It’s William Shatner’s birthday, everybody!

Today we’re celebrating the 87th birthday of the Man himself. Captain Kirk, T.J. Hooker, Rescue 911 Guy, Denny Crane, Priceline Negotiator, and CAPTAIN JAMES TIBERIUS BY GOD KIRK.

:: ahem. ::

The one and only William Shatner: 87 years old, and still running circles around people half his age. I’ll have what he’s having.


Happy Birthday, sir. May you enjoy many more.


Columbia: 15 years ago today.

On the morning of February 1st, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia, returning to Earth after a successful 16-day mission, broke apart during re-entry and disintegrated, killing its seven-member crew.

I spent the rest of that afternoon and the ensuing days watching the news coverage as new information came to light, and possible explanations and causes for the disaster began to emerge. To this day, it’s hard to believe that something so seemingly simple as a few damaged heat tiles could wreak such unchecked destruction.

On the other hand, the tragedy served to reinforce the harsh reality of the incredible dangers inherent in manned space flight, and that nothing about it is “simple” or “routine.” I did and still believe that our exploration of space is a worthy and necessary endeavor, and I hope that the sacrifices made by men and women such as Columbia‘s crew always will be heeded when taking our next small steps and giant leaps.

Generations from now, when the reach of human civilization is extended throughout the solar system, people will still come to this place to learn about and pay their respects to our heroic Columbia astronauts. They will look at the astronauts’ memorial and then they will turn their gaze to the skies, their hearts filled with gratitude for these seven brave explorers who helped blaze our trail to the stars.

– Sean O’Keefe, NASA Administrator, Arlington National Cemetery, February 2nd, 2004.

 (l-r, blue shirts): David Brown, William McCool, Michael Anderson.
(l-r, red shirts): Kalpana Chawla, Rick D. Husband, Laurel Blair Salton Clark, Ilan Ramon


God speed to the crews of Apollo 1 and Challenger.

Yesterday, I missed observing the anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire, which occurred on the evening of January 27, 1967. While conducting a routine test of their spacecraft’s power systems, astronauts Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White, and Roger B. Chafee were killed when a fire broke out inside the capsule.

Grissom had been with NASA almost from the beginning, flying missions for both the Mercury and Gemini programs, and White also was a Gemini veteran. The Apollo 1 flight was to be Chaffee’s first space mission.

Their sacrifice, though tragic, ultimately played a monumental role in NASA’s effort toward bettering the machines which soon would fly to the Moon, and ensuring the safety of the men who would take them there.


(L-R: Astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, Roger Chaffee)




Each year, January 27th marks the beginning of a somber week of remembrance for NASA.

73 seconds after launch on a particularly cold Florida morning 32 years ago today, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, killing astronauts Dick Scobee, Michael Smith, Judith Resnik, Ellison Onizuka, Ron McNair, Greg Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe.

On March 21st, 1987, a permanent marker paying tribute to the crew was placed at Arlington National Cemetery. The marker’s face features likenesses of the crew and the following dedication:

In Grateful
and Loving Tribute
To the Brave Crew
of the United States
Space Shuttle Challenger
28 January 1986

Inscribed on the back of the marker is this poem:

High Flight

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
and danced the skies on laughter silvered wings,
sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun split clouds – and done a hundred things
you have not dreamed of
wheeled and soared and swung
high in the sunlit silence hov’ring there.
I’ve chased the shouting wind along and flung
my eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
where never lark or even eagle flew
and while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space
put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

– John Gillepie Magee, Jr.


L-R: Ellison S. Onizuka, Michael J. Smith, Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Francis R. Scobee, Gregory B. Jarvis, Ronald E. McNair, Judith A. Resnik

Happy Birthday, Gene Coon.

Today would’ve marked the 94th birthday of writer, producer, and novelist Gene L. Coon.

Serving as a Marine during World War II and the Korean War, Coon would later channel his experiences into a pair of novels, Meanwhile, Back at the Front, and The Short End. Both are books you might shelve next to such irreverent tomes as Richard Hooker’s MASH, Dean Koontz’s Hanging On (written before he was *Dean Koontz*) and even Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.

Eventually making his way to Hollywood, Coon wrote scripts for a number of popular shows of the 1950s and 1960s such as Dragnet, Maverick, Bonanza, Have Gun, Will Travel, The Wild Wild West, and Wagon Train, and is also acknowledged for pitching the idea for what would become The Munsters. In the early 1970s, he wrote for shows like Kung Fu and The Streets of San Francisco, and produced the Robert Wagner series It Takes a Thief.

Somewhere in the middle of all of that, between 1966 and 1968, Coon was also one of the creative forces behind the original Star Trek.

