Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sitzprobe is NOT a Dirty Word

'Big Dollhouse' from the Broadway Production of "Hairspray"

With just under two weeks until opening, tonight was the sitzprobe for Hairspray and it was rather amazing. For those unfamiliar with the term, a sitzprobe is the first time the cast of a musical or opera sings with the band or orchestra. The only dialog is that used to cue the music or whatever happens to take place during the music.

When I was in college (back when dinosaurs ruled the Earth), we had a sitzprobe for just about every show. The few musicals I've done since then, rarely had them. The great thing about doing one, is the cast really gets ramped up about the show when they finally get to hear what they sound like with more instruments than just a rehearsal piano. And tonight was no exception. 

The band (I hesitate to use the word 'orchestra' when there are only six of them - three brass/woodwinds; a drummer; a guitarist and two keyboardists in this case) was nothing short of amazing! Fitted with wireless mikes by our equally amazing sound crew, singing with the musicians was both exhilarating and inspiring. Typically, there is no dancing or movement during a sitzprobe, though we all tapped our feet, wiggled our hips and generally got into it. And tonight the cast seemed to really bond more than ever before, supporting one another and cheering each other on in a way I was worried wouldn't happen. And personally, it was a relief to hear my singing voice making a comeback after lying dormant for almost 10 years. Six weeks of rehearsing have made me re-think my proposed retirement from musical theatre. I still got it, bitches!

If you want to see Uncle P sing in a dress and dance in heels (and you know you do), you can still get tickets to the MCCC/JTMF co-production of Hairspray by visiting or calling the Kelsey Theatre box office at 609-570-3333. But hurry, they're going fast!

Here's a clip from the U.S. National Tour of my personal favorite number, "Big Doll House:"

More, anon.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Sonny Bono and Debbie Harry in John Waters' Hairspray

Before we started tonight's Hairspray rehearsal in earnest, our wig-mistress arrived with nearly 30 wigs for us to try on. And I have to be honest and say they were AMAZING

I took pictures (which I cannot share until after we've opened) of many of the gals in their finale wigs and me in two of mine. And while our Velma's final wig doesn't contain a bomb (as Debbie Harry's did in John Water's original film*), there are some truly awesome coiffures that will grace the stage of the Kelsey Theatre next month. The wigs for this production are sculptural, to say the least. The woman (I promise to have her name the next time I post about the show) is a genius. Our director and producer asked for 11 wigs. She made 27 (and will probably make a 28th for me).

The closer we get to opening, the more excited I am getting about the show. 

'Hell Week' for Hairspray starts April 9th (we open on the 13th). I have taken the week as a vacation from the day job because I know I'll just be too exhausted to do anything productive outside of the show. But fear not, Caliban's Revenge will not be idle. I am lining up a cadre of special guest bloggers to cover for me that week. Their posts will cover the usual range of topics (and maybe one or two more) that I do and if you read he same blogs as Uncle P, you probably know at least a few of them. I don't think regular readers will be disappointed by any of the terrific bloggers I have lined up. I'm almost as excited by this experiment as I am by the show, itself.

By the way, if you've never seen the original 1988 movie, I highly recommend it.

More, anon.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

In Memoriam

My Sweet Friend, Bill

I met Bill in 1996. We were in group therapy together for just about a year. After most of us in the group had gone our separate ways, Bill and I remained friends. We met occasionally for a drink or dinner, caught a movie or just hung out.

Eventually, he moved out of the area and we lost touch for a while. Then, about two years ago, I got a Facebook friend request from him and we picked up right where we left off. We reunited when he came to see some show I had directed and it was  like we'd never been apart.

Bill was smart and funny and gentle and oh, so kind. At 6' 3", he was a "gentle giant." He loved Swedish pop music and singing show tunes at The Raven, a local gay bar in New Hope, PA. He came to see just about every show I directed or was in and we kept promising we'd get together again, just the two of two us. We often commented on each other's Facebook posts and he left comments here on the Revenge. Earlier this month he emailed me to tell me he'd bought his tickets to Hairspray and that he was very excited to see the show. And then I didn't hear from him for a while.

So last night, after posting here, I went to his Facebook wall and wrote: "Where have you been? I miss your snarky comments." Then I scrolled down to find messages from his other friends. "Miss you, Bill!" "My heart is broken." "I can't believe you're gone."


I couldn't believe what I was reading. Apparently, Bill had passed from a massive heart attack two weeks ago at the young age of 47. Bill smoked maybe one or two cigarettes a month, bumming them when a craving hit. He drank, but not excessively. He didn't use drugs and was hardly obese. 

Needless to say, I was devastated. I think I cried for an hour. How was it possible that this smart, funny, gentle and oh, so kind human being was no longer with us, at 47? I am still in shock.

Losing someone you care about is terrible, though it does put some things in perspective. We're not guaranteed tomorrow, folks. Life is a fragile thing. Don't take those you love for granted. Tell the people you love that you love them and do so often. You never know when they (or you) will be gone.

This is for you, Bill. I love you and I'll miss you more than you can know.

More, anon.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Gayest Thing You'll See This Week

So, after many years of catalogs featuring half-naked muscle-twink models and stores featuring half-naked muscle-twink sales staff, Aberzombie and Felch -- uh, excuse me -- Abercrombie and Fitch, presents us with their most homoerotic commercial ever. Directed by Bruce Weber, the clip features four twink "wrestlers" while announcing "Other sports require one ball. Wrestling requires two." 

The twinks roll around, take off their shorts and shower together, all under the guise of selling clothes. Really? I didn't see much in the way of clothing in this ad, just lots of wet boy-on-boy action. It even ends with a sweet kiss in the shower. 

Not that I'm complaining. Still, it did nothing to make me run out and buy their over-priced clothes (not that they make them in my size, anyway). You can watch the clip here on Weber's site (via Unicorn Booty).

