Friday, June 30, 2006

friday distractions...

Well I have to admit I was somewhat surprised by the results of our very unscientific Superman poll. Here are the results:
1. Dean Cain, Lois and Clark: 34%
2. George Reeves, 1950 TV series: 30%
3. Christopher Reeve, Superman, the Movie: 20%
4. Tom Whelling, Smallville: 8 %
5. Kirk Alyn, 1940's Serial: 6%
6. Timothy Daly, voice for 90's animated series: 2%
A couple of questions come to mind: Do 6% of the voters really know who Kik Alyn is? Have they seen the serial? How many have watched the George Reeves TV show? Nevertheless we have confidence in our loyal voters!
Shelfers, we present to you the best Superman according to Shelf voters:

Dean Cain

(sorry, I just had to have Teri Hatcher in the picture as well!)

A new poll is now up on the sidebar- scroll down and look on the right.
Who has been the best James Bond? Daniel Craig doesn't count. The poll will be part of a special James Bond feature on The Shelf in the near future, so don't forget to vote!

Here's a blog that I ran across listing all of the animated cartoons on YouTube. And amongst them I found a treasure trove of Tex Avery. Along with Chuck Jones, Tex Avery is perhaps my favorite animation director ever. His sense of timing and comedic nonesense was and has been unduplicated. He was a master. It is a crime that Droopy and the rest of Tex Avery's cartoons haven't been presented in a DVD collection in the US. Who owns the rights and why are they sitting on them? That is perhaps a question for esteemed animation historian and Shelf favorite, Jerry Beck.

Speaking of which, Jerry Beck helped identify a cartoon of Tex's over at Animation History Forum. It is one of my all-time Tex Avery favorites, but I couldn't remember the title. It is 1955's The First Bad Man. It is among Tex's last cartoons for MGM, but I believe it is one of his best. So we present for your viewing pleasure, not only that great cartoon, but also one of my favorite Droopy cartoons by Tex Avery, Wags to Richescourtesy of YouTube!
By the way, please visit Amid and Jerry over at Cartoon Brew, its one of my favorite daily visits. Also, for any animation history discussion or questions, visit the gang over at Animation History Forum (sign up for a membership- it's free!), moderated by Jerry Beck.

On to your Friday distraction!

First, The First Bad Man:

Next,Wags to Riches:


Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

You know what? I'm happy. Hooray.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

elementary roundup, watson

What time is it? Why elementary, my dear Shelfers, it's time for the weekly unpaid venture into madness known as the media roundup. This week we have an assortment of goodies to tempt and entertain you. Don't worry, we will make all inquires discretely, and all findings shall be made known in a logical and timely fashion. While we wear no Deerstalker, nor do we carry a meerschaum pipe, we do promise to uncover the true classics and items worthy of your attention so you don't have to do any of the leg work. No need to thank us, that's just how we roll at 221B Baker Street.


Top Shelf Pick of the Week:

The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection

There have been many, and I mean many, low quality and cheap Sherlock Holmes DVDs out on the shelves. Assorted collections had only, as you could guess, assorted movies. I have even seen a company selling The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes on DVD Rs and it was grainy at best. Now comes along a collection that seems to do justice to Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce and to Holmes fans everywhere. The UCLA Theater Archival program worked for years on amassing the best prints and restoring the films to their great black and white glory. The result is this MPI Home Video complete collection of the 14 Holmes films that starred Rathbone and Bruce. 5 discs not only have all the films, but also wonderful special features; including interview footage of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a documentary on the restoration process done by UCLA, and six audio commentaries (including one with actress Patricia Morison, who was in Dressed to Kill). This set may seem pricey, but the fact of this being the only complete collection of the Rathbone/Bruce series and the evidence of the quality speak for themselves. As for the films themselves, many are excellent and a few are superb. There are only a couple, towards the end of the run thankfully, that seem a bit haggard and long in the tooth. Adventures and Hound of the Baskervilles are perhaps the best known and most loved. Hound is perhaps the peak of Sherlockian perfection for the series. For many fans, Rathbone and Bruce ARE Holmes and Watson, perhaps one of the best screen duos to portray the team. They not only did film, but also had a Sherlock Holmes radio show. Too bad none of those shows were included as extras in this set. Only in the past couple of decades has a team of actors approached the quality and association of Holmes and Watson, namely Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke who portrayed the sleuth and sidekick in the BBC Sherlock Holmes series. Something that was odd about the Rathbone/Bruce series was the choice to "go modern" in later films. In some films it works, sort of, but in others its too distracting. Nonetheless, this is a classic piece of film making and classic Hollywood. Pick it up and see for yourself why these films became the archetypical Holmes for many fans.


