Thursday, January 31, 2013

Star Trek "Forget"

Were we talking about William Shatner? Then we were talking about Leonard Nimoy (who, I must admit, is by far the more subtle of the two, playing a role where he can only emote by raising one eyebrow). This is a scene in which Kirk has found out that the love of his life is not only an android, but dead. (No one explains how an android can die if she isn't alive in the first place.) Now he must forget, and he can't forget. Spock is a fascinating character because of all his quirks, qualities and special abilities, like the mind-meld and the Spock pinch (most of which he invented himself). In this scene he seems to be able to induce a compassionate amnesia, giving the lie to McCoy's accusation that he knows nothing about love.

It is my all-time, absolute, nothing-beats-it, coolest, bestest Star Trek moment ever.

SHAT HAPPENS: What's William Shatner's secret?

I think one of my first Shat memories was on a TV program, not Star Trek at all (for I had just started watching it and had decided I liked Spock best,) but The Ed Sullivan Show, something we watched with religious regularity. It was just unthinkable NOT to watch Ed Sullivan (which meant we had nothing better to do on a Sunday night). 

Along with the plate-spinning acts, contortionists and Topo Gigio, there was the odd - very odd - monologuist, some ehk-torrr who got up there and recited something tony like Dylan Thomas or Shakespeare. This was the Culture part of the program, and there seemed to be some kind of quota. I vaguely remember Richard Burton, probably held up with some sort of stand, and David Hemmings (briefly famous after the movie version of Camelot) doing And Death Shall Have No Dominion with an orchestra playing  in the background.

Speaking of Dominion, that used to be the name of a chain of grocery stores in Canada, but it was never quite as popular as Loblaws. Which is why you see William Shatner doing a Loblaws commercial in this video in about 1978, a lean period when he supposedly lived out of his truck. But before all that, before the magnificent rise and fall, there was Shatner the young Shakespearian actor, and there he was on Ed Sullivan doing Hamlet's soliloquy.

Canned culture, for sure, but I remember my father looking at him and muttering, "This guy is supposed to be the next big thing in acting. Hmph." That "hmph" sealed it for me. If my father hated him, Shatner was officially "in".

I don't remember much about that reading, but I did find a YouTube video in which he does the same passage, "to be or not to be", on the Mike Douglas show. And - he's good. Actually, a little understated; maybe he needed to bring up the intensity a bit. But he did a creditable job and said all those antiquated words as if they actually meant something. 

It's funny, but I do not remember anyone complaining about his overacting during the 3-year run of the first Star Trek series. Nobody said boo because nobody thought he overacted. I've been watching those old Treks for the eleventeenth time (and somehow they must have enhanced them for HD, because they look a hell of a lot better now, except for Sulu's acne which is worse), and so far I'm not laughing or groaning. That's because I think he's good. 

All this Shatnerian overacting business seemed to be retroactive (so to speak). The parody came later, and Shatner sort of fell into it, went along with all of it because it meant more public exposure, more work. He has been criticized for ubiquity and self-caricature, but that's like criticizing someone for having fun with their job.  

Myself, I've begun to think that Shatner on Trek was just being true to Captain Kirk, who was always a bit of a drama queen. Like Anthony Perkins and a lot of other dreamy leading men of the period, the young Shatner had a slight peach-fuzzyness about him, appealing to be sure, but just a touch androgynous. And dynamite to young women.

Shatner always works, always has, and at 82 or something, some insane age like that, he's still at it, and will do anything it seems, even make a safety video about the dangers of deep-frying a turkey. He's just around and seems not to need to sleep. He has sort of enlarged since his fox days (and he WAS a fox, make no mistake, especially during his Twilight Zone years when he was downright painfully fox-ish). He doesn't seem exactly fat, just "blown up" or expanded in some way. He does not have the saggyness and seams and crinkles that all other old people have, nor does he look freakish like Mickey Rourke, so it's doubtful he has done too much to his face. So what gives here? His skin has gone kind of like orange peel, thicker, but not slack. He'd be harder to peel, so to speak.

Sometimes I think he's like that character on one of the old Star Treks, the guy who was a gazillion years old and had been all these different famous people on earth. (The only one I really remember is Brahms.) He must be doing something different, or. . . I don't know. He acts the buffoon so frequently that no one would ever suspect that he ISN'T "one of us", but comes from some other place or has been subjected to some sort of "treatment", experimental to be sure, but which in his case seems to have worked. Like Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, he doesn't seem to know how to die. How will he look at 100. . . 110. . . 150? Has he sold his soul to the devil or made a bargain with the turkey farmers or what? 

It's a secret. A William Shatner secret, and I doubt that he is ever going to tell it. But when he outlives all his children and then his grandchildren, the world is going to be asking some pretty tough questions.

You don't look like that at 82, you don't sound like that at 82, and you don't go around doing turkey videos unless you have something going for you that is very, very strange indeed.

