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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Theatre Thursday: Frankly . . .

On this day in 1936, Margaret Mitchell's bestselling novel, Gone With the Wind was published in New York City. A few years later it would be made into an epic film that many claim is the greatest movie ever made. (I'm not one of them. I don't think it's a bad movie, but I don't even think it was the greatest movie of 1939.)
Musical versions of the show have not fared as well. A Broadway version starring Pernell Roberts and Lesley Ann Warren never opened. A West End version in 1972 was not well-received, and the recent Trevor Nunn production, also in the West End, was pretty widely panned. It closed after 79 performances, but still managed to have a happy ending for some talented kids in L.A.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wildlife Wednesday: Cool Down

Photo Credit: Sheri Horiszny
Zooborn's post today about the new otter pups at the Santa Barbara Zoo reminded me of this video from the Columbus Zoo about otter swim lessons:

This is a nice video for us to watch in Denver where the temperature is supposed to be 99 degrees today.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday Motivator: Good Morning, Captain!

Today is the birthday of the late Bob Keeshan - better-known as the soft-spoken, grandfatherly Captain Kangaroo of the children's program of the same name that started off mornings for kids from the 1950s into the 1980s (with re-runs into the 90s).

Good Morning, everyone. Happy Monday!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Film Buff: Sound and Fury

You do not have to be a samurai film buff to enjoy the intricacies of feudal Japan portrayed in Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood.
You do not have to be a Shakespeare nut to appreciate that Toshiro Mifune's portrayal of a lord driven to madness by ambition and paranoia is, in fact, the story of MacBeth.
However, if - like me - you are both, you are really going to love this film.

The three witches become one evil spirit, and Birnam Wood becomes the eerie Spider's Web Forest. Though not using the actual dialogue of the script, and moved to feudal Japan, Throne of Blood is celebrated as one of the best film adaptations of the Bard.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Theatre Thursday: Snap!

Well, it's Theatre Thursday, and it also just happens to be Bob Fosse's birthday. (Sometimes I get an easy one.)
The Tony-winning, Oscar-winning director and choreographer of stage and film - both musical and non-musical - did also, on occasion grace us with some of his own footwork.
In addition to re-staging his own choreography for  the film version of Damn Yankees, Fosse also danced to the memorable (if puzzling) number "Who's Got the Pain" with the fiery femme fatale of the film, Gwen Verdon. A couple of years later, Ms. Verdon would become the third Mrs. Fosse.

Fosse also appeared in the intriguing and odd Stanley Donen-helmed musical adaptation of the French children's book, The Little Prince. Fosse, naturally, played a very ssssmooth ssssnake.

Now, this movie came out in 1974 - almost a decade before Michael Jackson's ground-breaking "Billie Jean" video.
My favorite movie featuring Bob Fosse dancing is the little-known musical version of the popular play and movie, My Sister Eileen. Fosse choreographed, and he dances throughout, but never so memorably as in the "dance-off" scene with Tommy Rall. I wasn't able to embed the scene here, but you can see it over here.
Instead, here's a very cute scene between Fosse and the lovely Janet Leigh.

I love that movie.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wildlife Wednesday: Splash Dance

You may have already seen this video as it has gone viral, but, in case you haven't, this is Zola, a 9-year-old Lowland Gorilla at the Calgary Zoo having a bit of fun playing in some water.
In other Lowland Gorilla news, a new baby was born at Zoo Miami on Father's Day, and you can read more about that (and see pictures) over at

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tuesday Tunes: Down in Old Soho

Today is the birthday of Ray Davies, founding member and front man of the legendary rock band The Kinks.
Formed in 1963 (and originally calling themselves the Ravens), the band (now as the Kinks) broke through big time in August of 1964 with their third single, "You Really Got Me."

The group's rowdy on-stage behavior may or may not have contributed to the Kinks being banned from touring in America during the latter part of the sixties. (No official reason has been given publicly.) This is probably why they did not enjoy the same level of notoriety stateside as many of the other bands that were part of "the British Invasion." Nevertheless, Davies and company were much admired by and highly influential upon their much more popular peers, especially for songs like "Waterloo Sunset."

And, of course, "Lola" put the Kinks right back on the pop music map both in the UK and the U.S.

The Kinks continued to record and tour together until 1996. While not always in the mainstream of popularity, the Kinks have always been on the cutting edge musically and are now considered one of the most important bands of the 1960s.
Happy Birthday to Ray Davies, CBE.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Monday Money-Saver: Wait for it . . .

