There, There, Sheldon. You Still Have Spock’s Napkin

It was a roller-coaster kind of day for me at work. Instead of arriving a few hours early, as I often do, I showed up pretty much on time; only to find out I had to complete a carry-over project from the night before AND cover for my opener who called out. Effectively, I had to do two jobs that I hadn’t planned on. It made for a rough morning. Later in the morning my baker Kira said a somewhat-irate customer asked to speak to the manager. C’mon, what else could go wrong, I thought? It turned out to be a visit from a former employee, one I am friends with on Facebook. He came into town for the science fiction/fantasy convention and told me next year’s featured guest will be none other than George R. R. Martin – author of my favorite fantasy series. Things were looking up.

Then came the news about Leonard Nimoy’s death. I’m not an overly emotional person – certainly not as much as my baker who got misty-eyed over the news – but it did bring me back down a bit. No more Spock (Prime). It would be illogical to argue against my belief that Spock was, by far, the most iconic of the Star Trek characters.

I own a boxed set of the first five Star Trek movies – purchased about two years before Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country came out. I really like the interview with Leonard Nimoy about directing and why the boxed set was set up in letterbox format (you know, wide screen – with the black bars on top and bottom of the screen which novice movie watchers think don’t belong there). He spoke of shot composition and how motion pictures still use the same artistic concept of composition that still photography uses. The big screen is more epic in scope than the more squared off televisions of old – and the director needed to use solid composition techniques to truly master film making. Nimoy was more than capable at that.

Also, a director needs to get the most out of his actors. As his first foray behind the camera I believe Leonard Nimoy managed to accomplish just that. As I mentioned above, he was more than capable at composing great shots, but it was William Shatner’s performance in The Search for Spock that was most telling of Nimoy’s abilities as a director. Shatner is not a bad actor, but his ability to overact at points has been the butt of many jokes of comedians, other actors and the public at large. Based on my own memory, I recall feeling Shatner’s performance in the third film one of his best. His reaction to his son’s murder at the hand of the Klingons was beautifully done. Not only that, but the killing of his son was also well-done. Some directors would’ve made it more dramatic and hampered the effect. It was best in the simplicity of his stabbing and near immediate death – no last breath dialog to make it corny. It’s lack of extra detail was almost very Vulcan in effect; Kirk’s son dies while he listens to the audio. Nothing can be done about it, and there were no goodbyes. It was so well executed in its simplicity. I’m not sure how much of that was Nimoy’s doing, but I’d assume, as director, he was the driving force behind that scene.

And let’s not forget his other accomplishments. Nimoy directed numerous movies, perhaps one of the most popular at the time being Three Men and Baby. And, try though I may, I’ll never get the Ballad of Bilbo Baggins out of my head. Heck, it’s painful to watch, but I think I’ll hop over to YouTube and check it out after I publish this. And his voice-over work was also wonderful – one of the great voices with fellow-Treker Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman and others. His voice just brought something to the characters or narration.

I’ll miss Leonard Nimoy. He certainly made a mark on Hollywood and film. After 83 years of life on this Earth, I guess he really did live long and prosper.

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Oh, To Be A Superhero

If I were a superhero…

How many young boys and girls dreamed about that possibility once or twice? I’m sure that number is in the vast majority of youngsters – and perhaps older people as well. After all, superhero movies are some of the biggest blockbusters hitting theaters these days. I am no exception to this fantasy. And, lately, I got to thinking…if I were a superhero, what super power would I want? Let’s examine some options, shall we.

X-Ray Vision: Okay, what teenage boy hasn’t desired this one? Once you discover girls that becomes THE super power of choice. No more getting caught checking out the babes in high school, just pretend to read a book, look right through it and, viola! Heck, just wait until they’re behind walls, preferably in the locker room, and let the gawking begin. If X-ray vision were real, it would be a blow to the porn industry. Pun intended.

Heat Vision: I’d hazard to say that lots of boys go through a pyro phase at one time. (Heh-heh, fire’s cool. Heh-heh.) I remember experimenting with magnifying glasses during the summer. Heck, it’s not just a young thing, either. I believe it was a grad student who designed the Solar Death Ray – an array of 112 mirrors focused on a single area. He’d load the target zone with any number of objects – a LEGO pirate ship, a honey bear, a computer’s sound card, a shoe – and let them burn! His commentary was brilliant as well. It certainly rekindled my pyro phase. Pun intended.

Flight: Yeah, it’d be very cool to be able to fly on one’s own power. But there are lots of pitfalls. Hawks, as well as other birds, can be very protective of their territory and I don’t think the human body is equipped for mid-air combat. If you got soaring too fast bugs would get in your teeth and/or eyes. At a distance a hunter may mistake you for dinner. Getting sucked into a jet engine doesn’t sound very appealing, either. Heck, with so many people flying their own, personal drones these days you could suffer serious injury if you fly without a cup. Nah, flying isn’t for me.

