Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Game Is Afoot!

Robert Downey, Jr., in the role of super-sleuth Sherlock Holmes

Nope, today's post isn't about feet, fellow babies... nor is it quite as scatter-shot as my last post!

Let me start off by saying that I was interested in seeing the latest filmed version of Sherlock Holmes, as portrayed by Robert Downey, Jr. in the 2009 movie directed by Guy Ritchie. Downey is one of my favorite modern actors. Hell, if he'd done nothing but Chaplin I'd probably still say that! Unfortunately, as most of you are aware, by the time of the flick's Christmas release I was concerned with much more important things than a trip to the cinema.

In fact, the last time I even went to a movie theater was in 2008, when Downey starred in the first Iron Man film. (Can it really be two years since that came out?!?)

It's no secret that I'm a long-time comic book fan, but that doesn't necessarily carry over into the film world. There are a lot of comic book concepts adapted for the "big screen" that I've never bothered to see. A list of what I've neglected to watch from just the last fifteen years or so would probably amaze you.

Besides, this was "my" Iron Man, from when I was a kid. The "golden era" of the "Golden Avenger," in my mind. That ignores most of the last forty years, with a few multi-issue exceptions here and there.

So I didn't have much interest in seeing the Iron Man movie, either, until I heard that Robert Downey, Jr. had been cast as Tony Stark, a/k/a Iron Man. That made me decide to see it. And I certainly wasn't disappointed, although I must admit that I didn't go as "ga-ga" over it as did many others who saw it.

But enough about Iron Man! I've digressed, obviously, but not completely, because predictably (for me), a lot of my early exposures to the character of Sherlock Holmes came via comic books, too! I won't bore you with the details (for a change), so I'm going to throw a few visual examples at you. That way, if you're one of the many comic book fans who read this site, you should get a kick out of them, but if you're not a comic book fan, you can look at some purty pictures and not get bogged down slogging through a lot of my usual text. On the other hand, if you care to read two of them -- the MAD parody and the DC Comics version from 1975, I've provided links in the appropriate photo captions. (Both stories are under copyright protection, so I have not reprinted them here!)

My earliest exposure to Mr. Holmes may have
been "Shermlock Shomes," one of several features
in a MAD paperback which reprinted classic stories
from that magazine's early comic book incarnation.

This edition of Classics Illustrated was published
several years before it found its way into my
eleven-year-old hands!

I never got hold of this one, but I thought
that the cover was too cool not to include!

This was a 1975 one-shot from DC Comics.
Read it here, if you like!

Twelve years later, in 1987, DC Comics celebrated
the 50th anniversary of Detective Comics with a multi-parter
that included a Holmes story presumably intended for the
never-published second issue of their ill-fated Sherlock Holmes title.

The historic meeting of Batman and Mr. Holmes!

So, now that the comic book cover gallery is done, what's my freakin' point (assuming I have one)?

Well, I do, and it's this:

I own most of the original Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan O'Brien -- Oops! Sorry, that's Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, silly me! -- but typically, I haven't gotten around to reading a whole heckuva lot of them. And admittedly, even my tally as far as having seen any or all of the previous movie and TV versions of the character is relatively limited.

Therefore, my pre-conceived notions of the way Holmes "should" be portrayed are rather nebulous, so I don't have any of the objections some raised when news of the 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie hit the press. (You know, those people who hate something before they've even seen it?)

So, fellow babies, since the only "review" I got of Sherlock Holmes was from a friend who didn't even like it enough to watch it until the end... Did you see it? And should I bother?

Yup, believe it or not... I'm asking for advice!

Thanks for your time... and your hoped-for input.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

EQUALS, Or Just Apples and Oranges? -- A "Theme Thursday" Post

A funny thing happened on my way to Theme Thursday. I didn't even know about this week's theme until Wednesday evening!