Today's money tip is to combat that impulse-buying, um, impulse.
We all have things we have to buy: gas, toilet paper, bread, peanut butter, whatever. Then there are those things we maybe don't really need. When it comes to those purchases, try instituting the 30-day rule.
A motorized beer cooler on wheels.
What could possibly go wrong?
Make yourself wait 30 days before you even consider the purchase again. If 30 days goes by and you still really want it (if you even remember it) well, then go ahead. Odds are you won't.
It's certainly a better alternative than buying it now and looking at it in thirty days trying to figure out why you thought it was so important at the time.

Monday Motivator: What a Sensation

Happy Birthday, Brian Wilson!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Film Buff: City of Gold

Hollywood loves disaster films, and, mostly, audiences love them, too. The drama that happens between characters when nature (or something else) raises the stakes is compelling, and it's a great opportunity for some CGI wizardry. If there's one thing that modern films have over classic films, it's the ability to make a great disaster movie.
Guess again.
The 1936 film San Francisco directed by W.S. "Woody" Van Dyke (with help from D.W. Griffith) and starring Clark Gable, Jeanette MacDonald, and Spencer Tracy has all the elements of a great disaster film: colorful characters, a complicated love triangle, and lively music, all leading up to the early morning hours of April 18, 1906, when the city was rocked by the most devastating earthquake in the city's history.
D.W. Griffith directed many of the earthquake sequences, which, of course, utilize no CGI whatsoever - just a lot of camera tricks and a whole lot of great stunt work and effects.

Many people refer to this as a musical, since it is filled with lavish musical numbers in the Barbary Coast club owned by Clark Gable's character Blackie Norton, as well as some great opera scenes featuring Jeanette MacDonald. Jeanette also gives us a memorable rendition of the title song.
(Sorry about the colorization in this clip. It's all I could find. I recommend seeing this in the original black and white. Ted Turner is nuts.)

By the way, Van Dyke was known as "One Take Woody," for his quick film-making style, completing most scenes in just, well, one take. Spencer Tracy has a little bit of fun with this in one scene by throwing in an ad lib in a scene where he and MacDonald are in his rectory. (Tracy plays a priest and childhood friend of Blackie Norton. He's not part of the love triangle. That would be weird.) Tracy makes reference to "that Rooney kid" - referencing young Mickey Rooney (who isn't in this movie, but with whom Tracy had worked before) - and Jeanette MacDonald was not expecting it. The look on her face is priceless. And, of course, since the scene only had one take, it's in the film.
Fun movie. Check it out.
In black and white, preferably. (Ted, Ted, Ted . . .)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Theatre Thursday: Bare Necessities

This week in 1969, a very unusual show opened on Broadway that would ultimately become one of its longest-running shows. In fact, even now it still holds sixth place. The critics were not terribly fond of it, but audiences loved it. It was the work of several authors including Sam Shepard, Samuel Beckett, and John Lennon. The show takes its name from a painting by reluctant surrealist Clovis Trouille, itself a pun on the phrase, "O quel cul t'as!" something a bold Frenchman might say to, say, Jennifer Lopez.
The show is Oh, Calcutta!

There is actually not very much of the musical that I can show here as the avante-garde production featured sketches of a highly sexual nature including full nudity from the cast, which was also a major factor in the show's popularity.
This is also why it is not often produced by local theatre groups. However, if you want to see it, a filmed version of the show was made in 1972 and it is now available on DVD. I saw it some years ago on VHS and, while it is clever at times, I do think that it's popularity was a product of its boldness at the time.
Of course, it is worth noting that no musical production since has really attempted to be so bold in its subject matter or the nature of its production, so maybe it isn't so dated after all.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wildlife Wednesday: Put Me Down, Dude

"Also, I'm just gonna pee all over your North Face jacket."
So, here's a scenario for you:
You're out hiking in the wild and you come across a cute baby fawn all by itself, and you don't see any sign of the mother anywhere. Do you pick it up and take it to the nearest forest ranger?
Here's why: The odds are that the fawn (or other baby animal) is not abandoned. It's not at all uncommon for animals to leave their babies alone while they go out and forage for food. In the case of the fawn, mom is probably hiding away out of your sight, hoping you will go away. Don't expect her to come running out to say, "No, it's cool. I'm here."
Fewer species than you think will actually aggressively try to protect their young. Most wild young have natural camouflage for this reason. In fact, mom standing too close to the baby in an area where she is unsure of predators is a sure way for the predator to locate the baby. It may not seem logical to us, but there are different rules in the wild.
If you pick up the fawn or the kit raccoons or other wild baby critter and take it away, it's extremely difficult to reunite them with their mother.
Odds are, unless it's an obvious situation where the babies are orphaned, you're better off leaving them right where they are. Raccoons, deer, elk, fox, and all of the other animals have got this parenthood thing down. It's we humans who seem to have parenting issues.

