(photo by Christopher Becke)
Other kids worshipped baseball players. My hero was a fictional Scottish engineer from the 23rd century.
Before the terms geek and nerd entered the vernacular, we were called brains, or, more cruelly, weirdos. We built Heathkits, disassembled televisions and tape recorders, and bribed the librarian to give us first crack at the new issues of Popular Science and Popular Electronics, usually by changing the ribbon or switching the golf balls on her newfangled IBM Selectric.
The normal people left us alone until they needed their eight tracks fixed, or someone to set up the projector for health class, or install a new ink pad on the mimeograph machine. Task completed, we would be summarily dismissed with a curt thank you. We'd return to the backstage of the auditorium/gym, the traditional sanctuary of the oddballs on the audio/visual team.
Scotty was our hero because he was one of us. Instead of the backstage, he was buried in the bowels of the Enterprise's engineering section, which wasn't even in the main part of the ship. There he ruled, serenely, totally in control, obtaining supreme satisfaction in the knowledge that while the idiots on the bridge were supposedly in charge, he was the one who made possible their continued existence.
And then there was the Spock business. We Scotty aficionados resented the Vulcan science officer. In the first place, the whole "I'm totally in control and have no emotions" thing was patently dishonest. He was like the guy on the AV squad who discovered girls over the summer and was suddenly Mr. Cool. Yeah, right. When his girlfriend dumped him for the football team towel manager (quasi-athlete is still better than certified nerd), he nearly fried the pre-amp in the PA system by replacing the 1 megohm resistor in the main power supply with a 1K unit while in his emotionally distraught state.
Spock was our high school principal, a pointy eared deus ex machina who appeared and broke the rules of the game. I recall spending days overhauling the motor and drive assembly of an old Wollensak reel-to-reel mono tape recorder, finally getting its wow and flutter back within specs. Rather than praise my efforts, the principal said "Oh, we'll just buy a new one." Buy a new one? The possibility had never even been presented to me! This is the parsimonious wretch who only two weeks ago made me use rubber bands to replace the capstan drive belt to save 50 cents! No wonder Scotty drank himself into oblivion when he was off duty!
The Star Trek writers used Spock and abused Scotty in the same manner. They placed the Enterprise in some ludicrous situation which had no resolution, then sent Spock down into engineering to order Scotty to perform some action totally in violation of Trek's already delusional laws of physics.
Until the arrival of Bill Gates, Scotty was the first expression of the belief that the nerds could probably run things better, but were disinclined to deal with such mundane challenges. Notice that when he was forced to take the con of the Enterprise- usually because Kirk was being held captive by the father of the native princess he'd just boinked into delirium, and the hyper-intelligent Spock had been rendered unconscious by a judiciously applied blunt object wielded by an alien with the appearance and IQ of a turnip- Scotty was by far the best strategic commander of the lot.
When you saw him in the captain's chair, you knew Kirk and Spock had screwed up yet again- but you also knew things would turn out fine because the Scotsman would handily defeat the enemy du jour and would beam his sorry superiors' behinds back up to ship before the last commercial break. And then what would happen? The episode would end with Kirk and Spock congratulating themselves on their ingenuity while Scotty had already disappeared back into the depths of engineering to deal with the real responsibility of keeping the ship running.
Those of you who have saved customer presentations, demos and initial installations from ten-thumbed marketing types know what I'm talking about. The suits go out for a night on the town to celebrate their technical savvy and sales skills, while you're stuck in the cheap hotel room with a poorly stocked mini-bar that you're not permitted to access anyway because of the cost, on the phone resolving a customer crisis while simultaneously answering inane support questions via e-mail. And frankly, you're happy about it. Who wants to listen to salesmen talk about sports?
But I digress.
Scotty embodied the benefits of technology and the "can do" attitude that pervaded the 60s. Oh, he might complain mightily about some absurd demand being placed upon him: what geek isn't conservative when it comes to maintaining stable environments for critical systems? But he believed, as did his real-world counterpart Gene Krantz, that "Failure is not an option." It's the unspoken challenge that motivates those of us for whom Scotty is the ultimate role model.
