Because I'm a traditional type of guy and it being a holiday and all that, let's trot this thing out one more time.
Because I'm a traditional type of guy and it being a holiday and all that, let's trot this thing out one more time.
I'm still reading THAT book, Peanuts and Charles M. Schulz by David Michaelis, the one that had everyone in such a tizzy a few weeks back. I got side-tracked with another read, but if you want a decent idea of what that book is like, you should watch the PBS special, American Masters: Good Ol' Charles Schulz, which premiered last night.
If ever there was an apt subject for a series titled "American Masters," Schulz is it. Arguably--hell, there is no argument--the most famous cartoonist ever, AM shows us the same Schulz that is the center of family controversy in Michaelis' book: Aloof, cold, melancholy, and married to his strip. The man died the day before his last strip appeared, not allowing himself to see his final work put out with yesterday's garbage. Coincidence? Fate? Either works, but I think he just gave up.
Schulz's kids argue he's not the man in the book, and I would suppose they'd take issue with some of his portrayal in the AM episode, too. But for someone so cold and emotionless, he poured it all out on those flimsy pieces of bristol board that were translated into newspapers around the world. He created his own world, populated, at first, by people he knew. There were namesakes for Charlie Brown, Linus, and Shermy. A number of people mention that Lucy was his first wife, Joyce: bossy, domineering and at odds with the cartoonist. (Just as many mention she did all the heavy lifting so he could do what he did best, too.) But eventually, the more you know about Charles Schulz, the more you realize all the Peanuts characters were mainly him. And for someone that might have had a problem expressing joy or love or emotion in real life, he had no problem putting it on the page every day.
Near the end of the program, when Schulz dies, they show superimposed images of some of the Peanuts characters fading out of real outdoor scenes, like they were disappearing from existence. Nothing could be further from the truth. If Schulz did one thing, he created a set of memorable characters which will never fade from memory. We're arguably in the middle of a mini-renaissance for Schulz and Peanuts, not they need it. I like to think Fantagraphics "The Complete Peanuts" series jump-started this "golden age," and Michaelis' book and the AM episode continue it. But Sparky doesn't need our help to remember him. He's so ingrained in the pop culture of this country that Snoopy, Lucy, Linus, and good ol' Charlie Brown will live forever. And so will good ol' Charles Schulz.
We are in the third week of a relentless attack on the very sanctity and safety of our homes. No, the wildfires in California have died down. There are no hurricanes threatening the east coast, nor tornadoes in the heartland.
I'm talking about the attack of the killer bees: Those annoying "Bee Movie Juniors" popping up in NBC prime time programming every night for the past three weeks, buzzing us incessantly in the comfort of our homes. And if you include Jerry Seinfeld's appearance on the season premiere of 30 Rock on October 4, it's four weeks. FOUR. WEEKS. One month of promos for an animated movie. Add to that, in the past few days, an equally relentless onslaught of McDonald's Bee Movie Happy Meal ads, plus commercials for the actual movie showing actual animated footage which, actually, is something missing from all of these stupid "Bee Movie Junior" things stinging us nightly on NBC.
I love Jerry Seinfeld. But we're at a point when even Seinfeld would make fun of these things in his act or on his eponymous TV show, if it were still on. Jerry...we all know you don't need the money. Go home. Play with the kids. Drive one of your 8 gazillion cars around the block a few hundred times, because I got to tell you, man...if you put this much effort into flogging an animated cartoon movie that features only your voice, I can't wait to see what you'll do when you actually star in a live-action film. I think all of us, men and women alike, will be offered our choice of sex with your wife or cash money, just to make sure we go see that damn movie, if and when it happens.
Bee Movie is in theaters this Friday, November 2.
Two more films from our Netfilx queue this weekend, neither of which set the world on fire for me, but one was better than the other.
The better one was Mr. Brooks, the Kevin Costner as a serial killer thriller which is both effective and sensationalistic. It's effective any time Costner and his alter ego, played by William Hurt,are on screen. Hurt and Costner are so good together as the two voices in Mr. Brooks' mind. Only Costner sees and hears Marcus, the character played by Hurt. Their scenes together are so well done, I could have watched an entire movie with just the two of them talking for two hours.
Mr. Brooks gets bogged down with the subplot of Dane Cook as a serial killer groupie, who wants to follow Mr. Brooks on his next killing. It's also brought down a bit by the performances of Cook and Demi Moore as the police detective investigating the "Thumbprint Killer" case. We also get to know too much about Moore's divorce and an escapee from another serial killer case. And then there's Mr. Brooks' daughter, who may or may not caught the killer gene. It all smacks of padding, and the film suffers for it.
