One of the interesting things about popular culture is that popular culture eventually just becomes culture. What starts off as a joke or a meme or a tv gag eventually finds its way into the common language. Many pop culture phenomena are ephemeral and eventually fade away. Today’s flavor of the week pop song fades away after a few months and that’s that. Maybe it gets a snippet of air play here and there. But some pop cultural phenomena endure and take on a life of their own, living far beyond the bands, franchises, and brands that gave them life.
One of those pop cultural phenomena is the Vulcan salute. Go find a teenager who has never seen Star Trek and ask them if they recognize the hand sign with “Live long and prosper”. I’ll bet you anything that they do. That’s because Star Trek was such a good show that it wound up giving birth to many pop cultural phenomena that made it over the gap and became permanently part of our culture. One of the big contributions to the cultural lexicon from Star Trek is the Vulcan salute, a hand signal typically accompanies by the words “Live long and prosper.” You’ll see this gesture and its accompanying phrase on Star Trek t shirts.
Believe it or not, the Vulcan salute was not created by the show’s writers. The writers of Star Trek did not conceive of the gesture, nor the words. Leonard Nimoy himself invented the gesture and put the words to it. Leonard Nimoy is Jewish and he based the gesture on something he saw Orthodox Rabbis doing when visiting an Orthodox synagogue as a child. He saw that they made a gesture where the ring and middle fingers were separated and the thumbs extended, and that they used this gesture when placing their hands on something to bless it. The hand position mimics the Hebrew letter “shin” which is short for one of the names of God in Hebrew. Nimoy created this gesture when he decided that the Vulcans were a race for whom the hand was very important.
The phrase “Live long and prosper,” while not sourced to any particular historical text, does have some antecedents. Various phrases in ancient Egyptian and medieval English literature have phrases that are not exactly the same as “Live long and prosper” but are fairly similar to it. “Live Long and prosper” is featured on many Star Trek t shirts.
I’m sure by now you have heard the news regarding the death of Leonard Nimoy yesterday. Most of the nerdosphere heard it within about an hour. I was going to write this last night but honestly needed some time to collect my thoughts and feelings regarding the death of my all time favorite actor.
Readers of this blog back when I did a lot more writing on it and most of my friends will have gleaned that my childhood was not exactly a Norman Rockwell-esque wholesome love and kisses with fireworks on the 4th of July clone of the Wonder Years. My father was an abusive alchoholic rage monster who’s one contribution to my upbringing was a desire to “make me tough” with a Darwin/Nietzsche approach and my mother was so wrapped up in surviving him that she more or less left with zero attention. My so called peers and friends were to a kid hierarchical bullies with me inevitably at the bottom of the pile and my teachers oblivious to the crap I was dealing with. Each day was a miserable struggle with the only the question of whether school, after school, or home would be the most awful.
The one ray of light and hope in that experience was always for me Star Trek. The crew of the Enterprise was the friends I always wanted and Spock was the father I dreamed of having (with Kirk as the fun crazy but loving uncle who took me out to do stuff my mother (Nurse Chapel) would not approve of). When things were at their worst I could tune into any given episode and suddenly cease to feel like I was traveling this universe alone but instead had Sulu and Checkov piloting the ship with Spock as my eyes, Uhura as my mouth, Scotty as my heart, Bones as my immune system, and Kirk as my brain (plus a raft of Red Shirts to protect me from my enemies). For the 50 minutes or so the show was on I ceased to feel despair and loneliness.
It goes deeper than that. In spite of the craptacular example of what a male is from my father I have grown into a man of honor, honesty, integrity, kindness, generosity, temperance, and level logical thought and everything I know about courage, friendship, loyalty, fair dealing, and problem solving I can lay fairly at Gene Roddenberry’s feet. They provided me with an example of what a good human is at a time when I was surrounded by horrible ones and for that I will be eternally grateful. (This might give you an insight into why I am so constantly furious at the JJ Abrams reboot but we’ll save that for another day.) Every one of my current interest, hobbies, business, and all things that shaped me into who I am now stems from Star Trek.
So we come to the death of my dream father Spock and more importantly the wonderful man who played him Leonard Nimoy. I was such a fan of his that I would religiously watch In Search Of just to hear his voice. Many actors have been cast to play Vulcans and they do so to a greater or lesser extent but in general no one has ever matched Leonards ability to play actual unemotional punctuated by emotional bouts. Most people play Vulcans as just coldly angry but Mr. Nimoy managed to transmit his desire for non-emotion while plagued by his human side. Truly there will never be another one like him. For me he was the father/best friend I always wanted and the person Mr. Nimoy was always seemed not far from that ideal.
I admit that when Spock died at the end of the Wrath of Khan I cried like a little girl and even now thinking about it in context of Leonard passing I find myself tearing up. At the time I knew that the crew I grew up with was never going to be as cool and complete as it was in the past and I felt a piece of my childhood that I cherished dying as well. I feel that even more strongly today and am more sorry about Mr. Nimoy passing than any other celebrity I have ever been a fan of. However, I think his very last Tweet to be apropos of my own experience and feelings:
“A life is like a garden, Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.”
