Monday, June 27, 2011

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I woke up today with the chirping of a bird, which is nothing too unusual living out in the country, particularly one that's so wooded. I opened up a few blinds to see if I could tell where it's coming from, and dammit, it was from the garage. It must have gotten into the garage last night while I had the door up, or possibly flew into it when I came and went to the grocery store. So goes life I suppose. I opened the garage door and got a broom and tried to flush it out of the back of the garage where it was located, hoping I would startle it and fly out, but no such luck. It squawked at me and ran to another location, so I assume it's sick, injured, or too young to fly, although it looks to be an adult, although I'm no authority on birds. Now he's wedged itself between a bunch of boxes etc. so it's going to be a bit of a hassle to get it out.

The thought crossed my mind on how my dad might have handled this affair. He probably would have just killed it. I don't know if he would have startled it like I did and give it a chance to fly out, or just crushed it. Crushing it seems cruel to me, but it would have solved the problem. Plus my Dad being a vet from WWII and seeing action, death, and the rest I sometimes felt hardened him on such matters. He respected life, I'm sure, but on the other hand, he didn't have too much a problem disposing with it when the time came. I remember him killing a rabbit once in our backyard when I was a kid that had gotten trapped in a chain link fence. It had mangled part of its leg. He told us to go get a hammer, he was going to put it out of its misery, and he told us to go on and play, but I knew what he had to do. At any rate, I'll eat breakfast and think about the bird dilemma.

Over the weekend I went to four estate sales. I don't normally go to your garden variety garage sales, mostly of the time they are just selling off junk they don't want to haul off to the dump. The better things are normally found in estate sales. Sometimes though they can be a bust as well. The first two, I hit on Friday as they were in the same area south of town. They were in some nice homes as well. I didn't find anything, however, it was fun looking. The first house I looked at had certain areas you could look in, but roped off the rest of the home so you couldn't go into the entire house, but it was a nice two story house. I noticed that in the bathroom they even had a small sauna room in it. Also I noticed that in the master bedroom, the owner had a small TV mounted above the bed. Oddly that's the first time I've seen that. The second estate sale was in the same location but in a harder area to get in and out of being in a gated community where the road to and from the home was too narrow, and people parked along the side of the street, so traveling through the area was difficult. I decided to park outside the gates, and walk to the house. They had some interesting stuff, but again, I left without a purchase. By this time, the heat had started to really get hot, and I was ready to get home, and eat something. I think I took a short nap, and watched Roger Ebert's At the Movies on PBS, along with a movie from Netflix, called Get Low. It' a good movie starring Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray and others where Duvall plays the role of a hermit in the Tennessee outback who decides to have his own funeral while he's still alive. There's a reveal towards the end, but it's an interesting film.

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Later that night, I picked up a Friday newspaper, and an American Classified, and found two other sales. I got up fairly early Saturday, and hit the one that was going to end around 1pm. It was in an older section of town, but had some cool stuff to look at. Although the home where it was at was older, they had a lot of neat restoration done to the house. I could tell the owner was proud of his heritage (Scottish) as he had collected different items of that nature. They had some several items that were sort of cool, but I thought their prices were a bit pricey, although being the last day of the sale, were half off the sticker price. I think this is generally a rule of thumb for estate sales: the last day is half off. They had some neat lamps, but nothing I needed.

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I found a pretty interesting book on Sherlock Holmes there. It's called Sherlock Holmes In London by Charles Viney, and has photographs along with six of Doyle's tales. From his introduction he cites 1874 as the earliest known date for a story (The Gloria Scott) and 1914 as the latest (His Last Bow). Consequently, he reproduced photographs of London locations mentioned in the Holmes cannon between those dates, and tied them to the dates in the story, if known. I've never read any Sherlock Holmes and the photos enhance the stories. I also found a bunch of tomato cages there for a good price, which I can use.

The second sale I visited Saturday was held by a church in town, and was a bust. It was mostly junk, and the only reason I went was because their ad said they had CDs and DVDs, but I found neither, and when I say junk, I really mean junk. So I left there pretty quickly. I got home and ate, and did a few chores. Later that night I wanted to watch a movie, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, that a friend had recommended a while back. I knew a little bit about it, and since it's not available on DVD for rental, gave it a watch. It's an odd, light movie that's influenced by the pulps. It's sort of along the line of maybe Indiana Jones, but a lot quirkier, and has a lot of humor in it. To give you an indication of the quirkiness, it begins with a black cop who dies or at least a "faked death" while fighting crime, and then wakes up in a hospital room as a white man. (How this transformation takes place is unexplained.) He is dubbed Remo Williams, by a mysterious covert operator, who gets his name, Remo Williams, from the bottom of a bed pan. The covert operator works for CURE an organization that tries to preserve the Constitution by working outside the law, and their current target is a shady industrialist selling faulty weapons to the military. It's based on the popular pulp series "The Destroyer," by Richard Sapir and Warren Murphy. It was a fun movie for a Saturday night.

