Monday, December 16, 2013

Opportunity Knocked on a Door That Shouldn't Have Been There

Jack Torrance’s “Heeerrreee’s Johnny!” head-poke through an ax-split door in 1978's The Shining is one of the iconic images in modern cinema and certainly the most identifiable on-screen moment of Jack Nicholson’s long and lauded career. But this classic scene would have been even better had the doorway instead been covered by a multi-colored curtain just like the one that Johnny Carson pawed through every weeknight at the start of The Tonight Show.

Many homes in the 1970s featured doorways adorned with tapestry dividers or hanging beads instead of doors, and the psychotic Jack Torrance popping his head through a vertically striped curtain of orange, pink, brown, beige, gold, and two shades of blue would have truly added cinematic provenance to this frighteningly comic moment.

True, Nicholson ad-libbed this legendary line, but once such a great idea was out of the bag, there’s no reason that Stanley Kubrick—notorious in Hollywood for shooting excessive takes—couldn’t have had an intern run out to a local linen store, order a replica Tonight Show curtain, and instructed Nicholson to redo the scene with the proper prop.

Frankly, I’m more than a little surprised that Kubrick—one of the most visionary filmmakers ever to step behind a camera and a renowned obsessive for detail—overlooked this opportunity.

Then again, Kubrick did have the good sense to cast Shelley Duvall rather than Robert Duvall as Jack Torrance’s wife, Wendy...

(Image from The Shining copyright Warner Brothers; image from The Tonight Show copyright NBC.)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Teddy Spoke Softly...But Carried a Bic Pen

Letters to Kermit, a collection of many dozens of handwritten and typed correspondences from the desk of Theodore Roosevelt between 1896 and 1918, was first published in 1946. It is a candid and revealing look into the heart and mind of the twenty-sixth President of the United States, both before, during, and after his nearly eight years in office. And I think this little-known literary gem authored by one of the dynamic figures of the twentieth century deserves an excerpt:

Monday, December 2, 2013

Not Winning the Oscar Must've Made Baldini a Grouch

It's well known that both Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro won the Academy Award for portraying Vito Corleone—the only instance of two actors winning an Oscar for the same role.

But what about Oreste Baldini, who played the nine-year-old Vito at the beginning of The Godfather II? I wonder if he’s bitter that he didn’t win an Oscar for his portrayal of Vito. Sure, Baldini was on-screen for only a few scenes...yet he showed fine range, shifting effortlessly from weak, dumb-witted native to weak, dumb-witted immigrant. And if that weren’t enough to convince Academy voters, Baldini was the only “Vito” to sing (while quarantined on Ellis Island)—something neither Brando nor De Niro dared do…or likely even possessed the acting chops to do.

My guess is that the now-51-year-old Baldini seethes in anger and jealousy every minute of his life since the evening Art Carney and De Niro walked off with the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor honors, respectively, in April 1975. And although Baldini has enjoyed a busy career dubbing Hollywood dialogue into his native tongue for Italian cinema, television, animation, and even video games, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if bilious ire occasionally flares into his on-screen translations.    

Had I been an Italian citizen taking in a film at the Nuovo Olimpia on the Via in Lucina in downtown Rome on a bygone Saturday evening, I would hardly be shocked if, right in the middle of Ed Wood, Johnny Depp ranted Art Carney può andare al diavalo, che non-talento hack!

Or even a purple-rhino'ed Edward Norton inexplicably yelling De Niro ha rubato la mia Oscar, che bastardi! Baldini ha la voce di un angelo! in the midst of singing ditties of support to methadone addicts in Death to Smoochy.

I might even have felt such sympathy for the slighted Baldini that I wouldn’t have demanded my money back from the theater manager… 

(Image from The Godfather II copyright Paramount Pictures.) 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Kale-o, Newman! Could Newman Be the New Face of Kale?

I recently read that kale has anti-inflammatory properties. According to Carolyn Butler, writing in the Washington Post of September 25, 2012, kale—a leafy relative of broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower—contains 45 different flavonoids that possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Quoting Deirdre Orceyre, a naturopathic physician at the Center for Integrative Medicine at George Washington University Medical Center, in that same article: kale has “a range of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the body.”

I immediately thought this would make for a great marketing opportunity for kale producers. Based on Newman’s “When you control the mail, you control... information!” rant in Episode 70 of Seinfeld, “The Lip Reader,” I urge the Kale Marketing Board, or whatever the hell exists that promotes the stuff, to hire Wayne Knight to reprise the scene in which he threatens Jerry with postal retribution for not letting him “borrow” his new lip-reading girlfriend. Nothing could better trumpet kale’s benefit to the human body than Newman reassuring the American public that “When you control the kale, you control…inflammation!” as he displays his not-so-inflamed hands.

