Wednesday into Thursday

Wednesday night – ABC aired a two-hour, commercial-free tribute to Peter Jennings – “Peter Jennings: Reporter” (to remind us of those specials he used to do, “Peter Jennings: Reporting.”). Poignant stuff – his colleagues and friends expressing themselves about the man they admired and respected. The clips of his finest moments – Challenger, Millenium New Year’s 2000, and Sept. 11, 2001 – and I wondered what might have been (if he had covered the South Asia tsunami, the passing of the Pope, and the London bombings). And, some clips of his “Reporting” specials (“The Search for Jesus” was a good one to show of clips). The tributes made the point that Peter worked hard and believed in standards.

One of those Peter Jennings memories of mine – just before the original Gulf War, he had a special to educate kids and adolescents about the Middle East. Being the age I was back then, it was enlightening to have watched. There was something reassuring about Peter, that Dan or Tom didn’t do for me (ok, so there was Peter’s handsome good looks and sophistication, but that’s besides the point). And, Peter did stories – the world news stuff – that others didn’t really do (I didn’t truly appreciate that until I got old enough to appreciate the NY Times and the Jim Lehrer news in-depth coverage). And, of course, those times of watching him do the presidential campaign coverages. Sad to have seen a clip of him and David Brinkley doing an Election Night coverage and realizing both are now gone.

Summer reading – On Monday night, I finished (finally!) reading “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” Huge thick book (even for a paperback). Harry’s clearly an adolescent, angst and self-absorption and all – somewhat justifiably sad and angry all at once. The adults’ dilemmas were also finely drawn (not bad for a book from Harry’s perspective – one could feel Prof. Dumbledore’s pain, and that of everybody else’s). But, I kept wishing for an editor who could have cut the book somewhat – no offense intended to J.K. Rowling, but Books 4 and 5 were really thick books. The brand spanking new Book 6 is in the “To be read” pile – dare I pursue it so soon?

In the meantime, I read “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” by Vonda McIntyre in the “Duty, Honor, Redemption” compilation edition of the novelizations of the trilogy films (II, III, IV). As noted in a previous entry, these were great novelizations. It had been awhile since I last read “II” or watched it, but the book feels a little dated.

The characterizations were nicely consistent to what I’ve seen or read in other Trek novels or movies/shows (Spock at this point was accepting his role as friend/ officer/part Vulcan-part human; McCoy being, well, himself; Kirk dealing with age, mortality, and loving every minute of being the leader), but some stuff felt a little odd (like must David Marcus, Kirk’s son, be that hostile about Starfleet? It’s a “military” but hardly the secret police of a dictatorship). I didn’t remember Scotty’s nephew being that young in the movie – the book made him a teenage cadet, a la the kid cadets of Russell Crowe’s movie “Master and Commander” and Saavik, in the book, was an extremely young lieutenant (umm, Kirstie Alley in the movie as Saavik wasn’t that young).

My guess is that McIntyre was buying into Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s idea of a Horatio Hornblower/coming of age model of naval training, with literal children training aboard the vessel. If that’s the case, why wasn’t Saavik made an ensign rather than a lieutenant? (actually, I have no idea how young lieutenants are in the real military, so …) – Eh, whatever. Fortunately, years of modern Trek (in books and movies) kind of changed the portrayal Starfleet training (i.e., making Starfleet Academy more like the modern West Point or the Naval Academy, an elite college, so it’s not like you have 14-year-old kids training like you had in the Horation Hornblower era of the 1700’s and 1800’s). But, these are mere quibbles – the book was vivid stuff, and made Khan (if it is possible) even more vicious by taking an inside look from the view of the people he led. “II” was a nice subway read.

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