Man, first Nate and Hayes hits DVD and now my other favorite Pirate film from the 80s debuts on DVD: Yellowbeard. I wonder what's the deal... oh, wait- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is coming out soon. Isn't marketing grand? Actually, in this case it is. If I were to tell you that you could bring the elements of Mel Brooks, Monty Python, and Cheech and Chong together in one film would you go see it? Of course you would. Well, this is it. What's that? You never heard of it? Shame on you! Lemme just list some of the cast for you: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Madeline Khan, Peter Cook... and the list goes on. It's as if British and American humor got together and had a baby...awww. Several reviewers have actually stated the film is funnier than they remember, but I remember it being hilarious. Chapman plays the vicious, yet somewhat demented and now forgetful pirate Yellowbeard. It turns out Yellowbeard hid his vast treasure and the only map to that treasure is tattooed on his son's head. Many people, including the British Navy and Spanish are after that treasure. The only problem is that Yellowbeard is in prison at the St. Victim's Prison for the Extremely Naughty. The British allow for Yellowbeard to escape and then the chase is on. Many critics panned the film when it premiered in 1983, and it didn't do all that well. In fact, John Cleese has said it was the worst film he's ever done (Ummm... Rat Race, John?) and only did it as a favor to Chapman. I declare it to be "Shelf Worthy" and a great and funny film. Not all films can be Citizen Kane, but they should be entertaining. This is one is definitely entertaining and fun. One sad note: Marty Feldman died during the making of this film. This film was also Chapman's last.

Time Machine: When Cowboys were King
My generation, as well as successive ones, has been robbed if you ask me. When I was born, the Western was breathing its last (or so was thought) last gasp. When my Father was a kid, you couldn't get away from them. Sure, that meant a lot of "bad" westerns, but it also meant a lot of great ones. Now, however, I think the Western is undergoing a renaissance of sorts if cable television is any indication. AMC's recent film Broken Trail was the highest rated show this past Sunday. Open Range and other recent Westerns are doing very well for themselves. This documentary was written by film and television historian and journalist, Doug Nye, and is extremely well done. Take a journey through films and television and discover a time when cowboys truly were king.


Superman Returns: The Soundtrack
Why on earth would anyone willingly place themselves in someone else's shadow? Why would an artist do a performance that would inevitably raise comparisons to a master? In this case it's fairly obvious. John Williams is a master composer. Film scores from the 70s and 80s and into the 90s were pretty much John Williams kingdom. Some films can be instantly brought to memory just by humming a few bars from one of his works, especially Superman. When Bryan Singer was brought on board to direct Superman Returns, his opinion of the music was you can't have Superman and not have John Williams. Singer's choice for a composer, John Ottman, brings back John William's classic score and adds to the music of Superman with some wonder pieces. This is a Soundtrack that harkens back to the film soundtracks of yore, and brings to mind not only William's score but other music for great adventure films. No Who Let the Dawgs Out here. Take a listen to the whole thing on aol music.

The Essential Judy Garland and Diana Ross: Blue

These are wonderful CDs that should be in everyone's collection. Judy Garland's talent and presence really comes through in this collection. And Diana Ross' album Blue was made shortly after she starred in the Billie Holliday biopic, Lady Sings the Blues. Barry Gordy shelved this album, thinking she was getting too far away from contemporary music and focusing too much on jazz and the standards. Too bad, but luckily for us it is out now, decades later. Her voice and work on some of the most sublime music ever is wonderful.


The Acme Catalog: Quality is Our #1 Dream: by Charles Carney

Looking for that Road Runner Female decoy robot that seems to be the hard to find item today? How about a catapult capable of throwing a huge boulder across a highway, which will inevitably bounce back to land on you? Well, wait no more! This catalog is for you! Yes, it's the Acme Co. Catalog replete with all kinds of gadgets and mechanical wonders! Longtime Warner Brothers scribe Charles Carney compiled this funny tribute to the ultimate in home shopping. Everyone from Daffy Duck to the indefatigable Wile E. Coyote has used the products from Acme, but with mixed results. Now you can see why!

