Friday, November 23, 2012

Larry Hagman Merges with The Infinite

Larry Hagman, of Dallas TV fame, has passed at the age of 81.

I am a child of the 70's and 80's, and was living in the Dallas area circa 1979-1981 and Houston, after that.  There were four channels at the time.  We all watched Dallas.  Yes, we all knew who JR Ewing was.  And, like much of America, I also wondered who had shot JR.

He drinks your milkshake

Son of actress Mary Martin and a native Texan, Hagman's relationship with Texas continued on and off for most of his life.*  Hagman was a major wheel in TV, both in the US and abroad, where the show ran in re-runs well past when the show had been cancelled.

Later, I'd start watching re-runs of I Dream of Jeannie, where Larry Hagman played astronaut Tony Nelson. He got to be on TV with Barbara Eden every week, and that ain't bad.

Major Nelson was never any Darren-like pushover

Readers of this blog will also remember him from Superman: The Movie as the Army officer who bravely steps up and assists Valerie Perrine when she fakes an auto accident to distract a convoy for Lex.

bravely, bravely ponders a stricken Valerie Perrine

Hagman had recently returned to TV in a reboot of Dallas, and was enjoying a second wind of stardom.

Hagman passed today in a Dallas hospital.

*As a side note, the more someone is like the villainous JR Ewing, the more likely it often seems that they'll be elected governor in Texas, over and over and over.

'Itiseth yon Season?

Just received this dispatch from the North Pole!

could our Holiday friend be back?

It's beginning to look a lot like...

huh. Santa's got some shifting priorities.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Noir Watch: The Set-Up (1949)

This is the third time I'd watched this movie, but every time it's been years apart.  

The Set-Up (1949) is the story of an aging fighter, well past his prime, but still taking to the ring on a low-class circuit, fighting at the bottom of crummy bills in shoddy venues.  Robert Ryan played a lot of heavies, but here he plays the fighter who truly only knows how to do one thing - and that's get up and get back in the ring again and again, not yet shaken off the promise of the one-in-a-million shot, now with much smaller dreams of respectability.  

Audrey Totter plays Julie, the woman in his life who has seen his string of losses and watched every fight, seeing the man she loves beaten and bloodied.  As the movie begins, they've hit a cross-roads - though it's possible Ryan's "Stoker" doesn't yet fully realize the gravity of the situation.

Meanwhile his manager, who can count on Stoker to lose in every bout, takes a pay-off promising Stoker will take a fall, but cuts his own fighter out of the deal, considering it a no-brainer that his guy can't make it and wont' get lucky.

Lincoln's 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation

October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States
A Proclamation

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United Stated States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Your Time Killers For Pretending To Work on the Wednesday Before Thanksgiving

Ah, that magical day in the office where time becomes meaningless. If you're like me, it's you and Nick, the Graduate Assistant as the only ones planning to show up for work on Wednesday. It'll be an odd mix of the clock moving too slowly and the ability to actually get some work done for once without the weird guy from around the corner coming to your door and killing your schedule for the day.

I have a very warm place in my heart for The Addams Family movies. Their commentary on The First Thanksgiving.

Some guy re-enacts a key scene from Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Here's a Thanksgiving puzzle...

Monday, November 19, 2012

So, I watched that "Breaking Amish" Reunion Special

editor's note:  I don't think I've talked this much about TV or a reality show since I predicted in Season 1 not just the impending divorce of Jon & Kate, but exactly how ugly it would be for Jon.*  

Last night I posted the following to Facebook:

So, those "Breaking Amish" kids sort of played TLC for a trip to NYC and reality TV fame. Well played, Amish thugs, well played.

A few months ago I was on the elliptical and decided to spend my time watching Breaking Amish, one of several series on the cable spectrum that has launched in the past 10-12 years.  The series are, invariably, about Amish young adults leaving the fold and experiencing our world for the first time.  The shows have arrived in highbrow flavor from National Geographic channel taking a true documentarian's approach, to Fox "reality" shows pairing Amish 20 year old's with the worst reality-TV-type folks you can imagine and turning in a show about Amish people squirming uncomfortably as dopes try to ridicule them for not being awful people with subscriptions to Us Weekly.

