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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Theatre Thursday: In the Event of Play . . .

Hey, remember my list of tips for coming up with content for a blog? Well, add one more to the list:
Ask your friends.

I was hanging out with Jeff Gamet of The Mac Observer, Digital Dimensions, Design Tools Monthly and more and mentioned that I hadn't thought of anything to write about for today's Theatre Thursday entry. Jeff reminded me of a tweet that I had sent earlier in the week about receiving an event notice on Facebook for a play that included all kinds of information but omitted both the dates of the play and the price of the tickets. He suggested that I use that as a launching off point, so, thank you, Jeff.
So today, I will give you a list of things that I think should be in most of your online promotions of your theatre production whether by e-mail, Facebook event page, or link to your website (and what you should have there, too.)

Number 1: What it is?
Obvious, maybe, but I can't tell you how many times I get a notice about some theatrical event, and I'm not clear whether it's a full production, a staged reading, a musical cabaret, or a fundraiser mixer. Be clear. If it's a production, include a brief description if it's not well-known. If you've got millions of dollars to spend on a deliberately cryptic ad campaign to generate lots of buzz, then go for it, but expect that a lot of people are simply going to say "whatever" and move on to the next thing in their inbox.

Number 2: Donde está?
Do not underestimate the importance of location. Some people will make a decision about whether to see something based upon where it is presented. It can even add interest, believe it or not. I have gone to see a show I wasn't originally interested in because it was just around the corner from a friend I've been meaning to have lunch with, but just haven't found the time. The location didn't sell just one ticket, but two. In a Facebook event, definitely put the address. On your website, put in a map or a link to a map website. Make it as easy as possible to get to your production. I also highly recommend typing out directions or cross streets on your website. Remember, sometimes people are looking at your website on a smartphone. They may not want to click on a link. If you've got a limited amount of space, then at least give your area: Arvada, Littleton, Denver, North Denver, West Denver. Don't assume that everyone who sees your promotion has even heard of you, much less knows where you are.

Number 3: Peeps
On any given week in the Denver area, there are twenty, thirty, or even more productions being staged. Even if people can afford to see everything (few can), there is just not enough time. How do people pick and choose? Well, the "what" mentioned above is a major factor, but don't forget about the importance of the talent you've hired. Just like people will go see anything with Sean Connery in it or directed by the Coen brothers, your local theatre audience has their favorites, too. It's on a much smaller scale, of course, but what if you could sell even twenty more seats to your production because someone saw a name they know and like on your website or in the Facebook event page?
Remember, too, that a large part of your audience is made up of theatre folk themselves. Again, I've gone to see a show only because someone I once worked with was in it. (I've gone to see a show because someone in it helped me move.) Don't assume that person remembered to tell me that they were in it.
Again, I hear many people in the theatre community say, "Oh, I didn't realize [so-and-so] was in that show, and now I've missed it!" It happens more often than you might think. List your cast and crew on your website, and on your Facebook event page. In e-mails and flyers going out to the general public, I recommend at least mentioning the director and possibly the leads. Photographs can be even better as some people will recognize a face before a name.

Number 4: That'll be the day.
As I mentioned, I received a notification about a musical opening "soon" and that was it. It was probably just an oversight, but I'd say it was a pretty big one, wouldn't you? I ran into someone the other night who missed a show because the date was wrong on the Facebook page. It was right in the e-mail she'd received. it was right on the flyer that came in the mail. However, the last place that she saw the date - and the one that stuck in her memory - was wrong. I was at that show, and it wasn't sold out. Follow me?
Get the dates right and list the times in an easy to find place, too. Again, remember, people are now looking you up on palm-held devices, and you don't want to miss out on a dinner party spontaneously deciding to come see your show because they can't find out if it starts at 7 or 7:30. Yes, they can call, but what if you're on another line?

Number 5: It's all about the Benjamins, baby.
List your ticket prices: Adult, child, student/senior. If I'm trying to decide between your show and somebody else's, and you don't list your ticket prices, but they do: I'm going to assume that your tickets are more expensive than theirs. If you are presenting reasonably-priced theatre, then make it known.

Number 6: Click me!
Give us a link to your website. (Please tell me you have a website.) On your website's home page, have the basic information about the show and some basic information about your company. Remember, this may be as far as I get with my smartphone.
Think this:

Obscurely-Named Theatre Company
North Denver's 3rd finest musical comedy troupe!

by Guy who writes for your favorite TV show,
but you don't know it
Directed by That guy who directed the last show you saw and liked

March 11th through Holy Cow! It's closing soon!
Fridays, Saturdays 7:30pm, Sundays 2pm Matinee
Tickets: Adults $Hey not bad! Students/Seniors $Hey, really not bad!
No kids' price? Maybe this isn't for kids. Let's call a sitter.
321 19th-Century-Genocidal-Maniac Street, Denver, CO 

Then, after that, put a link to a separate page with more specific information: cast, crew, synopsis, and more. (This is also the stuff you'll want to include in the Facebook event page.)

Your website designer (yes, you should hire one) will have most likely given you clearly-marked buttons on your page with directions and maps, box office contact info and more.
Quick Tip: Flash may look cool, but not so much on mobile devices, which may be how people are visiting your site. Consider using less flash or make a flash-free version that can be linked to the front page.

