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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Save The World Saturday: City Kids

The Children's Aid Society "fills the gaps between what children deserve and what life has dealt them." (From their Charity Navigator page.)
In New York City, 28% of children live in poverty. CAS seeks to give those kids a fair shot at life.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Film Buff: Buddy Movie

One of America's favorite on-screen duos was the pairing of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in movies like The Fortune Cookie, The Odd Couple, Buddy, Buddy, and Grumpy Old Men. In 1971, the two friends teamed on a project called Kotch, starring Matthau but this time with Lemmon behind the camera in his only (but successful) outing as director:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Theatre Thursday: The Girl in 14G

Broadway diva Kristin Chenoweth became involved with last Saturday's Save the World Saturday topic, the Hole In The Wall Camps because she was invited by Paul Newman to sing at the camps. This was his favorite song she performed. (It's not from an actual play, but it's certainly theatrical enough, especially performed by Kristin.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wildlife Wednesday: Sea Calf

The manatee - or sea cow, as it is often called - is a great, lumbering, friendly sea creature that is under constant threat in its ocean habitat. Many factors (most of them man-made) affect the survival of these gentle creatures, not the least of which is being caught in or cut by the propellers of various sea vessels of all sizes. Many of the manatee survivors of these encounters are identified by researchers and conservationists by their individual scarring patterns.
No one is quite sure what fate befell the mother of the orphaned manatee calf in the below video. The baby was rescued and brought to the Sea World Orlando facility where it is being cared for and closely monitored by staff. The baby's condition is guarded, but the marine biologists hope to nurse the calf through this difficult and critical time and eventually release it back into the wild.

More here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tuesday Tutorial: Roadside Assistance

I am often surprised by the number of people I encounter who have never been shown how to change a flat tire. Even in this age of cell phones and roadside assistance packages include in many insurance plans, you never know when you're going to be stuck with a flat with no cell phone battery or reception.
So, from, I bring you a very simple but thorough and informative video on changing a flat tire:

Here is a link to an eHow page where another very good video is posted. It also contains some steps and helpful tips in writing. I hope that you find these video useful, but I hope also that you never need to use them. Have a great day, cherubs.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday Motivator: Shaw 'Nuff

On this day in 1856, Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw was born. Among his notable works were Mrs. Warren's Profession, Arms and the Man, Man and Superman, and Pygmalion (which would later be adapted into the much beloved Lerner and Lowe musical, My Fair Lady.)
Shaw could certainly turn a phrase, and he imparted much wisdom in his lifetime. Here are a few of my favorite inspirational and/or thought-provoking Shaw quotes:

"A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing."

"Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve."

"Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will."

"A lifetime of happiness! No man alive could bear it; it would be hell on earth."

"Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh."

"The liar's punishment is not in the least that he is not believed but that he cannot believe anyone else."

"All great truths begin as blasphemies. "

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Wild Card: Office Supplies

I only just stumbled across this short (very short) gem of a film from 2008 written and directed by Simon Atkinson and Adam Townley.

Post-It Love

The girl is Charity Wakefield. The boy is Lee Ingleby.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Save the World Saturday: My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys

I think I can pretty safely say that my favorite movie of all time is George Roy Hill's Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid (1969). I love the story, the characters, the acting - I just drink it in. I can often be heard to quote lines from the movie in everyday life.
When having a particularly bad day, I may be heard to exclaim: "Kid, the next time I say let's go someplace like Bolivia, let's go someplace like Bolivia!"
To someone who has taken a particular endeavor or conversation just a bit too far (often myself), I may say: "Think ya used enough dynamite there, Butch?"
Ask me if I know what I'm doing, and I'll usually answer, "Theoretically."

Now, I know it's Saturday and not Friday, so I'm not writing today to tell you why you should see Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. (I will assume you already have or are making plans to do so directly.)
I mention the movie because Paul Newman (Butch) borrowed the name of Butch Cassidy's infamous Hole In The Wall gang for his own organization which he started in 1988. The Hole In The Wall Camps provide outdoor recreation for kids diagnosed with cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other life-threatening illnesses.
Here's a video of the late actor and humanitarian on his motivation behind starting the camps. (There appears to be a little bit of visual distortion in the video, but you get the idea.)

