Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Taylor Kitsch as John Carter of Mars

As a kid, I loved the Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels about Civil War soldier John Carter and his adventures on Mars (called 'Barsoom' by it's inhabitants). Burroughs (probably best known as the creator of Tarzan) imagined a violent planet in a constant state of war, with Carter as it's prophesied savoir. I always thought the stories would make for some terrific movies, though I can't imagine how they could have been made with any accuracy before the advent of CGI. 

Now that the technology exists, Disney has adapted Burroughs' first Barsoom novel ("A Princess of Mars") for the big screen. John Carter stars "Friday Night Lights" star Taylor Kitsch in the title role of a man who finds himself transported to another planet where lower gravity gives him super-strength and the ability to leap great distances. In the novels, Carter does all his battling in the nude. This being a Disney film, Kitsch spends the movie wearing a leather loin-cloth and not much else (not that I'm complaining). I imagined Carter as older than Kitsch, though I can't fault director Andrew Stanton (Toy Story; Finding Nemo; Wall-E) for casting the very hot up-and-comer in the role. Of course, the supporting cast ain't too shabby. Samantha Morten, Willem Dafoe; Thomas Hayden Church; Mark Strong; Dominic West; James Purefoy and Bryan Cranston all play parts, though some (like DaFoe) appear in motion capture performances which render them unrecognizable.

Disney has a lot riding on John Carter; it's $250M budget among them. Disney's forays into Sci-Fi (The Black Hole; Tron) haven't always been critical darlings. Still, Stanton's track record with Pixar has been nothing short of amazing. I hope he'll do just as well (if not, better) with his first foray into live-action. 

Regardless, I know that I will definitely be seeing John Carter during its first weekend. With 11 novels from Burroughs himself (published between 1912 and 1964) and two more by his son, Disney certainly has a potentially huge franchise on their hands. I only hope they've done the series justice.

John Carter will be released on March 9th.

More, anon.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I'm Cooking for a Party Again?

Strawberries, Blackberries, Blueberries and Raspberries

So, this marks the second party this month at the Day Job. Why? Just because. Actually, it's a Leap Year party. Leap Year only happens once every four years, so why not celebrate? Of course, it's really just another excuse to eat and show off our culinary skills.

Since 2012 is a leap year, many folks took the challenge to heart. On the proposed menu are 4-bean salad; 4-cheese quiche; 4-toppings pizza... you get the idea. And while I threatened to make both frog's legs and kangaroo burgers, I settled on a simple 4-berry pie.

I love a good pie, and except for a really excellent cream-cheese icing carrot cake, prefer it to almost any dessert. Pies are also pretty forgiving when it comes to fillings, at least. I used a store-bought crust (real pie crust - especially a good one - is so hard to make*) and two, one-pound bags of frozen mixed berries. I thawed and mixed the berries with a half cup of sugar; a quarter cup of light brown sugar; a sprinkling of flour; two tablespoons of corn starch; a half teaspoon of fresh-ground nutmeg; a teaspoon of fresh-ground cinnamon and a teaspoon of lemon zest. I joined the two crusts with an egg wash, which was also brushed over the top crust, along with a sprinkling of sugar. I baked it at 350F degrees for an hour. The result (which you can see below**), may be ugly (I prefer the term 'rustic') but it smells delicious. I only hope it turns out to be at least half as good as the quiche I made for our Valentine's party, earlier this month.
My Angry-Looking 4-Berry Pie

I still seem to have problems with crimping the edges of my pie crusts so they look pretty, but at least they held together, unlike the apple pie I made last fall, which had more than few separations between the top and bottom crusts (and no, I'm NOT going to make an obvious joke here).

Of course, there will another work party in March, for St. Patrick's Day. I already know I'll be making that Asparagus and Vidalia quiche again - it's been requested by several people and has green ingredients. And it was incredibly simple to make.

I do so love to cook. Not everything I make is successful. I have, on more than one occasion, made some truly disastrous dishes. But I've had some surprising successes, too. My pear-stuffed pork chops a few years ago were rather amazing. And I would gladly enter my Meatballs Marinara in any contest. 

Just don't ask me to make or eat poutine (Yes, Jon, I'm talking to you). The very thought of the traditional Quebecois dish of French fries, cheese curds and brown gravy just turns my stomach. I can promise that will never be a dish I serve my coworkers (or anyone else), ever.

More, anon.

*Someday, I'll convince my mother to teach me how to make her amazingly light and fluffy pie crust.

**A cell-phone isn't exactly a Leica.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Super Bore Part Deux

So once again we were 'treated' to a boring and predictable Oscar broadcast in which the only surprise was Meryl Streep winning Best Actress for The Iron Lady. Billy Crystal did his best, I suppose, though the aging comedian was a rather safe choice to host. For the record, I didn't hate last year's hosts (Anne Hathaway and James Franco) as much as some people did. And I always hate "safe." I loved the "Focus Group" bit about The Wizard of Oz, starring Bob Balaban; Christopher Guest; Eugene Levy; Fred Willard; Catherine O'Hara and Jennifer Coolidge.

Even the appearance by my obsession, Cirque du Soleil (which promised 'original music' by Danny Elfman) was a disappointment. Too short and using music recycled from Iris (the show in permanent residence at the Kodak Theatre), it just didn't have the "Wow Factor" I've come to expect from them. 

Yes, Christopher Plummer gave a very amusing acceptance speech, though both Martin Scorcese and his amazing film Hugo, were robbed of the awards they deserved. 

I gave up on the show about 2/3 of the way through (as usual); went on Facebook and visited my usual sites; then came here to post my thoughts about the very safe and rather boring (as it has been for the last 20 years) Oscars telecast. 

The red carpet was interesting, at least, Gwyneth Paltrow looked amazing in that white cape, while Michelle Williams looked ridiculous in a very silly dress people seemed to adore for some reason. And while Jennifer Lopez' left nipple seemed to want to escape the confines of her dress, Angelina Jolie was stunning, as always (though I wish Brad Pitt would show up with washed hair, for once). 

Honestly, I miss the Oscars of old, where streakers ran across the stage and fake Native Americans declined awards on behalf of pretentious fading stars while young up-and-comers tied with aging biddies for Best Actress. 

