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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spring Break

Happy Easter, everybody. Or solemn Easter or whatever is actually supposed to be appropriate for this holy-day holiday.
Hey, I'm going to take a little break here for a bit to deal with some real-world stuff.
Might just be a few days. Might be longer. I just need to not be worrying about what content I'm going to post every day for a while.
I hope you'll understand.

See you in a while.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Save the World Saturday: The Day After Earth Day

Yesterday was Earth Day. So, what can you do on the "Earth Next Day" to keep the save-the-planet momentum going?
Here's one tip:

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Film Buff: SAMO Lives

Jean-Michel Basquiat began his career as a graffiti artist in New York City in the late 70s as a teenager under the name SAMO. SAMO gained notoriety for the sayings that accompanied his designs such as
"Plush safe he think . . .SAMO"
"SAMO as an escape clause."
The graffiti even received a write-up in The Village Voice in 1978. In 1979, "the SAMO project" ended with the pronouncement on Soho Buildings:
"SAMO is dead."
Basquiat moved into neo-expressionist painting, quickly gaining acclaim and fame. He befriended Andy Warhol and many other pop culture icons of the time, including David Bowie. He took Andy Warhol's death in 1987 very hard, and Basquiat himself died of a heroin overdose the following year at the age of 27.
Basquiat's paintings sell for millions of dollars apiece.
In 1996, painter Julian Schnabel stepped into the director's chair for the biopic Basquiat. Neither a glossed-over love letter nor a scathing expose, Schnabel's film has a feel of accuracy about it, even through moments of magical realism. There are blanks in Basquiat's story, and they are left as such in this film. It is perhaps not a masterpiece, but it is a very, very, very good first film.
The movie is itself a curiosity as there are many big names involved in this film in tangential or cameo roles (Walken, Dafoe, Hopper, Oldman, Posey), suggesting that either Schnabel was very good at calling in favors or many people wanted to be a part of this story. I'm inclined to think that it was the latter as Benicio Del Toro is reported to have played the role of Basquiat's friend, Benny Dalmau, for scale and even offered the producers that he would do it for free to get the role.
David Bowie plays Warhol and even wears the late artist's wigs. I don't really know much about what Warhol was like, but Bowie did, so I'd be willing to bet that Bowie's performance is spot-on, and, in my opinion, some of his best acting work.
Another great performance comes from Michael Wincott as Rene Richard. Wincott is best-known for playing gravelly-voiced bad guys in movies like Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, the Disney Three Musketeers re-make, and the under-appreciated Eddie Murphy thriller Metro. Here, Wincott is given an opportunity to show that he's got a much broader range.
Of course, the greatest performance of all belongs to Jeffrey Wright in the title role. Wright demonstrates once again how he may be one of the most under-rated actors working in Hollywood today. Basquiat is a puzzle and Wright plays him with honesty. Not everything that the character does is endearing, but we still find him eminently likeable.
It might even be difficult to call this a biography per se, as so much of  Basquiat's story is left untold. Perhaps what director/painter Schnabel created here is, appropriately, a portrait.
And I, for one, quite liked it.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Theatre Thursday: Little Girls

April 21, 1977:
After 15 previews, the musical Annie opened at the Alvin Theatre.
The show would run for 2377 performances on Broadway before closing in 1983.

If you're a fan of the show, you might also enjoy the documentary about growing up as part of the cast of the Broadway and touring productions: Life After Tomorrow.

The trailer makes it appear a bit more ominous than it really is.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wildlife Wednesday: Speak Up

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to come up with a plan for the nation's wildlife refuge system, and they have opened up the conversation to you.

Go to the website here, and you can vote on ideas that have already been suggested or suggest ideas of your own.
In the meantime, take a look at this video from YouTube user ThirdFlatted who put together this great piece featuring views from the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge here near Denver:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuesday Tunes: Antici . . .

 . . . pation.
Somebody's having a birthday today.

It's Tim Curry!

Curry is known best in musical circles for the above role of Dr. Frank N. Furter in the 1973 Rocky Horror Show and subsequent filmed version of the same, The Rocky Horror Picture Show in 1975, but he also had a pop music career in which he released three albums, the most successful of which was Fearless (1979).
The two most popular songs on the album were "I Do the Rock" . . .

 . . . and "Paradise Garage."

