The Founder: Must See

The Founder is primarily about Ray Kroc, the man behind what McDonald’s became until his death. It also entails the two brothers (Mac and Dick) who created the original restaurant Kroc hijacked and transformed into an empire that still feeds one percent of the Earth every day.

I knew the basics of the McDonald’s story through David Halberstam’s book The Fifties. Kroc was a milkshake mixer salesman in his fifties having no luck selling the hardware to America’s numerous diners, restaurants and drive-ins. When he receives an order for six multi-mixers from this place in San Bernadino, he assumes it’s a mistake and calls. Mac answers and says the order was in error, make the order eight multi-mixers. This makes Kroc curious so he abandons his current sales plans in Missouri to drive all the way to California. There Kroc witnesses this restaurant with a line the length of the parking lot yet nobody minds, the service is fast.

The brothers give Kroc a tour of their kitchen ballet and afterwards their biography, especially on how they gambled with closing their drive-in for months in order to rebuild it into a customized monument of efficiency. Kroc pitches franchising. The brothers shoot him down saying they’ve tried before with horrible results because the franchise holders always drift away from their model and/or change the menu. Kroc’s persistence wears them down but Dick is the one who really lays down the conditions in the contract. Then the fighting begins in earnest until Kroc buys them out through underhanded means.

The Founder is good story. To me, Kroc is another disciple of Ayn Rand and Capitalism going unchecked. He’s a man obsessed with “winning.” He’s also a man with a very weak moral compass: he breaks up a franchise-holder’s marriage to marry the wife; he doesn’t think his first wife does enough to contribute; and he quits the social circles he used to run in to find the “right” people to buy into franchises. McDonald’s is his life, all else comes second.

I’m curious as to what he would be doing to turn the chain around 30 years later as sales have declining, they’ve had to actually close restaurants in the last decade, there are now more Subways than McDonald’s and lastly, people consider the food to be subpar. As one comedian said on a podcast…people want to eat real food.

Check it out. Even if you hate the food, The Founder is an intriguing story on how the omnipresent restaurant came to be. Terrific performances from Michael Keaton and Nick Offerman too.

No Alamo Extras, I had to wait for this to show up at the discount theater near Pinballz Lake Creek.

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DC’s new “in-between” Young Animals line is great

Despite the moniker and the titles DC launched for Young Animal, Vertigo remains so I’m guessing DC is trying to be more granular with its audience. What surprised me was the writer for two of the four titles rolled out under this line, Gerard Way, the lead singer of My Chemical Romance. Since he is writing Doom Patrol with Grant Morrison’s blessing I had to see if he could emulate the odd book most loved in the early Nineties.

Doom Patrol returns to its weird and absurd days initiated by Morrison, ignoring all three of the boring reboots DC tried since 2001. Way is currently picking up the pieces from Morrison and Pollack’s run with a couple new characters: ambulance driver Casey Brinke and singing telegram deliverer/odd jobs doer Terry None. The Chief keeps making one-page cameos to remind the readers he’s still around. Favorites Cliff “Robotman” Steele and Larry Trainor the Negative Man are back along with Danny the Street and Flex Mentallo. Crazy Jane finally appeared in the fifth issue, I suspect she’ll either be a new enemy or the team will have to convince her to rejoin.

Sadly, the comic has been behind schedule and if Way’s hands are tied as I fear, he has one more issue to bring the current arc to a satisfactory close; DC and Marvel are now obsessed with six-issue story arcs in order to re-bundle back issues into trade paperbacks. Putting this minor complaint aside, I am enjoying the mystery involving Casey’s true origin while she tries to save Danny the Street’s residents from being ground up into cheap alien hamburgers. Cliff and Larry are assisting but they’re pretty confused.

Doom Patrol (volume six according to Wikipedia) is a book I highly recommend for those who want to read something different in the superhero genre. I continue to enjoy the usual fare of “long-underwear” titles yet it’s always fun to see someone turn the genre 90 degrees without it becoming too post modern, aka weird for the sake of being weird as the term is defined by Dana Gould.

As an extra treat, Brandon Bird has been providing his trademark coloring-book parodies in the comic’s back pages. You’ll have to see them because I don’t want to spoil the joke.

Shade the Changing Girl follows in the footsteps of Peter Milligan’s reinterpretation in the Nineties when Shade the Changing Man left Suicide Squad and helped expand the Vertigo line. The twist is this Metan (Shade’s race or nationality) is a young woman who uses the Madness Vest to possess the body of a teenage girl in a coma, not a death-row inmate. At first, Loma Shade (no relation to Rac Shade, the original poet/hero) is puzzled by the reactions she receives in her human form of Megan. Loma quickly learns that Megan was the captain of her synchronized swimming team and a horrible bully. Her teammates want to get revenge, the unpopular Teacup who Megan used to torment the most is frightened by Shade’s offer of friendship and her parents are the most befuddled in how the time in a coma altered her. For example, “Megan” is obsessed with older technologies such as vinyl and black and white television.

