Leonard Nimoy, R.I.P.

When I was very, very young, I would spend many hours before the television, sucking in whatever I could see and marveling at the entertainment provided.

Even today I distinctly recall the first movie I ever saw and realized told a coherent story, It was Steven Spielberg’s 1971 film Duel.  I’m not sure if I saw the first broadcast (it was a TV movie) or a rerun, but the film entranced me and, I realized many years afterwards when I found out Spielberg had directed it, further realized that it was an early “draft” of his future megahit Jaws.

I also remember watching and enjoying the hell out of shows like Get Smart, by that time in syndication and, to my eyes, one of the funniest things ever made, along with Batman, The Wild, Wild, West, Twilight Zone, Mannix, etc. etc.

Way above all those shows, in my estimation, was Star Trek.  The original series absolutely captivated me, alternately making my younger self laugh out loud and/or shiver with its action and suspense…if not outright horror!  The show presented incredibly varied themes and, I would later realize, often very cleverly held a mirror to society as it was at the time.

But the best thing about the show was that it presented what to my young eyes appeared to be a very tight knit family.  A group of diverse individuals that nonetheless helped each other and tried, always tried, to make things better.  I liked the crew of the Enterprise and it felt they liked each other just as much (contrary to future tell-all’s!).

Central to the show, of course, was the starring trio of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.  Though they wouldn’t appear together in all episodes, they did appear together in almost all of them.  (A bit of trivia: Leonard Nimoy’s Spock would appear in the most number of episodes of the original Star Trek series with 80.  This included the first non-Captain Kirk starring pilot.  William Shatner would appear in all 79 regular episodes, including the second pilot while DeForest Kelley’s McCoy would appear in 76 episodes, all according to IMDb.com.)

What a team these three made!

In watching the original Star Trek and the performances within, it was the first time I realized how well on-screen charisma could get.  As much as I liked other shows, there was this little extra something to be found in the interactions between the Star Trek characters that was at times lacking in other shows.  They -the actors as well as the crew behind the scenes- were that damn good.

And while I wouldn’t pick one actor’s work over the other (they worked best together anyway), I was always drawn the most to the character of Leonard Nimoy’s Spock.

There was something so incredibly…fascinating…with Mr. Nimoy’s stoic, unemotional performance, and especially when the stories had him stray from this stoicism and have a little fun with its limits.  Which explains why this scene, from the conclusion to Amok Time, is my all time favorite original Star Trek Spock moment (forgive the quality of the images…I didn’t want to provide a link to the whole episode and this featured exactly what I wanted):

In that scene, most obviously, you see Spock smile.  But what makes the whole thing work so damn well is that we are in Spock’s shoes.  We think, like he does, that he’s killed Captain Kirk, his very best friend.  Along with the absolute agony of this act is the realization that it also means his future, both with Starfleet and personally, is effectively over.  And just like that it is revealed that Spock did not kill his best friend and Leonard Nimoy’s reaction is just so perfect, moving from shocked surprise to relief to absolute elation.  And then, to make the whole thing absolutely perfect, Spock realizes he’s just shown emotion and has to clamp it down and go into his “logical” routine, knowing full well the mask has slipped.

Ah that smile.

And the smiles of the other, who realize the stoic Spock isn’t quite as stoic as he pretends to be.

Despite his alien blood, Spock is every bit as “human” as the rest of them and just as capable of happiness as they are.

I will always admire this scene and that wonderful bit of acting.

So Rest in Peace, Mr. Nimoy.  To the child I was back then and the grown man I am now, you did real good.

The Guest (2014) a (mildly) belated review

I heard quite a few good words regarding last year’s The Guest, a low budget suspense thriller/horror film, and was curious to see it.  Yesterday I finally had a chance.

Did it live up to what I read?

Yes…and no.

The Guest has a simple enough plot: A stranger who calls himself David (Dan Stevens, who for the most part is excellent here) appears at the front door of the Peterson family home, which is in a remote, rustic town and introduces himself to the lady of the household (Sheila Kelley) as a soldier who fought alongside her recently deceased son.

Anna Peterson is taken aback by David’s story and excuses herself to have a cry.  When she composes herself and returns to the man’s side, she finds him looking at photographs on her mantle.  One of them, David points out, shows him with her son’s squad.

David then says he has to go but Anna Peterson will not have it and invites him to stay over for at least a little while.

Big mistake.

For as the film plays out and the members of Anna’s family, including her husband, her other son and daughter, meet David and have different reactions to him, we find that the charismatic soldier may not be quite who he says he is.  All the while, things escalate out of control and the body count rises.

I’ll say this much for The Guest: It wastes very little time in delivering its premise while building up tension.  The acting, for the most part, is uniformly good and, as already mentioned, Dan Stevens delivers a terrific charismatic/creepy performance as the titular guest.

But when all is said and done, The Guest wound up leaving me with too many questions while delivering a climax that was equal parts silly, ridiculous, and sadistic.

Among the questions I had, the biggest one was this: Why did David bother going to the Peterson family in the first place?  It was made quite clear in the film that he is a self-sufficient man who thinks on his feet and is quite capable of disappearing into the woodwork.  Without going too deeply into SPOILERS, why does David tie himself down to this one place and, effectively, risk making himself known, especially (OK, MILD SPOILERS HERE!) to those who want to get at him?