Then again, as he did with kale’s unsavory cousin, broccoli, Newman would very likely take a bite and spit it out in disgust, exclaiming “Vile weed!” So maybe those kale folks should consider Frank Costanza as corporate spokesman—he probably doesn't find kale as distracting as tinsel... 

(Images from Seinfeld copyright NBC.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

When the Law of the Land Is the Second Amendmant

I've long heard of this film, but I never knew what it was about (I think I always mistook it for 1966's run-for-your-life nail-biter, The Naked Prey). The description of The Naked Jungle on the Comcast grid:
"Charlton Heston plays a plantation owner threatened by soldier ants."
Here's the problem with Chuck: he's so obsessed with guns that, whatever the threatening situation, he deals with it using firearms, regardless of how ill-suited they may be. I wonder how that shotgun worked out for him against thousands of marauding ants? I assume the film ends with Chuck blowing his legs off as he tries to shoot the numerous ants crawling up him...eventually lying in his own gore, angrily lamenting his foolish faith in guns between wails of insufferable agony...
What the hell did those NRA nuts see in this dope anyway?
Furthermore, The Naked Jungle was released in 1954how did they know Heston was gonna win the Oscar for Ben-Hur five years later? Hell, how did they know Ben-Hur was even gonna be made???
(For more on Charlton Heston and his gun fixation, see the Mount Drinkmore post, "Heston Peace,  Charlton," of April 11, 2008, located in the archive at left, or use keywords Charlton Hestonentertainment, film, or In Memoriam.)
(Image of The Naked Jungle movie poster copyright Paramount Pictures.)  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wedge Would Give This Eatery the Edge

Last night, I was treated to dinner at Butcher and Singer, the swanky Steven Starr steakhouse at 15th and Walnut. As you can see under the salad selections, this establishment offers “The Wedge”—a large slice of iceberg lettuce drenched in a bacon-and-Bleu-cheese Russian dressing.

Now, maybe my proclivity for free-associative thinking was abetted by dining in a Steven Starr restaurant, but, upon first sight of it, I immediately conjured the idea of Wedge, the Rebel Alliance pilot who flew alongside Luke Skywalker in Star Wars and played a key role in all three films of the first trilogy, emerging from the kitchen in full pilot uniform and serving me The Wedge while regaling me with priceless anecdotes from the set and personal war stories from the Star Wars universe.

After all, the actor who portrayed Wedge, Denis Lawson, also played the ubiquitous Gordon Urquhart, the hotelier, chartered accountant, and community negotiator who also waited tables in his MacAskill Arms dining room, in one of my very favorite films, Local Hero. Expert in both roles, it would be no stretch to have the aproned innkeeper who served meals to his guests do so for me while dressed instead as the orange-jumpsuited fighter ace who helped send both Death Stars to their doom.       

And as Wedge placed The Wedge in front of me, I think it would go a little something…like this:

“Look at the size of that thing!” I marvel at the large, ludicrously priced wedge of lettuce. Appreciating my homage to his most famous line of dialogue, Wedge then pours me a 42-year-old scotch like the one Urquhart serves up in Local Hero.

Slàinte,” he toasts me.

“Good shooting, Wedge,” I commend his expert pouring ability before taking a swig.

“I can’t stay with you,” Wedge confesses, needing to return to the kitchen.

“Get back there, Wedge. You can’t do anymore good out here,” I urge gratefully.

“Sorry,” Wedge laments in his Corellia-by-way-of-Furness accent, peeling off toward the kitchen. And as I dig into my ridiculously, just insanely overpriced chunk of iceberg lettuce with a little dressing drizzled on it, I am wholly satisfied with the wait service from the best damn pilot the Alliance ever had. 

(Image of Butcher and Singer menu copyright Steven Starr Restaurants; image from Star Wars copyright Lucasfilm; image from Local Hero copyright Warner Brothers.)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Sometimes You'd Better Not Go Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Cheers was the sitcom of the 1980s. Combining relatable and lovable characters with witty punch lines, the Boston bar–based show reached the top ten in ratings for eight of its eleven seasons and remains one of the most beloved comedies in the annals of television.

Perhaps just as remembered as the characters themselves is Cheers’ opening credits, with its ultra-catchy “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” theme song and colorized archival photos of barflies who strongly resembled their onscreen counterparts.

Many viewers wondered about what the newspaper headline WE WIN! bragged. (The elderly bartender proudly holding up the paper is not intended to represent George Wendt’s character, Norm, whose counterpart is shown seconds before this; Wendt’s name merely remains onscreen as this implicit nod to the deceased Ernie “Coach” Pantusso concludes the opening credits.)

Looking closer at the contents of this newspaper, we can see that below the primary headline, on the right, it reads “As Cards Lose to Bu...”

