November 22, 2013

Hi Ho! The Muppets Return!

I dislike when imaginary characters from my youth are revamped in an effort to make them more palatable to modern audiences. It's a wrongheaded idea that rarely, if ever, works. That's why I'm ecstatic after watching the brand new trailer for the latest Muppet movie, Muppets Most Wanted, due this Spring. The spirit of Jim Henson lives!

November 21, 2013

Strange Bedfellows: Jackie Gleason & Julie Andrews

Here's an interesting little curio: a 1974 television special pairing Julie Andrews with The Great One, Jackie Gleason. An interesting rundown of this strange gem can be found on Film Threat. The YouTube poster notes that Jackie Gleason flew to London for this production, making his first flight in twenty years. This may be the last time Jackie reprised signature characters such as "The Poor Soul," "Reggie Van Gleason III" and "Joe The Bartender."

One odd highlight: a Honeymooners sketch with Julie attempting to play the Ed Norton role. Sheeeesh!

Jimmy Stewart's First Class Nightmare

The 1960s was a highly creative and history-making era. Therefore, a slew of 50th anniversary celebrations are looming on the horizon. Of late, the Golden spotlight is focusing on the Kennedy Assassination, Doctor Who, and The Beatles.

Of course, some things are bound to slip under the radar. For example, one month ago marked the 50th anniversary of one of the most iconic episodes of The Twilight Zone, the gripping yarn "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," which starred a young William Shatner as an airplane passenger bedeviled by a wing hopping gremlin. The episode first aired on October 11, 1963.

Although this episode, written by recently deceased I Am Legend scribe Richard Matheson, deserves it's reputation for originality and suspense, it was not entirely without precedent. Twelve years prior, Jimmy Stewart and Marlene Dietrich co-starred in a British film with similar themes called No Highway in the Sky. 

In the film, Stewart plays one of those befuddled genius types who sometimes forgets things like where he lives or where he keeps the sherry. He works at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, and his current research involves testing his theory that the new "Reindeer" airliner has a flaw: after about 1440 hours of service, the tail will fall off due to metal fatigue. In a strange twist of fate, he finds himself on such an aircraft, one that has clocked in just over 1400 hours.

In a parallel to the later Twilight Zone episode, he tries to convince the pilot, a stewardess, and a passenger that they are all in terrible danger, but to no avail. For the rest of the film, his sanity comes into question. It's a good film and Marlene Dietrich is fine as Monica Teasdale, the elegant movie star passenger. Glynis Johns is absolutely charming as the caring flight attendant.

No Highway in the Sky is currently streaming on Amazon Instant, and is free for Prime subscribers.

The Beatles Are Coming! The Beatles Are Coming!

Ask any Beatles fan to name the quartet's first appearance on American television and you are likely to be told that it was on the February 9, 1964 edition of The Ed Sullivan Show. However, archivists at the Library of Congress have unearthed an audio-only recording of the November 18, 1963 episode of NBC's Huntley-Brinkley Report which aired a feature on Beatlemania, as reported by Edwin Newman. Go listen!

November 20, 2013


Rod Serling's Western. The Loner, starring Lloyd Bridges as a former Union cavalry officer in search of a new life, was Serling's attempt to portray The Wild West in more realistic adult terms. It debuted on September 18, 1965 and lasted one season. It's like The Twilight Zone, but less spooky, and with more gunfights. Serling wrote several episodes, which are probably on YouTube (hint hint).

Harry Belafonte: Sing Your Song. This HBO documentary does a good job of balancing Belafonte's twin histories as a musical pioneer and crusader for equality and justice. Currently streaming on Netflix.

"Now I'm Interested." Meet Lieutenant Joe Kenda. He's seen it all in his career as a Colorado Springs police detective, and now he's going to tell you all about it, in the Investigation Discovery original Homicide Hunter. Kenda's cool delivery and keen eye for detail set this show apart from others of it's ilk. Addictive.

Alo Alo. World Market is where I discovered a seriously refreshing aloe vera beverage produced by a company named ALO.  There are several varieties, the ALLURE with mangosteen and mango being my favorite. The little aloe bits are fun to chew. A daily ritual. ALO website

Streaming Johnny. Johnny Carson fans have been disappointed with the edited versions of TheTonight Show that have been released to date. The releasers of these botch jobs are finally starting to understand that they are selling an experience, not just a show. To wit, a new dvd "Vault Series" and several full episodes streaming gratis on YouTube. Some of the orchestra music has been cut, so these are not perfect, but they're close. Good times!

November 7, 2013

Fumbling Toward Nirvana

Lately, I have sought and found personal enlightenment. I am at a point in my journey that is marked with peace and happiness. I observe so much unhappiness and discontent sometimes when I'm out and about, and I am compelled to try to help, even if my efforts fail or I am perceived to be self-righteous, delusional, or just plain crazy.

Did you ever have a dream that felt more real than other dreams? About three weeks ago, I had a dream so real that I would rather describe it as a visitation than a dream. I remember very little of this event except a warm presence and the comforting message he brought, which was an iron-clad assurance that to be human is to endure suffering, but that one day all that suffering would be replaced by joy.

Now, as a fairly curious person, I have studied different religions, and I know that the message I was given ties in with Buddhist teachings. The First Noble Truth in Buddhism is recognizing suffering. It isn't hard to recognize suffering in man's world. Stories of senseless inhumanity and disasters abound and are only a few clicks away at any given moment. In the interest of full disclosure, I was raised Baptist but more closely identify with Universalism, because it is accepting of all people.

What I know is that since my dream/visitation I have been feeling blissful, healthier, and more centered. Also, perhaps coincidentally, I have been noticing more signs of awesomeness in the world. Here are a few examples:

 Pope Francis recently embraced a severely disfigured man in St. Peter's Square, a very moving spectacle, which quickly became viral.

Matthew Jacko, an amazing young man who has a brain tumor, is helping kids at a local Pennsylvania children's hospital smile, by encouraging people to donate money to buy the children stuffed monkeys. "Laughter is the best thing in the whole wide world," he reports. Agreed.

Then there's this story of a the New York Q Train passenger who made no fuss about the exhausted stranger who was napping on his shoulder. A small act of kindness, not worthy of media attention? Maybe, but pennies add up to dollars.

Just as inspiring as these stories is the fact that they are being widely circulated. It leads me to believe that people still need to know there is good in the world. Compassion, humility, courage. These phenomena do exist and always will, to help us deal with the burdens of life we all carry.

There's more I could say, but I'll leave off for now with an old Irish blessing.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.