Lake Neuron Lite — all the blither, none of the meaning

I saw an ad for Edy’s Grand Light ice cream last night which claimed it tastes just as good as full-fat ice cream.

No disrespect to Edy’s — they make a fine product — but I’m always a little flabbergasted when a TV ad claims that the low-fat or low-cal version tastes just like the original. If that were really true, why would you need to keep making the original version? You could simply reformulate your flagship brand rather than making a “light” version of it.

It would be more accurate to say that the light version tastes “almost like” the original. But that doesn’t make as compelling a commercial.

Another take on Trek

My brother Michael pointed me to this fine fine essay by James Lileks about the end of “Star Trek: Enterprise.” Lileks, in his screamingly funny book “Fresh Lies” (sadly, out of print), has a piece poking fun at the reverence some fans have for The Original Series over its successors. He runs counter to fan consensus here, as well, expressing his admiration for “Enterprise” and saying that the romance between Trip and T’Pol is the only such believable romantic relationship in any of the Star Trek series.

I don’t agree with every single point, but Lileks is always worth reading.

This week’s batch

I made soap again today. This batch took much longer to trace — I’m not experienced enough to know why. Could have been humidity (we had thunderstorms today), could have been sloppy measurement on my part, could have been the different brand of lard. Anyway, it’s traced and in the molds now. I bought some essential oil this week for fragrance. Most of the ones that sounded interesting were way too expensive, so I got spearmint. (Mint seems to do a good job of competing with the lard smell.) And, no, I didn’t add the oil until after the soap had traced, so that wasn’t a factor.

Where no one has gone before (SPOILER)

I haven’t really watched much of “Star Trek Enterprise” since its first season, but I have checked out a few scattered episodes during this farewell season, and I watched the two last episodes tonight.

The “Enterprise” cast members have complained publicly about the very last episode. What they believe should have been their swan song was overshadowed by cameos from Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis in their “Star Trek: The Next Generation” roles. In fact, (SPOILER ALERT) the events of the Enterprise NX-10’s last mission aren’t really being witnessed by us first-hand, so to speak; instead, we’re seeing a holodeck program about those events which Riker consults, at Troi’s suggestion, to help him work through an ethical dilemma of his own. (That dilemma is from a specific episode of “ST:TNG,” and no doubt Paramount will someday be able to package the “Enterprise” and “TNG” episodes together as a special event DVD. They might even edit them together, “Godfather Saga” style.)

So “Star Trek” is off the air, at least for a while. Most people, except for a few die-hard fans who tried to save “Enterprise,” seem to agree that this is a good thing. In a few years, a new version of “Star Trek” can come back and be fresh and engaging.

I am not a basher of Rick Berman, Gene Roddenberry’s hand-picked successor who oversaw “TNG” after the first few years and who created “Deep Space Nine,” “Voyager” and “Enterprise.” Many, including Roddenberry’s widow, have been critical of Berman and a few have even accused him of killing the franchise. The fact remains that he kept “Star Trek” on the air for a number of years. “Voyager” and “Enterprise” both had their ups and downs, and I certainly don’t consider them as good as “TNG.” But it’s a little silly to paint Berman as some sort of villain. On the contrary, he’s had a remarkable run.

I do, however, feel that the franchise would benefit from a fresh approach, and I’m hoping that Paramount will give someone else a shot at “Star Trek” the next time around. J. Michael Straczynski, the creator of “Babylon 5,” says he pitched a proposal for a new “Star Trek” series to Paramount a year or two ago — I think that could have been fascinating. But Straczynski now says his plate is full and he wouldn’t be available even if Paramount were interested.

Tonight’s episode of “Enterprise” ended with a little overture incorporating various “Star Trek” theme songs, and a creative editing of the traditional “Star Trek” / “TNG” opening narration. After seeing Riker make his decision, we hear Patrick Stewart start the narration (“These are the voyages …”) and see the Enterprise-D; then the narration switches to James T. Kirk and we see the classic Enterprise; then Scott Bakula’s character, Jonathan Archer, gets to do the “where no one has gone before” part before we see his Enterprise head off into the stars.

All in all, a nice ending.

By our presence

I have a co-worker whose husband had a biopsy yesterday. They won’t know until early next week whether he has cancer.

This co-worker goes to a large church which just got a new pastor two weeks ago. Today, I told my co-worker that she and her husband were in my prayers and that I’d even asked my fellow mission team members to pray for him. She thanked me, and then she started talking about her new pastor. Her previous pastor had been a dynamic leader and a great preacher. But he wasn’t much on visitation. Her new pastor, by comparison, had been to the hospital twice yesterday, and even stopped by this morning for a relatively minor procedure that my co-worker herself almost skipped, at her husband’s suggestion.

As a pastor’s son, I know that too many hospital visits can be draining on ministers. There are only so many hours in the day. And my father has always pastored small, rural charges, nothing anywhere near the size of my co-worker’s church.

But there is power in presence. My co-worker felt the love of Christ in the concern that her pastor showed her just by showing up. He didn’t necessarily say anything eloquent or explain the complete theology of evil and suffering. All he did was show a worried family that he cared about them. And that was more than enough.

I know I, like most laypeople, don’t do enough to support friends and associates who are ill or in trouble. We all need to do more, and to say a prayer of thanks for the clergy members who are often forced to pick up our slack.

WordPress 1.5.1

I’ve updated the blog from WordPress 1.5 to WordPress 1.5.1. This means nothing to most of you, but it includes some security fixes and other minor improvements.

I have been thrilled with WordPress since I quit Blogger. It is much more powerful and flexible, and once you get it set up it’s a snap to use. Since it runs on the same web server as my web site itself, it’s not bothered by Blogger’s occasional responsiveness problems and outages. I highly recommend it — and, unlike Movable Type, the software is open source and free. You just have to find a web host that supports PHP and MySQL.

The cartoon church

Dave Walker is a terrrific cartoonist who works with Christian themes. He’s launched a new site, The Cartoon Church, to showcase his work. You can view it online or purchase it for use in your own church publications. (Prices are in pounds UK, so check the exchange rate first.) There’s also a blog associated with the site. Check it out, won’t you?