I'd planned to write an article all on my own about both Sherlock Holmes, and Marvel Comics' Iron Man -- and I'm sure you can think of at least one thing the two characters have in common, eh? -- and got another idea Wednesday morning, for the post after that. My new idea was a goofy post presenting a faux comparison asking the question, "Which are better? Films & TV shows, or comic books?" Truly a case of apples and oranges, and certainly not an argument which I planned to take seriously, but when I read that today's Theme Thursday topic was "Equals," I thought, "Hey! I can make this work!"

As a long-time comic book fan, albeit a serious movie buff as well, I had originally planned to "prove" that comic books had the edge on movies and television programs, and was going to list just one admittedly-ludicrous example as that "proof":

In the original, so-called "Classic Trek" Star Trek show and its filmed sequels, Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy was quite well-known for examining some unfortunate crew member who'd contracted an unknown ailment, or been attacked by a rubber-suited actor playing an alien beastie, or whatever... and gruffly pronouncing, "He's dead, Jim." Just like that. Some "doctor."

On the other hand, we have Professor Charles Xavier -- better known as Professor X -- of Marvel Comics' X-Men title and its literally dozens of spin-offs. (And let's ignore the successful franchise of X-Men movies at the moment. I'm just talking about the comics. The movies were based on them.)

Several years ago, in a somewhat forced and silly -- but best-selling! -- mini-series called Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars, Professor X was quoted as saying (although I'm quoting from memory) "It appears that, at some point, true death becomes irrevocable." Well! Look at all the indecisive words in that sentence (with my smart-ass comments added, below)!

"It appears [but may not be true] that at some point [possibly, beyond an apparent death?], true death [not some faked death, or misleading deathlike state] becomes [like, it isn't right away?] irrevocable."

That's a great way of saying that any character killed in a comic book isn't really dead and gone, unless no one ever wants to bring him/her/it back!

Now. If you were going to be medically treated by someone, which character's attitude would you want your doctor to have? A guy who barely looks at you and says, "Ah, screw it... Next?" or someone who'd work to bring you back even after you were buried?!?

So. Comic books are "better" than movies. A shoddy resolution based on one kooky example, I know.

And in that vein, I present the following stream-of-consciousness series of photos:

One weird trait in comic books (as opposed to movies... usually) is that certain things "work" only because the writers say that they work. Listing just one example: In real life, severe radiation poisoning kills you, generally. In comic books, it gives us -- to name only three heroes -- super-powered entities such as Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, and Daredevil.

Another thing in comics that's worked for 72 years is that when mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent takes off his eyeglasses and changes his hairstyle, no one recognizes him! (Funny, I take off my own reading glasses, and no one ever says, "Hey! Where did David disappear to?")

But in films? To my mind, it took the underrated acting ability of Christopher Reeve to make us "believe" that "The Big Blue Boy Scout" and Clark Kent were two different people.

By the way, that's Christopher Reeve, not Reeves. I suppose people were confused because the actor who portrayed both Clark and Supie in the 1950s TV offering The Adventures of Superman was George Reeves. (And by the way, as much as I enjoyed that TV classic, I never bought the idea that his identity switches would fool anyone.)

Of course, the fact that another Reeves, actor & bodybuilder Steve Reeves (no relation to George), played Hercules and similar "strongman" characters in movies made during the 1950s and 1960s no doubt added to the confusion.

So. Back to "Bones" McCoy.

In terms of this entry, it is kinda cool that Patrick Stewart, Captain Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek: The Next Generation (shown above with DeForest "Dr. McCoy" Kelley himself) was later chosen to play the part of Professor X in the X-Men motion pictures!

And hey, as long as I'm messing with Star Trek, has anyone ever noticed that three of the four guys who comprise The Wiggles...

Hey! I said "The Wiggles!" Those guys look more like The Beatles!


Anyway, here are three of The Wiggles.

And in my eyes, they look like they would have fit right in with the cast of the original Star Trek program!

So, "Which are better? Films & TV shows, or comic books?" I guess they're equal.

(And if I had to hang around with pointy-eared aliens, I'd prefer a Vulcan like this one!)

