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In lieu of something of substance, here’s a bunch of Star Trek Online screenshots. Meara is teething/not sleeping so I really can’t handle anything requiring more thought.

Also, since their 30-year history of events between Star Trek Nemesis and the beginning of the game is no longer in an easy-to-digest format, here’s a PDF of History 102 – The Path to 2409, stylized as an in-universe Starfleet Academy file. It’s LARGE.

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President-Elect Fuckface von Clownstick

I’ve started trying to write this post many times, and each time the fullness of the insanity of it all floors me. It’s been five days and I still can’t wrap my head around this. The problem is so complex that it defies proper analysis. I said very early on Wednesday that the country just put a loaded gun to its head and pulled the trigger. Whether it turns out the chamber was empty or not remains to be seen, but we were told it was loaded and shot anyway. May the gods have mercy on us all.

“Faith of the Heart”

vlcsnap-2016-08-14-23h07m18s398.pngMany people either love or hate Star Trek Enterprise, and the same can be said of its theme song. I definitely fall into the latter category on its theme. The only Star Trek theme (so far) to have lyrics, being an outright pop song felt wrong on many levels. It fit with what they were trying to do, but it just didn’t feel right. As is often the case with things like that, you can get used to it and move on, but halfway through the show they felt the need to jazz it up, and made it that much worse in the process.

To make matters worse, around the same time that they changed this, they released THIS VIDEO on StarTrek.com…

The majority of the comments at the time were “WHY ISN’T THIS THE OPENING CREDITS?!?” and I definitely include myself in that. Now that I was adding my own fan edits to my Plex server, I decided to undergo the massive undertaking of recreating this in HD and then replacing the opening credits with it in every episode. I don’t currently have an online copy of the final product, but here’s the second draft. I’d made some slight changes (and used shots from fewer episodes for simplicity).

I left the Mirror episodes with their altered opening sequence intact since those were wonderful. But I turned my attention to “These Are The Voyages…” and gave it the opening sequence it deserved…

The Motionless Picture

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Since it first came out, the first Star Trek film has had a reputation. It’s very shiny with incredible visual effects for its time, back when all effects were still practical. But it drags, and drags, and drags. Behind schedule and over budget, the first draft of the film was the one that made it to theatres, with several effects shots never finished. The plot wouldn’t really even be enough for a 2-part episode in the series, so you end up with lots of visual padding that does nothing to move the plot forward. After discovering fan edits, I thought for sure someone had cut The Motionless Picture down to size, but no dice. I would have to do it myself.

For the DVD release a special Director’s Edition of the film was constructed, finally completing the film after 20 years. Many slight tweaks were made as incomplete shots were realized as they had been envisioned but overall the film was barely changed. However since these changes were made at DVD resolution, they weren’t used for the Blu Ray. For the most part, these were minor changes, and it was worth it not to include them at the poorer resolution. However two of them I felt were rather essential, and upscaled them from the DVD release. After that, it was time to start editing.

One of the first things changed in the Director’s Edition was the opening credits, as the titles are instantly replaced with the next in sequence with no transitions. Instead they had a more conventional fade in and out (slightly stylized), as well as both changing the credits from white to a more orange color and putting a star field behind it. I did the best I could to restore these changes, and went one further; while the original film listed most of the original series actors at once, I changed the speed of the entire sequence to give them all their names standing alone. It made no sense to me that actors from the original show got smaller credits than characters added for this film.

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With this complete, my goal was to improve the pacing as much as possible without completely modernizing it; cutting shots that served no real purpose and reducing many of the absurdly long effects shots to a few seconds in length. Most notably, I cut two of the three passes Kirk and Scotty make around the Enterprise. We’re going to see it again in a few minutes anyway, and the faster I could get the Enterprise into V’Ger the better. Throughout the first part of the film I cut extra time between dialogue to make things feel more like real conversations. With JUST these cuts I removed HALF AN HOUR of the film. I lost maybe three or four words of dialogue, and each instance it was Shatner repeating himself at least once.

With the pacing changes complete, I focused on the upscaled Director’s Edition shots I was putting in. These shots were so important because they were the ONLY actual shots of V’Ger’s ship, which they had run out of time and money to build properly the first time around. And seeing this for the first time blew my mind, as did seeing this ship again in Star Trek Online.

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While there were a handful of other VFX tweaks it would’ve been nice to include, I’m happy with saving these two. I’m still amazed that cutting next to no dialogue let me remove an entire half hour of the film. The edit is available to view on my Plex server.

Write your elected officials

After this weekend’s violence I can’t stand the thought that we’ll continue to do nothing to address this issue. And while my elected officials have proven time and again to be on the same page as me on this issue, I felt compelled to contact them anyway, and I urge you to do the same. I’ll even make it easy for you. Below are the links to contact your representatives in the House and Senate, as well as the letter I sent this morning to all three of my elected officials in Congress. Change it as appropriate or just copy-paste it if you want.

House of Representatives

United States Senate

Representative and Senators,

After what happened yesterday I need to talk to you about gun violence despite your records on it. I need to make sure I’ve done what I’m asking others to do when their elected officials would think differently. I can’t process what occurred early Sunday morning, and it’s impairing my ability to function normally. I can’t understand why so very many of these events have happened without Anything being accomplished to deal with them. And I can’t handle the thought that nothing still will be done after this massacre.

