Saturday, December 4, 2010

Do you like gladiator movies?

300?  No.  This is the mighty Hercules!
If you're a baby-boomer and remember'll know that Steve Reeves was Hercules.  Though Steve made lots of gladiator 'Sword & Sandal' movies, he only played the character of Hercules twice.  HERCULES (1957) and HERCULES UNCHAINED (1960 U.S. release)  He was 'the man' back in those days.

In 1954 he had a small role in his first major motion picture, the musical in ATHENA (with Jane Powell).  The same year Reeves had a small role as a cop in Ed Wood's JAIL BAIT.  These were the only two movies that Steve's Reeves real voice were ever used.  Once in Italy - someone else's burly voice was dubbed in.

Reeves was born in the United States but found his stardom in Italy doing some memorable (and many forgettable) low budget movies.  From 1959 to 1964, he was Mr. Gladiator to us.  I was too young to see them at the movies, but remember seeing them on television.  Anyone remember Tom York's Dialing for Dollars Show?  Do you know the count and the amount?

So here's some facts I found that you might not have known about Steve Reeves.  After the Sword & Sandal movie craze faded - the Italian Westerns came into being.  It was a real shot in the arm for Italy's flailing movie industry.  Steve didn't see it coming.  He just thought it was silly for Italians to go West - "that Italians can't make Westerns".  

Al conrario!
So when Sergio Leone came calling, Reeves turned down the leading role that eventually went to Clint Eastwood in A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964).  Steve Reeves also said that he said no to the role that later went to Sean Connery in DR. NO (1962).

Reeves' final film that he co-wrote was A LONG RIDE FROM HELL, an Italian Western that was an attempted to mimic one of Sergio Leone epics.  Too late....he missed the stagecoach.  I've never seen it and would like to - just for the heck of it.

Nevertheless, Steve Reeves is fondly remembered as the mighty Hercules.

Monday, November 29, 2010

...and don't call me Shirley

 Leslie Nielsen died yesterday, November 28th.  His was a familiar face through out our life.  He played mostly dramatic /leading figure roles on television and on the big screen throughout the first part of his career which spanned 60 years. The second half of his career changed drastically when he starred in the movie AIRPLANE!.  It was here Nielson played a comedic role straight.  AIRPLANE! took Nielsen's career into a whole new stratosphere.  For that last three decades Nielsen played the straight-funnyman.  My personal favorite is the short lived cop show spoof POLICE SQUAD which led to the NAKED GUN movies.  Leslie Nielsen will be missed.
Leslie Nielson & Anne Francis  in The Forbidden Planet (1956)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Have a Daisy Christmas!

One of my earliest posts here at Boomerville, USA was about boys and  B B Guns.  I won't go into it again, but did enjoy running across this old advertisement.  This is the kind of ad that a kid in my day could study over for hours on end.  Of course my parents didn't say "You'll shoot your eye out."  Heck, bad things happen in life...damn the eyes.  The boys in my family got their Christmas wish!

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Who behind our couch

Yes.  The Who lived behind our living room couch. 

We had a nice looking living room.  Mother kept a clean house considering she had six kids running amok.  The foyer, dinging room and living room were always clean and ready for company.  Just don't look behind the couch.

It was there where the guitars were kept, turn table, rigged speakers, cords and a pile of records.  It was never neat behind the couch.  House guest were just not supposed to look behind them while sitting on the couch.

It was here where I would pick up one of Brook's guitars and strum, hoping one day to become a player.  It was behind the couch that I flipped through my older brother's LP collection.

I'd listen to B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Jackson Browne, etc.  I found a lot of great music back there.  Let me tell you.  It was behind the couch that I discovered The Who.  Now I have a great appreciation for The Beatles - but I have a real love of The Who.

How many times did I lay on the couch with the headphones on, listening  and lost in Tommy.  They churned out so much good music.  How could three musicians put out that much sound?   Simply amazing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rocky & Bullwinkle

 Alex Anderson died today.  Alex is the creator of Rocky & Bullwinkle, one of my old Saturday morning cartoon favorites.  Note that he also created Crusader Rabbit (1948), which was the first made for television animation.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

goodbye TV mom

Barbara Billingsley died last weekend, October 16th.  She was 94 years old.  For baby boomer's she'll always be our T.V. mom, June Cleaver.  She was the perfect 'ideal' mom because her character was seen through the eyes of a her youngest son, Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver.  Barbara Billingsley was a class act.

This is how most of us saw our mothers growing up.  It's how I saw mine.  I guess a lot of mom's tried to live up to that image.  I know my mother wasn't watching the show, or trying to keep up with the Jone's or the Cleaver's.  She had her hands full with six kids.  She did alright though.

I remember about twenty years ago talking to a local artist about my mom.  Leo Reynolds grew up around my mother's folks.  I was video taping him for a commercial at the time when he found out that I was her son.   He said of mother, "That Esther is a real lady."  He said that at least three times while we were there at his house.  I agreed with him and I still share his opinion.  My mom is a real lady - a class act.

I'm glad we all had an ideal TV mom, better yet, I'm glad to have an ideal real life mom.   My mom, like Barbara has a funny side.  Maybe I can get my mom to learn how to speak jive.  Here's the Barbara Billingsley clip from the movie Airplane! 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

my favorite samurai

I don't watch Saturday Night Live anymore.  I watched it back when it first aired and through much of the eighties.  I'll catch it every now and then, but it's not what it used to be.  I'm really not the SNL fan that I used to be, yet still fondly remember some great cast members, and great sketches.  