Or maybe I'm just too old and jaded to care anymore...

More, anon.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Retail Therapy

I'll start by assuming (a dangerous thing, I know) that my North American readers have not been living under rocks for the past month or so and know all about the Ellen Degeneres/J.C. Penney/One Million Moms thing. For those of you out of the know - U.S. retailer J.C Penney recently launched a new pricing policy. They hired out comedienne and America's favorite talk show host Ellen Degeneres to be their spokesperson. One Million Moms (a splinter group of SPLC listed hate group, American Family Association) announced a boycott of Penney's and demanded that the retailer fire Ellen, because she was gay. Thankfully, Penny's did not concede to the group's demands and stood by their choice to have Ellen represent them.


I know I posted about my car eating up much of my tax refund this year and I was rather depressed by that. But rather than wallow in the fact that I was out more than half of that refund, I used just under half of what remained today to indulge in some retail therapy. And what better place to do so, than J.C. Penney? They've always had a rather exceptional 'Big and Tall' department and since I qualify as both, I decided to spend my money at a retailer who not only offered fashionable clothing in my size, but also supported LGBT rights. Penney's new pricing policy allowed me to purchase 2 pairs of jeans, 4 shirts*, a belt and a pair of much-needed sunglasses for less than $200.00.

The cost of both gasoline and food may be on the rise, but I have to tout JCP for keeping the cost of fashionable, quality clothing affordable. If only as a political statement, spend your 'Pink Dollars' in a store that isn't afraid to be inclusive.

*BTW - 2 of those shirts were by well-known designers.

I urge you to keep supporting companies that support the LGBTQ community and keep raising your voices against the bigots and the haters. As they say, "The squeaky wheel gets the oil." Keep squeaking, loudly and proudly. 

More, anon.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Do You Like Gladiator Movies?

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson

Way back in 1997, Disney angered the population of an entire country when it released the animated musical Hercules. The Greeks complained that the film reduced the classic mythological hero to a buffoonish caricature. Really? Where were they when handsome American body-builder and 'actor ' Steve Reeves was making his living in terrible 1960's Italian films about the same character? And where was the uproar when Austrian strongman (and future Governator) Arnold Schwarzenegger played the role for laughs in 1969's Hercules in New York? And then there was the All-American Hercules; Kevin Sorbo in Sam Raimi's sarcastically homoerotic "Hercules: The Legendary Adventures," which ran on American cable from 1995 to 1999. I don't remember any Greeks protesting that show.

So, I have to wonder: what will the Greeks think of former pro-wrestler turned family-film-star, Samoan behemoth Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as their iconic hero? Literally dozens of industry sites are reporting that Johnson - currently on screen in the critically derided 3D actioner Journey 2: The Mysterious Island - is in talks to play the Greek demigod in director Brett Ratner's adaptation of Steve Moore's darkish graphic novel, 'Hercules: The Thracian Wars.'

I like Johnson. He's personable, attractive and has a rather amazing physique. He's been in both bad (Tooth Fairy) and fairly decent (The Rundown) films. On talk shows like 'Ellen,' Johnson comes across as a bright, funny, dedicated family man who wants to make movies his kids can watch. Of course, it's going to take lots and lots of Dermablend (or very expensive CGI) to cover those traditional Samoan (and Texan) tattoos. And Uncle P (among millions of gals and guys) would certainly not kick him out of bed for eating crackers.

Of course, the Greeks have other things to worry about these days, though I can't imagine they're going to happy with a Samoan actor playing a Grecian icon, given their response to the Disney film. 

As for me, my first experience with the character was the 1960's cartoon (I'm old, remember?) "The Mighty Hercules," in which Hercules resembled Superman and his best friend was a fey satyr named Newt (no relation to the current Repugnican candidate).

Ancient Greek warriors were often paired with their male lovers; the idea being that they would look out for and protect one another. It's a strategy that worked for thousands of years. While there is nothing in classic Greek mythology to suggest Hercules had such a pairing, I certainly wouldn't mind being paired with Johnson in war or peace... I'm just saying.

More, anon.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Never Make Plans for Money

A 2006 Hyundai Santa Fe VERY Much Like Mine

I got a pretty decent refund from the IRS this year and had planned to do so much with it. I was going to pay down some credit card debt, buy some new clothes and maybe even take a trip into NYC to see a show on Broadway.

I own a 2006 Hyundai Santa Fe. It's really good on gas; has room for my friends and the many props, costumes and set pieces I transport; is fairly attractive and very comfortable, especially for a big gay bear like Uncle P. Since I bought it, I've only had to replace windshield wipers and tires. Until this weekend, that is. 

Sunday morning, as I attempted to venture to a local convenience store for some breakfast food, 'Mean Josephine Green' didn't want to start. And after she finally did, it felt like she wanted to stall and it was all I could do to make it around the block and back to my house before she actually stalled out completely.

With Monday being a holiday, it wasn't until yesterday morning that I was able to have her towed to the shop. And today I got the bad news... a cable integral to Jo's electrical system had gone bad and required replacement. Of course, said cable is not part of the car's power train and therefor not covered by her 10-year warranty. The total cost of the repair came to more than half of my tax refund. I'll be picking Jo up in the morning and plunking down the money, because I need her to be functional, but I'll be damned if I'm happy about it. It seems like every time I think I might get just a little bit ahead, something comes along to say "F*ck you, Uncle P! Hahahahahaha!"

The point is, don't make plans for money you don't have yet. You never know when the gods are going to melt those wax wings and send you plummeting back down to Earth.

More, anon.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Not Enough (or Too Much?) Product

This is What Happens When You Stop Going to a Gay Hairstylist

Look at the expressions on the faces of Rick "Frothy Mix" Santorum's wife and daughter as he speaks at the Conservative Political Action Committee meeting earlier this month. Neither one looks particularly proud or supportive of him. In fact, they look rather apologetic, don't they? It's almost as if they've been let out of the basement long enough to pretend to support the man who has repressed them all of their lives.

And their hair! Dear Lord! Victims or either too much or not enough Frothy Mix, or just the result of being forced to visit only straight hairdressers?