Now, I'm not saying that you can't still make your cool, artistic posters with minimal printing (just don't be surprised if they obfuscate). I'm saying that where you have the opportunity to present the information more completely (i.e. your website, Facebook), you should really do so.

You can't tell why someone is or isn't going to come see your show, all you can do is present them with the information. Give them the what, the when, the where, and the who, and let them come up with the why.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wildlife Wednesday: Tough Old Bird

As I have viewed the devastation and tragedy as a result of the tsunami in Japan, my thoughts have at time -particularly on Wednesdays moved to the impact of the disaster on the wildlife of the Pacific Ocean. Wildlife experts are still surveying the damage, but I do have one bit of good news to report: Wisdom has survived.
Wisdom has probably raised 30-35 chicks in her lifetime - four in the last 4 years.
(Most albatross take a year off between nestings, but Wisdom has taken no breaks
since 2007!)
Wisdom is the oldest known bird living in the wild. Over 60 years old, the Laysan Albatross was in the news earlier this month for becoming a mother again at the Midway Atoll wildlife refuge.
Recent reports are that mother and chick are doing just fine.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesday Tunes: A Pearl, a Princess, and a Knight

Today is the birthday of the legendary Pearl Bailey. Here is a fun clip of her clowning around on the Nat King Cole Show while performing her hit "Takes Two to Tango."

Yeah, I thought you might enjoy that.
Another birthday is sword-and-sorcery icon Lucy Lawless, who, in addition to being a Warrior Princess and a Cylon, has a side career as a singer.

Also today, Welsh singing sensation Tom Jones became Sir Tom Jones when he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. No doubt it was for his innovative developments for the strategic defense of the realm.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Motivator: Follow Your Bliss

I spent a lot of the last week enjoying re-watching the 1980s documentary series The Power of Myth, in which Bill Moyers interviews the inspiring Joseph Campbell. If you get the chance, I highly recommend it. One phrase that resonates with many who have seen the series is "Follow your bliss."
Here, in a segment from KUED-TV's documentary, The Job, David Kudler reflects on the impact of those words:

A YouTube user, sharabanisadr, put together a nice collage of some of Joseph Campbell's quotes with some music by Yo-Yo Ma:

Often misunderstood as encouraging hedonism, "follow your bliss" is explained by Campbell in this way:
"If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are—if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time."
Some other authors have referred to this as being "in flow."
The saying also inspired the B-52s to write an instrumental song of the same title which was included on their Cosmic Thing album:

Happy Monday, cherubs. Follow your bliss.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Superhero Sunday: Sir, Yes, Sir!

Growing up, my favorite Marvel comic book superhero was - like most people - Spider-Man, but, whether you were a Spidey-fan or an X-Men junkie, there was one presence that was always felt in the Marvel Universe: Captain America. Even if you didn't read the Captain America or Avengers comic books regularly, Cap had a way of showing up in other comic books, and, when he did, the tone changed slightly. While I can remember feeling that Superman was sometimes over-the-top and corny with his "goodness" there was always something much more serious or respectful about Captain America's wholesome approach to heroism. Other characters felt compelled to call him "sir," and, if they didn't, something just felt wrong.
Maybe it had something to do with the fact that he had fought the Nazis. Maybe it was because he would run toward an invading alien armada carrying nothing more than a shield, and you suddenly felt sorry for the aliens. Sure, he had the enhanced strength afforded him by the super-soldier serum, but it never felt like that process so much made a hero as . . . unleashed one.
The Captain has made it into the live-action realm a couple of times which I "highlighted" in this earlier blog entry, but, until the recently released full trailer for Captain America: The First Avenger, it hasn't felt like the hero has really received his due.
I'm not completely sold yet, but I'm getting very, very close.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Save the World Saturday: Dame Elizabeth Taylor 1932-2011

My mother asked me this morning why I did not write about Elizabeth Taylor on my blog yet. Well, the answer is two-fold:
First, even though I am a fan of classic movies, I couldn't think of any obscure gems to share on my Friday Film Buff blog. Taylor's best work in film is pretty well-known. Second, I was waiting until Save the World Saturday to highlight Dame Elizabeth as most of my generation has come to know her: a crusader against AIDS.
Here she is speaking with Larry King in 1996.

Taylor was the Founding National Chairman for amfAR (The American Federation for AIDS Research).

The Elizabeth Taylor Foundation was founded in 1991 to provide support for individuals living with AIDS.
She was a woman of class, intelligence, courage, and the best kind of beauty. She is missed.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Film Buff: Soft-Boiled

A great big happy birthday today to actress Bonnie Bedelia, best known for playing the tougher-than-she-looks spouses of Bruce Willis In Die Hard and Die Hard 2 and Harrison Ford in Presumed Innocent. Bedelia also received acclaim for her role as lady drag racer Shirley Muldowney in Heart Like a Wheel. She can currently be seen in the NBC series Parenthood.
Bedelia also appears in one of my favorite movies: The Big Fix (1978) starring Richard Dreyfuss as Roger L. Simon's somewhat-less-than-hard-boiled detective Moses Wine. Wine is a former 60s radical turned private eye trying to solve the murder of an old flame and uncover a plot to smear a gubernatorial candidate.
It's a fun take on the private eye genre, and Dreyfuss shines as he always does.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Theatre Thursday: Escapism

As it is Harry Houdini's birthday today, I am highlighting one of Houdini's biggest fans: magician Doug Henning. Henning has been on Broadway three times with his magic performances, the first time with a little music-and-magic extravaganza called The Magic Show which ran from 1974-1978. In 1981, a filmed version of the show was created which featured one of my favorite illusions of all time: Metamorphosis.
Metamorphosis was created by a magician named John Nevil Maskelyne. (This guy also invented the pay toilet. Enterprising bloke.) However, the illusion is most closely associated with the man who is featured prominently on today's Google doodle: Harry Houdini.
There are many variations on the illusion, and one of the more impressive is by The Pendragons. However, Henning's version (with Didi Conn) is one of my favorites:

The Magic Show featured music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, most notably "Lion Tamer"

and "West End Avenue."

