Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Show Must Go On! By C.P. Stringham

Katie, as Meg, belting out her lines for Vendor Calls during Brigadoon while the rest of the cast listens in. 
(photo courtesy of Max Bennett)
This past weekend was a whirlwind! I find myself still riding on a musically-induced 

Always into Broadway shows, here's Syd singing
Jellicle Cats from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats.

high knowing it will wear off and leave me crashing soon. There’s always coffee, right? My oldest participated in her first drama club production and loved it. Since pre-school, she has had a great fondness for musicals and has been known to break into song, singing some random Broadway show tune, for no reason whatsoever other than the fact that the mood moved her. Her first grade teacher, Mrs. Kennedy, would tell me that, while she was on recess duty, she used to get a kick out of watching my daughter portray The Phantom while singing Music of the Night to her classmate Shannon’s Christine. My husband and I have encouraged her year after year to try out for the cast, but her shyness always prevented her from going through with it. Not this year, however. She entered into the school’s chorus room and, in front of roughly fifty people, sang I’ve Decided to MarryYou from A Gentleman’s Guide to Loveand Murder, a song normally sung by three characters—and portrayed all three, using different voices with accents, for the audition. I wasn’t there, but from what I was told by others, she was marvelous. Syd isn’t a technically perfect soprano. Don’t get me wrong. She can most certainly carry a tune without making those in earshot cringe. She just isn’t going to hit that C above High C and shatter glass. What she lacks in vocal range and stamina, she makes up for in heart and soul. I only wish she hadn’t waited until her senior year of high school to realize she loves being on stage!
The Cast and Crew of ASAG's 2015 Production of Brigadoon!
(Photo courtesy of Ali Bennett)

Now, her participation hasn’t been all peachy on the homefront. Due to my husband’s job, evenings turn yours truly into a single parent. Calculate an autistic teen who thrives on her routines and add the normal evening tasks of a domestic goddess into the equation and you’ll understand what I mean. I'm not going to lie to you. The juggling wasn’t easy. I won’t miss driving back and forth to the valley twice a night for Syd’s rehearsals (she doesn’t have her driver’s license YET!!!!), but I am thrilled she FINALLY joined drama club and had the incredible experience she did. The camaraderie among cast, crew, and directors was unlike anything she's ever done before at school. Learning how your one part, even if it’s minor, fits into the whole group and functions as one, to create something extraordinary, can't be duplicated by reading a textbook or taking notes in a classroom. It has to be experienced. Two months ago, from the very first few practices, I heard her say, “I don’t see how it’s going to come together. It doesn’t feel like we’re really doing anything.” And then it turned into, “It’s coming together and it’s going to be amazing!” And come together it did.
Elijah, as Mr. Lundie, performs the marriage ceremony between Jeannie and Charlie played by Ariana and DJ.
Over the past few years, our school’s drama club has been turned into a thing of beauty that even Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber himself would deem praise-worthy. The club found itself in need of a new advisor four years ago. Alice “Ali” Bennett, our district’s Food Services Director, and Tim Brown, one of our high school’s special education teachers, stepped in to take the helm. As explained by Ali, “I remember, it was a June day.  I think school may have just ended or it was at least in the last few days of school.  I was at Athens High School and Beth Schulze, then principal, stopped me and said, ‘Hey, Vina's not doing the play anymore.  Will you direct the play?’  Beth knew I had directed shows for three years at Sayre High School and knew that I was an active member of Winding River  Players.  I said, ‘OK.’  I fell into directing at Sayre in a similar fashion!” Ali brought along with her to the program her fellow Winding Rivers Player member Tim Brown as her co-director. “I had previously roped Tim into performing with the Winding River Players.  He, like many others, was finding a ‘home’ with theatre.  In my typical management style, I told Tim he'd be directing the Athens’ school play with me.  To which he responded, ‘Ok.’” Musical direction for the club is provided by the more than capable music/chorus teacher Lisa Reynolds who, like Tim, was drafted into her role. This came about during their second year of partnership while producing Wonderland. Lisa’s children were in the musical. Ali says, “The constant nagging must have worked, because Lisa joined our ranks.  What followed was the birth of a true musical production at AHS; a first for Lisa and a first for me.  Lisa had never been in a show or directed a show.” What a beautiful collaboration this birth has been! The members of ASAG have given their directors nicknames to loosen formalities while not compromising on school protocol. Ali is called “Shoe” for Schue, a brief form, so to speak, of Mr. Schuester from the Fox Television series Glee. Tim is called T-Bone and Lisa is referred to as Mrs. R “since another nickname hasn’t yet stuck.” 
Pulling musicians together from both AHS and
other local high schools, as well as regional
orchestra programs, to form an exceptional orchestra pit. 