If it makes you feel better, take note of the location and notify Fish and Wildlife, but don't touch the baby or try to take it someplace else. You're just creating a problem where there probably wasn't one. You could even be issued a citation - and not the good kind.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tuesday Tunes: Local Flavor

Today on Tuesday Tunes I thought I'd do something that I haven't done in a while, and that is introduce you to a talented band here in the Denver area. The band is foma*. Yes, all lowercase and the asterisk is included. I never bothered to ask why or what "foma" stands for, though I'm pretty sure it's not the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association. The next time I run into frontman Jace Smykil, I'll try to remember to ask him. Why, yes, as a matter of fact, that would be the same Jace Smykil who appeared in Evolution Theatre Company's world premiere musical BREACH at the Avenue Theater last month, as mentioned here on this blog. Thanks for remembering.
Whatever the meaning behind the band's name, foma* rocks.

I'm not sure exactly how I would classify foma*'s sound (nor can I adequately express how bizarre it is for me to follow an asterisk with an apostrophe), but here is the description from their Facebook page:
"Their sonic palette combines a blend of rock-alternative, funk, blues, and is lightly peppered with a pinch of country twang."
Yeah, I'd agree with that. I've been listening to the band's album, Songs for the Surgeon General, which is available for sale at or downloadable from iTunes. If you want to hear a few more tracks before adding foma* to your music collection, you can check out their MySpace page, or right now you can check out this live performance of "Timid Tigers," the first track on the album.

Happy Tuesday, everybody.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday Money-Saver: Change is Good

Today's money-saving tip is literally about saving money. Many banks have options for using your debit card that will put a portion of your money automatically into savings. Some will round up to the nearest dollar and put the difference in your savings account, and others will transfer $1 for every transaction into your savings. See if your bank has an option like this, and if they have one, use it. (You can always transfer the money back if you really need it.)
However, one of the simplest ways to save money is to use paper - paper money, that is. Less convenient, well, yes, but that's kind of part of it. Businesses have figured out many ways to make it more convenient, simple, and easy to spend your money because - brace yourself - they want your money. They call all of those items for sale by the cash registers "impulse buys" because they are designed to appeal to the reptilian part of your brain. (Ooooh shiny!)
Rose made from feathers? Want!
All I'm saying is that maybe you don't always have to make it so easy to access your money.
Here's the thing about using cash. You have to touch it to spend it, and, in touching it, you can more easily see and feel how much less of it you have after each purchase. It's a lot easier for your higher brain to reason with your reptilian brain. (No shinies. Not enough moolah, see?) It's also a little easier to track your spending. You started out this morning with $40 in your wallet. It's 3 p.m. and you're down to $4.67. Did you really plan on spending over $35 today? Hmmm.
One of the best things about spending paper is that you get coin back as change. If you make yourself a rule that you will only spend paper and then put the coins into a jar at the end of the day, you'll have a little extra at the end of the month to put in the bank or, yes, if you want, buy some shinies.

Monday Motivator: Always Room for Cello

The thing about motivation, is it's different for everybody, so I want to be sure that I'm mixing things up here. Today, I want to share with you the latest video from cello gods Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser. This dynamic duo went viral with their "dueling cellos" arrangement of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal." This time they take on Guns n' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" and show that the instrument long-missing from the rock band stage may well be . . . the cello.
Check it out:

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Film Buff: Pure Imagination

Tomorrow is the birthday of one of my favorite actors: Gene Wilder of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Young FrankensteinBlazing Saddles, Stir Crazy, and married-to-Gilda-Radner fame.
Wilder's first big break in the film business was in a small, but memorable role in 1967's Bonnie and Clyde. he then went on to originate the role of Leo bloom in Mel Brook's 1968 film The producers which would later spawn a musical and then a musical movie, neither of which quite reach the level of the original, in my opinion.
(Yes, I know. I'm an arrogant intellectual elitist. I'm always supposed to think the original is better. Well, I like the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair better than the original, so there.)
Wilder really broke out to wider audiences with his portrayal of the enigmatic Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. He only accepted the role on the condition that he could create this memorable scene. Wonka's grand entrance/cane walk/fall/somersault was Wilder's idea, and he insisted upon doing ibecause, in his words, "from that time on, no one will know if I'm lying or telling the truth." Brilliant!
What would follow would be two of Gene Wilder's biggest hits, both with director Mel Brooks: the bawdy Blazing Saddles lampooning classic Hollywood Westerns and Wilder's own scripted spoof of classic horror films, Young Frankenstein.
Right around this time, Wilder also made a quirky little TV movie with Bob Newhart called Thursday's Game, which is one of today's Friday Film Buff recommendations.
Here's the premise: two married guys (Newhart and Wilder) regularly kiss their wives goodnight early and head off to their weekly poker game with the boys, a tradition they've participated in for years. One night, an argument causes the game to break up, and the two guys don't know what to do with their Thursdays. Accustomed to having their weekly night out, the two men decide to keep the ruse of the poker game going and instead get together every Thursday and do, just whatever they feel like doing. 

It's a simple story, but it is sold by the strong performances of Newhart and Wilder. Unfortunately, I don't think it's out on DVD and even a VHS version can be hard to come by, but, if you snoop around the internet a bit, you might just find some way to watch the movie. (Ahem.)
In 1976, Wilder took the role of the protagonist in Arthur Hiller's action-comedy-thriller Silver Streak, which would begin the on-screen partnership between Wilder and comedian Richard Pryor (one of the writers on Blazing Saddles). They would make three more films together.

We'll call Silver Streak today's second recommendation. Maybe you've already seen it, maybe you haven't, but you should.
Wilder met comedienne Gilda Radner while filming Hanky Panky directed by his friend Sidney Poitier. Radner and Wilder became fast friends and eventually their friendship grew into something far more. The two were married in 1984. Heartbreakingly, Radner would lose her three-year battle with ovarian cancer in 1989.
Wilder made a few more movies with Richard Pryor (whose health was also deteriorating due to MS) and even regular TV appearances. He remains active as an author and an advocate for cancer research, and tomorrow, he will be a spry 78 years old.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Wilder. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wildlife Wednesday: Under Fire

As the Wallow Fire is now larger in size than the city of Phoenix, I have been wondering about the impact on the Arizona wildlife in the Apache Forest area. I, by no means, wish to diminish the human loss to this fire in person and property, it's just that, well, it's Wednesday, and on Wednesday I write about wildlife.
Here is an excellent eHow article about the impact of a forest fire on wildlife in general. Larger mammals and birds can usually outrun the flames, but smaller animals - whose instinct is to burrow when danger arises - may not be able escape the heat and smoke. The after effects of a fire are, of course, largely negative. Loss of habitat is good for neither flora nor fauna, but there are some species that can flourish on the charred remains of trees, such as hares and beetles.
I don't have much else I can offer here. Until the fire is contained, rehabilitation of the habitat is still a way off, I'm afraid.
I wish much luck to the firefighters and the people of Arizona, and to any little critters who read my blog: run, fly, swim as fast as you can.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tuesday Tunes 2: Sex Bomb

No, I didn't forget. Dino takes priority, but I also want to make sure that I remember that today is also the birthday of Mr. Tom Jones, OBE.

Tuesday Tunes: Ain't That A Kick In The Head

So, it Tuesday Tunes on June 7th. Do you know what that means? Do you know what that means?
It's Dean Martin's birthday!!!!!
Strap in.

I always say that I want this next song to play at wedding, but who am I kidding: if I find some gal who wants to spend the rest of her life with me, she can play REO Speedwagon if she wants.

A little-known fact: Dean was very seldom ever actually drinking on stage, and he was almost never drunk. He sipped ginger ale while the rest of the Rat Pack drank, and his boozy lounge singer persona was really just an act. Here he is performing the song which would become his signature tune. Well, one of them.

I'll give you the rest of these videos without much ado. Enjoy:

Happy Tuesday, everybody.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Monday Money-Saver: Enough is Enough

