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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bear With Me

I'm going to take a few more days away from the blog. Maybe what I'll do is come back on Saturday and then do double duty all next week. Thanks for your patience. I won't count this as the Tuesday Tune, but here's some music for you:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Couple Days Off

I know I missed Save The World Saturday yesterday, and I think I'm going to miss Superhero Sunday today. I'm going to take a couple of days off here, and I'm not going to explain why. I'll get us all caught up here in a few days. So thanks for your indulgence.
Come to think of it, I do have a Save the World tip for you. And a way for you to be your own superhero. And, if I'm not back here on Monday, a pretty good motivator for you as well.
Tell the people who are important to you that they are important to you. You never know when you won't get the chance, and there's a good possibility that they could really do with hearing it. You just never know.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Film Buff: Get Along Little Dagesh

If you're looking forward to Jon Favreau's new sci-fi adventure, Cowboys and Aliens, you might be interested to know that it won't be the first time we've seen Harrison Ford up in the saddle in the Old West. Ford also played cowboy bandit Tom Lillard in a clever little comedy from 1979 starring Gene Wilder called The Frisco Kid.
Dirty Dozen director Robert Aldrich tells the story of Avram Belinski, a Polish rabbi sent to a synagogue in San Francisco. Unfortunately, he ends up on the wrong coast of America and has to traverse the wild, wild west to get to his destination. Along the way he gains the reluctant partnership of a would-be bank robber, played by Ford.
As a fan of both Harrison Ford and Gene Wilder, I was already set up to love this movie, but I think you may get a kick out of this comedy adventure yourself.
As a teaser, look at this quick scene from the film:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Theatre Thursday: Turkey Lurkey Time

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. (I know this song takes place at the Promises, Promises office Christmas party, but I always think of it today.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wildlife Wednesday: Monkey Party

Macaques at a hot spring in Japan.
For contrast today, I am going to show you a video from National Geographic about an animal that is decidedly not endangered: the macaque. Macaques are the second largest primate genus in the world (humans are the first) ranging from Japan to Afghanistan and into North Africa.
In the town of Lopburi, Thailand, the macaque are quite literally revered and lavished upon with food - particularly during the Lopburi Monkey Festival at the end of November every year.

Now, I'm sure you have seen YouTube video of people who have a macaque as a pet - I've even seen it first-hand myself. While I've already made known my personal opinion on wild animals as pets, I would like to point out to those among you who would ignore that advice that macaques are notorious carriers of the herpes B virus, which can be potentially deadly to humans. Just so you know.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tuesday Tunes: Wibbley Wobbley Timey Wimey

Today is International Doctor Who Day, which Google is celebrating in their famous Google doodle today with . . . Thanksgiving recipes and several uncooked vegetables. (Nice one, squares.)
Anyway, I thought that I'd commemorate the day by picking some DOCTOR-WHO-related tunes for your listening pleasure. In 1988 (The Sylvester McCoy era), a group calling themselves The Timelords (aka The Jams aka KLF) released a danceable (well, stomp-able) little tune called "Doctorin' the Tardis" that borrowed heavily from Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll (Part 2)" and Sweet's "Blockbuster" as well as sampling sound effects from classic episodes of the TV show. The song went to #1 on the UK singles charts, but, in America, you pretty much had to stay up late and hope to hear it on The Doctor Demento Show. (We were apparently more interested in this country with Bret Michaels's fun with metaphors in "Every Rose Has Its Thorn.") The video for "Doctorin' the Tardis" featured home-made Daleks being run over by a 1968 Ford Galaxy, which I have heard was dubbed The Timeford. Cheeky.

Ever on the cutting edge, pop music has been featured on Doctor Who almost from the very beginning. In the early William Hartnell (the 1st Doctor) days, a clip of The Beatles performing "Ticket to Ride" on Top of the Pops was featured in the serial The Chase - referred to as "classical music" by someone from the 25th century.