As a little backstory, the former director, Vina Miller, one of our district’s devoted music/chorus teachers, had been at the helm of the program for many years. A job she managed to successfully do alone. That meant she was solely responsible for coordinating the music, vocals coaching, acting coaching, as well as the normal set and costume direction involved. It was quite the undertaking and had to be exhausting. As our school district began feeling the financial strain of both State and Federal budget cuts, positions were eliminated and teachers moved to different buildings. Vina was transferred to one of the outer-lying schools, which took her further away from the high school where the club’s base was, and, understandably, she resigned.
“My first year, in the fall of 2011, I changed the name of the program to Athens Student Actors' Guild.  No clue where that came from, but I have never liked the name ‘Drama Club.’  It seems to invite, well, drama!  We thus became ASAG.  Another goal was for ASAG to become a known entity.  We're getting there!” Ali explains. Over the past four years, the program has produced Bedside Manor, Wonderland, Footloose, and this year’s Brigadoon.
Music/Chorus teacher Lisa Reynolds sees her vision
of producing Brigadoon coming to life. Bill, a junior at
AHS, plays the bagpipes and was a hit in the show!

(Photo courtesy of Ali Bennett)
When Syd initially told me they were doing Brigadoon, the choice didn’t hold much appeal with me. I think I may have even groaned a little just because my mind had filed it away as one of those “dusty old musicals” you catch yourself watching as a Sunday afternoon movie because nothing else was on TV. The truth is, I wasn’t overly familiar with the musical and I had to look it up on YouTube to see what songs were in it. Even after viewing the clips, I wasn’t entirely sold on it for a high school musical. The vocal ranges required seemed to be well-beyond high school mastery level. I’ve been to past chorus shows and, I mean, our vocal talent is good, but were they that good?! Lisa Reynolds had faith in her students. Their original plan this year was to do a production of Guys and Dolls, but due to the fact that it is currently involved with a national touring group, ASAG was denied the rights. Ali tells me,Mrs. Reynolds picked Brigadoon. She had been in the (orchestra) pit for the show a couple of times in the past.  It was NOT one that I would have picked.  Out of my comfort zone. How delighted I am that I was wrong.  I learned and grew like the rest of ASAG. We generally try to pick a show for which we know we have the ‘voices’ and acting abilities, and numbers of students.” As a parent and a spectator, all I can say is THANK YOU, Mrs. Reynolds, for your faith and vision! The students of ASAG proved they were equally up for the task of performing the vocally challenging Brigadoon. And then some. How do you know a production was good? When it goes home with you!!! I can’t stop humming the tunes from the show! Last night, while filling the sink with dish water, I caught myself singing I’ll Go Home with bonnie Jean complete with cast member DJ’s dance moves and expressions. “Go home! Go home! Go home with bonnie Jean!” It just won’t leave my subconscious. And Brigadoon was wonderful! I'm not saying that as a stage mom. Our family has attended the last six productions and, after last year's Footloose, we didn't think they'd be able to surpass the quality---and yet THEY DID this year. I don't know how they will beat it with next year's show. Seriously. But if Shoe, T-Bone, and Mrs. R are involved, anything is possible. The amount of time these three advisors put into the program comes at nothing short, I am convinced, of costing them great personal sacrifice, although we’ll never hear them complain about it. They do it for their students.
L to R: Michaela, Ryan, DJ, Katie, and Jared
"Fiona and Tommy" selfie with Michaela and Ryan.

