skyrim for girls who don’t even know what “RPG” and “FPS” means.

Stay updated! Subscribe to my blog using the RSS button on the sidebar or on Twitter. Continue reading “The Mark… and Beyond”

The Mark: Part Five (Vote Your Adventure)

GameOverThis is the fifth part of an adventure series where YOU determine the next step in the story. Read part one, part two, part three, and part four.

You decide to go after the goggles. As soon as the guards disappear through the door, you pull yourself out of the duct and race to the ladder. You climb to the third level. Through a small window on the door, you can see a narrow hallway. The guards are walking away from you. Thirty feet away, they stop, nod at each other, and enter doors on either side of the hall. The guard with the goggles takes the door on the right.

All of your senses come alive, fueled by adrenaline. Your heart is pounding. Luckily, you’ve been trained to ignore it.

You slide your knife from its sheath and step into the hallway. It’s quiet. Muffled sounds of city life float in the air. You sneak quickly to the door on the right. Every squeak of your damp boots echoes off of the concrete floor and walls and sets you on edge. You stop at the door and press your ear against it. You hear shuffling sounds on the other side… and a strange growl.

You tell yourself it’s just nerves getting the best of you and crack open the door. You peek inside. Red light and hot air wash over you. The room is narrow and long with a high vaulted ceiling. Massive heat lamps are chained overhead. Large cages are built into the stone walls and stacked, two high, to the ceiling. They’re all empty. More cages are stacked in the center of the room, creating a maze. There’s no sign of the guard. You slip inside and quietly shut the door.

At first glance, you aren’t sure what the room is for. The cages are large enough to hold demons but the room doesn’t look like a containment center.

You hear heavy boots on the other side of the crates. You take a deep breath and walk to the corner. Very slowly, you inch your head out until you can see the guard. His back is to you. He’s checking his weapon, oblivious to your presence. The goggles are sitting off to the side atop a crate.

You raise the knife and step behind him. You reach around and clap your hand over his mouth. He rears suddenly, startled at the attack, and throws his weight into you. This reaction is nothing new to you. You step back with him and jerk his chin upward. You reach around with the knife and slice through his left internal jugular and carotid artery.

His lower body goes limp almost instantly. You keep your hand on his mouth and wait a few seconds for the blood to drain from the brain. Then you release the body, allowing it to drop to the floor.

As you bend and wipe your knife blade clean, you hear the door. The other guard is coming through.

“Hackley? You still in here?”

You duck out of sight between two cages and watch the guard round the corner. When he sees his companion on the floor, he screams out a curse and rushes to the body. He bends over the fallen form, turning his back to you. You step out from your hiding place. Within seconds, the guard has met the same fate as his companion.

It’s like taking candy from a baby.

You clean your knife again and stand. You grab the goggles. You slip them on, fasten them securely, and turn them on. The room comes alive in shades of purple. The stone wall at the back of the cages seems to pulse. The glasses define features in the stone that make it seem almost alive — you make out feet, claws, wings…

Eyes.

Hundreds of unblinking eyes stare at you from the cages. Fear seizes you, nearly rooting you to the floor. You realize the walls aren’t just stone; there are gargoyles, two or three to a cage, settled into the stone. The room is an incubator for demonic hybrids.

You take off running for the door. You hear the metallic squeal of cage doors pushing open and the rush of many, many wings.

Luckily, your prized goggles let you watch the gargoyles rip you limb from limb.

YOU LOSE.


Epilogue

Undermanned and leaderless, your team is easily captured and turned into mindless demon-human hybrids. The Mark, Evangeline Ryder, begins to recruit other surviving cities into creating more hybrids. She plans to mount an offensive against the very people you failed. Continue reading “The Mark: Part Five (Vote Your Adventure)”

Part Four Results: The Mark

Kitty Night Vision I was compelled to use the Kitty photo again, just because it’s so damn funny! Can you blame me?

So this week we’ve managed to find our way out of the pipes. Now we can get back on track with our mission — or can we?

The choice this week was tough, making the votes a little more evenly divided. On Tuesday, there was even a resurgence at the end for B votes. Here’s how we stacked up:

A (Go after the goggles): 9
B (Catch up with your team): 6

This Friday, you will abandon your team and go for the goggles. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

And now for my favorite votes!

Kendall Grey: Get the damn goggles. I have no idea what they are, but they sound cool as hell. 🙂

Hah! Remember the gargoyles in Part One? If you hadn’t been there to witness their transformation into demon-human hybrids, you never would have seen ’em. The goggles allow you to detect them, like infrared.

Estelle: If the cat’s got hybrid vision goggles, I want ‘em too.

Aaaaaw, yeah! Kitty’s stylin’!

Tom: B. If you have goggles and no team, you’ll either just avoid the hybrids or get slaughtered. If you have a team and no goggles, you may get surprised, but you’ll still be able to fight. (You’re all wimps.)

See you on Friday, when we attempt to retrieve the goggles! Continue reading “Part Four Results: The Mark”