Monthly Archives: June 2015

This Will Be a Day Long Remembered


I’ve been trying to think all day of what I can say about this morning’s historic Supreme Court ruling that effectively legalizes same-sex marriage across the nation, and frankly… I’ve got nothing. At least nothing that others haven’t already said, and probably said better than I would anyhow.

I know there are many people who are unhappy about the verdict. Many people I consider friends are among them, and maybe a few of them actually made it past the photo at the top of the entry and are reading these words. To you, my religious conservative friends, all I can say is that I understand your bewilderment, your frustration, and your anger… and I’m sorry you’ve had such a shitty day. Sincerely, I am. I’ve been there too with issues I care deeply about that haven’t gone the way I hoped. But I know in my heart and in my mind that history will view this as a good decision, and a good day. A day that reaffirmed the first and most basic tenet behind the founding of this nation: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

What is more central to the pursuit of happiness than the freedom to marry the person with whom you want to build a life, and to have that union recognized by the same laws that validate and protect any other person’s union? That’s what this whole issue is and always has been about… not forcing churches to perform ceremonies they don’t approve of, but to ensure that everyone enjoys the same privileges and protections under the law, no matter whom they love.

People who say this country is going to hell in a hand-basket are wrong. This country just took a big step toward fulfilling the promise of what it’s supposed to be.


Review: Star Trek: Harlan Ellison’s The City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Teleplay

Star Trek: Harlan Ellison's The City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Teleplay
Star Trek: Harlan Ellison’s The City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Teleplay by Harlan Ellison

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“The City on the Edge of Forever” is widely regarded as one of the best — if not the best — episode of the original Star Trek series. But as every Trekkie worth his replicator credits knows, the version that got filmed was substantially different from the teleplay that science-fiction writer Harlan Ellison turned in. The notoriously prickly Ellison didn’t take too kindly to being rewritten, and he’s griped for years about how Gene Roddenberry screwed him and his story over, and how much better his version was than the one that viewers saw. Now his original teleplay has been brought to life in a form that gives us an idea of how it might have looked on the small screen if it’d been made the way Ellison wrote it. This graphic novel adaptation, with scripting by brothers Scott and David Tipton and artwork by J.K. Woodward, is an impressive piece of work. Woodward’s art is particularly noteworthy, a highly realistic painted style that captures the likenesses of actors William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Joan Collins, and Grace Lee Whitney with eerie accuracy. And it’s fascinating to see both the parallels and departures from the more familiar television version of the story. There’s only one problem: I personally don’t think Ellison’s version of the story is better (or even as good as) the revised one.

Oh, his ideas were grander than the revision’s, to be certain. His Guardians of Forever would’ve been much cooler than the “stone donut” the TV producers came up with as a cost-saving substitute, and his story features some poignant moments and themes that arguably shouldn’t have been left out. But Ellison’s teleplay also includes some really hackneyed space pirates, a lot of unnecessary characters (which of course would’ve cost money in the form of additional actors who need to be paid), and some cringe-worthy “far-out” sci-fi jargon that sounds like it came straight out of the rocket-ship movies of the 1950s instead of the more naturalistic style Star Trek was going for in the 1960s.

Also, I was deeply troubled by Ellison’s misunderstanding of the familiar characters. While it was great to see Yeoman Rand do some butt-kicking instead of playing the helpless female she so often was in the TV series, Spock comes across as a condescending, peevish, frankly kind of bitchy antagonist to Kirk. To be fair, Ellison probably wrote this before the series had really nailed down Spock’s characterization, but with the benefit of hindsight, this version of Spock is just flat-out wrong… except in the final scene when he tries to console his heartbroken captain. That scene works beautifully. But in general, Ellison’s teleplay, while entertaining and emotionally effective, feels more like an episode of The Outer Limits (which Ellison also wrote for) than Star Trek. It’s not that it’s bad, because it’s not… it’s very good as a science-fiction story. It’s just not very good Star Trek, if that makes sense.

