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Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot
Friday, March 24, 2006
Big TV
The last two days have been oddly stressful, but I think everything has been (mostly) taken care of. Props to Chicken for going for beyond the normal call to help out; I wouldn't have been able to get as much done as quickly without him.

I got a "new" larger TV Wednesday night. Some co-workers got a new plasma and asked if I wanted their old (1997) 36-incher, as opposed to the old (1997) 27-incher I have now. Holy crap, that thing is heavy, and we needed a last-minute assist from Moto to get it up my stairs.

Then, I had to get a new entertainment center, because mine would only fit a 27-incher. Here I had some luck, in that I was trying to figure out how to get rid of it. I asked the downstairs neighbors if they wanted it, and couldn't believe it when they said, "Mmmm, yeah, we do need one, we were just going to buy one." So Chicken and I moved it downstairs, which was not difficult.

The two of us then went to Meijer (after dropping off an orange at Kristin's so she could drink beer...I don't know, just go with it...) to buy my new entertainment center for the 36-incher. This is where my stupidity/bad luck jumped in, because even though I had (I thought) carefully measured all my components that would have to fit into this entertainment center--receiver, DVD recorder, cable box, DVD player, VCR--after I bought it, brought it home, and assembled it (with more much-needed Chicken help), the two larger items (cable box, DVD recorder) were too wide to fit into it. I knew it would be snug, but I could have sworn they would fit. Unless the display model is a different size? Ahhh, I don't know.

So, for the time being, I moved a table into the living room with those components resting on it, but I think that if I get a small table or maybe even a small entertainment center, I can move it next to the other one and it will look/function okay. Or even what they call a "video/audio" tower.

Bottom line: I now have a 36-inch TV (which is somewhat ridiculous in its very small room), which will come in handy watching blurry dubs of Kilink movies and old episodes of THE RAT PATROL. At least I finally got everything plugged into it, and it all seems to function. One thing I did--does anyone else do this?--is label each of the cables and wires when I unhooked them, so I would know what they plugged into when I put them into the new entertainment center. Kinda dorky perhaps, but I'm really not very good with electronics, and it sure helped me.

Posted by Marty at 8:05 AM CST
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Thursday, March 23, 2006
College Sophomore Serves Dubya
This clip was taken from THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN:

I guess George didn't read the newspaper that day.

Here is his entire hilarious bullshit response. Feel free to either laugh or cry. Both are appropriate responses.

"Actually, I think what we did was reform the student loan program. We are not cutting money out of it. In other words, people aren't going to be cut off the program. We're just making sure it works better as part of the reconciliation package I think she's talking about? Yeah ? It is a form of the program to make sure it functions better. In other words, we're not taking people off student loans. We're saving money in the student loan program because it's inefficient. So I think the thing to look at is whether or not there will be fewer people getting student loans. I don't think so.

Secondly, on Pell grants, we are actually expanding the number of Pell grants through our budget. Great question. The key on education is to make sure that we stay focused on how do we stay competitive into the 21st century, and I plan on doing some talking about math and science and engineering programs so that people who graduate out of college will have the skills necessary to compete in this competitive world. But I think I'm right on this. I will check when I get back to Washington, but thank you for your question."

Yeah, I bet he got right on that as soon as he got back.

Posted by Marty at 6:41 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, March 23, 2006 6:45 PM CST
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Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Why Isn't Today A National Holiday?
The World's Greatest Living Actor, the one and only William Shatner, turned 75 years old today and God bless him. I'm an unabashed Shatner fan and have been ever since I was about 11 years old and started watching STAR TREK rabidly. You can laugh if you want, but I learned a lot about friendship, honor, loyalty, professionalism, justice and duty from watching Shatner's Captain Kirk. I never quite mastered that two-fisted neck chop though.

I only wish those who dismiss Shatner as a "bad" actor took the time to really pay attention to his best stuff. The two TWILIGHT ZONE episodes, the Roger Corman film THE INTRUDER (perhaps the best movie Corman ever directed, and certainly Corman's personal favorite), the two-part STUDIO ONE episode with Steve McQueen that spawned THE DEFENDERS, and STAR TREK episodes like "City on the Edge of Forever", where he fell in love tragically with the doomed Edith Keeler (Joan Collins), "Obsession", "Where No Man Has Gone Before", "Metamorphosis" and many more. I think Shatner's work in STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN is among the best acting I've ever seen in a science fiction movie (it helps that Montalban and Nimoy are so great in it too).