(Photo courtesy of Michaela Elliott)
I would like to take this opportunity to gush about the talent we have at our high school. Michaela and Ryan played leads Fiona and Tommy. Both of them have vocal ranges that force you to pinch yourself because you think you are dreaming—they can’t possibly be high school students!? Surely you’re sitting at a show in some Broadway theatre!? When I had checked the show out on YouTube, I said to Syd in disbelief, “There’s no way your castmates are going to hit those notes and sustain them.” And she argued back, “Yes. They. Will. Wait until you hear them.” When Michaela and Ryan broke into Heather on the Hill, it moved me to tears. It was that beautiful. This is coming from the self-declared Numero Uno fan of Luciano Pavarotti who planned her vacation around the FIFA World Cup Three Tenors Concert on July 16, 1994 from Dodgers Stadium—I wasn’t there in person, but planted in front of my TV with the surround sound blasting and champagne flowing! From the same person who saw Michael Crawford perform Gesthamne live in Philly at the Mann Music Center and, at the time, declared, “Surely I have died because I’m in heaven!” I don’t extend music-related compliments willy-nilly. It’s serious freaking business. I am one of those individuals who can’t sing a note or play an instrument, but, gosh darn it, I can recognize talent when I hear it. Supporting cast members DJ and Ariana, last year’s stellar (Did I mention stellar?) leads, Ren and Ariel, in Footloose, played Charlie and Jeannie. DJ, with his good-natured style, exudes stage confidence and is always quick to win over an audience and Ariana wowed as the sweet blushing bride. Their performance was bittersweet since both of them are seniors and this would be their last ASAG production. My family and I have watched them grow up together on stage. Jared and Katie played Jeff and Meg and rounded out the rest of the larger cast roles. Jared proved last year that he had the comedic timing of a professional actor and only built on to his reputation this year to prove last year’s performance, as Ren McCormack’s sidekick Willard, wasn’t a happy accident. Katie, a budding sophomore, brings vocals laced with heart and charisma for a true stage presence. Her love of everything Broadway shines through. As the town’s overly “friendly” lass, Meg, she had the audience stirred up into a jovial frenzy during her rendition of The Love of My Life when she ingeniously resorted to bringing the orchestra pit’s unknowing male clarinetist into the act as one of her past loves. Upwards of twenty-five students had smaller parts or filled in as townspeople. They sang, they danced, they kicked ass. Syd was one of Jeannie’s girls. She had a solo line to sing during the song Vendor Calls.
L to R: My mom, Syd, Samantha, and Cameron
hanging out "backstage."
Being Syd’s supportive family, we attended all three performances. Our friends and family came out to show their support as well and left at the end delivering raving reviews—even from my musical-hating brother and father who each stated how overly impressed they were by our school’s talent and the overall production of the musical. That’s right, readers, my NASCAR-loving, redneck family members loved ASAG’s Brigadoon! My brother even stated that he wished he’d gone to see it a second time! The greatest moment for me was seeing my mom "backstage" before the show with her granddaughter—who was wearing the costume my mom made for her in just two days! She would do anything for her Syd.
Syd and company at the Brigadoon cast after-party hosted
by Chumpy's Pizzeria
I’ve heard people complain about weighing our children down with too many activities. There have even been studies about it. I think it’s about knowing what each individual child can do. Give your child the opportunity to participate in athletics and arts and causes, but be a parent and monitor them. If you know your child, you can tell when they have too much on their plate and you help them choose what needs to go from their schedule. Syd’s extracurricular time hasn’t been spent at the school, but at the horse barn and is equally time-consuming and requires dedication. She started riding and showing at age eleven. That was when my husband and I witnessed the greatest transformation in her. She turned from this lackadaisical kid and became this organized, self-motivated, and responsible teen. Think about it. In order for her to afford her hobby, she had to work at the horse farm. She was accountable for grooming and exercising show horses insured for $75,000 to $150,000! Not something one is put in charge of doing if they are irresponsible. These traits carried over to her student life as well. As a student, she became involved in what I call “community enriching organizations” like: SADD, Red Cross Club, Interact, Student Counsel, and Honor Society where she participated in planning school-wide activities and was also encouraged to perform community service. Combine those activity skills with what is taught by certain outstanding teachers, who not only educate, but inspire their students to achieve to the best of their abilities, and our daughter became a positive statistic in the argument about children in activities.
I asked Ali what her goal was for ASAG and this is what she said, “My goal, was and still is, for the students to have fun.  I love theatre and think that others should, too!  There is an actor in many of us, waiting for someone to set it free. Hmmm. My goals remain for students to have fun; stepping out of their comfort zones, for students to experience the thrill of being on-stage, for students to gain confidence in their abilities, and for students to feel part of something special.” Sounds like skills to learn for life, does it not? Another check mark in the positive argument column for children and activities.
L to R: Grace, Syd, and Erin. Poor Grace was a trooper
and had to perform on crutches!
As stated earlier, State and Federal budget cuts are straining our public education finances. Schools everywhere are experiencing it. The first to feel the squeeze are the arts and humanities programs. Budgets get slashed or cut entirely. Programs like ASAG have to buy the rights to perform musicals or plays. Those rights are not cheap. Props, costumes, and equipment come out of the budget as well—when there is a budget. Admission price to the production goes into an expense account to fund things. Many times, advisors pay out of pocket or members pay for their individual needs. Our district is in desperate need of a new sound system and mics. In fact, as mics died during Brigadoon, our district IT guru who oversees the control room technology, Gary Seifert, used his connections through churches to borrow mic sets to get ASAG through the weekend’s performances.  Gary told me that quality individual mics, transmitters, and receivers cost around $2,000 a set. For our school’s productions, we would need ten sets. You do the math. That’s a lot of smackers. Money for that is going to have to come from outside sources. School-based fundraising projects wouldn’t be feasible. Running the normal two fundraising events a school year, by selling goods from out of a catalog, would take years to accomplish with, on average, fifty student members participating. At best, fundraising programs only offer a 30-35% return in total sale monies raised. Even though Syd is graduating this year, my goal, as a parent, is to start writing letters to local businesses soliciting monetary donations to support ASAG. These donations would be tax deductible for the businesses so it’s a win-win situation for all involved. I’m determined to find a way to fund our gifted and dedicated ASAG program!! After all, the show must go on!  
The seniors from the cast of Brigadoon: L to R Stephanie, Nadia, Eli, Austin, Allie, DJ, Director Ali "Shoe" Bennett, Ryan, Kyle, Amelia, and Sydney.
(Photo courtesy of Ali Bennett)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Frustration by Robin Janney

