Tag: Entertainment

Simulation, Revelation

 

The surest way to appreciate a work is to try to recreate it.

Toddlers help us to appreciate the difficulty of drawing or painting by their laughable scribbling. One might first pity the child’s lack of eye-hand coordination, lack of patience, or lack of barest attention to detail (“Is it an airplane? Oh, a cat! Of course, it is. It looks great!”). But few adults can sketch anything worthy of pride either. The more we advance in skill, the more we recognize the full challenge. 

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First, the funny.  LGBT is coming to a classic sitcom near you!  Paramount is going to stream a new series called Dragging the Classics.  Here is what’s in store for viewers: https://www.breitbart.com/entertainment/2021/06/26/hollywood-reimagining-classic-tv-sitcoms-like-brady-bunch-with-drag-queen-makeovers/ Preview Open

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This post is primarily designed to get Rob’s attention because I’d love to hear his thoughts on this essay by Matthew Ball. It’s a long read so I’ll give the “Blinkist” version, but that’s not an endorsement. As I understand Matt’s point, the main theme is that there are three essential components to the entertainment business: […]

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Great Character Actors: Jack Carson

 

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post here about one of my favorite character actors, Ward Bond. I think it’s time to write a little about another of the great character actors that being Jack Carson. Like Bond, I don’t know much more about Carson’s life than that presented in his Wikipedia biography.

Carson was born in the province of Manitoba in Canada in 1910. His father was a successful insurance executive and the family moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin when he was three or four years old. As such, he always considered Milwaukee his hometown and he was eventually naturalized as a U.S. citizen as an adult. His older brother, Robert, also pursued an acting career although with much less success.

Rob explains how studios exercise control over writers through cash flow and why often the sweetest words a writer can hear from the studio are “what’s your tax ID number?”

 

Rob discovers he got COVID for Christmas, and finds himself living in a Hitchcock film — in his head.

 

‘A Gift to Humanity’

 

If we are to be unified, then we must be able and willing to share life. Bill Whittle and company offer a timely reminder of the tremendous good that social media can achieve when people are free to associate across boundaries and to enjoy life together as fellows.

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Mike Pence is Robert the Bruce. Vile betrayer. Nancy Pelosi is the leper. Just vile. Donald Trump is not William Wallace – he is John McClane. Getting more bloodied and shredded as the movie goes on. The difference is at the end of the movie everyone takes off their rubber mask and reveals they are […]

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1984 is a specific year. In 1984, Tetris was first released, Ghostbusters hit theaters, and Virgin Atlantic made their first flight, however, most of us don’t think of those events when we think about that year. Thanks to George Orwell, 1984 has become synonymous with government overreach, complete control of the populace, and the thought […]

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Culture War in Video Games

 

More than half of American adults — yes, adults — play video games. Many of those “gamers” are playing Mahjong, Sudoku, or crossword puzzles on their phones; so it’s fair to say the statistics are often exaggerated (like calling golf or darts a sport). But since PC and dedicated console gaming picked up in the 1980s and have flourished into an industry rivaling Hollywood revenues and productions (indeed, Hollywood actors now commonly perform in video games), entire generations have grown up with the medium.

Games are just another option beside TV and novels as a way for responsible parents to wind down at night or share entertainment with the kids. And I don’t mean Pac-Man.

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I am determined to go on with my life, whatever virus I might get, so I have engaged in just about every activity that used to be considered normal as soon as I could except… you know… looting.  I’ve been on planes, been to stores, gotten a massage, eaten at restaurants, gone to a bar, gone […]

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Jack and Mary and Fred and Portland: The American Magic of Vaudeville

 

I’ll admit right out of the gate that I’ve been on a bit of a nostalgia kick lately, something that can probably be blamed on not having seen home since January, and having been in lockdown alone since March. Things may have occasionally come to the ‘rocking out to metal songs sung by Christopher Lee about Charlemagne at 11 pm while washing dishes in llama pajamas’ point of solitary living. Maybe. Either way, when I’m not working or doing something useful, I find myself more and more seeking out the comfortingly old fashioned. It should be acknowledged that most of the cultural products I associate with nostalgia aren’t ‘personally nostalgic’ for me, in the sense that I had or have a contemporary connection (only post-1999 things could be such). One of the biggest parts of this recent obsession has been old radio comedians, mostly Jack Benny and Fred Allen.