If you're unfamiliar with A&F's advertising, here's a 'news' story about the opening of a new store in Singapore:

Yeah, they're pretty and all, but (giggling Asian girls aside) this Papa Bear is partial to something a little more masculine:

My Obsession

You're welcome.

More, anon.

Monday, March 26, 2012

I Need an Exorcist?

What, Me Worry?

A quickie tonight. Rehearsal was long and just this shy of exhausting.

That's Reverend Pat Robertson on the left. You know, the guy who hosts The 700 Club  on CBN (Christian Broadcast Network) and who ran for President in 1988. Pat thinks medical marijuana is okay, but being gay isn't. Pat's a very pious, but judgmental guy. He doesn't like gay people very much, though in the past he's claimed he loves us and wants us to set aside our sexuality so we can get into heaven. If we can't pray away the gay, then we should spend our lives alone and celibate. Not much different from most evangelical ministers or Catholic catechism, for that matter.

But then today, I saw the video clip below at Truth Wins Out and nearly lost my mind:

That's right, kids -  Uncle P is possessed by a demon! And I'm sure many of you reading this are, too. 

Well that explains a lot! I always wondered why I could spin my head around 360 degrees; spider-walk down the stairs; float three feet above my bed and have all those pea-soup stains on my pajamas. Okay - I'm kidding. I don't actually wear pajamas to bed (TMI?).

Seriously? This is the 21st Century, Pat. If you actually believe that an estimated 7 to 10 percent of the world's population are possessed, then I would suggest some better medication than medical marijuana. Start with some anti-psychotics, as you are clearly delusional. If those don't help, I know a doctor in L.A. who can prescribe something that will let you get some obviously needed sleep. And just in case I'm wrong and there actually is a loving, compassionate God who sends evil people to hell, I hope you like it hot, Pat. I hope you like it really hot.

More, anon.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sheer Terror

Glen "Divine" Milstead as Edna Turnblad in the original Hairspray

It has been over 8 years since I last appeared in a musical and more than 10 years since I had to dance in one (I'm not even going to go into the whole 'dancing in heels' thing).
Hairspray opens in just over 2 weeks and I must admit that I haven't been quite this anxious about a performance since Sweeney Todd in the mid-90's. 

The rehearsal period for this show hasn't been perfect. Personally, I haven't had the number of rehearsals I would prefer. I have always been the type of actor who relies on the repetition of many rehearsals to learn a role (unless it's one I've done before). And while I'm hardly the star of the show, I am playing an iconic role that comes with certain expectations. Oh, I know everything will work out fine and the show will be terrific. Still.. there's that niggling voice in the back of my head that says "You suck. You're going to fail. People will hate you." And I know it's that same voice that every performer hears in the back of his or her head which drives them to give the best performance possible. Frankly, if that voice wasn't there, I'd be even more worried. Still... I have many friends, family and co-workers coming to see the show. That only adds impetus to do my best and anxiety about not being able to. 

Truth be told, no performance in a live production is ever perfect. The nature of the beast makes that impossible from the get go. There will always be some flub; some dropped line; some stumbled-over word; some misstep that remains unnoticed by the audience but which makes the performer want to bang his or her heard against a wall once it's happened. 

Two weeks is both a lot and a little, when it comes to live theatre. I know this from many, many years of experience. Sadly, that knowledge is of little help, right now. And as much as I know how ridiculous that statement sounds, unless you've been there; done that; bought the t-shirt and returned it, you have no idea...

Okay - Deep breaths. It's going to be fine... At least, I hope so...

Posting here is about to get really sparse, folks. Don't forget me while I'm away (Wow! How pathetic is that?). Of course, once this show closes, rehearsals for the JTMF 10th Anniversary Gala production of Paul Rudnick's Jeffrey will start. At least I'll be playing a role I've done before, albeit with an entirely new set of actors (including Dear D, with whom I've been dying to act for a while, now). I have a feeling that Jeffrey will be a walk in the park, compared to this show. Of course, you never know.

More anon.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Movies I Can't Wait to See

Here we go... hopefully making up for last year's Summer of Suck, there are plenty of movies coming up that have me excited to visit my favorite multiplex.

Needless to say, this weekend sees the much-anticipated The Hunger Games, based on the first of three YA novels by Suzanne Collins about a dystopian North American society some 150 years in the future, in which 2 young people from 12 distinct districts must fight to the death in a wilderness arena. The battle is mandatory television viewing for all of Panem's citizens. The hype surrounding this film is unlike any I can remember and while I do wan to see it, my rehearsal schedule for Hairspray makes it unlikely I'll get to it for a while. I have not read the books, though I want to. My reading habits of late have been deplorable. I will, however, be reviewing a new novel by a regular reader and frequent commenter, soon.

But that's okay. I know I'll see it and read the books, eventually. Still, there are plenty of other films (both large and small) that have piqued my interest this coming season. 

Opening the same weekend as Hairspray (April 13th) is Joss Whedon's much-delayed and highly-anticipated horror movie The Cabin in the Woods, which got caught up in the MGM bankruptcy and is finally getting released by Lionsgate after more than two years. Folks are saying this film may well be a genre changer. I will definitely find time to see this one.

April 27th sees John Cusack as Edgar Allen Poe (Father of the Mystery genre) in the serial-killer thriller The Raven. A maniac is copying the murders in Poe's stories and challenges the author to stop him before he kills again.

May 4th brings us another Joss Whedon film: The Avengers, based on the Marvel Comics series and featuring characters previously established in the Marvel movies The Incredible Hulk; Iron Man; Thor and Captain America. While I loved both Iron Man movies and Captain America, I haven't seen Thor or The Incredible Hulk. But I honestly don't think I need to in order to enjoy this movie:

May also brings us Tim Burton's comedic take on Dark Shadows (ick); Peter Berg's board game-inspired Battleship (double ick) and two other films that I actually want to see. 