Henning's next show, Merlin, did not enjoy the long-running success of The Magic Show, but it did run for 199 performances (and 69 previews) and it was nominated for 5 Tony awards including Best Musical.

Henning would return to Broadway once more for a special limited performance run called Doug Henning & His World of Magic. I don't know if video of that show exists, but I didn't find any. Instead, I will leave you with this video of Doug on The Muppet Show.

Have a great Thursday everyone, and get out this weekend to see some live theatre near you!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wildlife Wednesday: Sweet Spots

I decided this week to focus on the cute factor for Wildlife Wednesday. Are you ready?
Okay, activating cute . . . now:
Squeeeeeee. . . I mean, what a remarkable specimen.

This little guy is being hand-reared by Busch Gardens Tampa staff and will eventually be introduced into their Cheetah Run habitat. He was born at the Jacksonville Zoo, but his mother abandoned him. I don't know all of the details, but I think he was the only one in the litter, and many species of animals instinctively abandon any litter less than two. It's a survival thing. It takes just as much effort to keep one baby alive as three or four, and , in the wild, the odds are against a litter of one. It seems cruel, but it's centuries of evolution learning built into a mother's instinct. In that regard, it's really quite fascinating.
And, of course, it's going to be a happy ending for this little guy regardless. As you can see from this video, he is in very caring hands.

More pictures and info over at ZooBorns.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuesday Tunes: Musical Birthdays All Around

Today is the birthday of the eldest Marx brother, Leonard, more commonly known as "Chico" Marx. In addition to being a brilliant comedian like his brothers, Chico was also a gifted pianist - something he demonstrated in the Marx Brothers films. Here he is in A Day at the Races.

Also celebrating a birthday today are two legends of Broadway Theatre. Chronologically speaking, first up is Stephen Sondheim. This is one of my favorite Sondheim songs from the 1976 musical production of Pacific Overtures:

Next, here is Denise Van Outen performing "Tell Me On A Sunday" by our other Broadway birthday boy, Andrew Lloyd Webber. (This is possibly the only break-up ballad to contain the word "chimpanzees." Well done, lyricist Don Black.)

I cannot mention Broadway today and then forget to point out that one of the most famous songs about the Great White Way was made so by another artist whose birthday is today, jazz guitarist George Benson.

Before I leave Broadway behind, I have one more birthday beneath those neon lights. Today ia also the birthday of the The Wiz's original Dorothy, Stephanie Mills.

Okay, one more. How could I possibly forget that today is also the birthday of the Canadian actor who would embody perhaps the greatest science fiction hero of the 20th century (er, 23rd century, well, you know what I mean) James Tiberius Kirk. The man is William Shatner, famous for his unique line delivery and infamous for his extremely unique cover versions of pop songs, like this one:

Happy Birthday, one and all.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Motivator: Bueller . . .

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." - Ferris Bueller

(Happy Birthday, Matthew Broderick.)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Superhero Sunday: All Our Hopes Are Pinned On You

Okay. I would be remiss if I did not at least acknowledge this week's bombshell (in multiple senses of the word) news release of Adrianne Palicki in costume as Wonder Woman for the upcoming NBC TV reboot. Before I go any further, here's the photo in question:
Okay. Wow.

Already there has been some controversy stirred up by the omission of the patriotic "stars and stripes" of the original Wonder Woman costume.
Okay, two things: first, there never were any stripes. Stars, yes, but no stripes. That's Captain America who has the stripes. The "patriotic" elements of the costume were the white stars on the blue skirt (which later became briefs) and the eagle. The eagle, as you can see, is still there. 
Second, this costume is partly based upon the recent Wonder Woman revamp in the comic books, which I wrote about last summer.
Basically, it looks to me like the costume designers took this:
The classic look

Combined it with this:
The new look

And came up with this:
I said "Wow" already, right?
If I have any gripe with the costume, it's that the colors look maybe just a little too bright and cheesy for a modern television incarnation of the character, and I have already seen one slight, but effective re-coloring of the photo by a fan on the web.
I have two hopes when I see the costume. First, this is a "rough draft" deliberately leaked to elicit fan feedback.
Second, the colors are a deliberate plot element. Basically, here's my favorite take on the Wonder Woman story (among the many ret-cons out there): Diana, princess of the Amazons is charged with returning crashed American fighter pilot Steve Trevor to his country. In the interest of diplomacy, the Amazons fashion a costume that resembles the American flag patch and wings on Trevor's uniform. In other words, the patriotic look of Wonder Woman's costume was no coincidence.
In the case of this new TV revamp, the producers may be going for a bit of a fish-out-of water story to create comic undertones and perhaps even social commentary, which, if done well, could be quite effective. If that's the case, then the brighter, cheesier color scheme actually works better than a grittier, but cooler look. 
Whatever the case, I have high hopes for the new TV series, and I offer only one piece of advice for the parties involved:
Shiny costumes, explosive special effects, and beautiful women are all well and good, but, if I don't care about the characters, I won't watch for very long.
Good luck, everyone.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Save the World Saturday: A Fuzzy Problem