This indicates that this famous local photo dates from the Boston Braves clinching the 1948 National League pennant. As the second-place St. Louis Cardinals lost, 2-1, to the Pittsburgh Pirates (the “Bu...cs”) on September 29, Boston simultaneously defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers, 4-3, concluding a torrid 18-6 September for the Braves and putting Boston up by 6 games. With only 5 games remaining for the Cardinals, the Braves had claimed their first pennant since 1914.

What doesn’t ring true in the context of the sitcom is that, by the time Cheers premiered in 1982, the Boston Braves were but a dim memory in Bostonian minds, having abandoned Beantown for Milwaukee after the 1952 season. Thus, the Braves hadn’t been part of Boston culture for three decades. Add to that the fact that Boston was, even during the Braves’ few glory years, undeniably a Red Sox town—with ex–Red Sox reliever Sam Malone giving the bar added Sox cachet—and the use of this photo seems deceptive.

Sure, Bostonians were rightfully proud of their Braves heading to the World Series—but those folks were dead or infirmed by the time Cheers was “open for business.”

Let’s be frank about that proud and pugilistically inclined city: Had a patron come into Cheers and openly rooted for the Atlanta Braves because he or she had remained a diehard Braves supporter from their days in Boston, those Cheers regulars would have beaten that fan with a ferocity that would have made The Depahhted look like The Sound of Music.

Not to single out Bostonians, though—had an Oakland A’s supporter showed his true colors in Paddy’s Pub, you can be sure that Sweet Dee and the rest of the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia crew would have gone Smokin’ Joe Frazier on his traitorous ass.

(Images of Cheers credits copyright NBC.)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Papillon's Story Is Finally Complete and Finished

Whenever the South American nation of Guiana is mentioned, most, if not all of us, think of the Steve McQueen–Dustin Hoffman film, Papillon. After all, this classic prison tale—set in the penal colony of French Guiana and its offshore solitary-confinement counterpart, Devil’s Island—put Guiana on the populace’s proverbial map.

So it should be no surprise that when I received an e-mail today mentioning a Guyanese man in a mildly amusing anecdote, I reflexively thought of this great film. Now, the e-mail is almost certainly a fabrication—I could find no verification of it on the Internet. Still, I couldn’t help but think that this anecdote should have constituted the narration at the end of Papillon, rather than the brief explanation of the infamous French prisoner’s ultimate fate and the destiny of the penal colony.*
* Although I believe that this colorful anecdote should have been spoken—like the film’s actual postscript—rather than shown, I have included it below as text because I can't afford to pay the original narrator to call each one of you and speak it.

Frankly, I’m surprised some innocuous yarn wasn’t used as the film’s postscript, considering how ardently Hollywood demands a happy ending. After all, what could provide a happier ending than a slightly charming, somewhat-clichéd slice of life about the trials of domesticity to which many of us not incarcerated in a pestilential jungle hellhole can relate?
 Sure, Papillon “made it to freedom,” but he made it several months after the end of World War II—too late to do his duty for France by surrendering to the Germans…certainly a sadder ending to the film than the brief, wry smile provided by this anecdote.
I fully expect the contents of this e-mail to replace the film’s original postscript when Papillon is inevitably re-released in 2023 for its golden anniversary.

(Images fromPapillon copyright Allied Artists.)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Creepy Rabbit...Your Tricks Better Not Be for Kids!

In preparing my immediately previous post (“Good at Blocks…But Still a Blockhead?” of September 30), I Google-Imaged “Tetris gif” in hopes of finding a suitable animated GIF of a Tetris game in progress to demonstrate the game’s object. Unfortunately, no such GIF was available through Google Images.

However, I did stumble upon this bizarre and disturbing GIF about three-quarters of the way down the page…

Now, I don’t know the source of this psychotic video clip, nor can I ascertain its meaning. And I sure don’t know what the hell it has to do with Tetris. Some things just defy deconstruction…

Yet I must admit, for all of its creepiness, this GIF borders on dangerously hypnotic. Why is the rabbit in a human bathroom? Why is the rabbit inviting you into the stall? Is it sexual? We don’t even know the rabbit’s gender. Rabbits are well-known for their timidity, so why the change of heart? Is there any sociopolitical or religious meaning behind its invitation? Is there enough paper for both of you? Is this the inevitable backfire of the hated pay-toilet’s demise? (‘Cause, let’s face it, those huge, inflexible paws ain’t manipulating a dime into the slot…)

Too many unanswered—and perhaps unanswerable—questions. Probably best left that way. All I really know is that Tetris is now ruined for me. Whenever I get into a habit of playing Tetris for extended periods, I experience what is called the “Tetris effect,” in that, for many minutes after closing my eyes while awaiting sleep, images of the game unstoppably and maddeningly continue vividly in my mind as if I were still in front of the computer screen.