First is the British comedy Hysteria, about the invention of the vibrator:

And then there's Barry Sonnenfeld's Men in Black III, in which Will Smith's Agent J travels back in time to meet a younger version of Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) played by a perfectly cast Josh Brolin, who does a spot-on Tommy Lee:

June has four films on my radar. The beautiful Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen and the beautiful Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman have made Snow White and the Huntsman a 'Must See' for Uncle P:

Wow! Then there's Ridley Scott's "Not an Alien prequel" Prometheus (again starring Charlize Theron), which is totally an Alien prequel:

Next is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (based on a very clever novel I actually read on vacation in Florida last spring and highly enjoyed), which posits Lincoln's quest to banish slavery was based on his hatred of the vampires who feed on them:

The same weekend sees Pixar's Brave, a tale about a Scottish princess who defies tradition and sets out on her own adventure:

And the only movie I really care about in July is my semi-annual Birthday Gift from director Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises. The third and final film in Nolan's Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises looks to be the darkest and grimmest of the three films. Co-starring Anne Hathaway as Selena Kyle/Catwoman and Tom Hardy as Bane, TDKR may well best The Dark Knight as the best superhero movie ever:

Finally, August features two for me and one for D. First up, Colin Farrell in the reboot of Philip K. Dick's Total Recall. Then there's the animated horror comedy ParaNorman:

And D has made me promise to see The Expendables 2 with him, even though I have yet to see the first one (I see a DVR night at D's in my near future):

There are plenty of other movies I'll probably want to see in the next four or five months, and if I get to see them you'll be sure to have my thoughts on them. 

What movies are you looking forward to seeing this spring and summer?

More, anon.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

"Ruin" (and a Last Thought on "The Walking Dead")

Before I get to the clip I want to talk about tonight, I have to share some final thoughts about the Season 2 finale of "The Walking Dead," now that I finally got to see the entire episode.

Holy crap! What an excellent episode. Even though he managed to save their son, Lori is furious at Rick over his admission to killing Shane. And while Daryl remains loyal, the others express their anger over Rick's failure to tell them that they were all already infected with whatever it is that reanimates the dead (the secret - as I eventually suspected, after Randall rose without being bitten - that Jenner whispered to him at the end of Season 1). And once Andrea was rescued by a mysteriously hooded figure leading two armless and jawless Walkers on chains, I knew we'd been introduced to the TV version of comic-fan favorite, Michonne. The sword-wielding badass will be played next season by "Treme" alum Danai Gurira. In the comics, Michonne comes between Carol and Tyrese (a character not in the series). I'll be interested to see if she comes between Carol and Daryl (a character not in the comics). Meanwhile, low on gas, Rick insists that the group set camp for the night and asserts himself once and for all as their leader. "This is no longer a democracy!" The episode ended with the camera pulling up and away from the group to reveal the prison which figures so prominently in the comic. I'm already excited to see what's in store for Season 3.

Now, on to what I really wanted to talk about tonight - Ruin.

I came across the short film (really a demo for a feature-length movie) on Io9 (they come from the future)  yesterday and was immediately drawn in by the amazing CG animation, the exciting action and the possible remaining story. It features some of the best CG animation I have ever seen and an exciting chase sequence, while referencing some classic Sci-Fi tropes. If you can, watch the embedded clip in Full Screen:

Wow! I hope they get the money they need to expand this into a feature. I'd see it in a heartbeat.

More, anon.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Arrrrgghh! (A First World Problem Ramble)

This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "Barn Burner"

Because Uncle P is a TV slut, I DVR two programs at 9:00 PM on Sundays. Consequently, I DVR "The Walking Dead" encore at 11:00 PM. This is usually not an issue and it  allows me to watch and recap it Monday night. 

Of course, I'm rehearsing a show right now, which means I sometimes have to wait until Tuesday night to see it, which is what happened this week. Needless to say, I was very excited to finally watch the season finale (aptly titled "Beside the Dying Fire") when I got home from work today, after an exhausting and somewhat painful* dance rehearsal Monday night. 

After a particularly delicious dinner of roasted chicken and brown rice, I sat down with great anticipation to finally watch my second favorite** show's season finale. And what a finale it was! Walkers, led to Hershel's by an errant helicopter flying over Atlanta, break through the fence and overrun the farm drawn even closer by the gunshot that took out Walker Shane. Rick and Carl take refuge in the barn, eventually setting it afire after Rick lures several Walkers inside. As the rest of the farm's inhabitants prepare to escape the 'herd' of hundreds of Walkers, Jimmy and Patricia (nominal characters, at best) meet their gory ends. Carol is saved by Andrea while T-Dog, Lori and Beth make it out. Glenn and Maggie force their car through a mob of Walkers as Andrea is left behind and Rick, Carl and Hershel take off in Hershel's SUV. Daryl saves Carol on his chopper and Maggie freaks out, not knowing the fate of her family. Rick, Hershel and Carl arrive at the highway spot where they left a message for Sophia at the beginning of the season, and are eventually joined by everyone but Andrea. Meanwhile, Andrea has taken off on foot, low on ammo and pursued by dozens of Walkers. 

And that is where my DVR stopped recording, with 15 minutes left in the episode. I have no idea why or how it happened, but you should be glad you were not within earshot of my very loud howl of frustration when the show suddenly stopped, leaving me angry and desperate to know what happens next. It was then that I noticed the DVR had only recorded 44:17 minutes of the hour, for some reason.

Fear not - I will find out what happened but because I have rehearsal again tomorrow night, I must wait until Thursday to watch the whole thing again OnDemand. Ugh! 