In the end, Mr. Brooks is an enjoyable two hours. Costner still looks like he stepped out of the Kennedy White House at times, all preppy and authoritative. But Costner as serial killer is an interesting proposition, proving that Oscar winners don't fade away...they just become bad guys.
In the other film, The Invisible, the protagonist, dead boy--or is he?--Nick Powell (Justin Chatwin) at one point says, "This is a nightmare!" and he's right. The film, directed by David S. Goyer, is pretty much a pretentious mess. At any given point you wish this pouty, sullen teenager would just die and get it over with. The scenes where he does something to try and get living people's attention grow old really fast, and if there was ever a bunch of surly teenagers you'd like to see become invisible, these are the ones. Long--even at 90 minutes or so--and with one of the most annoying uses of music ever, The Invisible is best kept just that way, out of sight and out of mind.
The smoke still lingers up high...I took a walk tonight and caught this photo at Seaport Village in San Diego. You can see more by visiting my Flickr set by clicking here.
A week has passed since the wildfires that ravaged San Diego began. In that time, the TV news industry in San Diego rose to the occasion and provided almost wall-to-wall coverage, starting on Sunday night and finally ending on Wednesday afternoon. For the most part, the stations I watched were great. The stations I didn't watch--KUSI, Fox6News, and KGTV--also all provided massive coverage. Sorry, folks...but I'm prejudiced against those stations. Other than the morning news, I almost never watch the local Fox affiliate (and let's just say the morning show is a chore to watch, too, but infinitely better than the only local competition, KUSI, that's on between 5-9am). KUSI and KGTV's respective talent is also unappealing to me, so I never watch either for local news.
During the fire emergency, I did watch KFMB and KNSD, the CBS and NBC affiliates, respectively. I noticed a decided difference in focus from both stations. KFMB seemed to go for the personal side of the story, with reporters camped out in neighborhoods and trying their best to give information on which individual houses burned. But using this approach, I feel (and I stress the I part, folks), the station lost the forest for the trees (and certainly no pun intended). While trying to report the larger story in each of the neighborhoods, the reporters too often got caught up in the story in front of them, often times a burning home. And while I'm sure there are lots of people in those effected areas thankful for knowing their homes either survived or were destroyed, ultimately that kind of information affects only a handful of people.
KNSD, on the other hand, offered dependable updated "bigger picture" information. I knew I could turn on that station at the top of the hour and get a recap, whereas KFMB was often times still out in some neighborhood, rattling off addresses of houses that had burned down. Their coverage was embarrassing at times, too. Twice I saw Shawn Styles, their weekend weatherman, digging through the rubble of someone's house and pulling out photos that were undamaged in the fire. Once, one of those photos was of a naked woman, and the other photos in that batch were clearly very personal. Another time, they somehow connected Styles with the owner of the house on the phone and he proceeded to tell them he had found some photos and said something on the order of "Let me compliment you on what a beautiful home you have...or what's left of it."I have no doubt someone finding these photos gave some people some small amount of solace, but allowing a reporter do it on the air was just plain distasteful and a real invasion of privacy. Homeowners should be allowed to dig through their own ruins, not have some stranger do it on live TV, in search of some kind of canned and painful "heartfelt" moment.
I have to confess I really don't like any of KNSD's on-air talent, so it was tough to watch at times. But their anchors--especially Marty Levin and Susan Taylor--were great, and their informational crawls at the bottom of the screen were actually informative and filled with good data.
All of this criticism is neither here nor there, to be honest. Staying on the air 20 hours a day, mostly without commercial breaks is an unenviable task. Everyone in the San Diego TV news industry should be commended for keeping the public informed during this incredibly trying time. I have no doubt the news media helped save lives this past week, a refreshing thought in an era when what's going on in Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan's lives seems to be a far more important concern for the media.
Ever have one of those dreams that defy explanation? I had one this morning that was so bewildering and so strong that it was in my head every time I woke up.
I was back at my old job at the TV station, having been rehired. Almost no one was the same, but there were three people there, one from news, one from the sales dept. (a secretary), and a former employee, also from news. I was in the break room--and by the way, nothing was familiar, the entire place was the station I worked at 10 years ago, but different--and I came across a sink that looked like a toilet, but wasn't. Floating in this sink was a mess. It could have been the usual stuff one finds floating in a toilet, (Yeah. That.), but it somehow morphed into food, and was cluttering the entire counter and sink area. So I threw it all away.
And then this woman I worked with years ago--and shared a mutual dislike with--came in and went ballistic on me. She was carrying a huge tub of potato salad, and yelled at me for throwing away all the food for the party. How could I not know about the party? It was for the former employee.
I went into hiding in the building. My first day back and this crap. My plan to redeem myself was to pay all three women $100 each for the food I threw out. But I couldn't imagine where I'd get the money. And every time I woke up, all I could think of was where I would get that money.
