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Warming to my theme…

Gloria Swanson was 51 when she played Norma Desmond.

My teenage impression of Norma Desmond, she was a thousand years old. But, thinking about it, it the story works better if she is way too old for a comeback, but not clownishly, ridiculously too old.

God, the makeup didn’t do them any favors, though, did it? Like the way your mom’s high school graduation picture made her look about 42.

Oh, speaking of clownish and ridiculous, I’ll close with Carol Burnett’s Norma Desmond. I don’t recommend looking up any of the skits — too broad, too long and totally belabor the joke — but holy shit the stills of her crack me up every time.

February 26, 2019 — 9:17 pm
Comments: 9


Well. Carol Channing has died, age 97. As often happens, I didn’t realize she was still alive, and now she’s not.

Banging around the tubes, I found the above: Carol with Mary Tyler Moore and Julie Andrews. Thoroughly Modern Millie, which I never saw.

One of the signature songs from that film was “Jazz Baby” from 1919, which Wikipedia says they had to buy back from the Washburn-Crosby Company, manufacturers of Wheaties, who had used it with variations for an advertising jingle since 1926.

The link from the Wikipedia article is dead to me (“not released in my country”), but I found this 1926 Wheaties jingle which…honestly doesn’t sound anything like “Jazz Baby” to me, but someone in the comments says it’s the first use of a jingle in a radio ad. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

While you’re there, please enjoy all these other Wheaties ads. Said it before, I’ll say it again — there needs to be a word for that thing you do where you start off with a simple Google search and find yourself an hour later squinting at Bruce Jenner eating Wheaties.

p.s. oh, yah — congratulations to peacelovewoodstock who wins the Dead Pool with Carol Channing. Y’all know what that means!

January 15, 2019 — 8:49 pm
Comments: 18

RIP Dr Stanley


Ralph Stanley died last week, and that’s an end to all the original men of Bluegrass, I suppose.

I know it doesn’t seem like it, but Bluegrass was strictly a Twentieth Century musical style. It borrowed heavily from traditional music, of course, but it was a highly formalized and particular form that started with Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys (hence the name), particularly when Earl Scruggs joined them in 1945.

Stanley and his brother Carter had performed together since the late Forties, though Carter drank himself to death in the Sixties. Their sound was very heavily Appalachian. Ralph’s singing style was typical of the genre — a high-pitched, whining sort of sound called “high lonesome” and often compared to a ghost wailing through a forest. It’s eerie. And probably an acquired taste.

Listen to the chorus of The Fields Have Turned Brown to hear what I mean.

Stanley’s career had a sudden resurgence late in life when he did the soundtrack for the Coen Brothers’ film O Brother Where Art Thou. The album — particularly the song Man of Constant Sorrow — was a surprise hit.

As a personal aside, I hated that fucking film. It was the beginning of the end for me and the Coen Brothers. Films like Fargo poked fun of people but seemed to do it with affection, but O Brother was full of tone deafness and sneering contempt. But good on Ralph for ending his life on a high note (oh, pun, I suppose).

And thus a sad footnote to a strange week. Good weekend, everyone!

July 1, 2016 — 9:17 pm
Comments: 13

Say no to racial stereotyping of weasels


Snuck out of work to catch a matinee performance of Zootopia today, Disney’s latest kids flick. It was purty and fun.

It tried to be a message flick, and the message was that predators and prey animals can live together in harmony if they overcome their prejudices. But the message was ruined by the fact that…no. They can’t. Really.

I doubt even eight-year-olds are buyin’ it.

Not quite as dumb as the one where dinosaurs were socialist environmentalists. What was that, Land Before Time? You could go nutty trying to analyze the messages in Disney flicks, most of which are charmingly dumb and harmless.

Anyway, we see above more of the typical Hollywood anti-mustelid prejudice.

April 12, 2016 — 8:00 pm
Comments: 13

And your little d’….awww g’wan witcha


I just love seeing the Wicked Witch of the West crack up laughing. This is from Margaret Hamilton’s makeup test. An early one.

I’m struck by how much she looks like Carl Sagan here.

March 8, 2016 — 8:24 pm
Comments: 10

Oh, wait…I thought it said sub*lingual*


Here’s an interesting stinker we ran across while searching for a good ol’ atmospheric Saturday night flick: 1958’s My World Dies Screaming, AKA Terror in the Haunted House (link goes to full movie; be warned). We only sat through the first ten minutes, which seemed stupid and forgettable. Except for the psycho-rama part, which was stupid and slightly amusing.

It means subliminal images. The movie starts with a dream sequence (or a narration of a dream sequence), one that is dotted with still pictures, each on-screen for a fraction of a second. The year makes sense:

The birth of subliminal advertising as we know it dates to 1957 when a market researcher named James Vicary inserted the words “Eat Popcorn” and “Drink Coca-Cola” into a movie.

The words appeared for a single frame, allegedly long enough for the subconscious to pick up, but too short for the viewer to be aware of it. The subliminal ads supposedly created an 18.1% increase in Coke sales and a 57.8% increase in popcorn sales.

