Tuesday, December 31, 2013

¡Adios, 2013!

I do not claim to know what's ahead in the new year but I would like to think that it is not this.

Here's wishing the best to all my loyal readers in 2013. May you have a safe celebration tonight!

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Monday, December 30, 2013

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Eliza Dushku!

AKA Eliza Patricia Dushku.

Born December 30, 1980.

She is the former star of the Joss Whedon TV series Dollhouse as well as one of the interesting actresses to appear in the 2000 movie Bring It On. She also played Faith the vampire slayer in the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Arnold Schwarzenegger's daughter in the 1994 movie True Lies. For an relatively unknown actress, Ms. Dushku certainly gets around -- though it must be said that she usually wears a lot more than she wears in the above photo.

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Friday, December 27, 2013

Movie and TV Song of the Week: "One Tin Soldier"

In honor of the late Tom Laughlin who used this song in the film Billy Jack. Or if you prefer, in honor of the late Sonny Bono, who once used this video on The Sonny and Cher Show. Or in honor of the season, you might want to skip those two and dedicate it to the Prince of Peace whose birthday we celebrated this week.

Whatever you do, try not to hate your neighbor this week. Or next.

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Movie Quote of the Week

I am the "who" when you call, "Who's there?"
--Danny Elfman, The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

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TV Quote of the Week

Five, six, seven, eight.
It's the doctor at the gate.
--Jasmine Breaks, Doctor Who (The First Series), "Remembrance of the Daleks"

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

R.I.P. Ray Price

American country singer Ray Price, best known for such songs as "For the Good Times" and "Heartaches by the Number", sang his last tune on December 16 at age 87.

He will be missed.

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

¡Feliz Navidad!

Anita Page wants to make sure I wish a Merry Christmas to all my loyal readers. May your holiday be blessed.

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Books for a Deep and Dark December

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Christmas Movies We Will Never See

1. Indiana Jones and the Lost Corpse of Christ.

2. Miracle on Elm Street.

3. Nativity Scene of the Living Dead.

4. Strip Club Santa.

5. A Corleone Christmas.

6. It's a Wonderful Death.

7. The Sweatshop Around the Corner.

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Christmas Song Lyrics We Will Never Hear

1. "In the midnight hour, he cried, "Ho, ho, ho!
With an Elvish yell, he cried, "Ho, ho, ho!"

2. "Ground control to Major Claus,
Ground control to Major Claus..."

3. "The lunatic is on the roof...
the lunatic is on the roof..."


Christmas TV Specials We Will Never See

1. A Clothing Optional Christmas.

2. The Richard Dawkins Christmas Special.

3. The William Butler Yeats Christmas Special.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Fucking Christmas!

As if a fire and a snowstorm this month were not bad enough, now one of my neighbors is facing eviction today. Her landlord already had people removing her furniture from her condo unit when she found out about it and she had to quit work early just to make sure that her son -- who was at home, being watched by one of her cousins -- was okay and that her furniture did not get stolen.

Ironically, the neighbor in question had just started a new job this month and she had already received her first paycheck last Friday. She was working hard to earn enough money to pay her bills but unfortunately for her, it was not hard enough to appease her landlord.

Of course, if the landlord had been patient enough to either accept installment payments or else wait a little longer, he might have gotten all his back rent from the neighbor in question. However, I guess he did not want to risk being perceived as playing favorites.

Anyway, it is depressing to see yet another real-life sad story unfolding before my eyes this close to Christmas Day. No wonder people get so cynical during the Christmas season.

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

R.I.P. Joan Fontaine

British-American actress Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland -- also known as Joan Fontaine and best known for her Oscar-nominated role in the 1940 Hitchcock film Rebecca and her Oscar-winning role in the 1941 Hitchcock film Suspicion -- finally encountered the first Mrs. de Winter on December 15 at age 96. (Fortunately for Ms. Fontaine, Mrs. de Winter was a fictional character.)

In any event, Ms. Fontaine will be missed.

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R.I.P. Tom Laughlin

American actor and director Thomas Robert "Tom" Laughlin, best known for portraying the action hero Billy Jack in a series of four movies, gave in to the ultimate bully on December 12 at age 82.