Since CP posted so late, I meant to give a few days before writing and posting my own...and here it is Saturday night and everything I've tried to write for the post I wanted to do just is not coming together.  It is more than a little frustrating.

I don't know if it's because I'm tired, which makes little sense since I slept late this morning.  Or perhaps I've just had a full day anyway and it's time to wind down.

Mr. Janney and I spend the afternoon with his parents.  He helped his father load firewood and I took my mother-in-law to Walmart so she could pick up her parents' prescriptions.  Then we all went to her parents to deliver the meds and the firewood.  It was a good visit all the way around.  Then we came home, ran the neighbors to the nearest convenience store, ran to the grocery store so I could try a recipe Grandma Jean shared with us and then came home.  I was not impressed with how the recipe turned out, but Mr. Janney polished it off so it couldn't have been too bad.

He's playing his GTA 5 at the moment, as usual, although his partner in crime isn't on.  I sit here at my computer trying to throw my thoughts about Mary Sue characters and how she's gotten a bad rap and for whatever reason it's not coming together tonight.

Even this short blog is giving me grief!

So I'm going to save us all from a terrible blogpost and just say goodnight, Live Long and Prosper and maybe I'll have better luck next time around.

Is this what Star Trek meets Touched by an Angel would look like?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Friends in High Places: My Private Tour of Harris Hill Soaring Corporation By: C.P. Stringham

Madam Ambassador!!!

