JOIN
OUR EMAIL LIST!

LOS ANGELES - The month of August had for me as its bookends, two massive Star Trek conventions. It began with the yearly Creation Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, and finished with a colossal extravaganza -- the biggest convention that I have ever attended -- called Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia. And set right in the middle of the month was a delightful trip to Louisville, Kentucky, for Easter Seal fundraising events. August was a good month. It was a month of trekking around the country to have fun with supporters and for me to be a supporter of a good cause.

People have often asked me why I do Star Trek conventions. I do them to express my appreciation to the fans for their support. It's a great opportunity to say thank you. I consider the conventions to be an amazing phenomenon. What other show, now more than 37 years old, attracts thousands of multi-generational, multi-national and multi-lingual fans to cities all around this planet to celebrate together? These fans gather for a multitude of reasons, but, at its core, they all share the shining vision of the future that Gene Roddenberry had depicted on Star Trek. I was fortunate in being a part of that future and have enjoyed and been enriched by that association.

The fans' support for Star Trek also extended to backing for each of the individual actors involved. It is very flattering. But, in addition to that ego-warming compliment, their devotion has enhanced our career opportunities as well. I have been able to work on international films - of Australia, Britain, South Korea, and the Philippines. I have been able to work on stage in Scotland and England as well as throughout the U.S. I have worked on films that have taken me on locations as far east as Bucharest, Romania, and as far west as Brisbane, Australia. I know that this is, in large part, because of the backing of the fans of Star Trek. The conventions are great opportunities to personally thank them for that support. Over the years that I've been on the convention circuit, I've come to know many of the regular attendees and they have become friends. So, very simply, the conventions are great fun. They are weekends of whoopee with friends!

None, however, have been as colossal as the convention in Atlanta called Dragon Con from which I just returned. Early estimates were that there were over 30,000 fans attending. I believe it! The turnout was incredible. The convention completely took over two mega-hotels, each with more than 1,000 rooms as well as many other hotels nearby. The streets outside and the hotel lobbies became an enormous flood of people - as well as strange alien life forms.

The Dragon Con experience was as surreal as it was massive. Saturday morning began with a parade down the main street of downtown Atlanta, Peachtree Street. I was at the head of the parade - a very ordinary human Grand Marshall riding a convertible driven by a husky, blonde Klingon warrior. Then, to the stirring sounds of bagpipes, came the most bizarre procession of life forms ever seen on this planet. There was a nine-foot tall insect-like creature spouting steam. There were ethereal beings, pale and gossamer. There were morbid life forms dripping what looked like blood. There was an unruly battalion of Klingon warriors followed by a disciplined platoon of Imperial Storm Troopers looking shiny, white, and lethal. This spectacle of a myriad galactic life forms continued on and on. I finished early so I rushed up to my hotel room balcony and viewed the whole unearthly demonstration from above. This surreal exhibition, however, was not confined just to the parade. The onlookers from the sidewalk appeared as "creatively" put together as the fantastical creatures marching past - all this on a humid Atlanta morning in late August.

That afternoon, Vaughn Armstrong, J.G. Hertzler, and I judged what was called the Miss Klingon Empire Beauty Pageant. Isn't the combination of the word Klingon with beauty an oxymoron? Or, is it just my human prejudice? The victor in this weird and wonderful contest was a belligerently buxom combatant who disgustingly demonstrated her deadly cooking skills. It was outlandish good fun. On Sunday evening, Walter Koenig and I served as the masters of ceremony of the Dragon Con Masquerade. It was another phantasmagoric spectacle. Thank heaven I did not have judging duties at this one.

Dragon Con was a singular experience. However, as at all Star Trek conventions, there were many familiar faces there. The attendees were largely from the South, but there were fans from all over the U.S. as well as a few from abroad. It was good to see Marcus Erbar from Germany who brought photos and a gift from his friend, Johannes. Thank you, Johannes. I would guess that Marcus was the one who had traveled the farthest for this convention.

My trip to Louisville, Kentucky, in the middle of the month was, not only to enjoy a convivial time with supporters, but myself to be a supporter as well. At the invitation of actor and Kentuckian, Conrad Bachmann, I flew to Louisville for a series of fund-raisers for Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Center supported by the Easter Seals campaign. Cardinal Hill is a clinic that provides rehabilitation programs for children and young people afflicted by disabilities due to a variety of illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and spinal cord injuries. I must say, Kentuckians know how to raise-funds for an important charity while, at the same time, have fun combined with that fabled southern hospitality all in one gracious weekend.