Y: The Last Man, Volume 7: Paper Dolls.

I have only recently begun to read this graphic novel series. In fact I read the first 4 volumes in one evening. Having really been away from comics in the last decade or so, I have only indulged in the occasional graphic novel or some classic reprints like the excellent DC Archives series. Someone gave me a tip about this series and I'm glad they did. "Something" has swept the earth and resulted in "gendercide" killing all male humans and animals on the earth. All, that is, except for Yorick Brown and his monkey, Ampersand. Yorick is not some sort of scientist or superhero. In fact, he is an unemployed college grad with an English degree and fondness for escape tricks. Exactly how he came to survive is still a mystery, but it may have something to do with the monkey. Accompanied by a secret agent assigned to protect him and a scientist trying to discover what has happened, Yorick and Company are traveling the globe trying to piece the puzzle together... without getting Yorick killed in the process. While the plot sounds like just this side of hokey, it isn't. The writing is excellent and the twists and turns will leave you guessing. Try and cross Twilight Zone and Outer Limits with comics and that's pretty close to what you get with Y: The Last Man. Give it a try- it's a fun piece of escapism and it also seriously explores philosophy, politics, and 21st century scientific ethics with humor and panache. What has been really interesting is the exploration of what the world would be like without any men. It's not what you think.

Television: (check local listings for times)

Shelf picks for Turner Classic Movies
June 28th: Some great films tonight! Don't miss Anthony Quinn in Requiem For A Heavyweight (1962). It's an epic you need to see: Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Later on Anthony Quinn returns in The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968)

June 29th: You want pirate movies? I'll give you a pirate movie:The Sea Hawk (1940). Then watch Hepburn and Tracy in Keeper Of The Flame (1942). Later stay for a little known Bogie flick: It All Came True (1940)

June 30th: It's a great day to call in sick and watch some classic comedy with Monkey Business (1952) and Ball Of Fire (1941). Later watch Eve Marie Saint in two of her best: On The Waterfront (1954) and North By Northwest (1959)

July 1st: Watch the great Randolph Scott western, Seven Men From Now (1956). Then celebrate the lovely Olivia DeHavilland's birthday with The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Santa Fe Trail (1940), Gone With the Wind (1939) & The Heiress (1949).
July 2nd: The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944), Flying Down To Rio (1933)

July 3rd: TCM has baseball fever: Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949), The Stratton Story (1949), The Pride Of The Yankees (1942)

July 4th: Celebrate the fourth of July with some All-American movies: The Wizard Of Oz (1939), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Sergeant York (1941), Knute Rockne All American (1940)

That's all folks, to quote a dear friend. Don't forget: Superman Returns premieres across the country today! We still have our Superman poll up, and the results so far are somewhat surprising. We'll leave it up for another day and then post the results. Don't forget to vote for your favorite.

As always your comments are welcome.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

You've a magnificent brain, Moriarty. I admire it. I'd like to present it pickled in alcohol to the London Medical Society.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

trying to escape reality...

Long time regular readers of The Shelf will remember our weekend correspondant in the trenches, Baravelli. Recently, he has been discussing with us what he thinks are the "real" reality shows. We asked him to put down the remote and let Shelfer's know how he really feels.... By the way, voting in the Superman poll continues through the weekend, so don't forget to scroll down on the sidebar and vote! And now to Baravelli...

Why hello again. I hope that all is well. I have been dealing with the everyday occurrences in my life. This led me to think about my “reality” life. It consists of getting up at the crack of daylight and getting ready for work. During the day I will endure trials with a variety of outcomes. Once at home, it does not stop. I will run around a 2 yr old and make “boo-boos” better, hit the repeat button on the Wiggles CD, and make sure that the Pull-Up is properly secured! Note: I am not complaining about my life. I love being a family man. I am, however, tired of all those lame far fetched shows out there that are characterized as “reality shows”. You know which ones I am referring to. The ones where a group of people get left alone in some far out place with only a “few” supplies and they little by little get sent home to their original life. Oh yeah, the lucky one to survive this terrible ordeal; poor thing, being so abandoned; will get a million dollars! Please!!!

We need some real television shows. A show where it will show a boss make you work late, where a diaper will explode right before you get it off, a show where, right as you sit down for dinner, the phone rings and you are asked if you have a minute for a questionnaire. This is REALITY!!!!!!
The Discovery Channel has almost captured this with its line up.