He will be missed.

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Movie Quote of the Week

Christmas is not "clothing optional" this year -- we have a guest.
--Diane Keaton, The Family Stone (2005)

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TV Quote of the Week

Santa Claus stuff is okay. Anything religious is bad.
--Lauren Holly, Picket Fences, "Pageantry"

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Fantasy Quote of the Week

It was the Yuletide, that men call Christmas though they know in their hearts it is older than Bethlehem and Babylon, older than Memphis and mankind.
--H. P. Lovecraft, "The Festival"

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I Not Only Survived Surviving Christmas -- I Also Lived to Laugh About It

I'll admit it. I did not have very high hopes for the 2004 film Surviving Christmas the first time that I watched it and I watched it with low -- very low -- expectations. Ben Affleck was not exactly my favorite actor, Christina Applegate did not exactly have a good record when it came to picking movie scripts and the very idea of a Christmas movie being released in October just seemed weird.

Yet for some reason I found myself chuckling during this movie far more than I had expected to. I am not saying that this movie is in any danger of replacing Miracle on 34th Street as my favorite Christmas movie or even nudging its way onto my list of all-time favorite holiday movies. Yet I found Ben Affleck a lot easier to take as an obnoxious rich guy (the role he was born to play?) than he was as a superhero in Daredevil and the film did a good job as long as it attempted to be an outright farce. Some elements like the cyber-porn subplot were in questionable taste and the fashion shoot sequence -- obviously meant to be a sendup of Glamour Shots -- needlessly humiliated one of the main characters in a way that was not at all funny. But the film did not really get into trouble until it tried to take its own plot seriously.

Let's face it. Some plots are not meant to be taken seriously, and the plot of this movie -- which involves a young rich executive attempting to create his own Christmas from elements of other people's lives and literally paying people to pose as his own relatives -- was definitely one such plot.

I doubt I will be remembering this film any more fondly than I do similar mediocre holiday fare like Jingle All the Way. But for a Christmas flick that was released out of season, it was not that bad. Besides, I can't help thinking that the most obvious pitch for this movie involved the success of the movie Scream. After all, if a Halloween movie like Scream can hit it big at the box office despite being released in December, then why can't a Christmas movie being released in October achieve similar results?

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Friday, December 20, 2013

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Sandra Cisneros!

AKA Sandra Laura Cisneros.

Born December 20, 1954.

She is one of the most well-known Mexican-American writers still working today. There was a time when I was genuinely inspired by her even though I did not always agree with her political opinions. However, the older I get, the more I tend to concentrate on what I have in common with her and not what divides us.

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Song Quote of the Week

A winter's day,
In a deep and dark December;
I am alone.
--Paul Simon, “I Am a Rock”