Okay, fellow babies, we're done. Maybe you want to cuddle, but I'm just going to have a cigarette, and then go to sleep!

Good night, and thanks for your time.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Greatest. Invention. Ever.

Supposedly, when Louis Armstrong was asked "What is jazz?" he replied, "Man, if you gotta ask, you'll never know."

And if you "gotta" ask why I think this is the greatest invention ever, you'll never understand the answer.

I suppose a lot of you were already aware of it, but I wasn't. So there.

(UPDATE, since I seem to have confused some of you! It's a sponge for cleaning drinking glasses, with a "scrubby thing" on the tip. It gets the very bottom of the glass clean, which is hard to do!)

And okay, I'll admit that it isn't really "the greatest invention ever," but at least my title got your attention, dinnit?

Thanks for your time.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Another Award-Winning Post!

Award drawn and "donated" by Skip Simpson,
based on a poster he found on the internet.

What "The Silver Fox's THRUST HOME Award" is (edited from my January 8th post , which originally announced it):

Bloggers like to give each other awards. One of the drawbacks to these awards is that they're usually given with a set of conditions. Quite often, one of these conditions is that the awardee must "pass on" the award to a pre-ordained number of other bloggers, which has the unfortunate effect of turning the award itself into more of an internet chain letter than a true honor.

So I've created my own blasted award.

One of my all-time favorite stories is Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac. Cyrano constantly used the expression "Thrust home!" when fatally piercing an opponent during a sword fight. I've appropriated that phrase for... The Silver Fox's Thrust Home Award! -- Given to the Author of a Single Outstanding Blog Post.

And my rules for the award... and the rules for its recipients, are:

  • This award will be given by me, and no one else, and generally to only one recipient at a time.
  • I'll only give the award to those whose posts have truly "thrust home" with me, so even my best friends on the 'net might never get one.
  • The award will usually go to a post of what I deem to be of general import and interest, but that may be fudged once in a while to reflect my own biases. (My award, my stupid rules. Deal with it.)
  • There will be no set frequency for the giving of the award.
  • Theoretically, a recipient of The Silver Fox's Thrust Home Award! may win once, twice... or 47 times! This is an award for individual blog posts, not for blogs!
  • Recipients would be asked to mention their receipt of said award on their own sites, along with a corresponding link to my own. And a little blurb on your sidebar -- feel free to copy and paste the graphic, of course! -- would be greatly appreciated.
  • Winners are not allowed to give this award to others.
  • Other than that, awardees are not asked to do anything else. You've already done it!
And the latest recipient is (Clicking on the blog's bold-faced title will bring you to its latest post, while, as you've probably surmised, clicking on the title of the "winning" post will bring you to that post itself.):

Brian Miller has a knack for poetry, as well as for intriguing short stories which begin one way and end in another way that makes you wonder how he got there from where he started! (What I call leading you from point 1... to point 2... to point C.) He's won TSFTHA for a poem which tells a powerful story. In only fifty-five words -- fifty-five words, fellow babies! -- Brian makes a grim statement about an equally grim subject, that of domestic violence. If I were to go on and on about it, I'd only be gilding the proverbial lily; this post of mine is already a lot longer than the one I'm recommending! Go read it. Congratulations, Brian!

Thanks for your time.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

ELVID [sic] Has Left the Building! ~~ Another BRUSH with Fame, for "Theme Thursday"

It's sometime during 2002, or maybe 2003. You sit there in the audience of a low-budget talk show. The cheap set design approximates that of The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson as it existed roughly thirty years earlier. (The only difference would have been if the set designer's original idea had been incorporated; his idea was to fill the space behind the host with 8"x10" black & white photos of television and motion picture personalities whom the host greatly admired, including Ernie Kovacs, Orson Welles, Jack Benny, and Johnny Carson himself. But then he discovered that Conan O'Brien had done the same thing ten years or so earlier when he first took over Late Night from David Letterman.)