Still, this graphic novel is well worth checking out for the artwork and the glimpse of what might have been. It includes all the variant covers by Juan Ortiz and Paul Shipper from the single-issue comic run, as well as an afterword that reveals all the “Easter eggs” the writers and artist slipped in. (Watch for an appearance by Ellison himself as “Trooper,” a character I’m deeply ambivalent about, because I don’t think the story needed him — as Ellison has always claimed — but I do like him and his interactions with Kirk.)

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In Memoriam: James Horner

james-hornerThe news started rippling out across social media last night before authorities had even confirmed the identity of the body: the Oscar-winning film composer James Horner was dead, killed in a plane crash.

I write about celebrity deaths all the time; it’s kind of become the schtick I’m known for, weirdly enough. I write about the ones that produce an emotional response in me, the ones I feel some degree of sorrow about. Some of them affect me more than others, especially if they’re sudden and/or unexpected. I’m positively numb over this one.

I’ve always had a few movie soundtracks in my music collection, going all the way back to the double-LP Empire Strikes Back album, but my interest in the genre really took off when I was working that notorious theater job in my early 20s, when I was immersed in the movie industry and exposed to film music constantly. Horner quickly became a favorite of mine, second only to the master, John Williams. He wasn’t always the most inventive of composers — he had a habit of reusing certain melodies and effects over and over, something I’m sure Kelly will address with more expertise than I can when gets around to writing about this — but he was a solid and prolific craftsman who turned out a lot of work that I love.

There’s not much else I can say right now. I don’t have any anecdotes about James Horner or his work, no personal recollections to speak of, beyond “I like his stuff.” And really, Horner’s music kind of says it all anyhow. So I’m going to take the easy way out and just share some of my favorite pieces with you, my Loyal Readers. I hope you’ll take the time to play the clips below, and that you’ll like what you hear. This music has, in a sense, been the soundtrack to my own life. Or at least a part of that soundtrack.

First up is a pulse-pounding track from Jim Cameron’s Aliens (1986), which accompanies the scene in which the Colonial Marines have made contact with the xenomorphs and are getting their asses handed to them; back aboard the armored personnel carrier, their inexperienced lieutenant is paralyzed with indecision, until Ripley finally takes matters into her own hands and seizes control of the APC and drives to the rescue. It’s some of the most adrenaline-triggering film music ever recorded, in my humble opinion:

If that sounds really familiar to you, it’s probably because it was became the standard “action-movie cue” used in countless trailers for several years during the ’90s. For an interesting exercise, compare it to “Surprise Attack” from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). This is the moment when the Enterprise encounters another Federation starship, not realizing it’s under the command of the villainous Khan, who closes to point-blank range before opening fire on our unsuspecting heroes. You’ll hear a lot of similarities to the Aliens piece, including something I’ve never been able to identify but which sounds (to me) like someone rapping on a pipe with a drumstick, a sort of “ting ting” effect. But while Horner is guilty of relying on some of his favorite tricks on this one — the general sound goes back to Roger Corman’s Battle Beyond the Stars (1980), as far as I’ve been able to determine — he also introduces a nautical feel, suggesting the starships are two giant galleons exchanging broadsides under full sail. And he subtly incorporates a little flourish from the original Star Trek television series and a couple of callbacks to the cosmic weirdness that Jerry Goldsmith created for the previous installment, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, making this score, in many respects, the most “Star Trek-y” of them all:

For Glory, Edward Zwick’s 1989 film about the first African-American infantry unit to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War, Horner incorporates a vocal chorus and a generally softer tone. I’ve always found this track, from near the movie’s climax, especially moving. Its elegiac tone as the men of the 54th Massachusetts prepare for what they know is likely a suicide mission, followed by the rising pace of the martial drums as they begin their final charge, breaks my heart and brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it:

And finally, here’s the main title from what is probably my favorite James Horner score, The Rocketeer (1990). It’s beautiful, upbeat, optimistic, and it perfectly captures the feeling of leaving the ground. A couple weekends ago, Anne and I took her father for a ride on a historic B-17 Flying Fortress, and this was what I heard in my mind as the runaway started to roll past the gunport I was looking through, and then fell away as the big old bird slipped into the crystal-clear sky with more grace than you’d expect…

Although the selections I chose here are all 25 years old (or more, in the case of Khan), Horner was no has-been. He worked steadily from 1978 right up to the present moment, and no doubt had a lot left to do. Three films featuring scores by him are due out this year: Wolf Totem, The 33, and Southpaw. He was only 61.