"so... do we pretend we don't know what a bus is?"

Breaking Amish took several young adults from Amish communities (and one from a Mennonite community - where electricity and other conveniences are allowed), and dumped them into New York City. It was a TLC show, so it followed the formula of "come watch the weirdos we found as we walk them through something that looks like a heartwarming learning experience, but, I mean, yeah, obviously not really".  TLC is, of course, home to Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

I didn't think very much about the show other than that it had the usual "well, this is all clearly 'stage managed'" vibe I get from all reality shows, and I didn't watch more than the one episode.

And then the internet happened.

Happy Turkey Week

I don't even know where to start...

It's that magical week of the year!  I'm not sure when you kids are checking out for the week, so I thought I'd just pop up now and wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving.

<festive> Happy Thanksgiving! </festive>

I'm feeling much better now than last Wednesday evening, and I seem to be a few degrees away from hail and hearty.  Much better way to enter the holiday than worrying about contaminating the yams.

This year Jason is headed off to Phoenix, homeland of his ladyperson, AmyD.   It's going to be a bit more quiet around these parts, and I'll surely miss having him around at my folks' dinner, but I guess I've been disappearing with Jamie for Thanksgiving for years and years at this point.  Fair's fair.

I anticipate no Thanksgiving madness.  The family may not be "sane" or "stable"- but they are predictable.  The only wildcard is my pal JuanD, who is joining us for dinner and who is smart enough not to get into a heated debate with my 15 year old cousin or throw a punch at Jamie's dad.

If it is looking like it's going to get rough, prepare mentally and physically and think:  what would Superman do?

Lois's dad is decidedly not fun to deal with

We're having a bit of a Holiday shindig on December 1 (sure, come on down), so I'll also be spending the weekend cleaning and decking the halls.  I still haven't been to Home Depot to see if they have a bear for the front yard.  I kind of want one.

Aside from that:  football.  Probably a movie or three.  I'm not laboring under any delusions.  It's a three-day weekend with a "workday" of consuming bird and pie tacked on to the start.  I work for a university, so I'm looking at the clock for when they shut us down from Christmas til New Year.

I am going to watch a VERY SPECIAL Christmas movie, so I look forward to posting on that.

Anyway, gobble, gobble, y'all.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

For some reason, Formula 1 Racing Came to Austin

About two and a half-years ago, Austinites woke up to find that some deal had been reached to bring Formula 1 racing to our city.  Mostly, the news was met with puzzled stares.  This is not a motorsports kind of town, and F1 is something that takes place in Monte Carlo, not in our berg.

If you do not know (I didn't), F1 is monstrously popular everywhere but the US, and despite astronomically high tickets prices, tends to draw hundreds of thousands of people to each city.  Rich people.  Who supposedly spend money.

Signal Watch Watches: Skyfall (2012)

The trick with any franchise character is that, after a while, they can take the path* of becoming less a character and more a collection of quirks and ticks that become recognizable to the audience, but there's not really much of anything there behind the catchphrases, costume, etc...  It's pretty common in sitcoms.  And you can sort of tell when a character (or, heck, public persona of a real person) has hit this point when they become readily satirized and spoofed with a few tell-tale signs.

I think, in a lot of ways, Bond had become a sort of nebulous concept of "things that happen in a Bond movie".  Particularly during the tail end of the Moore-era and again in the Pierce Brosnan era, you can blame the actors to some extent, but the scripts and directing never sought to do much but move the Bond-shaped character through Bond-like situations that were pretty awesome when Connery brought it to the big screen, but by the time I was watching Pierce Brosnan driving around in a tank in a tux with perfect hair, I think I hung it up on Bond after GoldenEye.**

I'm not reporting anything new in remarking that Daniel Craig in Casino Royale completely rejuvenated the Bond concept for a lot of us, and despite many missteps that harkened back to the doldrums of circa 1980-era Bond, Quantum of Solace had its moments - even if it didn't live up to the promise of Casino Royale.