Saturday, March 28, 2015


One fan’s tribute to a fallen star
My review of I Am Spock (1995)
(Rating 5 of 5)

On February 27, 2015 we lost Leonard Nimoy.  As a lifelong Star Trek fan the loss of Mr. Spock is a painful one, and over the last few weeks I was trying to think of a right way to pay a tribute to him.  I could go on about how Star Trek mattered in my life and his part in it.  However on this blog I normally just review history books.  Then I thought for a moment, back when I was in Middle School and High School I primarily read Star Trek novels.  My first ever non-fiction book was I Am Spock.  It was a bit of heavy reading for an eighth-grader, yet that was where my interest was.  The book was a follow up to his earlier book I Am Not Spock that he wrote in the seventies and was trying to clear up some false impressions that the earlier book caused. So I have decided to do a small review of this book.  Now there is one slight problem, although I still own the book I don’t have it with me.  It is in my storage shed.  So I am going to be doing this mostly from memory so there will be no direct quotes and I am only going on about the parts that I have a strongest memory about.  
                When Star Trek’s first pilot, the Cage, was first reviewed by test audiences Spock was one of two characters that was not well received.  The other was the female First Officer, who we only knew as “Number One.” (The idea of a woman giving orders to men was not an acceptable thing for polite society.)  The studio was willing to give the show a try but all the characters had to go except the captain, who they would have to recast because Jeffery Hunter who played Pike left for a movie career and became Jesus.  The creator, Gene Roddenberry, tried to save the two characters that the studio hated the most.  They gave him a choice: the Vulcan or the woman.  According to Nimoy, since Roddenberry later married Majel Barrett who played “Number One,” the running joke was Roddenberry kept the Vulcan and married the woman because he couldn’t do it the other way around, at least not legally.  Or as Mr. Sulu would like us to point out, it was not legal in the 20th century.   
Might have been Trek, only Spock would go where none had gone before

                One of the funny stories that Nimoy told in the book was a time he got a call from a fan.  The fan was shocked to find Nimoy in the phone book.  Then the flood happened the phone started ringing off the hook one fan after another kept calling Nimoy in hopes of talking to him.  If he had any doubts about Star Trek’s popularity that would have ended it. 

                It appreciates a special sort of person to appreciate William Shatner’s humor. And lucky for Shatner, Nimoy was such a person.  If he had been anybody else I don’t think this would have ended in a lifelong friendship.  When they were doing the show, Nimoy liked to ride his bike to work.  Shatner thought it was really funny to hide Nimoy’s bike on him.  As time would go on Shatner would be more and more creative about where he would hide it.  The final straw came when Shatner, a Doberman breeder, had the bike surrounded by his trusty Dobermans.  Nimoy decided to drive his car, Shatner reported a ‘strange car’ in the parking lot and it was towed.  
Spock, thank you for being my friend. If weren't for you no one this cast would even like me.

                Although he enjoyed writing the book, especially the parts where he had dialogue between himself and his character, he regretted writing I Am Not Spock.  Most people, except really loyal Star Trek fans, did not read the book.  However many people had heard of it and the negative sounding title gave the rise to the myth that Nimoy hated Star Trek.  (This is a problem that was similar to the response to William Shatner’s appearance on SaturdayNight Live.) I Am Not Spock and its reputation would be brought up often in interviews and would be the main motive for writing this book. 

                In addition to I Am Not Spock, another reason people might have questioned how much Nimoy liked Star Trek he did have a lawsuit going due to use of his likeness by the studio.  This lead to Nimoy not being in the discussion for the aborted series Star Trek Phase II, and delayed him signing on to Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Image that inspired a lawsuit

                There were two things I learned about the death of Spock in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn.  The first was they had to rewrite the script because a rumor was circulated about Spock’s death.  Originally Spock was supposed to die half way through the movie and the rest of the film was going hunt down Kahn for killing Spock. They rewrote it to have Spock have a fake death of the start of the movie (Kobayashi Maru) and have his actual death come at the end of the movie.  The second thing I learned was although he was okay with Spock dying for most of the filming, when it came time to do the death scene Nimoy described as feeling as if he were a condemned man going to the gas chamber.   

                After Star Trek came to an end, Nimoy took a role on the Mission Impossible series.  What Nimoy like the most about it was the teamwork aspect.  Each episode had every character have a special role in order to have their mission be a success.  When directing Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Nimoy took elements from Mission Impossible. The entire plot to steal the Enterprise was done as a tribute to that TV series.