Dreams are normally very transparent to me, but I can't figure this one out. I know I emailed a couple of friends yesterday with a job notice for the former TV station all three of us worked in, so that was on my mind. Toilets that turn into sinks, and excrement that turns into food was not. Nor was this person, someone I haven't thought of--thankfully--in years. She was one of those people at work you never want to see again once you leave, a lead weight around the entire station. Any dream with her in it is a nightmare.
In what was most certainly the busiest week in San Diego news history, one anchor/reporter was missing in action: KFMB's Kathleen Bade. I had heard a rumor that her contract was up this fall, but didn't see anything formal released as to her leaving the station, nor did I see the typical "good-bye, this is the end for me" broadcast.
Bade was one of my favorite anchors in San Diego. She always seemed relaxed and at home on the air and had a great and easily accessible sense of humor. Beyond that, she wasn't bad to look at, either. I'm very sorry to see her go, if she is, in fact, gone. But the fact that she has been pretty much deleted from the KFMB website's anchor/reporter section isn't very reassuring.
I still think, though, that this bodes well for us Susan Lennon fans. I'm thinking Lennon will return to the San Diego TV airwaves sometime after the first of the year, if not sooner, and the natural place would be with her old KUSI morning show teammate, Stan Miller, on KMFB.
Updated (later that same morning):
As confirmed here, Kathleen is indeed gone. I hope we see her on the air again, but not on KUSI. That's a fate worse than death. I'll also miss Jaymee Sire, who this post also confirms will soon be gone from KFMB.
Sorry, folks...Fox or someone pulled this video off of YouTube. It was the United Kingdom trailer for 24 Season 7, featuring an intro by Kiefer Sutherland and scenes from the upcoming season, which actually look pretty cool. And yes, it included Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard)...but this is decidedly NOT the Tony we remember.
If they repost it, I'll try and link to it again. Suffice it to say, Season 7 already looks better than the horrible Season 6.
While Rome was burning, I was fiddlin' around as usual...watching movies and reading books. You remember books, don't you? Those things with paper? You remember PAPER, right? You've had a paper cut or two in your lifetime?
Anyway, I did my due Netflix diligence this week with my usual two films, both indies...
The Lookout is a noirish tale about a brain-damaged young man whose frustration and anger with his situation gets the better of him and he gets wrapped up in a plot to rob the bank he cleans each night. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who came from a sitcom (Third Rock From the Sun) background to become one of the more interesting--and daring--young actors out there today, plays Chris Pratt, a high school golden boy from a rich family who has a horrible car accident on prom night and finds his life ruined. The accident, which killed two of his friends and maimed his girlfriend, leaves Chris less than whole. His head injury makes him prone to memory lapse, seizures and just general confusion. The one-time BMOC is reduced to cleaning a bank and living with a blind man (Jeff Daniels) whose job is basically--no pun intended--to keep an eye on him.
Into Chris's lonely and confusing life comes Luvlee (Isla Fisher), a former stripper, who shows him some of the attention he used to receive from comely young women. But she's just setting him up for her real boyfriend, Gary (Matthew Goode), who along with his band of cronies plans to rob a local bank during harvest time, when the vault is full of all that farmer cash. He convinces Chris to go along with the plan, which includes getting them into the bank and serving as lookout for the nightly visits of Chris's cop friend.
But Chris has a crisis of conscience and decides to back out, only Gary and crew won't let him. And Chris turns out to be not quite as addled as Gary thought he was...
The Lookout is a fine little movie, written and directed by Scott Frank, the screenwriter behind such films as Get Shorty and Out of Sight (both Elmore Leonard adaptations). But as good as the film is--and it's very good--there's one minor plot point that derails the whole thing for me: If Pratt is so afflicted by his head injury, why in god's name is he allowed to drive a car? The car driving is central to the plot working (and let's face it, Jeff Daniels' blind Lewis can't do it), so I see why it's needed, but freeze that card which lists his injury problems that Chris gave to the bank manager and read it. Does that sound like someone who would be allowed a driver's license in ANY state?
My other film this week bills itself in the vein of Christopher Guest's ensemble "mockumentaries." This one is Jeff Goldblum's Pittsburgh, and I'm a little confused as to where fiction starts and ends in it. It's the story of Goldblum taking a job as the lead in the play The Music Man, for two summer weeks in Pittsburgh, ostensibly to get his fiancé her green card. Goldblum, who I've always liked as an actor, turns down a big role in Michael Bay's new "clone film," (which may or not be The Island), to return to his hometown and do two weeks of summer stock. The film is disjointed but entertaining and even lampoons Goldblum's friend, Ed Begeley Jr.'s well-known status as an environmentalist. But there's something off-putting about the whole thing (although it was great to see Pittsburgh again, my former almost-hometown, and even some people I worked with at KDKA in the cast, playing themselves). Not as entertaining as Guest's well-done films, mainly because everyone is playing themselves--even Moby, who comes off as a shallow, smarmy, sex-crazed opportunist, Pittsburgh falls apart near the end when Goldblum and company get on stage and do their play. Mildly interesting, this one is really only for the curious and devout fans of the star.
