Saturday, December 31, 2011

What? No Regular Features This Weekend?

In honor of the new year, I won't be posting much this weekend. I know some of you will be disappointed to hear that but I trust you'll live.

With luck, I should be posting more next year.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Movie Quote of the Week

To God, there is no zero.
--Grant Williams, The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

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TV Quote of the Week

You know what I find interesting? If you lose a spouse, you're called a widow or a widower. If you're a child and you lose your parents, then you're an orphan. But what's the word to describe a parent who loses a child? I guess that's just too fucking awful to even have a name.
--Rachel Griffiths, Six Feet Under, “Life’s Too Short”

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pop Song of the Week: "Make the Weather"

The other official video from the all-too-short-lived group The Waitresses.

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Cinema Interruptus: Part I

One of these days, I'm actually going to finish watching this movie. I really am.

I just didn't have the heart to watch it in the movie theatre so soon after I got laid off from my job back in 2009. And more than two years later, I still find myself wanting to watch almost anything but this flick. Perhaps because I found its attitude toward the involuntarily unemployed and underemployed a tad smug. For what it's worth, Meryl Streep's character seemed sympathetic. But I suspect I should have waited until this movie came out on DVD before I first started to watch it.

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Movie Song of the Week: "If I Only Had a Heart"

Oh rats! The Tin Man did not get what he wanted for Christmas. I wonder what he's going to do about that?

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Doctor Who (The Second Series): “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe"

As much as I like River and Rory, I was kinda glad to see the Doctor spend his time in this year's Christmas special with a new cast of characters for a change. This time out he played the mysterious caretaker to an old mansion which was to be the refuge for a young WWII widow and her two children. The Doctor had planned all sorts of surprises for the two children but the biggest surprise of all came from something he didn't anticipate. I guess it was a good thing for him that those WWII widows tended to be so resourceful...

Despite the episode title, the episode did not quite draw on the Narnia books as much as you might think. True, there was a trip from the mansion into a mysterious wintry world that could have been the inspiration for Narnia and I must confess that there were times when I kept expecting to see a faun or two. But apart from that, there was not much else that would remind one of things Narnian.

In any event, the episode was still enjoyable and though I had a few nitpicks as to such things as whether the RAF would really use a middle-aged father of two to fly planes when piloting planes during wartime was traditionally a younger man's game and why actor Bill Bailey was shown in the previews when his role came so close to being a cameo, I still enjoyed it more than last year's Christmas special.

I guess part of me was in the mood for a crowd-pleasing episode after the more disappointing episodes of the past season and this episode filled the bill. Granted, had it been a bit more shameless in its attempts to tug at my heartstrings, I might have had cause for complaint. But fortunately, it was not.

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

¡Feliz Navidad!

Gabrielle Solis wishes you all a Merry Christmas and hopes that you won't let the fact that she's a fictional character keep you from having a happy holiday.

None of my regular features will be posted this weekend so until Monday... May my best wishes go out to all my faithful readers.

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Movie Quote of the Week

Go on! But if you do, remember this: you can count on getting just two votes, your own and that district attorney's out there.
--William Frawley, Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

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TV Quote of the Week

I don’t hate Christmas. I hate this Christmas.
--Jon Hamm, Mad Men, "Christmas Comes But Once a Year"

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

R.I.P. Václav Havel

Former Czech President and playwright Václav Havel, best known as the leader of the 1989 Velvet Revolution which put an end to the Czechoslovakian Communist regime, ended his last campaign Sunday at age 96.

He will be missed.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Yo Amo a Maria Conchita Alonso*

Just saying.

Por supuesto, certain recent events have made me love her even more. Thus ever to tyrantophiles.

* Spanish for "I ♥ Maria Conchita Alonso."

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas and Pop Song of the Week: "Rockin' Little Christmas"

Deborah Allen isn't going to settle for just some tinker toy this Christmas. Come to think of it, she probably doesn't have much use for any type of toy. Or so I hope.