Joining me was a host of actors and musical performers. It was great to meet actor Ed O'Ross, who played the Russian suitor in one of my favorite television series, "Six Feet Under." It was, however, a bit odd to hear him talking in his normal American speech instead of his extremely convincing Russian accent. It's a tribute to his talent that he had me believing that he was a real Russian immigrant. Although I'm not a soap opera viewer, I found myself spending a lot of time with the scintillating, Patrika Darbo, of "Days of Our Lives" and her husband, Rolf, as well as her television husband from the show, Kevin Spirtas. They were, each in their own matchless way, witty, engaging, and great company. During our stay in Louisville, we visited the Louisville Slugger Baseball Museum and Factory, Churchill Downs Race Track and the Kentucky Derby Museum where we enjoyed a tour of the stables and the handsome racehorses. One of the highlights was the opportunity to view glass artists at work at the Kentucky Glassworks. I couldn't resist buying two of their sparkling creations.

The fund-raising events were spread over three evenings. The first was a delightfully entertaining one-man show with Jack Benny impersonator Eddie Carroll. The second was an evening of Bourbon and food tasting, with some of the most popular restaurants of Louisville contributing their most delectable offerings. The weekend concluded with a dazzling gala, the Lily Ball, in the Medallion Ballroom of the historic Seelbach Hilton Hotel. All proceeds went to support the work of the Cardinal Hill Center.

It was impressive seeing the people of Louisville come out in such great numbers to support a vital cause. There was a spirit of community - the businesses, the volunteers, and certainly, the people of Louisville who turned out in such numbers to contribute to the work of an important community institution. It was a privilege to be able to be a part of this splendid effort. I want to especially salute Brian Cullinan, president of Ned Beatty Hope for Children Classic for his devoted work for the charity.

As I write this, I am eagerly anticipating the airing of a television film in which I portray the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Norman Mineta in "D.C. 9/11: Time of Crisis." It airs on Sunday evening, September 7. The film is a reminder of the horrors we suffered two years ago on September 11. It is also a powerful commentary on our democracy that I play a man who grew up in an American internment camp sixty years ago and is now serving as a member of the President's cabinet. I invite your comments on this film.


Image by Foundry Co from Pixabay

Now that college has become a standard requirement for so many jobs and careers, there is a massive push by high schools to get their graduating students accepted and enrolled at an undergraduate college.

On the whole, that's undoubtedly a great thing. A more educated workforce will be prepared to solve the most complex issues facing human beings in the next several decades.

Keep reading... Show less
Image by Gianni Crestani from Pixabay

*The following article contains discussion of suicide/self-harm.

The person on the other end of a 911 call has a truly remarkable job.

For those who don't play that professional role, we hope to never encounter the 911 call interaction. But if we do find ourselves making that call, the moment is an anomaly in our lives.

The chaos, the panic, the racing heart, and the desperation are all emotions we, ideally, don't experience on a regular basis.

But for the operator on the other end, our call is one in a long line of calls they've received all day, and all the workdays before that one.

It's difficult to imagine being embedded in those uniquely urgent, emergency moments all the time.

Some Redditors who are on the other end of that call shared their experiences on the job.

WhimsicalxxButcher asked, "911 dispatchers what has been your most creepy/unnerving call?"

For a few, the most unnerving moments were the calm callers.

There was something just so eerie about how level-headed the faceless human being on the other end could be through such a desperate, tragic moment.

Almost Clinical 

"I had a friend who worked as a 911 dispatcher and he always said the worst call he ever had was a ~20 year old kid who committed suicide by mixing a bunch of chemicals together in his car to produce hydrogen sulfide gas."

"He said that the most unnerving part was hearing him calmly listing off the chemicals, the type of gas produced, and the effects of hydrogen sulfide on the body (namely the almost instant death it causes at high concentrations)."

"He ended the call by providing the address of the parking lot he was in and saying that nobody should approach the vehicle without hazmat equipment."

"Apparently after that there was a whooshing sound as he dumped the last chemical into the mix, and then the line went dead silent aside for a quiet fizzing noise."

"I know that call screwed him up because he almost never talks about stuff that happens to him on the job. He quit a few months later to go into construction management, and frankly I can't blame him."

-- iunoyou

Planned Out 

"A woman called me, saying she was going to kill herself. She was gassing herself. Gave me her name & address then said she was just going to lie down and 'go to sleep.' And stopped responding to me."

"I kept the line open, trying to get her to speak to me, and eventually heard officers forcing their way in to find her body. I guess she just wanted someone to find her body."

-- mozgw4

Before It Set In 

"When I got a call from a 6 year old who got home from school and laid down to take a nap with his dad. His dad never woke up."

"The kid was so calm when calling it broke my heart."