And here are a couple of longer videos that give a first-hand look at what these camps mean for kids and their families:

Now, the Hole In The Wall Camps do still receive a portion of their funding from the sale of the Newman's Own line of products (100% of the after tax profits of that line go to charity), but it was always Paul Newman's plan that after the initial seed money was used the camps would become self-reliant for raising funds, allowing the Newman's Own money to go further and into new endeavors.
What that means is that the Hole In The Wall camps and the many campers who enjoy them still need the generous support of people like you.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Film Buff: Sunny Disposition

There is an old Peanuts cartoon in which Charlie Brown describes the particulars of how to properly carry oneself when one wants to be depressed.
"When you're depressed, it makes a lot of difference how you stand," says Charlie. "The worst thing you can do is straighten up and hold your head high because then you'll start to feel better. If you're going to get any joy out of being depressed, you've got to stand like this."
The punchline, of course, is that Charlie Brown isn't happy unless he's depressed, which sounds a bit like a lot of the people I know - including the gloomy fellow I encounter in the bathroom mirror from time to time.
There is an underlying message in the cartoon, though, and one that the gloomy mirror-guy too frequently forgets. That message is that it takes a good deal of effort to be unhappy - often as much or more than it takes to be happy. Some of us have gotten so good at it that it seems effortless now, but, really it isn't. You have to think of things that are unfair. You have to compare yourself to others. You have to ignore any evidence that could contradict the fact that you absolutely must be miserable.
When I recently watched the Mike Leigh film Happy-Go-Lucky, I found myself thinking of that old Peanuts cartoon.
Poppy, the protagonist with the titular affliction, is absolutely stalwart in her unflappability. Her default expression is a gigantic smile, and her sense of humor is heightened to the point of being a gift.
Within the first ten minutes of the movie you will either want to hug Poppy or strangle her, which says more about you than it does about her. However, even if you are in the latter group, Sally Hawkins as Poppy will win you over. Her smile and laughter are infectious. Her lust for life is almost enviable, or it would be if you could manage any emotion other than affection for Poppy.
I was tempted to think that there was something wrong with Poppy - that she somehow was diminished in her mental or social abilities. After all, the rest of us are miserable, what's wrong with her?
The answer is . . . nothing. Poppy is an intelligent, world-traveled, college-educated primary school teacher. She simply chooses to be happy.
Others whom she encounters in her daily life are more familiar to us at first, more relatable. They dislike their jobs, their bosses, their customers, their lots in life. Their happiness is fleeting, and some even take offense at Poppy's joie de vivre, as though her happiness is an affront to normalcy.
As director/writer Mike Leigh navigates the audience through Poppy's world, I found myself relating less and less to the other characters and drawn more and more to Poppy's philosophy. When her flatmate Zoe says to her, "You can't make everyone happy," Poppy's response (with a smile and a giggle) is "There's no harm in trying, though, is there?"
I would be hard pressed to summarize briefly what this movie is about other than that it's about. . . Poppy, and that is more than enough.
This movie has stayed with me, and it has colored the way that I approach my day. Old habits sometimes die hard, but I often think of how things that I let ruin my day wouldn't even be a blip on Poppy's screen.
Now, I'm not going to start making "WWPD" bracelets, but it is definitely worth remembering that - no matter what comes our way in life - we have a choice about how we react to it.
Loved, loved, loved this movie. I had to keep scanning backwards to re-watch scenes over which I was laughing too hard to hear all of the dialogue.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Theatre Thursday: Sticky Question