Tim Curry "Paradise Garage"

Tim Curry | Myspace Music Videos

Happy Birthday, Mr. Curry!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday Motivator: Clarence Darrow

Clarence Darrow 
(April 18, 1857 – March 13, 1938)

“If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach it in the public school, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools, and the next year you can make it a crime to teach it to the hustings or in the church. At the next session you may ban books and the newspapers. Soon you may set Catholic against Protestant and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the minds of men. If you can do one you can do the other. Ignorance and fanaticism is ever busy and needs feeding. Always it is feeding and gloating for more. Today it is the public school teachers, tomorrow the private. The next day the preachers and the lectures, the magazines, the books, the newspapers. After a while, your honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until with flying banners and beating drums we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind. ”

— Clarence Darrow, "Scopes Trial" courtroom speech, July 13, 1925

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Superhero Sunday: Up, Up, and Straight A's

I was talking with my good friend Jeff Gamet yesterday, and he told me about some very interesting people he had met earlier at the Denver Comicfest earlier that day. Okay, I'll grant you, "interesting" can be applied to most of the folks at these conventions in multiple senses of the word. However, these folks are interesting in that not only are they comic book nerds (my people!), but they are also using their love of comic books to help kids improve their literacy and get excited about learning.
5280 Comic Book Classroom was founded last year in Denver as an after-school comic book education program where not only will kids improve their reading and language skills, but they will also learn to create their own comic books.
I think this is such a great idea for getting kids excited about learning that I decided that my Sunday Superheroes this week would be the superhero team behind 5280 Comic Book Classroom.
Check them out!

These "mash-ups" are by graphic artist Ryan Dunlavey. They seemed an
appropriate illustration for today's topic. Aren't they cool?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Save the World Saturday: Laugh

Rx Laughter is an international charity that wants to improve the quality of life for people living with serious physical and emotional issues.
And their prescription is comedy.

You can read more about them here, and if you want to improve the quality of your life just a bit today, take a look at this video of the great comedian Charlie Chaplin (who would be 122 today):

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Film Buff: Crazy Music

You know those actors who you see in films from time to time, and you say, "'Hey, isn't that the guy who was in . . ." or something to that effect? Well, that's the sign of a good character actor. He may not be a matinee idol, and you may not even know his name, but you probably recognize him. The professor in the Shaggy D.A. sure looks a lot like Wrongway Feldman from the old Gilligan's Island TV Series.
Sometimes the same thing happens when you're watching an animated film and you notice that, say, Captain Hook in Peter Pan sounds a bit like Snidely Whiplash from the "Dudley Do-Right" episodes of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.
In both cases the face and the voice belonged to the late actor Hans Conried whose birthday it is today. He had an amazing voice talent. He had flawless diction and the ability to roll a growl into his voice that could boom into a roar. Most of the time he showed up as the comic heavy in movies and television, and his vocal power - which he had honed many years working in radio - was of great use in animated features.
In today's Friday Film Buff selection, Conried played the maniacally evil piano teacher (yes, piano teacher) of a young boy trapped in a nightmarish world that appears to have been dreamed up by Dr. Seuss himself.
In fact, it was.
The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T is the only movie that Dr. Seuss ever scripted. He also devised the story and wrote the lyrics for the musical numbers.

Perhaps the reason that Dr. Seuss never worked on another live-action film is that this one tanked at the box office. People actually walked out after the first five minutes. However, modern audiences have re-discovered this film and compare it favorably to the more recent live-action adaptations of Seuss's works. This film was truly ahead of its time in 1953, and I think it deserves your attention today.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Theatre Thursday: Talking Shop on BREACH

Okay, cherubs, I've been teasing this for a little while, and it's now ready to go.
I've been interested in getting into podcasting with this blog - particularly in round-table discussions, and my first chat was with some of the creative team behind Evolution Theatre Company's upcoming world premiere musical BREACH.

Taking part in the discussion this last Sunday at the Avenue Theater were:
Composer/Lyricist: David Nehls
Playwright: Michael Domitrovich
Director: Nick Sugar
Producer: Britta Laree

Click here for the podcast.
As I mentioned at the end of the recording, tickets are available now at:
For more information, visit:
And, again, many thanks to Kevin MacLeod of for always having such great music available for my projects.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wildlife Wednesday: Snake Eater

My first encounter with a live snake was as a toddler. It crept up into the yard on our ranch and one of our dogs had it backed up against a tree. I didn't know what it was - or that I had any reason to be afraid of it - so I walked up to look at it. My dad caught me in time and yelled in a way that I had never heard him yell before. It was fear - fear that his young son was about to tangle with a deadly wild animal. He grabbed me roughly and took me into the house where he retrieved a pistol, went back outside, and emptied it into the snake. That was also the first time I'd ever heard gunfire.
That experience, I think, contributed to my being something of an ophidiophobe, exacerbated by the fact that I grew up in snake country. (I've actually been struck at by rattlesnakes twice. Luckily, they both had poor aim. Or I was quick. Maybe both.) When Disney's animated Jungle Book aired on television in my area, it was often preceded by a Chuck Jones cartoon based on another Rudyard Kipling tale - this one about a mongoose who fearlessly battled snakes: Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. I immediately identified with the furry little creature.