It makes no real sense.

The lingering questions and your all too typical “bad guy isn’t quite killed” finale cliche (is it written in some movie making bible that every horror movie with a boogeyman type killer has to end this way?!) wind up hurting the movie just when it was about to cross the finish line.

Because of this, I can only offer a mild recommendation for The Guest.  Despite some very good acting and some effectively creepy moments, the film’s lack of answers for many questions and cliched ending hurt what is for the most part a very effective piece of work.

A special note: I loved the use of 80’s alternative electronica music in the film.  I suspect the filmmakers were going for a John Carpenter type vibe (the movie has more than a couple of nods to the original Halloween).  It worked!

The #1 Song on the Day You Were Born…

Like music?  Are curious to see which song reached the #1 position on the day of your birth?  Then check this out:


I’m an ooooold man, and the #1 song for the day of my birth was…

Watching this video, I’m intrigued with the lip-synching.  Clearly the song as playing in this clip is the studio version.  The synching, to my eyes, is not all that pretty…

Goes to show, the more things change…

9 Things You Think You Know About Jesus…

…Which Are Probably Wrong, according to Valarie Tarico for Salon.com:


I’ve mentioned before that I’m an atheist.  I’m not a militant one, however, and feel that if religion is a big part of your life and gets you through the day, then good for you.  Anything that makes you happy, as long as it doesn’t hurt others, is fine to me.  Obviously there are those in the past and present who use(d) their beliefs to harm others and that is where I draw the line.

Having said this, I find religion fascinating.  I like reading up on it and getting an understanding of where the various religious ideas have come from.  Of particular interest to me, as I was raised that way, is Catholicism.  So the above article, which sifts though the potential “reality” of Jesus versus the myth, is doubly interesting.

From all that I’ve read, I believe there is a very legitimate question as to whether the Jesus people worship was a real person or a mythical fiction built up over many years.  Regardless of your stance, the above link provides a fascinating look at some of the ideas/concepts associated with Jesus and whether they may be the case or not.

Some of the items are, as the author herself admits, trivial (was he short or tall, did he have long hair or short, etc.).  What I found the most fascinating, and what deserves the most scrutiny, is just how many of his philosophical sayings/teaching are his or were probably taken from other philosophies and/or added over time.  As the author states:

Which words are actually from Jesus? This question has been debated fiercely by everyone from third-century Catholic Councils to the 20th-century Jesus Seminar…The New Testament Gospels were written long after Jesus would have died, and no technology existed with which to record his teachings in real time, unless he wrote them down himself, which he didn’t.

We can be confident that at least some of the wise and timeless words and catchy proverbs attributed to Jesus are actually from earlier or later thinkers. For example, the Golden Rule was articulated before the time of Christ by the Rabbi Hillel the Elder, who similarly said it was the “whole Torah.” By contrast, the much-loved story of the woman caught in adultery doesn’t appear in manuscripts until the fourth century. Attributing words (or whole texts) to a famous person was common in the Ancient Near East, because it gave those words extra weight. Small wonder then that so many genuinely valuable insights ended up, in one way or another, paired with the name of Jesus.

This, in a nutshell, explains why I’m so intrigued by religion and yet am an atheist.  It is the mystery of it, the history of how these works came to be, that fascinates me.  I love reading about the search for the philosophical roots of Biblical teachings, of the alternate texts or deleted ideas.  As mentioned, “the New Testament Gospels were written long after Jesus would have died”.  If he existed, he left no actual contemporaneous record and therefore one has to wonder how many of his ideas are indeed his versus those added to him over time.

Again, fascinating, fascinating stuff.

Blue and Black or White and Gold…?!

One of the latest great internet debates:  Is this dress, presented below, colored blue and black or is it white and gold?  What do you see?

Apparently, there is quite a bit of debate and it just goes to show that what people “see” has a certain degree of subjectivity.

If this is intriguing to you, check out this website over at Salon.com that explores the topic of this dress’ color and provides a graphic as to how people perceive it:


As for me?  I see a dress that is gold and…very light blue.  I suppose that puts me more in the “Gold and White” camp, but to my eyes there is a definite blue tint to the light part of this dress.

Basic skills on the verge of extinction

Fascinating (though far too short) article from io9 regarding the above, basic skills which may be on the verge of becoming extinct:


I’ve mentioned it before but I’m fascinated by the era we currently live in.  Since the advent of the personal computer and the rapid technological advancement of the same, things have changed considerably in our society.

For example, my shopping habits have radically changed (I know this is not really a “skill”, but bear with me).  I used to go out at least once a week to either a bookstore, music store, or electronics store to check out the latest novels, magazines, music, or movies available.

The advent of the internet and the ability to transmit information has made going to a store, for better or worse, to look for the above material almost completely obsolete.  A few weeks back my wife and I went out to a mall that happens to have the only Barnes and Nobles I’m aware of within thirty to forty miles of our home.  While in the story, I found the following book for sale:

I love a good mystery, and locked room mysteries, in particular, can be fun reading.  The book was as promised, quite big, and priced at $25.  Not all that bad, I thought.  But I checked to see if the book was available at Amazon and for the Kindle and, lo and behold, it was and for a much cheaper price.