Farewell my dear friend.
Feb. 28th, 2015
This was an episode that didn’t really excite me as a kid but now as an adult I love it. The entire concept was fascinating; an Earth remote probe meets up with an alien probe and the two of them merge into a super monster with a bizarre twisted mission to find perfection and sterilize anything found less then perfect. If you are a fan of the Berserker series by Fred Saberhagen this might resonate with you.
Plus any episode where Spock gets to use his mind meld is plus for me. Of course in later series’s any time a Vulcan showed up on the screen you know it’s only a matter of time before they trot out the old mind meld again. Sometimes it’s ok to come up with something original instead of milking the old cow for the stuff the fan boys crave.
You know, that makes me wonder a lot about mind melds. Can all Vulcans do it? Seems like so. Spock is only half Vulcan, so does that mean Tuvok is twice as good, or is it a training thing? If a Vulcan truly mind melds with someone does that mean the person they are melding with also gets into the Vulcans head? They sure implied that when the Horta learned how to write after merging with Spock in the Devil in the Dark. If so whenever a high ranking Star Fleet officer uses mind meld to gain information from an enemy isn’t there a huge chance that the enemy might get some kind of top secret from him or her? You know, things like access codes, deflector shield frequencies, or Captain Kirks favorite space condom color. You never know when these things can screw you up.
Also, if a Vulcan can mind meld with a giant lava monster in like five minutes doesn’t that mean that two Vulcans should be able to meld in like three seconds? If so why do they even bother with speaking? Seems like if you wanted to get a PhD in Xenobiology you could just brain suck the most advanced Vulcan Xenobiologist and learn all he or she knew (while he or she would gain your knowledge of 15th century bardiches). Since Spock managed to copy his entire personality and download it into McCoy at the end of TWOK it seems like a pretty reasonable thing to do. Why aren’t all Vulcans masters of everything?
Anyway, I do now really enjoy this episode. I love the scene were Kirk convinces Nomad he made a mistake. One scene where Shatners overacting really, really worked. Spock is not the only crew member capable of logical thought. The image I pulled from the Star Trek t-shirt category. Talk to you soon.
the Infamous Dave Inman
This is one of the episodes that as a kid I found kind of confusing and as such have a less than fond feeling for. I couldn’t figure out who all these aliens were and why they were on the Enterprise. I liked Sarek and thought the Andorians were cool, but then one of them turned out to be a spy and I thought the fake antennae kind of gross. Also I never liked the Tellarite. Sorry but pig+man=/=great alien in my book.
(Episode image courtesy of the Star Trek T Shirt category)
As an adult I get more from it. I appreciate the sacrifice Spock is willing to make for his duty and the effort Kirk put into getting Spock down to sick bay. I’m still not sure how Thelev knew how to perform Tal-Shaya when he killed the Tellarite. Was he a surgically modified Vulcan? Did he receive training in Vulcan martial arts, like when we study Kung Fu or Krav Maga? Given the differences in alien physiology how did Spock even know that Tal-Shaya was used? If someone were to kill a Horta with Tal-Shaya would it be instantly obvious to another Vulcan? Maybe Tellerites just have naturally weak necks and Gav snapped it when he tripped on his shoelace. What if Thelev just hit Gav in the neck with a big spanner and it looked like Tal-Shaya?
Also I’d like to point out that the trick of shutting down all internal systems to suck in an enemy ship closer had already been used in Balance of Terror. This episode was in the middle of Season 2, so really they should not have been recycling stuff quite so soon. Still, some great entertainment to be had here. If you are clever you can see the changes they made to the Andorian costume from this episode and the one in Enterprise.
“the Infamous” Dave Inman
Another one of my favorite episodes. I like to think that a lot of space horror ideas were sparked here. Alien, for example. Also, this is a good example of how Captain Kirk will always be a better captain than Picard. Remember the TNG episode where the crystalline entity was literally sucking up millions of sentient beings and Picard wanted to find a way to talk to it? This gas cloud kills a couple red shirts (oh, yeah. Also half of the Farragut’s crew) and Kirk is willing to drop an antimatter bomb on it. My kind of captain. The one thing any hapless red shirt could count on is after his or her horrible death if there was someone or something that could be made to bleed for it Kirk would find a way. Good luck with that on the NCC-1701-D. I hope your family receives a copy of the strongly worded letter of protest Picard sent to whatever alien monster snacked on your bone marrow to go with your folded Federation flag.
(Red shirt image courtesy of the Star Trek T-Shirt category)
I also liked Ensign Garrovick. There was a series of cool named red shirts who later just disappeared (Riley, for one). I wonder if Shatner ever felt threatened by them and had them axed. I wouldn’t put it past him. I am a massive Shatner fan and Kirk will always be my captain but I freely acknowledge that in general he was a total jerk.
“the Infamous” Dave Inman
Ah, a classic. Of course it is in my nature to be a contrarian and as this episode is beloved by almost everyone I should find a reason to hate it, but I don’t. This episode puts a big smile on my face every time. I love the story, I love the Klingons, I love the big bar fight started by Scotty; there is nothing in this episode that does not make me happy.
