One of the problems with Heroes

I'm still watching Heroes, even though most people seem to have given up on it.  I still watch it because I like the concepts, even though I'm often not a fan of the execution. And I don't imagine it will be back next season. Plus, CSI: Miami is a much worse show and I'm still watching thatn.

My latest (perhaps fever-inspired) theory about what's wrong with the show is that the writers are not fans of geek culture.  The Geek/Nerd core of fans could drive the show to success, yet those (often fervent fans in other endeavors) have lost patience.  The writers may be normal people -- trying to appeal to a normal base of fans.  But they are alienating those he make the whole super hero genre possible, and who sustained it for years.

My theory is based on the main geek character -- Hiro Nakamura.  Hiro, with his ability to bend time and space, travel when and where he wants, pause time, and basically alter the history of the world, is potentially the most powerful of the Heroes.  Perhaps it was a mistake to give him that much power to begin with, and since then they have a made a half-hearted attempt to nerf him.

With all this power, though, his primary role in the story is comic relief.  The play him as a naive, bumbling character who gets into all sorts of wacky scenarios with his sidekick, Ando. 

Hiro could be a powerful representation of geek-power.  He could still be naive.  He could still try to fight the good fight.  He can still quote comic books.  But if they take him seriously, he could become a much richer character which would definitely improve the story.

If they are trying to appeal to a geek/nerd fan base, then does it make sense that the character that fan base could relate to most closely is the one they treat as a joke?

Are their core fans going to relate most to the challenges of a patrician-born EMT, or an angst-ridden cheerleader struggling with her sexuality?

The other character that could have had some geek cred is the one with the engineers eye for, and obsession with, how things work.  And that's the guy they chose as the super villain. 

Perhaps if the writers had more respect for geek culture they would see the potential in a character like Hiro.  He doesn't need to be a joke. And then, maybe, the show would have a few more fans.

Or maybe I'll have a different view once the aspirin kicks in.


Unfortunate Popular Searches

The Bing.Com home page lists popular searches/topics.  They are at the bottom of the picture, on the right side. These are apparently auto generated which resulted in this unfortunate series of headlines today.


Shatner-Palooza: Free milk?

The best part of this short video is Shatner's gesture at the end. 

William Shatner in Kingdom of the Spiders.


Movie Review 13: Up in the Air

I fly roughly 90,000 domestic butt-in-seat-miles every year. I spend about 120 nights in hotels. My Alaska Airlines MVP Gold Card, Hilton Honors Diamond Card, and Hertz Gold President's Club Gold cards mean I get to go to the front of the line in travel facilities around the country. I even decorate my apartment with Industrial Post Shelving. I have dual citizenship with the USA and the ephemeral place known as "Air World." In that respect, I have a few things in common with Ryan Bingam, George Clooney's character in Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air."

The movie is based on Walter Kirn's novel of the same name. I first heard about the book when Terry Gross interviewed Kirn on NPR's Fresh Air. As I recall, I found the first part of the book to be great, but was a little disappointed in the second half.

The movie diverges significantly from the book, and the main plots really have nothing to do with one another, and that's a good thing. The book and the movie do share the culture of the frequent flyer and their commentary on corporate downsizing.

As the GF and I sat in the theater, I found myself chuckling with recognition of travel moments. There appeared to be a few other frequent flyers in the theater chuckling at the same moments. And I did recognize many of the airports he goes through (including a couple times when they pretended STL was OMA). But there's more to this movie than just travel moments to relate to.

The story follows Ryan Bingham, who travels the country firing people for other companies. His own position is threatened by a new employee who wants to replace Bingham and his colleagues with video conferencing. The possibility of being taken off the road and subjected to going into the same office day after day terrifies Bingham.

In the meantime we see Bingham relate to people he meets on the road, his co-workers, and his family. Some are mystified at his lifestyle; others relate perfectly.

The movie is a nice portrait of those people. While the plot moves forward at a good pace, not too much happens in it. If you are looking for huge world changing stories, go see "Avatar." If you want one that is more about people and how they deal with opportunities for personal growth this is a great choice.

The cinematography is also quite good. The sweeping vistas of the skies, shots of the irrigation circles in the midwest, airport schedule boards, and the shuffling of luggage are all well done. Even though it's not a big special effects movie there is still good reason to see it on the big screen.

Themes of loneliness and alienation run through the movie. In that respect, it reminds me of "Lost in Translation."

I have read some criticism that the product placement is overdone, but I don't agree. Sure it's there, and I have no doubt Travel Pro, Hilton, American Airlines, and Hertz paid dearly to be featured so strongly in the film, but the fact is corporate branding is a part of travel, and brand loyalty is the whole key to success in loyalty programs. These brands are part of travel life and simply make more sense than throwing out an Oceanic Airlines or some other fake brand.

There has been Oscar talk for "Up in the Air," along with "Avatar," and after seeing these two movies, "Up in the Air" deserves a Best Picture Oscar more than "Avatar." They're both very good movies. "Avatar" is a beautiful movie, and definitely deserves a slew of Oscars, but the story and character development aren't as strong. If it wasn't such a gorgeous film, didn't blaze new trails in computer graphics, and didn't push 3D films to a new level, it would just be a good film.

"Up in the Air" has a much stronger script. The writing is better and the characters are more interesting. No planet or civilization is at stake, but the story still has plenty to keep the viewer interested. It doesn't have the cliches of "Avatar." And while it does offer commentary on corporate life and greed is doesn't beat the viewer over the head with its commentary.

Weeks after it's release, "Up in the Air" is still filling theater seats, and for good reason. If you like movies about characters, or just spend a lot of time traveling, check it out.

You can see more of my movie reviews here.



Today is my 4th Blogaversary. 

I launched Cromely's World with this post on 2006-01-23.  That was so long ago, the Seahawks were actual Superbowl contenders, and people expected Vista to be awesome.

At the time, I didn't know how long I would stick with this project, but somehow or other it's become as normal a part of my routine as doing laundry.

My goal has always been to post 5 out of every 7 days, or more.  In the past year, I set an initial goal of limiting myself to that number, and I nearly hit it.  That would be 260 posts.  I did 271.

  • Year 1: 347 
  • Year 2: 317
  • Year 3: 304
  • Year 4: 271
Cromely's World has been through a lot of changes.  I switched to a 3 column template. I added Adgitize.  I used CMFAds more aggressively. I expanded my StumbleUpon and Twitter participation. I scaled back my Entrecard participation.

Scaling back Entrecard has meant a big drop from traffic.  I went from 375-450 visitors per day, to 100-150 visitors per day.  I thought giving up the daily dropping rigmarole would give me more down time, but it seems the Wii Fit took up those extra hours.

Lately I've been having trouble starting new posts.  The problem is that I have a number of topics I want to write about, and that I want the post to be good. Many times, though, I don't have the time or the energy I feel are required to do the "good" post so I spend the next half hour trying to come up with something else.  By the time I come up with something else that I may not be as happy with, I could have written the big, preferred post. I need to constantly remind myself not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Here are the ground rules I initially laid out when I started this blog:

So here is the charter for this blog. Keep in mind, that I am likely to discard this as soon as it becomes convenient.
  1. Entries will be interesting to at least one person other than my self.
  2. If they are not interesting to anyone besides myself, they will simply be bizarre enough to elicit a rounding chorus of “WTF?”
  3. This is not a journal or diary of my private thoughts. If I wouldn't converse about the topic with actual people, it doesn't belong here.
  4. Everything will be true and accurate (That one might be a tad ridiculous)

I will discuss whatever interests me on a particular day. That's mainly TV, tech stuff, weird stuff, geeky stuff, money stuff, literary stuff, travel stuff, and probably some more TV.

