Tuesday, February 28, 2006


My grandmother-in-law swears that celebs die in packs of three. (She also believes her dead husband speaks to her through his picture, but that is for another long, sad story.) She announced over the weekend that we should keep watch for a slew of celebrities to die within days of each other. I'll be damned if Darren McGavin, Don Knotts and Dennis Weaver didn't all die within hours of each other over the weekend.

Gramma got it right.

I suppose such happenings actually reinforce superstitious belief. (How many times, for example, have celebrities not died in groups of three's?)We ignore the thousands of times it doesn't happen, and tout the one time it does as proof the myth is real.

I tap my ring seven times for good luck. It has never helped, as far as I know, but it hasn't hurt either. What are your superstitions, and why?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Kolchak Is Dead

Darren McGavin, a notable TV and film actor died this weekend at age 83. McGavin played the crusty and oblivious father in A Christmas Story ("You'll shoot your eye out.") and was Mike Hammer on TV. To me and many my age, though, McGavin is best known as Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

I never missed The Night Stalker, even though the show scared the hell out of me. At the time it seemed edgy and dark; now, sadly, it comes across in reruns as camp. When I've seen the show as an adult I realize one of the best things about it was the character's ability to solve what appeared to be an overwhelming challenge, even though he was frightened and insecure about his ability to do so. Kolchak got through the problem on intellectual curiosity, and a determination that existed only because no one else believed his claim that a supernatural dilemma existed. The show inspired Cris Carter to create The X-Files, and a generation of kids to think about something other than what our parents told us to think about.

Rest in peace, Mr. McGavin. I hope since Saturday you've solved the greatest mystery of all.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Movies that make you go hmmmmmm...

Had the chance to watch a couple of movies over the weekend that reminded me of how easily the majority can oppress and overpower the minority in our society: North Country, a film about the integration of female miners in the northern region of Minnesota; and Freedomland, a study in racism, poverty and how the absence of power can alter lives in dramatic fashion. Neither film in it's totality was great, but the acting in both was superb. The message from each was clear and powerful. Not great popcorn flicks, but movies that make you think.

Friday, February 24, 2006

...sure plays a mean pinball

I went to pick up a pizza I ordered last night a little early, and had to kill a few minutes before the pie was ready. ( I always feel a little East-Coast-ish when I call pizza a "pie.") So, for ten minutes or so I played Galaga. I hadn't played that game in twenty years, but still had the moves! Most interesting, though, were the memories that playing the stand-alone arcade game caused to flood back to me. Saturday nights at Lunar Landing in my hometown during the early 80s, chucking quarters into huge machines and trying to look cool to impress my girlfriend...sigh

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I Didn't Make The List (Again)

My job, it seems, isn't sexy...

AOL's Marketplace lists the Top 10 Sexiest Jobs of 2006. For those of you who do not subscribe to AOL, the jobs are:

1. Firefighter
2. CEO
3. Pilot
4. Doctor
5. Flight Attendant
6. Police Officer
7. Event Planner
8. Interior Designer
9. Soldier
10. Nurse

Falling out of the Top 10 are the no-longer-sexy lawyers, teachers and veterinarians.

I'm fully aware that my job is not that sexy. But, Event Planner? Interior Designer?? And I've traveled by air pretty often the last five years; Number 5 ain't looking that hot these days.

Maybe I'll make the list next year. 2007 will be the year of the Couch Potato.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Oprah sucks

I first read Night, by Elie Wiesel, in the mid-80s. And it transformed my life. Those familiar with the book recognize that Wiesel's life changed dramatically--and for the worse, even though he was already living as a teen in a Nazi concentration camp--with one sudden, uncontrollable thought. He seems to have spent much of his adult years trying to overcome the guilt and anxiety created by that single moment. Night is a tremendously powerful and thought-provoking book, which helped me gain an even deeper appreciation for the human experience.

Oprah has hijacked Night.

For several years I've taught a class in college where Night is used to illustrate existential dilemma and angst. Each semester I have to explain who Wiesel is, and what Night is about. Every semester I enjoy giving this lecture. I love seeing the students' interests piqued, and most times someone reads the book before the end of the term and tells me how deeply it influenced her, too.

This week when I brought up Night, a student said: "You mean the book from Oprah's book club?" Damn it, Oprah didn't discover this book. It's been printed and reprinted and written in several languages for decades. The fact that Oprah just discovered it (and, by the way, needed a safe follow-up to the Frey book debacle) doesn't mean it hasn't existed and had impact on countless others.

Oprah is a human Wal-Mart, that crushes the life out of anything in her path. While an argument can be made that more people are now aware of Night because of her, it's my belief that this awareness is mostly superficial and pretentious.

...but I could be wrong.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Blockbuster films I've missed...

My friend Hoyt at www.donutbuzz.com has a nice addition to his site about movies that make him cry. Made me start thinking of my own lists. For example:

The 3 Blockbuster Films I've Never Seen:

1. King Kong. Didn't see the original, the remake in the 70s nor the most recent digital effects gorilla-palooza. The idea of a giant great ape just never got me stirrin'. I'm not sure I could suspend my belief long enough to enjoy it;

2. Star Wars (none of the ones from the 70's or whenever the first three were premiered). I did see the Star Wars with Jar Jar Binks, but only because a friend brought it over to my house to watch it. Movies about people far, far away in distant galaxies are like great giant apes to me;

3. The Lord of the Rings. Never read the book, didn't take acid in the 70s and, as such, never got into the LOR thrillogy. Honestly, arrow shooting trolls and magic-wielding elves are like...well, you get it.