Moving into the 70's, Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well" was featured  in a Jon Pertwee (3rd Doctor) serial called Spearhead from Space. Due to rights issues, however, you won't hear it on the DVD release.

Jumping ahead to the series re-vamp in the 21st century, the episode "Aliens of London" starring Christopher Eccleston as the 9th Doctor featured, appropriately, David Bowie's "Starman."

And, of course, ELO featured heavily into the David Tennant (10th Doctor) episode "Love & Monsters," most notably "Mr. Blue Sky," which served as book-ends to the episode.

Enjoy your Jelly Babies, remember that bow ties are cool (fezzes not so much), and have a FANTASTIC day!
Oh yeah. And . . . Allons-y!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Monday Motivator: Curve Balls

Sometimes life gives us things that we don't expect, and often they are things that we think we don't want. I call them curve balls, and I will confess that I don't always take them in stride. Sometimes it is a struggle to remember that life is what you make it, and every curve ball can be an opportunity.
It helps when I remember this little piece of wisdom from Dr. Wayne Dyer.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Superhero Sunday: Quite a Stretch

Over on Facebook, someone came up with the idea that we should all change our profile pictures to a cartoon character from our youth. I don't always participate in these games, but I thought this one sounded fun, so I chose Plastic Man from The Plastic Man Comedy Adventure Hour.
In DC Comics, criminal Patrick "Eel" O'Brian was wounded during a robbery, and, in super-powered-origin fashion, a vat filled with a mysterious chemical spills into his wound. Nursed back to health by monks, Eel reforms his criminal ways (mostly) and discovers that the chemical has given him the ability to mold his body into any shape at will. Embarking on a series of hilarious and surreal crime-fighting adventures, Plastic Man's career as a superhero was of a decidedly lighter tone than, say, Batman.
The 1979-1981 series was a spin-off of the popular Super Friends cartoon (which featured DC Comics A-listers Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.) It skipped over the Eel O'Brian origin story, but maintained the wise-cracking tone of the comic book stories - well, as much as network execs were comfortable with on a Saturday morning cartoon.

In 2006, Plastic Man almost made a return to television in an unaired pilot for Cartoon Network. With animation reminiscent of Ren & Stimpy, this cartoon was a bizarre and hilarious romp. Cartoon Network passed on it. (Which shows that just because you work around cartoons doesn't mean you have a sense of humor.) Through the magic of the internet, here is that unaired pilot in its entirety featuring comic Tom Kenny as the voice of Plastic Man:

Cartoon Network has redeemed itself (somewhat) with the new Batman-centric cartoon series Batman: The Brave and the Bold, which - like the comic book series after which it was named - features Batman teaming up with other characters in the DC Universe, including Plastic Man (again voiced by Tom Kenny).

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Save-the-World Saturday: Give a Duck

Okay, remember Wednesday when I told you about alternative gift-giving for this holiday season? You know, you can adopt an animal through World Wildlife Fund in someone else's name: a dolphin or a tiger or one of over a hundred other animals, and the money goes toward the conservation efforts for that species? Oh, you haven't read it yet? Well, here it is. Go ahead. I'll wait.
Okay, got the idea? Well here's another one:
Heifer International provides livestock and more to families all over the world struggling in poverty and hunger, and the idea is not that you send a flock of chicks to a family and they eat fried chicken for a month. Rather the chicks are raised to produce eggs that can feed the family and be sold at market to buy other necessities. More chicks can be raised and sold as well - but the deal is that some of the new chicks go to another family in need - and eventually you find that you have a whole village of people who have moved from poverty to prosperity, and all it took to get started was a handful of chicks. Okay, Heifer International also provides a lot of support and education, too. Here, Alton Brown explains it better than I do.