And thus endeth Uncle P's White Whine. If you've seen the entire episode, please keep the last 15 minutes to yourself. I'm more than happy to sit through the first 3/4's of the episode again, as long as I get to see the last 1/4 in full.

An exciting and heart-pounding episode, "Beside the Dying Fire" is (so far) without a doubt, the season's best episode. You can imagine how crazy it makes me to have to wait to finish watching it.

More, anon.

*After nearly 3 hours of dancing in heels, my thighs; calves and knees were not happy with me this morning. Thank goodness for Aleve and heating pads.

** "Fringe" wins the top spot for me. But you already knew that.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Red (and the White) Shoes

Not exactly the shoes I'll be wearing...
Eight years ago, when I played Arnold in the JTMF production of Torch Song Trilogy, I wore a pair of black patent leather pumps with a 4" heel for all of 10 minutes for the opening monologue. I did okay walking in them, though I certainly didn't do any dancing in them.

In Hairspray, I'm wearing 2" heels for much of the show. There's a white pair and a red pair. I started wearing the red ones the other night while working on "Welcome to the 60's." Tonight, my 'husband" Tom and I got together to work on "You're Timeless to Me"* and I wore them again. I was given the red pair to take home, though I think I'll be requesting the white ones instead, as that's the pair I'll be wearing for most of the show.

My calves are very angry with me, right now. It's not that I can't walk or dance in them (though they are a little large and I have requested heel inserts). It's the workout they're giving my calves. Not that my calves are bad. Quite the contrary. Regular readers have seen them in my posts about the tattoos that adorn each of them (something else that must be addressed for this production). Gentlemen, spend an hour or so in a perpetual releve', walking only on the balls of your feet and you'll have some idea of what I'm experiencing right now. Not that I'm complaining. Far from it. Edna Turnblad is one of those iconic roles that an actor of my age and size is more than happy to tackle. And the shoes make my legs look amazing (Ladies, I completely understand why you do it). And I'm sure that as rehearsals progress, the pain will ebb and my calves will return to the heart-shape they had in the 90's (any leg men out there?). 

It never ceases to amaze me what we will endure for the love of our art. Wigs; gowns; dresses; togas; tunics, tights; armor; hats; tuxes; suits; shaving and heavy makeups are all part of the world in which I've spent most of my life. If I'm not used to it after more than 35 years, I should give up.

Tickets are still available for some performances of the MCCC/JTMF co-production of Hairspray. If you want to see Uncle P dance in patent leather pumps, I  suggest you order yours now. You can do so here, by phone at 609-570-3333 or at the Kelsey Box Office, one hour before curtain.

*Here's a version of the number from the London production, featuring former Monkee, Mickey Dolenz:

More, anon.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

TV Review: "Missing"

I See What They Did There...

Ashley Judd stars in ABC's latest thriller. "Missing." She plays former CIA Operative Rebecca Winstone who, after her husband (Sean Bean) is assassinated while on assignment in Austria, leaves the Agency to raise her son Michael. When Michael (Nick Eversman) leaves for Rome to study architecture, he is abducted by persons unknown for reasons unknown and Becca is off to search for him.

Once in Rome, Becca makes contact with former lover Giancarlo (Ocean's Twelve's  Adriano Giannini), who helps her evade both the police and Interpol. She is being tracked by European CIA deputy Dax Miller (Maori hottie Cliff Curtis, most recently seen on TV in "Body of Proof"), who has been instructed to bring her in, no matter what. It is through Miller that we learn that Becca was one of the Agency's best operatives (because her file is so slim).

Known for big-screen thrillers like Kiss the Girls; High Crimes and Double Jeopardy, Judd has transitioned nicely into the "Mom" role, while maintaining her tough-girl attitude. The last time I saw her, she was in the terrible 2006 film adaptation of Tracy Lett's play Bug, unsuccessfully playing against type as a woman who allows herself to get caught up in her lover's madness. She's done a few things since, most recently appearing in the family film A Dolphin's Tale. Judd is also one of the co-producers of "Missing." She's fine her as a desperate and resourceful mother, but doesn't do much to add to her resume of desperate and resourceful characters. And Curtis also seems to simply be playing yet another stock character from his cop resume. 

The best part of "Missing" so far, has been the European locations. It can't be a cheap show to produce, though I fear it may go the way of NBC's world-wide locale CIA show, "Undercovers" (which starred the impossibly gorgeous Boris Kodjoe). Pilot director Steve Shill ("Dexter") may have an eye for locations, but the fight scenes in the "Missing" pilot (particularly the one on the train) are a muddied mess, shot in low light and filled with multiple jump cuts that leave viewers wondering just what the heck is happening.

I'll probably keep watching, if only to figure out why Michael has apparently been targeted since he was 8 and to see some gorgeous footage of Europe's most beautiful cities, if for no other reasons. I can't say that the first episode got me intrigued enough to fully invest my time in yet another TV series, unlike the pilot episode of "The Walking Dead," which immediately got me hooked. As a mid-season replacement series, it's not bad. But it's not particularly good, either. ** (Two Stars Out of Four).

More, anon.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Most Homophobic Troll You'll See This Week

Homophobic troll Kevin McCullough

OK - I finally have time to complete this post.

GLAAD recently released their Commentator Accountability Project, a list of right-wing, anti-gay people who show up regularly on MSNBC and other news outlets as so-called "experts" for the Right. Just about every one of these people promulgate lies and use junk science to make their points. They are never labeled 'homophobic,' nor are they called out for being religious fanatics who are part of organizations which have been labeled as Hate Groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Among those on GLAAD's list are NOM founder Maggie Gallagher; right-wing preacher Bob Vander Plaats; "Porno" Pete LaBarbera; AFA Founder Don Wildmon; FRC Senior Felllow Peter Sprigg and AFA radio host Kevin McCullough (pictured above). These people regularly espouse their twisted "Christian" views as reasons why LGBTQ people should be denied basic human rights (much like the majority of  candidates currently seeking the GOP nomination for President). 