In this sketch is John Belushi and Buck Henry in Samurai Delicatessen.  I'm glad to see Hulu revisiting the classics.

Friday, October 15, 2010

pffft, you were gone

 The classic HEE HAW aired between 1969 and1971.  The concept of the show was inspired by the hipper "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In.  HEE HAW, like Laugh-In was a comedy variety show.  HEE HAW replaced the Smother's Brother's Comedy Hour on CBS.

It was actually a better show than Laugh-In and lived longer than Laugh-In in syndication.  HEE HAW ran 20 years in syndication.  Kind of funny that CBS canceled the show during a so called 'Rural Purge' of that time. Shows like Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, and Mayberry RFD were dropped but still rule in syndication.
"Like Laugh-In, the show minimized production costs by taping all of the recurring sketches for a season in batches— setting up for the Cornfield one day, the Joke Fence another, etc.  At the height of its popularity, an entire year's worth of shows would be taped in two separate week-long sessions, then individual shows would be assembled from edited sections. Only musical performances were taped with a live audience; a laugh track was added to all other segments."
- Wikipedia

The show did well in ALL markets, not just here in the south.  The show had a strong following in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.  I guess the television execs got a little high brow and shot themselves in the foot.  It was a funny show, shot on a shoe string, and dog-gone-it, people liked it.  With HEE HAW the jokes were bad, but we still laughed.

The corn worked.

Monday, October 4, 2010

when men wore hats

When I was a kid, men wore hats.  Actually, women wore hats too.  My dad had lots of hats in his closet.  I like hats.  I have lots of hats too.

Before the mid-1960s almost no man would venture out in public without wearing a hat.  I once was told that it was John F. Kennedy that put an unwitting stop to it.  I heard that Kennedy didn't like to wear hats and so men started leaving their houses with naked heads.  I have also read that it was probably a coincidence...that Kennedy was also following a hat-less trend.  Sean Connery wore a hat as James Bond in Dr. No, but soon left it in his closet for following missions.  So what happened to the hat?

I do know that I am sorry that it happened.  I like the  fedora.   I liked it when men once considered hats as a necessary accessory.  Hats are both functional and stylish.
The weather turned cool this past weekend.  I pulled my Stetson from my studio wall hook.  My bald dome needs cover  during the colder months.  I went for my fedora.  Gina gave me my stylish Stetson the Christmas before last.  It replaced my tattered old fedora that I had worn since 1988.  The old hat is just too old and has shrunk...or my head has grown.  It's now wall decoration.

I guess I am old school.  I'll always have a fedora or two on my hat rack.  I'll keep wearing them.

"Cock your hat - angles are attitudes."
- Frank Sinatra

Friday, October 1, 2010

touch of mancini

I've written about old radio here at Boomerville before.  Back in the 60's, we weren't just listening to The Beatles.  We were on the receiving end of all kinds of music.  The song that came to mind this morning was a a song from the movie Hatari (1961).   The Baby Elephant Walk was scored by non other than Henry Mancini.  It's a quirky number, but quite popular when it came out.

Hatari is a John Wayne romatic/comedy/adventure which was a loosely scripted movie by Howard Hawks.  Hawks originally intended to cast both John Wayne and Gable Gable...that is until Gable's death.  As you know I love John Wayne movies, but Hatari isn't one of my faves.  Perhaps if Gable had lived to make it - it would have been memorable.  I am also a Clark Gable fan.

Though the movie isn't one of Wayne's best, Mancini's song is unforgettable.  For you younger whipper-snappers who have never heard the name of Henry Mancini, he's the guy that brought you the theme song to The Pink Panther.  My favorite tune of his is the theme to television series Peter Gun (1958).
One of his first outstanding scores was for the Orson Welles film  Touch of Evil (1958). Touch of Evil was unique in that it was one of the first films to use source music, or music that didn't just play in the background but actually came from a visible source in the film story, such as a radio or a nightclub.  This movie by the way is unforgettable.

I once had one of his greatest hits LPs in my album collection.  Mancini was great.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

to the moon alice

We watched the strangest images on television.  We saw footage of rockets taking off, orbiting and voices crackling from outer-space.  Nations raced to the moon and we found ourselves in a new age - a space age.  I was in elementary school.  I kept up with the Apollo project's progress, set-backs, and triumph in my Weekly Reader.  I kept those little school newspapers for years, until the great news became old news.  What a wondrous time to be a kid.

We looked at surreal images on television news at 6.  We marveled at all the photos in the newspapers and magazines.  We wondered what it was like to actually see and hold a moon rock for ourselves.  Our heroes were astronauts.

I drank  A LOT of  Tang.  I drank it not just because it was what the astronauts drank, but because it came with a little lunar buggy toy.  I drank as much as I could and eventually owned an entire fleet of those little buggies.
I got a G.I. Joe capsule for Christmas one year.
Before the space race, space was science fiction.  Space was elusive and mysterious and yet in our time - obtainable.  Having men strapped to rockets and shot into deep space stirred a boy's imagination.  And there we were, growing up among giants who proved the impossible possible.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

68 Comeback Special

As a kid, I just didn't get the Elvis thing.  I knew he was on the radio a lot.  I knew he was on television a lot.  Elvis seemed to be everywhere, and quite frankly, I didn't understand it.  I thought he was a teen idol.  I guess that was because my older sisters liked him, and anytime a movie came on, they would claim the Zenith.  I didn't like his movies. 

