Saturday, June 17, 2017

Holy Obituary, Batman—Adam West Passed Away

Adam West said of his Batman series that it was morality tales for children, but done in a way that adults could enjoy. And he was right. The kitschy, overly-polite style was great for children as Batman and Robin slugged it out with bad guys, and it entertained the grown-ups as they watched the show. And the actors—Caesar Romero as the Joker, Frank Gorshin as the Riddler, Burgess Meredith as the Penguin (who really didn’t like being reminded of that role later in life), and Julie Newmar as Catwoman. They were fantastic for their roles, and Julie Newmar was a purr-fect fit.

public domain 

The actual Batmobile was at a science fiction convention. I was surprised at how small it was—like a tiny sports car. In the TV series, it really did have a jet engine in it. No fooling.

And the music! If you’re in a band, jam to that original “Batman” tune sometime. That was from a time in the 60s and early 70s when there was The Addams Family theme music, and “Best Friend” from The Courtship of Eddie’s Father. Great stuff.

So farewell, Adam West. Thanks for stopping when the light said Don’t Walk while you were chasing criminals, and for not throwing a live bomb in the water because you saw some baby ducks there.

Click for my comments on Powers Boothe and John Hurt

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Going Postal – Ancient Greek Edition

Citizens, do you want to force a change at your local federal institution? Even just a tiny change? Look closely at the picture below.

Upper right corner

It shows the typical huge, metal, rotating drum at a post office for dropping off packages. It’s inside the building, so packages can be dropped off securely. But there is no internal drop-off slot for envelopes in this post office. We are directed to go outside and place envelopes in the big, blue mailbox so common throughout the country. Are they insane?

There was the incident, some years ago, when someone took a cutting torch and cut through the four legs of the mailbox and hauled the whole thing off. This would be to wash the written ink from any checks they found in the mail. That way, the crooks could make the checks out to themselves for large amounts and wipe out the victims checking accounts. What about your personal letters and paperwork? They would just toss those.

So of course I would put my envelopes in the big metal drum, because it was inside the building. I and other people did it often enough, they added the sign in the upper right corner: STOP! Packages ONLY!

I like to think the most recent time I mailed a manuscript through there was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Now I get to point at the sign and say, “See that? I did that!”

And here’s an excerpt from that Temple Beyond the Sea manuscript. Iphigenia (Iphi) just told three new women in the temple that she is related to the great Helen.


Delailen made a chewing motion, her lips crooked, her eyes full of doubt. “You claim to be related to the great Helen? The one who was taken to Troy? What are you, some lesser relative?”
“Yes. Have you heard of her? Is the war still raging?”
Cordi’s eyes now opened wider, whites showing against her dark skin. “My, everyone’s heard of the great Helen, most beautiful of all women. And you’re related to her? Whee!” She reached out and touched Iphi’s robe. “And I’ve met you, and you’re related to her, and oh, I’ll have to let my family know, and all the fisher folk on the shore.”
Tassa also came close. “Sorry, I didn’t know. The caravans have been trading treasure from Troy for some years now. The siege was broken. Whether that means Troy won, or the Achaeans won, or whether that was one siege and the war continues, I do not know.”
“Thank you.” Iphi wondered if meeting these new people and asking more questions would lead her to discover what happened to her family, if they were all safe at home. She remembered her dream about the pillar that must have been Orestes, and hoped others did not share his fate.

She looked at Delailen. But her face was closed. If she knew more than these two, she was not telling. 

For a different excerpt, click here

Monday, May 29, 2017

Loony-Toony Seattle

If you’ve followed this blog, you’ve seen hints I live in the Seattle area. Every big city has its quirks, but Seattle is known to be way out there.

For instance, residents are required to have garbage cans, recyclable cans, and compostable cans. So far, so good. But for a while, the city required garbage collectors to snoop through the garbage cans to see if too much recyclable or compostable stuff was in there. Residents could be fined for that. Fortunately, a court threw out the search part, but the ordinance is still in place.

So if you have a bunch of old pizza or newspapers, throw them in the garbage can of a neighbor you don’t like.

photo by Todd Huffman 

What’s still current is that the Seattle police can no longer refer to a person they arrest a “suspect.” They must use the term “community member.” I’m not making this up.

