Monday, July 26, 2021

William Shatner's 90th Birthday Celebration at the Star Trek Set Tour, Ticonderoga NY

July 24th, 2021 found me (yet again) in the parking lot of 112 Montcalm St. It was 7:30 AM. Sunny, but not yet hot from the long absent sun. I stood with my father in line amongst many waiting to check-in. All was right in the world for we were only minutes away from eating a hearty, delicious breakfast at Burlleigh's Luncheonette.

A day of of Trek awaited us.

There's no way Shatner is 90. This man is a machine! A fun, fast, and witty machine!

A day of like-minded humans gathered from near and very far to celebrate the 90th birthday of an actor who so vibrantly, so unknowingly (along with many talented others) helped turn three seasons of corporate television into over 50 yrs of hope and inspiration to millions

Like I said, a typical day of Trek.

And James? WOW! Your crew did a great job. YOU did a fantastic job performing Saturday night! Just wonderful. My post will not do it justice. Gentle reader, allow me to present award winning Elvis impersonator James Crawley, the creator of the Star Trek Original Series Set Tour.

I'm still debating with myself on HOW to present the day. Until I decide, I want to reach out to some people I did not have the chance to swap contact info with before I left dinner.

In no order at all:

1. Unexpected Lowe's Employee who has an amazing custom built Enterprise

2. 90% Shatner guy who has one of those pencil cases

3. Doc Brown hair father with a great laugh

4. Utica woman who sometimes falls asleep binge watching. 

If by some miracle you see this, please drop me a line. You helped make the day that much better. 

Until then...

Be well, gentle readers.



A bit more now. A bit of the tour.

One of the tour guides let my group know that each tour Bill gave was a crapshoot. He went where he felt and relayed whatever he wanted to. The tour guide was quite correct. The above pic from the recreation of the sick bay is bittersweet. Bill was relaying a story that came to mind about when he visited DeForest Kelley and his wife when they were nearing the end of their lives. It was hard to hear, like real-life often is. Bill paused after the telling. What he was thinking, I have no idea. He was lost in his own mind for several seconds. Then he moved us to the next room and carried on. It was a REAL moment. I don't know how else to describe it. 

Eventually, we landed on the bridge. That was pretty cool. He took questions and relayed stories about his work on stage and radio. It was interesting. It explained much of why Trek was not a priority in his life for so many years. Bill described it, if I understood him right, as: I did THIS. Now THIS is over. Time to move onto the next THIS. He used the example of how Paramount BURNED the original set. Then how they BURNED the set from the first Trek movie. Then they BURNED the set from the second movie! Trek was a part of his work, not the sum or goal of his work. It made sense. 

And through it all, Bill gave suggestions (and honestly some outright commands) to help keep the lines moving for the attendees. It was impressive to see him mold the event for the positive. He wasn't merely a celebrity in a chair, and this was definitely not his first rodeo. He signed five-hundred autographs in two hours! During the panel talk at the high school Bill, aged 90, was calling people in the audience out for yawning! It was hilarious. The above pic is a laser-etched copy of our (Strongarm Labs) "To Serve a Prince" story poster tying in classic fairy tale NPC's into the origins of Trek's Red Shirts. Shatner was handed the piece, flipped it over, asked the assistant, "What is this this?" I replied to him it was a story I wrote tied to Trek while dropping a reference to the question I asked him during the panel talk earlier that day. He nodded, smiled, and signed it. Did he read it? Not even close! Not a word passed his eyes!

Oh well....I had to remember he had all these other people to serve. 
Then it was time for lunch at House of Pizza. Yum. 

The lines spanned the length of the parking lot and turned down the street. You can't see the VIP line in this pic. There was a LOT of people. 

III. Afterward. 

The day was my father's first trip to the set tour. He's the reason why Trek is part of me. He watched Trek when it was on the air. He shared the re-runs with me when I was a small child in the 70's. We decided then and there we'd come back on a day NOT filled with lines or Shatner. We'll be back so my Dad can experience the tour as it is supposed to be experienced. He'll be able to take his time. He'll be able to re-live the moments that became examples to me on how to treat other people. He'll be able to enjoy the brief time television time shared his view of future. I can't wait.

Be well, gentle reader. All for now.
Come visit the tour for yourself.


Monday, July 5, 2021

Comic Book Rant Because I'm Old And Think I Know Shit

I happened into a place. It had comics. Lots and lots of 80's and 90's comics with lots and lots of 80's and 90's independent comics. Not even a comic shop, just a store that sells used books and movies. For whatever reason, it also had long boxes teeming with comics. Holy crap that's f'ing cool, am I right? What a find. The money and joy flowed like the swollen rivers of Spring.
One title had an introduction by cover artist Matt Wagner. Yes, that Matt Wagner. Fantastic. He described Bill Widener’s Go-Man as:”...if Jack Kirby’s meth-headed grandson read a whole lot of Marshall McLuhan while an episode of Miami Vice blared away at him from a thirty foot screen.” 