With the latest announcement that the cast of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark will begin rehearsals August 16th, it looks as though the potentially most expensive musical in Broadway history is going ahead more or less as planned. Whether this is a P.R. ploy to allay the concerns of current investors and attract new ones I can only speculate, though, the announcement also suggests that the Man-Who-Would-Be-Spidey, Reeve Carney has already begun aerial flying lessons.
I'm still not ready to amend my prediction of a few weeks ago that Spider-Man won't make it to Broadway but might swing into Vegas. Still, the show may not be as dead as many of us had thought.
I began reading Spider-Man comic books almost as soon as I could read, and my regard for the power of the musical stage to transport and transform an audience began when I was thirteen, sitting in the audience of Les Miserables on Broadway.
However, I am more than a little reluctant to believe that these two things for which I have such great affection have any business colliding. Will it be chocolate and peanut butter or oil and water?
Even with assurances that there will be no singing en masque for the wallcrawler, I cannot help but feel that a superhero musical will still be just a little bit hokey - even with music by Bono and the Edge. I'm still not completely sold on even the re-vamped It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman, and it could possibly be something even worse:

Nevertheless, it is hard to ignore director Julie Taymor's ability to create moving pictures on stage.

If she can manage elephants and gazelles, maybe a web-slinging wallcrawler isn't all that difficult.
My interest is piqued, but I remain reticent.
In the meantime, here's a peek at actor/rocker Carney performing one of his own songs earlier this year.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wildlife Wednesday: Hello Kitty

As you know if you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, I am a big proponent of the conservation and preservation of wildlife. I am not above resorting to cheap ploys to draw your attention toward species that are threatened or endangered in the hope that you will take up the cause or, at least, direct others to my Wildlife Wednesday entries.
Today's subject is the beautiful and endangered snow leopard. Native to the mountain ranges of central and South Asia, the snow leopard's numbers are estimated between 3500 and 7000 in the wild. (Their numbers are uncertain because they are, by design, hard to see in their native habitat and, therefore, difficult to count.) There are roughly 600 to 700 living in zoos around the world.
Now for the cheap ploy:
Check out this video of the two-month-old snow leopard cubs now available for viewing in the Cape May County Zoo in New Jersey.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesday Tutorial: Black and White

Tuesday Tune is now Tuesday Tutorial, and today it's a Howcast video on improving reading comprehension:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday Motivator: Feeling the Squeeze

Here is a video of several clips from a talk by Dr. Wayne Dyer. The first clip contains one of my favorites of his talking points: the metaphor of the orange.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Save the World Saturday: Thinking Big

Every week, I tweet (and now post) about a different charity that is doing its small part to make the world a better place, because I believe that through a large number of small actions everyday, it is within our power to save the world in which we live.
Today, I present an organization that is on the brink of saving millions of lives. Yes, I said "millions."
Here is an estimate from the International Aids Vaccine Initiative website that explains why they exist.
"Nearly 7,400 people a day are infected with HIV. An AIDS vaccine with 50% efficacy given to 30% of the population would avert 5.6 million new infections in low and middle income countries between 2015 and 2030."
Okay, what more do I really need to say about this organization to demonstrate its importance?
That's what I thought.
Here are a couple of videos anyway:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Film Buff: An Ungainly Romp

Jeff Goldblum is the epitome of geek chic. His characters like Dr. Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park, David Levinson in Independence Day, and Seth Brundle in The Fly elevate the nerd archetype to a level of sexy cool.
In this week's Friday Film Buff selection, however, Goldblum's Dexter King is neither very smart nor very sexy. What he is mostly is awkward. And tall.
The Tall Guy (1989) is director Mel Smith's film debut and introduces us to the hapless Dexter, an American actor living in London and playing straight man in a comedy sketch show to popular comedian Ron Anderson - essentially an evil version of Rowan Atkinson played, naturally, by Rowan Atkinson.
Goldblum gets an opportunity to display his considerable slapstick chops in this mostly very broad comedy (written by long-time Atkinson collaborator Richard Curtis), as he bumbles his way through his unextraordinary, allergen-filled life.
Things turn around for Dexter, though, when he encounters the clever and confident Kate (Emma Thompson) culminating in one of the funniest love scenes ever filmed. He also lands the title role in a West End Musical based on the story of John Merrick the elephant man called simply elephant! (note the exclamation point).
There's lots of bizarre humor in this film and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, and the leads are such intelligent actors that they manage to find some great subtle moments amid the absurdity.
I fell in love with this movie on first viewing and it continues to be a favorite movie to recommend to friends.