I think I've done a reasonably good job meeting those goals.  The big change this year has been my gardening posts.  Twenty-six posts, or 10% of the total this year were about plants.  I expect that will continue this year.

Regardless of all the topics, posts, books, travel rants and typos, what continues to amaze me are those of you who read my posts regularly.  I am grateful for the time and energy you devote to reading and commenting. I write and post because I have an internal need to write.  I try to write and post well, and be interesting / informative / entertaining because of you.

Here is a list of my earlier Blogaverary posts.

2006-01-23: Cromely's World Launched
2007-01-24: 371 -- First Blogaversary
2008-01-24: 685 -- Second Blogaversary
2009-01-24: 990 -- Third Blogaversary

Have a great day.  And I look forward to doing this again next year.


Nuclear power and Thorium

I've long been a fan of nuclear power.  It deserves a significant place in the future of America's energy policy.  Any overall energy portfolio that we pursue should rely on a variety of sources, including geothermal, solar, wind, hydroelectric, waste-to-energy, clean coal, and nuclear.

Our infrastucture needs an overhaul in design, to support the large scale power generation design of today, and the home or neighborhood power generation technologies of tomorrow. 

A diverse portfolio of electric strategies is essential to the environment, national security, disaster preparedness/recovery, and economic leadership in the coming decades.

Traditional nuclear power scares a lot of people.  While no one has died in the US as a result of any nuclear power plant problems, there are concerns over waste and the remote possibility of a major failure.  On balance, the benefits of nuclear power do outweigh the risks, and new nuclear technologies make nuclear an even better option.

Wired has a fascinating article about a new (actually old) type of nuclear power plant that relies on Thorium instead of Uranium to produce power.  They explain that the reason plants use Uranium today is that when designs were being created in the 50s and 60s, the plutonium waste was considered a benefit.  The material could be recycled into nuclear weapons.  Thorium doesn't allow for that possibility and was there for over looked.

There are a number of advantages to the material cited in the article:

After it has been used as fuel for power plants, the element leaves behind minuscule amounts of waste. And that waste needs to be stored for only a few hundred years, not a few hundred thousand like other nuclear byproducts. Because it’s so plentiful in nature, it’s virtually inexhaustible. It’s also one of only a few substances that acts as a thermal breeder, in theory creating enough new fuel as it breaks down to sustain a high-temperature chain reaction indefinitely. And it would be virtually impossible for the byproducts of a thorium reactor to be used by terrorists or anyone else to make nuclear weapons.


Even better, Weinberg realized that you could use thorium in an entirely new kind of reactor, one that would have zero risk of meltdown. The design is based on the lab’s finding that thorium dissolves in hot liquid fluoride salts. This fission soup is poured into tubes in the core of the reactor, where the nuclear chain reaction — the billiard balls colliding — happens. The system makes the reactor self-regulating: When the soup gets too hot it expands and flows out of the tubes — slowing fission and eliminating the possibility of another Chernobyl. Any actinide can work in this method, but thorium is particularly well suited because it is so efficient at the high temperatures at which fission occurs in the soup.


It's a fascinating article and if you are a fan of nuclear power, or a foe of its current incarnation, check it out.  As we look for new energy solutions, this could be one avenue we would be foolish to ignore.


Bike stolen

This is the sight that greeted me when I pulled into the parking garage this afternoon.  It's the remnants of my bike lock.  Apparently, someone stole the bike between 4:00 PM and 5:15 PM Monday afternoon.

It's frustrating because, while it is a secure garage, it's not too difficult to slip in and out as cars come and go.

Fortunately, it wasn't a terribly expensive bike.  I paid about $250 for it new on 2006-09-03.  My intent was to start out cheap because I hadn't owned a bike in several years and haven't ridden regularly since the Reagan administration. I thought I wanted to ride, but wasn't sure if I would get off my tail and just do it.

I haven't ridden it since I bought it.  I always planned to, but I haven't really been in the physical condition required to ride up the hills in my neighborhood, and it has been too many year for me to ride comfortably in traffic without a bit more practice.  To ride I would have had to drive it to a bike trail or other suitable area, unload it from the car, put the wheel back on, ride around, load it back in the car, and drive home.

I never quite got around to doing that.  Instead, it took up space in my apartment, and then later chained to the fence in my building's garage.

This summer, there was probably a 25% chance I would actually get out an ride.  I expected I'd feel like I was in a little better shape, thanks to the Wii Fit, but it's just as likely the hassle would have discouraged me.

Now I have to think about this project again.  Do I want to try actually riding in meatspace again, or should I just stick to the digital world?  Should I try another bike, or will it mainly end up as furniture?

In the meantime, maybe the thief will ride out into traffic illegally and get run over.  I just hope that in the process he doesn't damage the car that hits him.  Because that would be sad.


Movie Review 12: Avatar

Avatar is easily the most talked about movie of the past year.  It's been a tremendous box office success and is up for a huge pile of awards. The GF and I finally saw it tonight. It was a good movie and I'm glad to have seen it on the big screen.  It wasn't quite the amazing experience many people have said it is, but it is still worth seeing.

The depth of development that James Cameron put into this movie is truly stunning.  From creating a language with grammar to creating and entire taxonomy of flora and fauna, the volume of source material for this movie is simply stunning.

As many reviewers have already said, it's a beautiful movie.  Seeing it in 3D on an Imax or pseudo-Imax screen is worthwhile.

The story itself is familiar.  I saw this movie in the early 80s when it was called "Dances with Wolves."  Fortunately, that was also a great movie.  Like that earlier one, this movie was also long.  At times it seems a bit too long, but any cuts that could be made would likely be a minute here, and a minuter there throughout the movie, rather than cutting entire scenes.

The message is a bit heavy handed.  We get it.  The corporate interests running down the natives are bad people.  The names of some of the characters and items are a bit eye-roll inducing.  The miners are after a mineral called "Unobtainium."  The corporate head of the operation is "Parker Selfridge." The belligerent Colonel is "Miles Quaritch" and the hero who is sent to undermine the natives is named "Jake Sully."

If you can get past all that it is a good movie and fascinating exploration of an alternative and fake culture.

***Potential Spoiler***

There's one additional thing I want to note. By about 20-25 minutes in, it's pretty clear the mercenary marines and corporate liason are "the bad guys."  Later in the movie, the audience finds itself in the position of cheering the deaths of the mercenaries -- the soldiers there to protect corporate interests.  And while they are certainly not fighting for a noble cause, I can't imagine a movie like this could have been made in many countries of the world.  And in many places had Cameron made this movie, he would not be up for awards.  He would be up for prison time.  The beauty of or country lies in the fact that he could make this movie. That's something not to take for granted.

I'm not saying he's worng for making this film.  It's a film worth seeing.  But sometimes it pounds the good/evil aspects of the story too hard. There are no shades of gray in this story.  And its so strict it sometimes take me out of the movie and becomes a bit less effective.

I did enjoy the Norm Spellman character and his growth.

I also liked the Trudy Chacon character (remember we're still in the spoilers section here), but her role in the story seemed a bit contrived.  She bails on a major attack due to her conscience.  She breaks a bunch of "good guys" out of jail, and then flees the mercenaries, stealing a gunship in the process. The character appears to have been thrown in just to break out the other characters.  She feels bolted on to the rest of the story.  Still, seeing that helicopter show up with blue war paint on it was pretty awesome.