Turns out, Elvis didn't either.  Elvis did want to act, but didn't care for most of the formulaic flicks he starred. Boy meets girl, boy sings to girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy sings to girl, boy gets girl.  Insert a drag race, generic bad guy and a fist fight in there and you've got the not so secret formula for an Elvis movie.

Frankly, I tolerated the guy.  I didn't understand why he was such a big deal.  I never have owned an Elvis record.  Not an LP, not a single 45.  I still don't own one, but my mind was altered one night.

Back in the mid-eighties I was working a night shift at Eckerd Drugs.  Sometimes I would work the register, but I preferred clean-up and restocking.  There was a television overhead in the little electronics department.  MTV was playing Elvis Presley's  '1969 Comeback Special'.  Not being an Elvis fan, I had never experienced it prior to 1985.   That night, I stopped sweeping and was captivated.   I saw and heard Elvis as I had never seen and heard him.  He was good!   He was on that stage belting out his old hits on an acoustic and by damn - ELVIS was KING of ROCK & Roll!

Why did it take me so long?  Elvis went through many transformations.  I didn't really pay any attention to him the years prior to his death.  His collars got bigger and he started dressing more like Liberace...or Liberace started dressing more like Elvis.  I don't know - chicken or the Elvis?  Nevertheless, Elvis had finally revealed his talent to me postmortem.

I liked Elvis on stage in 68, even with his flubs, he was great.  I enjoyed every song that came from his mouth.  I enjoyed the comradery with his pals on stage.  He owned the moment.  Elvis was in control.

I'll tell you something, my favorite artists are those who are good on stage.  I enjoy talent that can pick up a guitar and perform a song without the need of a band-aid, or the gloss of a studio.  Elvis had everything.  I saw that night that the man was having a blast on stage. He gave it all that he had.  He had fun up there and the audience had fun because he was having fun.

I like different artists, and different genres of music.  The common thread throughout my musical likes is that the artist I appreciate loves music, loves playing it, loves performing it.  It shows.  Am I making sense?  I hope so.  I like to watch Eric Clapton perform, because he's not just performing, he loves what he's doing and that's the main reason I enjoy his concerts.  He's fun to watch. Johnny Cash was the same way.  He just loved music, all kinds of music. Just keep an eye out for his old variety show.  He played country music, but his music taste-buds were vast.  Johnny also had a real passion to sing.  It also showed.

No.  I have never owned a recording of Elvis.  He could sing the gamut, from country to inspirational to pop.  He could sing anything and make it a hit.  He was just that hunk-uv-hunk-uv-burning good at it.

So.  I discovered Elvis years after his death.  Heck, I even like his old movies now - cool, blue suede  and shaking - in all it's campy glory.  I dig the cheese now.  Viva Elvis!

I still don't get it with the skydiving Elvis', the Elvis look-a-likes, the people that think they can get up on stage and be the king.  It's kind of creepy and sad.  I think even Elvis himself would be kind of embarrassed by it.  "Hey look Elvis, it's you!"   Elvis, "Awe man, get me outta here."

Nope.  There's just not enough talent to measure up to the man himself.  Even if one did have that big a talent, why try to be Elvis.  With such a big talent, why not be yourself?  The jumpsuit after all doesn't make the man.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thatcher's favorite tune

'Two Little Boys' is a song written by American composer Theodore Morse and lyricist Edward Madden. It was written in 1902 and became a popular music hall song of the time, made popular by Harry Lauder. It describes the story of two boys who grow up to fight in the American Civil War. In 1969 it became a surprise No. 1 top selling single for entertainer Rolf Harris in the United Kingdom."
- Wikipedia

I was surprised this morning to find out that the war referred to in the song was The Civil War, and not some European endeavor. The version you are listening to now was recorded in 2008, in remembrance of the 90th Anniversary of WW1.

This is another song that was heard around the Finlayson household in the early seventies. My sister Jennie was quite good with it and frequently asked to play it. Though Rolf brought the song out of obscurity, this is another song that I think Jennie sang better than the artist that performed it.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

melonie's little beetle

My sister Jennie used to sing this song decades ago. I think she actually did a better job than Melanie. Last night I was bathing my youngest daughter and sang the almost forgotten tune. Melanie Safka had other folk hits during the late '60's - early 70's. 'Brand New Key', 'Beautiful People' and 'What Have They Done To My Song Ma'.

Never heard of her? Melanie was the ninth act to perform at Woodstock. The slot she played was originally intended for the Incredible String Band, who refused to play in the rain. Her experience at Woodstock later inspired her to write 'Lay Down' (Candles in the Rain). Melanie is an authentic flower elderly person (now).

Monday, August 30, 2010

harvest gold will not fade away

a Googled image that isn't my kitchen

I'm in the process of renovating our kitchen - on a shoe string budge.  Our house was built in the early to mid 1970's.  The kitchen is the only room left that screams out 1970's.  Yesterday my pal Jose' came over and helped me rip out the chipping the harvest gold tile and the failed particle board subfloor.

We have plans to repaint, re-tile, and re-counter this old kitchen. When the sawdust settles, we hope to have a more traditional kitchen.  Unfortunately, the harvest gold range-top, range hood, and double oven will have to remain.  It would cost a good bit to replace these ugly old appliances.  They are in perfect working order, and can not find justification in discarding them just because of their dated color.

