Showing posts with label passing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label passing. Show all posts

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Ed Asner Merges With The Infinite




Actor and icon Ed Asner has passed at the age of 91.

Asner was a fixture of television - I remember him on reruns of The Mary Tyler Moore Show when I was a kid, just like everyone else.  But he was massively prolific.  In no way do I identify Asner with a specific role or era.  He simply was a fact of entertainment.  

The most surprising role I saw him take was as the voice of Granny Goodness on Superman: The Animated Series.  I still remember watching the cartoon when Jamie was in the hospital and her mom was reading a magazine, and she looked up at the TV and said "is that a guy voicing that woman?" and I said "that's Ed Asner" and she put down her magazine and took in some Fourth World mayhem.

He had some kind of relationship with comics and sci-fi, because he also voiced Daggett on Batman: The Animated Series, as well as voices on Spider-Man, Freakazoid and certainly Disney's Gargoyles.  The last thing I saw him in was in Season 2 of Doom Patrol.  

But the man played everything, up to and including Santa Claus in holiday staple Elf.  Just one of those actors that when he showed up, we'd be pointing at the TV and saying "is that Ed Asner!?"  Always good, always spot on in whatever he did, and seemed like a delight of a man.

I'm very sorry to see him go.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Richard Donner Merges With the Infinite

 

Director Richard Donner has passed at the age of 91.

Donner has directed and produced a tremendous number of films that impacted my generation, from The Omen to Lethal Weapon to Scrooged to Goonies to, of course, Superman: The Movie.  

Of course, closest to our hearts here is and will be Superman: The Movie, one of my first movie memories, and - curiously - the movie that has perhaps had the most impact on my life of any film.  And I can name a handful of people who can say the same.  While film is a massively collaborative medium, and here at the Signal Watch we only pay attention to auteur theory in certain cases, it was Donner who shepherded that movie and vision of Superman as a friend, a pal, a genuinely good person here to assist us, to the big screen - and in the period of cinema that was perhaps more genuinely and honestly cynical than the market-driven edginess of today.  The Salkinds bank-rolled the thing and Reeve and Kidder were themselves, but Donner's the guy who brought it together and put it on the screen.


Wardrobe may become outdated, a few cultural touchstones no longer work, but I can tell you... I've sat in more than a half-dozen theaters as an adult watching Superman unspool before always very mixed audiences (the matinees are always best attended and most fun), and this film still works, full stop.  People laugh, they cheer, they ooh and aah at this movie.  And they absolutely, totally buy into the idea of Superman, himself.  

Donner gets left out of the USC-explosion conversation and the new wave of Hollywood blockbusters.  He's older than Spielberg and Lucas, maybe didn't get the press and adulation they did, but he kept a hand in film and television straight through today, moving on from direction when so many of his contemporaries faded.  He hadn't directed in some time, working as a producer, but he had a head for story and character and how they intermingled that's undeniable, and necessary to make a film that has a chance of working.  I mean - go look at what Donner did with Scrooged some time.  That's a remarkable movie and lives on in the cinema landscape in a way dozens of other 80's comedies and endless Christmas Carol adaptations haven't managed to accomplish.  

And, of course, he was great in interviews - a sort of chummy, baritone-voiced fellow who made it sound like work he was delighted to do.  Maybe not delving into a lot of discussion of art and artistry, but what would make a film actually work.  

I will surely miss knowing he's out there, but he left a terrific legacy.  Here's to one of the greats.  Godspeed.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Ned Beatty Merges With The Infinite




Actor Ned Beatty has passed at the age of 83.

Beatty looked for all the world like she *should* have been a character actor.  But, instead he played a wild array of characters.  I mean, you've seen Network.  

If you've never seen the 1990 version of Captain America (yes, it's a feature length "movie" of sorts), Beatty is the one competent actor in the whole thing and you wonder what he thought of the final product, if he bothered to ever watch it.  

But as Otis in Superman: The Movie, he's provided me with no shortage of laughs.  It's a perfectly studied comedic part, and he's hilarious whether you're 3 or 43.  

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Goodbye to Scout

 


Today, very, very suddenly, we lost Scout, our dog of about 11 years.

I am definitely still processing what happened, and I expect the waves of ugly crying will keep hitting me, but in some ways, right now, anyway, I'm taking enormous comfort in that she suffered so little.

Just last night, she was doing exactly her usual routine.  She hung around while we were working in the kitchen and whenever we looked her way, she came in for a hug and then was looking for treats.  The night before she was playing with me in the yard while I grilled dinner, doing her favorite thing - which is picking up a leaf and throwing it in the air so we would cheer for her.  

This morning, she suddenly seemed not to be doing well after 9:45 or 10:00, and Jamie asked me to come down from my office and see.  I've learned not to rush dogs to the vet for every cough or twitch, but after watching her for a bit, I joined Jamie in her concern - but believed the issue was pain related to her legs or hips.  We had dropped her off at the vet by 10:50, and couldn't go in due to COVID restrictions.  Shortly, they told us that Scout had several tumors on her spleen, and one had burst - leading to the pain and discomfort.  At about 1:40, we spoke with the vet.  She would require major surgery, which might not go well.  And she was suffering kidney failure.  

We've done the "heroic efforts" route before, but I now believe the best thing - and hardest thing to do emotionally - is to not let your pet spend their final days, weeks, months or years in bewilderment and discomfort.  Had a few details been different today, we would have approved the surgery, we would be worrying about Scout recuperating at home.  But the cascade of what was coming meant a life in which I knew Scout would need surgeries and other treatments, and we'd likely lose her at any point over the next months, during which she would be unhappy. 

I knew she'd gone for a long walk yesterday, seen friends (socially distanced) over the weekend that she hadn't seen in a year, had seen our families in recent weeks... and we'd had so many adventures this year (I slept downstairs with her during the freeze), we wanted her final days to be her good days.  Her last mealtimes included grilled chicken, hamburger, and whatever else were eating.  She was living a good dog life.  It was the life we wanted for her every day, not just when she was ill or we were worried about her.

It's hard to explain - because all dogs are motivated by love and food, but Scout's entire personality was built around love.  She just wanted to be nearby, and available for hugs and not to cause a fuss.  She hardly ever barked, and mostly regarded people with cautious curiosity, and eventually deciding "okay, we're friends".  She flatly did not understand negative reinforcement - and I kicked myself every time I would get snippy at her for doing something that she shouldn't, because now there were bruised feelings and much apologizing that had to occur before she felt safe and secure again.  

The thing she absolutely understood and gave was love and kindness.

Scout and me among the firewheels


Maybe ten or more times a day as I puttered around the house, she'd slide up to me and walk between my legs so I'd lean down and give her pets for a while.  Sure, we went on lots and lots of walks, and she knew the neighborhood well, and would tell you which path she wanted to go on.  

But she never figured out "fetch".  In fact, some wire got crossed when Jamie tried to teach her how to play with Lucy, who was a retriever and never needed a lesson.  Scout wasn't interested in chasing a ball so much as picking one up and tossing it around, or pointing out "yes, here is the ball, I have found it".   Eventually, one of us saying "ball" became the only time she would bark.  Happily and enthusiastically, because we cheered her for it.  And she forgot the word was ever tied to her toy.*

We adopted Scout in the year after we lost Melbotis.  Lucy needed a pal, I generally believe in a two-dog house, and so we went to the ASPCA and walked around for maybe ten minutes when I saw her sitting at the end of her kennel.  I squatted down, and she popped up and came over to say hi.  Cautious optimism in all things with this dog.  In a room full of dogs banging off their cage doors, she was extremely gentle and sweet, and I figured: this dog will be good for Jamie. 

But, really, she was good for me.  Mel was brilliant by dog standards, and Lucy was full of personality and demanded attention.  Scout just needed love.  And treats.  And to play.  She learned our routines and insisted upon them - up to and including 10:00 PM walks in the summer, once the sun was down.  Which kept me moving.  But it's hard to say all the ways in which living with something that doesn't understand anger or raised voices makes you better, yourself. 

When we lost Lucy about three years ago, we figured Scout would be lost without her.  Lucy was the big sister and Scout followed her around.  But we quickly found out Scout was okay - she just turned up the attention she'd always given us, and seemed pleased not to have to compete, kind of coming into her own.  And, not knowing how long we had with her, that was okay.

I'll miss her gentle, polite spirit and earnest expressions.  I'm going to miss her delight at seeing me, and running right into my shins whenever I opened the door as she sought pets.  And how happy she would be when she'd slide between the coffee table and the love seat to get pets from Jamie while I rubbed her ears and face from the sofa.  I'll miss her prancing in the yard when we'd go out to spend time with her, or playing tag with her.  And, of course, the long neighborhood walks when she'd insist on one direction or another.  And in the last year when her hearing started to go, burying my face in the fur at her shoulders and telling her she's a good dog, making sure she could hear.  

It's not easy.  It never is.  I can't tell you how much I'll miss her.  

*our first dog, Melbotis, however, thought "toy" meant anything he particularly liked, including Jamie, as it turned out when one day I said "go get a toy" and he wandered over to Jamie.








Thursday, March 25, 2021

Jessica Walter Merges With the Infinite


 

Jessica Walter has slipped the bonds of our existence and gone on to be amazing in another dimension.  

We're stunned and heartbroken at this news.  

RIP to a queen.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Mary Wilson Merges With The Infinite


Mary Wilson of The Supremes has passed.


Growing up, The Supremes were put on a pedestal by the media, and my mother herself was a fan.  While it was not non-stop Supremes music in our house, I was aware of her opinion on them.  And, even by middle school in the mid-80's, I was pretty well aware of their pop culture stature and place in American music.  

Just before COVID hit, SimonUK and I went to go see Mary Wilson at a small theater here in Austin.  Our seats were terrible, off to the side and partially obstructed by the piano.  Still, I was excited.  Hilariously, I'd found out days before that my parents were also going to be at the show, and sure enough - there they were.

Anyway - show starts, and Mary Wilson does a number, maybe two, then looks over at me and Simon and says "there's better seats right up front".  So.  We got up and moved, and I sat front row center for Mary Wilson, and I am here to report - it was one of the best concert experiences of my life.  

That was less than a year ago.  

I am stunned to learn of Wilson's passing.  She seemed a fraction of her 70+ years, was lovely, hit every note and kept the room in the palm of her hand.  I was semi keeping track of her for when I expected she would return.  

As shocked and saddened as I am to hear she has passed, I also am sure of her legacy and place in music history.  

We'll miss you, Mary Wilson.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Christopher Plummer Merges With the Infinite

 


Actor Christopher Plummer has passed at the age of 91.  

Look, it's hard to get through Plummer's filmography, because he's been working for decades upon decades, and has been in so many memorable films - and I think he's amazing in the recent Knives Out.

But I also credit him with making me realize actors could be many things.  In 1987 or 1988, when I saw the comedic reboot of Dragnet on VHS, I remember snapping to "that... that's Christopher Plummer" as we were watching the movie.  I mean, I only knew him from Sound of Music and as a "serious" actor.  Seeing him in something so goofy, and what they were doing to leverage his gravitas, was kind of fascinating to me as a kid.  Anyway - it taught me a little something about actors and their range, and their desire to be more than one thing.  I won't say at age 12 or 13 that I stretched the idea beyond that - but over the years, watching him appear in film and after film, pulling off whatever was in front of him, was amazing.  

Of course, I didn't know at the time, either, he had entered this phase of his career and was just as likely to appear in serious drama as, say, Starcrash.  (He's actually very good in Star Trek VI).

But, man, what a life.  He'll be missed.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Cloris Leachman Has Merged With the Infinite


Very sad to report that Cloris Leachman has passed at the age of 94.  

The woman was an absolute delight and in too many movies that I liked for me to name all of them.  

Glad she was with us so long, and was on our screens for so long.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Phil Spector Passes





In this era it's hard to remember what it was like not knowing every crazy thing someone famous did or had done, and  in a pre-social media era, it was maybe easier to conflate madness and genius.  And Phil Spector managed to leverage his gigantic cultural shadow to protect himself from consequence, terrorize and generally make miserable some of the foundational acts of American pop music.  

Spector is perhaps one of the original producers to earn a name beyond the music industry, and is definitely the longest sustaining name of a producer people still recognize.  

Look, I love the Wall of Sound stuff.  Back to Mono was one of the first big outlays I ever made for a boxed set when I couldn't afford it and somehow made it work.*  The Crystals, Ronnettes, Darlene Love... totally my thing.  But I'm also well aware of the nightmare Spector made their lives.  

In the end, he murdered actress Lana Clarkson - then managed to dodge jail for a few years and was eventually convicted.  

Since learning of his various and frequent abuses, I've not been able to reconcile Spector's work in the studio with what he did in his private life.   By the time the news about Clarkson's murder hit, I knew enough about the guy that I wasn't that surprised.  I just thought he would have more self-preservation instinct than to actually draw that kind of attention to himself.

Anyway - you don't have much choice but to sometimes separate the artist from the art.  But, man, is it hard to do so sometimes.  


*back then skipping meals was always an option for saving money - I could just be dizzy for a bit til dinner

Monday, January 11, 2021

Julie Strain Has Merged With the Infinite



Actress and model Julie Strain has passed.   As Strain had been ill for some time, false reports of her passing circulated last year, but it seems to now be true.

If you don't know who she is - she was a B-movie actor who also modeled.  At 6'1", she was very popular as the subject of fantasy and sci-fi artists, and was a con fixture not so long ago.  She was married to Kevin Eastman for a spell (yes, that Kevin Eastman) and was the model for the lead in Heavy Metal 2000.


best to Ms. Strain's family and friends.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Dawn Wells Merges With The Infinite

 



In an era of very few channels and endless repeats of syndicated shows 20 years old, Wells' portrayal of Mary Ann loomed so large in the minds of multiple generations that any  reference to "Mary Ann" was immediately understood (and continues so today with people born before a certain year).  

Godspeed, Ms. Wells.  


Monday, December 7, 2020

Chuck Yeager has merged with The Infinite



When I was eight years old, my dad took the family to see The Right Stuff.  I was a spacey little kid interested in Star Wars and fantasy, but we also were read stories of real-life heroes, from Jackie Robinson to Benjamin Franklin to Louis Pasteur.  I couldn't remember a time when I hadn't known about my father's interest in aviation and NASA.  We lived less than 90 minutes from the Johnson Space Center, and visited frequently.  

But by 1983, the names of the Mercury mission crew were no longer household names.  Let alone Chuck Yeager.  But as much as I admired those Mercury astronauts, and somehow got my head around what the movie was doing at age 8 - I think the person my brother and I asked about the most afterward was Chuck Yeager.  

My idea of who Yeager is will forever be enmeshed with the portrayal of Yeager by Sam Shepard on the big screen (oddly and sadly, Shepard died before Yeager, passing a few years back).  When I think of the heroes of post-WWII America, it's hard for me to not to put the idea of Chuck Yeager strapping himself into jet after jet and surviving, including that day when he got in the Bell X1.  Ignoring the very real possibility of death, he pushed boundaries willingly - gladly, in fact.  In a small, strange rocket with his wife's name painted on the nose.

 I've read articles about him, seen him interviewed, and followed him on social media when he participated for a while.  The first thing I look for at the Smithsonian is always the X1.  The carefully crafted myth-making of cinema is just that  - it's not who the man was, even when it is very much what he was and what he did.  

I'm glad he lived long enough to see himself become a legend, and a hallmark of American grit and courage.  I'm fine with Yeager being more myth than real in my mind. 



Sunday, November 29, 2020

David Prowse Merges With The Infinite

 


Actor and bodybuilder David Prowse has passed at the age of 85.  

Prowse is most famous for his role as Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, providing the frame upon which the intimidating Vader outfit was built.  And, of course, performing physical actions - that's him trying to get Luke to join him on Bespin.

We also know Prowse from a few other appearances, including Vampire Circus and A Clockwork Orange.    

Like Mayhew, Daniels and Baker - Prowse was still able to receive recognition for his work despite never having his face revealed.  He embraced his role as Vader during filming as well as the decades since.  

I am very sorry he has passed - he provided some of my earliest and fondest memories of modern mythologies.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

PODCAST: "Robin and Marian" (1976) - a Connery Tribute PodCast w/ SimonUK and Ryan


Watched:  11/01/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Richard Lester


The Signal Watch is sad we've lost a film icon in Sean Connery, so SimonUK and yours truly check out one of Connery's less discussed but curiously interesting films - where he plays a middle-aged Robin Hood returning to Sherwood Forest after 20 years away. A meditation on legends, aging, love, what drives us and what we hang onto. 
Music
Robin and Marian Suite - John Barry


Sunday, November 8, 2020

Alex Trebek Merges With the Infinite


I can't remember any version of Jeopardy! that didn't feature Alex Trebek.  I know that by 1987-ish and the time I was in 6th grade, we all had our Alex Trebek impersonations, or at least knew how to imitate his cadence when delivering an answer/ clue.  

While I was a Wheel Watcher and had an odd affinity for "Sale of the Century", Jeopardy! was clearly the thinking-person's gameshow - because it was one of the last surviving quiz shows on TV.  And, it was hosted by the thinking-person's gameshow host.  Trebek ran a tight ship - foolishness was not creeping into the world of Jeopardy!.  Demographic-pleasing plebes were not going to find their way onto the contestant's stand - he needed people who could answer a medley of trivia questions, and not lose their cool.  

Trebek grounded the show with a cool, dry, breeziness that was polite, maybe a tad formal, and was unimpressed with credentials even when touting those of his guests.  He was far more impressed if you made a run on the board.  And, his giddiness (which amounted to a small smile at the best of times) shown through during returning champions weeks where he could count on a battle royale instead of watching middle school librarians fall by the wayside early in the game.

Most game show hosts you kind of just shrug at - goofy entertainers with a gift for hucksterism.  But Trebek outsurvived almost all of them (Sajak is still doing his thing, along with Vanna).  And he did it with a certain poise and sincerity about the show that gave gravitas to 30 minutes daily of people being asked random-ass questions for money.  That could have been dumb, y'all.

Jeopardy! existed before Trebek, and it will exist after Trebek.  But it will not be the same without him.  Nor will the television landscape as I've known it my entire life.  And, yes, I will be quietly very judgey of whomever tries to fill Trebek's podium.

Here's to a well deserved rest and may he never have to hear a response in the form of a question ever again.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Diana Rigg Merges With the Infinite


Diana Rigg, actor and icon, has passed at the age of 82.  

Rigg was a cult favorite in the U.S. and a bonafide star in the U.K., and would have been well remembered just from her work on the UK whack-a-doodle adventure show The Avengers as Emma Peel - which laid the foundation for about 10,000 imitators and arguably indirectly to the most popular iterations of Black Widow in the Marvel Universe.  She also has the most solid of Bond-girl credits as Traci, the woman who Bond would marry in On her Majesty's Secret Service (and a favorite of the PodCast).  Most recently she'd been on Game of Thrones (which I didn't watch, but I know she's a fan favorite).  

She, of course, did so much more and was just one of those actors it seems everyone could agree upon.


Friday, August 28, 2020

Chadwick Boseman Merges With the Infinite



Chadwick Boseman, actor, has passed at the age of 43.  I am absolutely heartbroken.

Boseman played T'Challa in Black Panther as well as in Civil War, Infinity War and Endgame.  Since I was a kid, I've enjoyed the character of Black Panther, but Boseman brought T'Challa to life - and, by extension - the world and promise of Wakanda.

In interviews, Boseman struck me as a good man who we were lucky was the person selected for the role.  Like a Christopher Reeve or Chris Evans, he seemed humbled by what the role meant, and understood his role within the role.  A fine actor, certainly, but you could see something in Boseman that existed on its own and shone through the costume and CG. 

I was ready to start following his career and was excited to see what he'd do next as an actor or wherever the world might take him.

And, of course, I don't think many of us knew he was sick. 

I don't have much more to say.  43 was far too young and far too early for him to go.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Wilford Brimley Merges With The InFinite



Wilford Brimley, a man I think it's safe to say all of us had a multi-faceted fondness for, has passed.

From the NYT.

I can't say how I became aware of Wilford Brimley.  I knew who he was by the time I saw Cocoon in the theater.  Maybe he was doing oatmeal commercials by then.  I can't say.

He was always a lot younger than he looked - he was only 50ish when they filmed Cocoon.  He would have been about 45 when he did The Thing.  One of his craziest coups was playing the Postmaster General of the USPS for about one minute on Seinfeld and doing that thing he'd done in The Firm where Grandpa-is-low-key-threatening-me that was bizarrely terrifying.

The last few years, Brimley discovered twitter and was hilarious and a cheerful spot.





Sunday, July 26, 2020

Olivia de Havilland Merges with The Infinite


Olivia de Havilland has passed at the age of 104

With an astounding career that spanned the Golden Age of Hollywood into the post-studio system Hollywood, Olivia de Havilland was the last, living player from some of the great pictures of the early sound era.  She was in Gone with the Wind, but I prefer her and the movie of The Adventures of Robin Hood, in which she co-starred as Maid Marian. 


Just last week, during my lunch break, I watched her in part of Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

She had remarked in her last decades that being one of the last living actors from a bygone era of Hollywood was like being from a place no one else could remember.  That always struck me as remarkably sad.

She'd lived in France for the past six decades, returning to the US for various events and film roles. 

Here's to a grand actress.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Regis Philbin Merges with The Infinite



How odd.  I always thought of Regis Philbin as.. a permanent fixture.  He'd seemed sort of ageless all his years on TV. 

But he seems to have passed

For the kids - Regis was a sort of gadfly of the media industry who had his greatest success with "Regis and Kathie Lee" back in the 90's, a softball morning show where he drank coffee and met celebrities and clearly had no idea who they were or what they were pitching.  He was a great default guest for late-night talk shows (I always suspected he was on speed dial when they had a cancellation) because he'd been a sort of Jiminy Glick for so long that he had tons of crazy stories. 

Anyway, he was someone I always found pretty funny.  He had a certain joie de vivre that made him a kick to have on.  And, when he hosted the game show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, our own Nathan Cone got to meet him as a contestant.