I'm talking gasoline again today, because, hey, that's what's on a lot of minds at the moment. Here is another simple tip for saving money at the pump:
When the pump clicks off, your tank is full. Yes, you can get a little more gas into the tank after that click - something we all call "topping it off," but that gas is basically going to be wasted. First, it may simply feed back into the gas pump's vapor recovery system. You see, that extra gas is going to evaporate very quickly, and the pumps are equipped with pollution-saving systems that are going to keep the gas from releasing into the air. When you top off your tank, you're sending a lot of that extra gas right back into the station. That's very generous of you, but I wouldn't expect to see gas prices drop because of your unknowing fuel philanthropy. Actually, it's not that simple. The recovery systems can become overloaded, causing the pump to malfunction for the next person and a lot of the excess gets released into the air anyway as a result. Not good.
What little gas you manage to actually get away with isn't going to do you much good, either.
That extra space in your tank is too allow for room for the vapor to expand. If it doesn't have that room , it has to expand somewhere, and in modern cars that is into the vapor collection system. This sounds like it's right where it's supposed to go, but too much all at once can cause the system to become fouled. This can cause expensive repair problems, and, again, a lot of that gas vapor is just going to go right into the air. None of it is actually being used to make your car move, but you paid for all of it and then some.
Topping off the tank is bad for your car, bad for the station pump, bad for the environment, and bad for your wallet. When the pump clicks off, it's telling you that you've got as much as your car can use.
Bonus tip: There's always going to be some evaporation during fill-up, but you can minimize the amount of gas that you pay for that doesn't actually go into your car by filling up before the sun is at its hottest. Plan your trips to the pump in the early morning or after dusk.

Monday Motivator: Bill Moyers on Learning

Today I give you one of my favorite quotes from journalist Bill Moyers, who turned 77 on Sunday:
"When I learn something new - and it happens every day - I feel a little more at home in this universe, a little more comfortable in the nest."
-Bill Moyers

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday Film Buff: Wacky Racers

Do you remember the Way-Out Wacky Races from Hanna-Barbera on Saturday Mornings? I only saw it in re-runs myself, many years after its original airing in the late 60s, but it did make an impression:

Anyway, the Wacky Races was undoubtedly inspired by today's Friday Film Buff selection, The Great Race, a Blake Edwards film itself inspired by the real-life 1908 around-the-world race. The film starred Tony Curtis (whose birthday it is today) as the larger-than-life hero Leslie Gallant III and Jack Lemmon as the villainous and conniving Professor Fate. Like a live-action cartoon, The Great Race is filled with Laurel and Hardy-like sight gags, and plenty of absurdism.

The film also features Keenan Wynn and Peter Falk as the hero's and villain's respective sidekicks and the beguiling Natalie Wood as the intrepid and independent lady newspaper reporter chasing her story.
Henry Mancini, a frequent collaborator with Edwards, provides the music. It's one of Edwards's more overlooked films, which is a shame, because it's great fun.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Theatre Thursday: The Entertainer

Award-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch is 67 today, and when I say award-winning, I mean he's won them all - all the big ones anyway. He is one of the few people to have one an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. They call that an EGOT. I tell you that because I just found that out and also to confirm that people in the entertainment industry have a tendency to be really silly at times. Hamlisch has also won  the Pulitzer Prize and Golden Globes.
The Pulitzer is for the ground-breaking A Chorus Line:

Sorry for the jump cuts. It's an equity rule that a number can't be filmed in its entirety. (This is, of course, before everyone was carrying a cell phone with a video camera.)
If you're trying to remember why you recognize Kelly Bishop, she is recently famous as Lorelai's overbearing mother on Gilmore Girls.
Hamlisch was in a relationship with fellow songwriter Carole Bayer Sager in the 1970s. Their romance was the basis for another hit Broadway musical, They're Playing Our Song.

One very interesting bit of trivia about Hamlisch is that he was the youngest person (at age six) ever accepted into Julliard.

Happy birthday, Mr. Hamlisch, and thank you for many years' worth of hummable tunes.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wildlife Wednesday: Flightless Wonder

Since today is actor Morgan Freeman's birthday, it seemed appropriate for Wildlife Wednesday to feature the subject of the 2005 documentary to which Freeman lent his distinctive voice as narrator: March of the Penguins. If you haven't seen the film yet, I definitely recommend it.

As difficult as the ordeal of mating and breeding is for penguins, their survival is made all the more complicated by increases in commercial fishing, oil spills, and other man-made influences on their natural habitat. Some species of penguin are in serious danger of becoming extinct. You can read more about the threats to penguin populations here.
If you are interested in lending your support to Penguin conservation efforts, you can, of course, rely upon our friends at World Wildlife Fund to to take up the cause of these incredible birds, and you can symbolically adopt an Emperor Penguin (the species in the movie and in the photo above) through WWF.
I also just found out about an opportunity to adopt an actual Magellanic Penguin in South America (like the one in the pic to the left) through the International Penguin Conservation Work Group. It doesn't actually come to live in your bathtub, but you do get to give it a name. (Kind of a cool idea.)