"It Must Be Love" by Madness figures prominently in the film about mid-way through in a "rules-are-meant-to-broken" scene from director Mel Smith. I won't spoil it for you, but I want to share the song with you, so here's the video from Madness:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Theatre Thursday: 2 B or Not 2 B

Here's a short video from of Jude Law discussing how the language of Hamlet impacted modern audiences during his performance of the play last fall on Broadway:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wildlife Wednesday: Thar She Blows!

Today, I thought I'd share some videos of beluga whales. They're much bigger than dolphins, but have much of the same playfulness and cute factor. At this point, the beluga whale is only at near threatened status, but it is estimated that the species will be upgraded to threatened status within the next five years due largely to pollution. In some areas, such as the Cook Inlet in Alaska, the number of beluga whales have been depleted so much that they are classified as critically endangered for that region.
There are many organizations out there who are working to help in the conservation of these beautiful creatures, and I'll start you off with one of my favorites, Defenders of Wildlife.

Okay, now enjoy the videos:

Baby beluga being born. Not terribly graphic. Mostly just cool.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tuesday Tune: Tell Me Why

First off, let me say that I'm beginning to think that Tuesday Tune is becoming a little redundant as I am regularly tweeting songs from my account at, and I frequently include music videos in my other posts. So, if I - or some of you among my readers - can come up with an alternate (but fun) topic for me to replace it with (alliteration preferred), then I will do so.
For today, though, I feel that it is worth pointing out that on this day 25 years ago, a bi-continental concert was organized to raise money to feed the many starving in Ethiopia. The event was Live Aid, and it was held simultaneously in London and Philadelphia attended by a combined live audience of over 150,000 and a television audience estimated at about 2 billion across 60 countries.
The concert was loaded with many memorable moments, one of which I have chosen as this week's Tuesday Tune.
One of the event's main organizers, Bob Geldof, took to the stage with the rest of the Boomtown Rats to perform their hit single "I Don't Like Mondays." In the context of the cause at hand, the lyrics took on a new meaning, and reached a show-stopping climax that, well, just check out the video:

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday Motivator: Rags to Riches

The late Jim Rohn was one of the greats in the field of personal development. The author of several books, Rohn was also a mentor to Anthony Robbins early in Robbins's career.
Here are a few quotes from Jim Rohn:

"Affirmation without discipline is the beginning of delusion."

"Better understated than overstated. Let people be surprised that it was more than you promised and easier than you said."

"Don't bring your need to the marketplace, bring your skill. If you don't feel well, tell your doctor, but not the marketplace. If you need money, go to the bank, but not the marketplace."

"Don't wish it were easier, wish you were better."

And a video:

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday Wild Card: Help Save a Life

Found this video thanks to the good people at

I don't think I could tell you any better than Shannon just did, so go to the DKMS link now and then come back here and watch another video of Shannon:

And even if you aren't a match for Shannon, you might be a match for somebody else. Like Sophia:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Save the World Saturday: What Was Your First Book?

I don't know whether it was actually my first book or not, but the first book I remember having was one that probably many of you remember as well: Curious George. I remember the bright yellow cover with the little brown monkey being carried by the two guys in uniform - firemen, I think.
It was a very simple, very clever little story about an overly curious little monkey who just can't seem to keep out of trouble.
The only thing more magical than the story coming to life through pictures when read to me by my dad was the funny little shapes and symbols coming to life later when I began to learn how to read the words on the page myself.
I think that many of you reading this blog can recall the experience of your first book and of first learning to read. Imagine what your life would be like if you hadn't had that first book.
This is an unfortunate reality for many children and the impetus behind the First Book project.
First Book provides books to disadvantaged children so that every child can experience the magic of his or her first book.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Film Buff: Sleeper Seeker