This is my usual p. s., meaning I forgot a whole bunch of stuff. I am a big fan of Shatner's quirky series Weird or What, in which he explores a whole bunch of bizarre phenomena every week with his usual wacko wit. The self-parody here reaches the level of the sublime: when he points to a shelf full of books he has written, one of them is about synchronized swimming. And it is just so cool when he rides in on a horse. I don't know if I believe any of the stuff he examines on the show, but some of it is intriguing (like the signals from Russian cosmonauts that I blogged about a long time ago). 

Then there is that other thing, the thing that kind of shocks me now: there was a Star Trek episode called The Deadly Years in which everyone caught a horrible disease and began to age at a frightfully accelerated rate. The thing is, the makeup on this show was really bad, so no one really looked like an old person. Scotty looked like he'd stuck his face in a banana cream pie. Kirk, well. . . Kirk looked dumb, but absolutely nothing like his "old" self. Not even close.

When you think about it, it's all so - 

Have you ever seen. . . a Mondegreen?

Have you ever seen. . . a Mondegreen?

To me that sounds like a Dr. Seuss rhyme. Or  something to eat, like a madeleine or a macaroon or a meringue.

Or a meringa? Marimba? Marembo? Now we’re getting off course.

The name of this bit of word-torture (which refers to a mishearing of a song lyric or a common phrase) originally came from a line of boring poetry, which some boring old person mis-heard:

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl O' Moray,
And Lady Mondegreen.

The actual fourth line is "And laid him on the green”.

So what, eh? But there’s more. More weird names for things you’re not spozed to say, but say anyway cuz you’re an idiot. I will let Wiki describe it because I'm too lazy to:

The unintentionally incorrect use of similar-sounding words or phrases in speaking is a malapropism. If there is a connection in meaning, it can be called an eggcorn. If a person stubbornly sticks to a mispronunciation after being corrected, that can be described as mumpsimus.

Mumpsimus. Sounds like somebody from that Monty Python movie Life of Brian (i. e. Biggus Dickus), maybe with a  glandular condition.  I don’t want to believe it, but it’s in Wikipedia, so it MUST be right.

But before Wikipedia even existed, we had mondegreens: creative mis-hearings of things like hymn lines, which unintentionally led to brand new Biblical characters such as “Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear” and “Round John Virgin (mother and child)”.

I once overheard my kids singing O Canada (before a pretend hockey game played with stuffed bears) with the line, “Ah, tease a man” (rather than “God keep our land”, a much less imaginitive reading).

But the best-known merengues or whatever-they-are (marimbas?) seem to come from pop music, where the lyrics are so blurred by stoned musicians that even THEY don’t know what they mean.

Wiki quotes two classics:

     There's a bathroom on the right (the line at the end of each verse of "Bad Moon Rising" by Creedence Clearwater Revival: "There's a bad moon on the rise")
    'Scuse me while I kiss this guy (from a lyric in the song "Purple Haze", by Jimi Hendrix: "'Scuse me while I kiss the sky").

Kissing “this guy” makes more sense than kissing "the sky", which is idiotic. But what about that line from the Beatles’ first hit, She Loves You?

“You know it’s up to you
I think it’s only fair
(blank blank blank blank blank)
Apologize to her”

When I sang this along with my gang of ten-year-old friends, we sang something that sounded like ‘Frighten her to do”. We got by with this, because no one cared what the words were anyway. Paul was so cute ‘n fluffy, and Ringo made us want to take care of him. John was scary and looked a little mean, and George was just the fourth man, but never mind, they were the other two legs that held up the table.

It was only years later that I thought to myself, “Frighten her to DO?” and had to look up the real line.

Which is!

“Pride can hurt you too.”

There’s a sort of “oh, of course” reaction when we finally hear the correct words, as in my revelation/epiphany over “that line” in Elton John’s Rocket Man. I always thought it was,
“Rocket Man, wearing out his shoes in Avalon” (or Babylon).

You will never guess in a million years where I heard the right line. It was on a video of the incomparable William Shatner (and I like William Shatner, by the way – that’s for another post), in which his diction still carried something of that Shakespearian clarity he had when he started his career with the Stratford Festival.

He lounged in a world-weary fashion, smoking a cigarette, each line drawn out for about thirty seconds, with as much histrionic emotion and wild inflection as a rollercoaster. This was one of his first self-parodies, though the audience (this was in about 1978) took it seriously and applauded his performance wildly.

So what’s the real line?

“Burning out his fuse up here alone”.

Who'd-a thunk it?

Mondegreens can become malignant, as when they mestastasize into foreign-language stuff.  I remember seeing something called Mots D’Heures: Gousses, Rames which only made sense (sort of) when you read it out loud:

  1. (In case you didn't get that the first time - and by the way, how stupid can a person BE? You mean you didn't GET it? What the hell is the - oh well. Here it is again. Read it out loud, will you?)

    Et qui rit des curés d'Oc? 
    De Meuse raines, houp! de cloques. 
    De quelles loques ce turque coin. 
    Et ne d'anes ni rennes, 
    Ecuries des curés d'Oc.

Makes me want to go put on my old recording of Inna-Gada-Da-Vi-Da.