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Random Thoughts

It is so depressing seeing a librarian referred to as a "customer service representive." Especially since most library patrons aren't necessarily likely to be flattered by being referred to as "customers."

It is even more depressing to wonder how many books my local library system got rid of in order to make room for its expanded internet system and its multiple DVD racks.

Let someone wish you a "Happy Holidays" instead of a "Merry Christmas" and certain Christian people will make a big deal out of it. Let a retail store deliberately expand its hours so that most of its staff has to miss out on Thanksgiving and those same Christians don't even bother to say a word.

How seriously should we take someone who talks about wanting to get rid of large corporations yet constantly talks about hanging out at Starbucks instead of the local library and buying their books through Amazon instead of the local indy book store?

The coming election won't hinge on how crazy Michele Bachmann looks or how weird Mitt Romney's religious background is. It will hinge on which candidate is most likely to do something that will improve this country's economy.

One does not have to be crazy to worry about the ever-increasing federal deficit but it certainly helps the current administration to think so.

Much of our country came from countries that could not afford to keep all their territory. Part of the reason they could not afford this is because they often ran up huge debts borrowing money to pay for foreign wars. And yet it is so fashionable to act clueless when Americans start to make a big deal about similar practices here in America.

It is no longer that big a deal to be mad at Wall Street. Even my conservative Republican mother is angry about the latest Wall Street scandals. What matters now is doing something constructive with that anger.

The real trouble with anarchy is that it is at best a temporary condition. Sooner or later it is replaced by a more ordered system such as, say, feudalism or fascism. Which means that those people who advocate anarchy are in reality a future dictator's best friends.

I am so glad that the Iraqi War is finally over. I just hope it stays that way.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Movie Song of the Week: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"

Wow! I had been warned that this song was a lot darker in its original context than in its more modern version. But I never realized how dark until just this week. Then again, this song was first written and performed in 1944, a year when many Americans had little reason to feel optimistic about the future due to World War II. And, of course, in view of recent events, it would be foolish of me to not feel a bit leery about enjoying myself in the wake of any holiday song -- especially since my siblings and I once had to move around Christmastime. But that's just me.

Please feel free to enjoy the coming holidays if you can.

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Yet More Sad News About September

I found out this weekend that the type of ulcer which killed my sister this past September was a perforated ulcer. Apparently not only can it be fatal if not treated by immediate surgery but it has also killed a lot of famous people such as actor Rudolph Valentino, writer Rudyard Kipling and musician Charlie Parker. So at least she died in good company -- though, of course, I would have preferred that she not had died at all.

She is going to be sorely missed this coming Christmas.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Trailer of the Week: Remember the Night (1940)

For Campaspe, the charming woman who first introduced me to this flick.

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Hey, I Remember This Show: The Alvin Show (1961)

Wow! Alvin and the Chipmunks have been around since 1961. I had no idea that such a great contribution to Western culture happened during the year of my birth.

On a more serious note, it should be pointed out that the tall guy with the moustache who keeps interrupting the action in this intro is cartoon character Clyde Crashcup, a would-be scientific genius who was often kept a hair's length away from disaster by his short and bald assistant Leonardo. He used to appear quite regularly on the original Alvin Show but since then, he has disappeared into cartoon oblivion -- unless you wish to regard that short, moustached guy who was regularly pestered by the Pink Panther as one of his distant descendants.

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Hey, I Don't Remember This Show: Alvin and the Chipmunks (1983)

Apparently there was an attempt to reboot the original Alvin and the Chipmunks series of the 1960s back in the 1980s that I don't recall. As much I loved the original Chipmunks show, I somehow doubt I was missing much by not seeing this version. Of course, YMMV.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Laugh of the Week: "All I Want for Christmas Is...Jews"

Oy, vey! Such grammar in that song title, Mariah. You really should be ashamed of yourself.

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Oh My! Is Francine Parker Having a Banner Year or What?