I guess I'll see what I can do about that bird situation...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

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I've been doing various stuff around the house lately, which has kept me busy. One of my projects has been to put some covers over the gutters running around the roof of my house to keep out all the debris, pine needles, leaves, etc. from dropping into them. Why I got the wild hair to do this in 100 plus degree heat escapes me, I'll just call it bad timing. But I finally finished it up Monday, which I was grateful. I went by Lowe's early on and finished buying the last of the covers that I thought I needed, and waited a bit until the evening to get out and finish the job. It got dark and the sun set, but I was determined to finish as they'd predicted a bit of rain. So I dug out a flashlight to finish. I'm glad I did. We need more rain in this area, it's been pretty bone dry for our season, but with the rain that we did get the other day, it seems the covers did their job.

Sunday I watched TNT's two hour premier of the television series Falling Skies. It was okay, but I wouldn't say much beyond that. It was your typical alien invasion film. Since I'm a fan of such fare, of course, I'm a sucker to watch it, but the whole while it played, I wondered why these formula type films have a market. There have been many films about alien invasion since the 50's, like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, War of the Worlds, The Thing from Another World, take your pick.

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The theme is hardly a new one. That said though, I'm glad that there's another ongoing SF series on TV. There's too many crime shows, detective shows, or just poorly written sitcoms for me. That's why as bad as most reality shows might be, there are a few like Pawn Stars, American Pickers, or even Survivor (although last season was pretty weak) that I'll watch and enjoy. But back to SF and alien invasion...

Falling Skies was just okay for a premier, it certainly didn't leave me with the impression: This is great, I need to remember to watch it next week. It certainly wasn't as strange a series or as well written as Fringe, or didn't set up as well as the X-Files did, it didn't have the odd cultural angle like Alien Nation. I think to breathe new life into this rather old formula the writers of Falling Skies have their work cut out for them. There was a series some years back that I thought was well executed and the premier of it was way more exciting, and that was Threshold. Unfortunately Threshold got booted off the air before it could finish the plots that I'm sure they'd wanted. I think it ran for two seasons.

Falling Skies by comparisons seemed pretty mundane. It didn't seemed to have any outstanding characters either, as much as I like Noah Wyle, he played an adequate father figure, and perhaps his role will expand to a greater one, but the writers are really going to have to amp it up to achieve that. There were some neat effects and alien-looking creatures, but the tone of the series seemed too melodramatic for my taste--sort of soap operatic. So I guess I'll tune in next week and see what happens. I still haven't gotten down to the cinema to see Super 8, which I have intentions of doing. I think it's one of those SF films that would be cool to watch on the big screen. Tonight on the TCM channel they'll be showing older SF fare like It Came From Beneath the Sea, The Monster That Challenged The World, etc. so I'll be tuning into that for a bit. There's a pretty interesting site, called TV Worth Watching, if you're into that sort of thing, here's a link.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

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On Saturday afternoon, I took in a pretty cool exhibit held at the Tyler Museum of Art. There were two current exhibits showing. One was called Remember When: Marvels & Memories. It was a movie poster and memorabilia collection of times past. The other was an art exhibition held in another room. The artist's name escapes me, but they were oil paintings, some abstract, but most were based on American quilts and other subjects.

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The exhibition on movie posters and memorabilia was from a collection of Dr. James Clark, and even though I don't know the man personally, his interest in collecting eclipsed my own interest very closely. Remember When was an apt name for it, as being a baby boomer, it took me back to my earlier days of youth, and slightly before I was born as well, with some of the historical, sport, and military items on exhibit. This was a time period when movies were twenty five cents and movie snacks were even cheaper than that. Treasure decoder rings were found in cereal boxes or you could save coupons for them, and "secret messages" were transmitted through your favorite radio show. This was a simpler time when many of the popular characters seen in today's movies and television shows were actually created.

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Dr. James Clark, from what I could read about the man, seemed to be about my age, and had accumulated his collection over thirty years. His interest in the items started when his mother worked for Interstate Theatres in Paris, Texas for many years as an usher (one of the first females to hold such a position), and finally as the secretary-treasurer. During Dr. Clark's high school years, he worked at the same movie theater. His main task was to change out the lobby posters and the titles on the marque. His primary core of interest were related to the vintage movie memorabilia, but also included baseball, military items, and historical items and advertising premiums from the 40's and 50's.