My friend Lisa “The Rage” Roan is a Media Consultant for Pembroke Pines Media Group. The Rage knows everyone in the Twin Tiers. Everyone. She schmoozes with businesses and local nonprofit groups pitching ad campaigns and selling air time for commercials. Think of her as the Media Queen of Elmira. She has won the Chemung County Chamber of Commerce’s Ambassador of the Year award for two consecutive years. On top of that, she gets invited to events all over her media group’s listening area like concerts, musicals, charity events, and so on. When I find myself in need of networking while researching a plot line for one of my books, I can usually count on The Rage for a contact person.
Three weeks ago, I posted on my personal Facebook account that I was looking to interview someone who had flown in a sailplane at Harris Hill Soaring Corporation. Of course, The Rage came to my rescue. She not only knew someone who has flown, but the person she referred me to was one of the facility’s pilots who also serves as a flight instructor. A few private messages were exchanged between us and, just like that, I had an appointment set up to not only interview Todd Knapp, but to also tour the facility.
L to R: The original hangar built during WWII, and my expert guide, pilot Todd Knapp.
Harris Hill is known as the Soaring Capital of America and home to the National Soaring Plane Museum. The flight center and museum are situated on a plateau that sits at 1,709 feet above sea level and is located in Big Flats, NY. The main hanger was constructed during World War II and holds several sailplanes as well as tow planes. The hanger also has a lower level that stores even more sailplanes. The soaring center is a nonprofit organization that depends on memberships and public sailplane rides as well as countless volunteer hours that each member is required to do in order to keep the program running successfully. Perhaps the coolest aspect of this organization is the fact that most of the members have been flying since thirteen or fourteen years of age! In fact, Todd started his flight training at 13 years old. Harris Hill offers a Junior Membership program. Because of this, membership spans over many generations. Todd told me that, Corky, one of their flight instructors, is retired from the Air Force where he served on the ground crew for the famous Thunderbirds stunt fighter jets that travel around the world to various air shows. Another instructor, Heinz, is a former U-2 Bomber pilot. If one were to add up the combined amount of flight time their members have, it would probably blow your mind. While looking into their junior program, I was shocked to learn how affordable it is. The facility subsidizes the cost of the junior program as a means to promote their hobby so that future generations will carry on the tradition. Per the facilities website, out of 600,000 pilots in the United States, only 3.5% of them hold a glider rating. Getting back to the affordability of their program, after checking other popular teen programs in the area, Harris Hill’s junior flying program costs a fraction of what the others do. Speaking as the mother of an equestrian, a flight session costs half of what a one-hour riding lesson costs. For a season, it costs a third less than a season on a youth hockey league.
Top to Bottom: The windsock displaying just
how blustery it was during my tour; old
photos adorning the flight center walls. Below
Clip from Thomas Crown Affair.
I met with Todd on Saturday, March 7th. It was a blustery, cold morning and I found both my pen and fingers uncooperative due to the chill as I attempted to take notes. While the center is closed for the season, the dedicated members were on premises working on one of their fleet planes. Off season allows them time for annual maintenance. From the sounds of things, this tightknit group spends a lot of their free time at the facility just to get together and trade flying stories. For the purpose of my interview, I asked Todd if he could walk me through the preparation time as seen by a first time passenger. The corporation’s choice craft for high performance rides is the ASK 21 designed by Alexander Schleicher of Germany. It is a two-person craft with controls in both the front and back to allow flight control from either seat. He explained the entire process from boarding to flight preparation while educating me about the parts of the sailplane. That particular sailplane was recently put back together after being taken apart and inspected carefully. The entire fuselage shined like a new craft due to the loving attention it received from being waxed and buffed.  Todd told me that each aircraft received the same attention.
Todd’s passion for flying was infectious. The longer I was in his presence, listening to his flight experiences, the more I knew I wanted to take a sailplane ride. I guess that means Todd wears three hats in reality; pilot, instructor, and salesperson because he’s really good at selling people on the experience!  He spoke fondly of Liz, his former instructor, who now instructs in Germany. Harris Hill has also made it to the big screen. He told me how the takeoff scene in the Peirce Brosnan/Renee Russo movie Thomas Crown Affair was filmed there.
Todd invited me back to take a sailplane ride when the season picks up. Harris Hill’s program reopens on April 4, 2015. Mere weeks away. I have to say, I am totally psyched about going for a ride. I love planes and love flying—even though I’m petrified of heights. Petrified. Who got all knock-kneed and almost hyperventilated climbing up the Statue of Liberty? Yep. This girl. A lot has changed since growing older, too. My blood pressure medication can cause motion sickness. In order to make certain my future sailplane flight can happen—and without a hitch—a phone call to my family practitioner has to happen. I’m thinking a mild antianxiety medication and something to combat motion sickness. I’ll have to see what he thinks. I'm determined to make it happen! Todd explained what it was like balancing flight with science. Using natural elements like thermals, ridge lifts, and mountain waves to carry and propel the sailplane. He explained that no two flights were exactly the same. Variations arrived due to weather conditions, passengers, time of day, and season and a pilot has to act on those variations and engage the proper adjustments to the flight.