RIKKI TIKKI TAVI by VideoDetective
I have gotten over most of my fear of snakes over the years, and I have even come to appreciate these marvelous creatures, but I am still fascinated by the mongoose and its ability to take on a deadly viper . . . and win.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tuesday Tunes: Musical Chameleon

The amazing Herbie Hancock is 71 today. My generation knows Mr. Hancock mostly for his contribution to the Hip Hop world of the early 80s with "Rockit"' one of the first popular singles to feature scratching (by Grandmixer D.ST). The music video (directed by Godley & Creme) also broke new artistic ground, featuring innovative sculptures by Jim Whiting.

Herbie Hancock - Rockit by madafonka2
Hancock really got his break playing in what would be known as Miles Davis's "second great quintet"' in the sixties. Davis hand-picked the Hancock, immediately recognizing the young man's skill as a pianist. Here are Davis and company in 1964, with Hancock at piano:

Miles Davis - My Funny Valentine 1964 by Yedi
Working with Davis brought great attention to one Hancock's earlier compositions, "Watermelon Man," which has since been covered many times.

Herbie Hancock - WaterMelon Man by Saklas
The Headhunters, which Hancock referred to in the above video, was a band that he formed in the seventies when he wanted to move more into playing Funk, ala Sly Stone. The Headhunters' music would have a heavy influence on the world of funk and eventually hip hop.

Herbie Hancock & the Headhunters Chameleon (74) by blindmind
Hancock is still recording (he released the album, The Imagine Project, last summer) and he played as part of the inaugural celebrations for President Barack Obama.
This cover of Peter Gabriel's "Don't Give Up" (from the aforementioned The Imagine Project) features P!nk and John Legend.

Pink and John Legend Don't Give Up ft. by 3nada
Happy Birthday, Mr. Hancock!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday Motivator: Overcoming Frustration

This video from Jim Taylor is aimed at athletes, but I think it can be adjusted and applied to any area in which we encounter frustration.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Save the World Saturday: Safe Kids

April is Child Abuse Prevention month. I could throw a bunch of statistics at you, but, frankly, I don't think I could really count on their accuracy. Child abuse is one of those "dirty little secrets" that happen in families, and any data collected on the issue would only be part of the story.
The truth is, if the statistic was "1," that's 1 too many, in my opinion, and the more that we can do to prevent any abuse of children, the better the world will be for our efforts.
The Family Violence Prevention Fund is one organization working toward that goal.
Rather than show some scary (or worse, trite) PSA about child abuse prevention, I instead want to share this video from Howcast about controlling your temper. Perhaps the most important step is Step One: Count to Ten.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Film Buffs: Here He Comes. Here Comes . . .

James Garner, who, yes, I feature here quite often as he is my favorite actor.
I could not not feature him this week, however, as Mr. Garner celebrated his 83rd birthday yesterday! Happy Birthday, Sir!
Today's Friday Film Buff selection, Grand Prix, features James Garner doing two things he always did very well: acting and driving fast.

Director John Frankenheimer felt that audiences wouldn't be fooled by simply speeding up footage of the cars driving at slower speeds, so he went for realism. The film is all the more dramatic and exciting for it.
Actor Brian Bedford didn't do any of his own driving. Yves Montand did some until he had a scary spin-out, then he was towed for the rest of the shots. Garner, however, did all of his own driving.
It's not my absolute favorite James Garner film, and the best parts are the car races, but it's still worth a look in my opinion.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Theatre Thursday: Face It