Though it shouldn't be, it is legal in the United States to own a bear, a lion, a tiger, or a wolf as a pet. While most of the population is smart enough not to attempt to do so, the small number of mouth-breathers who see nothing wrong with keeping a full-grown tiger in a cage in their backyard still present a significant problem when those animals need to be rescued for their own health and safety. These animals cannot be re-released into the wild, they aren't wild themselves anymore. (Of course, they aren't exactly domestic, either.)
What do you do with such an animal?
Well, if you're Pat Craig of the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, CO, you build a facility in which these magnificent beasts can live out the rest of their days with room to roam and play and, well, be magnificent.
This video is from last month, so the lions are there now. If you go to my other blog, there's a longer video from a few years back that details the rescue process that WAS engages in on a regular basis.
I'm amazed by how Pat Craig has addressed this enormous problem, but, of course, he can't do it alone.
And, yes, you can visit the facility.

Friday, March 18, 2011

"Incredible" Me: How I Blog (More or Less) Every Day

Somebody who found out that I write a daily blog the other day said to me "That's incredible! How do you do it?"
Is he planning his next blog topic or thinking
about Michelle Ryan running in slow motion?
Maybe both.
Well the truth is, I kind of don't. I miss days (which I make up later), and not every entry is terribly prolific - sometimes it's just me sharing a video and making a few comments about it. Still, I suppose in a 31-day month, I do manage to come up with at least 31 separate blog entries - each with relatively fresh content - and I do have a few tricks up my sleeve that allow me to accomplish that.
First, a little history: I started this blog back in 2006, primarily as a way to promote theatre in Denver. Before long, two things happened: First, I started to be seen as a theatre critic which was really not my intention. I don't believe that an authentic and ethical critic can be actively involved in the field he's critiquing, and I definitely was. I didn't like my recommendations being regarded as reviews, so I mostly just abandoned them. Second, other people began to follow suit, which actually helped me to solve my first problem, and I was able to put my focus back on writing as an insider. A general disenchantment with the state of theatre (Exhibit A: Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) and, in particular, the copycat nature of much (but not all, haters) of Denver theatre soon had me struggling with ways to come up with things to write. I've actually quit this blog twice, but not for very long. The latest relaunch was in a daily format covering a variety of topics.
So, that's Tip #1: Write about what interests you. If you find it interesting, you can make it sound interesting to other people. Also, it won't feel like as much of a chore to research and write. It's kind of a no-brainer, but it works. I write this blog as a hobby, and I really don't spend much time thinking about what I'm going to write tomorrow. Choosing topics that are interesting to me - movies, superheroes, theatre, wildlife conservation, charities, and music - make it easy for me to just sit down and start writing in just a few minutes. Obviously, my multiple-topic blog may not be practical for your particular blog, but I'll just bet that there are many different aspects of your topic that you may not have thought about yet. Have fun with it. I will say that my readership has increased significantly since I went to a daily format. It's a microwave world, my cherubs.
Okay, that's the one and only philosophical tip for content. Here are some nuts and bolts. If I'm stumped for a topic (and sometimes even if I'm not), these - in order - are the steps I take to find content:
Tip#2: Every day is somebody's birthday.
There are lots of places that like to post famous birthdays. The one I check first is also the most prosaic: Let's look at today, March 18th, for example. Born today are Dane Cook, Irene Cara, Vanessa Williams, Queen Latifah, Charlie Pride, F.W. DeClerk, Grover Cleveland, and John Updike, to name a few. Today is my Friday Film Buff topic, in which, I try to write about a great movie I've seen that maybe not everybody else has. Well, nothing jumped out at me there, so I looked at tomorrow's birthdays: aha! Wyatt Earp! Can I write about Wyatt Earp movies? Well, I did. I honestly had no idea that I was going to write about Hour of the Gun when I sat down to my computer, but there it is.  If I hadn't found anything on tomorrow's birthdays, I'd have gone one day further forward, and, if still nothing, I'd have gone to yesterday's birthdays before going to my next step.
Tip #3: Every day is an anniversary.
Something happened today in history. Somebody wrote a book. Somebody invented something. Somebody did something exceptionally bad or exceptionally good. I like to check out for additional inspiration. In addition to important days in history, there are sometimes birthdays that weren't listed on the other site. Between tips #2 and #3 you now have a list of people and events that you can probably find are related to your topic in some way. Never underestimate the power of the segue, and even if it's a stretch, you're not after a pulitzer here, you're trying to put some content up for your readers. When you're stuck, staring at your computer and trying to be brilliant will not accomplish that. Be pragmatic today. Be prolific tomorrow. (Okay. I snuck in a little more philosophy there.) Still stuck?
Tip #4: What ribbons are people wearing?
Every month is an awareness for something and usually for several somethings. March is Red Cross awareness month. It is also National Kidney month. A simple wikipedia search for any given month will show you most of the awareness events or you can go to Then check out for the best charities working toward those causes. Maybe you think that your blog has nothing to do with anything there. Maybe it doesn't. So? Mix it up. Go off-topic today, and as long as you're going to go off-topic, you might as well try to do some good in the world. Hey, you're stuck anyway, right? Now I know that some people like to call this "slactivism," but I think it's only so in the absence of action. (I hate that term, by the way.) Ralph Waldo Emerson said "The ancestor of every action is a thought." People cannot act on something that they don't know about, so let them know about it. Besides, it reminds people that there's a human being behind your blog. Afraid of being phony? Fine. then don't be phony. If you don't care about feeding starving people or finding a cure for cancer, then don't write about it. (Really? You don't care. Dude. That's harsh.)
Tip #5: Go back to the news
This presumes that you were aware of at least the top news stories before you even sat down to your computer, so now I'm suggesting that you go back and dig into the secondary news topics for more inspiration.
And that's it. I very seldom ever have to go beyond Tip #2 myself. (Birthdays are great. Everybody has one.)
I could throw out another tip, but it's philosophical.
Okay, here you go:
Tip #6: If the first five tips still don't have you inspired to write, maybe you just aren't supposed to write today.
Obviously, your heart's just not in it today. Don't agonize about it. If it happens a lot, well, maybe you need to analyze why you're writing a blog at all, but sometimes you just need to take a day off.
I won't profess to being a blogging expert by any means, but I do manage to pull it off, and that's how.