I can imagine a reporter asking a woman, “Is it true you shot the man accused of trying to rape you?”

“Yeah I shot right for the community member.”

(no picture)

And this one sounds really silly, but it turns out to be sinister. Thousands of pet owners received letters from King County (which contains Seattle) demanding they license their pet, or they would get a $250 fine. How did the county know they were pet owners? Well, you know those little cards the grocery stores give you to scan at each purchase so you could possibly get a discount? King County has access to those databases. If you buy some cat food or kitty litter, guess what the government knows about you?

photo by irrational cat 

Suppose you buy a large amount of medical supplies. Are you eluding your duty to buy medical insurance from exchanges whose sites do not keep your medical information secure? Or do you buy a huge amount of non-perishable foods, matches, and camouflage gear? You might be a survivalist type, and if some criminal survivalist goes on the lam, maybe the police should see whether you’re harboring that fugitive.

I think there could be a story idea there. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Do Svidaniya, Powers Boothe

The news has come in that Powers Boothe died on Sunday. This follows on the heels of the death of John Hurt. I’m sure he’s remembered mostly for his more recent work, but I remember him as the fighter pilot who was shot down in the 1984 movie Red Dawn.

photo by Jane Boursaw

Red Dawn was somewhat simplistic in how it showed a group of American teenagers doing guerilla attacks behind the lines of a Soviet/Cuban invasion force. But it did show a healthy kind of gun culture. And it gained some credibility by having Boothe’s character of a colonel giving them tactical advice.

Those of you who saw the movie will know why I chose the phrase do svidaniya

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Play’s the Thing

A few weeks ago, I attended students recitals and a play at a middle school run by a friend of mine.

(Apologies to those not pictured. The ones who appear are random.)

Overall, the class could recite massive amounts of quotations from scripture and classical literature.

I was not educated that way. It would have done me a lot of good to be required to stand and deliver.

Individual eighth-graders stood and delivered their own presentations, playing characters from history. Below is Sir Francis Drake.

Each presentation was by memory and highly impressive. Sir Walter Raleigh is in the foreground below.

Instead of just reciting facts, each student gave a first person biography, including the ambiguous nature of these real-life figures.

The play was A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Below is Oberon, King of Shadows.

As you can see, a lot of work went into the costumes. Also, the players didn’t just stand around and recite lines. They were almost constantly in motion.

Below is Nick Bottom

Wondering why a Shakespearean character has a donkey’s head? Read a book.

Overall, it was a wonderful evening. Many thanks to Sara Loudon and her Covenant Christian Middle School. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Prince Philip, Royal Troller, Retires

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Consort of Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth, announced yesterday he is retiring from performing royal duties. He is only 95.

He showed he has a sense of humor by dubbing himself “the world's most experienced plaque-unveiler.”

He’s made infamous off-the-cuff comments over the years, and it’s not clear when he was joking and when he was not.

 What's he about to say next?
photo by Kiefer

To a child visiting a space shuttle: “Well, you'll never fly in it, you're too fat to be an astronaut.”

To a disabled man on a scooter: “How many people have you knocked over this morning on that thing?”

To the president of Nigeria in traditional robes: “You look like you’re ready for bed.”

To Australian Aborigines: “Do you still throw spears at each other?”

I won’t print what he said about Chinese, because I actually found it offensive. And I can’t print what he said about the Russians. But he could always have some secretary issue a royal apology.

So he had a good run. He did a lot of ceremonial things and met a lot of people. And he couldn’t get fired for what he said.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Network Supervillains Win: Powerless Gets Cancelled

(Apologies to my non-American readers for this rant.)
I’m angry. My favorite television show got cancelled. Powerless told the story of the team at Wayne Security who worked around the clock and goofed off around the clock, developing protective gear for innocent bystanders of superhero battles.

Afraid of getting hit by bricks during one of those aforementioned battles? You need their brickproof umbrellas—which cascades bricks to the side, meaning they can sell more umbrellas. Or afraid of getting scorched by a ball of flame? You need their fireproof poncho, and they may or may not get a superheroine to pose naked in the ad before she dons it. (Poncho does not protect against rain.)

The series mainly focuses on office humor. The minor superheroes they encounter are actually off to the side. Emily, played by Vanessa Hudgens, has frustrating misadventures as she tries to bond with team members, save a good invention, or break her way into the good ol’ boy club that makes up the board. Her sunny smile, her awkwardly fading smile, and her wickedly triumphant smile just about carry the show.