McCullogh, like many on GLAAD's list, is unhappy about being included and recently took to the airwaves to talk about it. Among his many odious comments were "I don't believe that you can be gay;" " couples both despise marriage and want to destroy it" and "They (gay people) don't like the fact that men and women complete each other." You can watch his entire rant (if you can stomach it) in the clip below (via):

Honestly, I'd be afraid of the 'woman' that completes this balding, bug-eyed, jug-eared troll. Hardly a 10 myself, I'm not usually one to talk about someone's looks but you have to admit, the man probably isn't getting any from any woman who can see. And he's definitely not getting any in a tea-room, backroom or dark alley from any discerning gay man. No wonder he's such a pent-up a**hole. Still, I'm willing to give him the benefit of doubt and blame his misguided perception on the decidedly un-Christian preachings of those who use selected portions of the Old Testament to justify their own ignorance and fear. 

And that's what homophobia boils down to: Fear. A topic I recently blogged about in my post Why Do We Hate?, fear is the driving force behind most of the evil mankind has committed against one another in all of recorded history. 

How do we fix it? I'm not sure. Most of the younger generation seems to get it. They've grown up in a more accepting and less-fearful age, where many of their friends are gay or trans. They know that one's sexuality doesn't totally define who or what one is. I say "most" because there are still some young folks who are being raised to hate by the same kind of misguided religious fundies like McCullough; Smith; Brown; Wildmon and Vander Plaats. And don't even get me started on complete lunatics like the Westboro Baptists. 

Someday, probably after you and I are long gone, people will realize that different doesn't equal evil and we are the result of the same genetic line. It won't matter if we're White, Black, Asian, Straight or Gay. Everyone will simply be 'Human.' Of course, we could just all stay on the path of ignorance and destroy the human race, altogether. I'm glad I won't be around to see that.

More, anon.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I'm An Ass

Every once in a while we all do something stupid. Last night, Uncle P did something stupid and vented publicly about an issue that I should have kept private.

I've had a sinus headache for two days, it was late and I wasn't thinking clearly. In hindsight, what set me off was a minor thing and I should have taken some time to cool down before posting or emailing (oh, and did I ever email) anything. 

The post has been removed and I apologize to anyone who was hurt by what I wrote.

Now I'm off to sit down to a big dinner of crow.

More, anon.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"Better Angels"

Walker Shane (Jon Bernthal)


So, the season's penultimate episode opened with Rick delivering Dale's eulogy. Carl cried, feeling guilty (as he should - that little brat needs to learn to listen to his elders). Hershel decided to finally move the group into the house and Rick went back to his original plan of driving Randall far away and releasing him. Naturally, this didn't sit too well with Shane, who had been advocating Randall's execution from the time Rick, Hershel and Glenn brought him back to the farm.

While attempting to move Dale's RV closer to the house, Andrea and Glenn take a moment to grieve and assess, while Maggie doesn't understand why Glenn doesn't want to move into her room ("With your Dad right here in the house?"). Carl confesses to Shane that it's his fault that Dale is dead, because he didn't shoot the Walker when he had the chance. He gives Daryl's gun to Shane and asks him to return it. Meanwhile, Daryl reinforces a possible escape route on top of the shed as Randall works furiously to get free from his chains. Shane builds a lookout on the windmill and Lori forces him to talk to her, admitting she doesn't know who is the father of her baby.

Shane then goes to Rick and tells him he needs to talk to his boy, while still bemoaning the plan to release Randall, though he offers to accompany Daryl on the trip in Rick's stead. Rick tells him "I need you here." Rick then goes off in search of Carl, who is keeping watch in the barn loft. Rick gives Daryl's gun back to Carl, telling him he wished Carl "could have the childhood I had." Shane then visits Randall in the barnand comes very close to killing him. As Rick and Daryl prepare to leave, T-Dog goes to get Randall, only to discover that he is gone.

Shane has Randall deep in the woods and convinces him that he wants to join Randall's group. "I'm done with this group." he tells him. But once Randall revealed the last known location of his group, Shane snaps his neck, bashes his face against a tree and then returns to farm with a story of being caught by surprise and smashed in the face by a rock-wielding Randall. The alarm is raised and Rick, Shane, Daryl and Glenn set off in search of the 'escaped' Randall.

Daryl and Glenn come across evidence of a fight and Shane's blood on a tree-trunk. Just as they are getting suspicious, they are set upon by Walker Randall. Glenn takes Randall out with a knife to the skull and Daryl realizes that he died from a broken neck, rather than another Walker's bite and they begin to put two and two together. 

Shane and Rick find themselves in a secluded glen, where Rick finally figures out what's going on. Shane pulls his gun as Rick puts his away and Rick tries to convince Shane to not shoot him. Rick, always the rationalist, tells Shane he'll be killing an unarmed man as he slowly hands Shane his gun. At the last moment, Rick pulls his knife and stabs Shane, crying "Damn you for making me do this, Shane! This is you! Not me! Not me!" Shane's gun goes off, but no one is hit. Rick screams and howls and carries on as Shane dies. Carl appears and as Rick approaches him, Carl draws Daryl's gun. Thinking Carl means to shoot him, Rick approaches, readying another speech. But Carl shoots, taking out Walker Shane just before he reaches his father.

Of course, all this noise has attracted the attention of dozens of Walkers in the woods and we are left with Rick and Carl heading toward the farm as the Walkers approach.