If you haven't seen Avatar yet, check it out while it's still on the big screen.  That experience makes it worthwhile.


A visit to the Dentist

Last month was the first time in more than 10 years that I had been to the dentist.  Back then I began my series of visits after breaking a tooth on a tuna fish sandwich.  I subjected myself to the dental care system, had a root canal to fix the damage caused by that sandwich, and eventually stopped going.

Why?  Well, I wasn't entirely comfortable there.  The dental care was okay, but there was something off about the environment.  Sometimes I felt like they were selling me a used car.  Other times, I just got this weird vibe that screamed "Russian Mob."  I have no idea if they were connected, but eventually I trusted my instincts and stopped going, especially when they started pushing the idea of braces.

In the years since, I haven't needed dental care, though it may have been a good idea.  It always planned to look for a dentist "next month."  Months passed.  Then years.  And ultimately, a decade. Eventually, I ended up back in the chair.

Today was the second in a series of dental appointments in the current series.  It was for a deep cleaning.  Now, I don't recall ever getting this procedure done before, but then again, my last regular, every 6-month appointment dental care schedule was back during the thousand-points-of-light Bush administration so things may have changed.

So today I sat in the chair and got all novacained up for a deep cleaning.  If you're not familiar with this process, it involves scraping under the gum line to get gunk out.  Normally, they do only one half of the mouth at a time, but we decided to just do the whole thin today.

I spent an hour having some guy scrape my teeth with little metal tools. And though I felt like I was choking once or twice, it wasn't too bad.  Though it did give rise to this dialog:

Me: I'm starting the taste a little blood.

Dentist:  Just now?!

While the whole thing was going on, my mind tried to wander a bit.  I layed back in the chair and looked up at the spot light.  I wore orange sunglasses so it wasn't too bright.  The shop light reminded me of the sunset and I tried to transfer myself to the beach through that sun so I would't be terribly bored, but it wasn't that easy.

It seems you can't just ignore the guy poking around your mouth with metal implements, hoses, and a suction tool.  The scraping is loud as it echoes through the skull, bypassing the ears altogether.  And the the tools slip, which is always a little jarring.  I also had to frequently remind my self to relax my muscles, not drive my fingertips through the chair too hard, and breath through my nose.

My higher brain functions were perfectly okay with the whole process, but the lizard core deep in the evolutionary recesses of my brain, screamed, "AHHHHHH!!!!! Run AWAAAAAYYYYYY!" If I let down my guard, that part of my brain would start to gain more influence over the situation, and there is no way a Fight or Flight response could have ended well.

Now, I've got clean teeth, an aching jaw, and sore spots where the Novocaine needles had been plunged in and moved around like tiny liposuction hoses.

And for some reason, I'm willingly going back next week.

But those glasses sure made my phone easier to read.


I'm with Coco

The image comes from ImWithCoco.com.  The creator encourages fans to use it around the web.  I found it after reading a Tweet from Rainn Wilson (Dwight Shrute, from NBC's The Office).

If you haven't heard, six years ago, Jay Leno planned to retire from the Tonight Show in 2009.  Conan O'Brien would take over the 11:35 PM institution, following in the talented footsteps of Jack Paar, Steve Allen, and Johnny Carson. Conan passed up other lucrative opportunities because of this plan, contract, and commitment.

Apparently Jay decided he didn't want to go last year.  He began undermining Conan almost from the start, with his silly 10:PM show that cannibalized Conan's ratings, indicated NBC gave up on prime time, and cost local news stations a fortune.  But that wasn't enough.

Now, Jay apparently wants his old job back and NBC is content to treat Conan quite shabbily in order to appease Jay.

NBC already let the brilliant David Letterman get away.  Now they are trying to chase away the future again, but doing this to Conan.

Today, Conan released a statement and announced he would not do the Tonight Show at 12:05:

Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35. For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting.The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn't the Tonight Show.

He went on to say that pushing the show back to keep him on the air would not be fair to his own replacment, Jimmy Fallon.

He mentions a few current and former members of the latenight community.

  • Jimmy Fallon
  • David Letterman
  • Johnny Carson
  • "My predecessor"

You can see the letter here.  It's a great read. What strikes me is that even though Conan has chosen to go public with his anger and animosity, he's done it in such a way that he is still a class act.

Jay Leno, on the other hand, comes across as the 21 year old guy who never went to college, and still hangs out at the local high school to pick up 17 year olds.  Let it go, Jay.

What do I want to see happen now?

I think is would be awesome to see David Letterman, who has his own issues with NBC over how they treated him when Jay originally go the tonight show, negotiate an early end to his contract so Conan can take over Letterman's show, and then smash Jay in the ratings.  I could see Letterman doing this just to mess with NBC and Jay Leno.

It may be more likely that Conan goes to FOX, but this would be an awesome way for Letterman to go out.


Book Review 49: Acting and Other Flying Lessons

When I initially undertook to write a book about acting several humbling thoughts confronted me. As I've never before taught acting, per se, the main question pestering me was, "Gary, Just who the hell do you think you are?" " That one held me up for some time, and as I didn't know quite how to I answer it then, and still don't—I decided to move on and write the book anyway.

Page xix

Gary Graham had a recurring role on Star Trek Enterprise, playing Vulcan Ambassador Soval. While he may not be a household name, he has successful made his living as an actor for more than 30 years. In "Acting and Other Flying Lessons" he shares some of the things he's learned over the years.

This is a good book, but I'm a little disappointed because it's just a draft or two away from being a great book. The main problem with it is the structure, or rather, lack of structure. It's a book that could benefit greatly from a stronger outline. A strong editor could improve the organization and probably cut the page count by 15-20%.

It appears as if Graham started with the ideas he wanted to convey and just started writing. There's great stuff in here, but it's in paragraphs that pop up in the chapters. It's almost as if he stumbles onto them.

The book might read better as a series of articles. Or perhaps it would work better as a weekly blog.

That said, it's still worth reading. If you are interested in acting, or presenting, there is value here.

In this review, I'll talk about what Graham was trying to achieve, how successful he was, and ways he could have better accomplished his goal. Then I'll talk about some of the key acting tips that he shares, and in some cases how they apply outside the field of acting. Finally, I'll talk about some of the acting industry anecdotes he shares.

Graham's goal with this book was to write a practical introduction to the field, so that new actors know what they are doing when they show up on the set. He intended to cover the basic mechanics of being an actor -- who you talk to, where you go at the start of the day, who's who on the set, etc.

I believe that if I'd had that information early, I could have devoted more of my concentration to the job at hand, instead of learning set protocol, where to go, who to look for, what to do and how to do it, etc.—and consequently could have gotten more career mileage from my early professional effort

Page xxii

Even though I don't plan on being a professional actor, I find this information quite fascinating. The basic operational information of what you do when you show up someplace is often missing from most ventures.

It extends beyond big things like jobs to simple things like restaurants. Have you ever walked into a restaurant and not known what to do? Do you seat yourself of wait for the hostess? Do you go to the counter or go straight to your table? When there's no sign telling me what to do, I get very stressed at a new restaurant. Tell me how things work, and I'm much more relaxed.

Those initial steps are often overlooked, and Graham attempts to address that in his book.

Graham does cover those sorts of things, but they sometimes get buried in his other stories about acting, or in his lessons on art of acting. Unlike a memoir, or a theoretical book, a practical lesson book should have stronger organization. I would like to have seen Graham start each cahpter with an introduction to the topics he was going to cover, and call out the key lessons at the beginning.

