My Nerdoir

A nerdy, New Wave kid in East Texas during the 1980s.

Tag: Khan

Episode 7: The Corbomite Maneuver – Cosplay at Star Trek, Las Vegas

by Jeff

I’m on a brightly lit stage hiding under a black curtain that hangs from the shoulders of the large puppet head I made for my costume. To the hundreds of Trekkies in the audience, my costume appears to be an imposing alien from the episode “The Corbomite Maneuver.” This is my version of the same frightening face that the crew of the Enterprise see on their view screen, but like the creature they come to know as Balok, I also have a surprise.

Balok as the crew of the Enterprise originally see him.

Balok as the crew of the Enterprise originally see him.

image

The Balok head that I built.

The MC of the costume contest matter-of-factly says, “So what we have here is a well-made Balok head…” I hear a smattering of laughter along with polite applause before I lean towards the mic and pompously declare in a deep voice mimicing the character, “Greetings, Earthlings. I am pleased to see that you are all seated in awe of me.” I pause for the laughter to settle before bellowing, “Is it safe to reveal my true self?” After I hear a few people yell, “Yes!” I come to life, tearing open the curtain and stepping out to reveal the other costume I’d been hiding; my interpretation of the actual Balok, who in a Star Trek variant on the Wizard from Oz, is revealed to be a bald, child-sized alien with bushy eyebrows and a penchant for a drink called Tranya.

The actual Balok portrayed by Clint Howard.

The actual Balok, portrayed by Clint Howard.

My hair is stuffed under a sweaty, latex bald cap. The ridiculous red eyebrows glued to my forehead are made from a fake handlebar mustache that I cut in half and flipped upside down. Strapped tightly around my neck and hanging in front of me as if it were my own body is a headless 3-foot-tall doll, dressed in a silver, shiny costume I sewed. The rest of my body is clothed in black to hide my skin and enhance the effect of the doll/puppet, which has a small stick attached under his right hand, allowing me to raise and lower his glass of Tranya. Read the rest of this entry »

Episode 4: Amok Time – Triggering my Trekkie Sleeper Cell

by Jeff

“After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.”
– Spock in Amok Time.

In June of 2001, I lived in a loft space in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. Bushwick hadn’t yet become the art and fashion hub that it is today. I often saw junkies slouched inside cars as they tied up their arms for the next fix. When walking to the subway, I’d stay alert to avoid being cornered by the pack of wild dogs that roamed the neighborhood, as well as the groups of bored boys looking for an easy victim to corner. Each week a car would be abandoned on the street and set on fire, the flames just further exposing the cold, hardness of the industrial brick buildings. The bland gentrification that Mayor Giuliani force fed the city during the 1990s wouldn’t reach Bushwick for another decade.

This was an important moment, since everything I’d worked towards during the previous decade had recently aligned. I was represented by a respectable gallery in New York that had held my first solo exhibition, and it was well received and reviewed. Despite this success, I was buried in a debilitating depression unlike anything I’d experienced before. Instead of basking in my newfound freedom by enthusiastically working in my studio, I was avoiding life by sleeping as long as possible, which ideally was 2:00 in the afternoon, when a local channel showed two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I’d eat a cheap sandwich while watching the shows, staving off my loneliness with the familiar comfort of the characters standing in as a rough approximation of family and friends. For the first time in my life I had no responsibilities aside from my time in the studio, but my freedom paradoxically left me feeling more depressed and trapped than I’d ever been while growing up in Texas.

Read the rest of this entry »

Episode 3: The Space Seed – Uncharted Paths Away From Home

by Jeff

“It is better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven.”
Captain Kirk quoting Milton’s Paradise Lost.

The opening phrase: “Space, the final frontier,” introduced me to the mission of the starship Enterprise, to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no one has gone before. This phrase, known as “The Captain’s Oath,” introduced the show by summarizing just what would occur during the following hour. It was a bold adventure I obsessed over during my youth, and by the time I graduated from high school, I’d decided that my life should also be an adventure.

Me on the Bridge in the Captain's Chair

Me on the Bridge in the Captain’s Chair

In the Houston area in the 1970s, NASA was everywhere. When I was born, my mom worked as a secretary at NASA during the height of the Apollo missions. My earliest memory of watching television is seeing the Apollo 11 moon landing with my parents when I was only about 2. The details are faint, just like the grainy images relayed from space. As I grew older, I had friends whose parents worked at NASA in specialized jobs as engineers, or astronaut training. In school, astronauts would occasionally visit as special guests, bringing beautifully detailed models of rockets to explain the fundamentals of a moon landing. From my young perspective, it was a perfect era of hope, when the world seemed to be coming together, and space exploration was a part of my daily life. This was also a time when my parents, attempting to surround me with their idea of suburban utopia, protected me from news about the war in Vietnam, the Civil Rights Movement, or anything they deemed too upsetting. Like most sheltered kids, I only experienced a small, idealized selection of a much larger, more nuanced picture, but thankfully, outer space exploration always played a key role.

After school every day, I’d watch two back-to-back episodes of Star Trek, which transported me to exotic worlds far removed from Pasadena Texas. Later I realized how much those shows informed my morals, philosophy, and sexuality, as well as provided a framework to understand the importance of teamwork and leadership. At this time I still didn’t know there was anything Trek aside from the original TV series and the fascinating but clumsy animated series, though I was familiar with a few related toys. For my 8th birthday, my aunt Carolyn gave me a paperback set of the Alan Dean Foster stories from the animated series, and the first model kit I ever built was the phaser, communicator, and tricorder combination package known as the “Exploration Set.”$_57 (1)

Read the rest of this entry »