Montgomery Scott, the fictional character, will continue to perform engineering miracles indefinitely on film, video, DVD, and media yet to be devised. For that, we are grateful. But I sincerely mourn the passing of James Montgomery Doohan- ironically, on the 36th anniversary of the first manned moon landing- who made Scotty the cultural icon he became.
The word is given, Mr. Scott. Warp speed.
(Originally published July 24, 2005.)
(From "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan"
© 1982, Paramount Pictures Corp.)
According to the authoritative Memory Alpha site, here are all of McCoy's "doctor" protestations:
"What am I, a doctor or a moon-shuttle conductor?"
-("The Corbomite Maneuver")
"My dear girl, I'm a doctor. When I peek, it is in the line of duty."
"I don't know, Jim. This is a big ship. I'm just a country doctor."
-("The Alternative Factor")
"Me, I'm a doctor. If I were an officer of the line..."
-("A Taste of Armageddon")
"What do you mean what sort of work? I'm a doctor."
-("This Side of Paradise")
"I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer."
-("The Devil in the Dark")
...to which Kirk replies, "You're a healer, there's a patient. That's an order."
"I'm a surgeon, not a psychiatrist."
-("The City on the Edge of Forever")
"I'm not a scientist or a physicist, Mr. Spock..."
"Look, I'm a doctor, not an escalator."
"I'm a doctor, not a mechanic."
-("The Doomsday Machine")
"I'm a doctor, not an engineer."
...to which Montgomery Scott immediately replied, "Now, you're an engineer."
"I'm not a magician, Spock, just an old country doctor."
-("The Deadly Years")
"I will not peddle flesh! I'm a physician."
-("Return to Tomorrow")
"I'm a doctor, not a coal miner."
"I'm not a mechanic, Spock..."
(originally published June 11, 2012)
DeForest Kelley, who played the curmudgeonly Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy in the original Star Trek series, died on June 11, 1999, at the age of 79. He was the first member of the original Star Trek cast to pass away.
Initially approached for the role of the Vulcan science officer Mr. Spock, Kelley was instead cast as the ship's chief medical officer, described by series creator Gene Roddenberry as "a future-day H.L. Mencken". An unabashed cynic of technology, the McCoy character was a self-described old fashioned country doctor who put more faith in humanity than high technology.
In a 1982 interview with author Allan Asherman, Kelley said McCoy represented "the perspective of the audience, that if you were along on the voyage you'd think, 'These people are crazy! How in the hell do they expect to do that?'" Indeed, the McCoy character was often used to interject a dose of reality, interpret the techno-babble, and explain the frequently convoluted plotting of the more arcane Trek adventures to those in the audience struggling to follow the science fiction storylines.
His summary of the plot of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, delivered in exasperated disbelief to the gung-ho Captain Kirk, still stands as one of the best examples of exposition in screen history:
"You're proposing that we go backwards in time, find humpbacked whales, then bring them forward in time, drop 'em off, and hope to hell they tell this probe what to go do with itself?!" The entire plot in fewer than 35 words. That's Bones for you.
The son of a Baptist minister, Jackson DeForest Kelley wanted to be a doctor like an uncle he greatly admired, but his family couldn't afford to send him to medical school. He instead became a character actor who worked steadily in film and television from the late 1940s through the 1960s. Star Trek's popularity in syndication essentially ended his acting career, but he considered himself fortunate to be associated with a role that made him a permanent icon in popular culture, and he made a comfortable living by reprising his character for the motion picture series and appearing on the convention circuit.
Asherman's interview ended with a quote that could serve as an accurate and fitting epitaph:
"I'd wanted to be a physician and couldn't- and yet became the most well-known doctor in the galaxy."
(YouTube video: A Tribute to DeForest Kelley)
I can communicate through a series of short & long groans & sighs. It's
called 'morose code'.
-Robb Allen, @ItsRobbAllen (h/t David Kifer, alt.quotations)
Somewhat alarmed to discover some teens don't recognize "Uncle Sam," I checked with my daughter about my soon to be 11 year old granddaughter's status:
KGB: Does Lea know who Uncle Sam is?