Her incompetent boss, Van Wayne (a cousin of you-know-who), played by Alan Tudyk, often steals the scene with his vapid stupidity. His blunders, as well as the egos of the team members, can ruin Emily’s best-laid plans.

So, what happened? Their premier episode was funny, their second episode was outstandingly funny, and their third episode was okay. That may have let their ratings go down. Also, they were put on against Supernatural, which claimed part of their demographic. (This is like how Buffy the Vampire Slayer almost didn’t make it at first, because it was put on against Ally McBeal, which ruled among young females.) Then NBC preempted two of their episodes to premier some other comedy that wasn’t funny, which makes the audience forget to tune in again.

The rest of the show continued to be funny. It was the highlight of my Thursday evenings. But the morons at NBC cancelled it. If you’re able to access it through Comcast or Xfinity or whatever, hurry and record the available episodes of Powerless before they go away. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Earth-Shattering Love: Movie Review of Your Name

Mitsuha is a teenage girl living in a village in Japan so small, it doesn’t even have a coffee shop. She hates the rural life and longs to move to Tokyo. Taki is a rather ordinary teenage boy in Tokyo who commutes to school by train and who works as a waiter.

One day, Taki wakes up in what is obviously a girl’s body in a house he doesn’t recognize. The next day, Mitsuha is told by her sister and her friends that she acted oddly the previous day—not recognizing people and acting as if she had amnesia, though she cannot remember it. Taki has the same experience. After a while, they realize they are switching bodies.

Overjoyed at being in Tokyo, Mitsuha spends too much of Taki’s money. And Taki doesn’t know how to play basketball or sit with feminine modesty. The switching happens on random days, so they write notes to each other, starting with Mitsuha writing her name on Taki’s hand. As they become more convinced of the reality of the phenomenon, they make detailed notes in each other’s diaries, including complaints about each other’s behavior.

Taki finally decides to call Mitsuha. But the call cannot be completed. And they stop switching bodies. What happened?

Your Name is advertised as the #1 film of Japan in 2016. I don’t know if they mean the #1 animated film, or if it’s just hype. But it is a beautiful movie. I can only say the twist that occurs shows that this phenomenon involves more than just Mitsuha and Taki. And the theme of “Who are you?” pervades the movie.

Some cultural notes:
-In Japan, they drive on the left side of the road.
-It is normal to eat rice and fish at breakfast.
-Politicians really do drive around in trucks and vans to give speeches on the street.
-High schoolers in Tokyo do commute by train.

Whether you’re a fan of anime or never had an interest in it before, Your Name is well worth seeing in a theater. Please do not be offended by their reactions at finding themselves in bodies of the opposite sex. Bring glasses if your theater has the subtitled version, and do yourself a favor by not reading any online descriptions of the movie. Some of the online people said they cried, but I avoided that by an act of will. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Wonder Woman’s Shaved Underarms—Rage Against . . . Something

The latest controversy that makes twitter heads explode is the observable fact that Wonder Woman, the titular character in the upcoming movie, has no hair at all in her underarms. They look quite polished. And even though she is a superheroine who can hold her own with Batman and Superman, extremists who have their hair tied back so tightly it interferes with brain circulation claim that this is a sign of being dominated by the patriarchy. If only we had known it was so easy.

Gal Gadot, former combat trainer in the Israeli military and
the former Miss Israel in the 2004 Miss Universe contest and  
former model, now turned actress. 5’10”  

photo by Gage Skidmore

There are more pressing issues: How does Superman shave? Does he use razors with Kryptonite edges? And why isn’t Bruce Wayne horribly scarred up? Considering his lack of superpowers and all the fights he’s been in, he would be in pretty sad shape.

Or perhaps the world of superheroes isn’t meant to be completely realistic. How many women have you met in real life who looked like the Wonder Woman in the comic books or in the movies?

And this controversy does the opposite of showing the oppression of women. In The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins was referred to as a “child of the kindly west.” You have to be a child of the kindly west (or part or an elite elsewhere) to have the time and energy to fuss about this, considering how women are treated in the majority of the world. So relax and enjoy a comic book fantasy. 


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