Needless to say, I didn’t buy the physical book.  Why bother?  I get the same thing for less money and don’t clutter up my house any more than it already is!

Computers have not only changed my shopping patterns, but I see their influences spreading to other areas, the most fascinating of which, to me, is the potential for self-driving vehicles.  I know there’s still much to be done regarding seeing them actually appear, but I would put money on the fact that in the near future, perhaps with the current newborn generation, they will reach driving age and may not have to worry about ever learning to do so.

How weird would that be?

New Alien movie to ignore last two…?

A short while back, director Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium) made considerable waves among the movie fandom community when he presented images of an older Ripley and a disfigured Hicks, late from the movie Aliens, and noted he had worked on an idea for a sequel to that film that would complete the Alien/Aliens saga.

The images (you can see them here) clearly got peoples’ attention at Fox Studios as this film has been green-lighted and will be Mr. Blomkamp’s follow up to Chappie.

One thing that people wondered, of course, was where this film might fit in the Alien cinematic universe timeline.  Alien 3, after all, essentially took place “immediately” after the events of Aliens and clearly showed both Hicks and Newt were dead.  The images Mr. Blomkamp presented, though, had an elderly and disfigured Hicks standing alongside a more mature Ripley.

What gives?

Well, it now appears this new Alien film might well ignore the events presented in both Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection:


Since learning of this there have been some commentaries pro and con regarding the need -if there even is one- to follow “continuity” or ignore it.  Given the fact that few hold either Alien 3 or Alien Resurrection in as high regard as the first two films, I suspect it will be easier for audiences to accept the idea of ignoring these later two Alien films.

Continuity, I find, is a curious thing.  If you’re into comic books, continuity can be a blessing as well as a curse.  The Superman who appeared in Action Comics #1 way back in 1938 is not the same Superman as is presented today.  Sure, he still sports the Clark Kent “disguise” and has the hots for Lois Lane (both ideas present in that first Superman story) and he is from Krypton, but there are noticeable difference.  That Superman, for instance, couldn’t fly.  He jumped very far.  He was also a no-nonsense bad-ass who wasn’t adverse to “eye for an eye” type justice.  In that very first story, if memory serves, he beats a woman beater!

In movies, too, there have been series that featured continuity “glitches”.  In the James Bond film You Only Live Twice (1967) Sean Connery’s Bond comes face to face with Blofeld (played by Donald Pleasance), his S.P.E.C.T.R.E. nemesis.  Yet in the film that follow this one, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, not only is Connery replaced with actor George Lazenby, but Bond once again comes face to face with Blofeld (this time played by Telly Savalas) yet the two do not appear to recognize each other!

Then there’s the fact that the original Star Wars, before George Lucas made all the big and little changes to it, clearly had Luke Skywalker fall instantly head over heels for Princess Leia who, in the very next film, is revealed to be his twin sister!

The bottom line for me is that I don’t have much of a problem ignoring either Alien 3 or Resurrection.  While I felt neither film was “horrible”, considering what came immediately before, these last two films in the series were much weaker.  I’m curious to see what Mr. Blomkamp is up to, though having seen his first two films he’s only batting 500.  I enjoyed District 9 but didn’t like Elysium much at all.

Hopefully, his Alien film will be more in line with District 9.

This War of Mine…

Fascinating review of a decidedly different take on the war video game called This War of Mine.  Instead of focusing on a character who goes around building up his weaponry and killing literally hundreds upon hundreds of bad guys, This War of Mine focuses on common civilians trying to survive during a time of war.

From the sounds of it, this is a deeply affecting game that shows both the costs and price of survival in a war zone.  I’m curious to try it out, even though the review paints it out to be a deeply depressing experience, which of course makes sense:


Renewable energy finally making sense…?

This is the type of article that gives me optimism that maybe our society is finally moving into more forward thinking/futuristic concepts:


I’ve long felt we’ve been using old technologies for waaaay too long.  The gas powered automobile, for example, has stuck with us for over a century now.  To me, this is like going into a computer store and picking up 1994’s latest computer model.

What always holds people back is familiarity.  We’re comfortable with cars because we understand them, and the idea of a car that uses only electricity to run, or runs by itself, is a cognitive leap our brains may find hard to take.

So too with renewable energy.  For decades we’ve known that energy could be made from something that occur naturally each and every day: Wind, tides/currents, sunshine.

What kept us from investing strongly into this potential tech was, I felt, two-fold: We are comfortable with the current polluting technology (which, by the way, is reasonably cheap compared to the big investments needed to pursue renewable energy) and this idea that what we have now works, so why mess with it?

The answer to the later question goes right back to what I said about buying an old computer, and it would appear that large U.S. companies are now becoming more comfortable with the idea of using renewable energy.  The early work is done and the price to get the process working for you is coming down.

As I said, articles like this fill me with optimism about the future.  Perhaps we’ve started to turn that corner and can finally create a more “clean” world.