Wednesday, July 31, 2013

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Richard Rodriguez!

Born July 31, 1944.

He is a Mexican-American writer best known for his first book The Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez. He is also one of the first Mexican-American writers I encountered who did not encourage me to view Mexican-Americans as a social problem. He is more than a little unpopular with the liberal left due to his criticism of bilingual education and affirmative action though I find his criticism of these policies to be more sympathetic towards their aims than the usual conservative rhetoric on these subjects. Then again, it is quite unlikely that his frequently expressed sympathy for homosexuals and illegal aliens endear him that much to cultural conservatives. ¡Qué lástima!

If nothing else, his own essays on gay rights and family values did more to make me question my own attitudes on these subjects than any other source I can currently think of. And I would like to think that is a good thing.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Comic Book Image of the Week

An interesting take on the age-old "war" between religion and science -- from the now-defunct comic book series Ex Machina.

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Pop Song of the Week: "Shuttin' Detroit Down"

John Rich's 2009 song keeps becoming more and more timely.

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Movie Song of the Week: "The Inquisition"

This week I post Mel Brooks' classic take on Spanish history, Catholic anti-Semitism and Esther Williams. Not that that last subject is necessarily related to the first two but still...

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Movie Quote of the Week

No man walks alone from choice.
--Humphrey Bogart, Sabrina (1954)

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TV Quote of the Week

Don't you see, Kate? Love does not follow the rules that we lay down. Love goes by the heart, not the calendar.
--Frank Cady, Petticoat Junction, "Pop Goes the Question"

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Creature Comforts: “The Circus”

On paper, this show's concept must have seemed funny: put real people's voices in the mouths of animated animals and see how funny even the most banal sentiments become.

Unfortunately, the concept grows old very quickly and proves little more than the fact that even something as funny as talking animals can become unfunny in the wrong hands.

The sad part is that director Nick Park -- creator of the 2000 movie Chicken Run and the Wallace and Gromit shorts -- usually produces work that is far more entertaining. I am guessing that this show was produced in one of his more experimental phases.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

Masters of Horror: “Pro-Life”

Director John Carpenter dedicates an entire episode to the daringly controversial proposition that aborting a demon's child may not be the worst thing to do in this world.

Along the way, he also helps develop a key plot device for the recent horror movie The Purge.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

The Dick Van Dyke Show: “It May Look Like a Walnut”

This is one of the creepiest TV episodes I ever saw as a child. Indeed, as a child I found it to be way creepier because I was too young to realize how much of it was supposed to be a joke.

If nothing else, it is worth seeing just to see actor Danny Thomas dressed up like John Steed in 1963 -- long before most people in America ever heard of The Avengers.

Plus actress Mary Tyler Moore (who plays Laurie Petrie) gets to have one of the most memorable entrances that any TV character has ever had. You'll know it when you see it.

As for the actual plot... Rob and Laurie Petrie stay up and watch a bad horror movie about a race of alien invaders obsessed with walnuts. The obsession proves contagious -- even with people who did not see the same movie. Is it all a joke? Or something far more sinister...

The episode was made so long ago that its writers still considered it a novelty to reference the then-popular anthology series The Twilight Zone. Indeed, part of the fun of this episode lies in seeing how often they reference that show without actually referring to it by name.

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Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión

The Wild Wild West: “The Night of the Inferno”

The Wild Wild West used to be one of my favorite shows in high school thanks to syndicated black-and-white reruns that used to be broadcast every weekend on a late night program called Night Moves. (And yes, that program used the Bob Seger song of the same name as its theme.) Eventually I got the chance to watch the series all the way through and my enthusiasm diminished but I still have fond memories of the show's earliest episodes.

However, this episode -- the first of the series -- was not one of those episodes.

The episode begins with U.S. Secret Service agent James West (played by Robert Conrad) getting arrested on a charge of desertion, only to find out that it was a setup ordered by President Ulysses S. Grant himself. His mission: travel to the American Southwest in order to track down a dangerous Mexican revolutionary named Juan Manolo. Along the way, he runs into his partner Artemus Gordon (played by Ross Martin) as well as King Tut (aka Victor Buono) and Bob Newhart's wife (aka Suzanne Pleshette).