By now, you must all be aware of my disgust for Santorum* (as well as the other Repugnicans running for the party's Presidential nomination). But Santorum is the one who disturbs and disgusts me the most. His outright lies about LGBT people; his lack of concern for a woman's rights when it comes to reproductive health issues (he recently said that he is against abortion for the victims of rape and that such women should learn to turn "lemons into lemonade." WHAT!!!!!?????!!!!) and his insistence on bringing his religious views into his politics simply make me gag. His recent rant about President Obama's "fake theology" prove that he's insane, while his 2008 claim that "Satan has his sights set on... the United States of America" goes to show that his religion has clouded his judgement to the point where he cannot possibly serve as an impartial leader of our decidedly secular nation.

Of course, the really scary thing is that religious conservatives are actually listening to him. The KKK used to link Papists and Jews together as a common enemy, though now it seems that gays and Muslims have taken the place of Catholics in things which so-called "Christians" hate. And that's the operative word here: "Hate." Christians aren't supposed to hate anyone. "Love thine enemy as thou lovest thyself." I don't think the Bible could be more clear on this issue. 

You all know me, by now. You know I think religion is the 'blue pill.'  A politician who uses religion as the basis for his political beliefs is beyond reprehensible. Recent statistics (via) show that more than 28% of Americans have recently left their religions for either another religion or no religion at all. Over 16% of Americans say they have no religious affiliation and Catholicism has seen the greatest decrease in membership among every religion in American. Of course, cover-ups and hypocrisy amid accusations of priestly pedophilia have driven Catholics away from their church in droves, which makes me wonder why any modern politician would remain so staunchly proud of his affiliation with Roman Catholicism. Admittedly, Frothy Mix is hardly a modern politician. His antiquated views on so many issues make him one of the GOP's 'dinosaur candidates,' doomed to fall by the wayside on the wrong side of history. And I can't wait for that to happen. He may be riding high in his party now but he has no hope of beating Obama in November. And that, at least. gives me solace.

He's never made more sense...

*Spell Check keeps wanting me to change "Santorum" to "Sanitarium," which is obviously where he belongs. Clearly the programmers at Microsoft agree with me.

More, anon.

Monday, February 20, 2012


Steven Yeun as Glen

No one can say that "The Walking Dead" isn't exciting anymore, especially after last night's episode. As always, SPOILERS AHEAD.

As Lori lay unconscious in the wrecked car with a Walker gnawing its way through the broken windshield, Rick, Glen and Hershel are preparing to leave the bar where they have just killed Jimmy and Tony. But a car pulls up outside and three men get out in search of the now-dead duo, trapping them in the bar.

Lori awakes, just as the Walker breaks through the windshield. She searches for the gun she brought along, but finds a screwdriver which she jams into the Walker's eye. Once out of the car, she attacked from behind by another Walker. This time she finds the gun and takes the Walker out with a single shot.

Back at the farm, the group realizes Lori is missing when she doesn't join them for dinner. Carol finds out from Daryl that Lori left in search of Rick and soon Shane is off in search of Lori. At the bar, Rick tries to get the three strangers outside to agree to a ceasefire, but it son becomes apparent that isn't going to happen. Rick hatches a plan in which Glen makes a run out the back for the car, as Hershel covers him. Glen is almost immediately fired upon and Hershel wounds the shooter, whose howls of pain soon attract dozens of Walkers. As the Walkers tear him apart, his companions decide to leave. Randall, who had taken up a sniper position on a nearby roof, jumps and impales his calf on a decorative fence post. His buddy takes off, leaving him to die. 

Carol tries to engage Daryl, but his grief over the death of Sophia manifests itself as anger and he wants nothing to do with her or the others. Shane finds Lori on the road and lies to her, telling her that Rick and the others have come back to the farm. When they arrive and she discovers the truth, Shane blurts out "I had to make sure you and the baby were safe," shocking everyone, especially Carl, who is hurt that his mother didn't tell him she was pregnant. Shane tells Lori that he loves her and Carl and what they had while she thought her husband was dead, was real. She rebuffs him again, though it was quite apparent that Shane believes the three of them should be together. 

Rick and company find the impaled Randall and attempt to free him, though Hershel advises the best thing to do is "put him down." Rick can't do it and convinces Hershel to amputate Randall's lower leg, but the noise has attracted even more Walkers. As Hershel and Glen head to the car, Rick violently yanks Randall's leg off the fence post.

The next morning, as Shane, Daryl and Andrea prepare to find the missing trio, Dale again tries to warn Andrea about how unstable he thinks Shane is. Andrea defends Shane, saying he's done more to keep the group alive than Rick. As they are about to head out, the trio returns with a blind-folded Randall in the backseat. They plan to nurse him back to health and then drive him out to the road and let him go, despite Shane's very vocal disapproval. After reminding Shane that the farm is still his, Hershel tends to the catatonic Beth while Glen admits to Maggie that his feelings for her got in the way of protecting Rick and Hershel. Alone again, Lori tells Rick she's afraid that Shane loves her and will do anything to make sure he gets her and the baby he thinks is his. 

As tensions continue to rise at the farm, I imagine things can only go from bad to worse. And now that we know there is another (apparently violent) group of survivors in the area, will it be long before they arrive at the farm to cause even more trouble? I don't imagine Shane will survive the season (especially since actor Jon Bernthal is reportedly being courted by show-creator Frank Darabont for a new series he's developing for a rival network). I do know that the second half of this season is a far cry from the relatively actionless first half and we're only two episodes in. A friend recently complained that the show is "... just a soap opera with zombies." Maybe. But what an intense soap-opera it is. Here's a sneak peak at next week's episode:

More, anon.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

And I Will Always Exploit You

Heather Headley

Some movies deserve Broadway Musical adaptations, while other don't. For many years before it happened, I hoped Mel Brooks would bring The Producers* to Broadway. It was a perfect fit and resulted in a record number of Tony awards. But The Producers was a movie about Broadway; an obovious choice for musicalization. Brooks' attempt at adapting Young Frankenstein was far less successful (and let's hope his planned stage version of Blazing Saddles never comes to fruition).