Apropos of the previous entry, here’s a fun little video that explores the origin and evolving usage of the word “dude”:

Just as an aside, the word has a rather personal connotation for me: Back in the theater days, my fellow ushers and I took to calling ourselves “The Dudes,” a self-aggrandizing nickname we still use when we refer to each other, and when we send out the invitations to our annual “Dudes reunion dinner” around Christmas time.

And of course the video leaves out the most famous modern-day incarnation of dudeness, The Dude himself:

the-dudeBut there might have been some licensing issues there. I still thought it was a pretty interesting little tidbit.

Via Boing Boing, naturally.


What Did You Do with Your Saturday?

You know, the whole thing actually started as a joke.

Several years back, a good friend of mine was badly stressed while making arrangements for his upcoming wedding. Knowing of his affection for the film The Big Lebowski, and remembering something I’d run across in my wanderings across the endless InterWebs, I went to the Church of the Latter-Day Dude and got myself ordained as a Dudeist priest. I then sent him a message that said, essentially, “You can relax, all your planning troubles are over… I can marry you!” We both got a laugh out of it, and that was that.

Except it wasn’t. Some time later, I told this story to some other friends of mine, Geoff and Anastasia, and the next time Anne and I got together with them, they had a question for me. They wanted to know if that Dudeist thing was for real… if I could — if  I would  — perform their upcoming wedding? I was honored, flattered, and more than a little freaked out by their request. But I went ahead and made a couple phone calls, just to confirm that the State of Utah would recognize an online ordination from a tongue-in-cheek “religion” inspired by an oddball movie. And then just to be sure, I took out a more-legitimate sounding second ordination with something called the American Marriage Ministries. And then this happened:

Wedding-79_editAnd that, I thought, was that.

Except it wasn’t.

Two days before this past New Year’s Eve, Anne’s sister-in-law contacted me to ask if I’d be willing to do another wedding. Her sister wanted to tie the knot before the end of the year, and they didn’t know who else they could get on such short notice. I never did find out what the hurry was; something to do with taxes maybe. But hey, they offered to pay me for my trouble, and I was off work anyhow, so, in the middle of the afternoon on New Year’s Eve, I drove to a stranger’s house with my ordination certificates and a printed-out script and I married a second couple. Made some decent money doing it, too.

This past Saturday, I performed my third wedding, a favor for my good friend Mike Gillilan, a guy I met 26 years(!) ago, back in those infamous movie-theater days. We held it in a public park at the base of the magnificent Wasatch Mountains, with just a few family members and friends about. The sun was high and intense, but a bit of a breeze rolling up the side of the mountain carried away the worst of the heat, and I didn’t even stumble over the script this time. I just joined Mike and his bride Caroline in matrimony as easy as driving to the 7-Eleven for a Slurpee.

And then I went to a Willie Nelson concert.

Life takes you to some unexpected places sometimes, doesn’t it?


Review: Highlander, Volume 1: The Coldest War

[Ed. note: I recently joined Goodreads, the social media platform centered around books and reading, in hopes of… I don’t know… recapturing some of the literary mojo I’ve been feeling like I’ve lost, I guess. I’m also a member of a similar online community called LibraryThing, if you’ll recall, but I never could get the hang of the social aspects of that site; I’ve always used it purely as a catalog of my book collection. Goodreads, on the other hand, seems a lot better designed for the way I socialize online these days. (Basically, Goodreads is not a siloed community like LT; you can easily share your Goodreads activity on your Facebook page, if you’re exhibitionistic that way… which, apparently, I am.) I still haven’t quite decided if I like Goodreads, or how much I like it, but if nothing else, it’s providing more inspiration to write reviews than I’ve felt in some time. Goodreads makes it easy to export your reviews to other platforms, too, so as an experiment, I’m going to let it crosspost them here on Simple Tricks. (People who follow me on Facebook will also get links there; sorry, I don’t mean to spam you, I just know there are Loyal Readers here who aren’t on Facebook.) If you want to read my earlier reviews, there’s a link at the bottom of this post. And if you want to follow me on Goodreads, my profile is here. And feel free to let me know if this is interesting content to you, or if you’d rather I knock it off… ]