It's this really cool mix of capitalism and socialism. What? You can't have both in a society? Oh, my bad. Somebody should probably tell Heifer International.
All jokes aside, you're probably wondering where you come into this scenario. Well, you can provide the chicks, or ducks, or a llama, or a pig, or a goat, or honeybees, etc. And what's more is that you can (this is where I tie-in the first paragraph) give these animals in someone else's name for the holidays.
The cost varies depending on what you want to contribute. Twenty dollars buys a flock of chicks, geese, or ducks. A goat is $120, but a "share" in a goat contribution is only ten. You could even go in with others for a gift. Do you have nine co-workers? Well, for $25 each ($250) you and they can purchase a water buffalo in your boss's name that will provide milk and fertilizer for a rice farming family as well as help them to increase their crop production by 300%! Now, I think that says a lot more than 10 cheese and sausage packages that are ultimately going to be re-gifted or thrown out eventually, don't you?
Browse their online gift catalog to see if there isn't something there that would hold some meaning for someone on your shopping list, and then take a look at just some of what Heifer International has done.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Film Buff: Rough Riders

One of my favorite unsung Westerns of all time is Duel at Diablo from 1966. There are a number of things I love about this film. First and foremost, it's a James Garner film, and that immediately puts it high on my list as I make no secret of the fact that he is my favorite actor. Ever.
It's also a great story - dark and a bit gruesome at times, but great nevertheless. It's based on the novel Apache Rising by Marvin Albert, and it features Sidney Poitier, Bibi Andersson, Dennis Weaver, Bill Travers, and a lot of pretty incredible stunt work on (and off) horseback. A retired producer and editor named Jerry Lee has a YouTube page under the username jleepixprod, on which he generously uploads old behind-the-scenes features and more, including this great piece on Duel at Diablo. (Thank you, Jerry Lee. You are one of the people that makes the internet great for film buffs like us.)

Pretty cool, huh? One of my favorite things about Westerns from the sixties and seventies are the quirky, cool, spaghetti-western inspired scores. And, of course, Duel at Diablo's score by Neal Hefti is one of my absolute favorites.

Naturally, I have my own copy of Duel at Diablo on DVD (say that 3 times fast), and, no, you can't borrow it, but guess what? The whole movie is available to watch on or right here embedded on my blog. How 'bout them apples, cherubs? A movie blog that includes an entire movie!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Theatre Thursday: Thinkin' About TOMORROW

I caught the 1982 film version of Annie the other night on TV, and it got me to thinking: whatever happened to Aileen Quinn? Evidently, someone else had already thought the same thing:

This of course got me to thinking about other former Annies, like the original Annie herself, Andrea McArdle. Most theater buffs know that she has not strayed far from Broadway, appearing in the musicals Les Miserables as Fantine, Beauty and the Beast as Belle, and Starlight Express originating the role of Ashley (which I was lucky enough to get to see the summer it opened.) So, let's look back to the 1977 Tony awards to revisit Andrea in the role for which she is most well-known. The second number features a very young Danielle Brisebois as Molly.

Probably the most famous actress (now) to have played the role on Broadway was a replacement Annie in that original production: Sarah Jessica Parker, seen here in concert performing one of the show's duets . . . by herself.

Finally, in one of those "this is why I love the internet" moments, I was able to track down some video of (I think) the 2nd national touring production of Annie in the late 70s or early 80s. I don't know who played Annie and she's not in this video, but, you will see a pretty familiar face among the dancing orphans if you pay close attention: little miss Alyssa Milano as July. (Stage left through most of the number and then she finishes 2nd from stage right.)

Now, I have heard that there are plenty of "horror" stories that go along with being one of the girls from this show: stage moms, last-minute replacements, etc. - some of which is documented in the movie Life After Tomorrow (which I haven't seen yet) - but it certainly looks like they're all having fun. It's definitely fun to watch.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wildlife Wednesday: Shop Smart

