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Mr. Spock

Can Art 14 (Spock): Matthew Niemi

Can Art 14 (Spock): Matthew Niemi via Flickr

In the TV show Star Trek: The Original Series Mr. Spock is a Vulcan science officer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, famously portrayed by actor Leonard Nimoy (1931 – 2015).¹ As Captain Kirk‘s right hand man, Spock plays a pivotal role as the only non-human crew member. In fact, he acts as a foil for not only other characters, but also for some of the prevalent cultural biases of the so-called developed world of the 1960s.

Spock’s father was Vulcan and his mother human. As such he has an internal conflict between suppressing his emotions, which Vulcans are known for, and permitting their expression, as human do.

Publicity photo of Leonard Nimoy and William S...

Publicity photo of Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner as Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk from the television program Star Trek. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While this was a clever idea back in the 1960s, the notion that any species would try to live purely on logic, as Vulcans claim to do, seems impractical. Along these lines, the Swiss depth psychiatrist C. G. Jung advocated the integration of thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition (albeit for human beings).

When Star Trek first appeared in 1966, Spock’s skin was reddish in color, he looked more devilish and his speech was somewhat rough. He originally conformed to the “red Martian” stereotype of the 1950s and 60s. But Trek producers quickly became interested in developing a more complex character and Spock’s appearance softened.

His looks became more elfin than devilish and he began to harbor intense emotions under a somewhat fragile veneer of Vulcan rationality. The changes paid off. At times Spock’s popularity among viewers rivaled Kirk’s. The Vulcan psychological, cultural and political tension between logic and emotion is also brought out in Star Trek: Enterprise through the female character, T’Pol.

Zachary Quinto as Spock in the 2009 Star Trek film

Zachary Quinto as Spock in the 2009 Star Trek film (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Director J. J. Abrams’ 2009 hit movie Star Trek brought Spock back into the spotlight. This time Spock is both an old (played by an elderly Leonard Nimoy) and a young man (Zachary Quinto).

The fact that Nimoy is showcased in this blockbuster film while William Shatner (who played the original Captain Kirk) is absent is perhaps telling as to Spock’s ongoing popularity and cultural significance in the 21st century. Or possibly it just tells us more about internal friendships and politics within the Star Trek franchise.

Spock also had a cameo role in the successful film Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013). Again, Shatner was not included in this production.

Spock’s signature Vulcan saying “Live Long and Prosper” is perhaps equally popular as the phrase “May the Force be with you” from the Star Wars films—two instances where science fiction has had a significant impact on pop culture.

Interestingly, Wikipedia tells us that Nimoy had a difficult time differentiating himself from the Spock character while the original series was in production. Apparently the cool logic of Spock would stay with Nimoy all week and into the weekend, right up to Sunday afternoon. So he’d have Sunday night as Nimoy, only to return to Spock again on Monday morning.²

Vulcan (Star Trek)

Vulcan (Star Trek) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently, an asteroid in our solar system was renamed 4864 Nimoy in his honor.³

¹ Younger Trekkies might not know that, at the time of the original series, a certain Dr. Benjamin Spock was a famous pediatrician, child psychologist and bestselling author. So quite possibly the name Spock was chosen in hope that it would resonate with viewers on some level. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Spock

² https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_Nimoy

³ http://www.space.com/29627-leonard-nimoy-asteroid-name.html


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The Square Cross

puxador quadrado: Pedro Dias

puxador quadrado: Pedro Dias via Flickr

The square cross is sometimes called the ‘primordial cross‘ because it appears in diverse cultures and has deep symbolism. Symbologists say the square cross denotes a spatial orientation—a center with forces entering in and moving outward.

The square cross also links the circle and the square. It has been a symbol for the meeting of heaven and earth (China) and for an alleged ‘umbilical chord’ of the cosmos.¹

The square cross has been connected to the biblical idea of Paradise due to the four rivers flowing outward from the Garden of Eden. Moreover, it symbolizes a meeting point between the living and the dead.

But this just touches on countless motifs associated with this cross.