The sleeper: that great film with a modest budget, extremely talented but not necessarily "A-list" stars, tight direction and cinematography and a smart, thought-provoking story.
This is the holy grail of the movie buff. Partly, we want bragging rights at having found a terrific film that may have escaped the notice of the general movie public, but, mostly, it's just exciting to find a well-crafted bit of cinema that doesn't rely on over-rated star power, ridiculous special effects, juvenile gross-out humor, or excessive marketing campaigns.
One such film is Panic (2000). The confoundingly-named movie follows Alex (William H. Macy), a mild-mannered family man with a loving wife (Tracey Ullman) and a precocious son (David Dorfman). He works for his father (Donald Sutherland) in the family business, but he is stricken with a bit of mid-life malaise and begins to see a psychologist (John Ritter). In the waiting room he meets and is immediately smitten with the smart but troubled young Sarah (Neve Campbell).
Let me guess: you're thinking this all sounds very, very familiar.
Let's see. . . oh. Did I mention that the family business is killing for hire?
Aha. This is where it gets interesting.
Now, Panic could very easily have been taken down the path of black comedy absurdism, but writer-director Henry Bromell chose to go for the character-driven angle with great success.
The characters are three-dimensional and real, even if, as I said, little David Dorfman is particularly precocious.
Macy is outstanding, Campbell is beguiling, and Sutherland is a thoroughly charming monster.
I am more than happy to exercise my bragging rights on finding this film for you (though I will admit to still being a bit puzzled by the title).

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Theatre Thursday: Up, Up, and Away

As the on-again/off-again buzz of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark - the Julie Taymor/Bono/Edge musical set for a someday opening on Broadway - wanes again, the small demographic of musical superhero fanboys must turn our eyes toward Dallas, Texas, and the Dallas Theater Center's revival/reworking of the 1966 Broadway musical It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman!

The musical is supposedly Broadway bound after its Dallas closing, though it will have to raise considerably more than its current $800,000 budget in order to make that happen.
Some are now predicting that a Superman musical will be going head-to-head against a Spider-Man musical in 2011.
My prediction? Two cast/concept albums, a small tour of mid-size cities for Supes, and a pared-down Vegas show for Spidey. (If they're lucky, that is. Ice Capades if they're not.)
Meanwhile, I am still looking for investors for my Doc Savage: The Musical!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wildlife Wednesday: Hold That Tiger!

Good news on the Year of the Tiger front: the Panna Tiger Reserve in India announced in late May that three new cubs were born to one of their females. This is exciting news for a habitat that - just a few years ago - lost all of its tigers to poachers. All of them.
Through a translocation program with other reserves, the Panna reserve has been able to bring tigers back to their area, and, judging by this new litter of cubs, even begin to thrive.
More on this story here.
Now, since the goal of the Panna Tiger Reserve is to allow tigers to live undisturbed in the wild, there are few pictures and even less video of the tiger cubs, so I thought I'd include some video of other tiger cubs to pique your imagination.
In Belgium:

In Seattle, WA:

And here at our own Denver Zoo:

I figure that the Panna tiger cubs are about six or seven weeks old by now, so they are probably about this size now (this is, I believe, the same cub from the 2nd video):

"For if one link in nature's chain might be lost, another might be lost, until the whole of things will vanish piecemeal." - Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tuesday Tune: Milk and Cookies and a Friend

This is very possibly the most wretched song ever to come out of the 1980s . . . possibly out of the 20th century. . . quite possibly ever. And I absolutely, unapologetically, unabashedly adore it.
"Coming Home to You" (theme from Author! Author!) performed by Michael Franks. Drink it in:

Monday, July 5, 2010

Monday Motivator: The Zephyr of Zig

Zig Ziglar has been in the motivation business just about as long as anybody. His easygoing but enthusiastic Southern manner disguises his powerful messages and deep wisdom as just plain old common sense, as you can see in this video:

Here are a few more words of wisdom from Mr. Ziglar:

"Building a better you is the first step to building a better America."

"Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes."

"If you don't see yourself as a winner, then you cannot perform as a winner."

"If you learn from defeat, you haven't really lost."

"It's not what you've got, it's what you use that makes a difference."

Have a great day, everybody. A great one.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Nation's Strength

A Nation's Strength
by Ralph Waldo Emerson

What makes a nation’s pillars high
And its foundations strong?
What makes it mighty to defy
The foes that round it throng?