In a week marked by bad news, at least here in San Diego, one amazing piece of good news.
But first...a story, which, like all good stories, begins with that old standby, "Once upon a time."
Once upon a time, I moved back to my hometown. After graduating from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, I tried and tried to crack the Pittsburgh commercial art job market but failed, and by the end of 1976, I was unemployed and living back in my hometown of Tamaqua, PA. In early 1977, I got word that a locally published weekly newspaper was changing hands and the previous owner had mentioned me to the new owner as someone who could possibly help in layout and production for the publication. That's how I met Clarence Russell Funk. (As a side note, the previous owners and founders of The Tamaqua Paper were Harry and Nancy Everhart, who published the weekly newspaper for 100 issues before selling it to the Funks. This is all 30+ years ago, folks. I apologize for my sometimes spotty memory.)
Russ Funk was a character, to say the least. An interesting and intelligent man, he had no appreciable down time in his life. Every time I saw him, he was moving at the speed of light. He was a local minister, a full-time job to be sure. He was also a local sports broadcaster, doing--if I remember correctly--radio broadcasts of local high school games. And somewhere in his head, along with all this and being the husband of Marilyn and father to 4 kids, Stephanie, Rebecca, John and David, he decided Tamaqua needed to continue to have an ongoing weekly newspaper.
Tamaqua had a daily paper, the Evening Courier, which died a long, slow death in the late 60s. Again, if memory serves me right, it was absorbed by the Times News, another local paper out of Lehighton, PA. But Russ was game for a fight, and the Tamaqua Paper, as it was called, continued as a weekly tabloid. He even added the Valley Paper, for nearby Panther Valley, at one point. We came out every Thursday morning, and over the next three years, from March of 1977 to June of 1979, I was the paper's art director, layout artist, sometime cover illustrator, stat machine operator, and even part-time writer, penning movie and book reviews under the pen name of "Patrick Walker."
We started off in the Funk's kitchen up on a part of Tamaqua called Dutch Hill. We soon moved to a downtown office on Broad Street in an old building owned and lived in by an ancient, tiny woman named Mrs. Beard. (She was well over 4 feet.) The Tamaqua Paper never quite took off. It was homespun and corny, a definite family affair. And that's how I came to view the Funks...as part of the family.
I became particularly close to the two "girls," Stephanie and Rebecca, who were only a few years younger than me. Both graduated high school and moved onto college while I was working for their parents. During Rebecca's high school years, she gravitated towards the TV station, run by English teacher and friend George Taylor. I remember her hosting a telethon in her senior year and revealing to me how much she liked the whole TV thing. She went onto Bloomsburg College in Pennsylvania and when I moved back to Pittsburgh in 1980 and started working in TV at KDKA, she came out for a semester and interned at the station.
That's where we come full circle. Because today Rebecca S. (Funk) Campbell was named President and General Manager of WABC-TV in New York City, the #1 station in the #1 television market in the country. Yes. I'm serious. You can read about it here.
Now I wouldn't have known about any of this, to be honest, without another voice from the past reaching out. Today around 5:00pm, Arthur Greenwald, a producer/director whom I worked with at KDKA in Pittsburgh tracked me down here in San Diego and called me to tell me the news. I've lost touch with the Funks over the years, both Stephanie and Rebecca. I do know Russ died a few years back. I had, in fact, thought that Rebecca had retired from the TV biz, once she got married and had kids, and had moved to Lancaster, PA. But from Lancaster, she had moved to WPVI in Philadelphia, eventually becoming the GM there. Today she got the New York City gig.
This is more than a case of "I knew her when" for me. I like to think I had some small hand in the road she picked to go down. When she came to Pittsburgh, her uncle Dave worked with me at KDKA, so she had a place to stay. She interned on Arthur Greenwald's Punchline show, which starred someone else who went onto bigger and better things--at least for a while--Dennis Miller. (Truth be told--I didn't find him funny then. I find him even less so now, that he's become a comedic shill for the far right.) But I can't take credit for what Rebecca did when she went down that road. That was all talent, will power, ambition and personality. She was a wonderful girl when I knew her almost 30 years ago. It's amazing to see what an incredible woman she turned out to be.