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It seems that Turner Classic Movies channel (TCM) has gotten hold of much of the Disney Live Action films for the 50's 60's and 70's and has been shoing them on Sundays this month. I saw one of the old Kurt-Russel movies, The World's Strongest Man last Sunday, and noticed they had also been showing The Love Bug, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and The Parent Trap among others.

Today was the best, though. Movies that really brought back memories. This morning 1979's The Black Hole was on, followed by Escape to Witch Mountain - which really doesn't hold up over time, but is cute. [livejournal.com profile] joshjeffcoat came by to watch Bedknobs and Broomsticks and besides loving Angela Lansbury we both realized we knew a lot of the songs.

It continued tonight with Candleshoe and later the original Freaky Friday both with Jodie Foster. Candleshoe is a fun little young-person's mystery that doesn't get it's due. It's amazing that both of theses squeaky-clean Disney movies were shot after her role as a teenage prostitute in Taxi Driver. They are a lot of fun though, and the Original Friday is a lot better than the Lindsay Loahan remake.

I saw all of these films in the theater growing up, and it's good to see them all again. I normally don't look to TMC for entertainment. I'm not much of an old movie buff, but I do enjoy these bits of nostalgia.

Speaking of nostalgia, TCM is showing two other movies this week I'm interested in. They are showing Fiddler on the Roof tomorrow (as a part of a Chanukah lineup that sadly includes Yentl) and The Man Who Came To Dinner (which is not Guess Who's Coming To Dinner). They were two of the plays I was in while in high school, so it's always fun to revisit those shows.

I guess I'll have to watch TCM's schedule a little more closely from now on.
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The Olympics have arrived. Get ready for one of the biggest expenditures of cash around, and I don't necessarily mean the Chinese. NBC will be spending millions to bring you the games while probably suffering a further viewership decline.

One reason is that the games don't seem to have the same gravitas they did during the cold war era. Rather than hurling bombs, the battle between east and West was truly played out in the pool, or on the track. Now world conflict is so spread and sporadic, the games suffer from a lack of black and white, even while coming into your homes in living color.

NBC is in a particular quandary this year as they want to exploit the political tension of having the games in China, returning politics to their coverage of the games. Unfortunately they are in China as a guest of the government and have to play somewhat nice as all their resources are at stake. We've already had trouble with painting the Chinese as enemies despite the fact we bristle at thier human rights violations and crack downs of information, but we find it had to see communists in the old sense, of have total contempt for a country that manufactures a great deal of what's on the shelves at Wal-Mart.

Frankly, NBC's coverage suffers from three problems, packaging, timeliness, and focus.

As I type, there are many accounts of the Opening Ceremonies being written, and even we won't see for hours on US television. I'm sure thought, If I wanted to, I can find it on the internet being played on some other network in the world. What's great about the internet is that we don't necessarily have to have the constraints of our local, authorized provider, but we do end up having to watch in Italian, of Finnish.

During the last Winter Olympics, some footage I saw coming out of the CBC was more complete than the NBC coverage, wasn't so "mostly American" centric, and showed sports that NBC thought had no interest to US viewers.

Personally, I think I may do some digging to find more Archery, Weightlifting, Wrestling and Team Handball. The latter never gets coverage, because the sport has never been properly explained to Americans. It's not that it's full of hotties, but it's interesting and different, and something you don't see between showings of "World Series of Poker" on our local sports networks. One of the biggest problems with NBC's coverage is they don't use the opportunity to show interesting sports that don't get airtime. They continue to feed us hours of women's gymnastics (or as I like to say, NBC's tribute to pedophilia) and leave field hockey fans to try to catch a few moments on the 3 AM telecast on CNBC.

Trampoline fans, you many get some coverage during one of those late night oddity segments, oh, but for ratings the BMX competition will be shown because we know that 18-25 demographic loves their X-Games.

I get nostalgic for Jim McKay and the ABC coverage of the games back in the 70's. Sure, the times were clearly different, and ABC initiated the "Up Close and Personal" coverage of the games, but they still showed it as a sports competition, not entertainment, editing and presenting the games in ways they don't even happen. NBC takes advantage of the time difference to change the order of competitors, place strategic commercials, and overall try to heighten the drama just as much as any reality TV show does today. It comes of fake and over worked, like Joan Rivers' face.

I still loved the NBC Olympics Triplecast from Barcelona in 1992. NBC created three pay-per-view channels that just showed feeds from different events. Here's hours of equestrian, here's the entire table tennis matches, and what I was kept glued to, hours of wrestling coverage. Hello Bruce Baumgartner! The effort was a failure then, and my family was refunded it's money for the event because we were one of two families who actually ordered the thing in our town.

Still, NBC could do the triplecast now because it owns so many cable networks, but they don't, cutting from sport to sport never giving the full coverage even on early morning coverage on channels you never knew you had. You don't need to change sports after every commercial break. We can change the channel now!

It's not that I won't watch the Olympics this year, I still like to watch the Opening and Closing ceremonies (the closest thing to Cirque de Solei that i'll watch), but you have to admit that the events are greatly enhanced by Tivo.

I'll also be watching for LJ bear approved Hotties Christian Cantwell (Shot put) and Casey Burgener (weightlifting) and previous year weightlifter and current broadcaster Shane Hamman, and looking for who is the new hot wrestler.

Really, I'm not so American-centric that i can't root for a hot Turkish weightlifter of a Swedish javelin thrower or a Spanish archer. I just have to be able to find them, and NBC does such a poor job of showing anything besides Americans in sports that aren't Gymnastics, Swimming, Beach Volleyball (women in bikinis, men can't go shirtless? What's up with that?) and Basketball. Oh and running, no Field, where the hotties are, only Track.

Just finding when something is on is a sport in itself. Personally, if someone knows where the best internet feeds are, please let me know.