And now I fear that this awful and completely insane image will exert the same effect on my brain. I urge you, Dear Reader, to move on to another Mount Drinkmore post right now, so that you do not find yourself plagued by the “Creepy Rabbit effect”—which will surely drive you to madness and cause you to pathologically frequent public restrooms for reasons you don’t quite understand…

(For more on the destructive power of rabbits, see the Mount Drinkmore post, “Knowing: The Rabbits Are Coming, Doomsday, Doomsday!” of August 20, 2012, located in the archive at left, or use keywords film or nature.) 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Good at Blocks...But Still a Blockhead?

I’m good—I mean really good—at Tetris, that falling-puzzle-piece game that challenges quick-thinking spatial reasoning and hand-eye coordination. I routinely can make high-level games last for twenty minutes or longer, racking up 200 to 300 lines before “topping out.”

In fact, on September 26, I established a personal record of 541 lines, utilizing lightning-fast mental processing and dexterity that I somehow maintained for more than half an hour through numerous ultra-close calls. Yesterday, I nearly bettered it with a game of 538 lines.

But, as just happened a few minutes ago, I always encounter inexplicable difficulty in properly placing shoes in a shoe box—I keep turning the second shoe around and over and backward until it fits into the shoe box in proper opposition to the first shoe. Despite my proficiency at Tetris, this most basic of spatial challenges often takes me up to half a minute to solve. And after finally placing the shoes properly into the box, I’m forced to realize that even though I’m very talented at a video game, I’m a borderline failure at putting this ability to practical use.

Like Tetris, I used to be an ace at that old, submarine-periscope arcade game, Sea Wolf. But perhaps the hard truth is that, under combat conditions, I don’t possess the right stuff to sink an enemy warship. All those quarters wasted thinking I’d be a cinch to win the Navy Cross if I enlisted when I came of age. No wonder Somali pirates roam the Indian Ocean at will—I would’ve washed out of Navy Officer Candidate School and probably spent my hitch in the brig. No wonder my dress shoes forever lay around on closet floors—I’m too intimidated by my mental incapacity to put them back in their box.

Maybe I’m just a complete moron who happens to be an idiot savant at Tetris.

Yeah, yeah, two seconds to green z-shape, yeah…

Sunday, September 1, 2013

In 1939, Poland Had the Worst Seat in the House; in 2013...

On this, the 74th anniversary of the start of World War II, it seems fitting to post this photo, which has been making the rounds on the Internet this year.

Especially on this day, the poor guy squeezed between these two behemoths is all too reminiscent of Poland trapped between Germany, on his left, and the Soviet Union, on his right. Like Poland, he is powerless to defend himself and will be crushed long before the game is over.

Soon after Germany's blitzkrieg, which commenced on September 1, 1939, the Soviet Union, having previously signed a non-aggression pact with Germany, invaded from the east...effectively obliterating Poland as a sovereign nation.

Both England and France, having pledged to defend Poland at all costs, then declared war on Germany. Yet, like the two spectators sitting disinterestedly in the front row, they did virtually nothing to aid their besieged and very uncomfortable ally.

(The people in the row to the rear ably represent Holland [as evidenced by the man's orange shirt] and the other Low Countries, all of which were soon to feel the murderous weight of Germany when the woman on the left leaned back in her seat.)

And speaking of France and her role in the Second World War, no photo could be more appropriate than this one...

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hell in the Atlantic

Tonight, I was watching a DVD of one of my favorites: the World War II, marooned-on-an-island classic, Hell in the Pacific. More than half of the opening thirty minutes of the film focuses on Lee Marvin trying to get at Toshirō Mifune’s small supply of fresh water, either by stealing it or asking for some. Just as this angle comes to a climaxwith Marvin falling from a tree while attempting to fish out some water with his canteen, crashing into Mifune, and spilling the precious basin of collected rainwaterI realize that the bottle of Poland Spring from which I am now taking the last sip is my sole remaining bottleand thus my only remaining drinkable water!  

Sure, I could have opted for tap water, but not since having seen all sorts of things in the tap water from my college dorm in Philadelphia have I trusted water from the faucet and would have spat it out as undrinkable—as did a repulsed Marvin after dipping his face in a stagnant, salty pond before continuing his pursuit of Mifune’s fresh rainwater.
So, as with Lee Marvin and his Imperial Japanese Navy rival, my survival came down to cooperating with my Mitsubishi Eclipse to obtain fresh water—the very same Mitsubishi that produced the A6M “Zero” fighter for Mifune’s Imperial Japanese Navy!