Today, rather than showing some amazing or cute animal videos, I thought I'd jump on the holiday season bandwagon. I figure if retailers and advertisers can start gearing you up for the biggest shopping season of the year, I can, too.
Earlier this week, I got my World Wildlife Fund gift catalog in the mail, and it reminded me that . . . 'tis the season. 'Tis the season when consumers buy billions of dollars worth of gift cards that go unused. 'Tis the season when shoppers buy hundreds of billions worth of gifts that will be returned, re-gifted, or just stowed away in the back of a closet. Fa la la la la. La la. La. . . La.
Now, let me ask you this: is there an animal lover on your list? Or someone who says, "Don't buy me anything," but you know you'll feel like a heel if you don't? Or someone who's just really, really hard to buy anything for at all?
The WWF catalog (and their website) is filled with lots of great ideas for gifts that allow you to do two things at once: check a name off of your shopping list and do some good for wildlife.
For example, you can "adopt" a tiger in someone's name for $25. They get a species description card, an adoption certificate, and a photo of the animal. A $50 adoption includes a cute little plush tiger. The $100 or Family Adoption includes a larger plush tiger and its cub.
Now, if plush toys aren't really up your gift recipient's alley, then, may I suggest getting the $25 adoption and buying some inexpensive trinket - a pin, a paperweight, a coffee cup - that carries the tiger theme.
There are over a hundred different species adoptions available: owls, wolves, cats of all shape and size, elephants, rhinos, penguins, whales, etc.
Animal lovers and the socially conscious on your list will appreciate the thought. And if they don't, odds are they weren't going to appreciate that scarf-and-hat set, assortment of hot cocoas, or all-in-one screwdriver, either. This way, though, your hard-earned dollars are still going to do some good.
There are plenty of other gifts available from WWF that are great for the animal aficionadi in your world to show their conservationist pride: hats, umbrellas, hoodies, calendars, stationery, beach towels, and more - the purchases of which all go toward the greater mission of the World Wildlife Fund.
Over the next couple of months, you can expect to see similar blogs from me regarding better ways to spend your holiday dollars: on saving the world instead of on things that are just going to collect dust somewhere.
Now, isn't that better than some dumb old baby animal video?
Just kidding. Here you go:
Mismatched twin jaguar cubs at Loro Parque in Spain. (More at ZooBorns.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tuesday Tunes: Back to Where You Once Belonged

In honor of today's iTunes announcement of the long-anticipated addition of the Beatles catalogue to the music service, I have decided to bring back the Tuesday Tune here to the blog. (I wasn't actually managing to stay off of the internet on Tuesdays anyway.) This time, I'm calling it the Tuesday Tunes, which I think will give me a little more leeway in the content that I choose to include. You can expect that you will still see one of my favorite local artists, Danielle Ate the Sandwich, here from time to time, and now, under the new pluralized category, I can give you a couple of tunes from her, or one from her and one from someone similar . . . or contrasting. I don't know. Anyway. The music is back.
Today, I thought it natural to share with you a few of my favorite Beatles tunes:

And, the very first Beatles song I ever heard:

Happy downloading, piglets.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday Motivator: Fear Itself

I once read that human beings are born with only two innate fears: the fear of loud noises and the fear of falling. Every other fear we have we picked up somewhere along the way, some with good reason, some perhaps not, and sometimes we allow these fears to rule our lives.
Now, when we think about the number of people who are bungee-jumping or skydiving enthusiasts, or look at the line of people waiting to get in to see the latest movie full of loud explosions or the big booming rock concert, we can see that even the most innate fears can be overcome with the proper education and motivation.
In this two-minute video, motivational speaker Brian Tracy gives us three steps for analyzing our fears - in particular the fear of failure.

Dr. Michael J. Duckett of Upgrading Life, Inc. describes how we can overcome our fears by giving ourselves a playful "reality check."