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Some of the baseball items in his collection were truly amazing as he had collected posters for The Babe Ruth Story and had autographs from Babe Ruth framed along with the poster. The same for other baseball posters like Pride of the Yankees, and the film poster Safe at Home, with autographs by Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and other famous baseball sport figures. In the 40's and 50's baseball was truly America's pastime, and everyone had a favorite team (I guess the same is true today). It seemed that every kid had a baseball or football card collection, with a cigar box at home to store them in.

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The military was always a source of pride for his family and showed at the museum as well collecting artifacts like guns, knives, movie posters at the time for famous movies like Casablanca, Sergeant York, military uniforms and such. His grandfather served in the Army during World War I, and his father served in the Navy during World War II. Dr. Clark also served a three year tenure as a physician in the Army Medical Corps. He had the privilege of serving at Letterman General Hospital in San Francisco, California, and the U.S. Army Hospital in Berlin, Germany. Letterman Hospital at the Presidio was usually the first stop for the wounded soldiers returning from Vietnam and he stated in the promo literature for the exhibit, it was a extraordinary experience for him.

While on his tour of duty in Germany, his responsibility was for the care for the Nazi criminal, Rudolph Hess, the Deputy Fuhrer under Adolph Hitler. Hess was once considered the second most powerful man in Germany, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1946 during the Nuremberg Trials. By 1966, Hess was the last remaining inmate of Spandau Prison in Berlin. He stated that this was a unique and difficult experience for him, but one that made a lasting and profound impression on him, and stimulated his interest in military history. I would love to hear some of the stories Dr. Clark might have about this experience.

His Sergeant York movie poster was framed with a picture of the real Sergeant Alvin C. York, who served in WW I, and won many medals for taking out 32 machine gun nest, killing 28 Germans and capturing 132 men. His Casablanca poster included autographs by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. One particular section of the collection is made up of different objects that relate to the Battle of Iwo Jima, a World War II battle that became an icon of U.S. military history due in large part to a photograph titled "Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima" taken by Joe Rosenthal on February 23, 1945. Among other items, the show included a postcard signed by all three surviving flag raisers at Iwo Jima: John Bradley, Rene Gagon, and Ira H. Hayes.

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The collection brought back a time when we as a country were more united, more simple--no computers or cell phones back then, and as a country, were different. Children played in the streets and walked to school or their local movie theater to catch the latest picture shows. Families used to gather around the radio to listen to broadcasts of "The Shadow" or "George and Gracie Allen." There wasn't much on television back then, and when it did come in, came in with generally a fuzzy black and white TV set from an old antenna for reception. There wasn't anything much more exciting to a child than the anticipation of the special prize, earned over time by the collection of cereal box tops, or finding his favorite superhero on the spinner racks at the local drug store.

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The collection included a large collection of movie posters, some also included early comic books that went along with that particular superhero like Captain Marvel, which included a Captain Marvel #27, and a Wow and Whiz comic. There were other movie posters from serials like the Captain America serial, Commando Cody, Green Hornet, The Shadow, Gene Autry, Batman and Superman posters. The Superman section included memorabilia items like lunch boxes, comics, autographs from George Reeves, who played Superman in the 1950's television program Adventures of Superman. He had a nice set of Captain Marvel posters as well, with a Captain Marvel child's sweater and back pack. He had collected a lot of superhero premium rings, some had whistles on them, which I was unaware of. He had collected a lot of different comic character pins ranging from newspaper strips like Little Orphan Annie to Dick Tracy and so forth. He also had collected some animation from the big three animation studio companies: Disney, Terrytoons, and Merrie Melodies/Looney Toons. All in all it was an afternoon of nostalgia, and a whole lot of fun.

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Monday, June 06, 2011

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I was looking around on the web and ran into this Top Ten list on the Criterion web site by famous people: actors, directors, cartoonist and the like. I'm still exploring it, but one of the first people whose list things that I looked at was Seth. He's a Canadian independent cartoonist who does a comic called Palooka-ville, Clyde Fans, and It's A Good Life If You Don't Weaken. He also did the cover art of the film: Make Way For Tomorrow. It's a good film if you haven't seen it.