Disney, of course, has had some massive successes with The Lion King; Beauty and the Beast and Mary Poppins, while the less said about Tarzan and The Little Mermaid, the better. I really loved the Broadway version of Xanadu but more because it parodied the movie, instead of trying to reinvent it. Currently on Broadway there are no less than six musical adaptions of movies, including Sister Act; Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; Newsies and Ghost. Off-Broadway musical versions of Silence of the Lambs (admittedly a parody) and Carrie (a revival of one of Broadway's most infamous flops) are also playing in New York. This trend is disturbing to me, because it follows the current Hollywood trend of remakes, reboots and television adaptations that have angered so many fans over the lack of original material. Where are all the original musicals? And why can't I find a composer with the follow-through to help me finish any of mine? But I digress...

Perhaps most disturbing of all, is the announcement of the West End musical production of the Kevin Costner/Whitney Houston movie The Bodyguard. Apparently in the works for a while, Houston's death has propelled interest in the show, which will include songs from the film as well as other songs from Houston's canon. Really? Starring the rather amazing Heather Headley (above) as Houston's character Rachel, the show is currently scheduled for a Fall premiere. Headley, who was outstanding in The Lion King and truly amazing in Aida, is one of the few stage actresses I can see taking on the role with any hope of success, though I think Weight Watchers' spokeswoman Jennifer Hudson would be the shoe-in for a film version. 

Still - Houston's body is barely in the ground. Should producers be exploiting her legacy for profits this soon? If nothing else, the musical version of The Bodyguard seems in bad taste, if not outright exploitation. Though exploitation seems to be the name of the game, these days. And how sad is that?

As an antidote, here is Chris Cornell's rather amazing tribute to Whitney:

*I'd also come out of retirement to play Max Bialistock in The Producers.

More, anon.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

When Horror Meets Alternative History Fiction

I know I've told you that my reading habits have been less than stellar, of late. I used to read at least two or three novels a month. Now I'm lucky if I get through two or three a year. That makes me sad, because there are tons of novels I am dying to read. But between work, rehearsals, my own personal writing and blogging, I just don't have the time and patience. The only time I get to read is either waiting in doctors' offices or while on vacation at my sister's in Florida.

In fact, the last two novels I read were while on vacation last spring; Joe Hill's "Horns" and Seth Grahame-Smith's "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter." I enjoyed Hill's "Horns" (Hill is the son of prolific horror novelist Stephen King) but I loved Grahame-Smith's alternative history tale even more. Combining actual people and events from the era with traditional vampire lore, Grahame-Smith wrote a fascinating and highly entertaining tale that returns vampires to their monstrous status (F*ck You, Stephanie Meyer) and creates an even more heroic portrait of the Man from Illinois. And unlike Grahame-Smith's previous novel "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," which built upon existing fiction, "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" is a totally original tale. Also unlike "P&P&Z," "AL:VH" has actually been adapted for the screen.

Produced by Tim Burton and directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted), the movie is scheduled for release this coming June. Starring relative newcomer Benjamin Walker (Kinsey; The Notorious Bettie Page); Mary Elizabeth Winstead (The Thing; Scott Pilgrim vs the World); Dominic Cooper (Captain America; The Devil's Double); Alan Tudyk ("Dollhouse;"  "Suburgatory") and Rufus Sewell (Dark City), Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has the potential to be one of the coming summer's huge hits. I, for one, can't wait to to see it.

Here's the movie's official trailer:

And here's the book's trailer:

Hopefully, this will be the film that returns the Horror to the vampire genre.

More, anon.

Friday, February 17, 2012


As you know, I am making my farewell* to Musical Theatre playing Edna in Hairspray this coming April. The show is a joint production between the Theatre Arts program at Mercer County Community College and The James Tolin Memorial Fund. MCCC has a small Theatre Department, especially when compared to some of New Jersey's 4-year colleges and Universities. The college's Kelsey Theatre regularly hosts many local theatre companies as part of it's regular season. The Pennington Players; Maurer Productions OnStage; Playful Theatre; Yardley Players; Shakespeare '70 and of course, the JTMF (among others) all call the Kelsey 'Home.' They also bring in professional touring companies and special events as part of their regular season, all in an effort to support performing arts in central New Jersey.

JTMF tends to produce small, LGBT-centric comedies like Paul Rudnick's Jeffrey; Harvey Fierstein's Torch Song Trilogy and Charles Busch's Psycho Beach Party. We've always wanted to do a musical (I've been pushing for Victor/Victoria* for years), but we just haven't had the budget. So, when the college approached us with the idea of a joint production of Hairspray, we jumped at the opportunity. Of course, the deal came with two caveats: Our founder had to be the show's stage manager (and she's one of the best around) and I had to play Edna. Well, flattery will get you everywhere, despite what you may have heard. 

Two and a half weeks into rehearsals, and I already have dozens of friends, co-workers and acquaintances who have purchased tickets to see me sing and dance in heels and a dress. But I must admit that I am most flattered by an email I received today from my buddy Sean, who writes a fabulous blog called Just a Jeep Guy. Sean was one of my first followers, and he I comment regularly on each other's blogs. His weekly "Mug Shot" contests, Sunday Funnies and Dogably Pawfect Saturdays are among the many reasons so many folks read him.

Anyway, today I got an email from Sean which read (in part): "Guess what I got today?" And then there was that picture of a ticket to Hairspray which you see above. "Any chance I could get a backstage pass?" he wrote. Yes, Sean. I'll give you a personal tour, if you want. I am very excited to meet yet another of the folks with whom I've been corresponding on line for so long. I'm so happy that Sean is coming all the way from up from D.C. just to see our little show (Pax - you've been challenged here - and you live in NJ!).

Should you decide to take the leap and see Uncle P in his natural element, tickets are on sale (but going fast) here. You can also order by calling the Kelsey box-office at 609-570-3333. I can't promise a perfect production, but I will promise a fun evening or afternoon, great songs and me singing my heart out in several fabulous costumes.

Partial proceeds from the show benefit The Open Arms Foundation; The James Tolin Memorial Scholarship at MCCC and The Tyler Clementi Foundation.

Here's a clip of comedian John Pinnette playing Edna on Broadway:

More, anon.

