Monthly Archives: August 2010

A Curious Case of Parallelism

Just lately, I’ve been working my way through Season One of the old TV series Vega$ on DVD. If you don’t remember it, Vega$ — not to be confused with the more recent James Caan series Las Vegas — was an early entry in the private-detective genre that dominated prime time during much of the 1980s, running for three seasons from 1978 to ’81. The show was created by Michael Mann, who would later become the driving force behind Miami Vice, and his pilot script suggested Vega$ could have been a stylish series with enough grit to allow some serious storytelling and character development, but without getting too heavy. Unfortunately, Mann’s influence was quickly swamped by executive producer Aaron Spelling’s trademark glitz, superficiality, and penchant for the ridiculous. For example, a typical episode from the first season involved an unscrupulous land developer trying to scare a retired madame off her property by — get this — sending a gorilla to threaten her. Or more precisely, a guy in a ratty-looking gorilla suit, like the ones Hawkeye and Trapper wore when they wanted to annoy Frank Burns. Yeah, it’s a pretty bad show, even by the admittedly looser standards of the time.

(In case you’re wondering, I was never a fan, not even back in the day; in fact, I don’t recall ever watching it at all. The only reason it even pinged my radar is because the lead character drove a red 1957 Ford Thunderbird like my dad’s. I picked up the DVDs out of curiosity, and to get a look at that car, and now I’m watching with the same sick “I cannot look away” fascination I feel when I see some white-trash loser getting busted for huffing paint on COPS.)

Believe it or not, though, my purpose here really isn’t to rip on Vega$ for simply being what it was, namely a product of the Spelling cheese factory. After all, it ran in the time slot following Charlie’s Angels, so what else could it have been but a big old pile of Kraft singles? No, what I’m interested in discussing is how eerily similar Vega$ was to another detective series, a much more respected and beloved series, a series that was starting production right around the time Vega$ was winding down: Magnum, PI. The two shows are so similar, in fact, that I think you can make a pretty good argument that Magnum, better though it might have been, was something of a Vega$ rip-off. Consider the following:


That’s the Best I Could Come Up With?!

Okay, I know nothing is more tedious than somebody talking about their dreams, but I had one last night that I still haven’t managed to shake off, even after being up for several hours, so I’m afraid I’m about to become one of those boring people who blather on about their dreams as if they actually matter to anyone but the person doing the blathering. Sorry, everyone, but I’ve just got to get this out of my head.

I dreamed I was at some kind of townhall meeting where President Obama was appearing in person. It was a small and intimate gathering where everyone was guaranteed up-close-and-personal contact with him, and we’d all been told he would answer any question we wanted to ask him. Any question about any topic at all. So I was wracking my brains trying to come up with something good, something original, something hard-hitting and penetrating and relevant, a question that would stand out from all the mundane bullshit everyone else was asking. I wanted to give the president a chance to satisfy his critics on both the Left and the Right, to defuse the rising hysteria and ignorance and anger that is sweeping this nation and make everything all right again, for everyone. I knew he could do it if only he heard the right question, the magic query that would send his thought processes cascading down just the right pathway. And it was going to be my question that would do it. It was all on me.

So what, you may be wondering, was my question? My brilliant inquiry that would restore the glory of the Republic? Well, when my turn finally came, and the president stood before me and shook my hand and looked me in the face, I asked him… man, I hate to admit this, even though I’m the one who brought it up…

I asked him which of the Star Wars movies was his favorite.

I’ve been haunted by this all morning…


You’re the Man Now, Dog!

From the Department of “No Frickin’ Way, How Could That Possibly Be?” comes the news that Wednesday was Sean Connery’s 80th birthday. Eighty. Eight-oh.