I am of the opinion that one of the best ways to overcome a fear is to face that fear (if it is possible to do so safely), which is often not an easy thing to do. However, I think the advice from the above gentlemen can make that a whole lot easier.
I, for one, am going to do it today.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Superhero Sunday: Casual Hero

One of my favorite guilty-pleasure movies also includes one of my favorite actors: the late John Ritter. I sometimes wonder if his staying too long with the character that made him famous - the accident-prone Jack Tripper in the increasingly silly Three's Company - is what prevented Ritter from becoming a leading man on the big screen of the caliber of Tom Hanks, Michael Keaton, or Richard Dreyfuss. He certainly possessed the charisma and comic timing, in my opinion.
Anyway, the movie is called Hero at Large, and Ritter is at his all-American-good-guy best as Steve Nichols, an earnest but out-of-work actor reduced to making public appearances in costume to promote the blockbuster movie Captain Avenger. On the way home from one of these gigs, Steve comes across a robbery at a corner store. Still in costume, he disrupts the robbery and saves the day.
From there, Steve gets a little caught up in the idea of being a real-life hero with some scary - and funny - consequences, and somewhere in there we get a nice, feel-good message about what it means to be a real hero.
It's a fun movie, and it speaks to every person who ever grew up wanting to be a superhero.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Save the World Saturday: Gimme Shelter

According to a study by the U.S. Department of Justice published in 2002, there are an estimated 1,682,900 homeless youth in America.
According to the study, there are three main, inter-related causes for youth homelessness: economic problems, residential instability, and family problems, which can include physical, verbal, and sexual abuse. Often, LGBT teens find themselves homeless after coming out (or being outed) to less-than-enlightened parents.
Most of these youth are between the ages of 15 and 17, and, as such, have no legal means to provide for themselves. Theft and prostitution are often their only means of survival. Homeless youth are anywhere from 2 to 10 times more likely to contract HIV.

There are, however, organizations working to help give these kids a safe place for food and shelter, helping them to obtain their birth certificates and IDs so that they can work and earn money, and providing counseling, job training, and medical treatment.
November is Homeless Youth Awareness Month, so I wanted to draw your attention to a couple of these organizations that could use your help.
The first is Covenant House, providing shelter and assistance to homeless youth in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

Covenant House is in a number of places, but it isn't everywhere, so I encourage you to look into the homeless youth shelters in your area to see what they are doing and how you can help. Here in Denver, for example, we have Urban Peak (also in Colorado Springs.)

To finish today, I thought I'd leave you with some words from a couple of people you may know:

(The promotion she's talking about is from last year, but the message still stands.)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Film Buff: Illuminating

Most early Christians were not literate, so it was customary for the gospel to be illuminated with ornate symbolism and pictures that illustrated the words on the page. One of the most incredible of these illuminated texts is The Book of Kells created by Scottish Monks somewhere around the late 8th to early 9th centuries.
The 2009 animated film The Secret of Kells presents a fictionalized origin story of this ancient book.
The film is visually stunning. Think Samurai Jack meets Celtic artwork meets Disney. However, the Disney comparison ends there, as the plot plays out more in the style of ancient folklore and legends. Those used to a more mainstream form of storytelling may find parts of this tale a bit jarring. That, however, is the closest that I can come to making any kind of a criticism of this film.
Personally, I found it breathtaking, and the trailer below is just a sample of what this film holds. I definitely recommend it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Theatre Thursday: Somewhere Else That's Green

If you've seen the musical Wicked (and if you're a theatre fan, you probably have), you might enjoy this promo video for the Helsinki version of the show, called Paha. (Okay, they call it Wicked, too, but "paha" would be the rough Finnish equivalent.) Note how the costumes and staging are quite different from the Broadway, West End,  and touring productions of the original show.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wildlife Wednesday: Birthmarks

Back on September 19th, the Oregon Zoo had a single baby cub born to their breeding pair Chinook (mom) and Paiute (dad). Baby cougars are born with spots at birth in order to keep them camouflaged, and the spots disappear as the cub gets older.

The staff at the zoo decided recently that the as-yet-unnamed, six-week-old, female cub was showing enough bravery that she could be exhibited to the public starting this Thursday, November 11th.

