Sunday, March 1, 2015

Three Things I Will Remember Leonard Nimoy For...

…and “Star Trek” isn’t any of them. 

If you every wondered whether or not nerd culture has become the true 21st century zeitgeist, we all got executive clarification when President Barack Hussein Obama released an official statement on the death of Leonard Nimoy.

Think about that shit for a minute. The same day a prominent, freedom of expression champion from the States got macheted to death by Moslem extremists in Bangladesh, the leader of the motherfuckin’ free world chose to take time out of his schedule to pen a few flowery thoughts on the life and times of a C-grade actor whose only claim to fame is speaking in a monotone voice and wearing pointy ears on TV. That tells you everything you need to know about contemporary American society and its values; if you literally sacrifice your life in overseas battle or defending the public in crime-ravaged streets, nobody cares, but if you just so happened to portray a make-believe space elf on god-awful children’s cinema, you might just find yourself a future recipient of the congressional medal of honor.

I suppose I can at least grasp the parasocial connection some folks had with the Spock character. Of course, none of the geek mourners across the globe are bemoaning the loss of an actual human being, either. To the horn-rimmed, acne-speckled masses, the death of Leonard Nimoy is more of a symbolic loss, the metaphorical demise of a part of their fantastical, abstract-alternate reality that means more to them than god, country or family combined.

I’ve never watched a single episode of “Star Trek,” or seen any of the movies. I did rent that one game on the NES, though, even though it pretty much sucked and I should have rented “Tecmo Super Bowl” for the three-millionth time instead. So yeah, I can’t really speak for any of the super-fan clinical-undiagnosed-psychopaths out there who are shedding tears for a person they never actually met nor ever knew they ever existed as individual human beings. I mean, shit, for all we know, Nimoy could have been a really terrible human being behind closed doors who beat up his wife like John Lennon or had gang-rape parties like Jimmy Page or had obscene trysts with his relatives like Gandhi -- frankly, these people have no clue what they’re ACTUALLY celebrating, which terrifies the ever-loving shit out of me.

Alas, as a pop-culture weaned parasite, I suppose it’s difficult to deny that Mr. Nimoy has had at least some tangential impact on my life, albeit in really reduced domains of my entertainment selections. While everybody else mourns the passing of Mr. Spock, here are the three things I will personally recollect about Leonard Nimoy …

“In Search Of…!”

In the late 1970s, there was this show called “In Search Of…” It was basically “Sightings” a good fifteen years in advance, a weekly slog through all sorts of supernatural and paranormal bullshit. It was originally hosted by Rod Serling, but he unceremoniously died halfway through the series, so they had to replace him with a different narrator. And who did the producers select to fill the void created by the passing of the “Twilight Zone” curator? Why, none other than Leonard Nimoy himself!

The same way we will no doubt endlessly mourn Morgan Freeman and James Earl Jones a few years from now, it’s kind of come to my attention that the only thing Nimoy really had to offer as an actor was his booming voice. I mean, goddamn, with an intonation like that, he could sell snow to an Eskimo. While the show itself was pretty routine, Nimoy’s tar-slicked, chimney-throated inflection made even the stupidest excursions into mumbo jumbo about Sasquatch and Egpytian curses at least a smidge respectable.

According to the Wikipedia, Nimoy had a hand and in writing at least one or two episodes of the show, which fantastically, somehow led to a series of semi-nonfiction books, all of which featured preambles penned by Spock hisself.  Watching the series on a second-run on A&E back in the day, I really don’t recall the episodes themselves all that well, but you better believe I remember the sound of Nimoy’s narration, as he mused such direly important topics as reincarnation and the mysterious death of Glenn Miller. Man, the early ‘80s were a lot more fucked up than I remember.

“The Y2K Family Survival Guide!”

Picture it: the year of our Lord, 1999. We were a culture knee deep in “The Matrix” and Columbine, a nation slowly coming to grips with the reality of hard-on-pills for the elderly, the World Wide Web, and president who really enjoyed blowjobs from chunky chicks. Aye, they were roaring times indeed, although a sinister cloud hung overhead all year-round: the dark, deathly auger of Y2K.

All you coddled and overprotected Millennial twerps don’t know nothing about no Y2K, do you? For the Poke-Generation that’s never known of an existence sans Wi-Fi and totalitarian systematic decrees against even the subtlest forms of bullying, the Y2K bug was this mathematical glitch inside EACH AND EVERY FUCKING COMPUTER SYSTEM IN THE WORLD that was going to send us hurdling ass-backwards into the Paleolithic era. Bank accounts would vanish, planes were going to fall out of the sky and toasters were probably going to become sentient and start strangling us like in “Maximum Overdrive.” Indeed, such was the Mayan 2012 Apocalypse frenzy of its day, only intensified a million percent because this was before Wikipedia and we really couldn’t fact-check a damn thing on our own.

To be forthright, I never actually watched the “Y2K Family Survival Guide” VHS cassette, although the thing is available in its entirety on the ‘Tube and I should probably review it for this here blog at some point. That said, I vividly recall that warm orange and yellow box-art screaming at me, with Leonard Nimoy’s stern-but-believable-face staring at me like some sort of Nostradamus for the “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer” generation. Of course, after humanity safely rolled over to 2-0-0-0 without the slightest of hiccups, this video became instant discount bin fodder; needless to say, for whatever indiscernible reason, that image is still the first thing that comes to mind whenever I hear Lenny’s name get dropped.

“Seaman” on the Sega Dreamcast!

Although I run a website dedicated primarily to stupid nostalgic pop culture bullshit from the Clinton years, I really don’t have an actual longing for most of the stuff I cover. I mean, yeah, it was cool and all that I had a Muckman action figure and an LCD handheld version of “Altered Beast” when I was a kid, but as a 30-year-old man, I really can’t say I have any strong emotions about losing them fifteen or twenty-some-odd years ago.

Now, my personal copy of “Seaman” on the Sega Dreamcast, however, is something altogether different. For those not in the know, “Seaman” was really out-there video game that came with a little microphone attachment for your controller. If you ever played “Hey You, Pikachu!” on the N64, it’s pretty much the same gimmick. However, Sega decided to go way above and beyond the call of duty with their game, creating an absolutely unparalleled psychological-gaming experience where you raised, nurtured and had existential discussions with fish people with Japanese faces. The term “indescribable” gets tossed around way too frequently, but if there was ever a video game worthy of such an oxymoronic label, surely, “Seaman” was it.

Every time you booted up the game, you were greeted by Leonard Nimoy, who proceeded to give you an update on the state of your fish people. With his matter-of-factly presentation, he may have been short on memorable lines, but he at least brought an air of sophistication to the title. It takes a real pro, after all, to discuss the mating habits of smart-aleck chimeras, and clearly, Nimoy was among the best in the biz when it came to giving such performances.

Yeah, I could probably say some shit about his appearances on “The Simpsons,” as well, but I figure that’s one of those things that really doesn’t bare much mentioning. I mean, every Gen X and Gen Y kid on planet Earth knows about the Monorail episode, but I’m guessing a considerably smaller proportion of humanity recalls his stints as hysterical computer crash propaganda narrator, or voiceover artist for abstract bestiality video games and TV shows about the Loch Ness monster.

To most folks, he will always be Spock, but to me, he’s that one guy that did a lot of really out-there weird shit that only about 12 or so people on the planet recall. And on the day Sir William Shatner gets called to that great jubilee in the sky, rest assured that I will pen another heartfelt memorial, recalling his immortal performances as “TJ Hooker” and the host of “Rescue 9/11.”


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