Would my car take me where I needed to go, or would it make me its captive, as did Mifune of Marvin, before Marvin escaped and turned the tables on his opponent? Could I harness the Mitsubishi’s power and make peace with it, so that we could work in tandem for our mutual benefit and set off promptly to 7-11 for its rich supply of Poland Spring?

Alas, upon arrival at 7-11, the Mitsubishi most likely would have abruptly exploded with no warning, destroying both of us.*

Or perhaps, in some alternate ending to my evening, my Mitsubishi would refuse to open its doors, and after yelling and honking at each other in foreign-tongued futility, we’d go our separate ways as enemies once again.

* Okay, so I should have prefaced this with a Spoiler Alert…but let’s face it: you’re never gonna get off your ass and rent this film—or come to my place and watch it with me. No, it’ll be just another Saturday night alone, marooned in my apartment, waiting for the tides to be right so I can get off this desolate rock...I mean couch. Man, I would’ve been much better off had my Mitsubishi exploded...
(Images copyright Selmur Pictures.)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Me and the Lacewing: Could It Be a Chase Thing?

Two days ago, I met a friend in a corner bar in the Bella Vista section of South Philly. With the temperature surprisingly mild for an August afternoon, the pub’s many vertical windows were open to allow in the air. As my friend and I chatted, a pale-green insect I later identified as a green lacewing slowly flew between us and landed on the wall. Approximately three-quarters of an inch long, the green lacewing looks like a cross between a moth and a scallion. After each of us briefly commented on the odd-looking intruder, we returned to our conversation and left the lacewing to its business.

This morning, I was standing in my bathroom when an insect looking very much like the lacewing from two days ago fluttered through the doorway. Now, encountering two separate specimens of the seldom-seen lacewing within forty-eight hours is highly unlikely. However, the chance that the Bella Vista lacewing hitched a ride home with me seems even more implausible, because…

·         A plant-dwelling insect would not be drawn to a human, particularly for such a long duration;
·         My friend or I likely would have noticed if the lacewing had eventually landed on me;
·         I had to walk a block and a half to my car, giving the lacewing plenty of time to be lured away (or alarmed by the motion of my body);
·         Most importantly, with my car’s air conditioning not working, I drove to Bella Vista and home—largely highway driving—with both windows open, causing a very stiff cross-breeze that certainly would have sucked the lacewing out into the open air.

So, is it possible that the Bella Vista lacewing followed me in the same manner that Roxy the Yorkshire terrier navigated the ninety miles back to her home after Newman, Kramer, and Elaine dog-napped her in Episode 111 of Seinfeld, “The Engagement”?

If a dog could do it, then why not a nectar-seeking neuropterid? Unlike Roxy, the lacewing can fly and thus take a direct path to my apartment, avoiding the Walt Whitman Bridge and potentially confusing traffic patterns along Admiral Wilson Blvd. Furthermore, the lacewing had only seventeen miles to traverse, compared to the ninety miles that Roxy trekked from Monticello to Manhattan. (I assume that, with its compound eyes, the insect spotted the address on my driver’s license when I opened my wallet to pay the tab, because, despite its powerful mandibles, the lacewing did not bite off the tag of my shirt and fly to my apartment with it between its tiny jaws.)  
I can only hope that the lacewing will not keep me up all hours of the night with incessant barking, lest I be forced to get my neighbor to bug-nap the creature and drive it out to its native habitat at 8th and Fitzwater. And even if it does not hinder my sleep, I will be fortunate not to suffer nightmares of the lacewing savagely attacking me, to which Kramer fell victim after the incident with Roxy.

(Images of Kramer and “Roxy” copyright NBC.)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Yo-Ho-Ho and a Bottle of Ron!

Ron Jeremy is, quite possibly, the most famous male porn star in the history of that fine genre of art and will undeniably become a charter member of the Jewish Pornographic Hall of Fame, whenever such a long-overdue institution is conceived and green-lighted.

In fact, with Jeremy’s fame spread wider than all of the legs between which he’s plied his trade set side by side, perhaps it should come as no shock that I recently saw this offering in my local liquor store.
Now, apart from my concern that rum is only one frightening typo away from upon what Ron Jeremy has built his messy career, I’m likewise alarmed at the thought of—as mezcal has the “worm” at the bottom of the bottle to add a touch of flavor and exoticism—what might the manufacturer put in Ron De Jeremy Spiced Rum…the foreskin?  

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Nary Anything Military About The Fugitive

At this very moment, The Fugitive is being broadcast on The Military Channel. In my opinion, The Military Channel is grossly misrepresenting itself and can claim no good reason to run this film. As Deputy U.S. Marshals, Tommy Lee Jones and his posse are law-enforcement agents under the aegis of the Department of Justice and are authorized to enforce federal laws and orders of the federal court system—they are not members of the United States military, nor, of course, are the film’s ancillary pursuers, the Chicago Police Department.

