The End Of the Innocence

From a schoolmate of mine. I share her sentiments.

Corner of the Soap Box

2016 has started with great losses to the music industry, most notably David Bowie, Glenn Frey and Maurice White.  Three artists who were a major part in the songbook of the lives of kids in my generation, the 70’s.

While we have suffered other notable losses this year, the loss of these three forces hit home pretty hard.  Writer Marc Eliot, in an op ed on CNN.com, wrote “For people who came up in that time, the death of Frey — and earlier this month the death of David Bowie — comes as a reality check, a resounding reminder that the days of “Take it Easy” and the promise of “One of these Nights” are long behind us. Instead, music, the blood of our youth, has somehow been replaced by mortgages, credit cards, spouses, children, divorces, alimony, expanding waistlines and diminished dreams.”

While I do agree their passings are a reminder that…

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Valentine’s Day: Unusual Movie Romances

I know that today, some people are thinking of Groundhog Day (which is one of my favorite movies). But I’m thinking a little ahead, to Valentine’s Day. (Note: Only 12 shopping days left.) In PRC’s usual geeky view of pop culture, here are four movies that involve an unusual take on romance:

Ghost (1990)

This very popular movie features Patrick Swayze, as the ghost of the title, with Demi Moore as his lover. This movie also contains an oft-parodied romantic pottery making scene. Ghost is also the reason why, to this day, I cannot stand to watch Tony Goldwyn in anything (sorry, Scandal fans).

Whoopi Goldberg played a very funny, yet believable, psychic in the movie. She deserved her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for this role.

Ghost also revived the oldies music standard, the Righteous Brothers’ Unchained Melody.

Love at First Bite (1979)

This disco-era movie starred George Hamilton as a well-tanned Dracula and Susan Saint James as Cindy Sondheim, the object of his desire. Richard Benjamin, as Dr. Jeffrey Rosenberg, is the third piece of this love triangle. My favorite scene in the movie? When Dr. Rosenberg tries to kill Dracula:

Dr. Jeffrey Rosenberg: [triumphantly] Well, Count, what do you say to that?

[Pulls out a Star of David]

Dr. Jeffrey Rosenberg: [Dracula hides his face, then realizes what it is and removes his hands]

Count Dracula: I would say, leave Cindy alone and find yourself a nice Jewish girl, Doctor!

Dr. Jeffrey Rosenberg: Huh?

[looks at star]

Dr. Jeffrey Rosenberg: Ah shit! It’s the other one, isn’t it?

Love at First Bite also features a great disco song, Alicia Bridges’ I Love the Night Life. 

Starman (1984)

The great sci-fi movie director John Carpenter directed this human/alien (in human form) love story. It had an unsuccessful TV show spin-off. I only have four words to say about this movie: Jeff Bridges. In 1984.

This movie does have songs, but none (in my opinion) worth noting here.

Did I mention that Jeff Bridges is in this movie?

Superman II  (1980)

I’ve noticed that people either love or hate this movie. I belong to the first category. As with all things Superman, there are those people who try to read deeper meeting into this movie. I am not one of those people. Its enjoyable as what it is on the surface – a romantic movie featuring a superhero, his witty reporter girlfriend and some really good actors (Gene Hackman, Terrence Stamp) playing villains. 

Two lessons from this movie? Sometimes it’s not about what you want, it’s about what’s best for the world. Also, not having superpowers sucks! (Sorry, I don’t know what the statute of limitations is for spoilers.)

While Superman II doesn’t have a stand out song, the first Christopher Reeve movie, Superman (1978), does feature the pretty song, Maureen McGovern’s Can You Read My Mind?

Other than Ghost (which is available on Netflix), unfortunately it doesn’t appear that any of the movies are available on a streaming service. This might be the time to check out your local library (or Netflix DVD) for availability on DVD.

 

Pop Rocking Culture Goes to Comikaze 2015!

Blue Striker, Dad and I went to Stan Lee’s Comikaze 2015 at the Los Angeles Convention Center on November 1, 2015. For starters, this may be a landmark year for the five year old convention, because Stan Lee (who bought out the convention a couple of years ago) made an unofficial announcement on Friday that this may be the last Comikaze he attends. It would be strange not to see Stan Lee at Comikaze. However, he is in his nineties, and it is amazing that he maintains such a high profile.

We last attended Comikaze in 2012, and upon entering the Convention Center, it was obvious how much Comikaze has grown. For one, we had a hard time getting through the crowds in the vendor area. While this is generally a sign of success, it made things a bit overwhelming. Blue Striker also noted that it also made it difficult to determine who had stuff to give away. A suggestion to those responsible for the day-to-day logistics of the convention: Make sure attendees (including members of the press, like me) have easy access to the programs.

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There was a lot of neat cosplay at Comikaze. I noticed that there was a relatively small number of people dressed as “traditional” superheroes. That said, there continues to be a plethora of Harley Quinns, Jokers, Deadpools and Spiderhumans. There were also plenty of anime and video game characters (who Blue Striker had to point out to me), as well as TV and movie characters. For even a minor Doctor Who fan like me, it was neat to see people dressed up as Doctors Tom Baker, David Tennant and Matt Smith. There were more fezes there than at a Shriners convention!

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As Pop Rocking Culture is also about the pop culture experience for kids, I did notice a few kids who seemed overwhelmed by all of the action. I am sure many of them were tired, hungry and even bored as well. It would be great that on Sunday, which is supposedly the traditional “kids’ day” at cons, there were a few more things geared towards the young set. On the plus side, there was a pretty neat panel called “Pop Culture Parenting with the Geeklings and Parental Units”. I got the chance to find out like-minded moms and dads, who had a few great ideas for bringing up the next generation of pop culture mavens. There is actually a group called Geeklings and Parental Units, who host meetups in the Los Angeles area.