Meanwhile, back on Meta, Loma’s boyfriend Lepuck tries to protect her body (the M-Vest works in the same manner as Astral projection) from the authorities but eventually he’s captured and tortured by Director Loran. Loran uses the public safety as an excuse but she’s really obsessed with the Madness Vest because she used to be romantically involved with Rac Shade. Through Lepuck and Loma, Loran plans to harness the madness for her own purposes.

Shade‘s first story arc has concluded with Loma gaining full control of Megan’s body by banishing Megan’s “soul” and convincing her new friends Teacup and River that she really is a friendly alien.

Young Animal’s other two titles Cave Carson and Mother Panic didn’t interest me. I’m enjoying this pair probably due to familiarity with their earlier incarnations from when I was finishing university.


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Kong: Skull Island: Worth Seeing!

Kong delivered where the recent Godzilla failed. How? Firstly, Godzilla is the “hero” monster that kind of shows up to defeat two other moth-like things. Its pace was blech and when it was all over, Godzilla was the lesser problem. Kong on the other hand, he’s both the “hero” and the force of nature certain characters want to defeat.

The critics who trashed Kong don’t know what they’re talking about. This interpretation was an effective mix of Moby Dick, Apocalypse Now and Aliens. Setting the story at the closing days of the US’s involvement in Vietnam was key. I was surprised the movie had as many big names present. I was annoyed about Oscar® winner Brie Larson getting fourth billing in the credits, she should’ve been at last second, preferably first. Casting aside, the pacing remains tense and I was surprised to see which big-name actors got killed by Skull Island’s various residents.

If you like mashups and/or new spins on old favorites, Kong is for you. If you were disappointed in Peter Jackson’s version, which was too damn long, this take is better. Anyone else? I don’t know what to say other than cool monster movies were never your thing so you can go next door and watch the unwanted live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast.

Stick around through the closing credits, the director/producers pull a Marvel.

Alamo Extras: The old Max Fleiscer Superman cartoon of Supes battling a gorilla; Nixon reading the terms of the US evacuation from South Vietnam, aka his “Peace with honor” bullshit; and a montage of King Kong through the years in commercials, kid shows, knockoffs and scenes from his original debut in 1939 with Fay Wray!

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Running…again, and again, and again

The excuses finally ran out and I made it back to the gym today for running. I’m within 100 miles of the current target too. I could’ve gotten back into the groove if it weren’t daylight savings time getting in the way. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. In my defense, I have been working on getting out of bed five minutes earlier every day so I can run at least 1.2 miles or more.

The first one hundred is always the hardest.

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RIP Chuck Barris

According to his obituaries I read today, Chuck was quite a Renaissance Man; songwriting, producing TV shows, running daytime programming for ABC and obviously performing. His most famous creation, The Gong Show, was often something my brother and I would watch during the Summer…without adult supervision too. I recall Gong being rather mind boggling because I was too young to understand irony, kitsch and “so-bad-it’s-good” programming. We did enjoy seeing the Unknown Comic (aka Murray Langston) and Barris helped launch UC’s career; he was also seen on Redd Foxx’s short-lived comedy-variety show on ABC.

Today, you can see clips of Gong on YouTube and witness the early careers of Pee Wee Herman and the band Oingo Boingo. All I ever remembered clearly was the day every act performed (or tried) “The Way We Were,” made famous by Barbara Streisand.

Back to Chuck. The man contributed much to the world of modern entertainment through books and game shows. Thus, I’m willing to let his claim to being a CIA hitman pass. Contrary to popular films and mythology, there is no such thing as an operative who just specializes in murder/assassination, this includes the Mafia.

Thanks for all the stuff you did Chuck. The Seventies wouldn’t have been the same without your idea of a free-for-all talent show in which the grand prize was “scale” for members of the Screen Actors (and TV) Guild.

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Texas Senate Republicans pushing yet another dumb idea

They have a bill to lower the tiny dick fee since the proponents think $140 is just too much money. It probably should be higher and the bulk of it goes toward the victims of the Dirty Harry wannabes.

Back when the UT Tower sniper was killing people, APD had to spend a significant amount of manpower stopping all the idiots who were trying to “help” by whipping out their guns. So even in the Sixties, the “good guy” with a gun was bullshit then and it’s bullshit now.

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RIP Bernie Wrightson

My comic-book artist friend Steve (aka Stvee) reported the sad news about another famous  (predominantly) comic-book artist passed away. I had no idea he was residing in Austin all this time. His wife Liz left a heartfelt message and career review at this site.

For me, I recall him to be one of the go-to artists for horror stuff and the co-creator of Swamp Thing. Another awesome work was the crossover of Batman v. Aliens, he certainly had a way with making those sinewy lines the Xenomorph has in spades.