In Christian usage, we find the square Greek Cross and a modified form in the Jerusalem Cross, an emblem of the early Christian Crusaders. The insignia of Godfrey de Bouillon, the first ruler of Jerusalem after defeating the Muslims in 1099, was the Jerusalem Cross, which he wore at all times.

English: Jerusalem Cross in Votivkirche (Wienn)

Jerusalem Cross in Votivkirche (Wienn) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Nor Varagavank monastery, 13th centur...

Nor Varagavank monastery, 13th century, Armenia. Jerusalem Cross on wall of monastery. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

¹ For examples, see http://www.mesoweb.com/features/fabric/textindex.html


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Standing Wave

In physics a standing wave is a uniform and relatively stable wave pattern of energy that doesn’t travel through a medium. Put differently, each point on the standing wave has a constant amplitude.

Standing wave in stationary medium. The red do...

Standing wave in stationary medium. The red dots represent the wave nodes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By way of example, imagine a long skipping rope extended on a smooth surface and held by two people at either end. When wiggled left to right by one person at a precise frequency, this particular type of wave differs in that its waveform (the height and shape of the curve) doesn’t move down the rope but remains stable, forming a uniform pattern.

Circular Standing Wave

Circular Standing Wave (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wikipedia adds:

This phenomenon can occur because the medium is moving in the opposite direction to the wave, or it can arise in a stationary medium as a result of interference between two waves traveling in opposite directions. The most common cause of standing waves is the phenomenon of resonance, in which standing waves occur inside a resonator due to interference between waves reflected back and forth at the resonator’s resonant frequency.

For waves of equal amplitude traveling in opposing directions, there is on average no net propagation of energy

Erwin Schrödinger argued that all particles of matter are in fact standing waves of energy.

The implications of his theory are profound. It suggests that so-called matter within the universe isn’t really solid. We merely perceive it as solid through our senses and minds.

¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standing_wave

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Star Trek: Enterprise

Star Trek: The Tour Beamed up in the Transporter: Conrad Quilty-Harper

Star Trek: The Tour Beamed up in the Transporter: Conrad Quilty-Harper via Flickr

Star Trek: Enterprise, originally called Enterprise, is the most recent incarnation in the Star Trek TV franchise, running for four seasons from 2001-2005. The action is set in the future but before the time of Captain Kirk (of the original series), making it a prequel.

Enterprise is the story of the very first U.S.S. Enterprise, equipped with recently developed warp drive technology, all set to leave Earth and the solar system for deep space exploration.

The alien, technologically superior and emotionless Vulcan race has been on Earth for a while, holding back the Earth’s space program because the ‘overly emotional’ human race wasn’t ready for extended inter-species contact.

Captain Jonathan Archer doesn’t like how Vulcans have been stalling humanity for years, but initial tensions between Archer and his Vulcan Science Officer, T’Pol, gradually resolve into mutual respect.

The series initially received encouraging reviews but its fan base dwindled and, despite attempts at innovation, the show became increasingly lackluster and Enterprise eventually fell out of warp in the TV ratings.

However, Enterprise did have some bright moments amid its steady decline, especially when dealing with the topic of time travel. And the cultural and mythic importance of the entire Star Trek franchise is hard to overlook. The Oxford English Dictionary, for instance, now includes in its database the word Klingon.

Scott Bakula

Scott Bakula (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s some more information from the entry, Jonathan Archer:

Some critics of Star Trek: Enterprise, a series initially with good ratings that steadily dropped, said [Scott] Bakula was miscast or, worse, unworthy of the role. The series was canceled after four seasons, which in the Star Trek universe isn’t a total flop nor a great success.

From watching reruns today it seems the commercial demise of the show wasn’t about casting Bakula as captain. If anything, it was about inconsistent writing (sometimes lapsing into formulaic trash), bad timing and other factors. Co-creator and executive producer Branon Braga once said it pained him when his series wasn’t up to scratch. So even he knew it had problems.