Super Speed: Usain Bolt almost already has it – but this one certainly tickled my fancy. I used to play basketball and scored on plenty of fast breaks. Still, imagine how many more points I could’ve scored with this power. Oh, another steal and lay-up. I would’ve been unstoppable! However, in all the comics I read super speed didn’t guarantee super coordination. One stumble and you’d skid across the pavement for half a mile. I’m sorry, rug burn is bad enough. I don’t need that kind of scraping on my body. That, and my wife would be disappointed. (Think about it. Think about it.)

Super Strength: Undeniably cool! The NFL is the premier sports league in the world. It has the largest per game following of any sport, even soccer (the original football). Imagine how easy it would be to blitz the quarterback with this, and the money you could make doing it. Heck, I’d take this one just for the ease of opening jars on a regular basis! But, once again, there can be drawbacks. Look at Mr. Incredible’s damaging of his car and dining room table in such a short span of time. Putting up pictures on the wall could be disastrous for home owners with super strength. Plus, with my temper this one could get ugly. So, I’d have to reject super strength, too.

Mind Reading: Okay, I think I’ve found it. After seventeen years of marriage I can honestly say that I still have no idea what women are thinking. As a teenager it would have been great to read the female mind. Granted, it’s so complex I still may not have understood it completely, but it would’ve been an advantage. I’ve heard people say chicks used to dig me in high school. Um, what? Maybe that mind reading would have come in handy, because I was clueless to that. And now that I have one teenage daughter, a soon-to-be teenage daughter and two daughters who will eventually be teenagers, I NEED this super power! Especially when they start dating – both for them and the boys they bring home!

So, which super power would you like to have? I usually don’t care if I ever get comments, but it would be neat to see what other people think.

America’s Coach

February 25th, 1989 is a day that will live in infamy. Well, at least with some die-hard Dallas Cowboys fans. This is the day when new team owner Jerry Jones fired legendary head coach Tom Landry in favor of his old University of Arkansas teammate Jimmy Johnson.

I remember it pretty well, not being a Cowboys fan. One of my brothers was a Cowboys fan, and man was he pissed. Lots of people were. Tom Landry, even after suffering back-to-back-to-back losing seasons, including the worst record his last year, was a legend. Lots of assistants were brought in which weren’t his selection, and that may have been a factor in their poor performance as the coaching staff didn’t have the cohesion necessary for the championship caliber performance Landry’s Cowboys were famous for. So it was a big blow to the fans of the man who revolutionized the game with the 4-3 defense, among other contributions.

Landry is ranked 3rd all-time in wins (I’m not sure where he ranked overall at the time of his firing). He holds records which will likely stand forever with 29 consecutive seasons with the same team and 20 consecutive winning seasons with the same team. Bill Belichick may be the only man who can catch that, but I don’t think Tom Brady can make it another five years to help that along. His success is what led the Cowboys to be called America’s Team – so I guess that makes him America’s Coach.

So, what about my brother? Did he remain a fan? Yes, he did. At least for a while. He was loyal to the Cowboys. And even though Jimmy Johnson came from coaching the University of Miami – one of his most-hated college teams – he gave him a chance. It turns out Jones was right in the short run. Johnson took the Cowboys to back-to-back Super Bowl titles in a few short years. His successor then won again two seasons later with Johnson’s team. Sometimes unpopular decisions are the right ones to make; and bringing in Johnson was the right thing to do.

But the wrong thing to do as an NFL owner is to let your ego run your product. Jerry Jones’ Cowboys have suffered a fair amount under his meddling – thinking he can coach or run personnel like the real professionals do. This past season’s success may continue for a few seasons, but Jones will find a way to disrupt the rhythm, he always does. And that is why my brother is no longer a Dallas Cowboys fan. Jones is the owner and can do what he wants with the team. But, as his unceremonious dismissal of Landry 26 years ago proves, it won’t have the same success as the consistency of Landry’s 29 years building America’s Team.

Epitome of Random – Vol 12

-My wife often says, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I say, “Other body parts, too.”

-I heard a report that 1 in 5 women find dog owners more attractive. The other 4 think my brother is still butt-ugly!

-I’d like to buy a boat and name it D.D. That way it’d be known as the S.S. D.D.

-Ghandi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” I think Dave Ramsey should say, “You must make the change you wish to see in your pocket.”

-A Roanoke, VA area doctor was recently convicted of prescription violations and possessing child porn. His name was Steven Collins. Hmm, what is it with guys named Steven Collins and inappropriate materials/behavior with minors?

-My friend Keith lost water to his house due to a water main break in our neighborhood. His wife went into labor that same night. Guess he had to deal with water breaking twice.

-Keith and his wife had a baby boy. His boss showed me a picture. Wow, he’s a BIG boy. Wait…that was just the umbilical cord.

-What makes a jerk chicken? Fowl language?

A Matter of Perspective

I work at a gourmet food store, as a bakery manager. Much like grocery stores, when there’s a severe weather scare it can get very busy. Snow and ice were in today’s forecast, which made Friday a hectic day for our entire staff as well as the high volume of customers jockeying for position in our little store. This sort of behavior happens anywhere in the country – store shelves get emptied when big snow storms and/or ice are on the horizon.

