Tag Archive: Entertainment

Radium and Radiant Music

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These Shining Lives

“These Shining Lives”
Furman Theater

It was an arts-filled weekend for us. This weekend was concert weekend for us, and was also the weekend of a Furman Theater production of “These Shining Lives” by Melanie Marnich.

Saturday morning was dress rehearsal. We started we what has gotten to be our traditional pre-rehearsal breakfast. This time ten of us gathered at Northgate Soda Shop for breakfast. It was a great gathering, and we enjoyed the company before getting to work.

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1960s Flashback – The Wild Wild West

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Wild Wild West

Quick. Complete the phrase with a four-letter word (no, not that kind)…

Captain James T. ______

If you somehow ignored the title of this post and all of the visual cues and filled in the last name “Kirk”, then you’re wrong, wrong, wrong. I speak of none other than James T. West, former captain in the US Cavalry and special agent in the US Secret Service, main character in The Wild, Wild West.

No, I’m not talking about that feature length abomination that wasted the talents of Will Smith, Kevin Klein, and Kenneth Branaugh. However, I seem to have been coming across lots of references to that movie lately. IO9.com seems to refer to it frequently in various lists of failures of one type or another (10 Movie Flops that Totally Deserved It.) Seeing so many references to the 1999 movie made me long for the original Wild Wild West TV show, starring Robert Conrad as Jim West and Ross Martin as his partner, Artemis Gordon.

The series premiered in 1965 and ran for four seasons, until 1969. The original pilot was pitched as “James Bond on a Horse”, and there are lots of similarities between the two characters. The first name is no coincidence. Both James Bond and James West were secret agent types whose cover was as a playboy gambler type, and there were evil megalomaniacs, women, cool vehicles with extraordinary capabilities, and gadgets – lots of them. And that’s not all. Richard Kiel was a regular henchman (Voltaire) on Wild Wild West, but is best known as “Jaws” during the Roger Moore era of James Bond.

Truth be told, there was much more overlap between these 1960s franchises, and not just James Bond. The similarity with Star Trek was also not a coincidence. According to IMDB

Television shows of the era that filmed at the same studios often shared minor cast members. It is common to see familiar faces in episodes of Star Trek, Batman, Mission: Impossible, The Wild Wild West, Lost in Space and The Time Tunnel. Many of these people had previously appeared on Twilight Zone which had just ended in 1964.

Each episode was entitled “The Night of The…” something or other. I knew there must be some episodes of the old show online somewhere, and I wasn’t disappointed. I watched the first episode, “The Night of the Inferno” which introduced the characters and their train, The Wanderer. The show wasn’t as campy as I had remembered, and was actually quite good, albeit with a somewhat predictable plot. However, I kept wanting to switch West’s name with “Bond”, and I laughed out loud when he introduced himself as “West, James West” at one point. I’m sure that was intentional. The show also featured a young Suzanne Pleshette.

As I watched the episode I was reminded of one other quirk. The show kept reusing the same sets. The sweeping staircase in the pilot episode was seen, slightly redecorated, in many other episodes.

Untitled

The first couple of seasons were in Black and White, but switched to color for later seasons. It also featured an iconic theme song and some spectacular graphics that changed with, and became a part of each episode.

I seem to remember that the shows did get more over-the-top as the series progressed. There were more elements of steampunk and absurd plot lines. It was all still fun, though. I think this is where the movie fell flat. It focused too much on the steampunk, and left out most of the soul of the show that made it enjoyable.

The show was eventually cancelled, not because of ratings but largely due to CBS’s concerns over excessive violence. Oddly enough, this was one of the few shows my dad would let us watch, despite its violence. We used to joke that he would watch a dozen men shot and killed on TV and not bat an eye, but if you heard one swear word, or saw a scantily clad women, he would change the channel. Somehow WWW passed his filters. He certainly wouldn’t let us watch James Bond movies when they eventually made it to TV.

So here, for your viewing pleasure, in five parts on YouTube, I present “The Night of the Inferno.” Embedding seems to be disabled, but at least I can provide links. Enjoy.

Retirement Playlist

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So, tomorrow (Thursday) is my last day in Spartanburg Five. It’s been a long, strange trip, and it’s weird to think that this part of my career is over. It seems only fitting that I go out with an appropriate playlist.

But what to include? I think I’ll skip the obvious “Take this Job and Shove It”. I go in for more subtlety. Eclectic, but subtle. Jimmy Buffett’s “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” will definitely make the list. Modest Mouse’s “Float On” will also be there. I think tops will be this song by the Talking Heads…

“Take Me to the River” will also make the list. Devo’s “Working in a Coal Mine” is one of the more obvious selections.

I’ve got 179 songs on my playlist as it is – far more than the few hours I’ll actually be at work tomorrow. It was surprisingly easy to find songs from my extensive library. Songs about new beginnings and open roads are good selections. Surprisingly, break up songs tend to work well, too. I’d post the entire list here, but it might take up too much space.