Whew! I knew Shane was going to die. And it happened in much the same way as in the graphic novels, only a bit later than in that storyline. I was almost surprised that Shane killed Randall. I almost believed he was going to actually take up with Randall's group, though I knew he couldn't just leave Lori, especially after she told him that she didn't know whose baby she was carrying. Of course, it seems obvious that the group will now have to leave the farm, either with or without Hershel (though I suspect it will be without, given next week's preview). It seems fitting that Season 2 should end like Season 1, with the group back on the road in search of a safe haven. I'm just hoping that next week's finale will finally reveal what Jenner whispered in Rick's ear, what seems so long ago at the CDC.

More, anon.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Review: "John Carter"

Willem Dafoe and Taylor Kitsch

I know I went off about my love of the Edgar Rice Burrough's "Barsoom" novels as a kid. They were my first real introduction to Science Fiction (I wouldn't discover Verne until after I'd read "A Princess of Mars"). They hold a special place in my heart and I couldn't wait for this movie.

I know - there's been a lot of bad press about Disney's John Carter and more than one terrible review. I didn't care. John Carter is a movie I've waited a very long time to see. Am I am pleased to say that the movie isn't even close to being as disappointing as some critics have made out it to be. 

John Carter (eye-candy deluxe, Taylor Kitsch of "Friday Night Lights" and the Upcoming Battleship) is a Civil War veteran who lost his family and now spends his time searching for a legendary cave of gold in the Arizona territories. When he gets the 19th Century version of 'stop-gapped' back into service, Carter escapes, pursued into the hills by both the Army, led by Bryan Cranston's badass Powell, and the local Native Americans. He slips into a notch in a canyon wall to hide and discovers both his cave of gold and an alien who sends him off to Mars, which isn't quite as barren and dead as previously thought. The planet's reduced gravity give him both amazing strength and the ability to leap great distances at a time. Think Superman creators Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster might have been fans? I'd count on it. In fact, I'd count on every major Science Fiction writer and director is a fan. This story is almost 100 years old - it predates and inspired Buck Rogers; Flash Gordon; Star Wars; Stargate; Starship Troopers and other number of films it's being called derivative of. 

Barsoom is in the midst of it's own Civil War, being waged by Sab Than (Dominic West) ruler of the  beyond-enormous walking city of Zadanga, against the planet's other great city-state, Helium. A second race, the Tharks (four-armed insectoids with huge tusks) wants nothing to do with any of it. Thark leader Tars Tarkis (Willem Dafoe in a motion-capture performance) takes a shine to Carter's abilities and makes him an honorary Thark, though Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins of "True Blood"), Princess of Helium, hopes he will fight for her cause and save Barsoom from utter destruction. Then there are the Thurns, led by Matai Shang (the ubiquitous movie villain Mark Strong), a race of seemingly immortal manipulators. The plot (and there is a LOT of it) adds elements from later books in the series, but follows (as least as much as I remember) it's source material with great affection. A bracketed subplot, which posits that Burroughs was Carter's nephew, cleverly left room for a sequel, should there be one.*

Pixar Director Andrew Stanton (Toys; Finding Nemo) makes his live action debut here (following on the heel's of Brad Bird who had MI:4 last year) and does a fine job with a complex story, adding humor where he can - as with the devoted-to-Carter Woola, a sort of dog-like amphibian with six legs (think of a giant mud-puppy without the slime and twice as cute) and Carter's first attempts at communication with Tars Tarkas, ending up with the entire Thark race thinking Carter's name is "Virginia." Stanton's pacing is near perfect, knowing when to slow things down before bringing them to full on chaos. And he quite nicely manages to create battle scenes that aren't a blurred swirl of weapons and limbs.

I won't lie - Kitsch is amazing to look at. He spends a good 90% of the movie in a loincloth and breastplate which leave just enough exposed for all to enjoy. And his performance isn't bad. He play's Carter's arc from broken man to hero quite nicely. Collins, while attractive enough, isn't quite so lucky. She seems so bogged down by the stereotypes which were based on her character, she can't come up with a way to make it new and ends up a cypher. West is fine as a madman with power, while Strong sadly just phones in his performance (I can almost imagine his disdainful yawns between takes). Thomas Haden Church and Samantha Morton lend their voices and MC performances as Tharks, while James Purefoy rounds out the human cast.

Of course, the real stars of John Carter are the effects, and Stanton and his team more than deliver. No rubber-suited actor could ever be as convincingly real as the Motion Capture Thark are. In fact, all of Barsoom's strange creatures are rendered so realistically, we immediately accept them as such. David Allday's art direction and Mayes C. Rubeo's costume conjured up an idealized Roman/Barbarian mash-up and the whole thing has the look of an illustration by Boris Vallejo.  

I have to say, however, that this was the most pointless use of 3D I have yet to see. Unlike Hugo, which used 3D to immerse the audience in it's world or The Final Destination, where the 3D was used primarily as a gag, the effect does nothing for this rather straight-forward action/adventure movie.

The look and feel of John Carter may not seem all that original to those who grew up after Star Wars, but for fans of the classic novels, it's a treat to see Barsoom finally brought to life on the screen. D, having no idea of what the movie was about going in, enjoyed it for the most part. Our mutual friend Stephanie thought it was entertaining. I'm pretty sure the non-stop man candy didn't hurt either of our experiences. I do hope that word-of-mouth gives this movie the legs it deserves.*** (Three out of Four Stars).

More, anon.

*And I think there should be one. They have 11 more novels from which to mine a trilogy, at least.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Winter's Last Gasp (A Ramble)

Oh, How I Loves Me Some Pareidolia!
Spring is almost officially here but in the Northeast, "Old Man Winter* is rallying. Temperatures in the North Atlantic states tumbled tonight, though today was nice enough to get to the car wash. I de-trashed and vacuumed, rode through the robotic tunnel and then came home to clean my dash, steering wheel, console and doors with auto-wipes. I'm no longer embarrassed to have a passenger. Yay!