EDIT: Well hot redhead Casey is not going to compete (story HERE), so now I have to find a new hottie. Damn.
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This morning I woke up, checked the news online and saw that Marvin Zindler had died. It's hard to explain Marvin to those who didn't live in Houston. He was a crusading consumer advocate who used the power of television to shame businesses and people to apologies for what ever people wrote in. He wasn't an investigative journalist, just a loud noisemaker, and one of the most peculiar men to even be on TV, and that's saying a lot.

For years you would hear him close a report with "I'm Maaaaaarin Zindler, Eaaaaaahwitness News! No one knew how many plastic surgeries he had has, or how many white wigs he had gone through or how many blue-tinted glasses he owned. He was known for his "Rat and Roach Reports" on Friday which he'd pretty much read off the previous weeks health inspector's report. I remember one week in college coming back to school on a Monday talking to everyone that had had lunch in one of the mentioned places on Marvin's report the day before.

Blech.

Marvin would finish the report with all of the restaurants that had failed inspection due to (yelling loudly) "SSSSSSSLIIIIIIIIIIme in the ICE Machine!" The call had become so famous a person put it to music, and even that was used in the report in later years. There's a YouTube video of it HERE, if you want to hear it, and see it for yourself.

He had a contract with the station for life, so on his deathbed in the hospital he was still doing stories for the station - wig and all. It was always amusing to see how Dave ward, the Channel 13 news anchor would try to keep a stiff upper lip after Marvin had bellowed his signoff.

Now there is a little peice of Marvin you may have seen. In the musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas Melvin P. Thorpe is Marvin Zindler - and I can say it's with little exaggeration from reality to the stage (except for the singing and dancing). Melvin, played in the movie by Dom DeLuise sings "Texas Has A Whore House In It" with all the bombast of the real deal. The reason is Marvin Zindler really did shut down the brothel known as The Chicken Ranch (because during the Depression men paid for sevices in chickens) thatwas out in LaGrange, Texas, between Houston and Austin. The story is true, just the real players weren't as photogenic as the movie.

There was a lot of death in the news today, director Ingmar Bergman, football coach Bill Walsh and TV talkshow host Tom Snyder. I remember watching him in the seventies when we were off on summer vacation. Both my mom and I were nightowls, so we would watch The Tomorrow Show and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. Years later I watched late Night with David Letterman and The PTL Club because who didn't love the trainwreck that was Tammy Faye Bakker. I liked to call the show, The Pass The Loot Club.

I guess it's interesting in this day and age where we have people who pass on, and not only do we remember, but we also have the ability to go see their work. We've graduated from tales to portraits to pictures to moving images of those who have passed. Lucille Ball has been gone for some time, but she's still on TV. Glenn Miller died before my time, but I can still hear his band and see old movies of him. in this day and age, the departed don't have to be gone.

Chris came back over the weekend from a trip to his grandmother's in Florida. He purchases a video camera so he could capture some of it. She's in her eighties and has started to have some memory lapses. Chris showed me some of the movies and there she was telling tales with Chris's parents. I may never get to meet her, but I've seen her.

I wish I had done the same with my grandmothers. I don't know why I didn't. I did own a video camera at one time...one that fell apart after two years of heavy use around the marching band. Sure there's pictures, but the stories are lost. I guess you always want to hear more from them.

Somewhere there's several reels of Super 8 movies that my paternal grandparent's took, and I've watched some of them, but the people in those movies, shot in the 50's don't remind me of my grandparents as i knew them.

Perhaps I should start filming my parents. At this point it would be totally for myself, as neither I nor my sister have children. Perhaps there will be some niece or nephew someday, but it's going to be a while and the parents aren't getting any younger.

I'm in the middle of my years now, and I know the losses are going to star steamrolling, parents, friends, etc. Time marches on. The true losses in my life have been minimal, but I've cried over grandparents and pets. I wonder what it's going to be like as we go along. The future looks promising and dower all at the same time. There's losses you plan on, but I'm sure there will be many changes that will take me by surprise.

I just hope we can go out as loudly as Marvin Zindler.

Old Dreams

Jul. 28th, 2007 11:23 pm
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A long time ago, I wanted to be an actor.

My first role was in a little grade school musical adaptation of Disney's Cinderella. I played a cat. Most of my lines were "Meow".

I was in every play my high school put on, and also did some of the curtain pulling etc. I learned the techie things too, because you could ear extra money by running the soundboard and lights for people who rented out the auditorium. At the time the high school auditorium was the largest hall in the county.

Some of the more memorable roles were playing Roger in Grease where I had a duet with my high school girlfriend (the song, "Mooning", isn't in the movie), and a rather odd turn as a fat, 15 year old Winthrop in The Music Man - that's the show where in the middle of the run, my voice changed. Not so great for a role that should be played by an 8 year old.

I also played an undertaker in community theater. I t was never the staring roles, always the supporting ones, and often ones that required an oddity. in Grease, Roger is supposed to be fat, and there are jokes about it. Winthrop Paroo has an overly pronounced lisp. the undertaker is shy and a bit Morbid in I Remember Mama. I thought, this is good, I can play character roles.

Still, what I really wanted to do was go into television. It was a dream of mine to be on a sitcom, and not just as the wacky neighbor, but as the lead. Sort of the job that's filled by mediocre comedians today. Why couldn't I have my life, young as it was, mined for the material that would make a decent sitcom. It would be a sitcom about a guy in drama club and marching band. What's not to love.

Now I think, even I wouldn't watch that show.

I went to college as a theater major. I was never cast in a show there, and I couldn't find a way to impress the faculty - well, actually the lighting director liked me, but I always had a hard time with the acting faculty. One of the acting teachers was the father of Cindy Pickett - you probably won't recognize the name, but she played the mother in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. He kept telling us of her big success, which is that she was in one movie you may have heard of. He also mentioned some of his students, Randy Quaid, Brent Spiner, Robert Wuhl - but failed to mention that they all left after a year of college.