And, yeah, I love the crap too. PRAY FOR THE WILDCATS, where Shatner, Robert Reed and Marjoe Gortner go off on a cross-country motorcycle trip with murderous pervert psychopath rape killer Andy Griffith. IMPULSE, where Shatner plays a sweaty gigolo serial killer. I own the DVDs of T.J. HOOKER, where his determined portrayal of a scum-hating conservative cop definitely walked the line between sincerity and parody.

However, I have no rational explanation for this video. I simply stare at it in awe and marvel that I live in a world where this could exist.

Posted by Marty at 11:22 PM CST
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Tuesday, March 21, 2006
People Start Pollution
You may have noticed that my blog entries have been shorter lately. I'm just experimenting a little bit to see how that works. Or maybe I'm just lazy, I don't know. I rarely receive any comments, so I have no idea who's reading this blog (if anybody) on a regular basis or what's popular and what isn't. I know Cheeseburger thinks my blog is "boring," and I suspect 1000-word treatises on 35-year-old TV shows like MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE are being soundly ignored.

I don't plan on posting many videos, since I suspect they take up a lot of bandwidth, but I spent a couple of hours doodling around YouTube last night, and found a few things to share. I have to give Chicken credit for watching the entire KIDS FROM C.A.P.E.R. title sequence, which I'm sure looked to him like a Japanese game show or something ("What the fuck, kids used to watch this? On purpose?" Yes, yes, we did...).

The following video I'm sure you've all seen a zillion times. It's likely the most famous public service announcement ever made, and used to air constantly on late-night television.

Some points of note:
* I think the music is hilariously over-the-top. I'm sure it's a library cue that someone pulled off an old record, and I'd love to know what it is. DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA! It sounds like a dune buggy chase on MANNIX or something.

* Iron Eyes Cody, the actor playing the Indian, was actually not a Native American, but rather an Italian-American. He played a shitload of Indians in movies and TV shows going back to the 1930s, and even pretended to be an Indian most of his adult life, I suppose to get acting gigs. He even married an Indian woman and adopted Indian children.

* You probably recognize the narrator as radio star (he played Matt Dillon on GUNSMOKE), voiceover artist extraordinare and occasional film and TV actor William Conrad. Blessed with one of the world's great voices, Conrad narrated several TV title sequences, including THE FUGITIVE and Glen A. Larson's BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY and THE HIGHWAYMAN. I can't believe he didn't do Larson's KNIGHT RIDER. At the time this PSA was popular, Conrad was the star of the CBS detective series CANNON, a well-produced and written Quinn Martin show. CANNON was a very good program, and maybe I'll write about it someday.

* This clip first aired in 1971. It was parodied in 1993's WAYNE'S WORLD 2.

Posted by Marty at 11:13 PM CST
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Monday, March 20, 2006
Race To Your Place On The Case Every Time
YouTube is very damned addictive. I'm shocked that I accidentally found this. I have no idea how I would react if I saw this show today, but I was a big fan of it when I was about eight years old. We even used to play THE KIDS FROM C.A.P.E.R. in the backyard. Here's the opening title sequence. Catchy tune...

Posted by Marty at 10:15 PM CST
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Nantz: Off The List
Jim Nantz is still boring, but at least he sacked up and admitted he was wrong in trashing the addition of four Missouri Valley Conference teams to the NCAA tournament.

Billy Packer: still an asshole.

Posted by Marty at 8:11 PM CST
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Sunday, March 19, 2006
When Country Was Cool
Now Playing: BRUTE CORPS
I was listening to some old country tunes today, and there were a couple of things that struck me about them.

"Coward of the County" was a big hit for Kenny Rogers in 1980, but only recently did I realize how sleazy the song's subject is. "Coward" is about a boy named Tommy who promised his father on his deathbed that he'd avoid violence. The townspeople all think Tommy is a big pussy, because he never fights back against the bullies who pick on him. However, one day while Tommy's at work, the three Gatlin brothers find Tommy's girlfriend Becky and gangrape her. When Tommy learns what happened, he tracks down all three Gatlins and kicks the shit out of them. I can't think of any other #1 records about rape, at least not any that treat the subject as cheap melodrama. I'm sure there are some heavy songs about the tragic after-effects of rape, likely sung by women, but it sounds odd to hear Becky's plight used as an instigation for vigilante justice. Of course, this exact scenario has played out in hundreds of movies and TV shows, but it just feels weird to hear it in such a breezy, happy-sounding song. Unsurprisingly, "Coward of the County" was made into a made-for-TV movie in 1981.

P.S. Why are the brothers named Gatlin? Did Kenny have a beef with the country singers? If so, it seems kinda harsh to name rapists after them, and if not, it seems like an odd way to pay tribute to your friends.