In a novel you want to build suspense. In a memoir, you want to share your life experience. In an educational book, you want to share knowledge and promote the retention of that knowledge.

That takes a different approach to the material. It by necessity removes some of the spontaneity you want the reader to feel in other genres. Here, we are not just along for the ride. We are not just here to learn something about Graham or understand the history of the industry better. We are here to learn more about the practical aspects of acting.More than in other books, the author needs to tells us what he's going to tell us, tell us, and then tell us what he's told us.

Graham would have done better to structure his chapters around the key lessons he wants to teach us, discuss those lessons, then choose key stories from his own life to illustrate those stories.

All those elements are in this book, but they're scattered within chapters.

As the author moves through the material in an educational book like this, it's good for later chapters to build on earlier ones. The author should be able to assume that if the reader is reading Chapter 6, they have already read the material in Chapter 3.

Graham has a tendency to repeat his stories. When they appear later in the book, he's often using them to illustrate a different point, but he introduces them like it's the first time he's telling the story. It's fine to refer back to previous stories, but he should assume the reader already read them .

Here are two examples.

Back in '87,I starred in a sci-fi picture called "ROBOT JOX" (Did I mention?) that we shot in Rome. The film was originally called ROBOJOX", a much better title, but the "ROBOCOP" people threatened to sue unless we changed it—even though our production preceded theirs by six months. They had a bigger budget (and could hire better lawyers, I guess), so we acquiesced and called our picture "ROBOT JOX." Go figure, everybody wants to rule the world

Page 218

I did not see him again until we were on location in San Francisco. We were shooting in an adult bookstore in the strip club district and my first scene was just George and I—and I was to do all the talking—acting opposite an industry icon, the internationally famous George C. Scott. Imagine in your first scene on your first big movie having to take stage opposite George Patton!

Page 299

Graham talks about Robot Jox earlier in the book several times. By the time we get to this passage on page 218 anyone who doesn't know he starred in Robot Jox obviously hasn't paid any attention at all. The story can still be effective, but refer back to it. Don't introduce it again.

It's the same thing with his discussion of George C Scott. He's already told elements of this story in his section on Matching. He even set the scene there. Yet again, he is introducing the story and covering well trod material rather than simply referring back to it

The second to last chapter in this book doesn’t quite fit. In it, Graham gives a different section to a variety of actors and talks about his experiences with them.

Now it's not a bad idea to do things like this, and in a book about the basics of acting there is definitely some benefit to it. But the execution is the issue. As it is, it might have worked better as an appendix to the reset of the material. It's a lot more memoir heavy than the book calls for. These stories could also work as monthly magazine articles, or weekly blog posts, or as similar episodic content.

Assuming they are going to stay in the book, however, they do need tighter structure. Again, given the education nature of the book, the lessons should be more obvious. In some of the stories, Graham talks about what he learned from them. In others he just talks about how great this person is to work with as a fellow actor.

It would have been more effective to start (or end) each of these sections with the specific lessons Graham learned from that person, or the specific lessons the reader can learn from that person. Call it out and these anecdotes become much more valuable.

Perhaps outline each of these section like this:

  • What I learned from this person.
  • Who this person is.
  • How I learned the lesson.
  • How I applied the lesson.
  • How you can apply the lesson.

Or some similar structure. If there is not particular lesson to draw from that story other than that Graham is a fan of that person, cut the section. It doesn't advance the purpose of the book and doesn’t need to be there.

Graham also needs to be careful about undermining his own points.

In one section he talks about fight scenes and other stunts. He emphasizes the importance of taking your time, getting it right, and if something goes wrong, stopping to scene so no one gets hurt.

To illustrate his point, he tells the story about a fight scene that went wrong. He accidentally hit another actor, and the other actor almost got carried away.

It turned out all right—but with a different actor, less experienced with less self-control, who knows how it would have turned out?

Again, my ardent note of caution here is this: With stunts, if something goes wrong—stop immediately] It's not that big of a deal to reset and roll again. Yes, accidents do happen, nothing is one hundred percent safe. But someone getting hurt needlessly is unforgivable. Use your head. And always remember. IT'S ONLY A MOVIE.

Page 207-208

The problem with this story is that nothing happened. Graham would have been better off citing a story where someone did not heed the advice to stop as soon as something goes wrong and that resulted in negative consequences of some sort.  This story seem like one he wanted to tell, but couldn't fit in anyplace else.  It reflects a lack of prior planning while writing the book.

But enough about the organization of the book. There are some great gems in here, and I'd like to explore them.

It's interesting to note that a lot to the key acting lessons that Graham discusses really have nothing to do with acting. They apply just as well in most professional endeavors.

  • Be professional. 
  • Show up on time. 
  • Work hard. 
  • Treat people well.

He tells one story about sitting around a campfire with other crew member on set. Folks started talking about an actor they had worked with recently. A couple people had similar negative experiences and shared them.

The producer said he had been thinking about hiring him for a movie fie was to produce next in Canada, but after hearing that he said. "Well, forget that. I certainly don't need that bullshit."

I couldn't believe it. Here we were, middle of the night, freezing our butts off in the mud, and a Hollywood casting decision had been made. That actor lost a job (a good job) at four-thirty a.m. m a muddy field in Yugoslavia—and he didn't even know it.

Always be a professional. Word gets around.

Page 126

Part of making movies and TV shows involves matching. Once a scene is shot, they will start filming it again from different angles. They'll shoot close ups and reshoot other parts. It's important for the actors to perform the scene exactly the same way, from intonation to motion to props. This way the editors can easily cut the scene together for the final product. Doing those same things over again is called "Matching."

Career advancement note: Actors who can match well end up with more screen time because they cut together like butter, the editing looks seamless, and the actor's performance look great. Become an expert matcher.

Page 142

In short, if you make the editor's job and the director's job easier, it helps you in the long run.

It's a lesson that applies in the business world as well. When you can make a coworker's, boss's, or employee's job easier, it can only help you do well in your professional life. And often, the best way to do that, is to do your own job well.

A postive attitude is also an improtant asset. Just because an actor has had some success does not mean they can look down on others. There are few people that have such star status they can get away with an "attitude." And even then, that may not last long.

It doesn't matter what those actors wear to the audition, all the producers see is the Attitude. Then the actor can't figure out why he doesn't work more.

Be in a good mood. Nobody wants to be around a downer, so carry a good mood into the office, even if you have to manufacture one. Optimism is a trait that opens many a door. It's all about energy. Negativism and depression suck the energy out of a room. It's palpable, you can feel it, you can almost hear it. Be a source of light.. .warmth assurance.. .and yes, love. And if you can't muster love for these folks sitting in the audition room, for your fellow man, then focus on your love for acting. Or your love for your wife and kids, your Mom, your cat, your Harley.. .something. Bring your love with you when you walk into the room.

Page 97

While Graham is talking mainly about the audition process, the same principle applies when talking about the corporate world. Obviously things don't always go well, but approaching things from a nihilistic perspective or with a "bad attitude" (whatever that means) does not help the situation. People want to feel there is an opportunity to win -- that things can get better, even when things are falling apart. A positive outlook is just as important in an acting career as it is in any other career.

The old adage applies in the film biz: The cream rises to the top. There is nothing stronger than the human will. If you have a goal, a dream, and it's reasonable, and you believe you can achieve it, there is nothing that can stop you. Except, of course, yourself.

Page 16

Regardless of your current life or career situation, your subconscious mind will direct you toward whatever you place before it.