I always received poor grades in the acting classes, and was never given too much help on how to improve my craft. They really didn't care about me, and after a while I didn't care about them much either. My GPA plummeted as I slowly found out I wasn't getting anywhere. I realized that i wasn't a good actor, this is true, but there really wasn't anything else to be learned from these people. They didn't teach anything.

So I changed my major. I decided to go into journalism, and take Radio-Television courses as a minor. I still had the dream of performing, but what I wanted was to be in television. The focus of the University of Houston was not to build stars, but to build stage performers, and that's not what I wanted.

Yeah, I wanted to be famous. I would have loved to have been a talk-show host in the mold of David Letterman. Back then his show was hot and different and hip. not things you'd say about it now, but that was the breakaway from the more staid Johnny Carson tonight Show. Again, Letterman was a performer who got to be famous for being a version of himself on television. That was my idea of fame, being myself. I could write plot lines of my "show" that would be punched up versions of my real life. If I could sell that, it would be great.

I always wanted to use that little performance bug, and I appeared in several of the projects classmates would have in my television production classes. I played a version of the Church Lady once. this even moved on to my last job where I popped up in several of the quarterly meeting videos as a dance, news anchor and CSI detective. I'm a complete ham, and at least i know that.

I even produced a video magazine of the college marching band - which at the time was very topical, but nothing ground breaking, except that we had done it. We worked down hours of videotape and popped in fake ads and music videos that implies that our drum major was a diva. Well, he was. It was a labor of love, but really makes me wonder what I missed out on by not finishing the RTV degree.

I've given up finding my way in acting. I guess I could try to find some community theater outlet, but so far i haven't wanted to give up the time to do it, or to go through the horrible rejection process of auditioning. Right now I've had enough performances that haven't convinced anyone with a series of work interviews that have gone no where.

I really wonder what would have happened if I really put in more effort in my post college years to really go after writing or working in television, or even an acting gig. when I graduated I was low on cash, and needed to work for money, not to take an internship. None of them that I qualified for paid, and as someone who paid his own way through college - several years of it, taking the easy way in working a retail job that paid seemed like a good choice at the time.

So the dreams died. The acting, the writing, the production. I guess that's why I'm often fascinated with people who have found their ways into those careers. I guess that's part of what the post about "famous" bears was about, seeing the photographers and comedians and other creative folks around in the community and just wishing I could be in that league.

I've tried with minor success to tie my jobs to my journalism education, but except for a few writing projects for work now and again, and when I used to produce the quarterly meetings, right now those skills, such as they are, are very dormant.

So as one of those other goals for my next 40 years, I probably should look into further my creative life - beyond some rants and occasional bursts of commentary here. I keep trying to decide if I want to join the chorale, or talk to one of my coworkers about his community theater. Chris has bought a video camera, so maybe I can come up with some you-tube worthy moments.

I guess that I look aback and wish I made a could of left turns instead of going the easy route, but what's done is done. Now I work 50+ hours in customer service trying to make enough to go on a trip now and again. I don't get to be rich or famous or mobbed with fans. What's past is past, so I guess it's time to look forward.
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Seven, eh?

1. I'm the third grandchild of my paternal grandparents, first of my maternal ones. Out of the six of us, two to my uncle, two with my parents, and two to my aunt, I'm the only boy. I think there were some expectations of lineage that have pretty much gone into the ashcan.

2. My great-grandparents on my father's father's side only met their oldest granddaughter before being killed in their bedroom by a robber. This was 1966. There's a small church in Milton, Florida that's named after them. I've been told that the robber just recently got out of jail and has a grudge against the family. I'm the only Edwards of the clan still left in Dallas, so I've been warned, but since this guy is in his seventies, and got out of jail after a 40 year prison sentence, I'm hoping the chances of a meetup are low.

3. I played saxophone in high school after not being trained well to play trumpet by my middle school band teacher. He also changed me over because I had braces. Damned Braces. It's a wonder I kept going playing saxophone, because as an instrument, it sucks. Still, Band got me out of PE, and made me the guy I am today. Thankfully I got to college and our band was small, so I switched over to Tuba and had a blast. I wish I had played tuba much earlier. Now I can barely remember the fingerings, I'm so out of practice.

4. I can take you, if asked to any of the houses my family has lived in except one. They are all in Texas, but not necessary close to each other. The one I don't know the address of is the one in Denton, TX where my dad had a job with Acme Brick (used by coyotes) and my mom finished getting her Home Economics degree at North Texas State.

5. I had a speech impediment when I was young, and when I started to go to school I went to speech classes everyday for a couple of years. That's where one of my earliest friends was made. I'm not sure what the impediment was, but it's been gone for a long time, and the therapy sessions are one reason I don't have as pronounced of a Texas accent.

6. My first paying job was scooping ice cream at a Baskin-Robbins. The owner was a control freak and wanted your scoops to weigh the same 5 ounces. He had his costs down to the penny. Needless to say, I sucked. It would be five years before I got another job. just because I didn't need one until i had to start paying for college myself. I worked for St. Lukes Hospital in Houston's Medical Center microfilming old ovarian cancer records.

7. I think I've been a Bear for a lot longer than I've been out. I first heard of the bear thing by picking up Bear Magazine around 1993. At that time I was already overweight, hairy and bearded. I'd already lusted after my friend Mike, who we called Ogre, who was also hairy and bearded. Thank god for hot outdoor band practices in college where his shirt would come off. sadly he's married and has children, but still kinda hot. One of my frat brothers, Gene, was a coverbear for American Bear magazine, but I never picked up that issue. A little weirdness, perhaps?
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Over the weekend Chris and I actually went out and were social. We skipped the True Colors tour on Saturday, though we knew people would would be there. I was a little wary of going out on Saturday night to the Denton County Bears pool party not only because I didn't know too many people who were going to be there, but also because i was a little mad from not being able to get a haircut. Yep, good old vanity. Seems like all the cheap ass haircut places were full of people, and after working yet another saturday morning, I really didn't want to have to wait around reading stale magazines waiting for the one or two people to finally get around to me.