Readers of a certain age will probably have at least some memory of Benny, who dominated radio and television from the ‘30s almost until his death in 1974. My mother absolutely and completely despises him, and threatens homicide if I listen to his ‘40s broadcasts in the car, so he played no great role in my early life. Allen, meanwhile, is a largely forgotten figure, mentioned, if at all, as a “comedian’s comedian” and witty satirist who failed to make the transition to television, a contrast to his arch-nemesis. I could, I think rightfully, laud their comedy chops, their innovativeness, and their lasting impact on American popular culture. These certainly all deserve praise, but what has struck me most in listening to and watching their performances in the last few weeks is who they were and who they became. 

Jack Benny was in fact Benjamin Kubelsky, the son of Eastern European Jewish immigrant business owners in the suburbs of Chicago. Allen, meanwhile, was really John F. Sullivan, a Massachusetts-born son of Irish Catholic parents who came of age in a deeply dysfunctional and shattered family, something George Burns identified as a common denominator among his generation of comedians (he noted his best friend, Benny, as a rare exception to this pattern). Both men, then, came from groups that were often regarded with hostility in more than one quarter, and Allen suffered the additional handicap of poverty and early experiences with family tragedy. By all rights, they should have expected modest success in life at best, but Vaudeville put them on an entirely new path. 

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Two things: I’ll start with the interesting, and end on the ridiculous. While I cooked dinner tonight for myself and Darling Daughter and then cleaned up afterward, I watched a movie on Amazon Prime, The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley. It’s the Theranos story, the account of a photogenic and superficially charming sociopath […]

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I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday. Book Review ‘Houdini’ reveals escape artist’s secret ambitions By MARK LARDAS Preview Open

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The Bored Board Bored Me

 

I’m not exactly suffering from lack of entertainment–diversions are everywhere. Is it time for the treadmill? Then a glorious period film keeps me company as I take my brisk uphill walk on this technology that exists because I don’t do hard work otherwise. Do I have a Saturday evening free? Then I can browse and “like” to my heart’s content on Ricochet. Am I simply tired and don’t want to think? Then I pop open my iPad cover and idly scroll Facebook. Even while doing daily chores, I’m listening to something: Bible teaching in the morning while my mind is fresh, and a light story narrated by a professional reader in the evenings when merely brushing my teeth can feel burdensome.

I admit, though, that even surrounded by these riches, I am still capable of boredom. Here’s my list of ennui-evoking circumstances–what’s on yours? (And you can’t say “lengthy meditations on what makes the writer yawn.”)

Playing Evil on Halloween

 

Halloween is not immutable. Common American traditions today bear only the slightest resemblance to druidic rituals and superstitious people casting frightened glances over dimly lit turnips. Trick-or-treating today isn’t even the same today as it was just 30 or 40 years ago. Heck, some families meet in parking lots to distribute candy from car trunks, because walking a neighborhood at sundown is apparently too dangerous for attended kids.

Few today believe in whatever these traditions once stood for. Halloween is not connected to All Hallows’ Day in most minds. It is not about dodging ghosts or nodding to ancestors.

Halloween is simply an occasion for fun. Americans don’t have many holidays; fewer still not initiated by government. Halloween is about candy and silly costumes and pumpkin carving, and all those things that can get little children excited.

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We live in an age of information overload (however muddled by misinformation). With each decade, the potential for individual persons to learn about distant things improves. Books, radio, telephones, automobiles, television, internet, and many other innovations combine to provide access to pictures, stories, and people around planet Earth.  Among the most recent technological advances are […]

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The Greatest Showman, Great Communicator 2.0?

 

In “Enter Trump,” John Hinderaker points out that President Trump stayed in the wings with Mariano Rivera while “Hail to the Chief” played. Then Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” filled the room and the President walked out with “The Sandman” who put batters to sleep better than anyone else in baseball history. Put this together with his Jamestown speech and his New Mexico rally and there may be an answer to how you overcome a relentless hostile 24/7 propaganda campaign posing as “news reporting.”

If you know boxing and MMA, and President Trump really does, you know the timing he used. Let the formal government riff end. Cue the announcer and bring up the music, walk up through the crowd as your song hits its stride. Showmanship, high level showmanship:

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  Even though the car quickly became the most popular form of transportation in the United States shortly after the introduction of the Ford Model T in 1908, the train would remain an important form of transportation, especially transportation over long distances up through the middle of the twentieth century. As such, trains (both passenger […]

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