Page 22

One of the most important lessons I learned when I took motorcycle classes was that you should never look at the object in your path that you want to avoid. If you look at it, you will hit it. Instead, look at the path around that hazard, and if you are focusing on the path you want to take, your bike will take you there.

Goal setting is a natural off shoot of having a positive attitude. You have to believe you can do it, and then you have to pursue it. If you focus on the obstacles to success, your subconscious will take you into those obstacles, just as your motorcycle will take you into that wall.

Positive attitude carried Graham through a lot of the early missteps in his career when he didn't quite know what he was doing.

I'd heard that being in a play could help land an agent, so I started auditioning for plays. I didn't know what I was doing really, but I was young and eager and went for it. Youthful enthusiasm can cover a multitude of sins—and sometimes even a lack of substantial technique.

Page 35

Graham did study acting. Taking classes is part of the hard work involved in being an actor. Being exposed to other performances and understanding why actors make the choices the do is one way to learn. Just as important as the theory, though, are the practical lessons. The hard work never stops.

I dove into the curriculum with both feet and hit the stage running. I couldn't get enough. Scene classes, sensory exercises, auditing the master class with Lee Strasberg, art-film nights with classmates. Actor's Studio guest speakers (honest-to-god-stars! Well...one or two anyway George Peppard, Roddy McDowell. Ellen Burstyn. A telling omen: I asked Roddy the question, 'What are you doing now?' thinking he must be on some exciting film project. He looked at me with brutally candid eyes and didn't miss a beat: "Looking for work." He said it like, "That's the reality, kid, get used to it." Twenty-four years later, I've come to find that find that an actor's main job is to get a job).

Page 33

In his chapter on Acting Lessons, he talks about some of the teachers he studied under. For example, he studied under Kim Stanley, an acting teacher and alcoholic.

With Kim it was always the drink talking—and sometimes the drink made a lot of sense. I loved the year I studied with her. I learned about taking huge chances, losing my fear of making an ass of myself, and throwing caution to the wind on stage. And most importantly, I learned to listen to my own inner voice and trust my own instincts.

Page 38
Acting classes are just one part of being an actor, though:

In the final analysis, acting is self-taught. Learn all you can from the best, but largely you will end Up discovering your technique on your own. Yes, acting classes are great—expose yourself to as many different sources as you can, and keep studying even after you start working—but life is the greatest teacher, and ultimately it is from your own well you draw.

Page 37

There's a lot of great practical information in the book, but there's also some good acting theory. The part I found most interesting was where he talked about crying on stage. Or acting drunk. Many amateur actors may try to force tears. Or the may try to stumble around as if drunk.

Graham points out, however, that people to not behave that way in real life. They don't try to cry -- they try to avoid crying. The drunk doesn't just stumble and slur -- the drink tries not to stumble and slur.

It is this struggle to maintain composure that we find so very compelling. This is the very essence of great drama, of great I pathos. To merely succumb to tragic events tells us nothing new about the fragile fabric of life. But to witness folks in denial and shock, masking the horrific reality, this can be compelling. And to experience someone who rages against the assault, who defies the destroyer, who fights the good fight to hold it all together when the world has fallen down upon their head—that's the stuff great novels, movies and plays are written about.

It's heroism that man aspires to, not victimization. No one wants to pay nine bucks to sit in a darkened theater and watch a bunch of victims succumbing to their pain and hardship. We will pay it gladly and encourage our friends to come, however, if you show us that heroic resistance to calamity, the battle of the brave to overcome their desperation—and if you give us an heroic struggle against all odds, with twists, turns, close-calls, several good laugh and a moving love story.. .well, not only will you reap a huge payday. but your mantle will likely sport Oscar gold.

Page 63-64

Likewise, a highly emotional scene can be like a pot of boiling soup on the stove. We stir it up, cover it, let it boil, the lid jangling and spitting hot water. But if the soup isn't boiling over, why lift the lid? In your scene don't create the blowing off of the pot lid, rather, create the heat, which in turn creates the boiling over of the soup that blows off the lid—then the way it manifests itself in the scene will be free and natural and real. Nothing will be forced, fake, or phony Your emotional responses to the events you've created in the scene will find their own colors of expression and will be perfectly valid and intriguing and engaging and interesting to watch, no matter what you do—because it will have arisen from your own personal reality, your own personal truth.

Page 71

He tells the story about when he and another actress had a scene together where they argue. The practiced it in a more subtle way -- not with other the top screaming, but with the goal of trying not to explode. As they practiced their lines, and assistant director approached. He mistook it for a real fight and awkwardly backed away.

But that A.D.'s misconception told us we were right on the mark in our rehearsal. It's because we weren't acting' a scene about two people arguing—we were arguing, really arguing, and using the screenwriter's words to do it.

Page 79

While being professional and working hard is important, it's also important to take chances. Actors are in an interesting position in that it is difficult and expensive to fire them.

At the same time, don't allow yourself to become rigid with paranoia about making the wrong suggestion, or doing something silly or inappropriate. And absolutely do not worry about getting fired. (This is Actor's Paranoia and nothing more.) I believe I've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating: It's a huge expense for the producers to hire an actor, put them in wardrobe, make-up, pay them for the day—only then to fire them and recast the part, reschedule the shooting, switch to a cover set while they recast, etc. Believe me, no one wants to do it, so you really shouldn't worry much about that remote possibility.

Page 145

While it may be easier to be fired in a corporate setting, it's still not an easy undertaking. In the working world, bosses don't want to fire people. They want success. They want employees to do great work. Firing people is not something most people enjoy. From a practical perspective, bureaucracies make it difficult, and expensive. They want people to do well, to bring forward alternative suggestions (in the right context), to take an interest in what they are doing, to approach it with passion, and to aspire to success.

Eventually, an acting career will stall and it's time to take a different approach. It's been said that, "If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got." When what you are doing isn't getting results, it's time to change.

If you work hard and are blessed with a career in acting, you may find at some point that your career appears to be stalled out. Stagnant. Nothing going on. This is the nature of the beast, and these doldrums happen periodically. The key is to keep the faith. as they say, and hang in there. Keep working at working. Keep increasing your employability. You may have not set foot inside an acting workshop or graced the stage of a small theater for some years—take this opportunity to step outside your comfort level and Stretch yourself Humility is a cleansing experience. Get out and read for small theater parts. Take that workshop. The worst that can happen is you'll have a lot of fun. But there's also the possibility that the experience will return to you a sense of forward momentum to you career. This perception, however artificially contrived, is precious life blood to an actor.

Page 324

There are great stories in this book. And Graham writes well. His sentences and paragraphs are a joy to read. But the organizations behind them needs work. He's got plenty of raw material here; there's a great book (or two) in here. It just needs more structure, organizations, and a stronger editor's pen.

He started out writing a book about the basic mechanics a new actor needs to know. Unfortunately, Graham seems to have lost track of that goal in large portions of the book.

"Acting and Other Flying Lessons" is a good book that could have been a great book. As it is, it's worth reading whether you are an aspiring actor or just someone interested in the field.


Book Review 48: Get a Life

It never occurs to me that people might be offended. It never occurs to me that Trekkers might believe I was making fun of them. The sketch is simply SO exaggerated and SO stupid and SO cartoonish that I can't even fathom the possibility. I decide to think positively, and hope for the best.

Page 111

In 1986 Shatner angered legions of fans with his now infamous "Get a Life!" sketch on Saturday Night Live.