What blockbuster have you missed?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

My American Idol Pick

Simon hates him, Randy has yet to call him "Dawg" and he doesn't make Paula hot, but Taylor Hicks is gonna kick some AI butt this season. The TV editing hasn't done this guy justice. Check out three of his songs from this site, listed below. (Scroll to the bottom where the songs are listed.) Listen to all three; they are original and soulful.

Click on: http://www.wbhm.org/Tapestry/bands/TaylorHicks.html

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Afternoon mulling

I've rather enjoyed staying home sick and watching news coverage of Harry Whittington, the guy VP Dick Cheney shot. Most interesting is the language Fox News tends to use when covering the story. All morning they have been saying the VP "hit" or "peppered" Mr. Whittington, rather than use the term "shot."

Speaking of the Bush Administration and it's penchant for totalitarianism, I watched The Island last night. I did not particularly care that NetFlix had it on the pretend-the-movie-has-a-long-wait list. The reviews from critics were all over the place on this movie, so I presumed it was lousy. I presumed wrong.

The movie reminded me a bit of the 70s movie Logan's Run in that it portrayed extreme and inhumane approaches as methods for dealing with societal dilemmas. The movie was much more character driven than I anticipated. The acting was better than I expected, and the theme of the film was strangely disturbing, causing me to think a lot about the movie today. That's always a signal of a good movie to me. Good rental for a Saturday evening. ***

Morning musings

I swear, for about an hour this morning the Entertainment headline on the AOL welcome screen read:"I'm A Real pathetic Person" beside a picture of Paula Abdul. Then, after an hour or so, it was changed to: "I'm A Real Caring, Empathetic Person."

Uh oh...Some junior editor just grabbed a box to begin packing up his desk.

AOL has been promoting a "Where Are They Now?" section the last few days. Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman), it reports, is working again after taking time off to raise a family (she was seen most recently in Sky High). I'm not so sure AOL is as interested in reporting Lynda's whereabouts to fans as they are promoting the new In2TV, the first, free (for now) broadband entertainment network that will soon begin streaming Wonder Woman. AOL is developing In2TV, and will launch it in upcoming weeks with old TV shows from the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

TomKat gets de-clawed

My Valentine's Day was going well: I managed to summon up a fair amount of romance, I received a wonderful gift basket from my wife and the kids had fun exchanging cards in school. And then, just a little after dinner, I tuned in to one of the cable news shows where I heard the news that ruined my holiday. Tom and Katie are separating.

Life & Style is reporting Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are breaking up. Using two unnamed friends of Cruise as sources, the ragazine details the sordid mess. Apparently, the two will continue their faux-engagement until after their child is born, then split.

What to do...

The damn story got me thinking, though, about Hollywood romances. The really good ones, the ones that last. Tracy and Hepburn (even though it was a secret affair),DiMaggio and Monroe (even though it ended in divorce, and DiMaggio was never the same after), Madonna and Sean Penn (OK, that one was for fun).

Hell, maybe TomKat's weird relationship ain't so weird after all.

Top 3 Most Memorable Movie Songs


Name your top three most memorable movie songs. Songs that, when played on the radio, still make you remember vivid scenes from a specific movie, or feel that emotion you felt once while eating popcorn in the dark.

My top three, in no order of importance:

Staying Alive, from Saturday Night Fever. The camera pans up from the sidewalk, the strut, the 70s Mod Squad clothes. Sigh...

Streets of Philadelphia, from Philadelphia. In my opinion, the song helped change how a generation looks at (and thus treats) a terrible disease.

In Your Eyes, from Say Anything. Simply, to know Lloyd Dobler is to love him.


Broke Down Over Brokeback

I tend to steer far and clear of gender-based cliches, especially phrases and terms that might be offensive to others. But, this film--this slow-paced movie about slurry-talkin' cowboys who spit tobacco sometimes before they kiss--is different. So unique and different, in fact, that during the movie I cried like a chick. Hard. God help me, I broke down during Brokeback Mountain.

Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal are remarkable in the film, and powerful in their subtle portrayal of friends-who-would-be-lovers. They struggle (along with the audience) with the awkwardness at first; slowly their feelings and behaviors evolve into a natural smoothness. Watching this evolution over a couple of hours made me connect in an almost familial way with the characters. I hurt when they hurt, laughed when they laughed and wanted to spit Redman (if only I had a pouch).

Run to the nearest theater and see it. Now! ****


I recall seeing the trailer for this movie some months ago, and thinking it looked interesting. So, I was excited when NetFlix finally unthrottled me and mailed me the disc. I was not disappointed.

The film is really a look into the existential dilemma faced by a young up-and-coming professional (is the term 'yuppie' still used in the '00s?) and how that dilemma is overcome. The acting by that Bloom hunk and the perky and cute Kirsten Dunst is fine, but it is the dialogue, pace and subtleness created by Mr. Everything Cameron Crow that makes this film successful. The pace rarely changes, and there are a couple of 'what the...?' moments where reality seems to have been forgotten. But, watching Bloom's character evolve into better understanding his life's meaning was enjoyable.

Check it out on a rainy or snowy Saturday night. **1/2