          Also the design for the Excelsior was picked by Nimoy out of a series of proposed designs and Nimoy decided on the winning design because in his words it looked the most like the Enterprise.  Nimoy's poistion was if Starfleet were real the ships should look like the were designed by the same people.  One of the rejected designs became the Stargazer.  
Nimoy thought these images made it look like the engineers all came from the same school

                In the original series, it was established that Vulcan men every seven years go to the phase called pon farr.  With pon farr occurs the Vulcan must mate or have fight to the death.  On the Genesis planet Spock body, absent his mind which McCoy has, has regenerated and reverted to childhood. He begins to age rapidly causing him to age rapidly. This causes him to pon farr every twenty minutes.  Saavik, a female Vulcan, takes Spock off camera and they have lots of sex.  One of Nimoy’s producers thought the fans would laugh at this, Nimoy claimed they wouldn’t and made a bet.  Nimoy claimed that he won.  He thought it was because the audience was mature, I think it was because they didn’t get it.    
A lucky young Spock

                As hard is maybe to believe, there was a time where fans of the Original Series and the Next Generation didn’t get along too well.  At one point they were sitting at different places at the convention.  At one convention he was asked if he would go on The Next Generation if asked.  He informed the attendees not only had he been asked he had already accepted.  The audience went nuts.  Spock’s appearance on The Next Generation was good, but not as good as Scotty’s.  
Nice but not as good as...
                Early in the book, Nimoy told a story that when he was a kid he met a famous actor (who I can’t remember for my book is still in storage) and the actor refused to give young Nimoy an autograph.  He was so upset that he made a vow always to give his autograph when asked.  Now I have no idea that if in that last two decades if he was physically able to keep that promise, however it is always something that would remember about him. 

                I regret not having been able to meet Nimoy.  I also regret not knowing until after he died that he was a big of a Patriots fan as myself.   

Rest in peace, Mr. Spock.

Monday, February 2, 2015


Normally I use this blog just to review history books that I have read.  Tonight however I am ecstatic about my favorite team’s victory and want to blog about it.  The last ten or eleven years have been hard on me. I have a lot of intense disappointments in my life both personally and professionally.  I think I am starting to turn it around but progress can be very slow.  Every week however Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the rest of the Patriots can give an exciting three hours for me to forget all my problems.  And to that I am grateful.  Over the last ten years the Pats kept getting close but kept finishing short of their main goal. I am happy beyond reason with their current win in the Super Bowl.

One of the most exciting Super Bowls to date

Tom Terrific

However I have two thoughts that keep dominating my mind. 


Pats D
In Super Bowl 46 the Patriots were up 17-14 and the Giants were driving in a scary repeat of what they had done in Super Bowl 42.  The Patriots decided to let the Giants score a touchdown on purpose so that Tom Brady and the offense would have enough time get a touchdown of there own.  Well the Patriots lost that one.  This time Belichick put faith in his defense and refused to call a time out as the clock wound down the final minute.  Now granted to the 2014 Patriots defense is a different animal than the 2011 version, yet the reason the Pats were in Super Bowl 46  at all had to do with a defensive stand against Baltimore in that year’s AFC Championship game.  One year they willing decided not to trust their guys on a team that they built, on another they chose to trust their guys.  One year they would lose a chance to claim a fourth Super Bowl and another year they would come home with the trophy.  There is a moral lesson in that I am sure.
Stood by his guys this time


When I saw Malcolm Butler make that legendary play as the Seahawks elected to throw it on 2nd and goal on the 1 yard line, there was something oddly familiar about what had just happened.  It was as if I had seen it before.  Then I remembered Carroll, as coach of the New England Patriots, had done something like that during a regular season game. I couldn’t remember against whom so I decided to look on-line, and I found an article for the Hartford Courant dated October 29, 1997 written by Terry Price.  On Monday Night Football the Patriots were playing the Packers and a strange set up similar to the latest Super Bowl occurred.   1997 was Curtis Martin’s last year with the Patriots. They were down 14-10 on the 1 yard-line 1st and goal and took one shot with Martin and then from 2nd down on they had Bledsoe throw it turning the ball over on downs. 

Price gives a more detailed description:

   The Patriots trailed 14-10 when they took the second-half kickoff and moved to the 1. Here's their play selection from there:
* First-and-goal: A run off right guard by Curtis Martin, who was stopped immediately by Santana Dotson and Leroy Butler.
* Second-and-goal: A pass intended for tight end Ben Coates, but it's thrown away by quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who couldn't find an open receiver.
* Third-and-goal: Bledsoe passes to Coates, who would have made the catch in the back of the end zone, except cornerback Tyrone Williams gets a hand in to knock the ball loose.
* Fourth-and-goal: Bledsoe fakes to Martin, then rears up and throws toward Byars, but Williams steps in and knocks the ball away.”