Highlander, Volume 1: The Coldest War
Highlander, Volume 1: The Coldest War by Brandon Jerwa

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Continuity in the Highlander franchise is a tricky thing to explain to any but the hardcore fan, so my apologies if the following is as clear as mud: This graphic novel (which collect issues 0-5 of the tie-in comic series by Dynamite Entertainment) takes place shortly after the events of the original Highlander film, but within the timeline of the Highlander TV series, in which the events of the movie were retconned a bit. Which means that Connor MacLeod has defeated the monstrous immortal known as The Kurgan, exactly as seen in the movie, only without winning The Prize… it was just another fight between immortals and not the final battle. Savvy?

Okay, now that’s out of the way… the story begins with Connor abruptly called away from his new bride, Brenda Wyatt, to reunite with two other immortals and an elderly human scientist for a secret mission into the heart of the Soviet Union. Through flashbacks, we learn that the four of them had confronted The Kurgan once before, 20 years earlier, along with an army of genetically engineered cultist warriors who were fanatically loyal to the villainous immortal. They thought they’d defeated the cultists then, but now that Kurgan is dead, they’re back and looking to avenge their old master. They’ve already caused the historic accident at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, and now they have bigger things in mind. They’ve got to be stopped…

Following the resolution of this storyline (comprising issues 0-4), we have a short interlude (issue 5) featuring Connor’s kinsman Duncan MacLeod. Brenda has been injured in a car accident and is in surgery while the two immortal cousins talk, argue, and console one another.

Both stories capture the general tone of the Highlander TV series and are enjoyable, if rather superficial. The villains of “The Coldest War” are never fleshed out in any meaningful way and are merely “the bad guys”; the same with Paul and Tasya, Connor’s immortal comrades. We learn nothing about either of them and have no real emotional connection to them. The elderly mortal in the story, Doctor Volkov, fares a bit better, but only just. Brenda is a virtual non-entity in both stories. On the positive side, however, the writers have a good grip on the voices of the two MacLeods, and it’s easy to imagine the dialogue being spoken by actors Christopher Lambert and Adrian Paul.

The artwork by Lee Moder in “The Coldest War” and Kevin Sharpe in “New Years Eve” is hit-and-miss, although I see a better resemblance to the actors in Sharpe’s work. The action is at least easy to follow, which I find is occasionally a problem in modern comics.

Overall, this is a pleasing but not spectacular return to the Highlander universe for fans of the franchise, but I can’t imagine it would make any new fans. I am willing to continue with Volume 2, though, so that’s something…

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Friday Evening Videos: “For What It’s Worth”

For a time in my teens and early twenties, I had a serious thing for the music of the 1960s. I remember I was becoming disenchanted with the direction contemporary pop music was headed by the late ’80s; meanwhile, the ’60s were very alive and accessible in the culture at that point, with constant media chatter about various landmark anniversaries, and period TV shows like The Wonder Years, China Beach, and occasional episodes of Quantum Leap. Probably the biggest reason was that I was spending every available moment of free time in the driver’s seat of my old ’63 Galaxie, which had only a stock AM radio, and there wasn’t much else to listen to on AM.

