Christmas present for a friend

djkathymini

My co-worker/friend Kathy is a DJ and a hoot. So for Christmas I scored some pieces from the Lego Store (namely the records and microphone), looked up some designs/pictures on the Internet of other designs and made a DJ stand for her avatar. The minifig with the Egyptian hair isn’t Kathy, she prefers the person in the unicorn costume. It went over very well. I hope she takes her miniature version of herself to gigs.

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Rock-climbing cat

If only my cats could be that inspired!

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Arrival: Acquired taste

arrival

It’s great to see some more cerebral Sci-Fi! Not the usual explosion-laden, aliens-as-a-surrogate for an Other America is supposed to hate. I’m amazed this movie even got made but I guess the studio approved Arrival when they looked at the cast.

The story takes place around now given the technology, dress, etc. when the aliens show up in about a dozen different global locations. Of course they have at least one ship in America, we’re pretty important, yet they chose Montana instead of LA or New York City. Dr. Banks is brought in by the Army for her expertise on linguistics since initial attempts at understanding the aliens have failed; their verbal language sounds like unintelligible grunts to us.

Afterwards, the movie is a series of scenes involving Banks and physicist Donnelly figuring out how to communicate through written language. They’re not alone, the other nations with aliens in their backyards are sharing what they’ve learned, oddly. Then matters hit a crisis, otherwise there wouldn’t really be a movie. The climax is how Banks gets everything back on track because everyone is worried about what kind of whoop-ass the aliens could unleash on the world.

One major point Arrival makes is about language. For those of us mono-lingual Americans, trying to learn something beyond English is hard. Why? The key is to think in the language you’re learning. Romantic languages, not too bad, they have numerous cognates. Asian and Middle-Eastern? They’re rather alien to us. Now try to imagine what Dr. Banks is attempting with creatures who write lumpy circles of squid ink.

Alamo Extras: Yeasayer video; Trailers for Have Rocket, Will Travel (Three Stooges), 2001, Contact, The Day The Earth Stood Still and Abbott & Costello Go To Mars; French music video of a space woman and another involving little green men; Saucer man cartoon (looked awful); the Babel sequence from Metropolis; an Italian music video of English gibberish (intentionally); Monty Python’s Hungarian translation book skit; Bosnians covering Serge Gainsbourg; Kanji tattoos that make no sense; and a band that put the lyrics to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air through Google translate.

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Austin Toy Museum

The Battle of Hoth

The Battle of Hoth

Every time I went to WizWorld, this organization brought a diorama to advertise their existence. So Somara and I finally checked the place out. It’s located downtown and on the East side of the interstate in a modest-sized building.

Overall it was a fantastic trip down memory lane. The place has extensive collections of the heavy hitters: Kenner’s Star Wars line, Hasbro’s GI Joe from the Eighties, Mattel’s He-Man and the rather recent Simpsons action figures. There’s also video games over the years, starting from the Magnavox system which was just a series of overlays you put on the TV. Many toys are arranged into dioramas but some are just on display to check out.

As for kids going? They may be bored while their parents gush on about what mom and dad had or haven’t seen in decades. The scavenger hunt may keep the children entertained but I think they’ll be frustrated over the lack of things they can touch/play with. Still, I highly recommend the place. If you’re into toys like I am, it can take over an hour to look over their collections. The museum also takes donations which are tax deductible. Somara and I are glad we can find a new home for old toys we’d like to clear out in reducing our clutter.

Tickets are cheaper if you buy them online.

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Stars win their 300th game (last week)

It was awesome too, they totally shutout their only remaining nemesis, the San Antonio Rampage. Solid passing and strong offense.

So let’s see, this their eighth season but it’s barely begun, subtract 10 for now, divide by seven…they have averaged winning 41-plus games every season. With the seasons being around 78 games, they’re pretty good!