At this rate, it looks like poor Francine is going to be up there for the rest of the year but hopefully not through January. I thought about trying to take her down last month but I changed my mind after seeing that loaded rifle in her hand.

Oh, well. The way this year has been going, I find her presence there kinda reassuring.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Song of the Week: "Rudolph the Manic Reindeer"

An oldie but a goodie -- at least as far as my music collection is concerned. And yes, I know the video spells it "Rudolf" but the CD on which I first encountered this song spelt it "Rudolph."

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Movie Quote of the Week

Who the hell cares! Let’s go shopping first!
--Ken Foree, Dawn of the Dead (1978)

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TV Quote of the Week

Oh the noise. Oh the noise, noise, noise, noise. There’s one thing I hate, all the noise, noise, noise, noise!
--Boris Karloff, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mashup of the Week: “Buffyverse Footloose”

Hey, who would ever guess that the most memorable version of Kenny Loggins' classic title tune from Footloose would come from the world of Joss Whedon? Not that he actually created this video but it's pretty obvious that his work on Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer inspired it.

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Fantasy Quote of the Week

For the Dream-Master had set up His own picture, and full-length and in the most gorgeous colors, in His window. Choking and spluttering I saluted it, and then, still filled with laughter, I crossed the street once more and went inside, where I knew I would find Him. A man awaited me there -- not the one I sought, but one who understood Whom it was I had come for, and knew as well as I that His capture was beyond any thief-taker’s power. I knelt, and there, though not to the satisfaction I suppose of Baron H_______, Fräulein A_______, Herr R______, and the Count and Countess von V________, I destroyed the Dream-Master as He has been sacrificed so often, devouring His white, wheaten flesh that we might all possess life without end.
--Gene Wolfe, “The Detective of Dreams”

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pop Song of the Week: "The Curly Shuffle"

Who needs the Farrelly Brothers when you got this?

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Bringing Glass Into It Again

Hey, remember that broken window I had to deal with last winter?

It turns out that I was not the only person in my complex who had a window broken that day. A lot of other people also had windows broken in their condominium units -- and no one ever fessed up to doing it. The current theory was that it was just kids but even kids need to take responsibility for their actions -- especially when their actions affect others. And while one can argue that anyone who owns a condominium can well afford to replace a broken window every once in a while, that's not the point.

It's not like most people who live in my condominium complex get free window panes every time they ask for them. While the complex's maintenance people will do a lot of things for free, they generally balk at fixing broken window panes on the grounds that fixing such items is the responsibility of the condo owner. And while one can argue that most condo owners should be able to afford that, it should be noted that many people in my complex live on fixed incomes. Moreover, some people who own condos there sublet their units through Section 8 (i.e. the government pays their maintenance fee aka rent).

Even if this were not true, most condo owners don't put up with broken windows forever. Eventually if the police fails to locate the culprits who do such things and their windows keep getting broken, many of those who can afford to do so will move to a location where their windows are not as likely to be broken. Which mean the condominium complex will eventually be left to those residents who either won't or can't afford to move elsewhere.

Yes, it is tempting to dismiss this issue as the type of minor thing that only uptight senior citizens worry about but then again, this is how neighborhoods start going bad. Not because a lot of poor people move in but because a lot of people who don't really care about their neighbors start breaking stuff and making life hell for everyone else who lives around them, eventually forcing the more respectable residents to move and ensuring that equally respectable people won't move in and replace them.

It's not like breaking windows is a typical activity of the poor. I grew up around people who grew up poor and some of my best friends have firsthand experience of such a life. Though I grew up hearing many stories about poverty and discrimination, I was never taught that it was right to go around breaking other people's property -- for fun or otherwise -- and the notion that other people weren't taught likewise is depressing.

