On William Shatner in space, the surliness of the public, tussles over language, a singing field-goal kicker, and more
As you will have heard, William Shatner went up into space yesterday — for real, not just on television or in a movie — courtesy of Jeff Bezos and one of his spaceships.
Let me pause to comment on Bezos and his fellow space entrepreneurs. I’m not a great fan of the “two kinds of people” formula. In fact, when I was a kid, I thought I was pretty clever when I said, “There are two kinds of people in the world: those who say ‘There are two kinds of people in the world’ and those who don’t.”
That out of the way: I think there are two kinds of people, or two clear camps: those who appreciate and even thrill to what Bezos and the others are doing with space travel, and those who resent and carp at it.
Maybe some are indifferent, true. Certainly some are.
At any rate, I wish to quote from an Associated Press article headed “William Shatner, TV’s Capt. Kirk, blasts into space”:
“What you have given me is the most profound experience,” an exhilarated Shatner told Bezos after climbing out the hatch, the words spilling from him in a soliloquy almost as long as the flight. “I hope I never recover from this. I hope that I can maintain what I feel now. I don’t want to lose it.”
If you would like to hear Shatner speak, immediately after his flight, go here. Shatner is amazingly — amazingly — articulate about the experience. That is a boon to us all.
Very few of us will ever go up into space. Hang on: Is that true?
I like William Shatner, a lot. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an episode of Star Trek — I am not a sci-fi guy, although I’ve always intended to read the celebrated novels of Robert A. Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, and others. But I met Shatner once, in a green room, before a panel show we were both on.
I had just seen a documentary called “Trekkers” — a very interesting documentary, about Star Trek fandom. I brought it up with Shatner. And he was eloquent on the subject — even rather moving.
He mentioned the Star Trek conventions. Shortly after they started, he said, he and his co-stars discovered something. I will paraphrase. “The conventions were not about us. The people didn’t really care whether we were there or not. No, the conventions were about them.”
Just before we walked onto the set to film the show, I said to him, “This must be like sitting in your living room or something. You’ve been doing it all of your life.” Shatner replied — thoughtfully and meaningfully — “There’s always a certain anxiety.”
I loved him for that.
I don’t think I hold any kind of record or distinction. But am I possibly the biggest Shatner fan who has never seen Star Trek? And I admire him this week more than ever.
PHOTOS: William Shatner Lifts Off
• I noticed an article: “Unruly customers threaten economic recovery.” I will quote a sentence: “Many workers say they’re simply not willing to put up with the abuse any longer — and their employers are often taking their side, even in industries that have long deferred to their customers.”
A couple of months ago, I was talking to a golf pro — someone who has worked in the business for 30, 40 years. He said, “Jay, something’s the matter with the public. People are just different now. They’re incredibly rude and demanding — even nuts.”
I have a cousin who is waitressing. She says the same. I’m not sure I even want her working around the public. I have asked her to keep her wits about her. And if a customer nuts out — back away as quickly as possible.
What is responsible for the current behavior? The pandemic, people say. I agree — but would put it toward the bottom of the list: after politics, the partisan media, and the social media.
Quite possibly, people are acting now, in person, the way they act on social media.
Then too there’s the general breakdown in civilization. Ha, let’s not forget that!
When I discussed these matters on Twitter — speaking of the social media — a man responded, “Kenneth Minogue’s ‘the politico-moral.’” Ah, yes.
Once or twice before in this column, I have quoted Roger Scruton on Ken Minogue. (I was privileged to know them both.) I will quote him again:
In many ways he was a model of the conservative activist. He was not in the business of destroying things or angering people. He was in the business of defending old-fashioned civility against ideological rage, and he believed this was the real meaning of the freedom that the English-speaking peoples have created and enjoyed. For Ken Minogue, decency was not just a way of doing things, but also the point of doing them.
This is about a thousand years removed from our current period. But humanity enjoys a renaissance now and then . . .