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Spanish Christmas Words

1. acebo -- holly.
2. adornos de Navidad -- Christmas decorations.
3. aguanieve -- sleet.
4. amigo invisible -- literally, "invisible friend"; Secret Santa.
5. aquella Navidad -- that Christmas.
6. arándano rojo -- cranberry.
7. árbol de navidad -- Christmas tree.
8. auto de Navidad -- Nativity play.
9. Belén -- Bethlehem.
10. belén -- nativity scene.
11. belenismo -- the art of making nativity scenes.
12. belenista -- maker of nativity scenes.
13. bola de navidad -- Christmas ornament.
14. cactus de navidad -- Christmas cactus.
15. calcetín navideño -- Christmas stocking.
16. calendario de adviento -- advent calendar.
17. campanas -- bells.
18. casa de pan de jengibre -- gingerbread house.
19. cascabeles -- sleigh bells; jingle bells.
20. cascanueces -- nutcracker.
21. cena de Navidad -- Christmas dinner.
22. cuesta de enero -- January belt-tightening; post-Christmas crunch.
23. chimenea -- chimney.
24. diciembre -- December.
25. duendes navideños -- Christmas elves.
26. el Día de los Santos Inocentes -- December 28; Spanish equivalent of April Fool's Day.
27. el Día de Reyes -- January 6; the traditional day of gift exchanges in Spanish-speaking countries.
28. época navideña -- Christmas time; Christmas season.
29. esfera navideña -- Christmas bauble.
30. espíritu navideño -- Christmas spirit.
31. estrella -- star.
32. ¡Felices fiestas! -- Season's Greetings!
33. ¡Feliz Navidad! -- Merry Christmas!
34. flor de Nochebuena -- poinsettia.
35. hielo -- ice.
36. historia de la Navidad -- Christmas Story.
37. hombre de nieve -- snowman.
38. incienso -- frankincense.
39. invierno -- winter.
40. Jerusalén -- Jerusalem.
41. la Noche de Reyes -- Twelfth Night.
42. los Reyes Magos -- the three kings; the three wise men.
43. luces de Navidad -- Christmas lights.
44. mirra -- myrrh.
45. misa del gallo -- Midnight Mass.
46. muérdago -- mistletoe.
47. Navidad -- Christmas.
48. nieve -- snow.
49. Nochebuena -- Christmas Eve.
50. nochebuena -- poinsettia.
51. ornamento -- ornament.
52. Papá Noel -- Father Christmas.
53. papel de regalo -- wrapping paper.
54. pastel de frutas -- fruitcake.
55. pesebre -- manger; crib.
56. ponche de huevo -- egg nog.
57. portal de Belén -- nativity scene; crèche.
58. ramo de Navidad -- Christmas wreath.
59. regalo de navidad -- Christmas present.
60. reno -- reindeer.
61. saludos de Navidad -- Christmas greetings.
62. tarjeta de Navidad -- Christmas card.
63. temporada navideña -- Christmas season.
64. trineo -- sleigh.
65. tronco de Navidad -- Christmas Yule log.
66. vacaciones de Navidad -- Christmas vacation.
67. vela -- candle.
68. villancico -- Christmas carol; carol.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Fire and Ice

Just a few days before my mother's birthday, we had our first big snowstorm here in Dallas. The ice was so thick the day afterward that I had to wait until mid-afternoon (i.e., 3:30 p.m.) before I could get my car free enough of ice to go anywhere. In fact, it seemed like it took twenty minutes just to get my car to the point where I could open a car door. And when I went to the gas station to get some gas, I had to use one of my car keys to scrape the ice off the edges of the little door that covered my gas cap because there was so much ice on it that it would not respond to the automatic gas cap door switch inside my car.

Then again, it could have been worse. My mother, who lives in a suburb of East Plano, lost all power in her house for several days. Fortunately, she had a fireplace but still. My novia also lost power in her apartment but fortunately, her outage only lasted a few hours, most of which she spent under the covers with her two dogs.

Meanwhile, a neighbor of mine admitted the next day that he had fallen down some stair in a building across the street from his condo unit because neither the complex manager nor the maintenance crew had taken the trouble to deice the stairs in our complex.

Even yours truly was not exempt from disaster. When I went out driving on the Saturday before my mother's birthday, I had my first fishtail of the year when my car slid out of control of Forest Lane. Fortunately, traffic was light and the other cars stopped in time to avoid hitting me but the incident very easily could have had a less happier ending.

And speaking of unhappiness, a far greater disaster happened last night when a fire broke out in one of the buildings of my condominium complex. As far as I know, no one was hurt but only because the people who dwelt in that building were evacuated in time. At least one family I know is staying at a local hotel at their landlord's expense. Where the other families who lived in that building are staying, I do not know at this time.

In the meantime, the way to that part of the complex is being blocked by police cars which means everyone who lives beyond that point can not drive their vehicles either in or out of that area, even if their home is not in the area that was struck by fire. Even if you depend on a ride to get to work and back, you have to walk past the blockade to get to a point where your ride can pick you up since no vehicle save for ambulances, fire trucks and police cars are getting through at this point. Granted, that problem is minor compared to the fate of those whose homes are now ashes but still it is not a problem I would wish to trade for any of the troubles in my life.

In any event, it is supposed to rain tomorrow, and with any luck, that should put paid to any burning embers that still linger in the half-burned building. I hope to have happier news later in the week.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

R.I.P. Peter O'Toole

Irish actor Peter James O'Toole -- most famous for the title role of the 1962 movie Lawrence of Arabia as well as his appearances in such films as Becket, The Lion in Winter, The Stunt Man, and My Favorite Year -- strode across his last train into the sunset on December 14 at age 81.