In the aftermath of this year’s Superbowl, Carroll had this to say:

  “We have everything in mind, how we’re going to do it. We’re going to leave them no time, and we had our plays to do it. We sent in our personnel, they sent in goal-line (package) — it’s not the right matchup for us to run the football — so on second down we throw the ball really to kind of waste a play.

“If we score, we do. If we don’t, then we’ll run it in on third and fourth down. Really, (we called it) with no second thoughts or no hesitation at all. And unfortunately, with the play that we tried to execute, the guy (Butler) makes a great play and jumps in front of the route and makes an incredible play that nobody would ever think he could do. And unfortunately that changes the whole outcome.” (Quote taken from an article by Nick Eaton on Seattle Pi)

Now a quote from Carroll taken from Price’s article on the 1997 game:

``We called what we thought was the best call we had on second down,'' Carroll said. ``We thought we had a very nice call on third down. Fourth down, we came up with a call that we think is really good.

``As you look back and tell me that we're not going to score, I'd like to have done it a little bit differently I thought we would score on every one of those plays.''

Do those two sound a little familiar? I thought they did.  Now in some ways it is not a fair comparison.  There are key differences besides the obvious Super Bowl vs. Regular season.  In that game against the Packers, the Patriots goal-line failure came at the start of the second half and they had the rest of the half to do something.  However this one Pats fan is glad that Carroll forgot about the lesson he learned that day and didn’t do things "a little bit differently."  I bet all Seahawks fans wish he had remembered.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


A review of Tony Horwitz’s Confederate’s in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War (1998)

(Rating 5 of 5)

I should begin with a simple disclaimer.  I have absolutely no sympathy or respect for “the Lost Cause of the South.”  I do not see the entire event as “complicated.” It is actually very simple.  In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States.  He was first president who would not pay lip service to the institution of slavery as all of his fifteen predecessors had done, regardless of whatever their personal feelings on the matter.  He even dared to suggest that slavery in the territories of the United States should no longer be permitted and all new states admitted needed to be Free states.  This was so offensive to the leaders of the South that they went forth and committed treason by breaking up the nation and attempting to form their own where slavery could be practiced without challenge.  If you do not believe that go and read all the secession documents of the Southern legislatures, the Confederate Constitution, and speeches by Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stevens. 

            Nevertheless, the book is fascinating as Horwitz explores the South in the 1990s amongst those who care about the Civil War.  He comes across a diverse group of people from armature to hardcore reenactors, modern-day secessionists, and a famous historian in the now late Shelby Foote.

Confederate Reenactors
            Despite my disdain for the Lost Cause, I came to like many of the Southern characters that I came to know reading the book.  People like Rob Hodge one of the hardcore reenactors who distinguish themselves from those lesser reenactors they call “farbs.”  I do not have anything against the average Confederate soldier who took up arms for what he saw was an invader.  These reenactors also seem quite harmless.  They just excessive history buffs who want to know more about their ancestors and how they use to live, fight, and die.  I even felt very close to one of them, Mike Hawkins, who seemed the real world just disappointed him and he felt down about his life.  Hawkins finds his escapism following his own ancestor’s trials in the Civil War.  I can imprecated that.  As someone who has often felt let down by life, I often find an escape into the past but I do not take it to the same extremes that he does. 

            I also find some of the old Southern generals interesting, such as Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.  I think if I was from the South, I might view those men the same way a German might view Erwin Rommel, I would appreciate genius while still despising the cause that they served.  One of the scenes that I thought was interesting was the comparison to Jackson’s early death to that of famous musicians.
            “The analogy wasn’t airtight.  Morrison and Hendrix were sex-crazed hippies who OD’d on drugs; Stonewall was a Bible-thumping teetotaler who sucked on lemons and sipped warm water because he thought the human body should avoid extremes.  But Rob was onto something.  If Jackson had survived and failed to change the course of the War, his luster might have dulled by the South’s eventual defeat.  ‘Better to burn out than to fade away,’ Rob wailed, echoing Neil Young.” (p.229)
            One of things I appreciated about this book is that it does not shy away from controversy.  It could have just as easily focused on small groups of hardcore reenactors but instead Horwitz chose to take on some of the more difficult questions, such as “Is there any real way to remember the Confederacy when the driving cause behind it was slavery?”  Should schools be named after men such as Nathan Bedford Forrest, who in my mind was nothing but a war criminal and hatemonger who founded the Ku Klux Klan.

            In the end I must say that this a great book that I would highly recommend to people who are interested in people who are interested in the U.S. Civil War.

{Video was created by DontcallmeMikey72 on YouTube}