The studio lights come up, revealing the talk show's Host, who looks much like -- make that exactly like -- the writer of this blog looked seven or eight years ago. The Host looks into the camera, smiles, clears his throat and says:

"Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pride that I introduce our next guest. Listing all of his accomplishments would fill the rest of our time remaining tonight, and you'd never even get to see him perform! So suffice it to say that here, doing his new hit medley entitled "Another American Trilogy," is... ELVID!"

The studio goes black. Then the on-stage lights come up just enough to show a microphone in its stand. From out of the darkness comes a man's left hand. He grabs the microphone and brings it to his lips as an unseen band begins to play. The stage lights continue to brighten, but only slightly. You wait for a spotlight to illuminate this "Elvid's" face, but that doesn't happen.

In a voice you've heard countless times before... somewhere... Elvid begins singing a song you've never heard covered quite this way: the Paul Simon composition, "Homeward Bound." Lines like "on a tour of one-night stands, my suitcase and guitar in hand" and "each town looks the same to me" strike you with unusual poignancy, like the singer indeed knows whereof he speaks.

The musical arrangement drifts away from the Paul Simon tune and Elvid, his face still maddeningly obscured by the dim and selective lighting, begins singing a song which was also in the original "An American Trilogy" piece: "Dixie." As in that other, earlier version, the song is sung slowly, almost mournfully. You feel that this is indeed a man removed from his home in the South, whether "the South" refers to Tupelo, Mississippi... or Memphis, Tennessee... or southern Massachusetts. A pleasant-sounding choir of background singers, presumably off-stage, adds to the power of this segment.

After Elvid's brief rendition of the "Dixie" portion of his performance, the unseen band kicks into an up-tempo arrangement of Neil Diamond's "America," introduced in the third filmed version of The Jazz Singer (in which Diamond starred in 1980). By now, you notice, the lights are finally bright enough to make out Elvid's on-stage movements, but his face, as always, remains largely unseen. Elvid's characterization of himself as a wandering musician seems to have finally realized that he's been where he belongs all along.

At the conclusion of the song, Elvid raises his right arm toward the sky -- or to the heavens? -- even as Neil Diamond's character did at the conclusion of his version of the song. You still can't clearly see his face, but somehow... it no longer matters.

Photo "borrowed" from 1980's
The Jazz Singer, and subsequently
"muddied" via Ubuntu's F-Stop feature!

The already-dim stage lights go out completely as the woefully-small studio audience bursts into applause. The lights come up once again and the camera focuses on the Host once more, seated behind his desk. He makes a lame joke about how they had "tried to cut down the electric bill to afford Elvid's performance fee" before dramatically (but facetiously) intoning, "And as for Elvid himself? Elvid... has left the building!"

* * * * *

Well, fellow babies, it almost happened. No, really.

One of the few good things about my former Crappy Day Job as it stood seven or eight years ago was that it gave me every weekend off, something which no other job of mine since I entered the work force in 1973 had done. It also gave me enough money so that I could easily afford to quit the Sunday flea markets I'd been doing steadily since 1988.

Foolishly -- that is, incorrectly -- assuming that I'd have a lot more time on my hands, I planned something rather ambitious. "I want my own TV show!" I announced to anyone who'd listen. My plan was to have a weekly "talk show" spoof, closely modeled after that of my idol, Johnny Carson, using the facilities of my home town's cable access station. (This would be easy enough, seeing as how I actually worked for the cable company at the time.) I'd heard of two or three programs during the 1990s that had started out as cable access shows, but had been "discovered" and bought by "real" TV channels. Ah, the lure of money! This was to be the "brush with fame" I mentioned in my title, in order to justify this post's tenuous inclusion among this week's Theme Thursday entries.

Several names for the show itself occurred to me, but I'll be damned if I can remember even one of them right now!

I planned to have real guests from the local area. Politicians, rock bands, blues bands, jazz bands, country & western bands, strippers... you name it. I'd do real interviews, as well as put-on interviews with characters invented for the show itself. And once in a while, I'd have really special features... like this "Elvid" guy I came up with one day.