1. Dirty Jobs
2. American Chopper
3. American Hot Rod
4. Deadliest Catch

These programs display hard working, blue collar individuals, dealing with deadlines. They deal with their bad days. They get angry, they get tired and they get disappointed. They even have to deal with their co-workers. Yes Sir, this is good stuff!

My favorite, by far, is Dirty Jobs. The show’s host, Mike Rowe, will go out and do the dirtiest things ever thought of. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE HERE, THAT HE IS DOING SOMEONES ACTUAL JOB!!! It is not some summer made up task, or finding a buried treasure. It is the way that person supports his or her family. So far, there has not been one show that I have seen or heard anyone say “let’s make a golf date.” In Deadliest Catch those men leave behind their families in search of crab. They fish off the Burien Sea. Those waters are rough, cold and miserable. Yes, they do it for the money, but they are also doing it because of supply and demand. Yeah, every time someone goes out to the ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT BUFFET, and gets plate after plate of crab legs, they need to remember how that crab got there. It did not just jump out of the sea like Ariel’s Sebastian and talk to the cook. Someone had to catch it and deliver it.

I hope that you get a chance to watch an episode of Dirty Jobs or any of the other Discovery Shows. It will open your eyes to good people trying to make a living. It will make you appreciative of what you are doing for a living and make you appreciate what your neighbor may do. In a time in our society where there are Martha’s and Enron’s, it is nice to see what hard working Americans do elsewhere.

Well, who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?

You can't fool me! There ain't no Santa Claus!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

the king (no, not that one)

Classic film fans- I know what you are thinking. You are thinking "Mr. Loophole, in your Superman fanboy excitement you seem to have forgotten something in the media roundup."
Yes indeed it would appear that way, but in fact it is not the case. Call it technical difficulties or a blog malfunction, but this week's media roundup had a section deleted either before or during posting. Blogger hasn't been kind the past weeks, but we will attribute the *ahem* problem to a bit of a snafu.
What in the world am I talking about? Well in the latest edition of the media roundup, apparently a previous draft is what made it on the front page without a key DVD release mentioned- a DVD release that was surely in my final draft. I just happened to notice today it was missing. So to right the wrong, correct the incorrect and return the unreturnable without a receipt, I give you our second Top Shelf Pick of the Week in what I like to refer to as Media Roundup II: The blogger strikes back

Top Shelf Pick of the week II
Clark Gable Signature Edition
Perhaps you have seen the actor they used to refer to as "The King" - Mr. Gone With The Wind himself, Clark Gable. If you are a classic animation fan, I know you've seen caricatures of him on Looney Tunes. Sure, big ears and goofy grin... but let me tell ya' something: the ladies love Gable. And not just Rhett Butler. They love Gable. And apparently, Gable loved the ladies.
I had a girlfriend in High School that was ga-ga over Gable. She was a certified GWTW freak. It wasn't too bad- she was more inclined to watch classic films and was easy to shop for at Christmas time. One time, I even asked her why she liked him so much. She shrugged her shoulders and just sighed. "He's Gable," was her faint reply. "Geezz, get a room" I retorted, having just really learned retorting in Junior English. Then she turned the tables on me, which I wouldn't have minded, except some tables can be heavy. "Well, why do you like him?" she asked. I'll give you Shelfers the same answer I gave to her- cause he's bad dude. As in Michael Jackson album"Bad", not Michael Jackson now lives in another country even thought he was found innocent "bad". Hey, it was the 80s- cut me some slack jack (more on our Airplane! argument another day).
Why do guys like Gable, Cagney, Wayne, Bogie and Flynn? Quite simply because they were good actors and they were at their best when they told the world to take a flying leap. Gable didn't take any lip. No closed door was going to keep him out and nobody was going to push him around. In short, these characters that these actors portrayed didn't take any crap off of anybody. And believe me, there is a lot of crap in the world, and a lot of people slinging it.
These movies and actors gave a certain vent to that- to the movie going public who was getting pushed around, stepped on, and taking crap in real life. Whether it was the depression, the war, or hard times- it was carthardic. The ladies came because of the romance, intrigue, and the "sigh" factor. These were movies that both the sexes could get into. Nowadays that combination is very rare. There are now "Guy movies" and "Chick Flicks." Back then, you could go watch a good flick that had a little something for everyone. See, the movies brought us together. I think that today, marketing types spend too much time finding a "niche" and putting us into demographic categories. That's just sad.
The thing is that Gable and these other actors were so very good in the movies, that they last the test of time. Many of their films are still revered, loved, and watched today. Even this batch of flicks in the Signature Collection series may not be a GWTW, but they are heckuva lot better than what I've seen previewed at the multiplex lately.
The set feautures six films, five early Gable films and one from the 1950s.
Boom Town features Gable and Spencer Tracy as oilmen who strike it rich and what it does to them and the women in their lives, Hedy Lamar and Claudette Colbert.
Dancing Lady is a sort of Backstage Musical type of movie starring Gable as a Broadway Director and Joan Crawford as a struggling young dancer. The film also features the film debut of The Three Stooges. (Guy factor increases 30%, which makes up for the "Backstage musical" factor)
China Seas pairs Rosalind Russell with Gable, as a merchant sailor carrying a ship full of gold in Asian seas. Russell plays his fiance, and the film also stars Jean Harlow as Gable's mistress along for the ride. If that wasn't bad enough, Wallace Berry is round looking for a way to take the gold for himself.
San Fransisco is a period film starring Gable, Tracy, and Jeanette MacDonald and is set during the time of the great Frisco earthquake. This film has one of most hailed disaster sequences filmed up to that time.
Wife Vs. Secretary brings Harlow and Gable together again and adds Shelf favorite Myrna Loy to the mix. And yes, that is James Stewart that you see in one of his first major film roles.
Mogambo is the (better) 1953 remake of the earlier Gable film, Red Dust. This time however, Gable's Big Game Hunter and guide finds himself persued by Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly. Problems, problems.