If you're in the Oregon area (the zoo is in Portland), I think you should take advantage of this rare opportunity to see a still-spotted cougar cub up (fairly) close and in real-life.
The rest of us will have to just make do with the video and photos over at the ZooBorns website.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday Motivator: Timing is Everything

Today, I thought I'd share a great speech from the late Jim Rohn.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Superhero Sunday: Magnus, Robot Fighter

When I was a kid, we didn't always have the money to spend on comic books, so often I would borrow comics from my friends in order to enjoy stories of Spider-Man, Batman, and my other big-name favorites. One cheaper alternative in satisfying my comic book jones was Gold Key Comics. These came three to a bag - usually for the price of one Marvel or DC comic. two of the comics were turned facing outward, but you never knew what the third one in the middle was, which added to the fun.They were typically bagged according to two unofficial categories: cartoons (Baby Snoots, Scrooge McDuck, The Beagle Boys, Looney Tunes) and indie superheroes (Dr. Solar, Buck Rogers, Turok: Son of Stone). I gravitated toward the latter, but my mom would sometimes bring home the former for me and my brother to share.
One of my favorites in the superhero category was Magnus, Robot Fighter.
First created in 1963 by Russ Manning, Magnus's story takes place over two thousand years in the future - 4000 A.D. to be precise. The world has become over-reliant upon robots and technology, and every once in a while this technology develops a mind of its own and becomes evil. Enter Magnus, Robot Fighter.
Magnus had been raised away from society by a sentient robot named A1 and trained (a la Kung Fu) to battle rogue robots and make his hands as hard as their steel skin. A1 believed adamantly in the three laws of robotics (as created decades earlier by Isaac Asimov) and was convinced that humanity had become too reliant upon robots. He had taken the infant Magnus with the intention of creating a perfect combatant against his own kind, even installing a device in Magnus's brain that allowed him to hear the otherwise inaudible robot-to-robot communication.
I loved these stories. The futuristic setting opened the door to some pretty imaginative and elaborate artwork. Magnus's world is the city of North-Am, a single metropolis that spans the entire North American continent. The robots are pretty cool, too, and coolest of all is a hero who battles evil with only his bare hands.
The original stories had stopped in 1977, so my introduction to Magnus was in backup stories at the end of the Dr. Solar comics in the eighties, but I would often find old back-issues of Magnus, Robot Fighter at garage sales and in thrift shops.
The character of Magnus, Robot Fighter would be bought by Valiant Comics with new stories created and published in the early nineties with some major and minor alterations to the character and philosophical tone, even making Magnus something of a technophobe at times.
Personally, I prefer the earlier, simpler stories, but, then, maybe I'm just being nostalgic.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Wild Card: Jill Clayburgh 1944-2010

I was really sorry to hear about the passing of Jill Clayburgh on Friday. She was a wonderful actress and an interesting soul.
If you're making a short list of Jill Clayburgh movies to watch (or re-watch) in remembering this great lady, let me add one of my favorites to the list:

Silver Streak - Theatrical Trailer - 20th Century Fox - 1976
Uploaded by poundsdwayne47. - Watch feature films and entire TV shows.

Also, she is a memorable presence in a first-season episode of The Rockford Files called "The Big Rip Off."

Save-the-World Saturday: Silent Killer

I wanted to share a video with you of one of my favorite comedians, Bill Hicks. However, it's very hard to find a "work-safe" or even "slightly" NSFW video of Bill. Hicks didn't pull any punches with his subject matter or his vocabulary, which is why he was one of my favorites. After some searching, I found a very cleverly edited video by YouTube user NETER420 of the final moments of one of Bill's concert videos:

On June 16, 1993, Bill was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died eight months later at the age of 32.
Michael Landon, much-beloved star of Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie, and Highway to Heaven, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on April 5, 1991. Within three months, he passed away on July 1, 1991.
He made one final appearance on the tonight show with his good friend Johnny Carson on May 9, 1991. Here is the latter half of that interview. (Apologies for the low quality, but it is the best I could find.)