 Top to Bottom: File photo of a Raptor taking off
at Davis-Monthan AFB; Vern during his retirement
ceremony; the sign outside of Travis AFB announcing
Vern's retirement ceremony. (Ceremony photos by
Kirstan Vanderpool.) 
Seeing the sailplanes invoked long-suppressed dreams I’d had of flying. From the moment I saw movies like Iron Eagle and Top Gun as a teen, I entertained the thought of becoming a military pilot. I took what I think was considered a practice ASVAB while in high school and scored well. That was when the recruiters started calling our house. I strongly considered the Air Force. My parents sort of burst my bubble when they reminded me that there weren’t many female military pilots. They reinforced it by saying the chances of my becoming a pilot were slim to none. And then my thoughts turned to basic training. Hiking in full uniform while carrying a backpack for miles and miles, helped take away the rest of whatever appeal was left after my parents’ sabotage. Nevertheless, I’ve never lost my interest in planes. During our 1997 vacation in Tucson, Arizona, my husband and I stayed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. I was in heaven! Military planes everywhere—retired planes on display around their guest lodging facility and jets taking off and flying overhead! At times, there was so much air traffic, I didn’t know where to focus my attention. I begged my ex-brother-in-law to arrange a ride for me in a fighter jet, but he laughed it off. His feeling was, if he couldn’t get a ride in one and he was a lifer, there was no amount of string-pulling he could do on his end to make it happen for a civilian. Davis-Monthan is also home to the national airplane graveyard. Due to the dry heat of the desert environment, it allows for the perfect storing conditions for retired planes. At the time, Vern told me that most of the aircraft would take very little in maintenance to be flight ready should our military have a need to put them back into service. I would have loved a tour of the graveyard, but tours require special preparation including clearances and so on. Vern didn’t know ahead of time that I’d be interested. He retired in January 2011 after serving twenty-three years, ten months, and thirteen days in the United States Air Force. Even though he and my sister-in-law have been divorced for many years, it doesn’t diminish the admiration and respect I have for him and his years of military service as well as his loving dedication to my niece, Kirstan. 
Admit it, when you hear, "Marverick's going supersonic!" it gives you goosebumps!  
Top Gun
Iron Eagle

                               (Raptor photo: U.S.Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Chris Massey/Released) Airplane Graveyard Near Davis Monthan Air Force Base Photo on Sharenator 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Growing up with Mr. Spock by Robin Janney

This past Friday saw the passing of Leonard Nimoy.  He was a man of many talents: an actor, a poet, an author, a father and stepfather and grandfather, film director, photographer, friend and I’m sure there are even more items that could be added to his list.  He was also a member of the US Army Reserves back in the 1950’s.  When you live to be 83, you have many chances to wear many hats like he did.

Spock and Isis from TOS Assignment Earth
For many of us, the role that immediately springs to mind when we consider his career is that of Commander Spock of the USS Enterprise.  A role that spanned decades across two different series, and a whole bunch of movies.