It's cold tonight, though. I actually threw a pull-over on top of my shirt. Temperatures in the Delaware Valley are expected to drop into the 30's, but warming by tomorrow afternoon into the 50's. And we're supposed to reach 70 by midweek! I can't complain. We've had a very mild winter, here. The only major snow accumulation was Halloween weekend, unlike last year when three major storms walloped us in December and January. I also noticed my SAD wasn't as severe this year. I don't know whether to attribute that to the mild weather, the extra vitamin D3 or a combination of both

It's certainly been wet. We've had lots of rain, though a wet winter and spring usually mean a lush summer and a glorious fall. I ordered some exotic lilies today and will be out looking for butterfly bushes and other flowers, soon. It will be nice to have some color in the yard, this year. I've given up on tomatoes; squirrels are evil bastards.

Tonight, by the way, is the actual start of DST. I thought after last weekend's gaffe, I should mention it. If you live somewhere that does practice DSL, turn your clocks ahead one hour before you go to bed, unless you have one of those clocks that automatically resets itself, like my personal alarm clock.
Tomorrow afternoon I'm seeing John Carter with D & maybe a few other friends (another Yay!) and then having dinner and drinks with the director of Hairspray. You know I'll be posting a review of the movie, at least. I suspect the dinner conversation will be the kind that polite people don't share, even though I already know that both of us are going to agree entirely with what the other one has to say.

Well, I'm off to try and start the third act of that damned screenplay. I finally had an idea. I think. We'll see. OK -  I'm done rambling for tonight.

More, anon.

*Who knew Old Man Winter was really Samuel L. Jackson?

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Lori Problem

Sarah Wayne Callies as Lori Grimes

As always, if you aren't caught up on "The Walking Dead," come back and read this post once you are, because there are SPOILERS AHEAD!

If I don't like at least one character in a play, movie or TV show, then there's no point in my watching it. This is the problem I have with Sondheim's Company (I know - sacrilege!); "The Real Housewives of (Insert Location Here)" and almost everything ever written by David Mamet, but I think that's just because the man himself is so unlikeable and almost incapable of writing a likeable character (among other issues I have with his work). But this isn't a Bash Mamet Post (though don't think I don't have one in me). 

In any drama worth watching, there should be a character you hate. This character doesn't have to be the villain. Current TV characters I love to hate are Jane Lynch's hilarious (and often touching) Coach Sue Sylvester on "Glee;" Eden Sher's doofy Sue Heck on "The Middle;" Jared Harris' David Robert Jones on "Fringe" and Marc Vann's imperious Conrad Ecklie on "C.S.I.," among others. Then there are shows whose main character is so odiously obnoxious (see "House"), the whole thing belongs in there with Mamet. 

But what if the character you hate isn't the one you're supposed to hate? This is the problem with Lori Grimes in AMC's amazing zombie apocalypse series "The Walking Dead." If you've been following my usually weekly recaps, thoughts and reviews, then you know that Lori is the wife of protagonist Rick Grimes, himself a Georgia Sheriff's Officer who was wounded and hospitalized when whatever happened, happened. The dead walk, seeking human flesh and Rick's only imperative is to protect his wife and their son, Carl. This is the end, my friend. Society as we know it is gone. What would you do to survive?

Well, let's see. So far... Thinking her husband was dead, Lori almost immediately falls into the bed of Rick's partner and best friend, Shane. It doesn't matter that as soon as she learned Rick was alive she ended things with Shane. I can understand going with him for protection, but did she have to jump right into the sack with him? Of course, the argument could be made that we all grieve differently. And since then? She's stood by her man. Even when she thought he was wrong (as in "Judge, Jury, Executioner" last Sunday). She recklessly went alone in search of Rick and company when they were at the bar, getting into an accident and almost ending up as Walker Chow. And while she was all concerned about Carl when she thought he might be dying from Otis' bullet, she completely zoned out to argue the virtues of housework with Andrea while Carl was taunted by a caged Randall, then stole Daryl's gun and incited a Walker to make its way to the farm in time to take out both an errant cow and Dale. Oh, and Maggie almost got killed when she accompanied Glen to the drugstore for Lori's pregnancy test. And - Lori incited a fight between her husband and her ex-lover, which resulted in both of them almost being killed by Walkers which were awakened by the fight.

I have read a few issues of the comic (though not necessarily in chronological order) and I do know Lori's fate in that storyline. AMC's series has already veered in many ways from its source (not that there's anything wrong with that - creative license, etc., etc...) so it wouldn't surprise me if Lori's storyline is changed, as well. 

Sarah Wayne Callies ("Prison Break") does the best she can with what she's given, but the writers seem to want Lori to be some sort of 21st Century June Cleaver/Stepford Wife/Damsel in Distress combination platter, and it just isn't working. Lately, just about every time I see a Walker, I'm thinking: "Oh, please. Please bite Lori. Please put us out of our misery and send this useless, misogynistic Fembot to that giant flat-screen in the sky!"

And I know that I'm not alone in this. Almost everyone I know who watches "The Walking Dead," hates Lori and wishes she would be killed off. But now that she's pregnant, we'll never get rid of the stupid be-yotch. Her baby (whether Rick or Shane's) represents hope for the future, something that sells ads in Middle-America (despite the fact that the majority of Americans live along its coasts). So what if she's setting women's rights back 40 years? She's having a baby! Can ads for zombie-inspired diapers be far off?

I'm sure it won't get to that point. Zombies and babies are better left off to comedies like Brain Dead/Dead Alive

None of this solves the problem of the sanctimonious, judgmental, oblivious and obviously in-denial character of Lori. There are two episodes left to this season. We already know, thanks to a now-fired AMC employee's on-line gaffe, that Shane is not going to make it out alive (as I've been speculating all season). Would it be too much to ask to bring Merle, Morgan and Duane back while killing off Lori in an excruciatingly painful Walker attack?