But whatever the impetus, I responded to this uncharted sonic territory like fanboys have done from time immemorial, by diving in headfirst and trying to learn everything about it I possibly could. I fondly recall afternoons at the library, paging through the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll and fat tell-all biographies of Jim Morrison, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, and The Beach Boys. I loved discovering the connections between bands that I knew and ones I’d never heard of, and learning how the whole thing evolved. And I loved having this thing I could call my own. A lot of kids latched onto punk or Goth or some other form of “alternative” music. Later on, they’d have their grunge. Me, I expressed my individuality by digging the Sixties.

Eventually, the passion cooled and I moved on to other things, as one does. But there is still a lot of music from that era that I enjoy. Some of it is very badly dated now — the psychedelic stuff sounds really lame to me these days — but as with any musical genre or era, there are some songs that transcend their origins and continue to resonate. This week’s “Friday evening” selection is one of those.

“For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield was written by Steven Stills, who would later become part of Crosby, Stills & Nash (and occasionally Young), and later still enjoy a successful solo career. The song is often said to be about the infamous Kent State massacre, when members of the Ohio National Guard opened fired on unarmed college students during an anti-war protest, killing four of them; in reality, the song was written in 1966, four years prior to the events at Kent State, which occurred in 1970. Released in 1967, it would become the band’s highest-charting hit and is today ranked by Rolling Stone as one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

It’s a song that has haunted me at various times in my life. It comes to mind whenever the world feels like it’s spinning a little too fast, or is about to tip all the way over. The lyrics about paranoia and battle lines never seem to lose their relevance, and just lately, with all the back-and-forth about police brutality and who’s got privilege and who doesn’t, the bit about a man with a gun “telling me I got to beware” is downright chilling. Especially today, the day after Charleston. I’ve been feeling an angry energy building out there, like static electricity in the air. At times like this, when all the troubles of our nation lay exposed on the ground beneath an unflinching sun and civilization itself feels most precarious, “For What It’s Worth” starts playing in my head.

The video clip I’ve found for tonight is a live performance from the Monterrey Pop Festival, a landmark concert event that predated the more famous Woodstock by two years. It’s a bit more upbeat than most versions of the song I’ve heard, and we’ve got some nice imagery of cute little hippie children and balloons to take off some of the edge. And just for fun, Buffalo Springfield is introduced by Peter Tork of The Monkees:

And with that, as they used to say back in the days of flowers and love, “Peace.”


Another Day, Another Massacre

During his six years in office, President Obama has been obliged to make 14 public statements following a mass shooting. Think about that for a moment. Sit back and let it really sink in:

Fourteen mass shootings in a six-year period.

Fourteen. In six years.

That’s damn near one every six months.

But here’s the really horrible thing about that statistic: They’re really not much of a surprise anymore, are they? Oh, we react as if they are. We all gasp and get on social media to express our horror, grief, disbelief, anger, and condolences. Editorials get written. An image of the shooter (preferably looking as deranged and/or hateful as possible) appears in so many places that it gets engraved into our collective memory under the catch-all rubric “Evil,” while the faces of the people whose lives he — it’s always a male, isn’t it? — extinguished go unrecognized. We shake our fists at the sky and shout that something needs to be done. But it never is, is it? Nothing ever changes. Nothing happens. In a few days, we’ll be once again collectively obsessing over the latest celebrity gossip, or the hot new blockbuster at the multiplex, or the latest tempest-in-a-teapot outrage, and the shooting will fade from our consciousness. And then the next one will come along, and we’ll go through the same pointless, Sisyphean cycle all over again.

The squicky, hard-to-admit truth is that mass shootings have been happening so regularly in recent years, we’ve actually gotten kind of used to them. Again, let that sink in. It happens so goddamned often that we’ve gotten used to them. The cycle of grief and horror and outrage following each one gets shorter and shorter, and the words spoken by our pundits and our president have less and less power, because they’ve said all the same things before. All too many times before.