At no time, in fact, does The Fugitive feature any member of the U.S. military. (As can plainly be seen above, Dr. Richard Kimble is not being chased by soldiers, Marines, tanks, an F-16, a few drunk Coast Guardsmen, or even a measly Ticonderoga-class cruiser.)

That The Military Channel featured this “unmilitary” film is akin to the onerous act of individuals who falsely claim to have served in the armed forces or, worse yet, to have been decorated. And although The Military Channel’s action, technically, does not violate the Stolen Valor Act of 2013—which outlaws the “fraudulent representation about receipt of military decorations or medals ”—it transgressed the spirit, if not the letter, of the law.
Ironically, The Military Channel would have done better ethically to have aired a film as seemingly unsuitable as The Blues Brothers. Yes, these fine, Chicago-based films similarly feature outlaws hotly pursued by multiple law-enforcement agencies, tense moments on Lower Wacker Drive, and a riveting chase through Chicago’s Daley Plaza—however, unlike The Fugitive, John Landis’s raucous tale of two orphans on a mission from God makes a completely legitimate choice for Military Channel broadcast, because among Joliet Jake and Elwood’s myriad pursuers were a company of U.S. Army infantry, including military police and at least two Sherman tanks.*

* The Sherman had long been replaced in the U.S. Army—and is thus completely anachronistic—by the time The Blues Brothers was being filmed in 1979; however, it is not inconceivable that, in order to get heavy armor to the scene and apprehend the Blues Brothers as quickly as possible, tank crews would man a serviceable M4 Sherman if, for some reason, their current tank was not combat-ready.   

So jeers to The Military Channel for failing to air a film as worthy of America’s bravest as the exploits of Jake and Elwood Blues.

(Image of The Fugitive copyright Warner Brothers; images of The Blues Brothers copyright Universal Pictures.)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Refuting a Wild and Crazy Medical Finding

This article appeared in The Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 2004;89:159-181. Now, although this article was authored by widely published experts from Brock and McMasters Universities in Canada who use 23 pages of fancy-schmancy words, graphs, and comparative images to prove their point—I can tell you from first-hand experience that they are flat-out wrong.

I must disclaim that I wasn’t aware of Steve Martin until April 22, 1978—just short of my 10½-year mark—when he performed “King Tut” for the first time on Saturday Night Live. (I may well have seen him on an earlier SNL episode—and thus at an earlier age—but this is the earliest date for which I have absolute confirmation.)

I cannot state with any certainty when was the first time I saw Paul Newman (although I spent much of the early 1980s groaning at “Lucille’s” car-washing scene in Cool Hand Luke).

The authors of this paper would quickly defend their position by stating that the mental capabilities of a 10½-year-old far exceed those of an eight-year-old—and I would heartily agree, thus making the basis of my accusation unfair and incorrect of itself. However, just before my eighth birthday, I viewed my first World Series (the 1975 epic battle between the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox), and I sure as hell could differentiate Pete Rose from Carl Yastrzemski! And I mean facially—not by way of their different uniforms or because Pete used Aqua Velva.

Not that I was a precocious child—although I was eating entire 12-oz bags of Cheetos by first grade—but I certainly had no difficulty discerning Dan Rowan from Dick Martin—and Laugh-In was one of the very first television shows I ever watched, long pre-dating my eighth birthday.

Maybe it’s simply a fact that all Americans look the same to Canadians—in which case the authors should have included that critical finding in their paper—but I am 100% certain (P = 1) that, as an eight-year-old, I was able to tell the difference between Steve Martin and Paul Newman…

(Article cover page copyright Elsevier Inc.; photo of Steve Martin [the guy on the left, in case you're a Canadian eight-year-old] copyright Warner Brothers.)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Oh, Henry! Pacino Copied You on the Silver Screen-o