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Final Star Trek header for the anniversary

The last televised version of Star TrekEnterprise gets an unfair shake. Despite it being filled with continuity holes unlike all the other shows, I felt Captain Archer and the crew really got rolling some time in the second season. The whole space 9/11 crap then threw it off, the Xindii were lame. The writers pulled out all the stops on fandom for the fourth season because, hey, they were going to be cancelled why not go out awesome! The finale wasn’t as dreadful as I warned.

Back to the continuity matter. The first show had none really since TV was just episodic with everything then. Probably due to no VCRs, DVRs and streaming. When NG and the rest came about in the Eighties on, they tried yet my complaint is production companies only pay for two types of shows: S(h)itcoms and Procedurals, ergo, many times Star Trek was Matlock in space. Enterprise arrived too soon for the bigger tidal shift we’ve seen thanks to AMC’s Breaking Bad, HBO’s numerous shows (probably Game of Thrones is the  leader) and probably 24 from Fox. CBS is dragging its feet on Discovery and they want you to pay for their streaming over one show to subsidize their steady diet of grandparents’ TV programming. As Jon Stewart once, CBS is the network that’s usually on when you visit your grandma at the nursing home.

Enterprise‘s four seasons are all on Netflix. I think they deserve to be revisited. Power through the stupid Xindii arc and you’ll be rewarded plus there were interesting shows in between. Namely the first time Archer meets the Andorians led by the always welcome Jeffrey Combs!

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Still very sad, missing Miette

This is my lap!!!

This is my lap!!!

I haven’t received her ashes from the vet yet but I did get the paw print and it makes me cry still. Miette was the last of the “apartment cats” until we moved into our house, making Nemo the first of the “house cats.” Just don’t feel like doing much neither. I’ll have to adjust and move on. I recall, I continued to bawl in private over Molly for three weeks after she passed.

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RIP Florence Henderson and Ron Glass

Two mainstays of my TV consumption passed away over the holiday weekend.

Florence Henderson of course was always Mrs. Brady from the cheesy The Brady Bunch, the sitcom family I think many of us in Gen X wanted to belong to. Never mind that house having only one bathroom and no toilet. Another reason I probably thought she was an unreal, ideal mom was the fact she never yelled at the kids. Afterwards, Florence did commercials for Wesson cooking oil. This gig led to a hilarious blooper shown on Dick Clark’s compilation show. She flubbed a line, cursed, noticed the look in the eyes of the children starring with her and sang, “Mrs. Brady sweared.”

Ron Glass will always be Detective Ron Harris of Barney Miller, the stylish officer with the nice suit who was writing a fictional novel on the side. They finally got Ron a great comic foil with the addition of the late Steve Landesberg as Detective Arthur Dietrich. This got highlighted in an episode with both of them being holed up with a suspect in a safe house. The other funny incident playing on his obsession over his wardrobe was when he returned from chasing a suspect through NYC’s sewers…and he slipped. After the sitcom was cancelled, I recall him being Felix Unger in a new version of The Odd Couple and numerous guest appearances. I do know of his recurring gig on Firefly but I only saw the movie.

Thanks Ron and Florence for making my childhood amusing!

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White Trash… by Nancy Isenberg

whitetrashhistory

Given Trump’s success, this book’s timing couldn’t be any better since they were a major factor in the outcome and were lumped in with the “White Working Class.”

For starters, when does the term White Trash really begin? As hinted by the title, way back during America’s Colonial period in the 17th Century, minus the White identifier. England frequently rounded up poor people from London and other large urban areas and shipped them off to the Virginia and Carolina colonies. The plan wasn’t to make them self-sustaining farmers. The English government and intellectuals counted on many to die in America as fodder for the wealthier colonists, a sick kind of fertilizer. As for the more “enlightened” New England settlements, they didn’t fare much better because they were indentured by the powerful “pilgrim” families.