Sadly, our friend the stylist has left the haircutting industry to pursue other interests. Good for his wallet, though. Good for our hair too, because although he's a friendly guy, he gets a little attention-deficit disorder when he's cutting and kind of forgets spots.

We made it out to the pool party fashionably late, but not so late to chow down (are we not bears?). I met some nice folk, didn't freak out once I got warmed up, and had a good time. On sunday our little neighborhood had a get together out by our pool. Again, it was tough to meet people I didn't know. Even after living here a year and a half, I really don't know any of the neighbors. Only one of them recognized me from walking Joey occasionally. Still, it was good to put some faces to townhomes around the area. People started to bring their dogs and eventually the dogs were swimming in the pool - and none of the people were. Joey stayed fascinated by the water, but didn't jump in. I'm not so sure she really cared for the other dogs, except for the big lab puppy who she felt needed to be put in his place.

I think it's both Chris' and my goal to be a little more sociable and get out more often. Over the last few months we've been homebodies and really haven't gotten out much. We do know people, people that haven't moved away, and maybe it's time we started calling a little more often around here.

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Otherwise, in one of those looking back themes that will crop up from time to time in these 40 days, I find that I don't watch old movies. Pretty much anything prior to Star Wars (1977) is out, and certainly anything in black and white. I know this leaves a ton of really great films out, heck, most of the AFI top 100 are pre '77, but there's just something about old movies that makes me want to go do something else.

This isn't the same for old television shows. I'll be happy to watch a black and white episode of My Three Sons, or Bewitched. I love watching reruns of The Monkees or Green Acres. Perhaps it's just the timeframe involved, 30 minutes vs. 90.

It's not that I've never seen an old movie, there's plenty of old Disney films I've seen, animated and not, say, the Computer Wore Tennis Shoes? There's also Song of the South which I saw on one of Disney's re-releases sometime in the 70's before they pulled the picture for good in the US. I wouldn't make a big effort to go see them again.

that's another part of it, I rarely re-watch movies. I see them once, maybe twice, and that's it. I don't buy many DVD's because I really don't re-watch them. Even my Kevin Smith movies sit in a box, unwatched. The movie I've likely seen the most is either Airplane or Sixteen Candles because they ran on Showtime all the time in the summer during high school. they seemed to show The Wiz a lot, too.

Part of this may be due to my Dad. He's such a fan of John Wayne and WWII movies that he'll re watch them over and over. I don't know how many times I've seen parts of The Fighting SeeBees or The Searchers or Force 10 From Navarone. I never saw Saving Private Ryan because it seemed like it would be the same thing all over again, just with Tom Hanks.

There's something about needing to move forward in movies that's bigger than my need to move forward in music listening. I love to find new music, and listen to what others of you are listening to, but I like to mix that in with favorites across the last 60-70 years. Movies seem to be more of an in-the-moment thing. I caught a few minutes of Deep Impact on cable the other day and I was already thinking that the movie looked dated.

I'm sure I could ask for, and get a hundred different classic movie selections, but really, I'll stick to trying to see new stuff and the movies i've missed over the last few years...like over the weekend watching The Italian Job, which was fun. Of course it's based on a classic Michael Caine movie that I really have no desire to see.

Of course that doesn't mean I want to see every remake, either. At this moment, I'm still thinking of skipping Hairspray.
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So we're now 40 days away from my 40th birthday. Already this year i've been feeling the pull of this big, biblical number. Since we're now so close to the actual event, I'm tagging my next few posts with the above banner. It's also an encouragement to me to actually blog something for the next 40 days. Sometimes it may have something to do with the upcoming birthday, sometimes it won't. Just like anything else in my blog, it's terribly inconsistent.

While I think of myself as old already in many respects, really I've lived through some interesting times, but not necessarily everything. As most of us, I was born after the Big Bang, and will likely die before the Apocalypse. Everything else is just details.

Do to kick off this 40 day countdown to the big day, here's a little list for things I'm younger than vs similar things that I'm older than. Certainly there's a bigger list, but it's just something to get us started here.

On with the show, we only have a few days left now.


Michael is...







Younger Than...


Older Than...

The JFK assassination

The RFK is assassination

The War on Poverty

The War on Drugs

The American Basketball League

The NFL-AFL merger

Tim McGraw

Faith Hill

Apollo I Burns on the launchpad

Apollo 11 lands on the Moon

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

The White Album

Monterey Pop Festival

Woodstock

Canadian Centennial

United States Bicentennial

Kermit the Frog

The Muppet Show

Bay of Pigs

Watergate

Vietnam Police Action begins

Vietnam War ends

The Monkees debut

The Partridge Family debuts

Nicole Kidman

Julia Roberts

Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood

Sesame Street

Cabaret

Hair

UNIVAC

Altair 8800

Houston Astrodome

Astroworld




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A big piece of news here in Big D is the gearing up of the Dallas movie. As a part of a long line of horrible examples that there is very little creativity at the big studios in Hollywood, yet another old television show is being remade into a major motion picture, wasting money on name stars and a bevy of writers, each hired to try to fix the script the last one punched up.

The problem is, Hollywood doesn't see that these movies are almost constantly box office failures. Last year's Bewitched was a good example. People weren't really interested in seeing a new version of Bewitched, even with Will Farell, Nicole Kidman and several other stars in it. They also failed to secure a good script, with a really odd premise that had the actors not playing the classic characters, but playing actors playing those characters. The script wasn't funny, and the actors seemed to be at a loss for what to do.