As one of the most lauded actors of his generation, Al Pacino has portrayed a litany of iconic characters who have weaved their way into the national consciousness: Michael Corleone, Tony Montana, Sonny Wortzik, Frank Serpico, Carlito Brigante, and Ricky Roma among them.
Yet Pacino has won only a single Academy Award during his more than 40 years in film: a Best Actor for his portrayal of Lt. Col. Frank Slade in Scent of a Woman—an honor with which I vehemently disagree, because…Pacino stole that character from McLean Stevenson!
Case-in-point: Pacino’s hallmark quote from Scent of a Woman is his many and varied expressions of hoo-ah, which have come to embody the character of Lt. Col. Frank Slade.
However, in Episode 43 of M*A*S*H, “The Chosen People”—almost 19 years before Scent of a Woman’s release—as a Korean family puts down stakes smack in the middle of the 4077th compound, Lt. Col. Henry Blake exclaims, “We got a real hoo-hah going here!”
(Additionally, in Episode 61, “Mad Dogs and Servicemen”—which aired later in 1974—after Radar is bitten by a stray dog, Henry Blake declares to Radar’s caged menagerie that to avoid this problem in the future, “I’m gonna vaccinate all you little hoo-hahs.” And further evidence is amply provided by Father Mulcahy in Episode 71, “White Gold,” when he asks, “What’s all the hoo-hah?” B.J. Hunnicutt and Col. Potter similarly query Margaret Houlihan with “What’s all the hoo-hah, Major?”—B.J. saying it in Episode 89, “Dear Ma,” and Potter following nearly four years later, in Episode 159, “Dear Comrade.”)
Now, Pacino’s more-famous version is actually a softer variant of the expression, leaving out the first h from the second syllable to create an ah rather than a hah. And perhaps differentiating the exclamation from McLean Stevenson’s delivery was intentional on Pacino’s part—in which case Pacino would richly deserve his Oscar…if that were the only element of his award-winning character that he lifted from the venerable Stevenson.
Sadly, it is not.
Beyond the obvious copying of rank—like Henry Blake, Frank Slade is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army—as well as the monosyllabic nearness of their surnames—Blake and Slade, which may have been Pacino's homage to the beloved commander of the 4077th—each character threatens suicide. The entire plot of Scent of a Woman revolves around the blind Frank Slade’s desire to enjoy a riotous farewell weekend in Manhattan before killing himself. Similarly, during the tumult of the Korean family building a home on “their” land, Henry Blake exasperatingly asks Capt. Pak, “What’s Korean for ‘suicide?’”

Suicide is a powerful plot device, but perhaps Al Pacino is not fully culpable in this shameless rip-off of McLean Stevenson’s character. Scent of a Woman is a remake of the 1974 Italian film, Profumo di Donna (which actually involves a suicide pact between the “Frank Slade” character and a comrade who was terribly injured in the same wartime incident). That film was released on December 20, 1974—less than eleven months after “The Chosen People” first aired.
Now, I’m not sure of the exact lag time that M*A*S*H experienced from original air date on CBS to broadcast in Europe—in England, for example, the pilot episode premiered eight months after it debuted in the United States—but such lag time would most likely put the Italian airing of “The Chosen People” episode at the time of the writing or filming of Profumo di Donna. So it’s a good bet that director Dino Risi “borrowed” heavily from Henry Blake’s popular on-screen antics. And even if Blake’s hoo-hah expression was not among the elements nicked by Risi*—which would mean that Pacino went directly to the source for his catchphrase—those character traits and plot devices borrowed for Profumo di Donna then were annexed by Pacino nearly two decades later and ridden to an Academy Award—not to mention into one of the most oft-used sound bites in the history of film.  
* I simply do not know if the expression appears in the original film—to a non–Italian-speaking viewer, every other word in an Italian film sounds like hoo-hah.

It is not known what McLean Stevenson—who died in 1996—thought of Pacino winning the Academy Award with a performance built on Henry Blake’s back, but, even though he never appeared in a film during his career, McLean Stevenson sure deserved a scent of that Oscar...

(Image of Al Pacino copyright Universal Pictures; Image of M*A*S*H copyright CBS.)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Was Hernando Roy's Great-Great-Granddaddo?

Normally, I wouldn't think that Emergency!'s Roy DeSoto could possibly be a descendant of 16th-century explorer Hernando de Soto. After all, Roy DeSoto exhibits no Spanish or Hispanic features whatsoever beyond his surname. More tellingly, as a paramedic, he devoted his career to saving lives, whereas de Soto the conquistador left a legacy of violence and death during his tangles with the native peoples of what was to become the American Southeast.*

* Interestingly, Roy DeSoto's partner, John Gage, mentioned himself in one episode as a Native American—yet, to my recollection, at no point during the series' six-season run was he enslaved by Roy DeSoto or infected with smallpox.

Still, tantalizing historico-cultural evidence exists, most readily in the undeniable similarities of their headgear.

Throughout civilization, the helmet has, perhaps more than any other item of apparel, defined a man's nationality and stature, whether he be a Roman centurion, a Viking warrior, an English Roundhead, etc. Even with five centuries standing between de Soto the conquistador and DeSoto the paramedic, their helmets are virtually identical. Yes, Hernando's has a sharp, pointed brim whereas Roy's is gently rounded so as not to poke out the eye of a victim he may be carrying to rescue. And a paramedic would never gild his helmet with gold or festoon it with feathers unless his union was unusually powerful. But the firefighters' helmet is unlike any headgear now extant in the Americas. Nothing else truly resembles it. Thus, it is doubtful that such a unique helmet could have been designed independently in North America during modern times when de Soto and his like were already spreading their influence across the New World, including Station 51's L.A. County, which, of course, was settled by de Soto's brethren. 