"I ended up leaving dispatch shortly after. I was good at compartmentalizing the job for the year I was doing it, but it would've broken me in the long run."

-- tasha7712

Other 911 operators were unfortunate enough to receive a call from the very last person they wanted to hear from: a loved one.

These dispatchers' unique position gave them the unexpected access to a family member or friend at their most dire moments.

No More of That 

"My family member is a long time first responder, and 'retired' into doing dispatch. He heard the address (someone else was taking the call) and realized it was his daughter's house."

"He rushed over there just in time to see them wheeling her body out. Overdose."

"Five months later, he was called to his ex-wife's place because his grandson (son of the daughter who recently passed) had his door locked, lights on, but wasn't responding to his grandma."

"He broke the door down and found him deceased in bed. Overdose."

"He's very stoic after years of all sorts of traumatic situations but my heart hurts whenever I think of what all of this must have felt like. Like sand through your fingers."

-- bitchyhouseplant

Knowing the Address

"Not me, but my grandma. I was sitting in the dispatch office, (very small one only 2 dispatchers including my grandma) but she put out a dispatch that there was a gun shot from my best friends address."

"My heart sank to my stomach and broke later that day. He committed suicide."

-- OntaiSenpuu

When it Happened 

"My uncle passing away. Worked as a small town dispatcher for a year or so. Had a bunch of messed up stuff happen on shift, but this call came in in the still hours of the night. Small town, so not many calls after midnight."

"I answered and recognized the name and address on caller id. Aunt was in a frenzy so didn't recognize my voice. I remained calm and got ems and fire rolling to them, but by my aunt's own words he was already blue."

"I went thru debriefing and mandated therapy for a couple other things that happened, but never really talked to anyone about this. I just try not to think about it."

"That was the call I figured out I needed to find a different job."

-- dangitjon

Finally, some simply had a front row seat to sudden tragedy.

These operators were flies on the wall when disaster struck. They never asked to witness what they witnessed, but sometimes that came with the territory.

A Holiday Tragedy 

"My mom is a 911 dispatcher. Early on she said one Christmas Eve while working she got a call from an elderly lady who's husband had just collapsed(and died) from a heart attack and in the background Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas music was playing on blast."

"The lady was screaming and crying and begging for her husband to wake up but my mom could hear his gurgling in his last breathes. She doesn't listen to or watch Alvin and the chipmunks since."

-- Blueflowerbluehair

What is it About Christmas?

"Christmas night. 911 call with crying child on the other end. A neighbor had run her car over her mom during a domestic."

"The mom crawled to the porch bleeding and the child saw the car coming back. I had her hide quietly in a closet with the cordless phone."

"The 10 year old child was crying and screamed that she hated Christmas. She was afraid of the police when they got there."

"I kept her on the phone until she felt safe enough to give the phone to an officer. I almost fainted after that call was over. Had nightmares for a while."

-- 2FunBoofer

Close to Home 

"Not a dispatcher but I handle radio communications for the Coast Guard. One night I was on the radio and got a call from an 11 year old kid whose boat had started to sink. He was out with his dad and 6 year old brother."

"They had been hit by another boat and his father got knocked unconscious. I remember the entire conversation up until the radio had gone underwater."

"They ended up finding his dad floating on his back alive but the two boys didn't make it. That one really fu**ed with me because my two littlest brothers were around the same age as the youngest."

-- HIRSH2243

A Horrible Clock 

"Another one that stays with me was the man who called in. It was the anniversary of his adult son having hanged himself. He'd now come home to find his wife had done the same."

"That date is always going to be a black day for him."

-- mozgw4


If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

To find help outside the United States, the International Association for Suicide Prevention has resources available at https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/

Again, we hope you never have to use the 911 call in your life. Nobody wants to be involved in a sudden emergency or a tragic incident.

But hopefully, if you do, an operator like one of these thoughtful, sensitive Redditors is on the other end.

Image by Nguyen Dinh Lich from Pixabay

When I was moving on from middle school to high school my parents had me tested for the "gifted" program. By some miracle I passed and was accepted. And then I turned it down. Everyone was irritated. "This will pave the way for any college you want! You'll learn so much!" his path will set you up for life!" Every adult tried valiantly to sell me this merchandise but in my gut I just wasn't buying it. So I "settled" a level below, merely advanced classes. And upon reflection... it was the best choice I ever made.

Redditor u/dauntlessdaisy was wondering how far some in life got by asking... For those of you who were considered "gifted" in school, what are you doing with your life now?
Keep reading... Show less
Image by Markus Spiske from Pixabay

There's a million things that can happen to you while out on on the road.

Keep reading... Show less