The extras are many, of course, as befitting a Warners Home Video release. Two in particular stand out - an early short featuring the Three Stooges (with Ted Healy) in Plane Nuts and one that features Curly sans Moe and Larry before he was known as Curly: Roast Beef and Movies. Also not to be missed is the 1996 bio-documentary, Clark Gable: Tall, Dark & Handsome, narrated by Liam Neeson. This set is definitely a Shelf must-have.

And Gable fans- Fox will be releasing a different set of Gable films on August 15 of this year- The Clark Gable Collection, featuring three films, Soldier of Fortune, The Tall Men and The Call of the Wild. So be on the look out for that.

Well that's all for today Shelfers. We wouldn't be The Shelf without the classic films, we hope we have restored your faith and have done the King some justice. For a more in depth look and some fantastic images from these films, go on over and visit John at Greenbrier Picture Shows. It will be well worth it as Mr. McElwee never disappoints.

Oh- and don't forget to vote in our Superman poll on the sidebar!

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

I make my contribution to this mixed-up community they call the world.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

it's a bird...

UPDATE 6-21-06! Please check the sidebar for a new poll on who you thought has been the best Superman, not including Brandon Routh. Scroll down on the sidebar and vote! We'll keep it up on the sidebar 'til opening weekend, and then we'll have a special post naming the results as your top Superman picks and provide the usual Flywheel and Loophole banter. Don't forget to vote!

It's time for that weekly foray into the world of pop culture mediums that we affectionately call the roundup. And this week looks to be a "Super" week! Sorry, I couldn't resist. Superman speaks to the best of us. It takes an alien orphan with super powers to help us defeat great evil, but it is being adopted by humanity and given earthly midwest American values that provides his moral compass. A combination of the best of ourselves plus that which we cannot do for ourselves or what is beyond ourselves is what truly makes Superman not just super or man, but heroic. There is so much mythology to the story of Superman, that in many ways it barely resembles Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel's original creation. I think as with a lot of myth, folklore, and fictional stories, what is great is not only the things we get out of the stories, but also what they teach us about ourselves.

While never told around campfires or alleged to be true, I believe Superman is one of the most enduring American folklore and legends of the 20th century; and I believe it will be around for a while. Superman has entries in movies, books, television, radio, not to mention comics and games. I don't really think that there is a story or "legendary figure" that has pervaded more parts of the American culture and consciousness in the twentieth century than Superman. Can you think of one? Can you think of one more imitated, loathed, loved, enduring or known? Perhaps very few. (Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny as far as characters go- maybe- but seen any live action Mickey movies lately?) Yes I know there is a lot of subtext and symbolism about late 19th century/early 20th century immigration and assimilation and about Judeo-Christian values and imagery in the Superman myth that I am not discussing. But that is just the point I am making, what other story or American folklore can really evoke all of that? Besides you can find many other essays and discussions of this around the web. Good stuff too.