Friday Film Buff: Throw Up Your Hands!

As tomorrow is the birthday of perhaps the most famous lawman of the Old West (and easily the most-portrayed on film) Wyatt Earp, you may be planning to watch one of the many films about the man and his life - particularly surrounding the events of October 26, 1881 - most commonly known as the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
(Or not. I tend to assume that everyone is as much of a movie nerd as I am.)
There is, of course, The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) starring Burt Lancaster as the famed lawman with Kirk Douglas as his notorious friend, Doc Holliday. Great film. Then there's Tombstone (1993) with Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer in the same roles, respectively. That version may be the most accurate, and it does not sacrifice entertainment value in the bargain.
"I'm your huckleberry." Great line from Kilmer as the ailing Doc.
If you've got about three-and-a-half hours, you might want to take a look at Lawrence Kasdan's more comprehensive look at the lawman, Wyatt Earp, starring Kevin Costner in the title role and Dennis Quaid as Holliday, but, honestly, I much prefer the film from the previous year. That version also has Sam Elliott as Virgil Earp, and I have a serious man-crush.
I would also be remiss in not mentioning the great 1946 version starring Henry Fonda, My Darling Clementine. As an aside, Henry Fonda movies are always a very personal experience for me. I never knew either of my grandfathers, so I have "borrowed" them from old movies. I imagine my maternal grandfather John Michael "Jude" Burns to be Fred MacMurray and sometimes Lee Marvin because of the way they have been described to me. My paternal grandfather, Orville "Guy" Darnell, was killed when he was a young man, and I know him only through a few black-and-white photographs. In the photos, he reminds me of Tom Joad, so I have adopted Henry Fonda as my other grandfather. I don't know why I told you that. Let's move on, shall we?
You could even take a look at the fictionalized account of Earp's later years in the Blake Edwards film Sunset (1988), which I have written about on this very blog. James Garner (another man-crush of mine) plays the aging lawman in that one.
Garner sports the same mustache (more or less) in that film that he did when he played Wyatt Earp twenty-one years earlier in today's Friday Film Buff selection, the lesser-known O.K. Corral film, Hour of the Gun. Directed by John Sturges, it is of a deliberately (and studio-mandated) different tone than Sturges's earlier version of the story with Lancaster and Douglas. It is not as beloved as the earlier film, but I think it is just as good, and it looks at different aspects of the story. In fact, the movie opens with the famous gunfight. (I found the opening sequence and have embedded it below. Maybe just watch the first minute if you want to save the gunfight for when you watch the whole film.) In addition to Garner as Earp, the film stars the highly-underrated by my generation Jason Robards as Doc Holliday and Robert Ryan as the scheming Ike Clanton. If you haven't seen it, tomorrow is a great time to do so. (It's not easy to find, but it is available for streaming rental on Amazon.)

Whatever version of the Wyatt Earp story you choose to watch (or not, whatever) tomorrow for the lawman's birthday, keep this in mind: on October 26, 1881, Wyatt Earp was 33 years old. Doc Holliday was 30. Hollywood often portrays them as older - particularly Doc. I wonder why that is?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Theatre Thursday: Nureyev's Birthday

To remember the late Rudolph Nureyev on his birthday, here is one of his great performances: from The Nutcracker in 1968 with Merle Park.