In plenty of previous book reviews and Shartner-Palooza posts, Shatner's self involvement has been obvious. Many cast members have said he was oblivious, at best, to their needs as actors. That sketch showed that he lacked similar awareness of needs and feelings of his fans.

This book is, in some respects, a chance for Shatner to try to fix that and understand his fans better.

And there you have it. We're barely fifteen pages into this thing, and I'm deeply embarrassed to confess that until fairly recently, what you just read constituted the sum total of everything I knew about Star Trek conventions. Somehow, throughout more than a quarter century of "featured speaker" appearances, I managed to remain almost entirely ignorant of the bigger picture, my sole point of view coming from the podium out.

Page 10

In "Get a Life!" William Shatner takes the reader on a tour of the Star Trek Convention phenomenon. It chronicles his efforts to learn how the conventions got so big, why people attend, and just what exactly happens outside of the speaker's stage.

Much of the early material, including the efforts to save Star Trek from cancellation are detailed elsewhere, so I won't go into detail here. Shatner retells those stories because he wants this book to be about the fan movements and their impact on Star Trek, so it's they definitely have a place in the book.

Shatner is not afraid to admit his ignorance of the impact conventions had on fans. He interviews attendees, organizers and others involved in the convention circuit, including Joan Winston, one of the women responsible for the very first convention.

Joan: We were never in it for money. We were doing it out of love and affection for the show, for the characters, and for the writers. We genuinely loved you guys. Did you know that?

Bill: I do. And I'll tell you, Joanie, the voyage of discovery I am making, while doing research on this book, is the fact that there was and is all that love out there. I had no idea, quite frankly, I truly had no idea as to its depth and breadth. I have been moved to tears on some of these interviews when people have opened up about what the show meant to them.

Page 99-98

As that's the thing about Shatner. His book about conventions and fans isn't about the conventions and fans. It's about William Shatner learning about the conventions and fans.

There is a little bit of self-awareness at the end, but throughout the book, it's still mainly about Shatner.

I spent a full two decades scared to death of a big blue space-slug of my own concoction. Star Trek's fans confused and eluded me, while Star Trek's conventions were every bit as terrifying as that mammoth, mythical, murderous mollusk. However, once I'd allowed myself to actually confront my fears and to understand the motivating factors that drove Star Trek's fans fan and simultaneously allowed their conventions to thrive, I realized just how silly and ignorant my own apprehensions had been. I was the Starfleet bad guy.

Page 317

So if you want to learn about how Shatner learns about conventions, this is a good book to read. If Shatner's ego-cnetric approach to everything annoys you, you are not likely to enjoy this book.

For the rest of this article, I'll highlight Shatner's convention experience, some of the fan comments he picked up in his interviews, a few of his Leonard Nimoy stories, and finally the Shatner convention presentations.

When Shatner would speak at a convention, he typically flew in just in time for his presentation and would leave as soon as he could. He contrasts the travel experience with the love of the fans when he speaks.

Ever notice how every airport smells exactly the same? As far as I can tell, it's an endlessly recirculated mix of old coffee, fast-food french fries, newspaper pulp, and a huge collective cloud of cologne, parfum, and other upscale stinkwaters. Disgusting, yes, but I swear to you, I absolutely love it. Somehow, over the past thirty years, and countless white-knuckle plane flights, I believe my subconscious gray matter has come to equate that distinctively funky airport aroma with official notification that my airborne torture session's now over, and the terra-firma fun is about to begin.

It doesn't matter what town I'm in, or what gathering I'm headed toward, William Shatner's ''Star Trek Convention Experience'' always begins right here, with a happy, heaping lungful of airport funk. It then proceeds pretty much like this.

Page 5

A convention ovation is unmatched, and probably best described as a loud, long, percussive "I love you." You can never get used to it. You can never prepare for it. It's a message that genuinely overwhelms me, every single time it hits. It's unique; a heartwarming, mind-boggling, ego-inflating, plainly staggering experience.

Page 9

He decided to learn more about the conventions and fans after Star Trek Generations came out in 1994. This was also around the time he was working on Star Trek Memories, and Nichelle Nichols first told him that the rest of the cast hated him.

Maybe three stops into Kirk's "Yes, I'm really dead" convention tour, I realized that I still had absolutely no idea what went on outside the featured speaker's auditorium.

Page 101

Throughout this extended "kirkapalooza" tour, I also began consciously squeezing the most out of my convention time, chatting one-on-one with dealers, organizers, and fans whenever I could, while simultaneously arm-twisting my embarrassed coauthor into wandering convention floors in search of hard-core fans who'd sit for an interview.

Page 23-24

Naturally, William Shatner couldn't very well walk around the convention floor without a mob, so he wore a mask. A green, rubber alien mask.

I was a hideous monster, manipulating and secretly interrogating innocent victims. I'd become Linda Tripp.

Page 102

He tells stories about chatting with Klingons, trying to talk people out of buying expensive Leonard Nimoy autographs, and generally annoying people while trying to understand them.

Of course a Star Trek convention is on of very few places in this world where you can walk around in a rubber green alien mask to specifically not attract attention.

And it goes beyond wearing a mask to be anonymous. Fans who may not be noticed in their daily lives, dress up in costume and become the center of attention. Fans who may get too much unwanted attention in their daily lives can come to a convention and just be accepted and not stared at. This comes up when Shatner interviews Dan Madsen, the Publisher of Star Trek Communicator. In additon to being a fan, his is a self described littler person (he's 4 feet tall)and enjoys Star Trek conventions in part because he is simply accepted. He talks about acceptance he feels at the show, and the large presence of those with handicaps.

So you see, the beauty of a convention is, Bill, for people like me who want to escape being noticed all the time, I can go there and blend in with the crowd and I'm fine. For people who don't get noticed enough and feel like the world has forgotten them and people overlook them, they can dress up in a costume, they can come to these conventions, and everybody makes a fuss over them.

Page 131

Shatner is blown away by the joy and optimism in the crowds that attend conventions.

Unconditional delight is an extremely rare commodity in the lives of most adults.

Page 314

Shatner is never one to leave Leonard Nimoy un-picked-on. They've built a strong friendship over the years. If they weren't good friends, I'm sure Nimoy would have arranged a transporter accident by this point.

He tells the story of one of Nimoy's first appearances at a convention.

When at last Leonard was able to get out a few words, he simply thanked the fans for their love and support, and shared his joy at seeing such tangible evidence that our work on Star Trek really had been appreciated. Overwhelmed, Leonard then said his good-byes, left the stage, and ran for his life.

Ushered quickly back through the hotel kitchen and out through a service entrance to an icy New York alley way. Leonard was nevertheless spotted by a large contingent of overzealous fans. Their shouts of "Spppppppooooooccckkkk!" gave Leonard's position away immediately, allowing the trailing crowd to grow at an almost exponential rate. At that point, Leonard, Joanie Winston, and their pair of security men all frantically began flailing their arms, in a desperate attempt to flag down a cab. Sensing that their prey might elude their grasp. the mob picked up speed now, and began running, as did Leonard. Can you imagine this? It's the middle of winter. there's ice and snow everywhere, and here comes Leonard (who, by the way, runs like an old lady) sprinting down the sidewalk, eyes wide, making a mad dash for a taxi while a posse of kooks gives chase. He must've looked like a turkey on Thanksgiving morning.

Finally, Leonard lands a Checker cab and dives inside, but the chase isn't over yet. Four gung-ho Trekker/stalkers leap up onto the cab and hang on for dear life. They dangle, giddily, until the cab pulls away, sliding on the icy street, while narrowly avoiding both a pair of fellow cabs and a delivery truck.

