Tuesday, March 26, 2013

In Honor of Leonard Nimoy's 82nd Birthday Today: The Top Ten "Star Trek" Episodes for Spock Lovers!

If you're a Star Trek fan you probably have your own Spock favorites (and please tell us in the comments), but we've assembled a selection of trailers from Star Trek: The Original Series episodes featuring great Spock moments.  A few of these episodes are totally Spock-centric, but all the others have some terrific insights into Spock and of course Leonard Nimoy's marvelous portrayal.  You'll find that most of the trailers emphasize Captain Kirk, but that's 1960s episode TV for you -- action adventure was king!

1.  Amok Time -- because it's all about Vulcan sexuality!  Hot blood, green blood, it's all boiling when Spock goes into Pon Farr and must return to Vulcan to take a mate.  This was the 2nd season opener and can you imagine what it must have been like to have seen this for the first time back then?  Completely awesome and featuring one of the most famous musical riffs ever to come out of TV!

2.  Journey to Babel -- because we get to meet Spock's human mother Amanda and his Vulcan father Sarek, played to perfection by Jane Wyatt and Mark Lenard.  The Enterprise is in a tizzy when a shipload of intergalactic ambassadors is aboard on their way to a meeting, and Spock's father's sudden illness forces the First Officer to assert priorities which pitch his Human side against his Vulcan identity.  From the series' 2nd season.

3.  The Naked Time -- because we see Spock breaking down  when an alien virus infects the crew and hidden emotions come to the surface.  We definitely learn here that Nurse Chapel has a thing for Spock, too -- and can you blame her?  From the 1st season.

4.  This Side of Paradise -- because we get to meet Spock's former ladyfriend and watch alien spores loosen his Vulcan reserve.  The lovely Jill Ireland guests as Leila, and Spock gets the chance to cavort around the countryside and also have a bare knuckle fight with Captain Kirk!  1st season.

5.  Return to Tomorrow -- because Spock lends his body to a lecherous and devious alien entity and it's fun seeing him be sort of sexy/evil.  Great guest role for Diana Muldaur, too.
2nd season.

6.  Mirror, Mirror -- because we really like Spock being sexy/evil, especially when we're in an alternate universe and he gets to wear a stylish goatee.  Great acting opportunity for all the cast in this one and many great Spock scenes.  2nd season.

7.  The Enterprise Incident -- because Spock gets to go undercover and seduce an alluring female Romulan commander played by Joanne Linville.  This is also the one where Kirk gets pointed ears.  3rd season.

8.  Plato's Stepchildren -- because this is such a nutty episode and we get to watch Spock singing, dancing, crying and rueing it all afterwards.  One of the better episodes from the very uneven 3rd season, with a great guest star in the brilliant Michael Dunn.  We're not saying this isn't silly bordering on the out-and-out bizarre, but lots of interesting Spock in it!

9.  All Our Yesterdays -- because Spock goes back in time and falls for the exiled beauty Zarabeth played by Mariette Hartley.  Who doesn't love Time Travel, and it's always fascinating to watch Spock lose control.  3rd season, and the 2nd to the last episode of the show filmed.

10.  The Menagerie, Parts 1 & 2 -- because Spock is the main engine for the action here and we also get to see the earlier version of his character.  Spock kidnaps his former captain, now horribly mutilated, hijacks the Enterprise and heads for the most forbidden part of the galaxy.  Very science fiction-ish, serious and interesting.  From the 1st season.

Happy Birthday to Leonard Nimoy!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


This review comes courtesy of Read On Read Now. The Eagles were then and are to this day the definers of the music of my youth. I can legitimately say I love their music without falling into the pit of idol worship. Showtime's two part documentary is a superb piece of storytelling, although why they felt a need to make this into two parts is a sorry example of extending a story that didn't need the extension. The second part only runs 1:10, so it easily could have been edited and placed into the original night of programming. The second half is mostly a look at the solo careers of Don Henley and Glenn Frey; and we get to see the big reveal as to how the band reunited in 1994. Show me the money, although I honestly believe that creative instincts played a role in their reunion as well. It would be difficult for anyone not to recognize what those voices, combined, sounded like, although they were a weaker vocal group without Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon.

"The History of the Eagles - The Story of an American Band" is a solid overall look at the single most significant act of the 1970's. They are in the top five of the biggest selling artists in history, so their record sales spell out their commercial success. "Their Greatest Hits" album is the biggest selling album of the 20th Century. They were often dismissed from a critical perspective, but time has been on their side.