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There were plenty of Baby Boomer and Gen X icons such as Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig of Star Trek: The Original Series fame, as well as Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox from CHiPs. It was also neat to see kid star Kel Mitchell, the one half of the Kenan and Kel team from Nickelodeon whom we don’t see every week on Saturday Night Live. I pointed out to Blue Striker that this guy is the same one who played the goofy kid with the braids in Good Burger. (Note: I mentioned Mystery Men to Blue first, but then I realized that he’s never seen it. Another thing to add to his pop culture “to do” list.)

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All in all, we had a good time at Comikaze 2015. We hope that wpress credentials in 2016. Blue Striker says that he will definitely dress in costume the next time around. As for me, I might as well.

The hero of this comic book is a single, black mother raising her super-powered son

The trailer for the comic is great! There’s a link to the first (free) issue of the comic. I look forward to reading it.

Fusion

In the comic book Raising Dion, Nicole, a widowed, black single mother, dedicates her energy to raising and chronicling the life of her son, Dion, a seven-year-old boy with a bevy of inexplicable superpowers. With Dion, getting dressed in the morning turns into a frantic chase as he teleports around the apartment, playtime involves bouts of uncontrolled telekinesis, and timeouts are thwarted by the boy’s ability to render himself invisible.

Though she loves her son to death, Nicole realizes that unless she guides him properly, his abilities could easily overwhelm her and expose their secret to the world. Rather than freak out, Nicole does what she can to teach Dion about what she means when she says that he could be a superhero one day.

“How do you protect him from the world?” Nicole asks in the cinematic trailer for the comic book. “First, never take your eyes off of him…

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Appreciation: Local TV Commercials I Have Known and Loved (Despite Themselves)

While watching the morning TV news yesterday, I thought of local TV commercials. They are getting to be a rare breed these days, given the rise of the Internet as a marketing medium, and the nationalization/globalization of TV watching (both on “regular” TV and online). I have lived in a number of large cities, each with its share of home-grown commercials. No slick productions or fancy computer graphics here — just sincere local businesses trying to get your money. Here are some of my favorite local TV commercials from years past, perfect for this Throwback Thursday.

As a kid growing up in Detroit, Maurice Lazar, owner of Belvedere Construction, was a fixture on the family TV set in his guise of “Mr. Belvedere”. This 1984 commercial is the oldest one I could find, but if you ask anyone who grew up in Detroit during the 1960s or 1970s, they know about these commercials. I’m sure there are some people who, although they can’t remember their own phone number, remember Mr. Belvedere’s – TYler 8-7100.

I hope you noted the near-Method delivery of Mr. Belvedere’s lines, as well as the au courant wood paneling in the background.

Later, when I lived in Chicago, TV was a refuge from the stresses of graduate studies. Chicago did not lack for uh, interesting local commercials. Here’s one from Moo and Oink, a meat market chain that featured the beloved mascots Moo the cow and Oink the pig.

Although the Moo and Oink stores are closed, Best Chicago Meat bought the trademarks, including the iconic pig and cow. Moo and Oink products are now on grocery shelves in areas surrounding Chicago. Don’t know if they’ll resurrect the commercials though…

Along the way, I lived in the Washington, DC area. At first, I couldn’t think of an old local commercial that played in DC. So I did a search for “old DC TV commercials” on YouTube. The first one that came up was for Mr. Ray’s Hair Weave! I definitely remember these commercials, and passing by the shop when driving home on Georgia Avenue. I didn’t see a line of people with hair problems outside, clamoring for Mr. Ray’s services, though…

Crazy Gideon was L.A.’s answer to the infamous New York City purveyor of cheap, crappy electronics, Crazy Eddie. But Gideon, who at times could be incomprehensible even to polyglot Angelenos, had a style all his own.

Recent gentrification of eastern downtown Los Angeles doomed Crazy Gideon’s, but the Yelp reviews of his store (and commercials) are still with us. These reviews are as bizarre as the commercials were!

What’s your favorite old or new local TV commercial?

Character Study: Barbara Gordon

In light of Yvonne Craig’s death, I was going to write a blog post. But I read this post by Dennis R. Upkins, and realized that he said it much better than I could have. A great tribute!

Dennis R. Upkins

Dedicated to the late Yvonne Craig

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It’s a shame how much Barbara Gordon/Batgirl is perhaps one of the most underrated characters in comics and pop culture. Not surprising that many dismiss her as little more than a “female Robin” or a lesser spinoff character of the caped crusader.

But the astute observer will note that by being tied to the Batman mythos, Barbara Gordon has arguably made more appearances in mainstream media than any other comic book super heroine, including Wonder Woman, thus perhaps making Batgirl the most publicized comic book super heroine to date.

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‘The 33’ Trailer: Antonio Banderas Keeps Digging In Chilean Miner Drama

Judging from the trailer, this movie looks good. The mining disaster was a “glued to media” moment for a lot of us back in 2010. In a different vein, Lou Diamond Phillips is really a “citizen of the world”!

Deadline

“That’s not a rock, that’s the heart of the mountain. She finally broke.” Warner Bros has dropped the official trailer for The 33, Patricia Riggen’s film about the 2010 Chilean miner drama that trapped 33 men for 69 days at the bottom of a gold and copper mine in Copiapo, Chile.

Antonio Banderas stars as Mario Sepulveda, a miner who becomes trapped on the eve of his retirement. Lou Diamond Phillips, Juliette Binoche, Gabriel Byrne and Rodrigo Santoro also star. Mikko Alanne, Craig Borten and Michael Thomas adapted the screenplay from Hector Tobar’s book. Mike Medavoy, Edward McGurn and Robert Katz are producing.

The pic hits theaters on November 13. Check out the trailer above.

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