He will be missed.

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Kelley Armstrong!

Born December 14, 1968.

She is a Canadian writer who has been writing fantasy novels since 2001. She is most famous for the Women of the Otherworld series, a series of fantasy novels about supernatural characters who struggle to fit into human society. She has also written two crime novels and the Dark Powers series.

She is obviously one of my favorite contemporary writers and I have yet to write a novel by her in which I was totally disappointed. Then again, there is always a first time...

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Quote of the Week

What is interesting to me is having the vision so early and yet feeling so inferior to everybody else in the business for years and years because I believed I had to be subservient to anybody who wasn't Latino. Before West Side Story I was always offered the stereotypical Latina roles. The Conchitas and Lolitas in westerns. I was always barefoot. It was humiliating, embarrassing stuff. But I did it because there was nothing else. After West Side Story, it was pretty much the same thing. A lot of gang stories.
--Rita Moreno, "Rita Moreno overcame Hispanic stereotypes to achieve stardom", The Miami Herald, September 14, 2008

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Why Bother Watching the Watchmen?

The 2009 film Watchmen was not as bad as I feared but not as memorable as the original graphic novel that inspired it. Some have described this as perhaps the best possible adaptation we could hope for on the big screen and sadly I think they are right. I suspected that the film would be in trouble when the pre-credit sequence showed a masked figure with a distinctive costume killing a key character and then the opening credits showed yet another key character wearing almost the same type of costume that the killer wore (only without a mask), thus blowing any suspense the movie might have had about whom the mystery killer was. It did manage to pull off some memorable scenes despite all that but I suspect the scenes that will be best remembered all took place in those opening credits I just mentioned.

The biggest problem with the movie was that director Zack Snyder seemed all too eager to depict the world that Watchmen creator Alan Moore made -- a world in which superheroes really existed and changed human history -- yet he seemed not quite capable of convincingly portraying the negative side of such a world. As a result, his movie's characters never came across as believable as their graphic novel equivalents and many scenes that should have been quite dramatic -- such as the one in which the superheroes (aka the Watchmen) break up a riot -- seemed more than a bit static. Here and there the movie showed promise -- thus the memorable scenes mentioned above -- but as a whole, it was a big disappointment.

Oh, well. At least the original source material has not changed.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Sheila E.!

AKA Sheila Escovedo.

Born December 12, 1957.

She is a famous Mexican-American singer and musician who once played with the artist formerly known as Prince. She is most famous for such songs as "The Glamorous Life" and "The Belle of St. Mark" -- as well as for appearing in a music video with singer Lionel Richie, among other things -- but she should be famous for a lot more some day.

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¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Karl Edward Wagner!

Born December 12, 1945. Died October 13, 1994.

He was a popular fantasy and horror writer who died way too young. He once described his work as "Robert E. Howard on acid" and his Kane series has managed to receive praise even from writers who aren't normally fans of the sword and sorcery genre. He won the World Fantasy Award for his horror novella "Beyond Any Measure" and the British Fantasy Award for his short story "Neither Brute Nor Human". Up until his death, he also edited the Year's Best Horror Stories anthology series.

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Movie Quote of the Week

Snow is like a wide sea. One could go out and be lost in it, and forget the world... and oneself.
--Greta Garbo, Queen Christina (1933)

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TV Quote of the Week

I never eat December snowflakes. I always wait until January.
--Tracy Stratford, A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

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Beware the Angel Atop John Constantine's Tree

I will always have a fond feeling for the 2005 thriller Constantine if for no other reason that it was the movie that introduced me to Tilda Swinton and made me realize what a great actress she could be, even in a potentially silly role. Her triumph seems even greater when you consider the fact that the character she plays in this movie -- that of the angel Gabriel (or at least an angel called Gabriel) -- was originally created as a male character -- and yet Ms. Swinton does not balk at playing the character as if it were a man even though she is, of course, a woman. And, as a result, she is very easily the most watchable thing in this movie.