I also heard "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" by the Charlie Daniels Band. My version is the unexpurgated version with the lyric "I told you once, you son of a bitch, I'm the best there's ever been." If you've ever heard this on the radio, you know that "son of a gun" is always substituted for "son of a bitch." What I find funny about this is that the epithet is being directed towards the Devil, and if you can't call Satan a sonuvabitch, then whom?

Posted by Marty at 11:05 PM CST
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Packer, Nantz = Dumbasses
Have Jim Nantz and Billy Packer eaten their words yet?

The two CBS sportscasters pitched a fit when four Missouri Valley teams were named to the NCAA tournament (well, three were named; Southern Illinois won the MVC tournament and won an automatic bid). This weekend, the 65-team field shrank to 16, and MVC teams Bradley and Wichita State are among them.

Fuck you, Billy Packer and Jim Nantz.

Posted by Marty at 5:19 PM CST
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Thursday, March 16, 2006
Chuck's Back And Brutal
Now Playing: THE CUTTER

This week marked the release of Chuck Norris' first major film in a decade. THE CUTTER was filmed in Spokane, Washington with director William Tannen (who helmed Chuck's HERO AND THE TERROR for Cannon) and an interesting cast of B-level performers. I suspect Nu Image is chasing Norris' middle-aged target audience with this one, 'cause I think Dean Cochran in a short bit as a comic-relief lawyer might be the only cast member under 40.

Chuck is John Shepherd, a private detective hired by Elizabeth Teller (Joanna Pacula) to find her elderly uncle Isaac (Bernie Kopell from THE LOVE BOAT and GET SMART!). The expert diamond cutter has been kidnapped to work on a pair of spectacular gems swiped from an archeological dig in the Sinai by Dirk (martial arts star Daniel Bernhardt), an assassin and master of disguise in the employ of Nazi war criminal Steerman (Curt Lowens, essaying his 93rd Nazi role), who murdered Isaac's family in Auschwitz. Also in the cast are Nu Image regular Todd Jensen, Marshall Teague (who played the heavy in both the first and last episodes of WALKER, TEXAS RANGER), Tracy Scoggins (looking good in her 50s) and executive producer Aaron Norris as a hitman.

Norris was 65 when he shot THE CUTTER, but was working hard to fool the audience into believing he's younger. Sporting an ill-colored hairpiece and what appears to be a face that's seen a knife or two, Norris is as stiff as ever as a performer and a martial artist. It's pretty obvious that he isn't much of a fighter anymore, even with brother Aaron and son Eric, the stunt coordinator, looking out for his best interests. Outside of the cast (I mean, really, who would have thought to cast the LOVE BOAT doctor as an elderly concentration camp survivor), THE CUTTER is pretty routine, about on the same level as a late-season WALKER episode. Tannen's hackneyed direction does the movie no favors, because the ingredients for a better picture are there. It's okay, but strictly for Chuck's fans.

Last night, I finally caught GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK. (yes, the title has both a comma and a period). It's a very good movie that perhaps portrays legendary CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow (an excellent David Strathairn) as too much of a saint, but director/co-star (as Murrow's executive producer Fred Friendly) George Clooney plays fair with the facts if you pay enough attention. Any movie that portrays the downfall of Senator McCarthy is okay in my book anyway, but Clooney sharply and succinctly captures the smoky, hectic atmosphere of high-stress broadcast journalism and the righteous stance Murrow and Friendly (and, at least somewhat, CBS president William Paley) took against McCarthy's cruel bullying. Make no mistake: Joe McCarthy was a major-league prick. Murrow did not play as great a role in McCarthy's downfall as some critics have inferred from GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK, but, really, McCarthy's biggest enemy was himself, and as soon as the sweaty, paranoid baboon was exposed as a naked emperor, his days of power were numbered.

On iTunes:
"The Meanest Guy That Ever Lived"--Jack Palance!!
"Mary's House"--4 Non Blondes
"It's OK"--Beach Boys
"The Disco Kid"--First Class
Theme from THE RAT PATROL--Dominic Frontiere
"Big Town Boy"--Shirley Matthews
"Electric Sox and All"--Mason
"Bamboo Birdcage"--Lalo Schifrin from ENTER THE DRAGON
"The Kilaaks' Essence"--Akira Ifukube from DESTROY ALL MONSTERS
"Der Zinker"--Peter Thomas
"#38"--The Chimes
"You've Got Me Dangling on a String"--Chairmen of the Board
"Dont' Lose Your Mind"--Galaxies IV
"Homeward Bound"--Space Farm
"Carrie Anne"--The Hollies

Posted by Marty at 10:29 PM CST
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Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Shatner = Served
As I've written before, I'm a big fan of the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE TV series, which successfully aired on CBS from 1966-1973--seven seasons. Tonight I watched two episodes that guest-starred William Shatner. "Cocaine" and "Encore" aired during the 7th and 6th seasons, respectively. Strangely, these shows aired after Shatner's STAR TREK cohort Leonard Nimoy completed his two-season run as a regular, playing a master of disguise and magician named Paris.