I also looked at the list by cartoonist, Mike Allred. (I don't appreciate his story telling as much as Seth's as Allred's stories are more fictional/fantasy/farce super-hero based, whereas Seth's cartooning is more centered around real-life tropes (although they are more than likely for the most part fictional). However, so far I've seen more of the Criterion films that Mike Allred has listed like: Charade, A Man Who Fell to Earth, Seven Samurai, Le Samourai,The Red Shoes, Brazil, Time Bandits, and Gimme Shelter. I also plan to explore some of the things off Sonic Youth's list, even though I don't care for their music that much, along with many of the other list.

At any rate, I'm still looking over all the list and adding a few things to my Netflix queue. Down here in East Texas it has gotten hot (what else is new huh?). I used to hate working in the summers when I worked at the railroad. The cabs to the engines weren't air conditioned, they were made of metal, so if it was a hundred degrees outside, it was easily ten to fifteen more degrees in the cab. Talk about miserable. At any rate, I cleaned out the garage a bit yesterday and sprayed for bugs, as it seems each year the sugar ants appear in my kitchen. When I lived in Odessa I had a problem with ants in my bathroom area, which I always thought was weird as there's not any food in that area, and they were a larger species. Oh well, so goes summer.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

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Comic Con: Part 2, or So Are You Spock or Not?

Well, I was still looking downstairs when my brother called me on the cell phone and told me I better hurry up or I'd miss Nimoy. I finished looking around in some of the cheap-o boxes of comics. Like I said, I found a few cool things: Brubaker's Incognito, which is sort of pulp inspired, some G.I.Joe: Cobra comics by Gage, Costa, & Fuso, which is from a mini-series I'd been curious about that's supposed to be darker than the original run, a comic I picked up on a lark, Doc Frankenstein--actually I erroneously picked this up--I thought I was getting the Franken-Castle comic, which is a horror take on the Punisher comic, but I'll check out this Doc Frankenstein thing, an old Comics Journal, No. 90, which has an Al Williamson interview in it, along with reviews, etc. Plus I found a cheap copy of Chester Brown's Little Man short story strips 1980-1995, and the big kahuna, being a 800 page manga by artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi's A Drifting Life, which is sort of an autobiographical comic, which took him four decades to complete, part memoir, part what it means to be an artist, part family dynamics, and Japanese culture. It's a huge book, but I found it at a good price and was happy to get it.

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So I paid for my comics, and made my way upstairs to the third floor where the forums were taking place. I wanted to grab a Coke or something to drink, but there were lines everywhere, so I knew that was a no-go. I made it up to the third floor, but didn't know where to go, and asked one of the volunteers sitting at a table. She knew about as much as I did (zippo), but finally found the area I needed to be in. I found where my brother was sitting and make my way over. The Leonard Nimoy presentation had wrapped up. My brother told me a few of the things he'd discussed like his earlier career playing on Dragnet and SF serial, Zombie of the Sratosphere, and playing the army sergeant on the SF film, Them! He spoke a bit about how his family were immigrants from Russia, and a bit at how he got started with Star Trek. My brother said when he first arrive a lot of the younger crowd were flashing him the Vulcan salutation, cheering: Hey Spock, Spock, look, it's Spock. But Nimoy seemed to take the fame with grace, and commented a bit about his reservations on writing his book, I Am Not Spock, and how he felt compelled to write the follow up autobiography, I Am Spock. I'd seen Nimoy speak previously at, of all places, the newly constructed gym at Odessa College back in the late 80's. He seemed then as he was now, at ease with the public, cordial, and enjoying life.

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The next forum that followed was held in the same location and was on making horror comics. The forum was with Steve Niles, who wrote the book, 30 Days of Night from which the movie was made, and Bernie Wrightson, the artist known for his early Swamp Thing collaborations with Len Wein, his work at Warren publishing, and some of the Doc Sternns work that was in the Heavy Metal movie, illustrating some of the Stephen King novels, among other stuff. They were announcing that they were collaborating on some new horror comics together: some vampire stories, and so forth, taking old gothic motifs and writing a few stories with them. They talked for a bit about the new horror movies, how they didn't care for the new romantic vampires like Twilight, etc., and a bit how Hollywood worked, and all the roadblocks that one encounters from written page to screen. But they said, you just have to block out that, do your work, and if someone options your work for a film, well, that's icing on the cake. I was glad I attended the talk as these also get you time to get your second wind. After the forum, I was hungry, thirsty, and we decided to leave. We still had to make it back to the car (a mile or so away), and drive somewhere to eat. All in all though, it wasn't a good as some of the previous Dallas Fantasy Fairs I'd attended in the past, but it was fun. I just hope they don't have them in this location in the future.