Page 88-89

Shatner does ask a StarTrek convention organizer about working with different cast members. Adam has positive things to say about everyone. Here are his comments about Nimoy.

Adam: Leonard was the type of guy who would show up for the engagement, deep in thought about what he was going to say. And so he would come in, somewhat disassociated from you, his mind thinking about what he was going to say when he went on. He was basically a Vulcan. So the usual rule of thumb was just say "Hello," then as little as possible, and try and get him on quickly, because he was concentrating, primed to go on, and he wanted to go right on, urgently. So when he would show up, it would just be about expediting him, getting him onstage, as quickly and as expediently as possible.

Page 145

Shatner also uses this book as an opportunity to talk about his experience as a speaker. He discusses the different questions people ask in Q&As. He spends some time talking about the autograph lines, and about the time he shared the stage with Sir Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, and Kate Mulgrew.

What is a Shatner presentation like? Well, he asked the attendees one time, and promised to put it in the book.

Never make a promise you'll regret. I learned that the hard way, because in less than ten minutes, this crowd had an overwhelming favorite. In an unbiased nutshell, according to your evil, conventioneering peers, my speaking style is best described as "a cross between Rip Taylor and Regis Philbin."

I mean come on. Rip Taylor, maybe, but Regis? You people really know how to hurt a guy.

Page 135

Shatner does tell stories at the conventions that largely feature him being humiliated. He talks about ending up covered in elephant dung in one story. In another, he talks about his misadventures walking to a horse show. And in yet another, about his inability to get help via a 911 call. It seem Shatner just can't catch a break.

Shatner has property in Kentucky. And he waxes poetic about the beautiful country side. But he can't discuss the beauty of nature without talking about peeing all over it.

On those joyous occasions when good ol' boy meets good ol' truck, there's nothing my pickup and I love to do more than cruising aimlessly about the backroads of rural Kentucky. George Jones in the cassette deck, a thermos full of black coffee in the glove box—it doesn't get any better than this. Here, in this beautiful part of the country, you can spend an entire afternoon meandering along two-lane roads, soaking in the beauty of dense, green, entirely unspoiled pine forests, every once in a while pausing to simply get out of the truck, take a deep breath, and realize how truly beautiful the world can be. With each roadside pit stop I take time to wander, to watch quietly as the wonders of nature unfold around me, and more often than not, to deal with the aftereffects of that aforementioned thermos full of black coffee.

Page 219

He tales pains to draw the comparison between cell phones and the Star Trek communicator, like it's the first time anyone has seen the links between the two (okay, he did write this this in 1999 so I'll cut him some slack on that).

Tucked away in the back of the glove compartment, I had stashed one of those tiny, pocket-sized, portable phones. You know the type. They fit into the palm of your hand, flip open, you push your buttons and speak. They really do look exactly like our old Enterprise communicators, so you can imagine how silly I feel using them in public. Nevertheless, I snatched it up as fast as I could, and without having any idea where I was. Or even how to get to the nearest town, I dialed 911.

Page 222

He talks about how grateful he is for his career and fans. He feels the love, but there still appears to be a detachment. He doesn’t quite understand them.

Trust me, I know exactly how lucky I am. It's nearly impossible to survive when your career choice is actor, even harder to work steadily, and next to impossible to become financially secure. I've been lucky enough to achieve all three of those impossible dreams, and there's not a day that goes by where I don't look up into the heavens and say, "Thank you." Still, the God's honest truth of the matter is that though I love my work, and I'm thrilled with the fact that I have fans, I simply don't give a rat's ass about the phenomenon of "being famous."

Page 280

Perhaps Shatner is mystified by this affection because of his self-centered-ness. Is it possible for Shatner to feel about someone else the way his fans feel about him?

Even in the middle of this love fest, he can't help but take a shot at James Doohan.

Unlike the Gilligans and Marcia Bradys and Montgomery Scotts of the world, never will you hear me complain that being inseparably tied to a familiar television character has hurt my career. I've repeatedly missed out on roles because producers or directors couldn't imagine me as anything but a starship captain, but to even insinuate that the positive aspects of being James T. Kirk weren't undeniably and exponentially more impactful than the negatives would be insane.

Page 289

Doohan was tied to the role of Montgomery Scott in a similar manner to the way Shatner was tied to the role of Jim Kirk. The difference, though, is that Kirk was a starring role. Scott was not. Kirk was a big payday role. Scott was not. It's one thing to be inseparably tied to the starring role of the biggest sci-fi franchise in TV history. There are a lot more doors available to you then are opened to the scecondary cast members.

I'm not saying Doohan didn't have any options or alternatives. The successes of Walter Koenig, George Takei, and Nichelle Nichols show there were plenty of other options. But that fact that Shatner chooses to think he and Doohan were in the same situation, and feels the need to take a shot at him, just further illustrates how detached he was from the needs and feelings of the rest of the cast.

In "Get a Life" Shatner tries to make up for his earlier arrogance and ignorance. He doesn't quite succeed. He still seems to lack the self-awareness necessary for that. We don't really see that honest self assessment until his more recent book, "Up til Now," which is a far more compelling portrait of the main behind the yellow shirt.

Still, it's a nice primer on the Star Trek convention industry. The people Shatner interviews are insightful. The history of the early conventions is useful for those new to field. And Shatner's stories are still funny.

Of the four memoirs/histories Shatner has written, this is probably the least important. "Up til Now" will give you a much better understanding of who William Shatner is and how he got to be the person he is today. "Star Trek Memories" and "Star Trek Movie Memories" have a lot more information about the series and movies respectively, admittedly through the lens of William Shater. Still, they'll tell you a lot more about the struggles to make the show and movies than many other resources.

"Get a Life," part mea culpa, part documentary, and part story telling. It is still an interesting and well-written book. I would just suggest reading the others first.


Book Review 47: Dacing Barefoot

Today is the second day of CES.  And means it is once again time for Star Trek Book Week.  This is the third edition because working the show floor leaves me too tired to write new content, so I like to prep this weeks in advance.Only in this case, because I am running out of cast member memoirs, and because the show starts on Thursday, this will actually Star Trek Book Weekend. Previous reviews are here.

Last year, I wrapped up with Wil Wheaton's "Just a Geek."  This year, we'll start with the Secretary of Geek Affairs once again.

Dancing Barefoot is a short collection of Wil Wheaton essays. The material is similar to what you will find in Just a Geek, which followed it a year later.

If you enjoyed Just a Geek, or just think you want to start reading some of Wheaton's work, Dancing Barefoot is a great book to read.

There are 5 stories in this book:

  1. Houses in Motion
  2. Ready or Not, Here I Come
  3. Inferno
  4. We Close our Eyes
  5. The Saga of Spongebob Vegas Pants

In "Houses in Motion," Wheaton shares the touching story of picking up furniture from a recently deceased Aunt's house. It's a bitter sweet story of the love he felt for her and the impact she had on his childhood.

"Ready or Not," Here I come is the the story of a game of Hide and Seek. While "Houses in Motion" talked about Wheaton as a child, "Ready or Not" is about Wheaton as a Dad.

"Inferno" starts with Wheaton at an audition, living the actor's life:

The casting office, which was once a small onebedroom apartment, is across the street from the CBS studio. It sits at the top of an impossibly small stairwell which is always cramped with too many actors. They sit on the steps, the air heavy with the scent of Altoids, as they silently mouth their lines, and hope that this audition will be "The One."