This episode is shamelessly politically incorrect by today's standards but it is difficult to think of any spy show this side of the Atlantic that was not. Besides, it is not likely that even the most liberal writers of the era would have found a way to make a Mexican revolutionary sympathetic to a predominantly Anglo-American audience -- though after seeing West comment on the size of a Chinese individual, one has to wonder just how ignorant of other ethnic groups this episode's writers presumed its white viewers to be to think that they would find this unusual.

Oh, well. At the very least, the episode gives today's viewers an interesting look at the way TV writers thought back in 1965 (the date of this episode's initial airing). And hope that today's TV writers might have learned better since then.

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

R.I.P. Dennis Farina

American actor Dennis Farina -- best known for such movies as Get Shorty and such TV shows as Law and Order -- closed his last case on July 22 at age 69.

He will be missed.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Charisma Carpenter!

AKA Charisma Lee Carpenter.

Born July 23, 1970.

As I have noted before, she is apparently a mystery woman who is described on some sites as being of Mexican and Cherokee descent and on others as being Cherokee, Irish, Scottish and Spanish on her mother's side and French and German on her father's side. If that is not confusing enough, IMDB lists the latter description of her ethnic ancestry and then goes on to describe her as being of Mexican descent. She had admitted to speaking a little Spanish, though -- and more importantly, she does not deny her Hispanic ancestry though she is usually cast in white non-Hispanic roles.

She is best known for her role as Cordelia Chase on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and she recently appeared in the 2012 movie The Expendables 2 and the TV series The Lying Game. She is probably the closest thing BtVS ever had to a full-time Hispanic character and of course, she played the snobby girl who rarely got along with any of the more popular characters on the show.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Edward Hopper!

Born July 22, 1882. Died May 15, 1967.

He was an American painter who specialized in urban and rural landscapes. More often than not, his paintings had a hint of sadness in them, if not of a story waiting to be told. His most famous work was the 1942 painting Nighthawks (seen below).

My late father used to have a book of paintings by him. He is not my favorite artist but my appreciation for his work has grown in the last few years. It does not hurt that he was one of the last American painters I have come across who actually believed in painting recognizable images. Then again, I was never a big fan of abstract art.

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Pop Song of the Week: "Stacy's Mom"

I would like to think that all straight men have fantasies about older women in their younger years but this is ridiculous.

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Movie Song of the Week: "The Dog Song"

Xavier Cugat and su amiga Betty Reilly sing to his chihuahua in this scene from the 1948 Esther Williams film On an Island with You, a song that is just perfect -- I hope -- for all the chihuahua-lovers in my life. I hope that you all like it too.

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Trailer of the Week: Machete Kills (2013)

The one movie I am looking forward to this year.

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¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Diana Rigg!

AKA Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg.

Born July 20, 1938.

She is an English actress best known for her iconic role as Emma Peel in the 1960s TV series The Avengers. She also played Tracy Bond -- James Bond's girlfriend and spouse -- in the 1969 movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service. She has also appeared in such films as The Assassination Bureau, The Hospital and Theatre of Blood. Most recently she co-starred in the third season of the HBO series Game of Thrones as well as in an episode of Doctor Who entitled "The Crimson Horror". She also had her own sitcom on American TV back in the 1970s but for some strange reason, nobody seems eager to remember that.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Quote of the Week

To what do I attribute my success? I think, simply, I'm different. I'm not beautiful, but I have lovely eyes and I know exactly what to do with them. Even though the public thinks I'm a pretty wild girl, I'm really not. I'm just me, Lupe Vélez, a simple and natural Lupe. If I'm happy, I dance and sing and act like a puppy without a care. And if something angers me, I scream, and sob, and I feel a little better. Someone named that "personality". Personality is nothing more than being to other people what you are to yourself. If I tried to look and act like Norma Talmadge, the great dramatic actress, or like gorgeous Corinne Griffith, movie´s aristocrat, or like Mary Pickford, sweet and gentle Mary, I would be nothing more than an imitation. That's why I only want to be me, Lupe Vélez.
--Lupe Vélez

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Kristen Bell!

Born July 18, 1980.

She is the former star of the TV series Veronica Mars and one of the most famous Polish-American actresses currently working in Hollywood. I like her TV work a lot better than her movie work but I have hope that she will someday make it big in the movies as well.

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¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Lupe Vélez!

AKA María Guadalupe Villalobos Vélez.