GeneCoonWorking alongside series creator Gene Roddenberry as well as producers Herb Solow and Bob Justman and writer Dorothy Fontana, Coon was one of the show’s great influential forces. In addition to being a prolific writer who could turn out scripts in machine-like fashion, he’s also credited with introducing concepts to the series such as the Klingons and the Federation’s Prime Directive, the genetically enhanced Khan Noonien Singh, and warp drive pioneer Zefram Cochrane to name some prominent examples, which continue to inform and guide Star Trek storytelling to this day. Some of my favorite Trek scripts, like “Space Seed,” “A Taste of Armageddon,” “The Devil In the Dark,” and (of course!) “Arena” sprang from Gene Coon’s typewriter. Hell, I even have a soft spot for “Spock’s Brain.”

After Star Trek, he would partner again with Roddenberry as a co-writer for the TV film The Questor Tapes, and also was a co-writer for another Roddenberry concept that never went to series, Genesis II.

Coon died in 1973, never getting the chance to see what became of the show he helped shape and nurture. It’s unfortunate that his contributions seem to get overlooked except for the show’s most devoted fans, because there can be no denying the impact he had not just on the original series, but in the massive entertainment franchise Star Trek eventually became.

Happy 95th Birthday, Stan Lee!

Wishing a Happy 95th Birthday to the Generalissimo himself, Stan Lee!

He’s been at the epicenter of comics for more than seventy years. I still have my copy of How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, which I purchased when I was a teenager with thoughts of one day drawing comics of my own. Despite reality asserting itself, that hasn’t dampened my love of the medium, and a lot of that is thanks to this man right here.

95, and he’s still running like a cheetah shotgunning Red Bull. I hope I have half his energy when I’m his age.

Wait. I want half his energy now.

The happiest of birthdays to you, sir.


Veterans Day.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

– Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, 1915

(Artwork: Erin Ward)

Happy 242nd Birthday, Marines!

On November 1st, 1921, John A. Lejeune, 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps, directed that a reminder of the honorable service of the Corps be published by every command, to all Marines throughout the globe, on the birthday of the Corps. Since that day, Marines have continued to distinguish themselves on many battlefields and foreign shores, in war and peace. On this birthday of the Corps, therefore, in compliance with the will of the 13th Commandant, Article 38, United States Marine Corps Manual, Edition of 1921, is republished as follows:

On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of the Continental Congress. Since that date many thousand men have borne the name Marine. In memory of them it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the birthday of our Corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.

The record of our Corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world’s history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation’s foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war, and in the long era of tranquility at home, generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres, and in every corner of the seven seas that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our Corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term “Marine” has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the Corps. With it we also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our Corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish, Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as ‘Soldiers of the Sea’ since the founding of the Corps.

— from The Marine Officer’s Guide


Happy Birthday, Marines! 242 years old today. Semper Fi!

It’s Jupiter 2 Launch Day!

October 16th, 1997:

“This is the beginning. This is the day. You are watching the unfolding of one of history’s greatest adventures–man’s colonization of space beyond the stars. The first of what may be as many as ten million families per year is setting out on its epic voyage into man’s newest frontier, deep space. Reaching out into other worlds from our desperately overcrowded planet, a series of deep thrust telescopic probes have conclusively established a planet orbiting the star Alpha Centauri as the only one within range of our technology able to furnish ideal conditions for human existence.

Even now the family chosen for this incredible journey into space is preparing to take their final pre lift off physical tests. The Robinson family was selected from more than two million volunteers for its unique balance of scientific achievement, emotional stability, and pioneer resourcefulness. They will spend the next five and a half years of their voyage frozen in a state of suspended animation which will terminate automatically as the spacecraft enters the atmosphere of the new planet.”

Lost In Space, “The Reluctant Stowaway”


Happy 30th Anniversary, Star Trek: The Next Generation!


Sorry, folks, but it’s true. 30 years ago, tonight.

I’ve told this story before, but on September 28th, 1987, I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s premiere episode, “Encounter at Farpoint,” in the TV room of my barracks at Camp Pendleton. The room was stuffed with Marines, and maybe it was because of the beer, but we all stayed to watch the whole thing.

While “Farpoint” certainly had its problems, it was Star Trek, by golly. And, it was new Star Trek, and little did we know at the time what that really meant.

Anybody remember this bit, which ran before the episode?

Man. How time flies.

So, yeah. The show got off to something of a rocky start, and took a while to find its footing. Still, even with this first episode, it was easy to see the potential in this new show. A big part of that is due to Patrick Stewart, who carried much of the load that first year and who as Captain Jean-Luc Picard brought a gravitas to the series which helped us forgive some of the hokier storylines. The other actors soon settled into their roles, of course, in time becoming a comfortable ensemble and even a family. By its third season, the show established itself as a worthy bearer of the Star Trek torch.

Seven television seasons, four feature films, and merchandising out the wazoo, including a whole bunch of novels published by Pocket Books. As one of those responsible for foisting more than a few of those on an unsuspecting public, I’ve always enjoyed my time spent with Captain Picard and his merry band. Here’s hoping they let me do a few more.

Happy 30th Anniversary, Star Trek: The Next Generation. Go. Go see what’s out there.