Last week's entry sparked a couple of e-mail and in-real-life conversations about one of the perils of Facebook events: the fact that anyone can make one.
Complaints range from: "they get the dates wrong" to "it's annoying to have multiple event pages for one event."
So, what do you do?
Well, I think the solution is to simply be proactive. Make the first event page yourself from your company's Facebook page. (You have your own Facebook page, right? Right?) Get the dates right. List the cast and crew. Add a link to your website. (To. Your. Website.)
This way, all that your cast and crew members have to do is share the already-created page with whomever they want. Now, you may have people who still want to create their own event pages. They like to do it. You have two options. The first is that you can forbid them from doing so.
I wouldn't.
I would instead take the proactive approach again, and say, "We have our own Facebook event page, but, if you want to make your own to send to your friends and family, that's cool. Please, we just ask that you double-check the dates, spell the name of the show correctly, and you can feel free to add a link to our website - in fact, we encourage it."
Odds are that the reason multiple event pages get made in the first place is that everyone thinks no one is going to do it. You've eliminated most of that problem by making the page first and announcing it to the cast and the crew. If other people still want to make an event page of their own, that's only more promotion for you. (You may want to monitor Facebook to make sure that the message isn't going out too skewed, but that's really probably not going to happen.) I also highly doubt that all fifteen members of your cast are going to make their own pages and deluge Facebook with the events. Even if they do, and I'm friends with all of them, I'm not going to be too hacked off about being invited fifteen times. I might even be flattered. Of course, that's just me.
Again, though, if you get in front of it and make your own page first, I really don't think you're going to have any of those problems.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wildlife Wednesday: Northern Exposure

It's possible that his
mustache made it
all the way.
On this day in 1909, Robert Peary's expedition reached the North Pole, the first expedition to do so. The claim was disputed by another man named Cook who claimed to have reached the North Pole a year earlier. After some dispute, Congress formally recognized Peary's claim in 1911.
The thing is, they were both wrong. Peary was the closer of the two, but he was probably about 30 miles short. That's still pretty good considering that it was 1909.
It wasn't until 1952, that someone actually made it to the true North Pole, but that really doesn't diminish Peary's accomplishment in my opinion (especially since that guy, Fletcher, went there in a plane.)
I'd be willing to bet that Peary and his small expedition encountered a few of these little guys along their way. 
"I (I,I...) Don't wanna know your name. . . Cuz you don't look the same . . .
The way you did befo-o-o-o-o-re . . ."
This is the Arctic Fox (Vulpes lagopus), and the only place to see these hearty little animals in the wild is in the areas on this map marked in blue.

Oh, wait. Sorry. I think that's the coverage map for my cell phone plan.
The Arctic Fox's are built for frigid environments. Their legs and ears are shorter which means it requires less circulation to keep their extremities warm. They have a thick layer of body fat and this really interesting countercurrent heat exchange system in their paws that allows them to retain more of their body heat. Plus they are pretty wily - even for foxes. Sometimes survival in the North means you have to steal food from a Polar Bear. I found a pretty cool video on
Gutsy little buggers, those Arctic Fox. I suppose you'd have to be to survive up in those blue areas, though.
"Zzz . . . you screamed and e-e-everybody comes a-running . . . zzz . . ."

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tuesday Tunes: Brothers

My kid brother:
better than me in
pretty much every
way, and I'm more
okay with that than
you might think. 
Awesome guy. Awesome.
The two most important birthdays occurring on April 5th for me belong to the two men whom I refer to as my brothers. One is my brother by birth, Damon Darnell, whom I have mentioned here before, and the other is my childhood friend Jeff Jefferson, Jr., who has always been and will always be simply "J.R." to me. (We even did one of those "blood brother ceremonies" that kids used to do.) J.R. and I were roommates in college as well, and I was the best man at his wedding. When I finally get around to getting married these two men will share the best man duties at mine. (Don't dust off your tuxes, yet, gentlemen, I'm still pretty unbearable.)
It is appropriate that today is Tuesday Tunes here in the Wolf Den as both of these guys have had a great deal of influence on my musical tastes.
J.R. always had a great fondness for film scores - not soundtracks, mind you, but the actual scores - and when I was staying over at his house and while we we were roommates, we would fall to sleep to compositions by James Horner, Trevor Jones, Randy Edelman, Danny Elfman, and others.

J.R. and I would sometimes go see two or three movies in one day when we were in college. J.R. is one of the few guys who really gets my sense of humor, and he has one of the best laughs ever, which always fed my ego. (I suspect that J.R. even laughed at some of my jokes that maybe weren't all that funny. He's that kind of guy.) One of my favorite things to do was sit and listen to J.R.'s copy of the 1978 concept album: Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of War of the Worlds featuring Sir Richard Burton, Julie Covington, and Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues.

My brother, Damon, is a real music aficionado, who was heavily into classic rock in high school. He could - and probably still can - answer just about any question you can think of about Led Zeppelin.