Born July 18, 1908. Died December 14, 1944.

She was once one of the most famous Mexican actresses ever to perform in the United States. Today she is rarely heard of outside of film buff circles. Sic transit gloria!

She was also the star of the Mexican Spitfire series, the first movie series to feature a marriage between a Mexican woman and a white non-Mexican man. Said series is often described as a forerunner of such transcultural comedies as I Love Lucy.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Esther Friesner!

AKA Esther Mona Friesner-Stutzman.

Born July 16, 1951.

She is one of my favorite fantasy writers. Among other things, she wrote a series of novels about a young wizard long before anyone heard of that Harry Potter chap. She has also edited a few short story anthologies including the infamous Chicks in Chainmail series. She mostly specializes in humorous stories but she can be very, very serious when she wants to. Unfortunately, I suspect she is far better known for her Star Trek novels than for the work based on her own ideas. C'est la vie.

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¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Ginger Rogers!

AKA Virginia Katherine McMath.

Born July 16, 1911. Died April 25, 1995.

She was an American actress who virtually defined the word "female dancer" during the short time she dominated the musical genre. Even today, she is identified with the art of dancing the same way Marilyn Monroe is identified with the idea of feminine beauty.

Ginger Rogers is stll pretty memorable today even when she is not dancing, and whenever I see her in a comedy, she rarely fails to make me smile. Of all the movie stars I have "discovered" in the last thirteen years, she is one of my all-time favorites.

Contrary to what the above picture might make you think, she is not really a Latina. Nor is she even a white Hispanic. However, I still think she looks cute in that outfit regardless.

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Pop Song of the Week: "Welcome to the United States"

Thank God America's immigration policies have become more sensible since Frank Zappa died, right?

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Science Fiction Quote of the Week

X –- This day when it had light mother called me a retch. You retch she said. I saw in her eyes the anger. I wonder what it is a retch.
--Richard Matheson, "Born of Man and Woman"

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Fantasy Quote of the Week

How quickly one accepts the incredible if only one sees it.
--Richard Matheson, I Am Legend

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Friday, July 12, 2013

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Michelle Rodriguez!

AKA Mayte Michelle Rodriguez.

Born July 12, 1978.

She is an American actress of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent who was raised in Texas, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and New Jersey. She has appeared on the TV series Lost and in such movies as Girlfight and The Fast and the Furious.

As my youngest brother recently pointed out, she used to be notorious for playing the type of character who ends up dying before the last reel. However, after seeing her in Machete and Battle: Los Angeles, it seems obvious that the lifespans of her characters are actually growing longer. Gracias a Dios!

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¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Andrew Wyeth!

AKA Andrew Newell Wyeth.

Born July 12, 1917. Died January 16, 2009.

He was one of the last American realist painters to be well-known to the general public. One of his most famous paintings is the 1948 work known as Christina's World (pictured above), which I first discovered in sixth grade art class. To this day, it is one of my all-time favorite paintings. It does not hurt that my late father used to own a book of Wyeth paintings as well.

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Movie Song of the Week: "America"

Since we seem to have an American theme today, why should I not repost this?

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Movie Quote of the Week

How do you feel knowing that this country doesn't belong to you any longer?
--Cole Hauser, Higher Learning (1995)

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TV Quote of the Week

America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.
--Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom, "We Just Decided To"

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

R.I.P. Richard Matheson

American author Richard Matheson, best known for his novel I Am Legend and for writing the short story which would later become the basis of the made-for-TV movie Duel, became legend on June 23 at age 87.

He will be missed.

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R.I.P. James Gandolfini

American actor James Gandolfini, best known for playing the male lead character Tony Soprano on the HBO TV series The Sopranos, was finally made an offer he could not refuse on June 19 at age 51.

He will be missed.

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R.I.P. Slim Whitman

American country singer Slim Whitman, best known for the way his music helped to end an alien invasion in the 1996 Tim Burton movie Mars Attacks!, finished his Martian-fighting career on June 19 at age 90.

He will be missed.

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Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Quote of the Week

Intellectual brilliance is no guarantee against being dead wrong.
--Carl Sagan

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Thursday, July 04, 2013

¡Feliz Cuatro de Julio!

Happy Independence Day to all my loyal readers. I hope you all are enjoying the holiday.

Who knew that my late father's birthday would merit such a big celebration?