Patrick Swayze's battle with pancreatic cancer lasted much longer through the use of experimental drugs and procedures, but he, too, succumbed on September 14, 2009, at the age of 57 - 20 months after his diagnosis.
Pancreatic cancer has some of the scariest mortality rates of any type of cancer. More than 95% of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer do not survive longer than 5 years. Complete remission is extremely rare.
It is known as the "silent killer" because the symptoms are almost unnoticeable until the cancer is advanced. This is one of the main reasons for the high mortality rates.
I apologize for the morbidity of this blog entry, but November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, and I can think of no better way to raise awareness than to show just how scary pancreatic cancer is.
For today's entry, I have selected two organizations working in the fight against pancreatic cancer, the first of which is The Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research.

The other organization that I wanted to share with you today is the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

Both of these organizations' websites have a good deal of information about pancreatic cancer and about how you can help in the fight.
I would like to leave you with the statement that Bill Hicks wrote a couple of weeks before his death and asked to be released after his passing as his last word, not because it necessarily has anything to do with pancreatic cancer research, but because it adds poignancy to the all-too-early loss of this young man's wisdom:
"I left in love, in laughter, and in truth and wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit." - Bill Hicks

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday Film Buff: Wild Horses

In 1979, The Electric Horseman was the hot coming attraction. It starred Robert Redford, who had over the past decade become one of Hollywood's top box office draws in films such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Great Gatsby, The Sting, The Way We Were, and All the President's Men. His co-star Jane Fonda had also become a pretty big deal over the last few years in movies like Coming Home, California Suite, and The China Syndrome. With director Sydney Pollack (Three Days of the Condor, The Way We Were) at the helm, hopes were high. I guess the film didn't quite meet everyone's expectations at the time, because - prior to my seeing it years later - I only knew it as "that bad rhinestone cowboy movie." I don't know why. It made $30 million at the box office when it opened, which was not bad at all for 1979, and the performances are great.
You're sure this is what Newman wore in Hud?
The story is: Sonny Steele (Redford) is a beat-up, washed-up rodeo star reduced to hawking kids' cereal in a flashy electric costume, something he generally does in an alcoholic haze. When confronted with his new "partner" in the cereal business, Rising Star - an aging racehorse drugged by the cereal company to keep him calm at public events - something inside Sonny snaps. He and the racehorse escape down the Las Vegas strip and into the Nevada desert. Intrepid TV reporter, Hallie Martin (Fonda) tracks them down to get the story.
The rest of it I'll let you find out for yourself, but this is a good old-fashioned crowd-pleaser, and (I know this is becoming something of a catch-phrase for me) one of my favorites.

It's got a great story, solid performances, and an important message about the way that we treat our celebrities - human and horse alike.
So, fellow film-buffs, let this be a lesson to you, if a movie interests you, don't let anyone talk you out of seeing it. I put off seeing The Electric Horseman for a long time even though I've been a big fan of Robert Redford and Sydney Pollack. So, if you haven't seen it, check it out. And if you are one of those people who just doesn't care for it, then we'll just have to respectfully disagree.
By the way, this is Willie Nelson's first film and Wilford Brimley's second, and they're both pretty darn good in it.
And, just for fun, here is probably my favorite scene in the movie. It could be a bit of a spoiler, so you might want to wait, but I really don't think it gives much of the plot away, and it does happen fairly early on in the film.

Wow. Great scene.
Now, the rumor is that Robert Redford did all of his own riding stunts in the film. I'm not sure about that, because I think I see a stuntman a couple of times in the above clip, but I'll buy that Redford did most of his own riding stunts. Speaking of buying, evidently Robert Redford bought the horse after filming had completed.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Theatre Thursday: And It Moves Us All

I am very sorry to say that Shannon Tavarez, the bright young actress who appeared as Nala in the Broadway production of The Lion King lost her battle with leukemia on Monday. The lights at the Minskoff Theatre were dimmed Tuesday night in honor of the young star who was unable to find a suitable bone marrow donor. She was eleven.
I wanted to share a couple of candid videos of  Shannon that I found on YouTube and that, I think, perfectly demonstrate what an amazing talent was lost this week.
The first is of Shannon earlier this year performing a choreographed dance routine to "The Pink Panther Theme" for (I think) some of her fellow cast members from The Lion King between shows at the Minskoff. (Shannon had to leave the show in April due to her illness.)