It is not gold. Its kingdoms grand
Go down in battle shock;
Its shafts are laid on sinking sand,
Not on abiding rock.

Is it the sword? Ask the red dust
Of empires passed away;
The blood has turned their stones to rust,
Their glory to decay.

And is it pride? Ah, that bright crown
Has seemed to nations sweet;
But God has struck its luster down
In ashes at his feet.

Not gold but only men can make
A people great and strong;
Men who for truth and honor’s sake
Stand fast and suffer long.

Brave men who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others fly...
They build a nation’s pillars deep
And lift them to the sky.

Sunday Wild Card: In Your Satin Tights. . .

. . . fighting for your rights and the old red, white, and blue. . .
Wonder Woman!
If you remember this theme song, then give yourself a cookie (but just one, because you're probably watching your cholesterol).
The western world was shocked this last week with the news that Wonder Woman got a new look (designed by legendary comic artist Jim Lee) with Wonder Woman issue #600. Gone are the blue star-spangled bikini bottoms and red boots in favor of very sleek, very black, very, very tight leggings and black boots. Up top, the golden eagle (which has come and gone over the years) has been replaced with a smaller "W" logo, and a blue leather jacket completes the ensemble. The gloves have been redesigned, and the tiara is a bit smaller.
Fanboys are crying out over the loss of bare Amazonian thighs. FOX news and others are up in arms over the new, less "patriotic" look. I think that the fanboys may acquiesce after seeing just how tight penciller Don Kramer is drawing those pants. As for the patriotism angle, Wonder Woman is an Amazon (foreign) princess masquerading as an American citizen named Diana Prince. Maybe we don't want to focus too much on the patriotism angle - certainly not in Arizona, anyway.
Many, like me, are just having a little difficulty letting go of an iconic look that has stayed more or less the same for seventy years.
The new look is tied to a retroactive continuity twist in Wonder Woman's storyline. According to Wonder Woman scribe J. Michael Straczynski: ". . . at some point about 20 years ago or so, the time stream was changed. Paradise Island was destroyed, and Diana as an infant was smuggled out before her mother was killed along with most of the others. She was raised by guardians sent with her and some surviving Amazons, so she has a foot in two worlds, the urban world and the world of her people. . ." (Wonder Woman #600)
This twist allows for a modern re-design of the iconic Wonder Woman costume which has experienced only minor tweaks since her first appearance in 1940: the skirt became more like bikini bottoms and have varied in their "coverage" based upon the artist, the golden eagle breastplate has  alternated or been combined with a "W"also depending upon the artist.
There was one ill-conceived attempt at a "mod" look for Wonder Woman in the late 1960s. It didn't last very long. >
Nor did Aquaman's redesign in the 80s or Spider-Man's black costume.
On the other hand, Wolverine and the other X-Men have gone through dozens of costume changes over the years.
Whether the new Wonder Woman look will last remains to be seen. What it will undoubtedly do is exactly what DC comics intended it to do, and that is to renew an interest in a character who has become a bit uninteresting over the years.
I even went into the Mile High Comics in Cherry Creek (easily the unfriendliest comic book store I've ever been to), to pick up my own copy of issue #600.
It has a great cover by one of my favorite Wonder Woman artists, George Perez, and lots of terrific artwork throughout by artists ranging from Adam Hughes to Phil Jimenez. There's even an essay by TV's Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter. There are four fun new Wonder Woman stories, including the prologue to the time-fractured retcon with a good look at the new costume.
Will the revamp be enough for me to venture back for issue #601 and deal with opprobrious comic book vendors?
Maybe. I do like the new costume. I think.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Save the World Saturday: A Free and Independent Press