*I'd come out of retirement to play Teddy in Victor/Victoria, in case anyone is casting...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The (Literally) Biggest Jerk in America

A-hole Homophobe

While I live and work in neighboring PA, most of my family, the majority of my friends and almost all of the theatre I do are in NJ, so I have an interest in what happens there.

Yesterday, the NJ Assembly voted to pass an amendment which would legalize same-sex marriage in my native state. New Jersey's Repugnican governor has said that he will "move swiftly" to veto the bill, despite overwhelming evidence that the majority of New Jersey residents approve of legalizing same-sex marriage.

What the...?

The Honorable Christine Gregoire, Republican Governor of Washington State (which recently passed a similar bill) wrote to Christie in an effort to persuade him not to veto the bill (via):

As of this writing, Christie has yet to respond to Governor Gregoire's letter. Nor do I expect him to. As a Repugnican and a Catholic, Christie refuses to admit that he is among a dying breed of homophobes who are living on the wrong side of history. 

I don't understand how people can claim that same-sex marriage will destroy or devalue heterosexual marriage. Canada legalized it over 10 years ago, and they have hardly been swallowed down to hell. And don't even get me started on the revenues to be generated in the wedding industry. Why would any governor of any state want to lose out on more taxes?

Just as Washington becomes the 7th state in the U.S. to allow same-sex marriage, New Jersey is missing out on not only increased revenue, but maintaining its reputation as one of the most liberal and progressive states in the country. It makes me sad on so many levels. While I doubt that I will live to see the day when this country comes it to its senses and offers equality to all its citizens, I know that eventually, we'll get there. And folks like Chris Christie will join the ranks of George Wallace, Rush Limbaugh and Strom Thurman on history's list of people who were wrong.

Oh, and the enclosure Governor Gregoire mentioned in her letter? It's a transcript of the speech she gave on January 10th of this year. You can watch it, below:

Enlightenment, like change, is often slow and occasionally painful.

More, anon.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Be My.... Braaaaiiiiiinnnnssss! ("Nebraska")

The last time I spent Valentine's Day with someone about whom I cared, he dumped me. That's right. We went to a romantic movie and then I bought him an expensive dinner at a 4-star restaurant, after which he told me he couldn't see me anymore. "It's not you," he said, using the oldest dump line in the book, "It's me." Pathetic, ain't it?

Which is why, even if I am in a relationship during February, I refuse to participate in the Hallmark Holiday. There are 364 other days on which to declare one's love. Why should I spend money on over-priced flowers, bad chocolates and a cheesy card on February 14th?

So tonight, after reveling in my work-party quiche win, I came home and finally watched the newest episode of AMC's "The Walking Dead."


Wow. After the season's first-half build to the amazing reveal of Sophia in the barn, I wasn't sure what would happen. The episode picked up right where the last one left off, with Rick still holding the gun that took out Walker Sophia as the others stood or sat in shock. When Beth tries to hold her supposedly dead mother in her arms, the not-quite-dead Walker tries to attack her and it is the now-hardened Laurie who takes the Walker out with a pickaxe through its head. 

The new episode both revealed many characters' weaknesses (Hershel starts drinking again after more than 20 years; while Maggie declares her for Glenn, whom she barely knows) and strengths (Carol admits that Sophia died a long time ago while Laurie nonchalantly picks up a Walker's arm that falls off the truck on its way to the pyre). When Beth collapses (either in grief or from shock), Rick decides to seek Hershel out in the nearby town's bar. Hershel, finally admitting that the Walkers are dead, has given up hope, but Rick tries to convince him that hope lies in those still living. Meanwhile, Dale continues to voice his concerns about the increasingly dangerous Shane, telling Laurie that he thinks Shane murdered Otis at the high school in order to retrieve the ventilator which saved Carl's life (which, in fact, is true).

At the bar, Rick, Glenn and Hershel are confronted by Jimmy and Tony, who have traveled south from Philadelphia and want to intimidate their way into joining the group at Hershel's farm. Laurie, intent on finding Hershel so he can help Beth, has a roadside encounter with a Walker, resulting in an accident which leaves her trapped in an over-turned car. Rick and Hershel tell Jimmy and Tony that there is no room at the farm for them, resulting in a shootout which leaves both Jimmy and Tony dead.

Again - wow. I can't wait to see where the rest of this season will take our survivors. Fort Benning now appears out of the question. And we still have no idea what Jenner whispered in Rick's ear before blowing up the CDC. Can the volatile Shane be trusted not to kill again? And what happened to Merle after he severed his hand in order to escape from the department store roof? And will we ever see Morgan and his son again? So many questions...

Television's best Horror series continues to get better and better.

More, anon.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Party at the Drop of a Hat

NOT My Quiche

Uncle P's day job is at a very well-known NPO. We administer (among other things) a very well-known academic test for a very specific field of post-graduate study (that's just about all I can say without violating the non-disclosure agreement I signed when I accepted my position at said NPO and I will neither deny nor confirm any speculation in your comments - even though all my friends know what that NPO is).

My co-workers are a pretty amazing group of people, most of whom I love dearly. We all tend to be rather liberal in our politics and make no bones about it. We also love to eat and party and I have often said that we will throw a party if someone sneezes. This is especially true of the first floor, where I work. 

Tomorrow is our annual "Red Food Party" for Valentine's Day. Not everything served is red, though many try to bring only red dishes. In my department particularly, we try to be as creative as possible with the food we bring to these events. I know I have blogged about food and cooking here on Caliban's Revenge before. And while I am far from a gourmet chef, I do like to consider myself a rather good Home Cook who tries to be creative (I made an amazing, if I say so myself, Blood Orange glaze for chicken a few weeks ago) while using the skills passed on by my grandmother and mother, as well as tips and recipes I have found on various TV cooking shows.

That being said, I made my first ever quiche for tomorrow's caloric orgy. It was inspired by a Martha Stewart recipe and called for asparagus and leeks. My local  market was out of leeks yesterday, though the very helpful produce manager suggested using Salad Vidalias instead.The resulting quiche looks rather delicious (though I still have issues with making my pie crust look as good as the ones on TV) and I, for one, can't wait to taste it. 