You can hardly blame the president for sounding fed up during his remarks about last night’s killing of nine parishioners in a Charleston, SC, church. Having to make the same grim speech of condolence fourteen times ought to be enough to make anyone angry. The fact that this shooting has a personal dimension for him — that the dead were African-American like himself, that he personally knew the pastor who was killed, that the site of their murders was a historically significant black church that has been witness to violence before, and that the, ahem, alleged shooter was a young white racist — could only have added fuel to the fire. I came away with the distinct impression that the president was boiling this morning. But sometimes anger is a good thing, an empowering thing. Certainly it empowered President Obama to say something today that needs to be said, and has needed to be said for some time, and needs to be said over and over until it, too, starts to sink in:

At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it. And at some point it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it, and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.

Emphasis mine. Now, from my perspective, that observation about other countries is so self-evident that it’s impossible to imagine anyone disputing it. And yet… within seconds of the words leaving the president’s mouth, the comments started appearing on Facebook and Twitter and on the websites reporting on his statement. Comments from the usual trolls and haters, calling Obama naive, a fool, an idiot, and worse. And of course there were concerned citizens reminding us that he’s ignoring ISIS’ beheading of Christians! How can Obama say there’s no mass violence in other countries when Muslim terrorists walk the earth?!

I apologize to any conservative friends who may be reading this, but those responses are evasive bullshit. ISIS operates in unstable, war-torn parts of the Middle East, a region that’s hardly comparable to our society even when things aren’t going to hell over there. But in the industrialized Western countries that are similar to our own — the European nations, Australia, Canada, Japan (even though it’s not technically Western), the countries Obama was talking about — the level of violence we just suck up and live with would be unthinkable. Yes, acts of violence, even mass violence, do occur in those countries. But they happen far less often than in America. Far less often. And it’s about damn time we stopped denying it and started seriously thinking about why. I think the answer is pretty clear to anybody with any intellectual honesty. It’s because America is awash in guns, and we glorify gun violence in our national mythology and our popular entertainment. We are a gun-worshipping society that values individual action over the good of the community, and none of the other advanced Western nations are that way. QED.

Now, for the record, I am not particularly anti-gun. I don’t own one, and I can’t imagine any circumstance in which I ever will own one. I don’t view the world in such a way that owning one seems necessary. But I have friends who own them, and they’re decent, responsible human beings who I trust not to go out and shoot up a crowded public place. So while I don’t get the appeal myself, I also have no desire to see my friends’ hobby taken away from them. However, it makes no damn sense to me that we regulate automobiles and the privilege of operating them more heavily than we do firearms.

Not that it really matters what I think or understand. As President Obama himself acknowledged, there’s no political will to enact truly effective or meaningful gun control. The gun lobby won that battle of the culture war years ago, and anyway, there is also the practical matter of how many guns are actually floating around out there already. I don’t believe for a second there’s any realistic way of rounding them all up and doing away with them, the paranoid fantasies of the “cold, dead fingers” crowd notwithstanding. That’s one way in which America is truly exceptional.

No, it doesn’t matter what I think, or what the president thinks, or what anybody else thinks. Nothing is going to change. And in six months or a year, another man with a gun is going to murder another roomful of people, and we’re going to have this same damn discussion again. That thought — that certainty — fills me with disgust and rage and a crushing sense of futility.

At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.

God, I hope so…


Christopher Lee on Escapism


Science-fiction and fantasy are utterly mainstream these days, and superheroes of various descriptions are as plentiful in movies and on TV as private eyes were back in the 1980s. And yet, despite a level of mass acceptance that I couldn’t have imagined when I was a nerdy little kid living in fear of getting teased for liking stories about spaceships and robots, I still have moments when I feel like I need to defend the merits of this stuff. As popular as SF&F (as folks in the know call it) has become, there’s still a snotty assumption made by many people that it’s just silly kid-stuff… superficial trifles that are beneath the attention of true cineastes. Or at least ought to be. Even people who’ve made their careers by participating in this genre occasionally fret that grown-ups aren’t really justified in enjoying it. And it really bugs the shit out of me.

For one thing, I could make a case that something like the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe actually is quite meaningful, if you’re willing to attune yourself to and look a little more deeply than the surface-level “stuff blow up good” veneer. But even if a given superhero movie or a story about spaceships and robots really doesn’t have much to say about the human condition, so what? I tried to be a film snob in my younger days, I really did. It didn’t stick. Because on some fundamental, instinctual, hell, probably molecular level, I knew what it takes the title character of the Preston Sturges classic Sullivan’s Travels an entire movie to figure out: that there is value in escapism for its own sake.

