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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Good-Bye, Mr. Spock

I was sad to hear of the passing of actor Leonard Nimoy, who, of course, most famously played Mr. Spock, the half-human, half-Vulcan science officer on Star Trek. I generally don't care much about Hollywood stuff, and consider most (though, not all) working actors as "ungainfully" employed idiots who at best should never be allowed to say anything without a script. As Hitchcock once said, "All actors should be treated as cattle." Well, perhaps, not all.

Star Trek and Nimoy's Spock held a special place in my life as a somewhat nerdy teen in the 1960s. I loved science and always thought I would go the scientist route; I devoured science fiction novels, short stories, and films. I had an inner circle of six equally nerdy friends, five of whom ended up at CalTech and went on to become fairly prominent scientists, one becoming quite a star (groan) in the realm of astrophysics. In the end, however, I was not, in fact, good enough to go the science route, so I ended up with politics and history, and landing in the Foreign Service. Government employment, the last refuge of the failed . . . sigh.

The original Star Trek--never had use for the subsequent versions--was a thing of wonder for my friends and me--all of us rabid fans of NASA and firm believers that within our lifetimes we would see colonies on the moon and perhaps Mars. It made science, technology, and being smart cool. If I remember correctly, the show aired on Thursdays at 7:30 pm--in the age before video recorders, ROKU, On-Demand, etc., a nerd had to structure his life around his favorite shows. The next day our little group would debate the plot, the science portrayed, and whether any of it was possible.

We loved that the series lived in a universe free of the party-pooping dictates of Albert Einstein. Limited to the speed of light? Bah! Warp speed! We let pass how it was that the USS Enterprise managed to produce enough gravity to keep the crew walking on and all that furniture solidly fixed to the deck, why the female crew wore such short skirts, or why Captain James T. Kirk--played with great Shakespearean over-the-top energy by William Shatner--would take all his top crew down to conduct dangerous explorations on weird and often dangerous worlds. Didn't matter. The original show was also more than subtly patriotic--remember the episode in which (Canadian-born) William Shatner recites the US Pledge of Allegiance? It assumed a future where clearly Western male culture had come to dominate the earth and Western values of human rights formed the core of the Federation's values as it did battle in the universe with the evil Klingons and Romulans--both presumably futuristic stand-ins for Soviets, Nazis, or Chicoms.

Spock was the center of the show for us nerds. We loved his cool scientific logic and computer-like brain--we let pass how he could be half-human--he had green blood--and how his parents could have successfully mated. Nimoy played him to perfection and with a wry sense of humor. Spock quite rightfully became an iconic figure in our culture and the show inspired lots of kids to take an interest in space and science.

Thanks, Mr. Nimoy. Thanks, Mr. Spock.

31 comments:

  1. Being a FSO, as compared to teaching English at a local high school, cannot be considered a fall back career choice. I still think of Beau Geste, the fictionalized Samuel Gummere or the fictional Sir Arthur Robertson. I accepted a position teaching History and, alas, English in Kurdistan last year and was promised my own bodyguard. It was recommended that I get a handgun and practice.

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  2. physicist here... well.. prior job was a postdoc, but now I'm doing engineering.. spock had a bit of influence there... loved watching Star Trek as I grew up, but I feel like as a kid I took to science as though it were a religion.... maybe I should've watched it in high school. :)

    - reader #1482

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  3. "...how his parents could have successfully mated."

    I always assumed it had something to do with the Dr. Spock my mother was always reading.

    The DOGS! Call off the dogs!

    Ya know, he did come back to life in that movie, but I suspect he is resting peacefully.

    RIP

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  4. Tonight I'm watching Star Trek 3.

    For a moment - just a moment - I can pretend that the crew is on a mission to bring Leonard Nimoy back.

    Farewell, Mr. Nimoy, and my condolences to his family.

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  5. Leonard Nimoy unfortunately is one of the most high-profile victims of that peculiar Hollywood affliction called 'success'. Many many people will always and perhaps only remember him as Spock and miss the fact that the man was a very successful actor (in other genres) writer, director and photographer in his chosen field of entertainment and was, by all accounts a thoroughly good bloke. RIP

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    Replies
    1. Yes. We talked about that particular affliction around our dinner table,too. I liked that Shattner was able to take the ball and run with it, including the self-parody. Somehow it didn't seem to come so naturally to Mr. Nimoy - or maybe I'm just projecting too much Spock into him.