Page 25

It soon drifts into the tale of a 15 year-old-boy awkwardly talking to a girl, trying to muster the courage to ask her out, and failing to do so. Not that I would know anything about that...

It's a simple story about vulnerability and missed opportunities.

"We Close our Eyes" is a nice contrast to the missed opportunities of youth. It's about a wonderful evening Wheaton has with his wife. It says that we don't have to feel bad for him over the events in the previous story, because romantically, things could not have worked out better.

Those four stories take up the first 35 pages of the book. The remaining 65 pages are what fans new to Wheaton's work are waiting for -- his thoughts on Star Trek.

"The Saga of Sponge Bob Vegas Pants" covers material readers may already be familiar with. Large sections of this story appeared in the other book. Dancing Barefoot is the full story, and a more limited version appears in Just a Geek.

Earlier in the story, the phone rings, waking him when he would rather be sleeping. He tries to ignore the phone.

I launch mind bullets at it, and visualize a spectacular explosion followed by silence. It continues to ring, so I try the more conventional route and pick it up.

Page 37

Wheaton describes his internal dialog when deciding what to do. He hears the internal voice of Stay-in-bed.

Stay-in-bed says, "Dude, mumble again and go back to sleep. It'll be okay." Stay-in-bed is calm, and reassuring. Sounds good to me.

Page 38

It's an interesting technique that Wheaton continues to use, on occasion, in his Tweets (@Wilw ) when he posts discussions he has with iTunes

In this lengthy story, Wheaton shares the roller coast ride of his Star Trek convention experience, his meetings with fans, and his experiences with other members of the cast. He also talks about his first meeting with William Shatner, and the shabby way Shatner treated him (shocking, I know).

If you want Star Trek stories, this last essay is where you will want to turn. Star Trek doesn't really come up in the first four stories. They are more about the universal experiences most people have had or will have. Wheaton's celebrity stature doesn't come into play in those tales.

But the last essay will tell you what you need to know about Wheaton and Star Trek today. About how he came to love it again. About his sketch comedy troupe that performed at a convention. And about his relationship with other inhabitants of various Enterprises.

So pick up Dancing Barefoot. Whether your a fan of Star Trek, or just a fan of the well written personal essay, there's something in here you will likely appreciate. And at just 110 pages, it's not a major time commitment.

And stop back here tomorrow for the next edition of Star Trek book week.

Star Trek Book Weeks I, II, III, and IV

CES is a lot of work, and I hate it when work interferes with my Blog.  And that exhaustion gave birth to Star Trek Book Week.  You can learn more about it here.  If you want to jump straight to my reviews of books  associated with Star Trek, you can start with the links below.
  1. Book Review 15: Star Trek Memories (William Shatner)
  2. Book Review 16: I am not SPOCK (Leonard Nimoy)
  3. Book Review 17: The Longest Trek (Grace Lee Whitney)
  4. Book Review 18: Star Trek Movie Memories (William Shatner)
  5. Book Review 19: I Am Spock (Leonard Nimoy)
  6. Book Review 20: Beyond Uhura -- Star Trek and Other Memories (Nichelle Nichols)
  7. Book Review 35: Up Till Now (William Shatner)
  8. Book Review 36: Beam Me Up, Scotty (James Doohan)
  9. Book Review 37: Warped Factors -- A Neurotic's Guide to the Universe (Walter Koenig)
  10. Book Review 38: To The Stars (George Takei)
  11. Book Review 39: Just a Geek (Wil Wheaton)
  12. Book Review 47: Dacing Barefoot (Wil Wheaton) 
  13. Book Review 48: Get a Life (William Shatner) 
  14. Book Review 49: Acting and Other Flying Lessons (Gary Graham)
  15. Book Review 60: Tales from the the Captain's Table
  16. Book Review 61: The View from the Bridge
  17. Book Reveiw 62: The Happiest Days of Our Lives


TSA VCRs blinking 12:00

On Sunday, EWR (Newark Liberty Airport) suffered a terminal dump.   That means TSA evacuated the entire terminal, searched and rescreened everyone due to a potential security breach.It caused hours of delays for passengers.

The breach? Someone walked down the exit lane.

Okay, I get why that's a big deal.  At most airport, you can't walk down an exit lane because there are TSA people at the end (sometimes each end) with their eyes open.  But it happens.  So let's look at the tape and see what exactly happened, so we can take proper steps to make sure something like this doesn't happen again.

Afterall, we have all those cameras at the airports right?  And EWR is a high profile airport, so I'm sure they are keeping track of the that video with at least the same care a 7-11 does.  That should be exactly what they need.

One smalll problem:

Cameras that might have shown the man who walked through security Sunday at Newark, New Jersey, Liberty International Airport were not recording during the incident, a federal official said Tuesday.

Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Ann Davis said TSA-funded and Port Authority-installed and -operated cameras were running but not recording at the time of the security breach on Sunday evening, which led officials to shut Terminal C for hours and rescreen thousands of passengers.

She said TSA investigators instead scrutinized security tapes recorded by Continental Airlines' cameras in an unsuccessful attempt to identify the individual .


You can see the entire article at CNN.

These people are looking for more power, more authority, and the new Strip-O-Matic (also known as back scatter X-Ray -- images available through GIS (may be NSFW)) screening equipment, and they can't manage to use simple video recording equipment?  How many decades have "security tapes" existed?

I'm not looking for a massive privacy limitation here.  Simply retaining the tape for a mere 24 hours would have solved this problem.  Maybe retain for a week and delete.  In the case of this incident, even retaining the tape for an hour would have been useful for them.

In most industries, when things are not going well, you go back and make sure you are doing the basics right.  Then maybe move on to more advanced things.  The new toys and policies won't help, TSA won't even execute the basics of making sure their recording equipment is turned on.


Splitting the city in two

Fights over infrastructure in Seattle are not new.  This article takes a brief look back at the creation off I5 and how it split the city in half.  That simple strip on concrete has become a sharp dividing line in the city, separating one neighborhood from another and really setting the bar for the cultural distinction between Downtown and First Hill/Capitol Hill.

Few Seattle construction projects have caused more headaches these last few years than the vital but weak Alaskan Way Viaduct. But go back a few decades, and we suffered the weight of a much larger concrete beast -- one that tore up neighborhoods and split the city -- quite literally -- in two.



Christmas music on my iPod

It's time once again for my pre-CES ritual.  It's time to remove the Christmas music from my iPod.

About 80% of my iPod listening time is for podcasts, but during the remaining 20%, I often just set it on on full shuffle and have it go through all 8,000 music tracks and individual tracks of the Lord of the Rings audio books. 

I don't need to have Christmas music popping up in August when I'm not shopping at Crazy Eddie.  It goes on the iPod in early November and comes off in early January.

I realized last night that I haven't listed to much of it this year.  With various travels and other adventures I just haven't played through that genre all that much.  I feel like I let my iPod down somehow.

So now I'm binging on Christmas music while I sleep.  I just let the iPod shuffle through those 250 tracks while my head hits the pillows.

And for some reason I find visions of sugar plumbs dancing in my head.


Resolution Problems

I had a post all ready to go with some musing on the pointlessness of New Year's resolutions.  But the more I thought about it, the less I believed it. 

And while I haven't come up with a resolution is both big enough and realistic enough for me to achieve this year, I know many people have.  And some of those people will succeed with it.

 It's an exciting time filled with potential.  And now it's time to turn that potential into execution. So I wish everyone good luck with the plans for the new year. And in the words of the narrator from Dragon's Lair, "The adventure awaits."