I didn't like avocado green or harvest gold even when I was living through the seventies.  The faddish colors and sought after appliance colors quickly became dated.  

Gina and I moved into our home a little over fourteen years ago.  We have been replacing appliances as they die.  Frankly, I don't think our oven or range-top will die in the near future.  Any appliance repairman can tell you that the old stuff is the good stuff.  Most of the new stuff isn't made to be the decade to decade time machines like those our mom's used when we were growing up.  If you buy a fridge, you hope and pray it will give you ten years of service. 

Over the years we've replaced the harvest gold fridge, trash compactor, sink, and dish washer.  Now that the ugly gold tile is gone, we have only three items left from our kitchen's original harvest gold glory.  It's a catch 22.  I would like to see these appliances go away, but I can not afford to replace them.  The color repulses me, but I need them.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

waiting on a sign

One of my favorite signs, I can't explain why, is the old Pure Oil sign.  My favorite is the Pure sign with the red arrow behind it (as shown above).  The most common version is the Pure sign sans arrow.

Years ago, when Jim Thompson and I were working on the Christian Brothers 'Skylight' stage, I had my eye out for a Pure sign.  It was a small wood planked stage that Jim and I were trying to transform into the faux front of a general store/gas station.  I had in mind having the sign hanging over the front of a stage as if performers were playing on a front porch.  Because it was a Christian coffeehouse, I thought the Pure gave spiritual significance. 

"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." - Philippians 4:8

I never did get that stage quite the way I wanted it - mainly because I was waiting on a sign.  Even twenty two years ago, the signs were rarely seen in our neck of the woods.
As a graphic designer, I've developed a good many logos down through the decades.   So not only do I appreciate the Pure logo for nostalgic reasons, but for the simple, powerful aesthetics of this piece of old school corporate branding.  To me, it's a beautiful thing.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

the sound of comfort

I have three vintage oscillating fans.  I have a beautiful black GE fan in my basement.  I use it all the time in the Summer.  I have a small one in the garage, mostly for looks because it doesn't put out that much.  Yesterday while working in the garage, Gina pulled out my huge Westinghouse fan from the corner.  It hadn't worked since I got it three or four years ago.  She plugged it in, but it didn't work for her.  The cord was in terrible shape, having been gnawed to pieces by an animal.  I am surprised that Gina didn't hurt herself fooling with it.

Later in the evening, Gina and I were having a 24 (Season 2) marathon together.  There was a scene where Jack Bauer was being tortured with a saudering iron.  It made me think about the fan, that all it probably needed to work was a new cord and a little saudering.  I went out to the garage after Gina went to bed.  I unscrewed the bottom of the fan base and got busy with it.

It was very hot out there last night.  Sweat rolled off my bald dome and fell into my glasses.  It wasn't long before my clothes were drenched.  I got the new cord on, but had problems finding a good plug.  I had to sauder the end three or four times to get it right.  I am so not a handiman.

It was not a complicated task, but took me several attempts to do the job right. I turned the switch on and I heard a faint hum.  There's finally electricity - but no go.  I turned it off and decided that maybe it needed a little oil.  There's no telling how many decades it had not been in use.  A little oil here and a little there - like the Tin Woodsman - came to life

I love the sound of these old fans.  This one had a solid sound like an engine of a B-17 bomber. My mind was immediately taken back to our family trips to Columbia, SC.  Most of dad's siblings lived there and the Finlayson kids would have to scatter a little for a borrowed bed to sleep.  No matter who's house we ended up, there was always an old oscillating fan on a dresser, comforting us with a cool breeze on a hot night -  helping us to drift to sleep to the steady rhythmic sound that only an old oscillating fan motor could make.

When the fan finally mind went immediately back to uncle Murdock's house on Duncan Street in Columbia.  I remember lying in a musty smelling room on one of his twin beds in his spare room.  The shadows and sounds of Murdock's house  were different than that of my bedroom home.  I remember focusing my attention on the fan - feeling the breeze brush against the sheets - and listening to it's soothing mechanized voice.  I listened until I fell asleep.

Last night I stood motionless in the garage enjoying the immediate fruit of my labor - the coolness and the soft hum of the old Westinghouse.  This is the sound of comfort.  My cool heaven.

Friday, August 20, 2010

fun and falls

I used to have a pair of these bad boys.  The ones I had looked worn out like these because I lived in a hand-me-down household.  I don't really have any stories to tell about rollerskating.  They just came to mind.  Do they still make them - the kind with the key?  They were fun, but I don't recommend you clamping them onto your sandals.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

birthday memory

My mind has been going back this week to a particular birthday when I was a kid.  August 19th, school had already started.  Dad let me go in late that day so he could take me to Toddle House that was on Forrest Avenue (next door to Laverty Music Company).  I remember that morning clearly.  Dad had to park the car in the back of the building and walk around to the front.  The back lot was gravel, not easy to maneuver on two crutches.

So we get out of the car and I walk with my dad around the building to the front door.  Once in, he works his way, not into a booth, but onto a round stool to order and eat from the counter next to his son.  Sometime during the week Dad had asked me what I wanted for my birthday.  I told him that  I wanted him to take me to get a waffle for breakfast.  Having five siblings, I just wanted it to be just him and me.

Looking back, it was a simple thing to ask, but perhaps a difficult task for a man with polio on crutches to deliver.  It's a good memory, but I guess it's taken me over forty years to really appreciate a father's small gift to the fullest.  "Son, I love you.  I'll negotiate gravel on crutches for you - risk falling down for you.  I'll sit perched atop a tall bar stool, and balance myself while I have breakfast with you.  I've got work at the office to do, but I love you, I'll be late just so you can have a waffle with your dad."