Alison Ellwood directs "The History of the Eagles" in a song by song fashion with an enormous emphasis placed on Henley and Frey. They are the only two people who get a "where did I come from" treatment. We know they are the authority figures of the band (they make that very clear), but the complete dismissal of the other band members' lives is insulting, but I suspect that neither of them care. This is a complete execution - set from on high.

For years, Henley was seen as the big bad guy in the band, but this documentary shows Frey as the band-mate who seemingly can't get along in the sandbox (even more so than Henley). He is ultimately the person who fires Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner and Don Felder. Is it always someone else's fault? As the greatest American band ever - they should have listened to their own words - "Get Over It." Although, David Geffen (I'd love to have been a fly on the wall in their meetings) gets in the single best dig of all. He refers to Henley as a malcontent. He says it two times. I suspect this may all be a badge of honor for these folks. Henley and Frey, that is. In the end, it is sanitized. If you have read their biographies you know this is sanitized.

Felder recently hinted that Henley and Frey pretend that they were best buddies and clearly that wasn't their foundational relationship or their ongoing Eagles relationship. If you doubt their comfort zone with one another go and watch their interview with Steve Croft from 60 Minutes. Squirm time arrives. Seriously, go and watch that interview. Thankfully, we get the comic relief of Joe Walsh. Not only is Walsh funny, but he clearly has a sweetness to him that I've never seen displayed before. Loved when he vocalized "that one of the most terrifying things ever was when Keith Moon decided he liked me." Walsh clearly gets along well in the sandbox. In the end, the most impressive aspect of Walsh's contributions in the documentary is his wisdom. Yes, his wisdom. Some of the most profound statements in the entire three plus hours come from the mind of Joe Walsh.

Randy Meisner is treated as an afterthought in much of the three plus hours -- which is appalling. Meisner was one of the best bass players in rock history. He composed a lot of songs. He could hit notes that a Basset Hound couldn't hear and he was one of the cutest guys ever and I mean ever to stand before a microphone in any genre of music (sorry, but it counts). He sings lead on "Take It to the Limit" which means he needed to do nothing else; and that number one hit (their first) would secure him Eagles status for the balance of his days. The song has one of the great dramatic builds in all of rock history and that soaring climax breaks my heart to this day. He was obviously way in over his head and he is the one person in this documentary who sincerely had no business being in the entertainment industry.

The fact that Henley and Frey seemingly think they are a duo with sidemen is mean-spirited. Can you comprehend Paul McCartney or John Lennon dismissing George Harrison or Ringo Starr? Lennon famously said that they weren't four people, but one with four parts. McCartney's genuineness on the concept of a band shines through in the underwhelming Living in the Material World documentary. McCartney has talked a great deal over the last fifty years, but he has rarely actually said much, but he provides some profound commentary while waxing poetic about George Harrison in the aforementioned documentary.

Some of the finest moments in the entire documentary don't necessarily come from the Eagles, but from those they worked with. Glyn Johns, their first producer (who also produced the Rolling Stones, the Who and Led Zeppelin) and Bill Szymczyk (their last producer - not counting them) have several insightful moments of memory. Szymczyk let them do all the things Johns wouldn't let them do. You wish there was more of both of them. Irving Azoff (their famed manager) pops up quite frequently. I met Azoff years ago at a World Music Awards taping in Las Vegas. At the time he was managing Christina Aguilera and I managed to get him to talk for about three minutes. Of course, I went on and on about the Eagles. I was truthful in my admiration (it's about the music), so I didn't falsely tell tales, but I must admit he was engaging and after that three minutes I couldn't get him to move on. He likes to chat.

The big plus in this retrospective - no talking heads. You don't have to sit through "rock historians" and assorted other folks that examined their career, their songs or their lives. The only people that pop up for commentary are those that worked closely with them. The second part does end on a strange note with two - only two comments closing out the documentary. We hear thoughts from then and current California Governor, Jerry Brown; and for some reason the last person we see is Stevie Nicks. I am a huge fan of Nicks', but why does she get the last word?