Nureyev changed the way that the world looked at male ballet dancers. Once simply support for the ballerina, Nureyev showed that the balleroux (yes, I'm showing off) could be as impressive as the women. Though he passed away in 1993, Nureyev's spirit and influence is ever-present in the world of ballet.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wildlife Wednesday: Save the Panther

I am just in awe of the beauty of these animals.
As you may know, earlier this month the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife officially declared the Eastern Cougar extinct. Many animal lovers, myself included, have been quite depressed by this. Rather than mope around for too long, though, we are mobilizing to preserve a cousin of the Eastern Cougar: the Florida Panther.
This is Save-the-Florida-Panther week, and this week the Defenders of Wildlife and others are working to spread awareness about these beautiful cats and their decreasing numbers.
D.O.W. has a really great information page that you should really check out when you can but here are the high (or low) points:
- The Florida Panther almost became extinct back in the 1950s.
- Today there are only somewhere between 100 and 160 in the wild.
- Last year, 16 Florida Panthers were killed by cars when attempting to cross roadways. That's 10% of the optimistic estimate of the entire population! Quick shout out to Floridian drivers: slow down! Seriously.
- Habitat loss is another major factor threatening the survival of these cats.
Kittens are born with spots (for camouflage) that fade as they get older.
Kittens stay with their mothers for up to 2 years.
Here is a video made by a panther advocate that better describes the situation in Florida. (Don't be confused. The terms "panther" and "cougar" are often used interchangeably.)

Please take the time to learn a bit more of the plight of the Florida Panther. You may also want to look at the Defenders of Wildlife's Adopt a Panther program as a means of providing some financial support in this struggle.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday Tunes: Lightnin' Strikes

I don't know about you, but listening to the Blues actually puts me into a good mood - particularly when it is performed as skillfully as it was by the man who was born 99 years ago today: Samuel "Lightnin'" Hopkins.

Though Hopkins played with and learned from Blind Lemon Jefferson in his youth, it would not be until the mid 1940s  - after spending some time in prison and working as a farmhand - that he would even begin to have some success as a musician. The school of hard knocks was as much a part of Hopkins' blues education as anything.
It wasn't until 1946 that he received his meteorological nickname. An Aladdin Records executive decided that Sam Hopkins recording with pianist Wilson Smith lacked marketing dynamism, so he dubbed the two "lightnin'" and "thunder," respectively.
The nicknames certainly seem apropos on the suggestive 1947 recording, "Let Me Play With Your Poodle."

While Hopkins was well-known and well-respected among African-American audiences and Blues enthusiasts, he wouldn't become recognized on the wider music scene until the 1960s, which is when he recorded the song that many consider to be his masterpiece: "Mojo Hand."

Hopkins is estimated to have recorded over 800 (and as many as 1000) songs in his career, and he was named among Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Hopkins played pretty much right up until the end of his life when in 1982 he succumbed to esophageal cancer at the age of 69.
Now, I'm going to go right on ahead and break my "rule of three" to share one more video from the great Blues man.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Motivator: Nice One, Einstein

Today is the birthday of Albert Einstein - inarguably one of the most brilliant men who's ever lived. I'm not a physicist, but I do often find myself considering the man's words when I am faced with problems or challenges in my silly little world.

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."

"Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

"A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new."

"Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking."

"Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves." (That one might be my favorite.)

Happy Birthday, Albert. Happy Monday, everybody else. (Except Jenny Hecht, Trent Blakeslee, and anyone else who has a birthday today. Happy Birthday to you, too.)

Superhero Sunday (Monday): Support Staff

"I'm not cleaning that up."
Of all of the items in Batman's arsenal - the Batplane, Batmobile, Batcave, Batcycle, Batarangs (anyone else sensing some narcissism here?) - probably the most useful thing the Dark Knight has on his side is his faithful butler, Alfred Pennyworth.
Manservant to the Wayne family, Alfred became parent and guardian young Bruce Wayne after his parents were gunned down one night in Gotham. Of course, the little boy did grow up to be a masked vigilante, so maybe it's best if we don't linger too long on Alfred's parenting skills. . .
"Me, neither."
In addition to cooking, cleaning, and laundry, Alfred is a skilled medic, even honing his skills to the point of surgery and more. This is a useful ability when you work for a guy who can't simply drop by the emergency room: "Why do you have a razor-sharp playing card lodged in your ribs?"
Alfred is also a skilled computer programmer and engineer, maintaining and often re-building much of the crime-fighting gadgetry used by Batman in his nightly exploits.
With all of the things he does to maintain Wayne Manor, the Batcave, and the Batman himself, I hope that Alfred gets a really good 401K plan.
Incidentally, the latest cinematic incarnation of Alfred, Sir Michael Caine, turns 78 today. Happy bloody birthday, sir!

Why I'm Behind Schedule

Yes, cherubs, I'm running late, I know. Yesterday was kind of a full day for your Big Bad Wolf.
Unsung hero. Big time.
I needed to meet with the playwright Marc France as I am helping him to workshop his newest play The Soule Assassination this evening at the Denver Vic today at 7pm. Drop by if you want. We want all the feedback we can get. Silas Soule was the "whistle-blower" on the Sand Creek Massacre, and a pretty brave and honorable guy. Why there isn't a statue of this guy somewhere in Denver, I do not know.
Then I spent the evening with the fun folks at the Evolution Theatre Company fundraiser. Good times there. ETC is gearing up for the world premiere of David Nehls's new musical BREACH starring the incomparable Amanda Earls (*sigh*) and directed by Nick Sugar. (Okay, *sigh*.) I'll be doing some coverage of the process on this show right here on this blog, so stay tuned.
BREACH will also feature Jace Smykill, front-man of the band foma, which was also there to rock the fundraiser.
Okay, that's both an explanation of my tardiness and a teaser of things to come. Come back here in an hour or so for the Superhero Sunday blog on Monday. And then about an hour after that for the regularly scheduled Monday Motivator.
It's hard work, but you're worth it, my lovelies.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Save the World Saturday: The Red Cross is There

March has been designated as American Red Cross month, which seems slightly redundant to me. Anytime that there is a tragedy, such as the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, our awareness of the Red Cross is brought to the fore front as we see this organization, founded in 1881 by Clara Barton, mobilize to provide aid to the victims.