I know I'm a little bit late in doing so - but thanks for the birthday dad.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

creamed goodness!

Nobody made a devil's food snack cake like Merita Bakery's Mickey Cake.  The Mickey Cake was round, about the diameter of a Chattanooga Moon Pie and about 1.75" high.  Merita now carries the Hostess brand - but last time I had their Hostess brand devils food - it did not compare to the original Mickey Cake.  The Hostess brand was dry.  The Mickey Cake devils food cake was heavenly in texture and taste.
I don't remember what company sold the Banana Flip, but that used to be another favorite of mine.  Nothing like a thin cake folded over on creamy artificial banana goodness.  It resembled a taco in the way the caked wrapped around the cream.  There was a time when I could buy a devils food cake was sold in the flip/taco manner.  They were quite good too.

I was in a convenient store yesterday looking at the selection of snack cakes being offered these days.  The choice seemed so limited.   I saw some Twinkies and some Little Debbie's and a stale looking honey bun.  I guess I was looking for something that was no longer being made.  I know it's not healthy eating any of those things.  For health's sake I've avoided the dusty pastry endcaps for decades.  I do miss Mickey Cakes - I do miss Banana Flips.

I just don't buy snack cakes anymore.  I used to eat them all the time when I was growing up in the sixties.  I wish that they had not faded into snack food obscurity.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mad Macs

It's almost hard to believe that I've been using a computer for half of my life.  My first computer was the second generation of user friendly Apples - the Macintosh 512K Personal Computer.  Brook had been telling me about this little computer and I saved up for it.  My little Mac had only a few applications, MacWrite and McPaint.

I remember the evening that I brought it home.  I removed it from the box and set it up on the living room coffee table.  Dan Noojin dropped in about that time and we both played with it.  It was pretty cool and exciting stuff for that day.  The text in the front of the manual instructed the Mac owner (me) not to worry about reading the manual.  Now that's my kind of manual!  The manual also instructed me to just play around with it and get to know it.  The Mac 512K was very user friendly.  The manual did say to refer to the manual only if I had trouble doing anything with my friendly personal computer.  It was a very sharp looking manual. I never read beyond the initial instructions on the first page.  I never went back to it.  I never knew what eventually came of it.

I remember Dan watching me as I highlighted a word on the screen.  He just marveled at the cool flickering effect and asked me if it would print out that way.  It was all so new and high tech.  And for a moment I sat there looking at the flickering fonts in amazement.  I actually had to think about it for a moment - then told him, "I don't think it will."

With the computer, I purchased a dot matrix ImageWriter printer.  It was a pretty sturdy unit that never jammed on me, never gave me a lick of trouble.  I will say that I envied the new HP LaserJet printers when they came out.  I didn't own one till years later.  I did get to work with them in various jobs.  Nothing was the same after I saw the high dpi output of a laserJet.  I simply could not afford one when they first came out.  The technology was so new that to own one was almost like having to buy a car.
The reason I bought the Mac in the first place was to write a book that I never finished as well as eventually own a design program called Aldus PageMaker.   The PageMaker thing was to come later.  For years I had been doing page layout the old school way, with rubber cement, ruler, X-acto blades and art board.  The Mac and PageMaker was what was going to revolutionize the graphic design business.  And it did.

I packed my Mac in the car for my venture to Art Institute of Atlanta.  At the time, the school had old school computers in their computer lab.  It was a big room that was always locked with the lights turned off.   All I could do was press my nose up to the big window - and peer deep into the dim lab where computers seemed to sleep eternal.

Word quickly got around that I had a Mac.  All my fellow art classmates wanted to come over to my apartment to touch it.  I had a huge closet in my apartment that I facilitated as a workstation - as well as a closet.  I did several art projects with it, printed out in crappy dot matrix in all it's splendor, and matted.  Nevertheless, my McPaint rendered projects were always a technological marvel to my instructors as well as fellow students.  If I didn't render entire projects on the Mac, I used it to typeset faux body copy for others.

After Atlanta, I came back home to work with Jamey Moore as Creative Director / Vice President of Jamey Moore Productions.  I continued to use my Mac through out the rest of the nineties.  It was so small that I'd take it back and forth from home to office.  I used it to develop comps for brochures, text for storyboards, etc.  It was a little work horse.

It made a funny little work horse sound.  I can still hear in my head.  It went eeee-UURRR eeee-UURRR.  It really worked hard for me.  eeeee-UURRRR - eeee-URRRR!  I really needed the computer to do more for me, but couldn't upgrade the machine, and couldn't afford a newer model.

My Mac entered into my marriage with Gina.  We drove up to Kentucky with it in September of 1990.  I used it for a few more years.  I got a job at Western Kentucky University doing layout in 1992.  There I worked primarily on departmental brochures.  They had lots of work stations with little Macs loaded with PageMaker.  Though I had been a designer for well over a decade, it was a wonderful learning experience for me. I learned more in that job than I did in Atlanta thanks to a great fellow (my benevolent overseer) Tom Meacham.

It wasn't long after that that I crossed over to IBM compatibles, loaded with Windows.  At the time Mac had established itself as the industry standard in multimedia production.  It still does.  It's just that Macs are so darn expensive that I ended up staying with flawed Windows all these years later.  The good thing about it is that the world changed for me with the advent of Adobe Acrobat.  It didn't matter what kind of computer you had, almost any printer would accept and publish four-color CMYK from a PDF.