• “Trump’s former top Russia advisor says he has a bad case of ‘autocrat envy,’” reads a headline. The article is here. I will quote a bit:
Fiona Hill also said Trump pandered to strongmen around the world like Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“He also really liked kings and queens,” Hill told The Daily Beast, adding that foreign leaders figured out early on in Trump’s presidency how susceptible he was to flattery.
She also said Trump was “a counterintelligence and national security risk because he was so vulnerable to manipulation based on the fragility of his ego.”
And so on and so forth. We have Trump’s own words, too. I quoted them in my piece on Trump and dictators, about a year ago. He said to Bob Woodward — on tape — “It’s funny. The relationships I have — the tougher and meaner they are, the better I get along with them. You know? Explain that to me someday, okay?”
Last week, Trump wrote the following, about John Bolton, one of his national-security advisers: “Fortunately, Kim Jong Un understood how stupid he was, and wouldn’t allow him at meetings or dinners (I liked that).”
Give me a president, please, who will favor John Bolton over Kim Jong-un.
Or is that too “zombie Reaganite” for you?
• Over the years in this column, I have mentioned Chito Gascon, the human-rights leader in the Philippines. He was a speaker at the Oslo Freedom Forum. Brave and valuable fellow. Born in 1964, he died last weekend, of COVID.
I’ve Googled around. And in 2018, I quoted him as follows:
The strongman rises, carried to power and propped up by a wave of popular support, driven by a perception of decisiveness, fueled by tough talk and a post-truth narrative, with a readiness to undertake quick fixes or make undemocratic shortcuts. . . . This is a challenge today in my country and elsewhere — especially in places with weak institutions that are unable to ensure separation of powers.
• In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott has banned all vaccine mandates — mandates by anybody. I don’t see how this is constitutional, frankly, but I suppose the courts will rule on that. Can the government — one official, one person — tell all businesses, all organizations, all enterprises, that they are forbidden to require vaccination? In a pandemic? In America? One guy can do that?
That does not strike me as right, either as a matter of the Constitution or as a matter of good, common sense. I agree with David French, who wrote, “This is a profound affront to liberty and to public health.”
• Let’s do a little language. Over and over, I see “international” in place of “foreign.” I suppose this error is here to stay. Years ago — 40? — Ted Turner banned the word “foreign” on CNN. Remember? (Though you could still refer to “foreign policy,” the British “foreign secretary,” and so on.)
Universities speak of their “international students.” They mean foreign students. They do not mean students with dual passports, let’s say — kids from Trieste? Golf announcers speak of “international players,” when they actually mean “foreign.” Sergio Garcia is a foreigner at Winged Foot; Phil Mickelson is a foreigner at Valderrama.
I mean, ay, caramba! Geezum.
• Ten, fifteen years ago — I don’t know how long it’s been — people started to say “to advocate for”: “to advocate for this,” “to advocate for that.” I think this is sub-literate. Then again, I am a dinosaur.
(I was once moved to write a post called “Dinos, Unite!”)
Question: When do you know it’s time to wave the white flag on something? Something like “to advocate for”? Answer: When George F. Will — “George Effin’ Will,” as Jonathan Last says — submits.
In a column, he is writing of Elaine Luria, a Virginia congresswoman, and saying, “She would like the head of the current administration to advocate for some expansion of today’s 297-ship Navy as persistently as Ronald Reagan advocated for a 600-ship Navy.”
All right, then. (But a bitter pill.)
• Earlier this season, Justin Tucker kicked my NFL team, the Detroit Lions, in the gut. He did it by kicking a game-winning field goal as time ran out. Tucker plays for the Baltimore Ravens. His kick was a 66-yarder — the longest field goal ever kicked in the NFL.
My friend Cristina informs me that the guy is also a singer. Want to hear him sing “Ave Maria”? Okey-doke: here.
• More music? Here is my review of Lang Lang, the Chinese pianist, in Carnegie Hall on Tuesday night.
• What else? Okay, have one more for you. Recently, I was talking to a young man — a recent college graduate — who has enjoyed a world-class education and has many gifts. The world is his oyster. A very bright future lies before him, no doubt. I asked him, “What is your ambition?” He smiled slightly and said, “To have a family.”
Thought you’d like that.
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