Alas, the rest of the film is not that perfect, and poor Keanu Reeves seems especially miscast as the cynical title character. Granted, it's not all Reeves' fault that his performance is less than satisfying. After all, the character that he plays -- freelance detective John Constantine -- was originally created by English comic book writer Alan Moore to be a mysterious Englishman who investigated the supernatural and looked like the English singer Sting. He originally made guest appearances in the DC/Vertigo comic book series Swamp Thing but eventually became popular enough to earn his own title called Hellblazer. Basically, the character is about as English as John Steed or Doctor Who so it always seemed silly to "re-imagine" him as an American character. But that is what Hollywood did. (And judging from the recent Elementary series, Americans are still reinventing British pop culture icons as Yanks. ¡Qué lástima!)

Anyway, Moore himself was supposed to be quite disappointed in the movie version and I can not blame him. A lot of silly stuff occurs in this movie and the filmmaker makes little attempt to apply the logic one would expect from a mere comic book. Actress Rachel Weisz is wasted playing two twins who get caught up in a supernatural conspiracy that only Constantine -- natch -- can uncover. There is even a guest appearance by the Devil -- not just a devil but the Devil -- though to be fair, that proves to be one of the more interesting subplots in the movie.

All in all, one can see why the Hollywood powers that be never felt compelled to make a sequel to this flick. And yet of all the comic book movies based on Alan Moore's work, this is the one to which I most often return. Perhaps because Ms. Swinton makes such a divine villain (no pun intended) that she alone is almost worth the price of a video rental.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Rita Moreno!

AKA Rosita Dolores Alverio.

Born December 11, 1931.

She was the first Puerto Rican actress to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She is most famous for her role as Anita in the 1961 musical movie West Side Story but she has also appeared on many TV shows such as The Electric Company, The Rockford Files and Oz as well as such movies as Night of the Following Day and such Broadway plays as The Ritz. She was the first -- and thus far, the only -- Hispanic to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony. She also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2004.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

R.I.P. Nelson Mandela

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, most famous for his fight against apartheid and his becoming the first black president of South Africa, ended his final campaign on December 5 at age 95. Very easily the most memorable African politician since Jomo Kenyatta, it remains to be seen whether Mandela's legacy will eventually go the same way as Kenyatta's.

In any event, he will be missed.

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R.I.P. Colin Wilson

English writer Colin Henry Wilson -- best known for such nonfiction books as The Outsider and The Occult, not to mention such novels as Ritual in the Dark and The Space Vampires (the latter better known as the alleged inspiration for the 1985 movie Lifeforce) -- closed his final chapter on December 5 at age 82.

He will be missed.

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R.I.P. Tony Musante

Italian-American actor Anthony Peter Musante -- better known as Tony Musante and best known for his title role in the 1973 TV series Toma (the forerunner of Baretta) -- finished his last role on November 26 at age 77.

He will be missed.

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Sunday, December 08, 2013

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Mi Hermano y Mi Mamá!

It's that day again. My mother's birthday and my youngest brother's birthday.

We celebrated it once today at a local Japanese restaurant and again when we got back to my mother's house.

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

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Thursday, December 05, 2013

Movie Quote of the Week

I am a Christian. And as a Christian I hope for resurrection. And even as if you kill me now, It is I who will live again, not your damned apples! No matter what you do, you can't change the fact that I believe in Life Eternal, as promised to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. I BELIEVE IN THE LIFE ETERNAL AS PROMISED BY OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST!
--Edward Woodward, The Wicker Man (1973)

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TV Quote of the Week

Mankind has no need for gods. We find the one quite adequate.
--William Shatner, Star Trek, "Who Mourns for Adonais?"

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Tuesday, December 03, 2013

R.I.P. Paul Walker

American actor Paul William Walker IV, better known as Paul Walker and best known for his role as Brian O'Connor in The Fast and Furious movie series, ended his career in one of the worst ways possible on November 30 at age 40.

He will be missed.

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Sunday, December 01, 2013

Ten Reasons to Love The Unbelievable Truth

1. The Poster.

2. Adrienne Shelley.

3. Edie Falco.

4. Conversations Between Women.

5. Conversations Between Men and Women.

6. Religious Imagery.

7. Water Imagery.

8. Cosmetology Lessons.

9. Public Displays of Affection.

10. Bedroom Scenes.

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