Sunday, October 26, 2014

Allusions or illusions?

"Yes, allusions. Not illusions. Allusions..." the character of Dale Harding insisted during a tense therapy session in the iconic movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975).

Of course, students of Bill Shatner's toupee-wearing will know that these two easily confused words can actually mean one and the same. And with this in mind, we bring you two such allusions (via our readers' tips) about the illusion that is the actor's lush, plentiful hair.

In the first, a March 2014 interview with the UK tabloid Metro, Bill Shatner is asked about his role as General Shanker in the star-studded 2013 Canadian computer-animated film Escape From Planet Earth.

General Shanker - is this the first time that Bill Shatner has portrayed a truly bald character?

"It’s all for my grandkids," he replies. "And they loved it. I was trying to do something with my voice. I disguised it a little but they recognised me immediately, so it was a waste of time. I can put on a nose, a beard, a wig but that doesn’t do any good. It all fails and they’ve just got good ol’ me [emphasis ours]."

An interesting statement for a number of reasons. If the "they" is expanded to also mean us, namely the general public, then the inference appears to be that any kind of artifice or pretense presented in our direction by this actor is futile. Why bother? What's the point? The audience is smart enough to see through all that. Instead, what we really have is the real thing - "good ol’ me". No pretense. Nothing false...
Some good ol' apple pie.

Finally, the statement also carries a curious tone of almost whimsical resignation. "It all fails," Bill Shatner notes. It is as if he is suggesting that: "Oh, I tried the toupee for a while back in '73. But what's the point? It all fails, so why bother? It is better to be real..." Some powerful lessons there from the master of illusion - or is that allusions?
Secondly, we have a piece of audio to analyze  - one in much the same spirit as the above item. Back in December 2012, Bill Shatner posted "A Holiday Message to You from Shanta" on his YouTube account:

"Hi, I'd like to wish you all a Happy Holiday [sic]. I want you to let the hair grow as part of the celebration. You know...I mean...let the hair grow, wherever hair grows. Let it grow. And worship it. And...and...and...cultivate it. And admire it. This [points to beard] is not me. This is applied. But it still means Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and Season's Greeting to all of you."

Let it grow...

Some rather stunning, quasi-coded wordplay there, seemingly directed, at least in part, at students and fans of the toupee. A Christmas nod. A wink. A brazen one at that. Risky to pull off. Ostensibly, Bill Shatner points and refers to his beard only - but he knows that we know, and we know that he knows that we know...

Dare we say this act is also something of a thrill for Bill Shatner, like horse or motorcycle riding, or mountain climbing? Why do it? Because it is there...

But if we delve a little deeper, there is yet more to uncover. The first part of Bill Shatner's statement is bubbling with confidence. He's in on the joke and wants the audience to know it:

But then comes the second part. This is far trickier to say. More personal. More of a gateway into the soul. More of a potentially direct statement. His voice drops considerably. The nerves grow. The waveform representation provides a visual demonstration of this trepidation.

Then the unthinkable: "This is not me. This is...applied." He said it! But, of course, being Bill Shatner, he hasn't really said what some of us might think and hope he just said - at least not in the way it could be interpreted. Or has he? Is it an illusion or an allusion?

With such a complicated individual, one can never really be sure. The subsequent non sequitur "But it still means Merry Christmas," only serves to underscore the potential power of the previous moment. The code and the subtext become as important, if not more, than the overt superficial meaning. And that is why toupology has become such a globally respected science...

Technology developed by the WSSTS [pictured right] helps NASA scientists study [pictured left] a curious patch on Saturn's moon Titan.