While I'm not quite ready to test my culinary skills on "Chopped," I do take comfort in knowing that I am a much better cook than any contestant on Food Network's "Worst Cooks in America."

If, like most of the food I make for these parties, my quiche is devoured before noon I will make a triumphant announcement about my glowing success. However, if, like a few of the dishes I've attempted it remains uneaten at the end of the day, I will never speak of this again.

UPDATE: The quiche was gone in less than 45 minutes. I was lucky to get a sliver (which was delicious, if I say so myself).

Also - does anyone else hate Valentine's Day as much as I do?

More, anon.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Most Irrelevant of Irrelevancies

Most of you know how I feel about Awards shows in general, so it should be no surprise that I really hate the Grammys. 

And please excuse me while I go into "Old Guy Ranting" mode here, but the majority of popular music today is just plain crap. Oh, don't get me wrong - there are exceptions. I adore Adele and I am thrilled that she won Album of the Year; Record of the Year; Song of the Year, etc., etc. I can also appreciate a good dance beat (LMFAO or Lady Gaga, anyone?) and no one loves a great ballad like I do. And Best Musical Theatre Album for The Book Of Mormon? Yes! 

Betty White added another award to her showcase for Best Spoken Word Album. Really, who doesn't love America's Grandmother? I know I do. But Best Score for Visual Media to The King's Speech? Did no one listen to Howard Shore's magical score for Hugo? And honestly, no one really cares about Best Country Album; Best Instrumental Arrangement for Accompanying Vocalist(s) or Best Regional Roots Music Album. Well, maybe those nominated care. Still...

Music has always played an important part in my life. Dad was a classical music fan, while Mom loves Elvis and old school Country. I grew listening to Wagner; Orbison; Mozart; Presley; Beethoven; Nelson; Sibelius; Cline; Verdi and Parton. In high school, I listened to Disco and Musical Theatre and discovered the true genius of the Beatles in college, while dancing to the B-52's; Sinead O'Connor; X; Siouxsie and the Banshees and any number of 80's bands. But my true love always has been (and always will be) Film Scores. I know I've mentioned that the majority of my music collection is made up of Film Scores. I suppose I love them because the composers are very deliberately trying to evoke an emotional response and when they succeed in doing so, it just makes me happy.

But back to the Grammys. The only Awards Show with more categories than the Oscars, the Grammys are also the most superfluous. Music is probably the most subjective art form around, and while I like to think my musical taste is eclectic, many would consider it 'weird.' Of course, many people consider me weird, so what do I know? I just think it is so silly to give awards for any art, end even more so for music. One man's noise is another's symphony.

More, anon.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Star is Gone


I usually don't go online on the weekend until later in the evening, so you can imagine my shock when just about everyone I know on Facebook was posting about the death of Whitney Houston. Much like the death of Michael Jackson, I said to myself "What? No, that can't be right." I immediately went to where the site's headline confirmed what I'd read on Facebook: "Whitney Houston Dead at 48."

There is nothing sadder to me than seeing a star fall. In the 80's and 90's, the beautiful Ms Houston had it all. She was a 'star' in every sense of the word. Her voice was nothing less than amazing and while she would never win an Oscar, she could act, too. Her cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" from the movie The Bodyguard was inescapable in 1992. Her marriage to Bobby Brown that same year would lead to her addiction to drugs and eventual downfall.

She played the Fairy Godmother is Disney's 1997 remake of Rogers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella" and appeared on "Gimme a Break," "Silver Spoons" and "Boston Public." Lately the subject of ridicule on "SNL" and "The Soup," as late as yesterday she was criticized on Joan River's "Fashion Police" for wearing outdated clothing while out with her most recent boyfriend, rapper Ray-J. With seven albums; four films (Sparkle is scheduled for release this coming August) and a record total of 415 career awards, Houston's sad decline seemed about to take a turn for the better, despite an apparently disastrous European tour last year.

Houston was a talent unlike any who came before and will probably remain unlike any who come after. Her performance of the National Anthem at the 1991 Superbowl is undoubtedly the best performance of the infamously difficult-to-sing song, ever. 

Goodbye, Whitney. You will be missed.

More, anon.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Why Do We Hate?

The Face of Hate

Dan Pearce writes the excellent blog Single Dad Laughing. He writes about how much he loves his son, Noah and their lives together. He had a few followers. 

Then, last November, Dan posted an amazing essay called "I'm Christian, unless you're gay." In it, he talked about hypocrisy and how true followers of Christ shouldn't hate anyone, particularly LGBTQ people.. The post went viral and Dan is still getting responses, more than three months later. It was a very well-thought-out and touching piece and it galvanized thousands of people into reexamining their own attitudes towards the LGBTQ community. The stories shared in the comments on the post are nothing short of amazing. Families who'd been torn apart by this issue for years were reunited; friends were found; people's eyes were opened. If you haven't read Dan's post, I strongly recommend that you do so and then share it with everyone you know (and maybe a few folks that you don't).

But there are still millions out there who just don't get it. And while the lunatic fringe haters like Fred Phelps (pictured above) and his Westboro Baptist Church family will never get it (that poison has run far too deep for far too long), I am amazed by the so-called educated people who spew hatred in the name of God and then complain when they are called bigots. Especially dangerous are those who are currently campaigning for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. You know who they are and I'm not going to waste my time typing their names. Do we really want people whose minds are so narrow; whose eyes are so blind and whose hearts are so cold, leading the Free World? Because they promise that under their 'leadership,' that world would be just just a little less free. I'm pretty sure that they haven't read Dan's essay (maybe we should all send them a link to it).

But none of that answers my initial question: Why do we hate? And of course, the answer is: Fear.

Fear is born of ignorance - we fear what we don't understand. As children, we fear the shadows on our bedroom walls because we don't understand what makes a jacket tossed onto a chair look like a werewolf waiting to pounce. In families who practice one of big three religions, we're taught to fear the Wrath of God, who will eternally punish us if we don't do what He says. We fear what's different: Skin color; religion; social behaviors; foods; places of origin; political views. And of course, the biggest fear of all: Death. 