Of course, through the magic of videotape, I would be both the host and this "Elvid guy." I can talk somewhat like Elvis, and as a singer, I can actually imitate him pretty well, too. I was doing that as early as 1976, when I used to sing Boston's "Peace of Mind" as if it had been arranged by whoever it was who wrote the arrangement for Elvis Presley's "Burnin' Love." (If you know both songs, give it some thought. Kinda cool, innit?)

The only "problem," such as it was, was that there was no way I was gonna shave off my mustache and beard for a seven-minute spot! So I couldn't show Elvid's (my) face when I performed as him. I can sound like Elvis, sure, but I certainly don't look like him. (I can approximate the famous "Elvis sneer," but I think Megan does it even better!)

So, you ask, what happened to this wonderful TV show? Well, even before I realized how much time this would really entail, I realized that such an endeavor would quickly eat up a lot of written material, whether this was a half hour show, or even a fifteen-minute thing! More than I could handle, considering the mental burn-out I often suffered because of my Crappy Day Job. And on a budget of $47 or so I could hardly afford to hire a writing staff! And I refused to seek out qualified, talented people just to say, "I can't pay you anything now for all of your hard work, of course, but if this thing ever takes off... "

No. No way. I've been approached by far too many people who don't understand that a professional writer can't pay the bills with "maybes" and "somedays." It's always been very, very easy for me to politely refuse such offers. "Writing on spec," as it's called, is an industry no-no.

Thus, my "dream TV show" was -- and will remain -- just that: A dream. Not even a dream, really, just another idea for my mental files. But since David M. Lynch's First Rule of Writing is "Never Throw Anything Away," I know I'll do something with the story of The Show That Never Was someday... like, say, today?

So as far as your chances go of ever hearing -- never mind seeing -- an actual performance by Elvid, whom I hereby dub "The King of Blog'n'Roll"... it ain't gonna happen, sorry. And as for my story about him? Ummm... Haven't you been paying attention? Heh.

Thanks for your time.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Thirty-Three Years Ago Today...

Thirty-three years ago today, he died.

He was -- arguably -- one of the greatest entertainers ever.

He has been -- inarguably -- one of the biggest influences on music and musicians for over fifty years.

His legion of fans is still increasing. People who weren't even born yet when he died love the man and his legacy of music.

He is one of the most well-known people who ever lived. Worldwide.

And if you doubt that, explain to me why you know whom I'm writing about, although I haven't said his name, and the images above don't show his face.

Thanks for your time... or, rather, "Thankyuhverramuch!"

Sunday, August 15, 2010

"Couldn't ACT?" (Updated)

Heh. I couldn't resist this quick piece to generate a little controversy... although it's not my opinion that'll be controversial... this time.

Actress Emma Thompson is writing a "feminist" remake of My Fair Lady. (So far, no problem... although I generally dislike remakes.) Unfortunately (for Ms. Thompson), she was quoted here and elsewhere as saying that Audrey Hepburn "couldn't sing and couldn't act." (emphasis mine)

Couldn't sing? Well... maybe not. It's no secret that Ms. Hepburn's singing in My Fair Lady was dubbed by Marni Nixon.

But... couldn't act?

Most -- okay, all -- of Hepburn's fans, as well as a lot of people in Hollywood and the entertainment field, didn't or don't share that opinion. Either that, or I suppose Ms. Hepburn is holding a borrowed Oscar in that photo above?

What say you, fellow babies?

Thanks for your time.

Update: Screenwriter Frederic Raphael had this to say in rebuttal to Ms. Thompson's unfortunate remarks.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Happy Birthday, "Hermie!"

Happy birthday, Herman Melville! You're lookin' mighty good for a guy who's 191 years old! (Kinda "Silver Fox-y," even, if I do say so myself.)

I've written about "The Divine Mister M" -- Catch that reference, Bette Midler fans? -- thrice before: In my previous post... one of my earliest "Foxyblog" posts (a post which I linked to last time)... and here, describing a story I still plan to write... some-freakin'-day.

Thanks for your time.

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