I know less about this second video, but obviously it is Shannon singing "Tomorrow" from Annie for an enthusiastic crowd at the Harlem School of the Arts.

This video I found a little more difficult to watch given Shannon's recent passing. It is a PSA from DKMS, encouraging everyone to "get swabbed" to find out if they might be a suitable bone marrow donor for someone in need.

I will confess that I saw that PSA months ago, and I planned to get swabbed, but I just never got around to it. I won't wait this time.
Goodbye, Shannon. You touched many lives in your short eleven years.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wildlife Wednesday: Big Fish

The whale shark is the largest fish in the ocean growing to be as big as 41 feet long (or much larger if some fishermen's claims are to be believed). While their profile seems more in line with the latter half of their name, the whale shark - like most whales - feeds on plankton or very small fish through a filter feeding system.
They  pose no threat to humans - except by accident perhaps, due to their large size.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said in reverse as the whale shark is a threatened species due to commercial fishing and oil spills.
Whale sharks don't move very fast, but they are beautiful and graceful creatures, as you can see in this video from

Wow, right? These are such awesome animals, and their names in other countries confirm this opinion.
In Vietnamese culture, the whale shark is called "Ca Ong," which means "Sir Fish" and is considered a deity. In Madagascar, they are called "marokintana," meaning "many stars." Tourists often travel to whale shark habitats to swim with these giant fish, something the whale sharks don't seem to mind and perhaps even enjoy.
However, just to be sure that anxious tourists were not upsetting the normal feeding patterns of the whale sharks, researchers from ECOCEAN decided to observe the behavior of a whale shark upon encountering a group of tourists. The best way to do this was to equip the great beast with the extremely cool (and harmless) critter cam.
Check out this video from National Geographic to see the results.

ECOCEAN has set up a website devoted to the enigmatic whale shark if you want to learn more. You can even adopt a whale shark to help in the conservation of this amazing species.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wild Card:Puppy Love

I was going to save this for Save-the-World-Saturday, but this particular group has an event this Saturday that I want you all to know about ahead of time.
The group is Rocky Mountain Puppy Rescue, and their name is pretty self-explanatory, but there are a couple of things that I wanted to share anyway.
There is no single shelter as part of Rocky Mountain Puppy Rescue. Instead, a network of puppy foster parents take in the pups, feed them, nurture them, play with them, and prepare them for loving homes. I recently met a few of the foster parents and one fostered puppy named Sheriff. I also met a little guy named Oscar whose mommy is affectionately referred to as a "foster fail": she was fostering Oscar and then decided she couldn't part with the little fella. These are serious dog lovers who make up this group.
I am a strong advocate over adopting a rescue dog over purchasing one, because there are a lot of great dogs out there already in need of homes.
Here's an article from the Humane Society that gives a little more information about this philosophy.
Adoptions occur at weekend events. The next one will be on November 6th from 11:00am to 2:00pm at the Northglenn PetSmart at 104th and I-25. There are a few guidelines you will want to look into - all of which are available on the Rocky Mountain Puppy Rescue site.
I also found this great video series on about puppy training. Here is the first video in the series:

How to Prepare for a Puppy -- powered by
Rocky Mountain Puppy Rescue is a member of and they get my personal recommendation as well, and you all know how I feel about puppies.
Check out their event this weekend. you just might find a new member of your family.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Monday Motivator: Happiness is . . .

In looking for a topic for today's Monday Motivator, I happened upon a new movie project that I thought might be of interest to some of you:

The Project Happiness movie has spawned a website:
Incidentally, here is the video (of motivational speaker and author Lisa Nichols) that led me to Project Happiness.

Oh, and here's my contribution to the discussion: "Project" can also be a verb.