The series became famous for its outlandish "stings", cons that the Impossible Missions Force, led by Steven Hill (LAW & ORDER) as Dan Briggs during the first season and Peter Graves as Jim Phelps after that, perpetrated in order to trap the villains of the week. For most of the run, the IMF operated almost always in foreign countries, battling saboteurs, spies, assassins, despotic monarchs behind the Iron Curtain or in Central America. Later in the show, by the time Shatner guest-starred, the series had changed its format a bit, usually pitting the IMF against American gangsters (the "Syndicate") on U.S. soil. The result was that MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE lost much of what made it unique and now looked much like every other cop show on television that was routinely chasing druglords and mobsters.

For plots, M:I still had some doozies up its sleeve. In "Cocaine," Shatner plays Joe Conrad, the right-hand man to druglord Carl Reid (Stephen McNally). Graves and his IMF team, including Greg Morris as Barney, Peter Lupus as Willy and former IRONSIDE co-star Barbara Anderson (who guest-starred opposite Shatner in the STAR TREK episode "Conscience of the King"), need to learn the location of a major drug deal set to go down in less than two days. To do so, they manage to convince Conrad they have invented a machine that creates synthetic cocaine. Yep, a big shiny mechanical contraption (that looks like something drawn by Jack Kirby) that spits out fake cocaine indistinguishable, even under a microscope, from the real thing.

Beyond the wacky concept of the cocaine machine, "Cocaine" doesn't really stand out much, although it's still fun to watch (M:I is always fun to watch, even the lesser episodes). Charles Napier, another former TREK guest star ("The Way to Eden"), is in it, as is BARNEY MILLER's Gregory Sierra. Plus, Anderson looks really beautiful in it.

Next to "Encore," however, "Cocaine" comes across as pretty darned plausible. "Encore"'s story is about as insane and implausible as any TV episode I've ever seen. Dammit, though, if it doesn't work anyway, thanks to the commitment of the M:I cast and crew, which plays it all absolutely straight (M:I rarely showed any humor), and Shatner's sharp performance.

To describe "Encore"'s plot still doesn't express just how ridiculous it is, but I'll try. Shatner is Joseph Kroll, a 65-year-old gangster who still lives in the same New York City neighborhood where he grew up. Law enforcement has never been able to pin a crime on him, so the IMF decides to try to bust him for a 35-year-old murder, in which the victim's body and the murder weapon were never found. They know Kroll did the crime, but need evidence to convict him.

Here's the idea. The IMF knocks Kroll out and administers instant plastic surgery that lasts only for six hours. They make him look like he's 30 again by removing his wrinkles using paraffin (!), dye his hair, and somehow eliminate his limp! They then take him to a movie studio where they have duplicated 1937 New York down to the most minute detail. Only about three square blocks, but it's a good thing Kroll never seems to leave the area anyway. He comes to believe that it's actually the day he's going to commit the murder, and the IMF, in perfect disguise of course, lead him through that day's events, eventually faking the murder and following Kroll when he dumps the body, so they can duplicate Kroll's steps on the actual New York block.

It's a lot to swallow, and Shatner does a nice job with the slow realization that what seems impossible may not be. He doesn't accept his new surroundings too soon or too late. Really, you can't blame Kroll for being fooled, since the IMF must have spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to compile props and costumes, build fake sets, hire extras, scour the country for period antiques...even get the airports to stop air traffic over the studio lot and hire a period airplane to fly over.

A good alternate name for the show would be SERVED, since the most satisfying moments often come at the end, when the bad guy gets an unexpected peek behind the magic curtain and realizes that he has been completely and utterly duped, while the IMF drives off and leaves him behind to suffer consequences. At the end of "Cocaine," Shatner actually smiles with respect at the operatives whom he believed to be crooks like himself, while "Encore" effectively ends with Shatner running alone down empty streets, his limp returning and face melting, as he stumbles onto a western street and realizes with mouth agape that he has been totally and utterly served.

Apropos of nothing, but still interesting. Coincidentally, both episodes were written by Harold Livingston, who later penned the screenplay to STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE.

Posted by Marty at 10:50 PM CST
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