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Fist Fight: Disappointment

The other half of our recent double feature was my choice after John Wick 2 and I didn’t fare any better in this rather by-the-numbers comedy playing up Charlie Day’s spastic character from Philly and the often grouchy Ice Cube. The difference? Day’s character is obviously more educated since he’s a high school English teacher yet he project’s the Kelly’s outbursts with more rational statements.

The trailer gave the plot away which is it’s the last day of school, Day gets Cube fired, Cube tells Day that after school they will have a fight. Obviously Day is going to get his ass kicked because Cube is bigger, angrier and appears to have fighting experience. What they left out are the other subplots: the principal is firing teachers to make next year’s budget unless they can justify their existence (this takes place in Georgia and we all know the Deep South rarely prizes education); Charlie has a pregnant wife; Charlie’s daughter is drama queen; and all the little quirks involving the other teachers, it was nice to see Tracy Morgan after his horrible car accident.

I don’t have a problem with the premise despite it being rather well-worn, it’s the execution. Then again, I don’t have much idea how I would do it better other than don’t make this movie. Both leads are very talented in their own way and I guess it’s what got Hollywood to proceed when it would’ve been cheaper to do this for cable.

Alamo Extras: music video for the Runaways “School Days” and Rick James’ “Throwdown”; Trailers for Rock n’ Roll High School, Three O’Clock High, Friday and The Class of 1984; montage of testing in school; a condom usage video; [adult swim] skit on students being scared straight by the janitor, not an inmate; Funny or Die’s “Bat Fight”.

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John Wick 2: Stop Bothering!

People didn’t listen the first time. Now they went and made a sequel thanks to the original making an actual profit. Now I was dragged to this because Somara loves these Hong Kong knockoffs. I figured the character had killed off everyone possible in Manhattan…foolish me. Turns out there’s plenty of people to kill in Italy while Manhattan restocks.

I’m not going to spoil the threadbare plot since the novelization is a pamphlet, “Page one, John Wick opens fire. Page two, the end.”

It was nice to see Keanu reuniting with Laurence again.

Again, it’s a movie for those who enjoy the rat-a-tat pace of violence with no plot and/or fans of choreographed fighting.

Alamo Extras: Trailers for John Woo’s The Killer and Hard Boiled; the original Point Break; Keanu Japandering for hard liquor; some French show with people dancing to The Matrix fights; Weird kid show with them singing and dancing to “Danger Zone,”; and an Indian (Asian) dog music video.

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Went to check out some of SXSW today

I have an annual tradition of going downtown via the train (which is awesome, screw you car fanatics and naysayers since we need more rail). Then I walk the distance from Fourth and Trinity to Waterloo Records at Sixth and Lamar. I go to see the free shows, maybe get an autograph but I mainly try to keep my friend Chip hydrated.

This year it was a big release celebration for Austin’s own Spoon. The new stuff sounds pretty good, better than what I remember from either the 2010 or 2014 records. Maybe I just was having Spoon withdrawal. Scored an autographed copy of their latest Hot Thoughts for my friend Mark M.

As for me, it’s an exercise in people watching and seeing how things are evolving. The last few years have been a rise in more open displays of Rap or Hip Hop or whatever it’s called. This music isn’t my cup of tea yet new genres tend to be demonstrations of rebellion against the status quo which I’m guessing I’m a part of now. Today being St. Patrick’s Day probably raised the rates of drunk fights. The tight quarters and lines remind me of how much I despise smokers, both weed and standard crap. I find them to be the most selfish d-bags on Earth. We could be trapped on the ISS with limited oxygen and they’d still demand their so-called right to pollute the controlled environment. Plus, I don’t find Spoon’s music something to high to. It’s probably my age. When I was growing up, the weed crowd tended to prefer the boring, noodling bands (Grateful Dead especially) or Prog Rock such as Pink Floyd. Hence, I never fit in with said crowd who can often be smelled a mile away because they think patchouli and lethal levels of BO covered up the weed stench. No, they just smelled like a head shop’s dumpster.

Vitriol aside for ‘smokers,’ I had a memorable time. The weather was fantastic and I got some memorable exercise. Oh yeah, I saw a baby kangaroo up close. The owner was charging five bucks for people to hold it and take a photo. I asked how did he get it through quarantine (foreign animals are often locked up for a few weeks). He said the animal was born in Texas, its parents were imported to his ranch. It was adorable until I spotted it wearing a diaper. Eww. Nothing ruins your day like a kangaroo taking a dump on you.

I didn’t make it into the Gaming Expo neither. Last year I got in for free. Today they’re adamant over wristbands or badges. Not a big loss. The Expo’s focus is on the electronic stuff anyway, namely the huge lines I saw for people waiting to see the Nintendo Switch and it’s latest Zelda-Link game. Maybe when I have enough Pinballz points to score a PS4 I’ll give a crap. These days I prefer tabletop stuff for the Third Age is getting back on track!

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