I’m having just a little bit of trouble wrapping my head around this concept. Granted, Sir Sean has never seemed exactly young to me — he’s always been either fully mature (James Bond) or on-the-far-side-of-middle-aged-but-still-vital (Ramirez; Henry Jones, Sr.; Captain Ramius) — but to think of him as downright old… well, that’s a tough nut to swallow. I’ve hero-worshipped this guy for a long time, you see, and a major part of his appeal for me personally has always been his physical presence, the intense aura of masculinity and confidence that he seems to radiate like body heat. He still has plenty of presence in that photo up there at the top of this entry, which is the most verifiably recent one I could find. It’s a Louis Vuitton ad photographed by the legendary Annie Leibovitz; as usual, click on it to see it larger. But that photo is also two years old, and a lot can change in only two years when people advance into this age range. I’ve read in a couple places that Sean experienced some unspecified health problems this summer, and that he now believes his acting days are finally, completely behind him. (He recently lent his distinctive voice to a Scottish-made animated feature called Sir Billi, so at least his filmography won’t end with that miserable turd The League of Extraordinary Gentleman. I had been hoping, however, that he would eventually step in front of the cameras again and turn in one final home-run performance that would be a fitting end to such a long, storied career. Ah, well…)

I guess none of us like to see our heroes diminishing, as old age inevitably causes them to do. Maybe seeing them fade reminds us that we, too, aren’t all we used to be. So while I honestly wish Sir Sean a happy birthday with many more to come, I do so with something of a heavy heart.



Trapper Went Home, Henry Got Killed

Does everybody remember that episode of M*A*S*H where the Army mistakenly declares Hawkeye dead, and he’s so fed up with everything that he decides to just go with it? In the episode’s climax, he delivers a little speech to BJ about how he just doesn’t care anymore. He says something to the effect of, “It doesn’t matter if I’m here or not. The wounded will just keep coming. Trapper went home and they keep coming. Henry got killed, and they keep coming.”

I know just how he feels. Yes, this is another complaint about work. Click away if you’ve gotten bored with those. I need to get this stuff off my chest, though, even if nobody is interested in reading it.


Random Political Quote of the Day

I don’t believe I’ve ever mentioned this subject before, so it probably appears to be coming out of the blue, but I really liked what Kevin Drum had to say earlier this week about Cuba, and thought it warranted repeating:

I’m opposed to the Cuba embargo because I think it’s foolish policy. But I’m really, really opposed to travel restrictions to Cuba. If the Cuban government wants to keep us out of Cuba, that’s one thing. Cuba is a dictatorship, after all. But the United States isn’t, and my government has no right to restrict where I go. Period. The travel embargo is a policy that fits the old Soviet Union better than it does the United States. America is a free country and American citizens should be allowed to travel anywhere they want.

Hear, hear! I’ve never understood our policies toward Cuba, going all the way back to a tenth-grade social studies course where I shocked my conservative, old-school, red-baiting teacher by questioning why we needed to be afraid of this tiny, impoverished country just because they had a different system of government from ourselves. Maybe the embargo and travel restrictions made sense during the dark days immediately after the revolution and the Missile Crisis, but the Cold War ended 20 years ago. Castro’s Soviet sponsors are long gone, we’ve been trading freely with Communist China since the 1970s, and American tourists are taking pictures of themselves in the Cu Chi tunnels of Vietnam. Vietnam, for God’s sake. So why is Cuba quarantined as if the whole island is radioactive? It’s not like the embargo has even accomplished anything — Fidel and his brother remain firmly in charge after decades. They’re down there laughing at the impotent giant to the north. And maybe that’s the real reason we stubbornly carry on with a policy that was formulated in the Mad Men era: pride. We don’t want to concede defeat to the hairy little revolutionary who put a stop to the hedonistic party zone we previously enjoyed just 90 miles from our shores. Either that or our politicians are too afraid of angering the Cuban-American voters in Florida, which is probably more the case. Either way, I think it’s stupid to prolong these policies. I hope it’ll be possible before too much longer for me to visit Hemingway’s old house, enjoy a legendary Cuban cigar and a mojito, and marvel at the ancient Detroit steel that supposedly still roams the frozen-in-time streets of Havana.

As for Drum’s comment about Americans traveling anywhere they like without a hassle, I say hell yes! I don’t even like the fact that we now need passports to visit Canada and Mexico. We’re supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, but I think we’ve let our post-9/11 fears push us uncomfortably down the road to becoming a “papers, please” society like the ones that were always the bad places in the movies I grew up on…


Respect for the King

This poster has hung somewhere in my mother's house -- her bedroom, the basement, her office -- since the mid-1970s.