While death may be the one common fear most of us share, the fear of differences is the only one that is taught to us. We learn this fear first from our parents, families & clergy and second from our peers, whose fears have been taught to them by their parents, families and clergy. It's kind of a vicious circle. But how do we break that circle? How do we rid ourselves of fear?

Over the years, my views on religion have changed drastically. My father came from a Roman Catholic family and my mother was raised Episcopalian (basically the same thing but with divorce and without celibacy). Until I was 6, we attended church regularly and my mother even taught Sunday School (though she later admitted that she didn't believe a word of what she was teaching). When Mom became bedridden while pregnant with my sister, we stopped going to church. Of course, whenever I spent the weekend at my Grandmother's, I was dragged to Sunday Mass at Saint Stephen's, Trenton's Hungarian Catholic church. 

Meanwhile, my father had begun to question what he had been taught and was delving into mysticism and the occult, which later led him to explore Zen Buddhism. By the time I was in my late teens and early 20's, I had had a taste of just of just about every dogma and philosophy out there. In college, I devoured religious texts. I have read the Bible; the Q'uran; the Bhagavad Gita; 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' and even 'The Satanic Bible' in my quest for enlightenment. For a very long time I considered myself an agnostic, and have even said so on this blog. These days, I'm not afraid to admit that I have become a full-on atheist, as well as firm believer that religion has been the cause of more war, hatred and murder than anything else in human history. Truth be told, we'd all be a lot better off without it. 

Sadly, we are a superstitious lot, and most of find comfort in believing - the whole 'Religion is the opiate of the masses' thing. Which leads me back to fear. Maybe, if we could let go of our fear for just a little bit, we might see that FDR was right: "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself." 

My challenge to you today is to let go of your fear. Let go of all the things you've been taught to be afraid of - God; Hell; Death; Blacks; Hispanics; Jews; Asians; Gays... whatever. Just let go. Stop being afraid and start embracing what's different. Start celebrating the fact the what makes us all different, also makes us all the same. Stop hating the people you don't understand and start to learn about them, instead. I guarantee that you will find they aren't so different from you, afterall. We all want the same things - to live our lives without fear; to be happy and free to love who we love, without judgement or recrimination; to live a life in which love matters more than anything. If you look at as many religions and philosophies as I have, I think you'll find that love is the common denominator in all of them and that hate has no place at any of their tables.

Wow. That's more than I ever thought I'd have to say on any of those topics, despite how much they might relate to one another. And it's almost certainly not the last time I will address any and/or all of those topics. Listening to some of the speeches given today at CPAC certainly had something to do with it. As does the continuing suicide epidemic among young LGBTQ people in this country. I guess it just makes me crazy to see people hold onto values that no longer have relevance in what is supposed to be an 'enlightened' society. It's the 21st Century, people. wake up and smell reality.

Okay - I'm done (for now). I may very well need a ladder to get off this particularly high horse, but so be it. All I ask is that you take the challenge.

More, anon.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

"Iron Sky" Part III

A quickie tonight. I had a music rehearsal and I'm beat. Composer Marc Shaiman, while brilliant, is a sadist. "You Can't Stop the Beat" is an incredibly hard song to sing - there's no place to catch your breath! Or maybe I'm just getting old.

Anyway, it was way back in February of 2009 that I first blogged about Iron Sky, the Sci-Fi Comedy Adventure movie about a colony of Nazis on the dark side of the Moon who return to take over the Earth in 2018. Well, it looks like Iron Sky finally has a release date - April 4 - in Finland! No word on a U.S. date yet, but you can visit the film's official website and Demand It.

The movie features genre legend Udo Kier (Blade; Melancholia) and French beauty Julia Dietze as Moon Nazis and a cast of relative unknowns in a high-as-they-come high concept movie that I've been salivating to see for three years. 

Oh, and there's an official trailer, now. Enjoy:

And here's the brilliant teaser trailer that I posted way back when:

It seems like Iron Sky is going to be either brilliantly campy fun, or a complete piece of drek. I'm hoping for the former.

More, anon.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

TV Review: "The River"

This week's other highly anticipated new series is ABC's "The River," another show produced by Steven Spielberg but created by Oren Peli, who wrote and directed the disappointingly boring Horror movie, Paranormal Activity.

"The River" tells the story of adventurer and naturalist Emmet Cole (Star Trek's Bruce Greenwood) who has been missing in the Amazon for 6 months. When his locator beacon is suddenly activated, his wife Tess (Leslie Hope from "24"), reluctant son Lincoln (The Crazies' Joe Anderson) and producer Clark (Paul Blackthorne, another "24" alum) go searching for him. Clark makes sure the search is recorded for a possible series and brings along a slew of cameras and two cameramen to record everything. Also along are Emmet's former engineer and his daughter (who may have a "gift") and their boat's captain played by Thomas Kretschmann (who played Captain Englehorn in Peter Jackson's King Kong). They are soon joined by Lincoln's childhood friend Lena ("Lone Star" alum Eloise Mumford), the daughter of Emmet's cameraman who disappeared along with Emmet.

Like Paranormal Activity, "The River" is presented in a found footage format, though it seemed to me that there were far too many cameras in far too many impractical places to be actual 'documentary' footage. And while the concept for the show is certainly intriguing, the story is far too silly for its own good. Discovering Emmet's ship abandoned in an uncharted part of the Amazon, the team soon finds a mysterious being welded into the ship's panic room. Once released, it hungers for blood and the engineer's daughter Jahel (Mexican actress Paulina Gaitan) explains that it is a "dry spirit," the soul of someone too evil to remain buried. What? 

Shaky cameras, nighttime shoots and jungle locations make it hard to see anything that's happening and while not seeing something can be far scarier than actually seeing it, "The River" just ends up being annoying. The premiere's second hour wasn't much better, though it had a very truly creepy moments involving a tree filled with dolls (obviously inspired by this true story) and the swallowing of a dragonfly that possessed Jahel.

The performances here are all fine, I suppose - at least everyone manages to keep a straight face. And unlike Paranormal..., the show wastes no time getting to the creepy stuff. Sadly, the creepy stuff is just as silly as it was in Peli's first movie. I'll stick with AMC's "The Walking Dead" and FX's "American Horror Story" for my TV Horror fixes. Someone please let me know when a network Horror show turns up as good as these cable gems. * (One Star Out of Four).