I could talk about the paranoia of the 70’s and how the Klingons were clearly the Russians, but honestly I have always had another question. At one point Kirk goes to the rec room to get dinner and his meal comes out of the replicator covered with Tribbles who had eaten his food. The question is this: did the replicator replicate some live Tribbles? Is the TOS replicator different from the TNG? Is it just a very high speed food processor? If so how did the Tribbles survive being microwaved or whatever process was used to heat up the food? Shouldn’t Kirk have gotten a meal of fried Tribble? Crazy Delicious image courtesy of the Star Trek t shirt collection.
Another thing I love about this episode is that is for the first time ever showed Kirk beaten down and at his wits end. The scene where he is walking slowly around the bridge picking up Tribbles pretty much says everything possible about what was going on. When he finally freaks out it the timing and tone is perfect. I also like how he started the episode not taking the grain or Tribbles at all seriously but eventually had to. Kudos to the great director Joseph Pevney.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to throw a shout out to my friend Miles, the Tribble Guy. I have seen him at every Star Trek convention we have set a booth up at and he is a good dude. He and I usually sit around bitching about the assorted conventions we do. He is not hard to spot as he drives a panel truck with giant Tribbles on it. He sells Tribbles of the highest quality, not to mention stuffed germs that are hilarious. You can find them at his site Tribble Toys.
“the Infamous” Dave Inman
This episode always brings a big smile to my face. As a kid my favorite episodes always had a lot of hand to hand combat and this episode was nothing but that in all of Shatners greatest shoulder roll glory.
This was also the episode that as a preteen boy most flipped my hormone switch, if you know what I mean. To this day whenever I see a girl with green hair (and/or a silver lame bikini) I flash back to the gorgeous Angelique Pettyjohn as Shahna. My ultimate fantasy would have to be her and metal bikini Leia. Yes, I know I’m a pig. At least I’m a nerdy pig.
This episode also introduced us to the currency I plan to use to replace all world currencies once I conquer this pathetic mudball, quatloos (I also plan to have martial combats be a means of settling legal disputes and caning be an Olympic event). I see the Canadian habit of calling their one dollar coin a loonie a sign of their connectivity with the gestalt human consciousness since I believe quatloos will be called “loos” for short. Kudos to our friends in the Great White North.
On a side note if I were a lowlie crewman on board the Enterprise doing my daily job of mucking out the toilets and exterminating Tribbles I think I would have a problem with Kirk betting my life and freedom in a 3 to 1 fight to the death. I’m pretty sure there is a Starfleet regulation somewhere that says your commanding officer cannot sell you into slavery. Image courtesy of the retro TV show t shirt category.
“the Infamous Dave” Inman
Yes I’m back on this. In fact I need to stay on it in order to actually finish this project. I have an idea following this for TNG next.
So A Piece of the Action. I quite liked this episode. The story of how the Sigma Iotians became all 20’s gangster actually made sense, as opposed to “they just evolved into an exact replica of a Paramount backlot”. Sorry but the whole Yang thing from Omega Glory always bugged me (not to mention the Roman Empire from Bread and Circuses).
The other part about this that rocked is it really shows the importance of the Prime Directive. The book Chicago Mobs of the Twenties was left pretty much by accident by the Horizon and rewrote the entire direction of the culture of the Sigma Iotians. Would that JJ Abrams had watched this episode before creating his last abomination (actually, would that JJ Abrams had ever watched a single episode before signing up to direct the Star Trek reboot).
As an aside I recently learned that Star Trek fans at the Vegas Con voted Star Trek Into Darkness the worst movie of the series. Kudos to you all. This is why I love Trek fans and am proud to count myself among your number. Of course the TNG Fanboys voted First Contact the number two best movie in a lame homage to the Borg but as long at TWOK is number one I have no real complaint (although if we were to sit down together I could tell you in excruciating detail why First Contact also sucks. Am I too hardcore in my Star Trek purity? Mabye). I might do a blog about that list some time in the future. It puts a smile on my face.
The episode image comes from the TV Show t shirt category. Yes, I know it has the wrong number on it. I go by release order while my printer goes by production number. It is a bone of contention.
“The Infamous Dave” Inman
My apologies for not posting anything recently but things are super busy. I did see Draft Day the other night and have some funny thoughts on it but I am scrambling to pack shirts for the amazing Wondercon in Anaheim, California. If you are going to be there stop by our booth (1541) and say hi (or at least talk to some of the girls I hired to work the booth).
When I get back I’m going to throw myself into blogging big time, at least until the next big show creeps up on me. I have about 8 hours of driving to do today and that’s the easy part. Tons of movies to see coming up so look for more reviews shortly, plus my fascinating recap of all the Star Trek episodes, like this gem Space Seed. I pulled this shirt from our Star Trek t shirt collection and plan to wear it at the show. I just wish I had more time for cosplay as I have a couple of really good ideas.
Seriously if you are a reader and are going to be at Wondercon stop by. I would love to speak with you and find out if what I am writing is hitting anyone or if I am tilting at windmills. Have a great week and speak to you soon.