The mesmeric film star Christopher Lee, who passed away yesterday at the enviably advanced age of 93, understood this too. Here’s something he said in an interview given 12 years ago. He was speaking specifically of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, but it applies equally well to any genre movie or trashy “airport novel,” in my opinion:

…we all love to dream. We don’t live in a particularly attractive world. I don’t really remember, except as a small boy, anything but a pretty grim world. I’m old enough to have seen Hitler in the flesh. I’m old enough to have been in Munich in 1934, on the night of the long knives, when Hitler butchered so many of his own people. I’m old enough to remember the Second World War and all the other things. So I’m not being a Cassandra, who prophesied nothing but evil and misery; I’m simply facing reality. So, yes, let us not lose faith, let us be optimistic, let us believe in the good things, but we still have to face the world as it is. When you live in a world like that, what do you want? You want to escape, to get out of this world from time to time, into another world, a magical world, an enchanted world, where things happen we dream about, a world of fairy stories and wizards. It is like the conjurer, the enchanter, or magician who says, “Look, nothing up my sleeve. When I do this, you will come into my enchanted world!”  Dreaming, escaping, that is what we’re talking about. I firmly believe that is why this kind of film is so universally popular, and always will be, because people like to get into another world.

Amen, sir. Thanks for helping to bring so many of those other worlds to life…

Via Boing Boing.


Shatner’s First Exotic Ride

You know, that fancy Rivet tricycle isn’t the first exotic vehicle that’s been associated with William Shatner. There’s also the little beauty that appears in this photo:

star-trek_shatner-space-carAn Internet evergreen, that photo seems to cross my radar every six months or so. (Truth be told, I’ve been waiting for an excuse to post it myself.) I have no idea what the story behind it is, whether it was a publicity still for Star Trek, or for the car itself, or if maybe it was just an amusing snapshot somebody grabbed one day that later escaped into the wild. Any of those options seem reasonable, since Shatner is in costume as Captain Kirk, and the car — a one-of-a-kind show vehicle that was originally titled the Autorama Special, and later renamed the Reactor — appeared in a 1967 Trek episode called “Bread and Circuses.”

The Reactor actually has a pretty interesting history, if you’re into this sort of thing. Built in 1965 by a Southern California hot-rodder named Gene Winfield, the two-seater boasts a lightweight aluminum body; a front-wheel drive train powered by a Chevy Corvair engine; electronically operated doors, hood, and roof bubble; and height-adjustable suspension… all features that were well ahead of their time. In addition to Star Trek, the Reactor was also featured in an episode of Bewitched and twice showed up on Adam West’s Batman series as Eartha Kitt’s Catwoman car.

Winfield enjoyed a long association with Hollywood, thanks in large part to the notoriety he gained from the Reactor. He would go on to build or play a hand in the design of many film and television vehicles, including the full-size mock-up of the Galileo shuttlecraft, again for Star Trek; the modified Sunbeam Tiger driven by Don Adams as the title character in Get Smart; and a plastic-bodied vehicle called the Piranha, which was prominently featured in The Man from UNCLE. Winfield’s creations in the ’80s included the 6000 SUX from Robocop; the flying version of the time-traveling Back to the Future DeLorean; the sleek “starcar” seen in both CGI and physical form in The Last Starfighter; and some 25 vehicles for Blade Runner, most notably the police “Spinner” that whisks Harrison Ford around the dystopian Los Angeles of the year 2019.

As for the Reactor, the commission job that put Winfield on the map, it still exists. Gene reacquired it in 1999 — I haven’t been able to learn where it was in the decades between its TV heyday and then — and restored it. It now resides at his shop, Winfield Rod & Custom, in Mojave, California. Yes, Gene is still building cars at the age of 87… another fine example of not fading away with age!