Sure, you can blame the whole trend of taking old television shows and putting them on the big screen to Star Trek, but that was a continuation to the series with the same actors, much like the X-Files movie that came later. it did show that people would pay to see small screen shows on the big screen, but still, the first Star Trek movie wasn't a big success, as it also suffered from script and direction problems. It wasn't until Star Trek II, The Wrath of Kahn where the whole thing came together, that a television show movie was truly successful.

Still, what's led to all the Starsky and Hutches, Honeymooners and Beverly Hillbillies films is the success of the Brady Bunch Movie a few years back, where new actors took on the classic roles, but they didn't update the characters, just the world that they lived in. It was clever at the time, but now so many remakes have to create some sort of twist to the movie to show that they aren't just stealing from the past. What the Brady Bunch Movie got right, in it's simple way, leads to what goes wrong in so many other films.

Now one may say, look at Battlestar Galactica on television, it's a remake with several twists, such as the female Starbuck. I agree that it's the exception to the rule that remakes are usually inferior, and the changes often seem tacked on, but in this case, it just works. Starbuck is an actor playing a part, and really, it doesn't change the character, but the real change in the series is the cylons themselves. Where the creators triumphed is where they took a property that people kind of remembered (the show only ran a season) and made it into something new and meaningful today, rather than taking a landmark show like The Monkees, and trying to create the New Monkees (truly, there was such a show) or creating a movie version of Lost in Space.

Of course there's only been a handful of properties that have made the successful transition from film to television. M*A*S*H is of course, the most successful one, and there's the current Stargate SG1, but there's been several failures, like Delta House, the Animal House show, and Starman. Of course one of Dallas' predecessors was a movie that became a popular series, the sudsy (for the 1950's) Peyton Place. Place was one of the first nighttime soap operas.

Of course Dallas will be remembered for starting the 1980's trend of opulence soaps with such well-to-do families as the Carrington and Colbys sharing the airwaves with the Ewings. I remember my family watching the series, and that it was the show on Friday nights in most households. Of course this was also in the days where there wasn't much else to see, so the three networks split the majority of the TV audience.

The show started strong, but really kicked into gear when their first season cliffhanger (a new development for television drama at the time), a shot of a gun firing, and chief baddie J.R. slumping to the floor of his Dallas hi-rise office caught audience imagination. They had plenty of time to speculate as a strike, kept the show off the air until late October. By that time there were shirts and songs and plenty of articles asking "Who Shot J.R.?"

The show kept going for 14 seasons, eventually giving us probably one of the worst television moments with the waking up of Pamela Ewing, finding her husband in the shower when he had died a season ago. If the show was hard to swallow before, now there was no credibility to it.

I can't say that I never got the appeal of the show, because I did watch it, but it wasn't exactly a favorite. Funny thing was, when my family went up to Dallas for holidays and such, you could tell that the city was enamored of the show - or at least enamored of the fame that the show brought to them. Never mind that many of the characters were adulterous and backstabbing, often loud, obnoxious people with a tendency to drink to much and then trow the glass in a fit of rage, it was all the fact that Dallas was in the spotlight. There's nothing that Dallas likes more than being important.

Of course, the original draft of the script shows the show was to have been called Houston.

So here we are again, with the pre-production of the new Dallas movie. Actors who have been asked to star in it are a veritable who's who, but seem to be choices for the poster, not for actual talent in recreating these roles. First, there's John Travolta for J.R. There's only one role that I could think of him being worse in, and that's Edna Turnblad in Hairspray. Then there's Owen Wilson as Bobby and Shirley McClaine as Miss Ellie. Of course one of the strangest casting rumors is Jennifer Lopez as Sue Ellen. Really, changing Sue Ellen to a Hispanic character isn't a bad idea (and don't forget she played a Mexican-American in Selena), but what Hispanic family would name their daughter Sue Ellen?

Really, it's another case of not needing to see these characters again - I don't think anyone's dying for a revival of Dallas - except for the city of Dallas, and being on the big screen really does no good for a series that lived on the stringing along of plots across several episodes of nighttime drama. How can you recreate the interest in the shooting of JR when you know that it will solved by the end of the film - whether the gunslinger is Kristin or someone else? How do you take a soap and have it wrap up in two hours?

Of course the biggest controversy is a budgetary one. The original Dallas TV show did a little bit of filming in Dallas, just to give it some feel, and did shoot scenes at Southfork ranch - which looks a lot smaller than it does on TV. The movie's budget may mean that it has to shoot in Florida, or Canada, and Dalasites are mad, but when it comes down to it, other places offer better incentives to film there. Texas uses to be more friendly to filmmakers in the 1990's and many films were shot here, but now, not so much. City council here is trying to find ways to give incentives and tax breaks to film here, but it may be too little, too late.

If the filmmakers were good, they'd chuck the whole thing, and start with a new story, and new characters. Perhaps Jacksonville or Vancouver wouldn't be so bad as a re-heated Dallas, no matter where it was shot. Still, as always, it's all about civic pride, not the quality of the product, so Dallas will continue to fight to see itself, no matter how bad, in Dallas.
eggwards: (Holiday time)
Last night I was out with my parents. They are still liking the new car. In a way of showing off, knowing my Mom's love of the season, I put on the Holiday music channel. Yes, that's what I said, the Holiday channel.

My mother brought up the whole "Holiday" issue that has seemed to explode this year. Many evangelicals and some other Christians along with mouthpiece Bill O'Reiley have been making a big stink about retailers, broadcasters and others use of the word "Holiday" instead of Christmas. One of the most virulent voices has been the Rev. Donald Wildmon who has sent out email after email urging boycotts of stores that "refuse" to wish people a Merry Christmas.