Vicary’s results turned out to be a hoax.

Okay, here’s the thing: Uncle B was only aware that the screen flashed in an odd way. Me, I was able to see the pictures clearly. Or, actually, I thought I could see the pictures clearly. When I slowed down the film and extracted the individual frames, it turns out I only really saw the top half of each. The bottom was a complete surprise.

Whoever wouldn’t mind sitting through the first three plus minutes, I’d be very interested to hear what you see, if anything.

I’ll give you some hints: the opening sequence has seven instances of two different pictures, A, B, B, B, A, A, A (per the IMDB entry, other pictures happen later in the film. I didn’t sit through the whole thing). In the version I linked, the pictures appear at 1:34:22, 1:42:20, 1:54:27, 2:06:27, 3:00, 3:06 and 3:09:12, each for about one one-hundredth of a second. Feel free to back up and try again (we did, several times).

When you’ve done that, if you care to, I’ll save you the trouble of firing up your video editing software: Picture A and Picture B.

What did you see?

November 30, 2015 — 10:10 pm
Comments: 9

Oops! Lookit the time!


So I’ve totally figured out how to drive the Chromecast, which means (among other things), any video I can find on YouTube I can share with Onkle B on the big screen.

We’ve done Ninja Kitty, Cats are Assholes, Cats versus Cucumbers, badger cubs, stoaty fun, happy snow leopards, the One Of Us scene from Freaks, the entire Thanksgiving episode of WKRP in Cincinnati (funny, but not p’raps the gut-buster I remembered), the puMAman theme…and I’m wearing the bastard down at last!

What are some of your favorite ‘tubes? No need to post links, just enough of a description that they turn up on a search. If I make him sit through just a few more choice hits, I feel sure we can turn him ‘Murican.

Good weekend, all!

November 27, 2015 — 11:41 pm
Comments: 44

Just another quaint English village


I have unilaterally declared this our new Hallowe’en tradition. It is a 1966 Hammer Film called the Witches starring Joan Fontaine. It is very silly.

Joan Fontaine. Just look at her. I’ve often wondered if there was something wrong with that eyebrow of hers that made it do that trademark thing.

Says the top commenter on the IMDB listing:

In her autobiography, Miss Joan Fontaine, who had acquired the film rights to the novel years before, complains at length about the “primitive” working conditions at Hammer studios, the small size of her dressing room, the awful food and the unprofessional British actors she had to lower herself in working with. We all know that the real bee in her bonnet was that a movie she had basically designed as a vehicle for HER talents ended up being taken over by Miss Kay Walsh, a superb dancer and talented actress who had had an extensive career in films and theatre (check out her IMDB listing–you’ll be impressed). Luckily Fontaine was (to her credit) too much of a pro herself to let her dissatisfaction show on screen.

Well, I don’t know about that. IMDB also says it was her last film. She died in 2013, so she had a helluva long retirement.

The village scenes were shot in Hambleden in Buckinghamshire, but the action supposedly takes place in Sussex and the inevitable stately home was a place called Parham House. It’s now closed for the season, so I’m making this blog entry to remind myself we should go visit when it reopens in the Spring.

That’s right; I’m using you guys as an appointment diary.

November 4, 2015 — 10:16 pm
Comments: 8

Bruce Jenner is bustin’ out all over

not hercules, omphale



Lion skin cloak? Check. Knobbly club? Check. Tits? Ohhhhh…wait a second.

We went to a stately home for a delphinium festival today (when you hook up with a gardener, marvelous things happen). This was on the grounds. It’s got all the usual accoutrements of a classical Hercules, but this is clearly a chick.

Well. Wikipedia tells me this is Omphale queen of Lydia and not quite a goddess. Hercules accidentally biffed someone and was sentenced by the Oracle to be her slave for a while, for some reason.

Unfortunately, none of the central texts survive in the original, so we are left piecing the story together from bits of art and literary allusion. The important thing is, this was a period of rich cross dressing for Hercules and Omphale.




In a perfectly unrecognizable form, the story of Hercules and Omphale was the subject of MST3K Experiment 502: Hercules. You can watch it in its entirety here.

Because I am all about the cultcha.



June 24, 2015 — 7:53 pm
Comments: 2


My parents divorced when I was about nine. My father had traveled a lot for years, so the difference in my daily life wasn’t great, but it did mean the occasional formal Day of Visitation with my dad.

This is one of the first movies he took me to. If you haven’t seen it, Tora! Tora! Tora! is a two and a half hour WWII epic largely in Japanese with subtitles. It’s possible a major film was released that year that would be more horrible and boring to a nine year old girl, but I kinda doubt it.

Anytime the damn thing is on TV here — and it seems to be once a month or so — Uncle B sings out, “Weaselllll! Your movie is onnnnn!”

Anyhoo, mojo recommended it as one of his favorite Memorial Day flicks in the thread below, so I figured I’d share. I can’t say as I’d recommend it to the little girl in your life.

Hope you’re all having a decent long weekend; we sure have.

May 25, 2015 — 8:03 pm
Comments: 21