I've made a strong case so far. Admittedly, however, I'll need more empirical evidence before I can prove beyond doubt lineage between these two pivotal figures of their respective centuries. So I'd better get down to the American Southeast and start digging.

Or get over to Best Buy and pick up Emergency! on DVD...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

W-A-C-K-O...and "Wacko" Was Its Name-O

This is the cover page of an article in the journal Deviant Behavior. 2000;21(6):489-517.

I always though deviant behavior applied only to eating the bingo chips. Who knew the freakin' game, itself, was wacked?
(Cover page copyright Taylor & Francis.) 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Move Over, Grover...and Let Morgan Take Over

Grover Cleveland is well known as the only Chief Executive to serve non-consecutive terms, which he did as the 22nd president, from 1885 to 1889, and the 24th president, from 1893 to 1897.

Now, hes got company...

In the first real blockbuster of 2013, Olympus Has Fallen, Morgan Freeman portrays Speaker of the House Allen Trumbull. When President Asher is taken hostage by North Korean terrorists and held in the bunker of the White House, Trumbull assumes the role of Acting President of the United States.*

* I do not know what happened to the Vice President that he was stepped over in the chain of succession, because I have not seen the filmalthough I hear the popcorn is subpar.

Freeman previously portrayed President Tom Beck in 1998s Deep Impact.

Okay, as implied by the Twenty-fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and set in precedence several times since its ratification, Morgan Freeman’s term as Acting President is not recognized as a formal, numbered presidency—as were, of course, Grover Cleveland’s non-consecutive terms—but as far as the martini-clouded judgment of Mount Drinkmore is concerned, it’s legit enough for this post.

Thus having irrefutably—straight up with one olive—established Morgan Freeman’s non-consecutive presidencies...

Sure, thanks to his presidencies being fictitious, Morgan Freeman never got bogged down in such cinematically mundane crises as tariff issues, economic panics, and thorny questions of colonial annexation—as did Grover Cleveland—but Freeman still was under tremendous pressure to remember his lines, do promotional press junkets for the movie, and keep himself from becoming obese and bushily mustachioed.

Yet Morgan Freemans remarkable, on-screen political achievements dont end there: As Speaker of the House Trumbull fifteen years after he was President Beck, Freeman joins John Quincy Adams as the only former presidents to serve as members of the House of Representatives, which Quincy Adams did from 1831 to 1848.

A further link between the two men is that Morgan Freeman portrayed the freed slave, Theodore Joadson, in the film Amistad, which, in part, retells John Quincy Adams successful 1841 defense of the mutinous slaves aboard the Amistad. (Even further, Morgan Freemans surname, itself, echoes Quincy Adams work as an abolitionist.)

Yes, Morgan Freeman has proved himself a titan of celluloid American politics. And still at the top of his game as a busy Hollywood actor, the 76-year-old Freeman has time and opportunity to become the only former president to serve in both houses of Congress, or perhaps even serve an unprecedented third non-consecutive term as Commander-in-Chiefa landmark achievement of which Freemans agent will hopefully possess enough savvy to be aware.

(Image of Deep Impact copyright DreamWorks Pictures; image of Olympus Has Fallen copyright Millennium Films.)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Might As Well Jump...For Your Country

I was thinking that the official division march for the 82nd Airborne should be Van Halen's "Jump." I mean, what better song to inspire and encapsulate the proud history of the U.S. Army's initial airborne division? Let's face it: the division's current march, "The All-American Soldier," hardly does justice to these paratroopers' specialized training.

And, the 82nd being the "All-American Division," their uniforms should match that of David Lee Roth. As you can see, like Roth, they'd be donning "All-American" colors, thus paying proper homage to divisional tradition. This design would even make for ideal shoulder insignia to replace that rather obvious and mundane "AA" patch they've been wearing since World War II.

Not to mention, an even smaller version of little David Lee would double as perfect jump wings.


And if I can't get the 82nd to bite, then I can always suggest an insignia of Don Henley in mid-shriek for the 101st Airborne Screaming Eagles...

Ten Years Gone

So maybe it hasn't been ten years, but it's certainly been awhile. However, I figured it was time to revisit the mountain. What have I learned in this time? Well, there is more than one way to fry an egg. There are several ways, actually. Some are strange and confusing to me. "Eggs Benedict"? What the hell is that? Let's stick to the basics, people. Eggs are very simple; they don't need fancy names. I find this whole subject offensive, frankly, and do not appreciate you bringing it up. Good day to you, sir.