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Friday, February 27, 2015

Goodbye "Spock," Friend of San Francisco

Posted By on Fri, Feb 27, 2015 at 3:08 PM

click to enlarge star_trek_iv_bus.jpg

He lived long, and certainly prospered. But now actor Leonard Nimoy has died, at the age of 83.

Known to many for his most famous role as "Spock," the pointy-eared Vulcan of Star Trek fame, Nimoy was hospitalized earlier this week from chest pains brought on by end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to the New York Times

His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed his death.

For us Trekkies, it's a teary-eyed day, but I can understand that the uninitiated may wonder "why?!"

In the mid-1960s, Star Trek was loved by some, but not widely known. But when it hit syndication (that means reruns) years later, Star Trek nerds went bananas. In the 70s, Mr. Spock was the height of cool. Spock-mania led to Nimoy publishing the book I Am Not Spock, in 1977to reclaim his identity. In 1995 he recanted the title, publishing I Am Spock, and embracing his inner-alien. 

It's lucky for us that he continued playing Spock, as the iconic character went to San Francisco a few times in later Star Trek movies.

In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (which Nimoy directed), Captain James T. Kirk, Spock and crew travel back in time to San Francisco of the 1980s, to rescue whales. Don't ask why, because the answer, as Spock would say, is highly illogical

The plot doesn't need to make sense, though, because it gave us moments like these: Here's Spock giving the Vulcan nerve pinch to a "punk" on a Muni bus.

But Leonard Nimoy the man also had ties to San Francisco as well, and gave a talk at Grace Cathedral on his photography, which was featured in the Jewish Contemporary Museum's "100 Artists See God" exhibition.

As the iconic Spock, Nimoy inspired millions of Star Trek fans worldwide. Much of that had to do with Spock's personal journey, and the pull between his two cultures.

Spock was half-human, half-Vulcan. This duality, and inner turmoil, first attracted Nimoy to the role of Spock in the first place. Should Spock embrace the culture of Vulcans, who adhere to an emotionless, logic-based code of conduct? Or should Spock embrace his humanity: Anger, fear, love, and grief?

Many Star Trek episodes address this cultural pull. Writing to FaVE magazine in 1968, one half black, half white teenage girl wrote to Nimoy for advice. 

"Dear Mr. Spock... I know you are half Vulcan and half human and you have suffered because of this. My mother is Nergo and my father is white, and I am told this makes me a half-breed. In some ways I am persecuted even more than the Negro. Negroes don't like me because I don't look like them. The white kids don't like me because I don't exactly look like them either. I guess I'll never have any friends.

— F. C., Los Angeles, CA."
To which, Nimoy wrote:

"As you may know, only Spock's mother was human. His father was a Vulcan... Spock was heartbroken because he wasn't popular. But it was only the need for popularity that was ruining his happiness... Spock learned he could save himself from letting prejudice get him down. He could do this by really understanding himself and knowing his own value as a person. He found he was equal to anyone who might try to put him down — equal in his own unique way."
Mr. Spock may have embraced logic, but Mr. Nimoy embraced compassion, to which his fans will always be grateful.

In the wake of his death, Trekkies are helping Spock's funeral scene from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn go viral. Watch it below, and wish Nimoy care as he explores the strangest of new worlds. 

Don't forget the Kleenex. You'll need it.

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Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez


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