I don't remember when I eventually let go of my Mac.  Either I sold or gave it to my sister Irene for her kids to play with.  If I sold it, it was for a song.  It gave me many good years of service and traveled with me on many a creative venture.

By the way, it was my Mac 512K and ImageWriter that was used to print out many of those old Christian Brother's / Skylight newsletters back in the late '80's and early '90's.  Sloppy but fun.  Hard copy and rubber cement.

I love the smell of rubber cement in the morning!

Friday, July 23, 2010

old school phone

How many people out there still use rotary phone?  There must be some folks out there still using them.  After two decades we still get the message when dialing into the corporate world - "If you are using a rotary phone, please hold on for an operator."

Back in the mid-eighties, I bought a cherry red rotary phone from my sister in-law Jennifer when she worked for TelNet.  You could buy rotary at that time, but they were already well on their way out.  I bought it because I've always been a retro kind of guy (even as a kid).  I used the phone until about the time I got married in 1990.  By then, I was convinced that push button was quicker and easier on the finger.  New technology always makes one more impatient.  Enough with the retro-technology thing.  I'm for progress!

Growing up, our old home phone number used to be (205) 547-5658.  Back in the sixties we only had to dial the last four digits of our number 5658.  I don't remember what my parents had to dial before that. We then had to dial 7-5658 by the time I was in junior high.  That lasted for a long time.  I was irked when we had to dial the entire seven digit number.  I guess it was about ten years ago that our area code changed to 256.  Recently we have all had to start dialing all ten digits when calling someone in town.  Imagine having to dial ten digits on a rotary for every phone call.  Thank goodness for buttons - thank goodness for speed-dial!

Rotary phones are something that all of us old and crusty babyboomers can hang over the head of  all those young whippersnappers.  

"Back in my day, we had rotary phones!"  

"Rotary phones?  What are those grandpa?"

"Yep, we didn't have to walk thirty miles to school or study by candle light - but we had to use rotary phones.  We also got to talk to real operators too - real people."

"Gee whiz grandpa - real people?" 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

the cola teet

"How soon is too soon?  Not soon enough.  Laboratory tests over the last few years have proven hat babies who start drinking soda during their early formative period have a much higher chance of of gaining acceptance and 'fitting in' during those awkward preteen and teen years.  So, do yourself a favor.  Do your child a favor.  Start them on a strict regime of sodas and other sugary carbonated beverages right now, for a lifetime of guaranteed happiness."  - The Soda Pop Board of America

The above Ad is a fake.  They've been circulated by many as the real thing.  The following 7-Up print advertisement ran in the late 1950's.  Another prime example of truth being stranger than fiction or fiction being almost as strange as truth...or something like that.
"By the way, Mom, when it comes to toddlers- if they liked to be coaxed to drink their milk, try this: add 7-Up to the milk in equal parts, pouring the 7-Up gently into the milk. It’s a wholesome combination- and it works!"

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Heroes of the Vietnam Generation

This is something Danny Daniels posted on his facebook profile today.  It's well worth the read.
By James Webb

The rapidly disappearing cohort of Americans that endured the Great Depression and then fought World War II is receiving quite a send-off from the leading lights of the so-called 60s generation. Tom Brokaw has published two oral histories of "The Greatest Generation" that feature ordinary people doing their duty and suggest that such conduct was historically unique.

Chris Matthews of "Hardball" is fond of writing columns praising the Navy service of his father while castigating his own baby boomer generation for its alleged softness and lack of struggle. William Bennett gave a startling condescending speech at the Naval Academy a few years ago comparing the heroism of the "D-Day Generation" to the drugs-and-sex nihilism of the "Woodstock Generation." And Steven Spielberg, in promoting his film "Saving Private Ryan," was careful to justify his portrayals of soldiers in action based on the supposedly unique nature of World War II.

An irony is at work here. Lest we forget, the World War II generation now being lionized also brought us the Vietnam War, a conflict which today's most conspicuous voices by and large opposed, and in which few of them served. The "best and brightest" of the Vietnam age group once made headlines by castigating their parents for bringing about the war in which they would not fight, which has become the war they refuse to remember.

Pundits back then invented a term for this animus: the "generation gap."  Long, plaintive articles and even books were written examining its manifestations. Campus leaders, who claimed precocious wisdom through the magical process of reading a few controversial books, urged fellow baby boomers not to trust anyone over 30. Their elders who had survived the Depression and fought the largest war in history were looked down upon as shallow, materialistic, and out of touch.

Those of us who grew up on the other side of the picket line from that era's counter-culture can't help but feel a little leery of this sudden gush of appreciation for our elders from the leading lights of the old counter-culture. Then and now, the national conversation has proceeded from the dubious assumption that those who came of age during Vietnam are a unified generation in the same sense as their parents were, and thus are capable of being spoken for through these fickle elites.

In truth, the "Vietnam generation" is a misnomer. Those who came of age during that war are permanently divided by different reactions to a whole range of counter-cultural agendas, and nothing divides them more deeply than the personal ramifications of the war itself. The sizable portion of the Vietnam age group who declined to support the counter-cultural agenda, and especially the men and women who opted to serve in the military during the Vietnam War, are quite different from their peers who for decades have claimed to speak for them. In fact, they are much like the World War II generation itself. For them, Woodstock was a side show, college protesters were spoiled brats who would have benefited from having to work a few jobs in order to pay their tuition, and Vietnam represented not an intellectual exercise in draft avoidance, or protest marches but a battlefield that was just as brutal as those their fathers faced in World War II and Korea.