Isenberg’s book breaks things down by era and how this Socio-Economic class gets treated by the mindset in power:

  • Colonial-Revolutionary: The Founders didn’t care much for them with the exception of Jefferson proposing scholarships to rescue a few with exceptional minds.
  • Jackson-Manifest Destiny: Jackson’s considered the first White Trash president due to his coarse manners and lack of education.
  • Civil War: Here the stereotype of the South gets turned upside down as the gentry called Lincoln a mudsill for his Kentucky origins. Back in the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis and his ilk had to trick the Southern poor into dying for the status quo.
  • Reconstruction-Gilded Age: They get played again, especially in aiding the Ku Klux Klan and restoring the politicians of the Confederacy.
  • Progressive Era: The ugliness of Eugenics becomes pseudo-policy to eliminate these “defective” people through forced sterilization and classifying many legally as morons.
  • The Depression: FDR’s administration rejects the Progressives and works hard to help out instead of marginalizing White Trash. Examples include the TVA and some housing programs. Their argument is that poverty isn’t a genetic thing and everyone has potential if given the means.
  • The Great Society: LBJ trying to build upon what FDR did.
  • The Present: The White Trash backlash and the label gets intertwined with identity politics. Being called a Redneck is now a source of pride: Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sarah Palin and those Duck Dynasty phonies.

Does Isenberg have all the explanations on why this group of Americans constantly votes against its own economic interests? A bit but her focus (as said above) is more on how the numerous regimes treat this segment. There isn’t much from the White Trash side. Probably due to their illiteracy into the Twentieth Century, they didn’t write much down. She does bring up another ugly truth about America though. We’re not a real democracy, just a democracy of manners every four years. Whatever it takes to get the White Trash vote every cycle, eating pie in a diner or somehow coming off as a person you could have a beer with. Afterwards, they’re ignored until the next election since they often have little real power. Trump will prove this true for his policies are going to hurt them the most: trickle-down tax cuts, repealing Obama’s overtime order, any manufacturing work returning to America will be done mostly by robots and coal mining will continue to dwindle as renewables are competitive.

The book does tie in nicely with the other one I read recently on how America is more accurately 11 nations. Together the authors gave me a better assessment on where these pockets of “stupid” generally are. One thing that gives me hope is their declining numbers which will weaken their already disproportionate voting clout.

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The Wanderers digitally restored

thewanderers

I only remember seeing some parts of The Wanderers when it was on HBO around 1980, I think. By today’s standards, it would be a PG-13 movie due to the violence. According to its history, the movie tanked upon release but it gained a cult following in Europe and I could see people like me having fuzzy memories via cable. I’m really surprised the film was ever made because people’s nostalgia for all things Fifties had waned, thanks mostly to Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley.

The story is mostly focused around two characters, Richie and Joey. They’re high school classmates and members of the Wanderers, an Italian street gang, circa 1963. (Other ethnicities have their gangs too.) You get to see their antics as a group (copping feels on women walking by) or individually (Joey’s father beats him, Richie is dating the daughter of a low-level Mafia figure). It eventually climaxes with a football game between the Wanderers and the Del Bombers (a Black gang) which then transforms into a giant rumble involving a few additional gangs. Afterwards, Joey and Richie part company, pursuing different futures as the Fifties® are now officially over.

What made The Wanderers stick out over similar period pieces such as The Lords of Flatbush and American Graffiti, was its surreal quality. There are sequences when the story feels unreal or exaggerated. It also shifted from drama to dark comedy back to drama fairly rapidly or vice versa. Then comes the obvious events to let you know why the Fifties® are ending; the death of JFK and Richie looks into a coffee house and sees Bob Dylan perform “The Times Are A’ Changin'”.

If you get a chance to watch The Wanderers, give it a shot. Movies with its odd qualities just aren’t made any more or it could be my foggy memory from grade school. It’s definitely more accurate than the Fonz.

Alamo Extras: Some silly video of “gangs” dance-fighting; Interviews with real ex-gang members; Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” video (man, those extras could move); Trailer for Body RockEnemy Territory and Streets of Fire; documentary on graffiti  in the NYC subways.

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