Even more depressing is the fact that my neighborhood's downward slide just didn't stop with broken windows. Just a few weeks ago when my mother and my middle brother came to visit me, my mother spotted a broken bottle on the sidewalk just a few feet away from my condo unit. Since the bottle was a malt liquor bottle, it seemed obvious that the bottle in question had been dropped by either an adult or a person who fancied himself or herself an adult. And yet even though the person who had dropped it lived in a condominium complex where many of the residents have children -- children who could have been easily injured by the bottle's broken glass while they were walking or playing on that sidewalk -- he or she did not consider it his or her responsibility to pick up that bottle's broken glass. In other words, they considered themselves mature enough to drink alcohol but not to clean up after themselves. And if I had not swept up that glass soon after my mother had told me about it, that glass would probably still be there today.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Movie Song of the Week: "Jack's Obsession"

Heh. This week I post yet another musical number from my favorite part of the Tim Burton Christmas trilogy -- a number in which Jack Skellington singlehandedly invents the Holiday Tree and announces the start of the Occupy Christmas movement.

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Science Fiction Quote of the Week

My only regret is that I have but one life to give for my Christmas present.
--William Tenn, "Child’s Play"

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Christmas Movie Songs

“All Alone on Christmas” -- Home Alone 2 (1992)
“Christmas” -- Tommy (1975)
“Happy Holidays” -- Holiday Inn (1942)
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” -- Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
“Jack's Obsession” -- The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
“Jingle Bell Rock” -- Mean Girls (2004)
“My Favorite Things” -- The Sound of Music (1965)
“Silver Bells” -- The Lemon Drop Kid (1951)
“Waltz of the Flowers” -- Fantasia (1940)
“What's This?” -- The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
“White Christmas” -- Holiday Inn (1942)

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Trailer of the Week: Dawn of the Dead (1978)

And you thought this year's Black Friday shopping sprees were bad.

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Hey, I Remember This Show: M*A*S*H

In honor of the late Harry Morgan.

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Hey, I Don't Remember This Show: AfterMash

Here we have not just one but all three intros from one of the few primetime TV shows of the 1980s that I never saw. Unfortunately for the cast, it was never as successful as the show to which it was so obviously a sequel. In fact, its existence has been eclipsed for most people of my generation by the more successful "spin-off" Trapper John, M.D..*

* Legally, Trapper John, M.D. is considered to be a spin-off of the movie M*A*S*H, which inspired the TV series of the same name, and not of the TV series itself. Frankly, I doubt few TV viewers really cared that much and in any event, the show pleased enough people to last a few more seasons longer than AfterMash so obviously somebody liked it.

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Quotes of the Year 2007

I actually wrote this back in December of 2007 but for some reason, I neglected to post it because I wasn't sure it would be all that relevant. Boy, was I wrong.

1. Don’t tase me, bro! -- Andrew Meyer, September 17, 2007.

Apparently this is becoming the most popular catchphrase in the year. Which would be nice if it was being quoted to establish solidarity with the dude who said it. But apparently it’s being quoted for the same reason Rodney King‘s “can we all get along?” was so often quoted -- to make fun of the person who said it. On one hand, I can understand this. No one likes a jerk, and it’s very tempting to see the person who said it as just another jerk who got his just desserts.

And yet one can’t help but find something ominous about the circumstances of that quote. After all, that guy who said it wasn’t harassing cheerleaders or schoolchildren. He was asking questions of a major Presidential candidate. And while he might not have all that polite in the ways he asked his questions, he didn’t deserve to punished so harshly for essentially doing no more than ask a few questions.

Yes, people will laugh at anything, and maybe I shouldn’t take the jokes surrounding that quote all that seriously. But then again, maybe I should. After all, if Americans have no shame about laughing at the tasering of a political dissident -- and let’s face it, that’s what the student in question is -- how long before they start laughing at far worse treatment?

2. Por qué no te callas? -- King Juan Carlos of Spain, to Hugh Chavez, November 10, 2007.*

Apparently this is becoming one of the most popular Spanish-language quotes of the year. It’s apparently appearing on T-shirts and everything.

Too bad that out of context, it comes across not as much as an effort to quiet a jerk’s insults but rather an attempt to silence free speech.

