Godspeed, Gary Stephen Thompson (1945-2012)

Scanning from left to right in the adjacent picture from Christmastime 2008, you will see Bob Rainey, Mark Warbington, Paul Talamas, Gary Thompson, and me. This was the last time that I saw my friend Gary jovial and excited with life.

On my way home to visit my family that year, I stopped through Atlanta to see the good friends that I made during my Mindspring and Georgia Tech undergraduate days. The five of us in the picture often met up at Mark’s house to tinker with computers (and technology in general), watch Red Green episodes (among many other things), and play Battlefield 1942 (with the Desert Combat patch).

Since I had left Atlanta for graduate school at the University of Liverpool and Kent State University, I had not stayed in touch as much as I would have liked to. However, news has a strange way of finding its way to you through unexpected paths or random encounters. In Gary’s case, I knew that he continued with his annual participation in the Stone Mountain Highland Games, worked with another group of friends building an experimental kit airplane, and recently retired from General Electric where he was an highly experienced machinist.

When I received a postdoc offer from Georgia Tech, I was excited about the prospect of catching up with my friends and hanging out again like we used to do at Mark’s. I realized that time and life had continued during the six years I was absent from Atlanta, but I did not expect the terrible event that coincided with my moving back to the area.

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William Shatner’s Interpretation of Rocket Man

Lisa Yaszek forwarded a link to the SFRA list of William Shatner’s performance of “Rocket Man” at the 1978 Science Fiction Film Awards.  His act is introduced by Bernie Taupin, the song’s writer and longtime collaborator with Elton John.  You have to watch the video to fully appreciate Shatner’s contribution to avant-garde performance.

In response to Lisa’s link, Mack Hassler said:

Lisa’s post is such a great illustration of how art and technology protect us and fix us in time.  Reality moves on.  Look at what Shatner is airing now.  In the signature to this posting, I still list myself as deeply implicated in Extrapolation; when you receive the current issue in a few weeks I shall be “gone.”  Time and reality move on for us all just as it does for Bill Shatner.

Shatner’s video definitely places him at a particular temporal interstice of culture and history.  Also, Mack’s point that we should consider what Shatner is doing now points to the actor’s work in the here-and-now relies on an exaggeration or pastiche of his past works.  Now, he is a pastiche of himself in many respects.

However, consider our longing of nostalgia for art such as this. Our desire for nostalgia is manifests strongly in works such as Fox’s Family Guy animated sitcom.  Many of the jokes are obscure and rely on a culturally aware audience.  Taking the Shatner example above, Family Guy reinterprets Shatner’s interpretation by having Stewie assume the role of smoking singer. This new version of Shatner’s performance drags the past into the present moment thereby creating the joke, which implicates not only Shatner located in a stylized past, but also ourselves as witnesses and accomplices.  Have another laugh thanks to postmodern nostalgia on YouTube here.