Beam Me Up, Scholars: Arcane Star Trek Cameo Tidbits

jenkins-klingonMay 16, 2009 My favorite academic digital rag, the Chronicle’s Wired Campus newsletter reports:

“Henry Jenkins, co-director of MIT’s Comparative Media Studies Program, thought it was some kind of joke when he got an e-mail message from a Hollywood casting director asking him to be an extra in the latest Star Trek film…But a few weeks later he was getting fitted for a Klingon costume, as the professor describes today on his blog.”

Alas, the scene got cut. That’s Hollywood, Henry. 😉 Wait for the DVD, ya never know on those outtakes…

Meanwhile, the late Randy Pausch, (Carnegie Mellon University computer-scientist dying of pancreatic cancer who became a celebrity after his ironic, iconic “Last Lecture” a couple years back about achieving his childhood dreams) remains on screen in a cameo, uttering, “Captain, we have a visual.”

Sigh. Just loved that guy. I admit, The Last Lecture, like this Wired mag tribute, really moved me on a variety of levels…despite many friends reminding of context in ‘get over yourself’ form…

I’ve been in a Facebook-wall-debate about the depth of his insights/outreach with one of IFTF Max Marmer’s pals (who I sat next to at Teens in Tech) named Thomas Mamajama Mallon (also from Lick-Wilmerding High)

last-lectureAs I’ve written before in this ‘Bucket List for Kids’ post, Pausch really hit me profoundly with his upbeat outlook and spirited “carpe diem” and “ancora imparo” presence, as if to shrug “attitude is everything; pick a good one.”

And as I mentioned to Thomas, his Last Lecture book may appear like a lightweight Costco poolside read at first, but consider it’s post humous: the prof can’t even defend himself from editors that may have ‘dumbed down’ the read to appeal to the masses…

AND it’s easily digestible and universally applicable. (That’s how most most ‘sticky’ inspiration transpires!)

As for Jenkins and his Star Trek affiliation, the Chronicle quotes him,

“I had to do it, even though it meant postponing some significant meetings, ducking out early from academic conferences, and taking a series of red eye flights, not to mention spending several thousand dollars.”

star-trekThey mention that Jenkins is a life-long Star Trek fan, pioneering the idea of studying fan culture, so he’s written about Trekkies extensively and even posed holding a Klingon weapon for a profile story in the Chronicle’s Wired Campus in 2007.

Gotta say, both scholars are inspirations for different reasons, and I say hat’s off to Hollywood and to Star Trek’s director, J.J. Abrams for having the chops to include or  invite either one of ‘em!

After all, scholars are not your usual ‘outreach extras’…But they sure make for nice hidden  ‘Easter eggs’ in the film! Here’s the Official Star Trek Trailer (2:13)Who’s seen the movie so far? Report back.

For more ‘behind the scenes’ Trekkie trivia, the blog  “Get The Big Picture” posts the Access Hollywood clip of  ‘Kirk watching Kirk’ so to speak…

Be sure to visit Henry Jenkins’ blog for his first person account of his cattle-call-ish “on the set” experience as an extra…

Here’s just a tidbit from Mr. Jenkins’ blog:

henry-jenkins“…Now, keep in mind that being a Klingon has been one of my life-long ambitions. When I was in high school, I went to the DeKalb County Honors Camp, where I majored in drama.

I spent the summer in the company of some of the most wacky friends I ever had, doing skits and plays, and when we were not doing that, just cutting up in the hallways. One of the girls in our cohort was a hardcore Trek fan.

At this point, I had watched the series as a casual viewer but I had not taken the plunge. But she decided she was going to adapt the script from David Gerrold’s “Trouble with Tribbles” for the stage and we were all going to play parts. I met a guy, Edward McNalley (who is still one of my best friends) when he got pulled in from another group to play Spock. I was cast as the Klingon officer who sparks a bar fight with the Enterprise crew when he insults first its captain and then the ship itself.

In getting ready to play the part, I started reading every book I could find on the series — The Making of Star Trek, The World of Star Trek, Star Trek Lives, and of course, the James Blish novelizations of all of the episodes, even the photonovels and the viewmaster slides. That’s how you kept up on a series back in the days before any of us had a VCR, though my wife still has audio tapes recorded through alligator clips attached to the television sound system, which she recorded when the series was first being aired. It was through all of this reading that I discovered not only Star Trek but also the fan culture around it.

Flash forward several decades to when I was doing research for Science Fiction Audiences, the book I wrote with John Tulloch. That’s when I became a Klingon for a second time. I was trying to do research on Klingon fan culture as a contrast to the female fanzine writers, the GLBT activists, and the MIT students who figured prominently in that study.

In true participant observation fashion, I joined a Klingon role-playing group, seeking to better understand what it was like to walk that particular swagger. In many ways, this Klingon fandom was a branch of the men’s movement which was taking shape around Robert Bly’s Iron John. Most of those I met were working class men who were embracing a warrior mythology to work through anger and frustrations they had encountered in life.

Both men and women involved struck me as experimenting with power and trying to reclaim aspects of masculinity which they saw as under threat elsewhere in the culture. In the end, my research on Klingons was a failed project which never found its way into the final book…

More from Henry Jenkins’ blog here…And he’s got a part two coming on “Going on Set, Shooting the Scene, and How the Klingons Ended Up on the Cutting Room Floor.”

Speaking of Prof. Jenkins…The recent MIT conference “Learning in a Participatory Culture” was a huge hit among the academic digerati…Some days I sure wish I lived back east…(but I get over it quickly)

The video below debuts a VERY cool concept with the launch of Learning Librarywhich will need to be a full post in itself…

Erin Reilly, Research Director of Project New Media Literacies excitedly explains  the Learning Library in the video below, and she’s absolutely ebullient with positive enthusiasm for helping educators create media-rich lessons that can be easily published and shared with others…

I LOVE this!

I’m going to pop right over to the New Media Literacy social network on ning and sign up to keep abreast of how we can use ‘open source’ collaborative tools to impart knowledge in a way that resonates with kids!

She makes it sound so easy and automatic that even techphobic teachers can pull in resources and links of relevant, fun learning material with a click or two…Highly necessary and long overdue method of content sharing!

Reduce workload, expand learning. Fabulous…



  1. Amy I forgot to tell you I loved the original star trek.

    Thanks for stopping by our blog and thanks for the reasurance you’ll keep coming back..If there is anything you want us to post once we make the changes to our blog..remember to email and it’s yours.

    Dorothy from grammology

    Dorothy Stahlnecker’s last blog post..Chruch which one

  2. I should add that Erin Reilly left this message for me on the ning group:

    “Hi Amy,Thanks for the shout out on your blog — we’re very excited about the Learning Library and the possibilities of its use.

    So far, we’re seeing educators use it for their own education of better understanding the new media literacies, integrating one or more of the challenges into their own lesson plan, adapting parts of a challenge for their own context, being inspired by our first Media Maker Collection and creating their own challenges for their learning situation.

    By end of June, I hope to have some more video / interviews from teachers of the Learning Library pilot on the community — stay tuned! Best, Erin

    Amy Jussel’s last blog post..Doodle 4 Google National Winner: Hope For A New Beginning

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