But, hey, that’s the Spanish tradition, right? Whenever someone tells us something we don’t like, our first response is not to debate them and prove them wrong. It’s to tell them to shut up.

Good thing we don’t yet have an attitude like that here in the United States, right? Er, right?

* Spanish for “Why don't you shut up?”

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Friday, December 09, 2011

Movie Quote of the Week

You have a heart of gold with other people’s money.
--Rod La Rocque, Beyond Tomorrow (1940)

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TV Quote of the Week

Thank you. I’ve no idea who I am, but you’ve just summed me up. So, do you accept my challenge? Or are you just a kalak pel kasa kree salvak?
--David Tennant, Doctor Who (The Second Series), “The Christmas Invasion”

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Thursday, December 08, 2011

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Mi Hermano y Mi Mamá!

It's my mother's birthday today. We probably won't celebrate it until Sunday but it is officially today.

It's also my youngest brother's birthday today. We won't celebrate that until Sunday as well.

It's also the Catholic religious holiday known as Feast of the Immaculate Conception but you all probably knew that.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

R.I.P. Harry Morgan

American actor Harry Morgan, most famous for his roles as Col. Sherman Potter on the TV series M*A*S*H. and police Officer Bill Gannon on the TV show Dragnet, turned in his badge today at age 96.

He will be missed.

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Christmas Movie Quotes

Francis De Wolff, A Christmas Carol (1951)
Michael Hordern, A Christmas Carol (1951)
Chico Marx, A Night at the Opera (1935)
Rod La Rocque, Beyond Tomorrow (1940)
Charles Winninger, Beyond Tomorrow (1940)
Margot Kidder, Black Christmas (1974)
Crystal Lowe, Black Christmas (2006)
Barbara Stanwyck, Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
Cary Grant, Holiday (1938)
James Stewart, It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Hugh Grant, Love Actually (2003)
Harry Holman, Meet John Doe (1941)
William Frawley, Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Alvin Greenman, Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Philip Tonge, Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Diane Keaton, The Family Stone (2005)
Michael Caine, The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
James Stewart, The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
Pedro Armendáriz, Three Godfathers (1948)

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Christmas TV Quotes

Christopher Shea, A Charlie Brown Christmas
Christopher Shea, A Charlie Brown Christmas
Tracy Stratford, A Charlie Brown Christmas
Joan Cusack, A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002) (TV Movie)
Adam West, Batman, “The Duo Is Slumming”
Susan Sullivan, Castle, “Deep in Death”
Danny Pudi, Community, “Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas”
David Tennant, Doctor Who (The Second Series), “The Christmas Invasion”
Kylie Minogue, Doctor Who (The Second Series), “Voyage of the Damned”
Jackie Vernon, Frosty the Snowman
Boris Karloff, How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Boris Karloff, How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Jon Hamm, Mad Men, “Christmas Comes But Once a Year”
Lisa Wilhoit, My So-Called Life, “So-Called Angels”
Lauren Holly, Picket Fences, "Pageantry"
Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek, “Amok Time”
Gillian Anderson, The X-Files, “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas”
Kristen Johnston, 3rd Rock from the Sun
Peter Vere-Jones, Xena: Warrior Princess, “A Solstice Carol”

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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Pop Song of the Week: "It's a Sin"

Speaking of sins, 'tis the season to indulge in Catholic guilt. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

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The Politics of Anger

It is the dark, dim period between autumn and winter and a not so young man's thoughts naturally turn to anger. Anger at all the shameless greed to which the latest TV ads pander. Anger at the fact that so many people are still unemployed this close to Christmastime. Anger at the indifference shown to our current economic situation by our nation's leaders. Anger at the way our police seem to be becoming more like the corrupt Latin American police we profess to despise and anger at the fact that no one seems to worry about such mundane problems as drug abuse, domestic violence and crime.

As usual, there are many on the Right and Left who would contend that the solution to all this is to get angry. And indeed, inspiring anger is usually the first step toward motivating people to seek political reform. But anger alone is not enough. Discipline is far more important for anger ultimately means nothing if it is not channeled in an useful direction.