Yep, I'm on the American Family Association's mailing list. I got on it when I emailed the form letter to Walgreens for supporting the Gay Games. Of course I made plenty of changes to the form to actually praise the drugstore for their support - support as the AFA reports, is actually based on trying to drive up HIV infections to gain customers. Lovely conspiracy theory there, but something tells me that the average AFA reader really doesn't care about the HIV infection rate among gays and lesbians.

Still, I get these messages telling me that all of these retailers and broadcasters are tying to destroy Christianity in America and get rid of Christmas. this shows a big lack of thinking on their part. The only reason that retailers, during their busiest time of the year, would want to remove Christmas from their store is to try to be more inclusive, to try to not alienate other customers, and to try to drive larger sales by getting people of many faiths involved in the gift-giving season.

In this nation, should you work to include everyone, suddenly the group who was once singled out by their year-ending celebration feels slighted. Why? Because suddenly their feeling of specialness is gone. the rubber stamping of their values has been pushed aside, or so they believe.

Personally I see plenty of signs of the season, lights and special sales and hear the songs of Christmas and other holidays. It hasn't gone away, and those who want to celebrate the birth of Jesus christ can do it. Religious freedom isn't dead, it's just that stores and broadcast outlets and cities have realized that there are other people out there in the world. Millions of other people who don't believe the same thing and don't wish to have The Little Drummer Boy drummed into their head. People and organizations have done their best to try to promote tolerance.

Unfortunately we still have this bunch of crybabies who, instead of feeling empowered to personally be able to celebrate their beliefs is going out to try to tell the rest of us that we're wrong, and only the loudest crybabies can work to get their Christmas back. They challenge these stores and tell them that they must tell them merry christmas of they will shop elsewhere.

The funny thing is that Target and Wal*Mart are two of the stores that have "removed" Christmas from their stores and advertising. Given that these two stores have driven out many other retailers from towns everywhere, just where are these people supposed to buy their presents? Amazon.com?

Some retailers have been giving in. Some, like Walgreens have said that they will comply with the demands of the boycotters and will include the word Christmas in next year's advertising. Maybe it's the truth, maybe it's just stalling, or maybe they will actually use "Christmas" in conjunction with several other seasonal celebrations, like Chanukah, Solstice and Yule.

I personally remember my bitch of a cousin being upset with the US Postal Service when they issued Chanukah and Ramadan stamps along with the traditional Christmas stamp a couple of years ago. Heaven help us for another round of damned inclusiveness. Luckily Ramadan has moved on so she can just be outraged by the Jews this season.

Don't get me wrong. I don't mind Christmas. It's often a nice, fun festive time of the year, and I look forward to the music. Still, you won't offend me by calling it a Christmas Tree, nor would you offend me by saying "Merry Christmas". Sure, my actual faith in the religion has waned, but I'm not scared of offended by the holiday. in fact, it's mighty easy to celebrate without the ties to the miracle birth.

That brings me to my father. As a pert of the argument about the loss of christmas (my parent's watch Fox News), he mentioned that Kwanzaa is made up and doesn't need to be celebrated. "Ok", I told him, "Christmas Day is just as made up as Kwanzaa." As he started to bark at my assertion I stated, "Whether or not Jesus (the son of God version) walked on the Earth, the fact is, December 25th wasn't his birthday, it was a day chosen to take advantage of the Pagan rituals and feasts that were already there in the people the Christians wanted to convert." Dad didn't have much of a response.

when we kept talking about the role of Christmas in America, I said to them, "One of the reasons that the season has gotten away from its religious roots is that people have let it. Over the last 75 years, more has been done to make Christmas time about family, crass commercialism, and the innocuous images of innocence (and of course Santa Claus) than it has been about the son of God. As you know, it's the Christians who helped make it this way." The idea of the perfect present took over from the reason why the celebration started for many people.

I mean, there was a Garfield Christmas Special, for goodness sake. The Charlie Brown special is the only one that actually mentions Jesus and rejects commercialism. Garfield? pass the Lasagna.

So I asked the question to them, and I'll ask it again, "Why does a majority have to go on whining about their plight? Why use tactics of, and try to make yourselves out as a minority to get their way?" I guess I'll never know.

Personally I'm tired of the debate. call the season what you will, and enjoy the beginning of winter with your family, or friends, or loved ones, whomever they might be. You can wish me whatever you want, I won't be offended, and I wish that a few others would stop being offended as well.

Just don't push. It's the most wonderful time of the year, you know.
eggwards: (Default)
Today's news included an interesting, and yet very sad turn here in Houston. Six Flags is going to close, demolish and sell the land for Astroworld, Houston's only amusement park. The troubled company, which is up for sale itself, felt that Astroworld was unlikely to be come profitable, and there was ongoing trouble with the parking lot, which is actually part of the large lot for the Astrodome/Reliant Stadium across the freeway.

One of the odd things about Astroworld is the fact that the bridge over Loop 610 was actually the first privately owned bridge over an Interstate highway. This is just another example of odd trivia bits that I keep in my head. I remember on some of my first trips to the park, in the middle seventies when my family still lived in Nacogdoches, this fact was espoused on the tram ride form the Astrodome lot to the park entrance. This was also way before you would have ever thought of having to go through a metal detector before riding a ferris wheel.

It's interesting that Astroworld (or as Six Flags would like you to call it, Six Flags Houston) was recently listed as a place for the evacuees to go to get away from the dome for a short time, but since it's $41.99 to get in, it was a luxury most couldn't afford.

Astroworld started in 1968 by Houston Mayor Judge Roy Hofheinz (the "judge" was a title, but everyone seems to include it with his name) as a response to Dallas/Ft. Worth's Six Flags Over Texas park and placed it close to the Astrodome, built just a few years prior. In those days, that was far out of town on Houston's underdeveloped south side. Now being only five miles away from downtown, it's actually one of the closest theme parks to a city center in the country. One of the problems the park has is that it's completely hemmed in by other businesses and cannot expand.