The road from where we are now and where we need to be is long, and I’m sure we all  want to get there, but we need to START DRIVING no matter what gear we can get the car into for now. We know the majority of Americans want universal background checks. From what we know now it sounds like that alone wouldn’t have helped specifically this time, but it’s a start we can all agree on.

Next there are three things we SHOULD do that there will be more debate on. The fact that the most lethal gun in the world was an 18th century musket when the Bill of Rights was written should be taken into account, and an assault weapons ban implemented. There is no good reason for any citizen to have an AR-15 that functions when it can do so much harm. We also need to make sure DOMESTIC VIOLENCE offenders cannot purchase guns. With either of these laws in place yesterday’s shooter wouldn’t have had legal access to one or both firearms he had on Sunday.

And finally we need to permit the CDC to study gun violence and supply them with adequate funding to do so. I know the counter argument is that the CDC has nothing to do with guns, which is why the ban was implemented to begin with. But gun violence IS a disease in this country, and it’s claiming half of my town’s population (25,000) nationwide each year. If all those deaths happened in one place we would be horrified, and we should be no less horrified when it happens spread out by distance and time.

Thank you for your time.

“Why didn’t anyone stop Hitler?”

I’ll try to make this brief. Nobody wants me to talk about this but it needs to be said and you need to hear me out even if you don’t agree.

If you’re not white, Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign has put your life in actual fucking danger. And somehow, he’s probably going to be the nominee of a major political party. How we got here is important but isn’t what I’m here to talk about. If you care at all for the lives of your fellow citizens, you owe it to them to vote for whomever is on the top of the Democratic ticket in November, even if that is Hillary Clinton.

I don’t like Hillary Clinton and I haven’t for years. I’m not going to list why, but she’s never my first choice for anything. I know many voters can’t stand her or outright hate her, but this election you need to do your duty for your country and do whatever it takes to stop Trump. Even if that means voting for Clinton, and even if that goes against everything you would normally believe. The hate and violence being spawned by Trump has led to beating and murders already. Neighborhoods with no recent issues of racism are having problems, and there is a very, very real likelihood that it will get worse before it gets better.

If you’re having problems with the thought of voting for Clinton, call up any non-white (or Muslim) friend and ask them how they feel about Trump’s campaign. And then ask yourself if their safety is less important than voting for the “lesser evil.”

Q2 Machete Edits

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Years ago I came across the Fall of the Jedi fan edits of the prequel trilogy and was very impressed. I felt they did a very good job of putting those movies into a state where they wouldn’t be as painful an experience.

Lately however I was thinking about putting Vader/Tarkin/the Death Star back into the end of the third film, but with the logic the fan edit used (watch in episodic order without spoiling Original Trilogy events) there really was no place for it. Not long after this, an old friend linked the Machete Order on Facebook. Now I’d heard of the Ernst Rister order (4-5-1-2-3-6) before and thought it was a decent idea, but wasn’t fond of the way you had to watch three bad films before Return of the Jedi. Machete order argues for the above, but gets rid of The Phantom Menace altogether, and as I read the article I became utterly convinced. It’s why Episode I is so “bad” in a nutshell; nothing important happens.

With machete order in mind, I rewatched Q2’s edit of Attack of the Clones last week to see how well it served the purpose. Mostly it worked, but scenes that were redundant with Episode I became necessary without it and had to be restored. Scenes such as the elevator ride Obi-Wan and Anakin take at the beginning, which is now the introduction of their characters. Then there’s Anakin meeting with Palpatine, unnecessary because they all just discussed doing what happens in this scene, is now the only way we know Anakin and Palpatine know each other or are close. Q2 had also removed any scenes with Darth Sidious anytime they could get away with it, but now the introduction of the character is the scene at the end with Dooku.  While I was at it, I let the arguments made in the Machete order article persuade me to restore most of Yoda’s confrontation with Dooku, which had been cut. I still cut a few shots so it looks less like Yoda is doing his best bouncy ball imitation.

With Episode II tweaked to serve as half the prequel story, I turned my focus to Episode III. All references to Vader had been removed and had to fotj3m(mostly) be restored. I was also convinced to restore the fight between Yoda and the Emperor. Without it, Anakin and Obi-Wan’s duel is uninterrupted and far more compelling in my opinion, so instead of restoring it to the way it was, I put the other fight scene into one scene as well and just had it take place first. Yoda barges in right as the Emperor’s last transmission to Vader ends, and Padme lands on Mustafar as soon as the fight is over. This makes more narrative sense anyway, since Yoda and Kenobi are at the Jedi Temple when they decide to fight the sith. Kenobi has to cross the galaxy while Yoda already has line-of-sight on his target.

I kept what I consider Q2’s stroke of brilliance, having Padme arrive on Alderaan with one of her children using footage from another film (the birth happens off screen and cuts out all the “She’s lost the will to live” crap). Not only is this what sold me on Q2’s edits in the first place, but it also fixes the biggest problem in Machete Order; seeing Padme die on camera and then an hour later into Return of the Jedi, Leia says she remembers her.

While scenes may be in a different order now I feel that they work well this way. I was amused to see that for Episode III my edit is ten minutes longer than Q2’s, but still manages to be half an hour shorter than the theatrical version. Granted, any cut scene that I put back in was trimmed at least a little, but having just watched it start to finish it felt complete and more polished despite the fact a couple of my edits had to be rougher than I’d prefer.