So, what do you think? What would make a good retirement song? Perhaps this one will sum it up best…

The Time Lords of MI-6

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When I did my mini-review of “Skyfall” I speculated out that James Bond must be a Time Lord because he keeps changing his appearance. However, he’s not the only Gallifreyan in the mix. MI-6 is lousy with Time Lords, and here’s the proof…

Blofeld

Doctor Who’s arch nemesis (apart from the Daleks, Cybermen, Weeping Angels, Sontorans, etc.) was another Time Lord known as The Master. Like The Doctor, The Master could regenerate, and his appearance changed over the long life of the series. (more…)

Skyfall

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daniel-craig-skyfall3

…or “Sean who??”

I believe that James Bond is a Time Lord. That’s the only way to describe his regenerative abilities and ability to change appearance over the past 50 years of movies. In this latest movie, under interrogation Bond himself states that his hobby is “resurrection.”

Be that as it may, in this 23 Bond movie, Skyfall, the sixth incarnation of The Doctor James Bond in the form of Daniel Craig really comes into his own. Forget Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace – this is a movie for long-time Bond fans. There are lots of nods to Bond tradition, including the reappearance of Q, Moneypenny, and a gadget-laden classic Aston Martin.

However, just as Doctor Who is at times more about the companions rather than the Doctor himself, this Bond movie is more about Judi Dench’s incarnation of M, and the complex relationship between her and Bond. Dench has almost as much on-screen time as Craig.  Javier Bardam makes a great villain.  Director Sam Mendes has stated that he modeled Bardam’s Silva character on The Joker from The Dark Knight.  While Silva’s gambit is every bit as complex as The Joker’s, Bardam is not quite as maniacal as the late Heath Ledger.

Yes, there are the inexplicable chase scenes, gorgeous femme fatales, and unusual ways to finish off one’s opponents.  This is a tradition-laden Bond film, but it works.  You would have to go all the way back to Pierce Brosnan’s Goldeneye to find a Bond movie that I enjoyed this thoroughly.  I’m sure I’ll be seeing it again on the big screen.

Bond at 50

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Today is the 50th anniversary of the premier of the first James Bond movie, Dr. No. All this week NPR’s Morning Edition has been doing a series of specials on James Bond at 50. This week they are exploring the physics of Bond gadgets, music from the Bond movies, Bond’s favorite martini and the differences between shaken and stirred, and, finally, a survey to determine which actor was the quintessential Bond.

Some people memorize the names of all of the presidents of the US in order. Some memorize all the books of the Bible. I can recite all 22 James Bond films in order, with information such as the Bond actor, major villain, and plot. I sometimes do this as a cognitive exercise to relax, somewhat akin to counting sheep. (And, for the record, I can list all of the books of the Bible, but don’t know all the presidents.)

So, when NPR started this series I was delighted. Unfortunately, it came off as a bit shallow. I guess time constraints wouldn’t let them delve into the issues as much as I might have liked, but I was hoping they would get into whether or not a shaken martini tastes better than a stirred one, rather than simply which is colder. Oh, well. (more…)

Pawn Wars

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A couple of months ago I mentioned that there seem to be a plethora of auction/evaluation shows on TV now days. Well, even more seem to be cropping up, and these seem to be taking a much uglier turn.

Perhaps it’s a sign of today’s economy. Rather than finding some hidden treasure of extravagant value, these new shows seem to focus more on desperation. Some of the shows are based on abandonment, and some are based on folks so down on their luck that they are willing to sell anything.

First up are the storage shed shows, and there are two of these hitting the cable networks. Both are set in California and are based on a law in that state which says that if the rent on a storage locker is unpaid for three months, the contents of that locker can be sold at auction. In other words, some poor folks couldn’t make their rent for whatever reason, had to abandon their stuff, and the guys on these shows get to make money off of it.

Both shows follow a similar premise. Buyers are not allowed a close inspection of the storage unit. They are allowed only five minutes to view what they can from the door. Upon that quick inspection they have to decide how high to bid. It could be a big pay-off with hidden treasure, or a bust. (more…)

I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again

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ISIRTA

Before Monty Python brought his (in)famous Flying Circus to British TV and film, there was a BBC radio show entitled “I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again” (ISIRTA). The show was pure silliness, and starred David Hatch as the hapless announcer, and also featured voices of John Cleese, Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Jo Kendall, and Bill Oddie.

The show was a precursor to Monty Python. In addition to Cleese, future Pythons Graham Chapman and Eric Idle wrote for the show, although they didn’t appear on it (as if anyone “appears” on radio.) Some elements of the various sketches made their way onto future Monty Python shows.

