Tag Archives: Star Trek Next Generation

St. Patrick’s Day (17 March)

St. Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland. Photo:Andreas F. Borchert
St. Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland.
Photo:Andreas F. Borchert

The Feast of St. Patrick is celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church, the U.S.Episcopal Church, as a commemoration by the Evangelical Lutherans, and venerated in Orthodox Church. It is a public holiday in Ireland. The shamrock was used by St.Patrick to explain the Holy Trinity. In Ireland it is celebrated by families getting together for a meal. If the day falls on a Friday during Lent, observant Catholics receive dispensation to eat meat. If the feast day falls during Holy Week (and it does occasionally), the feast day is moved to avoid conflicting with the Holy Week calendar. A more recent occurrence are public festivals in Ireland and use of the day to promote Irish culture.

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Here is an old tune from the Emerald Isle, known as The Minstrel Boy. The full lyrics can be found here.The tune was quite popular (and still is) and the opening is often heard more than the full song:

The minstrel boy to the war is gone,
In the ranks of death you’ll find him;
His father’s sword he has girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him;
“Land of Song!” said the warrior bard,
“Though all the world betrays thee,
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee!”

The first is a wonderful rendition using Irish traditional musical instruments. And the second is from a more modern source (and set in the future) from Star Trek:The Next Generation episode The Wounded where the song has an important role. Chief O’Brien uses the tune to remind his old captain of his duty and what he has done.

St. Patrick’s Day 2015

It is hard to believe but celebration of the patron saint of Ireland is more boisterous far outside its green shores. While nominally a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church, it has become a major day for people to get together and party. Being Irish is not required but does lend authenticity to saying you are actually a descendent of the Emerald Isle rather than just adopting it for a day.

Of course many Irish left that fair isle long ago. Jobs were few and many people starved. And freedom to starve is not much freedom which is why many Irishmen had to serve in the military of their oppressor. Some came to America as my great-great (and more but you get the point)did to start a new life. He was recruited in Ireland to join the Union Army during the American Civil War. He served two tours, was a musician, and his papers showed he was a tall man. And he started a new life here in America leaving Ireland behind for good. He never went back. My grandfather was often asked because of his Irish last name whether he was Irish.”No, American,” he would say. It was something his grandfather said and was passed down. He never thought himself Irish or Irish American, just American.

St. Patrick’s Day was not treated as a day to get drunk or eat too much food (it is the Lenten season after all). Instead it was simply quiet reflection, a prayer of thanks, and a delicious meal with family. And family is what is it all about. Not about green milkshakes or wearing green, drinking vast amounts of beer. Like Christmas which has its secular and spiritual markers, so it is with St.Patrick. The faithful honor St. Patrick while others have a party. To each his own.

One of the sad remnants though of the migration out of Ireland is that today Ireland, outside of the major and smaller communities, is very empty. You cannot shake the feeling when you see that emptiness how bad it must have been for whole communities to evaporate leaving perhaps just the oldest behind who for one reason or another choose to stay. Today in the United States you can see this process underway in the many dwindling rural communities in the Midwest or in old cities that were once giants in the land slowly shrinking as people leave for other opportunities.

Here is an old tune from the Emerald Isle, known as The Minstrel Boy. The full lyrics can be found here.The tune was quite popular (and still is) and the opening is often heard more than the full song:

The minstrel boy to the war is gone,
In the ranks of death you’ll find him;
His father’s sword he has girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him;
“Land of Song!” said the warrior bard,
“Though all the world betrays thee,
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee!”

The first is a wonderful rendition using Irish traditional musical instruments. And the second is from a more modern source (and set in the future) from Star Trek:The Next Generation episode The Wounded where the song has an important role. Chief O’Brien uses the tune to remind his old captain of his duty and what he has done.

Things You See

While watching episodes of Star Trek Next Generation, it struck me how they mashed up rates and ranks. In the original series Gene Roddenberry indicated there were no enlisted personnel in Starfleet. That meant every crewman you saw was (unless noted otherwise)an ensign probably rotating through various departments deciding on their career path (science, command, communications, engineering, security etc). Sounds interesting in theory but the division of labor is necessitated by the fact that large organizations need different people to do different tasks. And they all cannot be officers if that is to be the case. Some have to lead, others have to be told what needs to be done. If they are all officers, that would pose a problem. And in most militaries of the world, it is the sergeants and petty officers who really are the oil of the machinery that makes it all work.

Next Generation acknowledged there are enlisted and non-commissioned officers but could not decide on how to present them. So like the original series, they walked around wearing standard uniforms but had no insignia that identified what rate they were. Officers all had pips on their collars. Even Chief O’Brien had nothing for a while until they gave him a empty yellow pip on his collar. Even then, it did not look right. By the time O’Brien transferred over to Deep Space Nine, they finally decided to distinguish enlisted personnel with insignia that was based on naval rate insignia. Chief O’Brien finally had insignia that clearly showed he was a master chief petty officer. They also gave those on Deep Space Nine a different type of uniform. I suppose the rationale was that the military do have different types of uniforms for different tasks. That is certainly true with specialized units but most officers and enlisted wear the same uniform though they may vary by season (dark in winter, lighter in summer). Other than making a style change, there was really no need to have a different uniform for Deep Space Nine.

Another important thing is a clear separation of staff from field/line commands. Most services have large support departments (medical, supply, personnel, accounting, legal). Doctors,lawyers, and supply officers do not lead field units nor command ships. This clear delineation ought to require no explanation. You put officers in charge of field/line units who are trained to do that, not someone trained in preparing legal briefs. Yet in Next Generation, Counselor Troi is somehow the senior officer on the bridge in Disaster because Miles O’Brien says she has rank of commander. Yet that is not how it works at all. She is not a field/line officer but in medical. The officer of the deck (OOD) had been killed so the Junior Officer of the Deck (JOOD) would be next in line. That would be the ensign manning the operations station. Now granted the conditions were extraordinary but it would not fall to Troi to be in command of the bridge. O’Brien in fact would the acting engineering officer assisting the JOOD in getting things running again if this were being run more closer to actual military protocols. Troi could advise but not issue orders.

I think they kind of realized the mistake later. On Deep Space Nine, Ensign Nog asks the chief why Commander Dax was called captain while commanding Defiant. O’Brien explains that it is tradition that whoever is in actual command of a ship, no matter what their actual rank, is called captain. Nog says something about him becoming captain. O’Brien jokes back things would have to really go bad if he as ensign becomes Defiant’s captain. If it came down to Nog being the senior officer left, things are definitely in a bad way.