Sara: Oh, I think she would.
KGB: Ask her when convenient.
Sara: She said yes, it's the guy pointing and saying "I want you."
KGB: Excellent. Our nation is in good hands.
Sara: She said "Yes. Yes, it is."
Can't argue with that...>
"I give them a year."
-Ray Bloch, musical director for "The Ed Sullivan Show," on the Beatles, when they made their first live appearance on American television 50 years ago.
"Ah, hell. Let's call Froot Loops what they really are: Gay Cheerios."
Those who feel that humans are essentially good and altruistic have never read the comment sections on YouTube.
I actually used to date a girl named Christie Benghazi, so it's funny
for me now when I flip between those two channels.
The Star Trek Facepalm collection, although I don't think Spock actually qualifies.
“If we came from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?”
Let me ask you this: If you came from parents, why are there still parents?
"Fortunes have been lost underestimating Jay Leno."
It's surprising what pops up on Google...
It's U.S. Patent #7,249,057 B2, issued July 24, 2007: "Product Information Supplying Method, Product Information Acquiring Method, Product Information Registering Method And Recording Medium," and the description is equally enlightening:
"There is provided a product information supply method for supplying a user who desires to purchase a product with proper information about a related product that could be bought in combination with the product, so that the user is assisted in purchasing products. Registration of combination information to be supplied to the user is made with a database managed by a service provider server by a person who has bought the above product by means of a registration page so that a lot of combination information is accumulated in the database. The registered information includes not only information specifying a combinable product but also information about the effects of the combination and the ways of using products in combination. The database is searched in response to inquiry information from the user who makes reference to a page of products. Thus, corresponding combination information is extracted from the database and is sent to the user."
I'm no expert in intellectual property law, but- this is something patentable? A database of related products, with the added twist of returning information on "effects of the combination and the ways of using products in combination." You mean like peanut butter and jelly? Gin and tonic? Water and Alka-Seltzer tablets?
Even more puzzling is the reference to one of my old DEC Professional DCL Dialogue columns. It deals with referrals and recommendations for computer hardware and software, but its relevance to this patent eludes me. You can read the column here.
Other stuff that passed across the desktop this week:
(Photo By Cody Duty/Houston Chronicle)
The Galileo shuttlecraft, fully restored to its original luster when it was featured in the 1967 Star Trek episode "The Galileo Seven," is now on permanent display inside Space Center Houston’s Zero-G Diner. (Click for full story.)
Categories: Star Trek
After John Larroquette played the Klingon crew member "Maltz" in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) and before Brent Spiner went on to play Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987), the pair appeared together in a half-dozen episodes of NBC's Night Court. Larroquette won four Emmys as assistant district attorney Dan Fielding; Spiner played Bob Wheeler, a Yugoslavian immigrant with a West Virginian accent and incredibly bad luck.
(A curmudgeon's review of "Star Trek: Into Darkness")
Star Trek: Into Darkness is aggressively, egregiously, purposefully, intentionally, maliciously stupid.
A certain suspension of disbelief is necessary in order to watch science fiction of any kind, and Star Trek is no exception. But Star Trek generally limited itself to extrapolations of existing technology and scientific theory, and the techno-babble whatsits still had to function within a known universe with well-defined laws of physics.
(Warning: there are spoilers ahead.)
One wonders if those responsible for this abomination took a copy of the script from Star Trek II, a script rejected from Lost in Space, shuffled them together, and filmed the result.
J.J. Abrams' original 2009 reboot also contained major errors, but that film was entertaining enough that the gaffes didn't come to mind until you were in your car, on your way home from the theater.
The plot holes is this stinker dragged me out of the movie in the very opening scene, and from that point on, things just got worse.
The movie starts on the planet Nibiru, which is also the name of the fictional planet that was supposed to kill us all during the Mayan Apocalypse.
"Hi, I'm J.J. Abrams, and we're starting off by naming this planet 'Nibiru' just to let you know we're deliberately thumbing our nose at science in general and Star Trek in particular, which we never liked. The whole movie is like this. This is one colossal in-joke. Don't forget to visit the concession stand."