But there are some differences between this southern city and the snow-acclimated Pennsylvania in which I grew up. (The New York-native meat cutter and I had a brief laugh about the behavior and comments of the locals today.) It’s funny how after only about two inches had fallen the locals were getting worried about how bad it was. My baker from Atlanta was nervous, too. But when I heard a produce clerk ask if a young lady had 4-wheel drive because, “There’s like two inches of snow out on some of those cars,” I really had to exercise discipline and not start laughing out loud right then and there. (Heck, if I knew so few inches were big to southerners I would’ve dated more southern girls in college.)

But his comment also reminded me of a universal misconception. Although it was just a light, powdery snow at the time, there was ice in the later forecast. 4-wheel drive is not the solution to hazardous driving conditions. Just because you have it doesn’t mean all is well with your commute. Sure, a 4-wheel drive SUV is better equipped to handle snow-covered, slick roads than a rear-wheel drive sports car, but ultimately it is the driver behind the steering wheel who determines the overall safety of the driving. I’d trust an expert driver in the sports car over a reckless driver in an SUV any day of the week. I’ve seen more than enough 4-wheel drive SUVs in ditches to know the car can only take you so far.

So, how was my drive? The roads were covered with both packed powder and slushy, wet, grey muck. There was plenty of opportunity for slip-sliding away. Well, in my front-wheel drive minivan I made it home just fine. I kept it slow and steady the whole way – years of experience in PA helped with that. No 4-wheel drive necessary. But, due to my history, I guess I just had that different perspective.

Sledding

I was sick during this past bout of snow – the first real snow this winter where I live. As such, I spent most of my time in bed convalescing. My wife and neighbor (the senior with the bad back) shoveled the sidewalk and around the van in the driveway. I will forever feel guilty about that. As a 40-something it’s my job to do that sort of thing. Overall, I feel a little disappointed with myself for not doing my job.

But what I missed most of all was being outdoors with the girls as they went sledding in our back yard. We have a great little hill for sledding. Nothing too big or steep to worry me and the wife as parents, but still plenty steep and big enough for the kids to have lots and lots of fun. This is especially fun on the second or third day of cold weather, when the sledding path has frozen a little and become significantly faster. Then they shoot down the hill and plow into the powder at the bottom. I really enjoy hearing the exhilaration in their screams and laughter. That is one of those great parenting moments.

It reminds me of the first big snow we had since buying the house. The area was blanketed by 16 inches of snow shortly before Christmas (nice early present for the kids) and about 2 weeks later another 8 were added to that. And cold, but not arctic cold, temperatures kept the snow and sledding path up and running for a long time.

But my favorite memory during that winter had to be how the then-9-year-old decided to stop sharing rides with her then-5-year-old sister. With her longer stride and stronger legs she’d hustle her way back up the hill in order to jump into the sled before her sister could get in with her. Undeterred, her little sister gave great chase and almost managed to keep pace. Not enough to catch up to her big sister, but enough to get close enough to develop her own sledding method. You see, the older sister would quickly sit down in the sled and start to go down hill. Just as she was almost out of reach, her little sister would leap, stretch out as far as her little 5-year-old frame would allow, grab the back of the sled and get pulled along on her belly – screaming with sheer delight the whole way! (Maybe she was the inspiration for Olaf??) It will forever be a favorite memory until my brain ceases to function properly.

(Okay, that last sentence is an easy set-up to see if either of my brothers take the bait and comment on this blog once and for all.)

Baby It’s Cold Outside

So a large swath of the country is experiencing some pretty nasty cold weather. Even parts of Florida are getting hit with sub-freezing temperatures. Where I live it is balls cold. Even though there are plenty of places colder (and with significantly more snow), when words like hypothermia and frostbite hit the local headlines it’s just too darn cold to be outdoors.

This can be a difficult concept to convey to a six-year-old. When the 8 inches of snow hit on Monday she managed to enjoy sledding with her big sisters on Tuesday and Wednesday. Why not today? Well, baby it’s cold outside. She’s not thinking like that – she sees snow, she wants to go play in it. So, when I came home from work and the grocery store our conversation was not unlike the first between Zazu and Timon:

“Daddy, I wanna come out! I wanna come out!”

“I wanna come in! I wanna come in!”

Needless to say, she just has to learn to live with disappointment. The cold may do wonders for my sperm count – but if the producers get frozen off then that kind of defeats the purpose. Because…

When I walk into my freezer at work and close the door to get warm, it’s too darn cold!

When firefighters rush into a blazing building WITHOUT hoses and extinguishers, it’s too darn cold!

When your health-nut friend takes up smoking to stay warm on his walk to the car, it’s too darn cold!

When the neighborhood strays stick to the fire hydrant, it’s too darn cold!

When Santa guts Rudolph like a Tawn-tawn to save his elves, it’s too darn cold!

When roadkill shatters like glass, it’s too darn cold!

And when Canadians say “SCREW THIS!” it’s too darn cold!

Stay warm everyone, and don’t eat the yellow snow.