Saturday, March 28, 2015

SW Watches: Johnny Dangerously (1984)

Of the 1980's comedy staples, somehow I never saw Johnny Dangerously (1984) until I was well into college.  I suspect our family's lack of HBO during the window in which this would have run incessantly meant I never had the opportunity.  So, I don't have 1980's nostalgia for the movie.

Frankly, I don't really like it.  Which is weird, because I like everyone in it from Keaton to Boyle to Marilu Henner, but because Jamie does love the movie, I've seen it a number of times.  I think maybe two spots in it ever make me laugh (one of which is using a pricing gun on puppies in a pet store), and another I only laugh at because Jamie laughs so hard at it (Griffin Dunne yelling "Oh muh God!" as his car plunges down a hill).

I don't want to overly complain about it, because it's not actually painful to watch.  It's not like a mid-00's comedy like an American Pie III of whatever that I would just cringe my way through.  I just...  I dunno.  Maybe if I'd seen it when I was 11.

New Bond Trailer is up: "SPECTRE"

Very excited for another Daniel Craig Bond installment.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Ghost Watch: The Ghost Goes West (1936)

So, over the years I've occasionally seen the movie The Ghost Goes West (1936) referenced in passing, but nobody ever mentioned what it was about.  Just like "oh, he played stevedore #4 in The Ghost Goes West" sorts of comments.  And I always wondered:  what the hell genre is a movie called "The Ghost Goes West"?  What could it even possibly be about?

This poster is a nightmare of design, but I like it

I actually suspected it was about some sort of colorfully named detective leaving the East Coast and going to California.  And I was totally, utterly wrong.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

SW Reads: The Bully Pulpit - Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and The Golden Age of Journalism

I think Picky Girl recommended this one.  I dunno.  She'll have to chime in.

He's talking about Roosevelt and Taft again.  Safe to close the post and move on,

At some point in college on a lark I picked up the Henry Pringle biography of Theodore Roosevelt, and - like a lot of folks who happened to read something about TR - ever since I've found no end to the interest in reading not just about the man, but about his times.  His political career is astounding, complete with stumbling backward into the presidency, where his reputation grew to such proportions that the US included his face on Mt. Rushmore with Lincoln, Jefferson and Washington.

I read a few reviews before putting finger to keyboard for this post, because I knew a Doris Kearns Goodwin book would have already generated plenty of bits in the press.  As evidence of the vitality of the material covered, I almost laughed when I saw what a big percentage of both reviews was dedicated not to discussing the book, but to discussing what the book covers, like a little mini-historical synopsis.

So, I'll keep it brief.

What WAS going on in the X-Files Intro?

It always seemed like the intro segment to The X-Files was put together in the two days before the first show aired and someone in Chris Carter's office suddenly remembered "oh no.  We forgot to get an intro!" and asked some stoner interns to put something together, and, indeed they did.

What's more odd is that, even after the show took off and had a budget, no one ever thought to replace the opening sequence with something un-terrible and that did not suggest "eh, we're gonna get canceled, anyway, so don't kill yourself working on this."

To remind yourself of how that intro went, click here.  

These are out of order, because I don't care, but help me out...  Of all the mysteries of X-Files, the imagery of the intro leaves the biggest question marks of all.  Let's solve some outstanding X-Files.  Y'all tell me exactly what is going on in one or more of these images from the X-Files opening.

X-File 1:  The Stretchy Face Guy

Clearly tortured mentally and physically, each week this guy's face was being distorted by the finest in 1990's era digital manipulation software for an underpowered desktop PC.  But what was he experiencing?  Was this a literal event or how we were feeling as an audience with our minds totally blown by UFOs?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Truth Is Out There (again, apparently)

In Fall of 1993, I was a freshman at UT Austin when Fox TV debuted two sci-fi shows, The X-Files and The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. starring Bruce Campbell and Julius Carry.  The shows premiered in the no-man's land of Friday evening, and I assumed they were as doomed as, oh, say, Firefly would be when it debuted in the same timeslot a decade later.

Before going out or doing whatever we were going to do that night, I'd usually have on the shows, because this was the era just after the release of Army of Darkness and we were all big Bruce Campbell fans, plus I had grown to genuinely like the sci-fi oater in its short run.  X-Files I wanted to like, because - and I don't think i'm going to blow anyone's mind with this revelation - I was way into the red-headed skeptical doctor on the show.*

such ribald taste we all had in the mid-90's

But, man, Friday night in an era where you kind of had to make an appointment with yourself to watch a show meant I was a sporadic fan at best.  Let's just say my priorities during the era did not top out with "stay home, watch TV".

Happy Birthday to Jamie (it's her 40th)

March 25th of this year marks Jamie's 40th birthday.

She's a pretty super girl

It's certainly a mark all of us are aware of from the time we're kids.  But when Jamie was 17, she was diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (or, FSGS, for you amateurs out there).  I won't belabor you with the details, you can read up on it here.  In short, when you get diagnosed with anything at that age, a 40th birthday becomes something to celebrate.

If you can cast your memory back to a simpler time, when Bill Clinton was still in his first term, when Ace of Base ruled the airwaves and you had to be assigned the personality of one of the cast of Friends for some reason (I was the Marcel of our gang) - a much thinner The League was wooing an Aniston-coiffed Jamie.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Signal Watch Watches: A Video About Changing Diapers

Next month the Loyal Legion of Signal Watchers will expand by one.  No, Jamie and I are not expecting a bundle of joy, so don't get all excited for us.

This April, my brother (Steanso) and his wife, the inexplicable AmyD, are expecting their first child.  As events may come to pass in which I will possibly have to participate in ways that do not just include training this kid how to make a decent Manhattan, we viewed a video on baby maintenance.

ah, the ol' Steans Family birthmark

The fact that people I know have had babies and successfully gotten those babies to a point where they are no longer a squawking bundle of fragility is a miracle.  I guess it speaks volumes for our instincts as a species that people I would not loan my car to have successfully gotten their kids beyond the helpless infant phase.

We didn't watch all of the video.  I'm punting "circumcision care" to the parents, and how much I need to know about proper breastfeeding is negligible.  We did watch segments on burping, diapers, bathing and making formula.  And, at my insistence, the segment on the different kinds of baby poops.  There are so many, in so many colors.

Some notes:

Yesterday was Joan Crawford's B-Day

March 23rd marks the birthday of Joan Crawford.  She would have been 110 yesterday.

Complicated person, that Joan Crawford.  I tend to really like her in movies, and I think I've shared here and elsewhere how much I like Mildred Pierce, in particular (but who doesn't)?  Johnny Guitar is also worth a view if you want to see something out there on the edge of genre and expectation.

Happy b-day to a daughter of The Alamo City and one of the greats.

Monday, March 23, 2015

When Little Kids Wear the "S" and do it better than anything in the comics

Today this video made it across my path via social media.  It's a video about a kid in Detroit who has started a charity that provides food, clothing and necessary articles to the people of his city.  He's a kid who puts on a cape and the Superman "S" when he's at work.  The adults (and kids) who are helping him are similarly decked out in Superman gear, an easy and inexpensive get these days.

The video was part of a recent student film festival at the White House.  The video is short and it's worth a view.

Unrelated, these little girls were part of the Science Fair at the White House.

Here's what's on the White House website about why the girls are there.

Emily Bergenroth, Alicia Cutter, Karissa Cheng, Addy Oneal, and Emery Dodson, 6 (Tulsa, OK)After chatting with their school librarian, the “Supergirls” Junior FIRST Lego League Team from Daisy Girl Scouts’ troop 411 discovered that some people have disabilities that make it difficult to turn the pages of a book. They came up with the concept of a battery-powered page turner that could turn pages for people who are paralyzed or have arthritis. The Supergirls sketched out a design concept and culled through motorized Lego components and gears to figure out how to build a working prototype. They discovered that the friction from rubber Lego tires could be used to lift and turn the pages of a book. They honed the device with a second motorized component that forces pages to lay flat after being turned over. The Supergirls’ creation was selected by the statewide FIRST program director to be the only project exhibited at an educational conference for librarians and educators in the region.

These are some amazing kids, and I think it's not a mistake that their parents and families, no doubt a bit insulated from the fact that DC Comics has launched a "New 52" (that even now they're backing away from) wanted to put the capes and the shield on these kids.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

SW Watches: Waiting for Guffman (1996)

I don't know that I've seen every one of Christopher Guest's films, but Jamie and I agreeing on Waiting for Guffman (1996) was a good sign when we were in our early courtship, and they've become a bit of a staple ever since.

I never did community theater, but I did participate in high school drama, doing some acting (I was so good, y'all) and stage work like lighting and building sets (I always liked the hammer and nails bit more than acting).  Jamie's family was heavily involved with community theater in the Lawton, Oklahoma epoch of their lives.   If you've not seen the movie, it's a pretty great character-driven, improvised comedy in the faux-documentary style of This is Spinal Tap or Best in Show.  The "doc" follows the good folks of Blaine, Missouri as they set about putting on a play to commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the town (that's 150th birthday for you folks who have never lived through your region celebrating the b-day).

Horror Watch: The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

After visiting Austin's Sfanthor! sci-fi/fantasy/horror shop and classic horror wax museum, I began pondering the fact that I'm probably more familiar with Vincent Price as the amiable but possibly murderous roles in noir films like Laura and His Kind of Woman.  But I quite like House on Haunted Hill and House of Wax.  I've been aware of the cult following for The Abominable Dr. Phibes since I watched a few minutes of it on the TV at Vulcan Video circa 2001.  But, it just never crossed my path.

Despite promises to do otherwise (and go full in on a BluRay set), I picked up a cheaply priced DVD boxed set that included Dr. Phibes and which I'll, no doubt, be bothering you guys with for a while.

This movie is British set and produced, but for international appeal, they cast Price as our lead villain and one of my favorite actors of his generation, Joseph Cotten as one of the guys on Phibes' trail.