They have to lower a guy on a rope into a volcano because some kind of magnetic interference from the volcano messes with the transporter. The rope breaks, and the guy and the doohickey that's going to turn off the volcano fall into the crater. The guy and the doohickey survive. Why not just drop the doohickey into the volcano in the first place and be done with it?
In the 23rd century, humans apparently have developed the ability to jump and/or fall 50-100 foot distances without sustaining injuries. They are also all long-distance runners.
The Enterprise is a space ship. Roddenberry's explicit design requirements were "no fins or rockets."
This Enterprise has more flaming ports than a busload of tourists eating at a Taco Bell.
It's probably safe to assume Roddenberry didn't envision starships and shuttlecraft would be interchangeable with submarines, either.
In the future, military experts charged with the safety of the planet will meet, unarmed, in buildings with no security, in rooms with large picture windows.
The bad guy may be superhuman and have lots of guns, but he can't hit the side of a Nibiruian barn. Too bad he didn't have another one of those magic fizzy explosive class rings.
Despite other advances in technology, firefighting still relies on hoses, strategically placed so they can be hurled into the turbine intakes of 23rd century shuttles.
Question: if you can use a super-duper transwarp transporter to beam yourself from earth to a planet light years away, isn't it kind of dumb to waste all that money building a star fleet? And lucky for him there were no magnetic volcanoes in the way?
We need to wake up this guy who's been in suspended animation for 300 years so he can design advanced weapons for us. Just imagine if we could somehow bring Thomas Newcomen from 1712 to the present. He could show us how to build a steam engine!
I swear that was a red-skinned Admiral Ackbar sitting at the station in the brig. Another Abrams joke? ("It's a trap. Also, wait until you see what I do to Star Wars.")
I'm a doctor and a scientist, which is why I injected blood from a 300 year old mutated human into a dead tribble for absolutely no reason, a species from a totally different planet with totally dissimilar biology and by the way, did I mention it was already dead? And why did we bring the movie to a freaking stop to point this out to you? It's a little thing we learned in writing school called "foreshadowing." Aren't we clever?
When Scotty disabled the weapon systems on the bad guy's ship he could have also disabled their shields, so Kirk and whatshisname could have just beamed on over instead of doing that dangerous space-suited jump between the vessels. Well yeah, but then we couldn't put in our homage to the asteroid scene in The Empire Strikes Back. And also, Mr. Smart Guy, the bad starship was powered by a cold fusion magnetic volcano that would have blocked the transporter anyway. Pbpbpbpbt.
"To really piss off the science nerds, we're going to make a reference about being 238,000 kilometers from earth and then place the ships next to the moon, which is 238,000 *miles* from earth. Later we'll make some clever joke about even NASA getting the two confused. Oh, and screw you, science fans."
Those 72 super-duper torpedoes which blew up simultaneously inside the bad starship were neither super nor duper, because not only did they not destroy the bad guys, they allowed the ship to make it through earth's atmosphere without burning up, take out Alcatraz, and mess up all those nice Bay-view apartment buildings. Yeah, the same folks in charge of Starfleet security also run Earth's planetary defense system.
Even assuming the ships were caught by Earth's gravity, one expects it would take slightly more than ten minutes for them to cover the distance between the moon and the earth. That would make their velocity 1.5 million miles per hour or over 400 miles per second. Objects entering the atmosphere at that speed explode and/or incinerate.
This Enterprise is designed like an 80s Hyatt hotel, with a big atrium and, one presumes, a food court that didn't appear because Orange Julius wouldn't sign the contract.
23rd century starships have engineering sections which apparently also have the ability to brew large quantities of beer in massive tanks.
Speaking of tanks, when the guys are hanging from one of the ubiquitous engineering catwalks and a big one goes whizzing past, my wife noted they had not only lost warp drive, but also had no hot water.
In the first movie, they were able to beam two people falling at escape velocity from the surface of a planet being imploded by the massive, constantly-changing gravitational field of a red-matter generated black hole. This time around, they couldn't differentiate between Dr. McCoy and a torpedo (both are blunt and explosive?) or pull Spock and the bad guy from a flying vehicle. Wait- is there a magnetic volcano near here?