I myself was not even born when Star Trek The Original Series aired in the sixties.  And the ironical part of my love for almost all things Trek is, the first time I caught part of an episode on our local PBS station…I hated it and refused to watch it.  In my defense, I was not even a teen yet…and the episode was By Any Other Name in which the aliens were able to reduce a human life form into a gray block of protein matter which was only reversible if the block remained undamaged, and I had the unfortunate luck of having tuned in during the scene where one of the aliens crushed the block of Yeoman Leslie Thompson (the only female redshirt to have died during the series).  Needless to say, the disturbing murder upset me and I vowed to never watch Star Trek again.

Which lasted until I hit my teens and caught an episode of the spinoff, Star Trek The Next Generation.  I was a teen girl…and Wesley Crusher was cute.  From that one episode, a love for this universe grew.  Oddly enough, I can’t tell you which Wesley centric episode it was…it may have been Coming of Age when he was trying out for Starfleet academy for the first time, or it may have been When the Bough Breaks.  I just know it was an early season episode where Wesley was wearing that awful grey jumpsuit.

Needless to say, as I watched more Trek, TOS, TNG and DS9 as a teen, my crushes changed.  TOS I flip-flopped between the three main stars until finally settling on Mr. Spock.  I know that several of my creative writing free writes in high school were Spock centric, with my very own “Mary Sue” character as his love interest.  Hey, I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I was a teen practicing my writing and escaping reality at the same time.  I did all the cliché things to my stand-in too, gave her a better body, made her a human-alien hybrid which I understand is fairly typical, gave her epic alien powers cool enough to rival Q’s.  She’s come a long way in my imagination, and if nothing else, she’s taught me a lot about all the characters I create.  I think I’ll leave that for another post.
Spock was and is a character of depth.  You could count on him to be the calm, steady voice in the midst of a battle.  He rarely raised his voice, unless it was just too loud on the bridge or under the influence of pon farr or being taken back to a time before Vulcans began to utilize logic.  He was not a warm character, but many shows gave us glimpses into the tightly controlled emotions and passions he had.  It wasn’t that Vulcans have no emotions, but that they chose to not allow their emotions to rule their decisions.

For all that Gene Roddenberry created the series and the initial character of Spock, it was Leonard Nimoy who made Spock who he is and indeed, the Vulcan race.  From the Jewish roots of the Vulcan hand greeting and phrase that goes with it, to the famous Vulcan neck pinch (Nimoy felt Spock was too logical to punch an adversary.)  So even the character of Spock that we see in the Trek novels counts as Nimoy’s creation.  My favorite is Vulcan’s Heart, which is as close to a Romance as Trek gets.  The Pandora Principle, Saavik’s origin story, though not considered ‘cannon’, is my second favorite.  I prefer the Vulcans over the Klingons who became so popular during The Next Generation time.  And that comes from my deep loyalty to Spock and the man who made him.

If it hadn't been for my fanfiction concerning both Star Trek and Star Wars during my youth, I’m not sure where I would be today.  My strongest memory of growing up with Spock and the gang were watching the episodes on our local PBS station; they started coming on around 10 or 10:30 and they showed 3 episodes back to back.  With no commercials, fundraising seasons tended to drag though.  In my imagination, we were friends and with them I was accepted and admired –something I had not experienced in my youth.  Trek especially kept me sane with their vision of a future where all people were accepted for who they were, regardless of their religion, their appearance, or their personality quirks.  We won’t talk about how Lt. Reginald Barclay in The Next Generation struggled with being…different.  That’s another matter entirely and served to drive home how easily it can be to ostracize someone without meaning to.

Sadly, before Friday I could have told you more about Spock than I could have the man who portrayed him.  Since Leonard’s death, I have learned he was one cool cat.  He supported his friends He fought for equal pay for one of his Star Trek costars and in the previous article he even championed for their very jobs when it came time for the animated series.  He included full bodied women in his photography.

Leonard Nimoy was someone who had always been there, and even when he announced his fight with COPD I kind of always expected him to be around.  I wonder if they will include his death in the next Star Trek reboot?  Or if they will properly let his character fade into the background?  He has truly left a lasting legacy, on many different fronts.  From epic quotes both as Spock and as himself, to countless people like myself who have been touched even indirectly by his life’s work.  He will not be forgotten.

Live long and prosper.