Newer programs like BattleStar Galactica: Reimagined, Kyle XY, Dr. Who (series 1) and Oprhan Black suggest that sci-fi was heading in new directions at warp speed, whereas Enterprise and its writers seemed to be stuck in impulse drive. And for a while, it seemed like the franchise had gone the way of the dinosaur.

Wrong.

Enter director J.J. Abrams with Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and others to reboot the idea [in 2009] for a whole new generation.


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Star Trek : The Next Generation

Patrick Stewart as Locutus, the assimilated Je...

Patrick Stewart as Locutus, the assimilated Jean-Luc Picard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Star Trek : The Next Generation is the first and highly successful remake of the original Star Trek TV show. The Next Generation ran for seven seasons from 1987-94.

The captain of the new, beefed up United Federation of Planets starship Enterprise is Jean-Luc Picard, played by the British character actor Patrick Stewart. It seems that Stewart was made for the role. His popularity rivals that of William Shatner and the Captain Kirk character.¹

A new cast of characters and innovations such as a holodeck – where interactive environments are created through holograms – are added. Also noteworthy is the fact that Klingons are no longer arch enemies of the Federation. Lt. Commander Worf, a Klingon, serves on the new Enterprise. And whenever the crew is unhappy or estranged by its various space adventures, a psychological counselor, Deanna Troi, is available.

Another memorable character is Lieutenant Commander Data. He is an android who, like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, wants to know what it’s like to be human. And “Q,” played by actor John de Lancie, was something akin to a classical Greek or Roman god in that he had powers and knowledge extending beyond our normal understanding of space and time. Also like the pagan gods, he abused these powers in childish ways and even challenged the authority of the Q Continuum (the ruling body of the Q, representing the status quo), resulting in Q’s frequent punishment.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – A Final Unity

Star Trek: The Next Generation – A Final Unity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perhaps the most formidable new enemy of the Federation is the Borg, a horrid collective of cyborgs who suck the life and technological knowledge out of any living creature deemed worthy of its cold malice.

These and other innovations made TNG rival the original Star Trek series in terms of sheer creativity. This isn’t surprising because Gene Roddenberry, the producer of the original show, was directly involved in TNG.

TNG‘s immense popularity attracted the film star Whoopi Goldberg,who played the super-intuitive bartender and wise advisor Guinan. Goldberg apparently approached the producers of TNG, expressing her desire to be on the show.

Other notable guest actors in the show in show include Erich Anderson, Billy Campbell, Nikki Cox, Ronny Cox, Olivia d’Abo, Kirsten Dunst, Mick Fleetwood, Matt Frewer, Walter Gotell, Kelsey Grammer, Bob Gunton, Teri Hatcher, Stephen Hawking (as himself), Famke Janssen, Mae Jemison, Ken Jenkins, Ashley Judd, Sabrina Le Beauf, Christopher McDonald, Bebe Neuwirth, Terry O’Quinn, Michelle Phillips, Gina Ravera, Jean Simmons, Paul Sorvino, Brenda Strong, James Worthy, Tracey Walter, Liz Vassey, David Ogden Stiers, Ray Wise, and John Tesh

Several films based directly on the TV series were released at theatres: Star Trek Generations (1994); Star Trek: First Contact (1996); Star Trek: Insurrection (1998); Star Trek Nemesis (2002). TNG video games have also been released.

Cover of the US release of the first I, Claudi...

Cover of the US release of the first I, Claudius DVD. There has since been a remastered edition with a different cover. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

¹ Stewart has taken on many significant roles. In the 1970s, before Star Trek, he played Sejanus in the highly acclaimed BBC series, I Claudius. An ambitious Roman soldier cum commander who gained power through cunning and deception, for me, Stewart’s Sejanus is overplayed. His facial expressions and head movements are often overdone. It’s almost as if Stewart hadn’t settled down yet. I’m not sure a younger Stewart could have played the rock solid Captain Picard that many of us have come to know. Rumors abound that, before becoming Picard, Stewart didn’t know anything about Star Trek or sci-fi, for that matter. Apparently he missed doing Shakespeare and more “serious” roles while committed to Star Trek.