OUCH! That sounded kind of harsh, didn't it? But I bet you get just how much I hate this character.So tell me, "Walking Dead" fans, do you hate Lori, too? What other characters in TV, film or theatre do you hate? I love to read what you have to say!

Here are some Season 1 zombie kills, just because:

More, anon.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Double Duty Kicks In

I'm not only in Hairspray, but as the JTMF Publicity Coordinator, I'm about to kick into high-gear.* I have a press release to write; emails and letters to write; a program bio to write.. a screenplay stuck at the end of Act II to finish... Well, that's not part of my JTMF duties, but it bugs me to no end that I can't figure how to end the damned thing. 

What I mean to say is, as the show gets closer, the posts are going to get shorter and fewer.

I hadn't seen this particular poster, before. I love the gum bubble. It says everything we need to know about Tracy.

*No, it wasn't until I did my first proof that I realized that first sentence sounds like a hair-club commercial. I thought about changing it, but decided it was funny, especially if you knew it was completely unintentional. Of course, thanks to the 'miracle of polymer science' known as YouTube, I can link Hairspray with hair-club. Ladies and germs, I give you GLH:

I wonder if it was the mullet that brought the babes back, or the high they got from smelling his 'hair?' There. I feel sillier, already.

More Hairy Nonsense, Anon

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Why We Have Mythology

Photo via Bits and Pieces (I think)

I do hope that the image on your right is real and not 'shopped. It's rather amazing, if it's real (and why wouldn't it be?). 

As I've discussed on more than one occasion, the effect is known as pareidolia. Our eyes and brains have been genetically pre-programmed to recognize patterns, particularly own mother's faces. And we continue to recognize faces, even when we aren't actually looking at a face. I posted this picture on Facebook and sweet, crazy Mia immediately commented: "I see Jesus! It's Jesus!"
But imagine being a primitive version of yourself, living 8 to 10 thousand years ago. You have no knowledge of science and the natural world seems a very magical place (which it is, but in a very different sense). You're out with some of your buddies, gathering wood for a fire to cook tonight's mastodon when you come upon the face of what must obviously and undoubtedly be the snow god, himself. You may pause to marvel, but you can bet your hairy caveman ass you'll be bowing and backing away in fear and reverence. Is it any wonder that mythology is filled with Green men; fairies; elves; satyrs; centaurs; naiads and dragons? Happy Place has a great post of 'The Most Absurd Objects Jesus Has Ever Appeared On" that more fully illustrates one of the more common themes in pareidolia.

The truth is, religion is like magic. And magic is only what science doesn't understand, yet. There are no fairies; elves; centaurs or dragons. The snow on that tree just happened to lay/melt in a pattern that resembles a face; a pattern we are genetically predisposed to recognize. The magic is in the physics that caused the snow to lay/melt or whatever in that pattern and the biology that allows to see a face in a random pattern. Our brains are wired to to try and make sense out of visual patterns. We can't help but see things that aren't really there.

Speaking of invisible (the only segue that makes any sense at all), here's a Forgotten Gem from my childhood:

When you're 8, the only thing scarier than a monster you can't see is a monster brain that you can.

More, anon.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

TV Review: "Judge Jury Executioner"

Carl Wusses Out

Having only seen this week's episode of "The Walking Dead" tonight, it's much too late for a simple recap, so I thought I'd review this game-changing episode, instead. Still, if you haven't seen it, SPOILERS LIE AHEAD!

"Judge Jury Executioner" was one of the most brutal episodes yet, starting with Daryl beating information out of Randall and ending with... well, I'll get there.  A mini-recap, first.

Rick, second-guessing himself (as usual) has sided with Shane in the decision to execute Randall. Dale, the group's Jiminy Cricket asks Rick to hold off until he's talked to everyone about this. An-almost defeated Hershel defers to Rick, more concerned with retrieving some escaped cattle. Meanwhile, Carl has confused bravery with bravado. He visits Randall, despite being told not to, and after stealing Daryl's gun, has a near-fatal encounter with a mud-stuck Walker. As sunset draws near, Dale keeps pleading for Randall's life, despite the fact that everyone else (except Andrea) appears to be in favor of execution. "I don't want to live in a world like this," Dale says. "I want no part of it." He storms off in to the growing darkness as Shane, Rick and Daryl escort Randall to the barn where they plan to kill him. Rick has his gun pointed to Randall's head when Carl appears. "Do it, Dad! Do it!" A horrified Rick relents (much to Shane's dismay) and Randall is returned to the shed. After Rick and Carl return to camp with the news that Randall is not going to die, Andrea sets out in search of Dale, to relay the good news. Dale, stomping angrily through the fields, comes across a dying cow that has obviously been ravaged by one of more Walkers. As Dale turns around, the Walker that Carl let live is upon him, tearing open his stomach before help can arrive. Carl can't look and Rick can't shoot, so it is up to Shane Daryl to do the right thing. 

Wow. Powerful stuff in this episode, with some powerful moments. Carol finally showed some spine and Daryl proved he hasn't completely abandoned the 'broken' group. Personally, I'm waiting for Lori or Carl to kick it, because I've really come to hate their characters. And I must admit that the scene in which Hershel gave his grandfather's watch to Glen got me little misty-eyed. Tense moments, poignant performances and some very smart writing made "Judge Jury Executioner" the season's best episode, yet. **** (Four Out FourStars).

I hope all the folks who nay-sayed the first half of this season are enjoying their humble pie. With less than a handful of episodes left (and the already-spoiled death of another major character yet to come), I am excited to see where television's 2nd best show is headed. Here's a look at next week's episode:

More, anon.