One of my favorite episodes included a retelling of Julius Caesar, and included some of the following dialog between Caesar and one of his generals prior to a battle…

Caesar: Do you have any light artillery?
General: Yes, sir!
Caesar: How many batteries?
General: None, sir! They work off the mains!
Caesar: How about bodyguards?
General: I have three foot soldiers.
Caesar: Have you got anything taller?

Double-entendre was par for the course, as were dreadful puns. If you’re a fan of Monty Python, you’ll love ISIRTA. Below is a sample from one of their shows…

I’ve just purchased a two-CD set of MP3 files from the Old Time Radio Show Catalog that has most of the episodes of ISIRTA. I’ve been listening to these as I drive to and from work, and it’s made the madness of the office a bit more bearable.

Three Movies in One Week

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Summer blockbuster season is upon us, and is in full swing.  After a dearth of movies, the theaters seem filled with films I want to see.  So much so that I did something unprecedented – three movies in the theater in one week.

Tuesday Night – 2nd viewing of Star Trek

Since I’ve already given my thoughts here, I’ll not linger.  I will say that I enjoyed it just as much the second time as the first.  It’s a fun movie.  

For this viewing I had considered buying my tickets from Fandango.com.  I guess I’m too used to going to weekend matinees, because the $9.50 a pop made me hesitate, and decide to just buy them at the box office.  When I got there I was charged only $13.  Laura and I had BOTH been given the senior discount.  I didn’t complain, but I was really thrilled, either.

Thursday Night – Terminator Salvation

Chip called to see if I wanted to go to a late night showing of Terminator Salvation.  How could I decline?  I only had to be up by 5:30 the next morning.

I had seen all of the previous Terminator movies in the theater, so I figured I might as well finish out the series with this one.  My Twitter review went something like this…

Lots of robots, lots of explosions, incomprehensible plot, Batman, Chekov – what’s not to like?

This seemed to be the weakest of the series.  Christian Bale’s acting was, well, robotic.  And that isn’t a good thing.  Anton Yelchin and Sam Worthington are the two bright spots in the movie.  However, it’s full of plot holes.  These idiotic robots could have killed John Connor any number of times during the movie, but manage to prolong things for the requisite two hours.  However, no one said that the Terminator movies were supposed to make sense.  

If you’re a fan of the series, it’s worth going to see.  Good old Arnold even makes an appearance, albeit as a digitally mapped face.

Saturday Night – Angels and Demons

Both of us had been looking forward to Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, Laura more so than me.  Interestingly enough, I wound up liking it better than she did.

In the novels, Angels and Demons takes place before the Da Vinci Code.  In the movies the order is reversed, and that actually works.  The Vatican doesn’t entirely trust Robert Langdon because of the the events in the Da Vinci Code, and that increases the dramatic tension in the film.

There is quite a bit of action and intrigue.  Brown’s novel is full of twists, turns, and misdirections.  The acting in the film sold those misdirections convincingly, so much so that I began to wonder if the plot had been changed from the novel.  There was still some violence in the movie that can be off-putting, but it seems to have been toned down a bit from the Da Vinci Code.

I like the movie better than Da Vinci Code.  Even with a fanciful device such as an antimatter bomb, it made more sense to me.  Laura, on the other hand, is reserving judgment until she gets a chance to see it again.  She had just recently listened to the novel on CD, and so was acutely aware of the differences.

One last thing to note…when I went to buy tickets this time, I also got the senior discount.  Different theater, twice in one week.  I think this white beard may have to come off.  Or, I could just keep it and continue to enjoy cheaper movies.  I’ll have to think about that.

 

More Upstate Ghosts

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While at the Open Book the other evening I picked up a copy of John Boyanoski’s More Ghosts of Upstate South Carolina. I had enjoyed John’s first book immensely because it was one of the first to focus on hauntings of the Upstate area. Most of the ghost books deal either with the state at large, or focus on the coastal areas. I had even created a Google Earth KML file that maps out the locations in the first book.

While reading Boyanoski’s earlier book, I had made the comment that there didn’t seem to be many modern ghost stories. Most of these tales seem to come from a time at least a century ago. In More Ghosts, Boyanoski has included a few more modern stories. He has also highlighted many more of the lesser-known haunts in the area. Some of these are in private residences, so care is taken to protect the home owners’ identities.

Whether because of the popularity of TV shows like Ghost Hunters, or because it’s hard to find these places without some help, the book makes many more references to local paranormal research groups. There was lots of discussion about orbs, EVP’s, EMF readings, and all the other techno-babble that ghost hunting groups like to use. Personally, I could do without the techno-babble and paranormal research. The “scientific” methods these groups aren’t scientific in the least. Perhaps Boyanoski wanted to inject some air of legitimacy to these stories, but I think they detract from them. To me, these stories work best as tall tales – something to stretch the imagination and make you wander. So, perhaps I’m not as interested in “modern” ghost stories after all.

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