Few who served during Vietnam ever complained of a generation gap. The men who fought World War II were their heroes and role models. They honored their father's service by emulating it, and largely agreed with their father's wisdom in attempting to stop Communism's reach in Southeast Asia.

The most accurate poll of their attitudes (Harris, 1980) showed that 91 percent were glad they'd served their country, 74 percent enjoyed their time in the service, and 89 percent agreed with the statement that "our troops were asked to fight in a war which our political leaders in Washington would not let them win." And most importantly, the castigation they received upon returning home was not from the World War II generation, but from the very elites in their age group who supposedly spoke for them.

Nine million men served in the military during Vietnam War, three million of whom went to the Vietnam Theater. Contrary to popular mythology, two-thirds of these were volunteers, and 73 percent of those who died were volunteers. While some attention has been paid recently to the plight of our prisoners of war, most of whom were pilots; there has been little recognition of how brutal the war was for those who fought it on the ground.

Dropped onto the enemy's terrain 12,000 miles away from home, America's citizen-soldiers performed with a tenacity and quality that may never be truly understood. Those who believe the war was fought incompletely on a tactical level should consider Hanoi's recent admission that 1.4 million of its soldiers died on the battlefield, compared to 58,000 total U.S. dead.

Those who believe that it was a "dirty little war" where the bombs did all the work might contemplate that this was the most costly war the U.S. Marine Corps has ever fought-five times as many dead as World War I, three times as many dead as in Korea, and more total killed and wounded than in all of World War II.

Significantly, these sacrifices were being made at a time the United States was deeply divided over our effort in Vietnam. The baby-boom generation had cracked apart along class lines as America's young men were making difficult, life-or-death choices about serving. The better academic institutions became focal points for vitriolic protest against the war, with few of their graduates going into the military. Harvard College, which had lost 691 alumni in World War II, lost a total of 12 men in Vietnam from the classes of 1962 through 1972 combined. Those classes at Princeton lost six, at MIT two. The media turned ever more hostile. And frequently the reward for a young man's having gone through the trauma of combat was to be greeted by his peers with studied indifference or outright hostility.

What is a hero? My heroes are the young men who faced the issues of war and possible death, and then weighed those concerns against obligations to their country. Citizen-soldiers who interrupted their personal and professional lives at their most formative stage, in the timeless phrase of the Confederate Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery, "not for fame or reward, not for place or for rank, but in simple obedience to duty, as they understood it." Who suffered loneliness, disease, and wounds with an often-contagious elan. And who deserve a far better place in history than that now offered them by the so-called spokesman of our so-called generation.

Mr. Brokaw, Mr. Matthews, Mr. Bennett, Mr. Spielberg, meet my Marines.

1969 was an odd year to be in Vietnam. Second only to 1968 [TET Offensive] in terms of American casualties, it was the year made famous by Hamburger Hill, as well as the gut-wrenching Life cover story showing pictures of 242 Americans who had been killed in one average week of fighting. Back home, it was the year of Woodstock, and of numerous anti-war rallies that culminated in the Moratorium march on Washington. The My Lai massacre hit the papers and was seized upon by the anti-war movement as the emblematic moment of the war. Lyndon Johnson left Washington in utter humiliation.

Richard Nixon entered the scene, destined for an even worse fate. In the An Hoa Basin southwest of Da Nang, the Fifth Marine Regiment was in its third year of continuous combat operations. Combat is an unpredictable and inexact environment, but we were well led. As a rifle platoon and company commander,

I served under a succession of three regimental commanders who had cut their teeth in World War II, and four different battalion commanders, three of whom had seen combat in Korea. The company commanders were typically captains on their second combat tour in Vietnam, or young first lieutenants like myself who were given companies after many months of "bush time" as platoon commanders in the Basin's tough and unforgiving environs.

The Basin was one of the most heavily contested areas in Vietnam, its torn, cratered earth offering every sort of wartime possibility. In the mountains just to the west, not far from the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the North Vietnamese Army operated an infantry division from an area called Base Area 112. In the valleys of the Basin, main-force Viet Cong battalions whose ranks were 80 percent North Vietnamese Army regulars moved against the Americans every day. Local Viet Cong units sniped and harassed. Ridgelines and paddy dikes were laced with sophisticated booby traps of every size, from a hand grenade to a 250-pound bomb. The villages sat in the rice paddies and tree lines like individual fortresses, crisscrossed with the trenches and spider holes, their homes sporting bunkers capable of surviving direct hits from large-caliber artillery shells. The Viet Cong infrastructure was intricate and permeating. Except for the old and the very young, villagers who did not side with the Communists had either been killed or driven out to the government controlled enclaves near Da Nang.

In the rifle companies, we spent the endless months patrolling ridgelines and villages and mountains, far away from any notion of tents, barbed wire, hot food, or electricity. Luxuries were limited to what would fit inside one's pack, which after a few "humps" usually boiled down to letter-writing material, towel, soap, toothbrush, poncho liner, and a small transistor radio.