23rd century matter/anti-matter warp drive engine design is a lot like that of 70s Volkswagen Beetle engines, in that you can get both to function optimally by repeatedly kicking them.
Hey, remember that we discovered there was something in this guy's blood that can cure incurable illnesses and bring people back from the dead? Shouldn't we be working on this? Or do magnetic volcano-resistant transporters get higher priority?
Note I haven't said anything about the lifted dialogue or the stolen and abused plot lines from previous movies.
One can only hope that some persons who see this film will decide to take a look at Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and realize Star Trek was intended to be entertainment for thinking grown-ups, not the burlesque Abrams perpetrated in what is hopefully his last dubious contribution to a once dignified franchise.
Possibly the funniest Trek-related commercial ever made. Definitely the one with the most Spocks. Congratulations to Leonard Nimoy for achieving a Shatner-esque level of self-aware self-parody, and Quinto for being such a good sport. (Quinto, by the way, is from the Pittsburgh suburb of Green Tree and is a graduate of Central Catholic and CMU.)
(YouTube video: Zachary Quinto vs. Leonard Nimoy: "The Challenge")
Speaking of self-aware self-parody, Nimoy outdid himself with this oldie but goodie:
(YouTube video: Bruno Mars - The Lazy Song [official alternate version])
Through the end of the month, Hulu is streaming without charge all the Star Trek television series- Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise.
That's 693 episodes; figuring in commercials, it's about 32,000 minutes, or 533 hours. If you watched eight episodes a day, it would take you about 67 days. Which means if you start first thing tomorrow morning, you'll be done on May 29.
March Madness marathons? Hah. Amateurs.
President Obama's one-liners from the 2013 Gridiron dinner:
Now I know that some folks think we responded to Woodward too aggressively. But hey, when has- can anybody tell me when an administration has ever regretted picking a fight with Bob Woodward? What's the worst that could happen?
Of course, maintaining credibility in this cynical atmosphere is harder than ever- incredibly challenging. My administration recently put out a photo of me skeet shooting and even that wasn't enough for some people. Next week, we're releasing a photo of me clinging to religion.
And in the words of one of my favorite Star Trek characters- Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise- "May the force be with you."
It's Scotty's birthday, which is a major holiday around these parts.
See you tomorrow.
Categories: Star Trek
I imagine our Shelties all would have Scottish accents if they could speak, and Lucy, the oldest, would sound just like Deborah Kerr in the original Casino Royale.
They should just create a "Best Quentin Tarantino Film" category and be done with it.
How can you not like an Oscars show with two Captain Kirks?
I wish Spielberg had won best director. How great would it have been for him to talk too long and to have the Jaws music start..
The Pope's tweets come from an Apple device, which is kind of funny when you think about it...
Since I'm not a fan, I was a bit apprehensive about Seth McFarland hosting the Oscars. His performance reminded me of Calvin Trillin's suggested state motto for New Jersey: "Not as bad as you might have expected."
"Why Seth MacFarlane's Oscars were mean spirited and misogynistic, coming up next after our
review of the worst dressed women."
Totally unrelated: It turns out Person of Interest is more of a documentary...
So, the car has a USB port and user access to its multi-function display? What could go wrong?
The post-ignition status display was slightly different. Fortunately, Cindy has a sense of humor in addition to being a Star Trek fan.
I say we all wear red shirts on December 21, 2012. So at least if we die, we die as
Mr. Gene Roddenberry intended.
-from Twitter (via The Sanity Inspector)
This might be what finally motivates me to get a Blu-Ray player. The third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation was when the show finally jelled. Most of my favorite episodes come from that year: "Who Watches the Watchers?"; "Déjà Q"; "Yesterday's Enterprise"; "The Offspring"; "The Most Toys"; and the terrific cliffhanger, "The Best of Both Worlds".
(YouTube video: Star Trek: Next Generation - Season Three Blu-Ray trailer from CBS Home Entertainment. Turn off the lights, be sure you're in hi-def, go to full screen and crank up the sound.)