See? So, yes, do please be aware that March is American Red Cross month, but also be aware that the Red Cross is on the job (and in need of your support) every day of the year.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Film Buff: Get Out

I watched Get Low the other night. That's the recent movie starring Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek in the story - based on a supposedly true legend - of a hermit who decides to hold a funeral for himself wile he's still alive. I liked it. Duvall and Spacek are always watchable, but I was really watching it because it also features the elusive Mr. Bill Murray as the moderately unscrupulous undertaker.
Knowing that the director, Aaron Schneider, had to go through the elaborate process of calling Murray's little-known 800 number (Murray fired his publicists and agents years ago), leaving a message, hoping that the unpredictable actor would call him back, sending a copy of the script via courier to Murray somewhere in New York (or wherever he might be at the time), hoping that Murray will get back to him with an affirmative response, and even then still hoping that Murray will show up on the first day of shooting (Murray is not fond of signing contracts), I take Murray's presence in the film as an indication that both he and the director felt that the story and/or the role were worthy of the trouble.
Like I said, I liked it. In particular, I liked Murray's performance, so it looks like Schneider's gamble paid off.
Today is kind of a two-fer, because, while I am definitely recommending Get Low as worthy of your viewership, I actually want to write about another one of my favorite Bill Murray films: Quick Change.

QUICK CHANGE: Movie Trailer. Watch more top selected videos about: Movie Trailers, Philip Bosco

You get the idea of the plot from the above trailer, and I am reluctant to share much more for fear of ruining any more of the surprises, but suffice it to say, it is classic Bill Murray.
Even more interesting to me is that -for the first and only time in his career - Murray stepped behind the camera to direct this film with screenwriter Howard Franklin. There are some very interesting (and darkly funny) touches in this film that I suspect were very much Bill Murray's influence. I'm not sure why he has not elected to direct any more films. Maybe he just feels it's too much work, but - based on Quick Change - I'd certainly pay to see more Murray-helmed cinematic offerings.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Theatre Thursday: Circle of Life

As much a fan as I am of Spider-Man, I have not been a fan of the musical, even conceptually. Even more so I have not been a fan of the ridiculous spectacle that the show has created on Broadway, performing previews to sold-out houses of individuals not looking to enjoy an evening of theatre but rather to perhaps be a spectator to a calamity or injury. It's a bit like NASCAR set to music, frankly, and I have been disgusted both by the train wreck and the people who have flocked to it - cash in hand - to be witness to the cataclysm.
Still, the news today that Bono has fired director Julie Taymor from the production in the hopes of making salvaging revisions has sparked in me some empathy. In my experience in theatre I have been both the terminator and the terminatee in unsalvageable artistic partnerships. (I've never been fired by anyone with just one name, though. That sucks.) It's unfortunate when it happens, and it isn't necessarily an indicator that someone is doing something wrong. (The injuries and fines, however, are the indicators of Ms. Taymor's culpability in this case.)
If Bono thinks he can turn things around, well, I appreciate his devotion to the project, even if I don't much appreciate the project itself. Good luck to you, Mr. Bono. I won't say "break a leg" because, one, I'm not superstitious, and, two, given the production's injury-filled history, it's not really appropriate.
As for Julie Taymor, I hope that she does not fall victim to the axiom that "you're only as marketable as your last gig," and, to that end, I would like to offer evidence of her considerable talent.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wildlife Wednesday: Puppy Wild

The Houston Zoo's endangered Maned Wolf pups are now a bit over a month old and growing (and growling). The pups are being hand-reared at the zoo with a little help from a "foster mom" named Taji, an Anatolian Shepherd.
First here's a video of the pups at eleven days old:
And now, here they are in a much more recent video, eating, playing, and doing what puppies do. (They will eventually catch up to those ears.)
You can read more about Dora and Diego over at

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tuesday Tunes: Hot Dog!

Tomorrow is the birthday of jazz legend Keely Smith who was married for a while to the wild and crazy band leader Louis Prima. Here, the duo perform a medley of sorts:

While Smith and Prima got a lot of mileage out of her playing the "straight man" to his goofy antics, the lady - who self-admittedly does not read music and has never had a voice lesson - demonstrated her considerable vocal chops on the duo's biggest hit, "That Old Black Magic."

One of Smith's biggest solo hits is "I Wish You Love." I get lost in her smoky vocals on this one.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday Motivator: Rock On

A large part of how we experience life has to do with our focus. It's not really the things that happen to us that determine the quality of our lives, it's the way that we feel about those things that really make the difference. One thing that I think helps to keep our focus on the positive is to take on what many people refer to as the attitude of gratitude. I periodically make a list of the things in my life for which I am grateful, and Lee Brower has a wonderful technique for keeping one's focus on gratitude by attaching meaning to an object that one will encounter many times a day. Here he is in the movie The Secret, talking about the "gratitude rock."