We moved through the boiling heat with 60 pounds of weapons and gear, causing a typical Marine to drop 20 percent of his body weight while in the bush. When we stopped we dug chest-deep fighting holes and slit trenches for toilets. We slept on the ground under makeshift poncho hootches, and when it rained we usually took our hootches down because wet ponchos shined under illumination flares, making great targets. Sleep itself was fitful, never more than an hour or two at a stretch for months at a time as we mixed daytime patrolling with night-time ambushes, listening posts, foxhole duty, and radio watches. Ringworm, hookworm, malaria, and dysentery were common, as was trench foot when the monsoons came. Respite was rotating back to the mud-filled regimental combat base at An Hoa for four or five days, where rocket and mortar attacks were frequent and our troops manned defensive bunkers at night. Which makes it kind of hard to get excited about tales of Woodstock, or camping at the Vineyard during summer break.

We had been told while training that Marine officers in the rifle companies had an 85 percent probability of being killed or wounded, and the experience of "Dying Delta," as our company was known, bore that out. Of the officers in the bush when I arrived, our company commander was wounded, the weapons platoon commander wounded, the first platoon commander was killed, the second platoon commander was wounded twice, and I, commanding the third platoon, fared no better. Two of my original three-squad leaders were killed, and the third shot in the stomach. My platoon sergeant was severely wounded, as was my right guide. By the time I left, my platoon had gone through six radio operators, five of them casualties.

These figures were hardly unique; in fact, they were typical. Many other units; for instance, those who fought the hill battles around Khe Sanh, or were with the famed Walking Dead of the Ninth Marine Regiment, or were in the battle of Hue City or at Dai Do, had it far worse.

When I remember those days and the very young men who spent them with me, I am continually amazed, for these were mostly recent civilians barely out of high school, called up from the cities and the farms to do their year in hell and then return. Visions haunt me every day, not of the nightmares of war but of the steady consistency with which my Marines faced their responsibilities, and of how uncomplaining most of them were in the face of constant danger. The salty, battle-hardened 20-year-olds teaching green 19-year-olds the intricate lessons of the hostile battlefield. The unerring skill of the young squad leaders as we moved through unfamiliar villages and weed-choked trails in the black of night. The quick certainty when a fellow Marine was wounded and needed help. Their willingness to risk their lives to save other Marines in peril. To this day it stuns me that their own countrymen have so completely missed the story of their service, lost in the bitter confusion of the war itself.

Like every military unit throughout history we had occasional laggards, cowards, and complainers. But in the aggregate, these Marines were the finest people I have ever been around. It has been my privilege to keep up with many of them over the years since we all came home. One finds in them very little bitterness about the war in which they fought. The most common regret, almost to a man, is that they were not able to do more for each other and for the people they came to help.

It would be redundant to say that I would trust my life to these men. Because I already have, in more ways than I can ever recount. I am alive today because of their quiet, unaffected heroism. Such valor epitomizes the conduct of Americans at war from the first days of our existence. That the boomer elites can canonize this sort of conduct in our fathers' generation while ignoring it in our own is more than simple oversight. It is a conscious, continuing travesty.

*** Former Secretary of the Navy James Webb was awarded the Navy Cross, Silver Star, and Bronze Star medals for heroism as a Marine in Vietnam. His novels include "The Emperor's General" and "Fields of Fire". ***

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

bring me the head of Warren Oates

There was always something about Oates that reminded me of Bogart.  But Warren Oates was his own actor with his own rugged style.  

Not long ago I watched him co-star along side Vic Morrow in an old Combat episode.  It was just good seeing him again.  He's been in countless old Western television shows.  Though he got his start on television, his talent was always bigger than the small screen.

Warren really shinned in Sam Peckinpah films.  Oates was a character actor who only had four leading roles, thanks to Peckinpah.  I wish that Warren had been utilized more as the leading man.  He was an incredible talent.

Peckinpah made great movies with Oates.  I wonder what John Ford would have done  with this incredible character actor.  I think of Oates, and I am reminded of the Ford's regulars.  I think Warren would have worked well among the likes of John Wayne, Victor McLaughlin, Ward Bond, et all.   I can imagine a place for Warren Oates in Fort Apache.  Like Warren's close relationship with Peckinpah, I get the feeling Ford would have taken a liking to Warren as well.

Warren could have played so much more if given the opportunity for other types of leading roles.  I believe he would have if he had lived longer.  Up front I mentioned that Oates had some Bogart qualities.  I don't know of any actors that could take on Humphrey Bogart kind of roles.  I can picture Oates as Duke Mantee in Petrified Forest or Charlie Allnut in The African Queen.  Oates could fill those shoes as well as so many other great actor's shoes, he was just that good.

I am sorry he is gone, because he could have shown us more.  I believe he was more versatile than what we saw of him in his short lifespan.  Even so, he is still remembered by many and regarded as one of the best.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

tra-la-lala live for today

We got some good music from the era, and that's about it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

a future we were offered

Remember all those fascinating illustrations we used to see in books as kids?  I don't mean just the ones we saw in comic books, but in other legitimate grown up magazines of our youthful days.  I even remember these kind of  cool futuristic illustrations gracing some of our Science text books.  I kid you not.

We remember the space race and seeing the first man on the moon.  As a kid, we were fed the idea that we were all probably going to get a crack at getting a job constructing some huge domed space facility on Mars.  I know, the future is never what we make of it.  It's all wild hunches.  I must say, even though mankind has accomplished many incredible feats, I am a little disappointed.  I really liked all those futuristic illustrations that  now seem so camp and silly.  That was one nifty looking future we had fed to us.