As a part of trying to out do Six Flags Over Texas, Judge Hofheinz designed the park with several different lands, also similar to Disneyland with it's themed lands. Since Six Flags took the idea of having one section for each of the Flags that flew over Texas (Spain, France, Mexico, Texas Republic, Confederacy and the USA), the Judge would do them one better and set up his as different places in the world. Of course the judge lacked some imagination so after having Plaza de Fiesta, Oriental Corner, European Village and Main Street USA, there was a Western Village, Children's World, Country Fair, Coney Island and worst of all, Modville.

Years later Modville became Contemporary Corner. It seems things can't be groovy forever.

Each area had it's signature ride. The Bamboo Shoot was a log ride in China, the lost river cruise went through an Aztec temple but still with the same lame jokes, and Modville had the odd spidery-looking double ferris wheel (just called the Astrowheel) and a drop floor barrel ride called "The Happening". No Lie.

Astroworld started with three coasters, the Serpent kiddie coaster, the Alpine Sleigh Ride that went over and into the anamatronic-dwarf-populated gold mine of Der Hofheinzburg Mountain, and in the largest coaster in the Country Fair area known as Dexter Freebish's Electric Roller Ride. The ride, long since gone as many of the others I've mentioned, was the inspiration for the one-hit wonder bad of a few years ago. For a time they changed the area around it to a Medieval England theme and called the ride Excalibur.

Six Flags bought the park in 1971 and started slowly adding new attractions. The biggest, and most well-known attraction is the Texas Cyclone roller-coaster. The wooden coaster opened in 1976 (after being nearly destroyed by a hurricane during construction) and jumped on to the top ten list of best coasters for many years. It's pretty simple, it's a taller, bigger mirror image construction of the Coney Island Cyclone coaster. It revs up to a sixty-mile-per hour speed quickly and has several turns that sent riders out of their seats and into their fellow rider's laps.

For many years the Texas Cyclone only had a lapbar to keep it's riders from flying out of the cars. After a couple of notable deaths, the park completely overhauled the cars in the early 90's. Gone were the boxy wooden cars with the lap bar, and later a simple seatbelt. Replacing them were extruded fiberglass cars with wrap-around headrests that kept you from seeing the view as you climbed up the first hill, seatbelts and individual seat bars that kept you in place instead of crashing into your neighbor.

To say that some of the thrill was gone would be an understatement.

Later additions would include the one loop slingshot coaster, Greezed Lightnin', The Ultra Twister tube coaster that spins you around on an x-axis, and the Looping Starship, basically a large 360 degree swing that was built to look like the Space Shuttle. The park also debuted the first white water rafting ride, Thunder River (clever, huh?)

In 1983 they opened a waterpark next door, cleverly called Water World many years before the movie disaster of the same name. It was the first waterpark in the city and took the last of the land owned by the company, tucked to the east side of the park and only accessible by the 610 Limited train. Water World will be closing as well.

Things haven't gone well for the park in the last few years. You can tell that Six Flags was leaving it for dead, and not maintaining the park well. My last trip there was greeted by many empty storefronts in the Main Street area and little cleanup or repainting anywhere else. A new ride hadn't opened in several years. Things have been removed, like the Astroneedle that rose above the park, but fell into such disrepair that they didn't run a car up the flagpole for three years before finally pulling it down when faced with the fact that it might just fall over on it's own.

Somewhere along the way, it became more of a business, or perhaps I just got older and noticed it more. As the Six Flags corporation was sold of to a succession of buyers, different changes would happen to the park. When Time Warner took over for a few years suddenly several of the rides were branded with new characters. The Alpine Sleighs were torn out and replaced by a Batman ride, for one. Of course one of the biggest changes was taking out the original park mascot, the incredibly flamboyant Marvel McFey (!!) for all of your favorite Looney Toons characters, ready for merchandising. Trust me, no one ever bought a Marvel McFey doll, but plenty of people left with Bugs Bunny.

McFey looked like [livejournal.com profile] lostncove with his big red beard, wearing gypsy tramp clothing. Just like Randy does now.

Still, some of the old flavor that made Astroworld unique was lost, and it became more and more a generic Six Flags park. That with the money woes of Six Flags and the rising ticket prices has led to people staying home. What's sad is that this leaves Houston with no amusement park whatsoever. The nation's fourth largest city will have to go to San Antonio where Six Flags Fiesta Texas and Sea World are located. Of course there's always Six Flags over Texas. Still, it's just the fact that there will be no roller-coasters in southeast Texas at all seems very strange to me.

Can another company swoop in and save the park? Perhaps, but there would be a lot of maintenance and several new rides to build as Six Flags intends to take several of the rides out to move to other parks. It's unlikely that a sale of Six Flags itself would come in time to save the park. Otherwise you'd be fixing up 30 year old rides (like the Texas Cyclone) just to have the public wait for new ones to be put in. It looks like this ride, is over.

Sadly, even though I've not gone to the park in a few years, more due to the fact that my fat ass won't fit in some of the rides, it definitely feels like a loss, and that a chunk of my childhood (and young adulthood) has just left the building.

Thanks to the fan site SixFlagsHouston.com for having most of the linked images.
eggwards: (Default)
Tonight is the night of my twentieth high school reunion. Conroe High School, class of 1985. We graduated in our highschool stadium on a hot end of May day with my grandparents watching. since the stadium was being upgraded from grass to turf we were the class that graduated on dirt.

Of course I'm not going. Sure, the high cost of the event is one part of it. the party tonight is $75 for one, heaven forbid I should want to take a partner to this event. Then there was also the bar event yesterday and the picnic today. The odd thing is that each one of these events are happening in The Woodlands, the master-planned community that was the turf of our rival school, McCullough High.