Marshall McLuhan evoked in a comic book introduction? What? How is this possible?! 
Oh yeah, it was 1989. 
Comics were a beast of a different fur back then. The Big Two fought over talent and market share, while the independent ecosystem flourished. No, most independent titles didn’t stay afloat long, but the whirling melange of new titles flashing into existence to fill the voids struggled well to the betterment of the medium. Tim Burton, Mr. Mom, and Wilbur Force assembled to make a little fan flick called "Batman". Verily, foundations were being well set into the Earth. We were two short years from 1991's "X-Men" #1 selling eight million copies. Four years from Vertigo birthing itself in a gas station bathroom stall to the piped music of Tom Waits. And social messages? To think of today’s market as the watermark for diversity is to ignore the life and times of Karen Berger. Ann Nocenti’s "Daredevil" run alone was a college course in cultural affairs. The market was teeming with the rehashed and the startling new. And today? Well, I don’t see it that way. Maybe I am wrong. Am I? 
I desperately hope I am. 

1992 book making fun of speculators who, unironically, almost killed the industry in the 90's. Love. It.

Are YOU learning anything new from comics? Name more than two comics today that do, or could, invoke McLuhan. Where’s Yukio Mishima? Where’s Robert Anton Wilson? Where's Ayn Rand? Where's Anansi? Where’s Joseph Campbell? Where's Charlotte Perkins Gilman? Where's Robert Bly? Where’s Heraclitus? Where are the Grimm Brothers? Where’s Hypatia? Where's Thomas Aquinas? Where's Burroughs? Where's Plath? Where's Ellison? Where’s the Golden Ratio? Where’s Vonnegut? Where’s Waldo? I want the sequential art medium to feed me, challenge me, anger me, and confound me as vibrantly now as it did 30 years ago. Yeah, I am older and far more experienced. I wear the medals of Pain and Miles. I carry the wisdom of scars. Are those any reasons to assume comics can’t be a balm? That the pages of fantasy and the fantastic must fall silent before the slogging parade of years? Hell no!
At least I hope not. 
No. Strike that. Reverse it. I want, not hope, the New Release shelves to shine like a baby star. I want the glistening, bristling creativity of the unexpected. Too much to ask? Okay. Fine. We'll compromise. How about we settle on entertaining. Is that too much to ask of a publishing industry seeking our money and praise and money? To pull us, albeit briefly, away from the pallid gaze of the morning alarm, the monthly bill stack, and the daily rut vampire?
Well, gentle reader, I fear it might be.
Stan Lee exclaimed, "Excelsior!" from any rooftop, bus station, or international media outlet he could climb on before getting caught. I keep my ear to the ground today. The peaks and valleys carry jumbled static. There is no voice rising above the din crying, "Great stories come first!" or "Our goal is to be the best!" In the Maker's name, please correct me if I am wrong. I know examples of quality storytelling exist because when found I throw my time and money at them with thirsty gusto. Unfortunately, they are far and few. I will say none thus far carry the mantle "reboot", "relaunch", "re-imagining", or "revamp". It's been my experience that those words mean 'creativity by committee', which is no creativity at all. 

(Side note: I would give real money to see a Raymond Chandler, crime noir-esque Batman movie. Hello? Hollywood? World's Greatest Detective? Hello?)

Heraclitus observed, "No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man." 

McLuhan observed, "Every society honors its live conformists and its dead troublemakers." 

Shannon Entropy, as part of Information Theory, observed: The amount of information in a message is the amount of surprise. In other words, if you know what someone is going to say before they say it, then their message contains no information. Consider what this means in our social media age, and how it impacts comics. Oh? You see how that includes many other things? Well, I leave that for YOU to ponder... 

Bill Bryson observed, "My first rule of consumerism is never to buy anything you can't make your children carry." Children can carry LOTS of comics. Just saying.

I want to spend lots of money on comics. I want the comic industry to want to earn my money. It has generations of readers eager to shove greenbacks down their corporate G-strings if they'd give us reason to. We nerds like to spend money! 

There's a reason this meme exists.

Be as topical as you want, but do it with an ear to quality. Try new things while respecting the good that came before. Encourage and foster new talent while giving credit to the talent and concepts that carried you this far. Give us tales to pass down to our children. Hero's Journey? Anyone? That one seems to do well over the, oh, centuries. 

I want new and amazing. I want familiar and true. I want to spend lots of money. 

Well, comics industry? Here's the dangling carrot. 

What say you!