In case you haven’t heard, today is the 33rd anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley, and although I haven’t seen much chatter about it out there in the blogosphere, what I have run across is the usual snark and sarcasm that a certain type of hipper-than-thou people seem to love throwing at this unfortunate man. I may not be an Elvis fan per se, but it pisses me off that he gets so little respect when this day rolls around. Yes, he died in his gaudily decorated bathroom, overweight and strung out on prescription drugs. And yes, according to some accounts, he may have been straining to take a crap when his heart gave out. But that isn’t funny, people — it’s pathetic, a genuinely sad way for any human being to leave this world, let alone one who’d occupied the heights that Elvis once did. And it pisses me off that there are so many ignoramuses out there who get off on being cruel and vulgar about how far he eventually fell. I hope you dip-weeds meet your own fates with a little more dignity.

To counter some of that nasty, grade-school-level horseshit, I’m going to repost an entry I wrote earlier this year about the surprising impact Elvis’ death had on me. You can click the link for the original post if you like, or simply pop below the fold…


Friday Evening Videos: Special “Summer” Edition

Getting back to our regularly scheduled, non-Star Wars programming, I’ve gathered up a selection of music vids that all mention my obsession du jour, summertime, and which, in one way or another, mirror my feelings on the season I’ve largely missed out on this year. Don’t worry, it’s not all heavy, depressing stuff… and yes, I know it’s no longer Friday evening…


Legendary Star Wars Artifact

Direct from the Star Wars Celebration V fan convention, here is a deleted scene from Return of the Jedi, which Uncle George, in person at the con, confirmed will be included as an extra on next year’s Blu-Ray release of the original trilogy. This has never been seen by the public before today, not even in bootleg form as far as I’m aware. It was recorded from the con’s projection screen on a handheld cam, so the quality is somewhat dodgy and the hollering fanboy is an unfortunate distraction, but you can certainly see what’s happening. Watch it quick, before the copyright troops from Lucasfilm yank it down:


The Summer’s Out of Reach

Summer took its own sweet time arriving this year, with a cool, rainy spring that extended halfway through June. Then came the Work Apocalypse that’s kept me cooped up at the office during the daylight hours for the last six weeks or so, the peak of the hot weather in these parts. And I haven’t had a lot of fun on the weekends lately, either, due to a string of misadventures and the general sense of exhaustion that comes from working too damn much. As I result, I feel like I’ve missed out on the whole season.

Oh, the high temperatures are still topping 90, but if you’re paying attention at all, there’s no question we’ve passed a turning point. The “monsoon” rains that usually hit around the first of August have come and gone, and in their wake, the days have lost their furnace-like intensity, like a fire that’s been banked for the night. The mornings are getting cooler, and there’s a mellow quality to the air that always reminds me of the smell of pencil shavings, and leather jackets, and pretty co-eds in plaid wool skirts.

Normally, back-to-school time is my favorite part of the year. The cooler weather suits me better than the scorching dog-days, and it makes for lovely top-down driving conditions. And I like the golden-hour sunlight that starts to predominate as the earth tilts toward autumn. But this year, the approach of fall just makes me sad. It’s coming too soon. I resent having the summer stolen from me by circumstances beyond my control. And I keep thinking of something I once heard an aging movie star — I think it may have been Cary Grant, or maybe it was Michael Caine — say to Johnny Carson about savoring every summer, because he didn’t think he had many left. Not that I expect to kick the bucket anytime soon, but we humans do only get a finite number of summers, don’t we? It’s some kind of tragedy to have to piss one away in a haze of indistinguishable and unfulfilling days spent in the belly of a relentless corporate machine.

But then, I guess we’re not supposed to think that way if we’re lucky enough to have a job in this economy. God, I’m getting tired of those three words, “in this economy.” Seems to me that they’re turning into a convenient excuse for a lot of BS we wouldn’t otherwise be willing to put up with…


Why I Wear a Beard

I’ve taken a lot of crap over the years for choosing to express my masculine identity via an obvious — and in these parts, at least, uncommon and frequently mistrusted — visual signifier, i.e., a beard. As I’ve discussed before, I’ve experienced a fair amount of rejection because of it. But more often I’ve been met with simple puzzlement. Many of my fellow Utahns can’t conceive of why a person would want to have fuzz on their face, and saying that I just want to be myself rarely satisfies their curiosity. Well, now I have something else I can say the next time some well-meaning conformist asks the inevitable:

Reason Number Nine

And if that’s not enough for you, there are nine more reasons where that one came from. Thanks to my fellow beardite Andrew Sullivan for pointing me there.