Indeed, if the last two decades have proved anything, it is that anger is a bit overrated as a motivational force. For example, there was plenty of anger expressed by the Right over the Checkgate scandal in the 1990s –- yet little followthrough when it came to voting out the politicians responsible for that scandal. More recently, we saw plenty of anger expressed by the Left about the intrusiveness of the TSA scans –- but again, little effort to follow through with actual actions such as protests or boycotts.

Anger can be a powerful motivational force; that is true. But one can walk into any prison in this country and find plenty of people who are full of anger. And many of the people who are there end up there because of actions born of wrath. Moreover, you can walk into any battered women’s shelter and find plenty of people there who are victims of another person’s anger. Which means that anger can be a force for evil as often as it is a force for good and it certainly explains why Anger is numbered among the Seven Deadly Sins.

Control is the key. Not anger.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Desperate Housewives: “Putting It Together"

As this week's episode ends, poor Bree Van de Kamp (played by Marcia Cross) was talking to a dead person. If there has been one thing that has been established on this show and other TV programs, it's that talking to dead people is never a good sign.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Desperate Housewives: “Pilot"

My late sister got me hooked on this show and though I should hate myself for admitting it, I actually found it hard to resist its spell. Oddly enough, the series seems rather tame by cable standards. Only one of the four main characters is doing anything particularly sinful and even she eventually sees the error of her ways. I must confess that Gabrielle "Gaby" Solis and her husband Carlos are my favorite characters on the show thus far but the others have had their moments.

The one main flaw in the series I've seen in the series thus far is its inability to reconcile the cheery demeanor of the show's ghostly narrator with the tragic aftermath of said narrator's big secret. Not only does such a demeanor not make much sense in light of what we eventually learn about said character, but it is also difficult to watch the end of the first season and still think as highly of the narrator as the show's writers expect us to do. After all, many things can be forgiven in the name of friendship but there is a limit.

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Monday, December 05, 2011

Movie Song of the Week: "Christmas"

From the 1975 Ken Russell musical Tommy comes one of the most dysfunctional Christmas movie songs of all time. Who would have guessed back then that singer Ann Margret would prove to be such a big influence on future televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker?

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Sunday, December 04, 2011

Trailer of the Week: The Boy Friend (1971)

The late Ken Russell's tribute to Busby Berkeley -- among other people. Unfortunately, Twiggy -- the thin woman who played the female lead -- probably would need some introduction nowadays. The less said about her more recent film career, the better.

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Hey, I Remember This Show: The Lone Ranger (1966)

The more I learn about the real-life Texas Rangers, the more I regret spending so many hours watching this show as a child. If only more real-life Rangers had lived up to the ideal expressed in this show, I might feel less guilty.

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Hey, I Don't Remember This Show: The New Adventures of Zorro (1981)

Apparently Zorro is a very popular TV character -- unless, of course, you are a Chicano militant. But unfortunately Chicano militants don't have a whole lot of clout in the TV industry. Thus, a character whose stories were often described by Chicano writers as unrealistic depictions of the old American Southwest proved to be one of the few Hispanic characters to have more than one animated show made about him. Of course, that doesn't include the various live-action versions made about him as well.

This version is particularly impressive when you consider that the most popular pop culture incarnation of Zorro around this time was that silly George Hamilton movie Zorro the Gay Blade, a comedy which basically made fun of the Zorro movies.

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Friday, December 02, 2011

R.I.P. Ken Russell

English film director Ken Russell, most famous for such films as the 1975 musical Tommy and the 1980 science fiction film Altered States, yelled "Cut" for the final time last Sunday at age 84.

He will be missed.

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Thursday, December 01, 2011

Movie Quote of the Week

When policemen break the law, then there isn’t any law... just a fight for survival.
--Tom Laughlin, Billy Jack (1971)

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TV Quote of the Week

You may find that having is not so nearly pleasing a thing as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.
--Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek, “Amok Time”

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