Thank goodness "The Walking Dead" comes back this Sunday.

More, anon.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

TV Review: "Smash"

Having spent the greater part of my life in the theatre, I was excited to see "Smash," which tells the story of the creation of a Broadway musical. In this case, it's a musical biography of Marilyn Monroe.

Julia Houston ("Will and Grace" alum Debra Messing) and Tom Levitt (Christian Borle of Broadway's Legally Blonde) are musical writing partners whose latest Broadway show "Heaven on Earth," has just opened in London's West End. Tom's best friend Ivy (Megan Hilty) is in the show's Broadway chorus, but longs for a major role. Meanwhile, Midwestern transplant Karen ("American Idol" winner runner-up Katherine McPhee) is working as a waitress while auditioning for her big break. 

When Tom's new assistant, Ellis (adorable newcomer Jaime Cepero) offhandedly suggests that Marilyn might make a good subject for a musical, Julia and Tom's wheels start turning and they begin to write, despite the protestations of Julia's husband Frank (Tony-nominee for ShrekBrian d'Arcy James). Frank is upset because Julia has promised to take time off so the couple can devote time to adopting a baby. 

Meanwhile, Broadway producer Eileen Rand (the incomparable Anjelica Huston) is in the midst of a divorce, which will dash all hopes of her proposed revival of My Fair Lady. When Ellis leaks a video of a demo recording session of the show's first song online, it goes viral and soon Eileen is courting Julia and Tom to finish the show, even going so far as to arrange an "audition' for arrogant director/choreographer (and Tom's arch-nemesis) Derek Wills (Jack Davenport of Pirates of the Caribbean and "Swingtown").

All of this happens, mind you, in the pilot's first 30 minutes.

I recently read an interview with executive producer Steven Spielberg who said he wanted to do this show because he only understood the creative process of film and wanted to explore film's progenitor, theatre; something about which he knew next to nothing. 

Created by Pulitzer-nominated playwright Theresa Rebeck (Seminar) and Scott Burkhardt, "Smash" might best be described as "Glee" with an attitude. And I mean that in the most flattering way possible. With original music by Marc Shaiman (Hairspray; The Wedding Planner; Southpark: Bigger, Longer and Uncut) and more than a few amazing performances (McPhee positively shines here), "Smash" gets it. And by "it," I mean the creative process that goes into the mounting of a show. 

As someone who has been an auditioner, a director and the creator of a musical (or three), I can attest that the show understands everything that goes into the mounting of a musical or play, albeit at a rather remarkably accelerated pace. "Smash" provides its audience with the viewpoints of the writers; director; producer and hopeful actors, all while exploiting New York City's best locations. The cast; the music; the production values and the writing are all top-notch here and I honestly can't wait to see the next episode.

If you love the theatre, dream the dream and live the life, "Smash" is the show for you. If you're just a fan of the Broadway experience (and "just" is hardly the right word for die-hard theatre aficionados), "Smash" is the show for you. And if you've always wondered what goes on in the creative process, then "Smash" is the show you.  I only hope it can maintain the excellent standard it has set for itself in the pilot episode. **** (Four Out of Four Stars). "Smash" airs on NBC. Check your local listings for dates and times.

More, anon.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Bore

Model Jed Hill - NOT a Pro Football Player

When my sister and I were kids, our father basically kidnapped the TV each Sunday so he could watch the Eagles play. My sister tolerated it, but I hated it. Imagine that! A gay kid who hated and didn't care about sports.

These days, when folks get all worked up about "The Big Game" (be it football, baseball, basketball, soccer or whatever else happens to be in season), I proudly admit my indifference. When co-workers approached me last week with their Super Bowl pools, they asked jokingly if I wanted in, knowing full well that I couldn't care less. And I (less than jokingly) responded that I would rather eat glass. And don't even get me started on the Half-Time appearance of the by now completely irrelevant Madonna. Yawn.

Perhaps if modern sports were played in the nude, like the ancient Olympics, I'd pay more attention.

Of course, there are the occasional sports stars who pique my interest in one way or another. Tim Tebow may very well have a great body, but his constant praying and very public anti-gay/anti-choice attitudes are a major turnoff (as are his sneaky-looking thin lips). And former NBA player Dennis Rodman was always a provocateur, though no one likes a show-off (or an ugly man in a dress).

Every once in a great while, an athlete with a twisted sense of humor comes along and throws everyone into a tizzy. Such is the case with San Francisco Giants baseball player Brian Wilson.

Brian Wilson
Known for his practical jokes and questionable sexuality, Wilson famously made an appearance at last year's ESPY awards wearing a tuxedo unitard and has been known to give hilarious and bizarre interviews. Most infamously, Wilson appeared in a 2010 interview on 'The Cheap Seats,' during which a man (reportedly Philadelphia Phillies hot left-fielder Pat Burrell) dressed in a leather fetish-wear walked through the background.

The clip (embedded below) caused a sensation, though Wilson denied any knowledge of the existence of  the man known as "The Machine" or who he might be.

Wilson's the kind of athlete I could get behind, you should pardon the expression.

Here's the thing I don't understand. Athletes (and movie stars) are paid millions of dollars to do what they do. Yes, there are many more millions to be made from what those athletes and movie stars do. But there are brilliant doctors and scientists working on the cures for often fatal diseases like cancer, AIDS, diabetes and who knows what, who toil for far less. Why do we exalt those whose physical prowess excels, while ignoring those whose mental prowess improves our lives? Why is an athlete or an actor worth more than a scientist, mathematician or physicist? Shouldn't the Secrets of the Universe be worth more to humanity than who is better at making touchdowns?

What the hell do I know, anyway? Here's that clip of Wilson and "The Machine," which I think I have embedded before. Notice how Wilson can barely keep a straight face (all entendres intended).

While I remain convinced that Art can save humanity from it's demise, I fear that soon only brute force will matter to the masses and (much like the Roman Empire), it will lead to our inevitable downfall.

Perhaps author Suzanne Collins isn't so far off the mark.

More, anon.