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    2. and was, by all accounts a thoroughly good bloke. RIP

      Like anyone else, up to a point. The first Mrs. Leonard Nimoy felt compelled to form a support group called "Hollywood Dumpettes". Giving your wife her walking papers after 29 years of marriage is something very few men do.

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  6. Though not a great follower of Star Trek, I'll say that every performance of his which I saw was a quality one performed from the heart.
    I also recognized that he was a man unashamed of his Jewish faith, and also held honest and clear liberal political views, never expressed to the detriment of others. Even us confirmed members of the right-wing-sisterhood can respect that.
    A Hollywood good guy.

    Graham

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  7. Everyone knows that Spock had pointed ears... but not many know he had Three!

    A right ear. A left ear. And a final front ear.

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  8. Ah Mr. Mad,
    We're about the same age, I a little older I believe. But I too lived in a different world, Star Trek and Zelazny. Haven't got any thing but this:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTIfLTbKhhM

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  9. Wow! 5 friends that made it into CalTech!?!?!?!?! Wow!!!!! The chances of that are VERY VERY small.

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    Replies
    1. Yep. All the same year and from the same high school, Downey Sr. High. Once a very good school; not so sure now.

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    2. Who's your famous physicist friend? C'mon you can name drop.

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    3. He has almost the same name as a famous banker. That's my clue.

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  10. Thanks for speaking for a whole generation of us, Mr. Amselem.

    However, as a languages freak, one thing I remember about Leonard Nimoy was an interview he made a few years back about growing up speaking Yiddish. I guess I have a soft spot for languages that do not have official status.

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  11. "I am endeavoring, ma'am, to construct a mnemonic memory circuit using stone knives and bearskins"

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  12. If I remember correctly, the show aired on Thursdays at 7:30 pm--in the age before video recorders, ROKU, On-Demand, etc., a nerd had to structure his life around his favorite shows.

    I take it you did not grow up in the Eastern Time zone.

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    Replies
    1. I hope you've had the sense to get out of California and move to Seattle.

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  13. wow.. sec state using personal email for official business?
    surprised that's not criminal.

    - reader #1482

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    Replies
    1. It is. But no one will prosecute and the MSM will certainly ignore it.

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    2. It can't be allowed to be criminal. After all, the name is Clinton. A name synonymous with sleaze and corruption.

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    3. Well, there's hope for America. Here in the DC area, WTOP carried the story, but didn't give it htat much prominence. But I honestly hope that if Shrillary Shroooooooo runs for POTUS, the GOP will take the gloves off and expose her long record of lies, cries, alibis, sleaze, and proven incompetence as SecState for everyone to see.

      Further, her attempt to blame the Benghazi fiasco on an obscure video by an obscure Coptic immigrant, plus the smugly self-righteous noises over nobody preachers burning the Qur'an in the backwoods, all leads me to believe that the likes of Shrillary Shrooooooo thinks that First Amendment Rights aren't to be trusted when used by those who aren't her political clients.

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    4. Sad to say maybe it doesn't matter.. it looks like we'll just get a choice between a second step towards monarchy, and a third step towards monarchy. I have little option but to vote for hillary over jeb. :(

      - reader #1482

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  14. See also http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=6681 for an analysis of how Spock "made braininess sexy".

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    Replies
    1. ... testified to by Spock's various uniquenesses being the most recognizable to Star Trek branding. If it's got pointy ears and it ain't an elf, it's darn well for sure a vulcan. I don't know if people can say the word 'logical' in a speech without evoking that imagery.

      - reader #1482

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  15. I just noticed a small disturbance in the farce, errrr "force" a few moments ago, and discovered a small reduction in the "laughter" curve over at the Nobel committee, as in this little gem, causing a bit of laughter itself in Norway: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-03-03/unprecedented-move-nobel-peace-prize-chairman-demoted-decision-give-obama-2009-award

    Geez, took 6 years, too.

    Actually had to reread it to believe what I read, and check my calendar, to make sure it wasn't April 1, yet, and my nickname isn't Darth, either.

    Does this mean there is a little hope for sanity, and logic, maybe just logic, anyway, in the universe, Mr. Spock?
    Jack

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