Henley opens the documentary speaking back in the 1970s by saying this is "not something you can do forever;" and of course the intimacy of the truth is literally staring you in the face for an evening of viewing. When Glyn Johns first encountered them in a British studio he almost gave up on them since he initially wasn't impressed. Just as he was about to depart from their existence he heard what he heard and that was perfect harmony. Literally, by the way. He heard them singing together and that was that. Henley, Frey, Meisner and Leadon. That group of four still reigns on high vocally.

There are other great harmonizing acts, but even the Beach Boys, the Bee Gees and Crosby, Stills and Nash aren't fit to tie the shoelaces of the Eagles. Their voices were stunningly beautiful. When I hear "Seven Bridges Road" I still get goosebumps up my spine. All these years later, it is a delightful moment in life to hear the Eagles sing. They were superbly talented songwriters, arrangers and musicians, but they are the voices that mattered for multiple numbers of listeners to the music.

"The History of the Eagles" is one of the best documentaries ever produced on any music artist. By the time it ends you feel like you know them. In spite of themselves, you are glad you got to know them. You probably wouldn't want to hang out with all of them, but you are glad you were taken down their road. Just go and play some of their music. Keep in mind, every time you download their songs - you make them richer (the songwriters get richer). Thankfully, I've got their catalog. They were second only to the Beatles and I assume a Kennedy Center Honors is on the way. How did the Brits get that honor before the Eagles? The Who and Led Zeppelin have already been rewarded (not that this stuff means anything). For better, for worse you can't get more American than the Eagles.

Watch it and enjoy. This is a straight A for Eagle fans. If you want the inside track to a somewhat shady business you will have an education in three hours. If you don't like the music of the Eagles - what is wrong with your ears? My five favorite songs by the Eagles:

1) Take It To the Limit - Practical tears every time I hear it. Those notes! Loved Randy Meisner!

2) One of These Nights - One of the best pop songs of all-time.

3) Seven Bridges Road (live) - Harmony vocals don't get better than this.

4) Most Of Us Are Sad - Country/pop/rock on the mountaintop.

5) You Never Cry Like a Lover - (Lyrics are silly, but Henley's vocal is one of his defining moments).

The last time I saw the Eagles they played for three and a half hours. I broke my ankle exiting the building that night, but thankfully, the show was over and they had loitered supremely.

I cannot imagine not loving their music. The best band ever, next to the Beatles, that is! Copyright Read On Read Now 2013

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"Are We Alone?" Makes a Return Visit on Science Channel Tonight

"Are We Alone?"  Indeed...Science Channel asks this most mysterious question tonight and lucky for us they know how to make some terrific television to try to answer it.  As a follow-up to the tremendously effective two hours they produced last year -- Alien Encounters: The Message and Alien Encounters: The Arrival -- tonight and next week they bring us two more installments under the umbrella theme title of Are We Alone?.   March is -- and was last year, too -- an "Are We Alone?" theme month, though I'm not sure it's so much a month as just a Tuesday evening stunt, but that's plenty good enough.  What really makes this collection of programming special is that these four special are made with the help of the SETI Institute, the foremost authority on the search for alien life, and their participation ensures that these shows are both scientifically accurate and dramatically far-reaching, a perfect combination. 

Tonight's new hour, premiering at 10pm, is Alien Encounters: The Invasion.  If you saw the other two specials, you know that Earth intercepted a message from an alien source -- first contact -- and then in the second hour it was discovered that the aliens were headed straight for our planet.  If you didn't see these two excellent hours, you will have a chance tonight when they are repeated at from 8pm to 10pm, and we highly recommend watching.  Not only will it get you up to speed for the newest special, but these are hours that can stand up to repeat viewing.  They are superb, with believable fictional characters and scenes featured along with real scientists who offer their views on the history-making events taking place. 

No doubt these two new hours -- the fourth one premieres next Tuesday -- will not disappoint.  We've been introduced to several recurring characters who will no doubt be facing the scary reality of alien contact in these newest segments. Science Channel has managed here to combine some of the best scientific minds -- and not only merely brilliant, but enthusiastic and emminently entertaining -- with an appealing semi-documentary look to the dramatic segments that works to increase believability in material that skirts the unknowable. 

Don't miss Alien Encounters 2: The Invasion tonight at 10pm, with an encore at 1am, and last year's Alien Encounters: The Message and Alien Encounters: The Arrival at 8pm and 9pm, respectively, with encores at 11pm and 12 midnight. 

Keep Watching the Skies -- and your TV set!