No, the fact is, I really don't care to live my high school days over again. Twenty years ago was just that. Sure, i loved the band and the choir, and most of all the drama club. I loved performing in the plays and musicals. High Schools was still a very uncertain time for me. I was in love with a girl, but I didn't know why I was more sexually attracted to Kevin Pippin and half of the football team, and just praying that those feelings would go away.

I wasn't totally sure that i would be able to go to college where I wanted to (and I didn't, we couldn't afford SMU), so I didn't know where I was going. Hell, all I had was a dream that i would be a television actor like my idols Robin Williams and David Letterman (I know, what role models I had). Somehow i could be a talk show sitcom comedian if I wanted to, and damn it, it should come easily, shouldn't it?

Maybe that's a little part of it. I'm a little ashamed that I'm not the man I hoped I'd be back then, but those aspirations were a little extreme. Being a middle manager homo isn't so bad, and I'm probably doing better than several of my classmates. Heck, I'm sure most of the girls were married within 4 years of exiting high school.

I don't know this though. I cut ties pretty quickly with most of my high school friends, and have rarely seen or heard from any of them since, even with my Mom and Dad still living in the same city. Mom a few months ago was asking me if I was going to the reunion, but mom also asks me all the time about old friends and anyone who graduated within 10 years of me, whether I knew anything of them or not. I graduated with 667 (I swear it was 666, but the school didn't want to tell us that) other students in my class, so I don't even know all of those in my own class.

My Mom attended her 40th reunion a couple of years ago, she keeps up.

The few that i've seen, are the ones I was better friends with, Billy, who I think did finally come out - since I think the guy he was having dinner with was his partner, Jim, who the last time I saw him was just after he didn't see me at the ten year reunion, and he tracked me down, and Leighza, the old high school sweetheart, who was working at IKEA at one time and was married with four kids and one on the way.

Of course there was Randy Kuhn, the class clown, he was killed by a robber in his house one day.

Still, I noticed that one of the organizers of the reunion is my old high school nemesis, Scott Levantino, the school bully. i thought he was in jail for investment fraud, but I guess he's out right now. Too bad. I guess he has a reason to show off to all the others. personally, most of those people in my class didn't give a damn about me then, so why would I go there now? I wasn't part of the in crowd, and neither were my friends. If we had kept up with each other, I'm sure we could find something much better to do on our own than this overpriced attempt to recapture the prom.

I looked at the list of people going and recognize names, but not friends. looks like the people I really knew are sitting this one out. Only 210 out of 667 will be there. My name doesn't appear on the missing classmates list though, so I guess they didn't try very hard to contact me. That's fine.

Still, our most famous alumni was the voice of Wishbone the dog on the PBS television show.
eggwards: (Default)
As I was thinking about generally nothing during a meeting I really didn't belong in today, i started thinking about places and things that have gone, but I knew I liked, at least at the time.

One thing was, growing up in a couple of small towns, we didn't have the chains that we have on every street corner today. Growing up in Texas, any town that wants to call itself a town had to have a Dairy Queen. This is nothing special, but it was probably the first chain restaurant that I could recognize, along with Kentucky Fried Chicken. We would have to travel to Dallas or San Antonio to find McDonald's or IHOP, both of which would be a treat when my grandparents took me there for a meal.

Really, the first burger place chain that I can remember (besides the afore mentioned DQ) in my hometown was Burger Chef. This was in Nacogdoches and years before Burger King would move into this college town. The funny thing is although it was a chain, I never saw another one. They had the first kids meal that I knew of that came in a special box that had games and perforated areas in the light cardboard that you would have to follow the instructions to make an airplane or something.

When we moved to Conroe, there was a Sambo's. It was a coffee shop chain. Conroe now has an IHOP and a Denny's and tons more, but at the time it was a Kettle, now closed, and Sambo's which went through a name change and became Village Inn. This was because Sambo's name was considered offensive to African Americans. When I was young, I didn't quite understand why, because my grandparents actually had a copy of the book, Little Black Sambo, and I never thought much of it - not realizing that the character was black, just that he was a little boy who outsmarted the tigers and made them run so fast that they turned into butter for his pancakes. Why wouldn't you name a pancake joint after that?

Alright, it was really kind of stupid. Still, the book lived next to The Pokey Little Puppy and the one about the Scuffy the tugboat for a long time. I just wasn't taught about why people found it offensive until years later. it seems strange that they would name something that.

Less offensive was the Scooby Doo Pizza Time Theater. This was a short-lived restaurant in the northern part of Houston, and I don't know if they ever had another one. They played classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons, and the whole restaurant had a Scooby theme. The activity area, complete with video games and skee ball, was dressed up as the Laff-a-Lympics. One of the interesting elements was a full, old time Wurlitzer pipe organ in the center. Otherwise, there was costumed characters dropping by occasionally. this was prior to Chucky Cheese.

Once the restaurant closed, the costumes moved to Hanna-Barbera Land, a few miles north, a whole theme park for built on the characters, where you could run into Fred Flintstone and George Jetson, both silent, on the same street. Once I had a driver's license, I went down to apply for a job as a costumed character, but I was already too tall to be a Smurf, or any other character there. Hanna-Barbera land failed because there was nothing for adults to do there. They closed down a few years later, and now the space is Splashtown waterpark.

Lastly, there was Ferrell's. There was one in Houston and Dallas. It was one of the first theme restaurants that I can think of. It was all based on a 1900's style ice cream parlor and had some of the best ice cream desserts I can think of. The waiters all came around and sang happy birthday in a barbershop style. They would also bang a large drum and go about the restaurant. Apparently there are still a few surviving Farrell's in southern California. I just remember making a few special trips when my birthday came around. Perhaps some birthday in the future I can go back to one.

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