² https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek:_The_Next_Generation


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Star Trek: The Original Series

Star Trek: The Tour Original Bridge: Conrad Quilty-Harper

Star Trek: The Tour Original Bridge: Conrad Quilty-Harper via Flickr

Star Trek: The Original Series is an American science fiction television program created by Gene Roddenberry. The show ran for three seasons from 1966-1969.

Although the starship Enterprise’s five year mission to explore new worlds was cut short by poor ratings, the ship and crew didn’t dematerialize quite so fast.

Devoted viewers demanded more. As the fan mail piled up, the show’s uniqueness was soon realized and run of successful movies were produced throughout the 1970s to 1990s, along with several new Star Trek TV spin-offs, closely following the original format.

A few second-rate academics might still scoff at the idea, but Star Trek TOS and its offshoots have taken on mythic proportions. Instead of Sumerian gods carved in stone, Star Trek gave us gods etched on film. And there’s arguably not too much difference between the two.

Star Trek TOS Cutting Room Floor Clippings: The Rocketeer / Kevin Trotman

Star Trek TOS Cutting Room Floor Clippings: The Rocketeer / Kevin Trotman via Flickr

Trying to be progressive in its day, the original Star Trek pilot episode featured a female first officer. But due to poor ratings she was replaced by the male Vulcan, Mr. Spock. The revised cast boasted a host of international characters at the command center, which for the mid-1960’s was virtually unheard of.

The kiss between Kirk and Uhura is popularly c...

The kiss between Kirk and Uhura is popularly cited as being the first interracial kiss portrayed on US television (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the episode, “Plato’s Stepchildren” (1968) Captain Kirk and the black Lt. Uhura are forced by telekinesis to kiss, a controversial first for fiction characters on U.S. TV. And in the episode Balance of Terror (1966) Kirk scolds his navigational officer Styles for making a racial slur:

Leave any bigotry in your quarters. There’s no room for it on the bridge.

Some say that the whole Star Trek phenomenon has all the earmarks of not just a myth, but a true religion because it exhibits the following criteria:

  • A social component (Star Trek conventions are periodically held around the world)
  • The Star Trek ‘creed’ (the Prime Directive)
  • A general goodwill ethic
  • Implied transcendental ideas
Star Trek: The Original Series crew at "T...

Star Trek: The Original Series crew at “The Palace of Wax” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 2009 hit movie Star Trek, directed by J. J. Abrams, brought the popular character Spock back into the spotlight. This time he’s both an elderly (played by the late Leonard Nimoy) and a young man (played by Zachary Quinto).

The fact that Leonard Nimoy is showcased in this blockbuster film while William Shatner (who played the original Captain Kirk) apparently didn’t fit with the script says volumes about public opinion and maybe Hollywood politics within the Star Trek universe.

Nimoy’s popularity endures after his death. Recently an asteriod was named after him—4864 Nimoy. This goes to show that Star Trek is not only mythic. Many scientists, astronomers and astronauts admit to loving and being inspired by the show.


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Rudolf Steiner

Rudolf Steiner

Rudolf Steiner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Born in what is now Yugoslavia, Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was a mystic philosopher who believed he experienced the essence of Christ and the mystery of Golgotha. However, his approach to religion remained non-denominational and unconventional.

After becoming a leading figure in the Theosophical Movement, he broke away to form his own branch of Anthroposophy.

Perhaps Steiner’s most enduring influence is seen in his Waldorf or, as adherents call them, “Steiner schools.” Some 400 of these schools populate the globe today, with a diverse curriculum geared toward developing individual potential.

Critics say the Steiner schools encourage “paganism, even Satanism,” and are out of touch with the realities of contemporary life.¹ And Steiner’s apparently scientific approach to spirituality has been critiqued as an instance of scientism. Still, he remains inspirational to many.

¹ http://skepdic.com/steiner.html

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Schweizergarten- Rudolf Steiner monument 2007-04: Er.We

Schweizergarten- Rudolf Steiner monument 2007-04: Er.We via Flickr

 

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