Damon's later interest turned to jazz, and he even named his St. Bernard, Coltrane - something of a legend around Durango, Colorado - after jazz great John Coltrane.

Damon is always pointing to me toward new and old music that he has found, and, considering that my brother does the great majority of his searching without benefit of the internet, I am generally astounded by what he finds. Last night he was telling me that I really needed to check out the old-time music group, Uncle Earl.

Happy Birthday, my brothers.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Monday Motivator: Maya Angelou

"I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself."

"All great achievements require time."

"I believe that every person is born with talent."

"I have found that, among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver."

"Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns all clean."

Happy Birthday, Maya Angelou.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sunday Superhero: Use the Force

I don't think I'm stretching the defition of "superhero" too far by extending it to include a Jedi Master. (I did use it to describe a talking dune buggy, if you'll recall.)
Since yesterday was the birthday of Sir Alec Guiness - the first man to play Obi-Wan "Ben" Kenobi - I thought I'd share the memorable fight scene between the Guiness Obi-Wan and Darth Vader from the film that started it all, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

Happy Birthday, Sir Alec!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Save the World Saturday: The Missing Piece

Right on the front page of the Autism Speaks website, the numbers are there:
1 IN 70 BOYS

That's an increase. Odds are that you know at least one family that has a child with autism. More and more children are affected by this mysterious affliction that has been described with the analogy of a missing puzzle piece.

The cause of autism is also a puzzle. There have been quite a few theories, many of which have been proven wrong, and researchers are still searching for an answer.
Now, I am aware that Autism Speaks has been the subject of some controversy for its ads and more. Well, autism is a hot-button issue, and one that is very close to home for many people. What I know is that Autism Speaks is one of the most powerful nonprofits in the field and spent over 30 million dollars on its programs in 2009.
Nevertheless, I will list a couple more NPOs with Autism research as part of their mission:
The Autism Research Institute
The Organization for Autism Research

As always, I recommend doing your own research on a charity before deciding to lend it your support. Not all charities are created equal. is my favorite resource for this.
However, let's get back on topic. April is Autism Awareness Month, and I'm here to raise your awareness. What raised my own awareness first was this poignant short film, Autism Every Day:

What more could I possibly add to that? We've got to get to the bottom of this. We've got to find a cure.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday Film Buff: By the Book

I don't like to get too political on my blog, though I'm sure many of you have noticed my "Straight for Equality" badge over on the left side of this page. Truly, though, I don't see how wanting equality is really political so much as it is patriotic. Equality is written into the formation of this country, and, though it was really little more than a concept at the time, it was an ideal toward which we as Americans would strive. Equality is the mission of America, and, over the last two-and-a-quarter centuries, we have taken great strides toward achieving it.
Yesterday, here in Colorado, we took a step backward.
The civil union bill, which would have afforded gay couples many of the rights already enjoyed by straight married couples, was voted down 6 to 5. Now, in my opinion, the civil union bill wasn't equality, either, but it would have been a step toward it.
Freedom is a difficult prospect at times, I know. Where does one group's freedoms begin and another's end?
Well, I like to use an analogy that I borrow from Wayne Dyer: my right to walk down the street waving my arms around ends with your right to keep your nose shaped the way that it is.
People have a right to hold religious beliefs against homosexuality. (Kind of a sad way to worship, but, hey, your call.) What they do not have is the right to use those beliefs to infringe upon the freedoms of others.
I look at the issue from a different perspective. The civil union bill wasn't about giving rights to anyone. It was about no longer taking away rights that people should have had in the first place. Last night, our elected official in Colorado voted to continue to withhold rights . . . in America. And they did it based upon pressure from religious groups. I am embarrassed for my state today, and - to all those people in my state who are today still without the rights that they deserve to have by virtue of their American birth - I am sorry. I bear the burden with the rest of the people in Colorado for allowing this to happen.
Today's Friday Film Buff selection is a documentary from 2007 that, obviously, a few more of us in this state ought to have watched: For the Bible Tells Me So.

Oh, and here's some food for thought today:
Don't wear different kinds of fabrics together. That's Leviticus 19:19.
Don't cut the hair at your temples or trim your beard (which, I guess, means that you have to have one.) Leviticus 19:27.
Adultery is punishable by death - for both parties. Leviticus 20:10
Leviticus 20:9 says that if you curse your mother or father, you must be put to death.
All in favor of not basing 21st century law on the dictates of a 3000-year-old text that forbids grazing different types of cattle together, say "aye."