Now, it doesn't have to be a rock or something you put in your pocket, necessarily. Guys tend to make more use of their pockets than women do, so a different object might do. Maybe every time you look at your key chain you remember to think of something for which you are grateful. If you do a great deal of driving in your day, you might put something on your dashboard or console that you will see many times throughout the day.
Even one of those rubber bracelets can serve as a reminder to you to focus on what you have rather than what you haven't.
Try it. See if it helps make your day go a little easier.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Saturday Superhero: Sequential Art

If you visited the Google page today you saw a very cool graphic doodle celebrating what would be the 94th birthday of one of the greatest comic book storytellers who ever lived: Will Eisner. However, Eisner was not fond of the terminology "comic book" as he felt that it conjured silly stories and comical situations. Eisner's artwork and storytelling style was far from silly and comical.
He preferred the term "sequential art."
Here is a brief segment from a documentary about the comic book industry from a couple of decades ago. It features an interview with Eisner himself:

If your interest is piqued, be sure to visit to learn more about this prolific artist.
Eisner's most famous creation is the mysterious Spirit, a hard-boiled masked vigilante who fought crime and a wide array of colorful villains. The recent live-action film directed by Frank Miller (a contemporary comic book legend himself) was done with great affection, but really fell short of the magic of the Eisner Spirit stories. I recommend visiting your local library or comic book store to experience the ink on the page.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Save the World Saturday: Can Do

March is Multiple Sclerosis Education and Awareness Month, and one of the most important aspects of that awareness is tat a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis is not the end of the world.
Can Do MS out of Edwards, Colorado strives to show people who've been diagnosed with MS just that. Here are two representatives of the organization talking about what they do on a recent appearance on Good Morning Vail.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Film Buff: Good Time Charlie

I'm a bit bothered by all of the Charlie Sheen coverage of late, and, while I realize that he is bringing a lot of it on himself, I wish that we weren't a society so fascinated by watching another human being self-destruct.
I hope that he works out his demons. I have always enjoyed him as an actor. He has a great under-stated quality that makes him much more than just "a poor man's Tom Cruise" as I heard someone refer to him the other day.
From the hoodlum in the police station in Ferris Bueller's Day Off to the good-natured jock in Lucas to the naif protagonist on the battlegrounds of Platoon and Wall Street, Sheen's acting style gives him a great deal of versatility as a leading man. He is adept at both drama and comedy by ascribing to the philosophy that less is more. That is why in Platoon, we can so easily observe the haunting picture of Vietnam through his eyes. It is also what made him the perfect deadpan hero in the Abrahams' spoofs of high-octane 80s action films, Hot Shots! and Hot Shots!: Part Deux.
One of my favorite lesser-known Charlie Sheen films is a family-affair film directed by and starring his father Martin and featuring his older brother Ramon in a small role. The film is Cadence (1990).

CADENCE: Movie Trailer. Watch more top selected videos about: Charlie Sheen, Martin Sheen

It's a good story with strong performances, and, in my opinion, a much better way to spend an hour-and-a-half watching Charlie Sheen than anything currently being shown on TMZ.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Theatre Thursday: Etc. Etc. Etc.

Sixty years ago this month, the beloved musical The King and I opened on Broadway with Yul Brynner as the King of Siam. The show would win 5 Tony Awards - including Best Musical - and run for 1246 performances before closing in 1954. It has been revived on Broadway three times so far - twice with Brynner reprising his famous role. While we have come to recognize the inappropriateness in modern times of casting non-Asian actors in the title role (well, most of us have, anyway), it is hard to deny how indelible Brynner was in the role.
Here he is with Deborah Kerr in the 1956 film version:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wildlife Wednesday: Say Cheese!

Okay, this is pretty cool.
Motion-activated cameras were placed in a wild animal preserve in Indonesia in the hope of capturing video of the very rare Javan Rhinoceros - so rare, in fact, that there are none in captivity and probably only about 40 total in the wild.
Well, not only did the cameras get one of these rare beauties on camera, but there is footage of two different females, each with her own calf. This is good news, because it means that they are breeding.

"Perceived medicinal properties." That just gets me so steamed that these animals are still being slaughtered for their horns. If it irritates you, too, or, if you just want to help to preserve these and other rare species in the wild, please give your support to the World Wildlife Fund. (They're the ones that set up the camera.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tuesday Tunes: Roger Dodger

A big, rocking HAPPY BIRTHDAY to legendary frontman for The Who, Roger Daltrey, who turns 67 today! While Pete Townshend and John Entwistle were usually the songwriters for the band (mostly Townshend), Daltrey did make a few contributions with his pen as well, most notably "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere," the band's second single co-written with Townshend.

Daltrey also wrote "See My Way" for The Who's pop-themed 1966 album A Quick One. Daltrey wanted Keith Moon to play the tune in the style of Buddy Holly and the Crickets's drummer, Jerry Allison. He was reportedly unhappy with the result, but I think Moon captured it pretty well. Give a listen and tell me if you don't hear just a bit of "Peggy Sue" in there.

Daltrey's "Here for More" was released as the B-side to "The Seeker," and, in my opinion, makes for a nice antithetical pairing for that song.

Happy Birthday, Commander Daltrey.