As we stuff ourselves on hot dogs and watch the fireworks displays this weekend, I hope that we will also take a moment to really appreciate what this extra-long weekend is really all about: freedom. We are governed by officials who are answerable to us - either directly or indirectly. If we take the time to do so (and we probably all should more than we do), our government and its operations are largely open to us with the exception of information that falls under the heading of national security, and there are dogged journalists who will continually push at the edges of that umbrella to ensure that only the things that really need to be kept secret remain that way.
Democracy Now! is one of those journalist organizations, and, unlike the news that comes to us from our local television stations, magazines or newspapers, Democracy Now! is not concerned with selling you laundry detergent or the latest new gadget for your cell phone. In fact, this organization accepts no funding from advertisers at all, or, for that matter, from government agencies, or corporate underwriters.
Democracy Now! is an example of a truly free press. However, that is free in the sense that they are not beholden to a government agency or a corporation that might want to suppress a story someday; it is not free in the sense that it doesn't cost anything to keep the news flowing.
That's where we, the people, come into the equation. The responsibility for the people's right to know falls largely to the people .

Friday, July 2, 2010

What's in a Name?

Speaking of bait and switch, I decided to take the advice in this article on and adjust my Twitter handle to my real name. So, if you are following me now, or you plan to follow me soon on Twitter,  my tweets will be addressed from @BradyDarnell.
Reasons for this include:
1) Making me easier to find in the people search
2) Making me seem more personable (I said "seem"; baby steps, people, baby steps.)
3) Being the first @BradyDarnell on Twitter, because, while my name is on the unusual side, a simple google search will reveal that there are other Brady Darnells out there. (I wonder how many of them get into trouble for stuff I do?)
For these reasons and more, check out the article.

Friday Film Buff: The Bait and Switch

One of the my least favorite tactics to come out of Hollywood is the misleading trailer. I can recall in 1997, when Eddie Murphy was making the talk show rounds to promote his new action film Metro, that he seemed embarrassed about having to politely debunk what the studios had been promoting as a Beverly Hills Cop clone - right down to the poster. >
Metro, was, in fact, of a much darker and serious tone with Murphy seeking to show he could hold his own as a legitimate action hero alongside Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
As action movies go, I thought it was pretty good, but it did not do terribly well at the box office. I suspect that this was due in large part to the fact that movie-goers went in to see the light-hearted action farce that had been sold to them and were treated to very few laughs for their comedy dollar.
I think that audiences would have been happy to accept Murphy as a serious action hero, but Hollywood didn't trust us enough to sell the movie as it was.
More recently, the Kristen Stewart vehicle Adventureland appeared to be an American Pie/Van Wilder-esque romp set in an amusement park in the 80s - heck, it even featured the wisecracking Ryan Reynolds and one of the cops from SuperBad. Let the high jinks ensue!
Well, while director Greg Mottola appeared to be conflicted about the tone of his film - alternating between sincere twenty-something angst and cartoonish sight gags - it's fairly obvious that he was going for something very different than his previous directorial effort, the aforementioned Superbad. Ryan Reynolds is good, but he's not funny, nor is he supposed to be. I don't think he even cracks a smile, much less cracks wise. (He's also only in about 10% of the movie.)
Unlike Metro, I think audiences were right to dislike this film, but it should not have been because they were sold the wrong movie. If you're a fan of the alluring but morose Kristen Stewart, you may enjoy it, because she is at her alluring and morose best (though her hair color appears to change inexplicably from scene to scene.)
As I did a bit of research for this week's Friday Film Buff recommendation, I was dismayed to find that Hollywood's bait-and-switch tactics for movie teasers is nothing new.
The clever, thoughtful, ahead-of-its-time Cash McCall (1960), is far more than a modernized version of star James Garner's affable western rogue Bret Maverick, though there is little in the trailer below to suggest that this is so.

This is a much smarter film than the trailer would have us believe, and I highly recommend it for a double-feature movie night with Other People's Money (1991).
On the subject of other people's money, I think Hollywood would get more of ours if they didn't keep trying to trick us with misleading trailers.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Theatre Thursday: Harlem Stage Striving and Surviving

In a time that has proven fiscally difficult for theatre companies everywhere, Harlem Stage has managed to weather the storm without sacrificing creativity or staff, due in large part to focusing on community and some smart managing strategies by Executive Director Patricia Cruz.
Read the New York Times story here.
For your entertainment, here is a video from a Harlem Stage production earlier this season: