Thursday, February 26, 2009

R.I.P. Philip José Farmer

Renowned science fiction author Philip José Farmer died yesterday. Author of The Riverworld Series and more classic science fiction stories than I can mention, he was a great influence upon me and many other young science fiction fans.

He will be missed.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Big Hollywood Turn Me Loose and Set Me Free

I was going to post a comment on John Nolte's Big Hollywood site last night until I remembered that Lent starts today and that I promised myself I would give up silly political arguments for Lent. Which means I probably won't be commenting on any site between now and Easter.

Besides, as much as I love many of the old movies that are often discussed on Big Hollywood -- and it should be obvious by now that I have a great deal of affection for old movies -- and as much as I sympathize with certain conservative values -- I love motherhood, America and apple pie as much as the next person -- I don't quite feel comfortable with many of the opinions expressed on that site. There are some conservative sites -- such as Rod Dreher's Crunchy Con site -- that seem quite open to discussion, even with people who disagree with them, as long as said disagreements are expressed in a civil manner. And then there's Big Hollywood.

Plus when you have a grandmother who was dispossessed by the Mexican Revolution and former classmates who were exiled to the US by the fall of Saigon, you get really, really tired of Americans who are always kvetching about how horrible it is to live in a country where not everyone agrees with their political opinions. Americans who would have you believe that they are worse off than people in Cuba and China just because their views are not fashionable. No one likes a person with a perpetual martyr complex -- especially an unearned martyr complex -- and it is hard to have an honest discussion with such a person. I don't like such people when they argue on behalf of the left and I don't like such people when they argue on behalf of the right.

So I am giving up the Big Hollywood site for Lent. Wish me luck.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Movie Song of the Week: “Lullaby of Broadway”

This probably will be the last movie song I post before Easter so it might as well be a doozy. From 1935's Gold Diggers of 1935, it's a Busby Berkeley number that aims to be the ultimate Busby Berkeley number.

The first time I saw it, I couldn't help but wax morbid and imagine it to be a vision from the afterlife. But I guess one could just as easily interpret it to be a dream sequence. After all, not too many dead people smoke cigarettes. Or do they?

Anyway, the number starts here:


And ends here:


I hope you all like it.

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Movie Quote of the Week

Come on, Oscar. Let’s you and me get drunk.
--Bette Davis, The Star (1952)

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TV Quote of the Week

Evidently, quality of wits is more important than quantity.
--Derek Jacobi, I, Claudius, “Fool's Luck”

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Song Quote of the Week

I'm through with stocks and bonds,
I'd rather spend it all on blondes...
--Sam M. Lewis, “If I Ever Get a Job Again”

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Wait, There Was An Awards Show Last Night?

Really? An Oscar ceremony in late winter just doesn't seem right.

Anyway, it's not like I've seen enough new movies lately to have any favorites among the nominees.

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The Jane Austen Spinoff Least Likely to Get Written

1. Hyde and Prejudice. The inevitable crossover between Jane Austen and Robert Louis Stevenson.

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It Is a Dream I Have...

Every so often, I would have this dream in which I was in bed but I was not asleep. I would get up to get a glass of water or something and then suddenly I’d find myself in this hallway. And my condo does not have a hallway.

Or else I would wander over into the living room and then realize I had accidentally wandered into someone else’s condo. But whenever I would try to retrace my steps, I would have trouble finding the way back to my place.

Sometimes the condo dweller was a girl. Another time it was an elderly couple. I rarely meet anyone I know which is just as well. The few times I have seen people I knew in dreams, I’d half-expect them to mention meeting me in their dreams the next time they saw me. But so far no one has done so.

So far, that is…

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Movie Song of the Week: “Big Spender”

And here's Shirley MacLaine's Charity Hope Valentine with the 1969 version of “Ten Cents a Dance.” Okay, I'll admit I like this song too and I can never have too many kind words for the choreography of Bob Fosse. Plus, this is one of my favorite songs from 1969's Sweet Charity, which was Bob Fosse's directorial debut. (There is one number I like better but I'll post it at a future time.)

I'm not too crazy about certain portions of this movie but I do own a copy on DVD so I obviously have some fondness for it. However, I'm still embarrassed by how old I was before I figured out what this song really meant. I mean, I got the obvious wordplay of lyrics like “hey big spender, spend a little time with me” right away when I was a kid but the more adult implications of the song just flew right by me. Which makes me wonder what today's children will make of today's music.

Anyway, I hope you all like the song.

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Pop Song of the Week: “Ten Cents a Dance”

I'll probably be posting less songs with the advent of Lent next week. Not that I consider these posts to be all that sinful but I originally started this blog to give me an opportunity to do a lot more writing than I'm actually do at the moment. And not hunting down songs to post every week should give me time to do that. I'll probably ease up on the quotes, too. We'll see.

In the meantime, I'm posting one of my favorite songs from the 1930s, 1930's “Ten Cents a Dance” from the High Hatters. It's a nifty tune in which lead singer Welcome Lewis -- no, I didn't make that name up -- manages to sum up the downside of being a taxi dancer far more succinctly than Shirley MacLaine's Charity Hope Valentine managed to do in an entire movie. I originally encountered the song on an old CD of 1930s tunes that I recently purchased and I liked it so much I tracked it down on YouTube. I hope you all like the song and don't mind the less-than-interesting visuals.

And God bless those taxi dancers!

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Movie Quote of the Week

Every age is the same. It's only love that makes any of them bearable.
--Malcolm McDowell, Time After Time (1979)

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TV Quote of the Week

The people I love are not distractions.
--Milo Ventimiglia, Heroes, “Distractions”

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America, C'est les Autres

You know what the biggest problem in America is right now? Other people.

Apparently, if the Internet is to believed, it's other people who are responsible for racism, it's other people who are responsible for the mortgage crisis, it's other people who are responsible for global warming and it's other people who are responsible for the drug problem.

Of course, no one ever admits to being one of those other people. And even if they did, there's no guarantee that they would change. Plus it's very hard to control the actions of other people or at least to control them as well as we can control our own actions.

Yet it sure is nice that we are all agreed on the root cause of all our problems. Especially since it spares us the trouble of having to examine any responsibility we might have for such problems.

Of course, there's always the chance that someday we might actually get around to solving all those problems I just mentioned. But undoubtedly, those other people would just mess things up again...

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Cuentos de Mi Id I, II and III (Stories of My Id I, II and III)

“A Day in the Glamorous Life of an Entertainer”
“A Scream Within a Scream”
“A Specter Is Haunting Gotham”
“After the Apocalypse”
“Balcony Scene”
“Blanca”
“Bloodwaters”
“Caged”
“Casa de Cambio”
“Christina's World”
“Does the Word Morlock Mean Anything to You?”
“Dragon Winter”
“Eating Disorders”
“Final Vengeance”
“Ghost”
“Love Among the Runes”
“Love in Bain”
“Mariana: Warrior Film Critic”
“Overheard at the Door of a Cottage on the Shore of a Dark Scottish Lake”
“Really Cool Air”
“Skeleton Girl”
“Suburbia”
“The Appointment”
“The Beckoning Dark One”
“The Chamber”
“The Dark Angels”
“The Eyes of a Revolutionary”
“The Girls of Winter”
“The Harrowing”
“The Last Day of Summer”
“The Liar”
“The Living”
“The Meeting”
“The Mission”
“The Mourning After”
“The November Country”
“The Second Time”
“The Separation”
“The Surprise Party”
“The Tocayo”
“The Ultimate Monster”
“To Taste the Flesh Not Yet Deceased”
“Victor”
“Werewives of London”

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Science Fiction Quote of the Week

"Love" is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.
--Jubal Harshaw in Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger In a Strange Land

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Bad Joke of the Week

Love hurts -- but only if you do it right.
--Woody Nazareth

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Movie Song of the Week: “Maria”

On a lighter note, it's one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite movie musicals, 1961's West Side Story.

By some odd coincidence, my first official girlfriend was named Maria, and no, I didn't choose her on that basis alone. In fact, because Maria was her first name and she chose to be called by her middle name, I didn't even realize her name was Maria until I saw her full name written out on an envelope. Of course, she didn't look much like Natalie Wood but she did deserve to have a song like this sung about her.

Anyway, I hope you all enjoy the song.

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Pop Song of the Week: “Take the L”

Because sometimes I can't get enough of Martha Davis and her old group the Motels. This, of course, isn't the cheeriest song I could pick but I listened to it enough during my younger years that I can't really pass up the opportunity to post it here.

I was going to post an even darker song this week but my life has been dark enough as of late.

I hope you all enjoy the song.

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Movie Quote of the Week

You people, with your green drinks and your parties and your subterfuges! You're all playing at love. One minute her, the next minute someone else, flit, flit, flit! Well, I'm not playing. Love is not a game.
--Frances McDormand, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008)

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TV Quote of the Week

I’m romantic, not crazy.
--Ana Ortiz, Ugly Betty, “Something Wicked This Way Comes”

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Science Fiction Quote of the Week

End of movie soon. No chance to be James Arness and get the girl. But plenty of time to be the best James Whitmore ever.
--Howard Waldrop, “All About Strange Monsters of the Recent Past”

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Mr. Kruger Lives for a Film


No, no, no. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is not supposed to be a good movie. It just came out last year and says nothing about GWB or the Iraqi War so it can't possibly be a good movie.

Besides, its star Frances McDormand is best known for Coen Brothers films like Blood Simple and Fargo. She is not supposed to be all that good playing the type of British nanny that Emma Thompson could play in her sleep -- much less successfully holding her own playing opposite the unbelievably cute Amy Adams.

As you might have guessed, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is one of the few films that came out last year that I actually fell in love with. Okay, that film with the lovesick robot was not all that bad but I was actually surprised by how much I liked MPLfaD because I had gotten so used to being disappointed by most modern movies that MPLfaD actually surprised me.

Of course, it could be argued that MPLfaD isn't really a modern movie but a period piece based on a novel from the 1930s. True, it shows a bit more nudity than one would normally expect from a story set in the 1930s. Then again, after seeing the type of stuff that goes on in pre-Code films, I can't help getting the feeling that the movie might have been more at home in the early '30s than in the late '30s which is its actual setting.

In any event, the plot of this movie seems simple enough. Miss Pettigrew -- the character played by Ms. McDormand -- finds herself dismissed from a job as a nanny for the umpteenth time and then tricks her way into playing social secretary to a young actress (played by Amy Adams, natch). Her duties include aiding her young employer to juggle the three men who are apparently competing for her employer's favors: a would-be patron, a would-be spouse and an actual sugar daddy. Along the way Miss Pettigrew gets a taste of her employer's upper-class lifestyle while trying her damnedest to avoid being revealed for the imposter she is. Things get complicated -- and then they get uncomplicated.

I could say more but I rather not risk spoilers. So suffice it to say that as long as movies like this keep getting made, it seems a little hard for me to repeat the old movie cliché about how they don't make them like that anymore. Because every so often, a film like this proves that they do.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

R.I.P. James Whitmore

Another old pro I grew up watching on the small screen passed away last Friday. Most noted for one-man shows in which he played Will Rogers and Harry Truman, Whitmore was also famous for his roles in a number of films ranging from Battleground to The Shawshank Redemption. I knew him best as the gruff older doctor on the old '70s sitcom Temperature's Rising but that was hardly his most famous role.

He will be missed.

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Movie Song of the Week: “Honeymoon Hotel”

It's been over a year since my breakup with my former bride-to-be and theoretically I should be staying away from songs like this. But it's the humor of songs like this that helped me get over that breakup so I'll go ahead and post this anyway.

“Honeymoon Hotel” is from one of my favorite movies -- 1933's Footlight Parade -- and while I can't say it's my absolute favorite song from that movie (that title would go to “Shanghai Lil”), it is my absolute second favorite. And not necessarily for the reason you think.

There's a lot I can say about this number but I don't wish to post any spoilers. However, I can't resist noting how many double entendres this number gets away with. Apparently those people in the 1930s weren't as prudish as we like to think they were. But then this is from a pre-Code movie.

I hope you all enjoy it.

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Pop Song of the Week: “Society's Child”

A performance by 16-year-old Janis Ian of her 1966 hit “Society's Child” on the old Smothers Brothers TV show.

Yes, times have changed since this song was first released. Interracial couples are more common now and they no longer get the automatic scorn that they used to get. After all, one member of the Supreme Court is the male half of an interracial marriage and, of course, the current U.S. President is the child of an interracial marriage.

But after hearing a Hispanic friend speak quite recently of the trouble her niece has been having since she started dating an African-American, I can't help but think that they haven't changed as much as they should have.

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Movie Quote of the Week

The truth is, I thought it mattered -- I thought that music mattered. But does it? Bollocks! Not compared to how people matter.
--Pete Postlethwaite, Brassed Off (1996)

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Science Fiction Quote of the Week

He’s no doubt as superstitious and illiterate as she claims. But he’s not incompetent. He held my hand when I was dying. He told me not to be afraid. And I wasn’t.
--Kivrin in Connie Willis's Doomsday Book

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All the TV Shows That I Have Seen

1. Burn Notice: The First Season.

An USA cable series about an ex-CIA agent who does good deeds for a fee while trying to figure out why he was blacklisted from the CIA. It sounds like The Equalizer: The Next Generation but it is much better than that. The series also stars Gabrielle Anwar as a "trigger-happy ex-girlfriend" and Bruce Campbell as a former comrade-in-arms.

2. Eureka: The First and Second Seasons.

A TV series produced by the SciFi Channel but unlike most SciFi productions, this show is actually very good. Colin Ferguson stars as a former U.S. marshal who gets drafted to become the new sheriff of a small town that specializes in government science projects. Easily the best science fiction program I've seen since Firefly though considering how few such shows I've seen since then, that's not saying much.

3. Firefly: The Complete Series.

A Joss Whedon show that really is as good as you've heard. Advertised as a Western in space but way more complicated than that. More successful on DVD than on the small screen and the obvious inspiration for Serenity.

4. Heroes: The First and Second Seasons.

A show about -- surprise, surprise -- superheroes that started off promisingly at the beginning of the first season and then went downhill. The second season almost made me give up on the whole thing in disgust.

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Cuento de Mi Id

“Dragon Winter”

December. The month when faces redden and fingers bleed. It is then that the were-dragons first appear, trailing vapors from their open mouths like steam flowing from a locomotive.

All month long, they have tried to suppress the change with lotions and creams, but it is no good. The scales still appear.

On the day before Christmas, one can see them running through the snow, chasing or perhaps being chased by invisible adversaries.

When they finally reach a private spot in the wilderness, they strip off their clothing and abandon their human forms like empty egg shells.

Dragons are warm-blooded creatures; any paleontologist will tell you so. They fear not the cold for they possess a far greater heat within.

Some were-dragons sink into dormancy, choosing to hibernate till spring when they will regain their normal form. Others choose to use their talents in other ways. Darker ways. Many a tale is told in many a land and many a time about the deeds of the two-legged dragons. Some say they even challenge the sun.

It is a contest they cannot win, of course, and yet each year, the summer grows shorter and the winter grows longer.

The Norsemen believed that a wolf would someday devour the sun. They were wrong.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Lethal Legacy

When I was diagnosed with diabetes a few years ago, I knew full well that I wasn't the only one in the family who had had it. After all, one of my late uncles had suffered from it too.

But I didn't know until a few years after my diagnosis that my late maternal grandfather had had it too. And so did some of my paternal cousins in Detroit. Had I known all this, I'd like to think that I would have arranged my life differently and avoided getting the disease. But then again maybe I would have gotten it anyway.

Anyway, I had long feared that my siblings were at risk for the disease as well. And last week, my worst fears came through. Not only was my middle brother diagnosed with a similar condition to my own, he was also revealed to be suffering from kidney problems and high blood pressure.

His doctors are attempting to control his condition through diet and medication but my brother is not quite as optimistic as he should be. He keeps asking me for advice and the only advice I can give him is this: listen to your doctors.

My late father died before he waited too long to consult a doctor about his health problems. I don't want my middle brother to suffer the same fate. Yet I know from experience how easy it is to react to bad news on the medical front by going into denial. When I was diagnosed with a thyroid problem, I went into denial. When I was diagnosed with diabetes, I went into denial.

I like to think I'm smarter now but when I think of the time I wasted not acting like I should because I was too proud to see myself as a victim of such-and-such medical condition...

Anyway, I have since discovered that my younger sister also has a thyroid problem. Moreover, heart trouble seems to run in the family as well. My paternal grandfather died of heart trouble and if not for an operation I had around the age of 12, I'd probably be dead of a congenital heart condition as well.

Thus far my mother and my youngest brother appear to be healthy and I pray they stay healthy for a long time. But I always thought my middle brother would stay healthy as well. And I can't help but find it curious that though my family has long prided itself on being more open with each other than most families, certain medical facts don't seem to get shared that often among us. Perhaps because it's hard to relay information that one would rather not admit knowing in the first place.

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