When I was a kid, Superman was the stuff. It was the late 70s and the Richard Donner film Superman exploded into theaters. Sure, Star Wars kids were everywhere. Me? I had the Superman lunchbox, t shirt, and of course, the comic books... and underoos. And so did many other kids I knew. Light sabers? Ha! Try heat vision- sure you could wave that saber thing around and duel, but being invulnerable and being able to burn stuff by looking at it rocks. Jedi mind tricks? Yeah, pretty cool. But X-ray vision, super cool breath and super speed is more my style. Cool spaceships? Ok, but I gotta tell ya, being able to fly into space without a ship is wicked cool. Kryptonite weakness? Well, you got me there; but that whole "my-dad-is-my-evil-enemy-who-cut-my-hand-off" thing has got to suck. Ouch. Besides you may have had James Earl Jones' voice, but Supes had both Marlon Brando and Glenn Ford. Kick Ass.

There have been many incarnations of Superman over the almost 70 years that he has been around. Some great, some so-so, some just plain forgettable. There are some "super" picks for this week in anticipation of the movie debut of Superman Returns in theaters. So much great stuff that our Top Shelf pick is just - Superman.


Top Shelf Pick of the Week:

Lois and Clark:The New Adventures of Superman: The Complete Third Season.

There was something different with this series that made me really enjoy not just the show, but Superman even more. Dean Cain sums it up in a line from the Tempus Fugitive episode in season 2 when he tells Lois that Clark is who he is, Superman is what he does. Now that isn't necessarily earth-shattering, but people connected to that in a way that they hadn't really connected to Superman before. In a way, Superman gained a bit more "human-ness" in the sense that while he could, as Superman, defy gravity and stop bullets with his teeth; as Clark he could still fall in love, and go through the heartbreaks, failures, and troubles that go along with being human. If a alien baby, such as Kal-El, was raised on earth by mortal parents from midwest America, would nature or nurture win out? Or could both be the sum total of the individual. I think in a small measure, this series addresses it better than any other before. Sure the approach of Lois and Clark is heavy on the romantic comedy and action, but the subtext in his interaction and relationships with Lois, his parents, and others really bring out that side of Superman. A side that I think emerged with Siegel and Shuster's original creation. We could really discuss in depth that context that S and S intended when they gave Superman midwest American values, but I think we'll leave that for a non-roundup post. Suffice it to say, "Truth, Justice, and the American Way" was not just a great catch phrase for the creators. It was purposeful and important.

I know some "purists" who don't like L & C because it is a romantic comedy and not a real part of Superman, but I gotta tell ya- they are dreaming. Most of the "established" Superman lore didn't get established until the late 40s and early 50s. And even then, DC comics have changed so much of the story and added things and gone back and forth with the characters, that it's hard to keep up. L & C keeps the essential stuff, doesn't play fast and loose with the mythology and sticks to the story. What they do add is the honesty, romance, and humor that really has been there all along. How long could Superman truly have gone without Lois figuring it out? I mean really, in the words of one villain in L & C: "Duh!" I love romantic comedies, especially the screwball classics of the 30s and 40s. This is a bit of a throw back to that spirit- but definitely heavy on the adventure, mythos, and idealism that is Superman. More over I think the cast was perhaps one of the best (I'll take Teri Hatcher's Lois over Margot Kidder any day... sorry that's just me.) for a Superman show. And Dean Cain is perhaps one of my favorite incarnations of Superman. He modeled his "Super" part of the character after Christopher Reeve, and then really added more dimension and depth to Clark. You can say it's light hearted fare or that it was vapid... I'm saying I loved the show and that comes from a lifelong "comic readin', Superman I and II watchin' " fan. This season in particular was great, it had some excellent writing, and the special effects were getting more sophisticated and the cast was really gelling and bringing out so much more in the stories. This DVD TV box set is highly recommended. Besides, I think they come with a free pass to Superman Returns. Can you beat that?

The Adventures of Superman: The Third and Fourth Seasons

This is old school Superman. Superman is the main guy and Clark is the secret identity. Not much about duality, roles in life, or humanity here- just the straight stuff. Sure a product of the 50s, but important and fun nevertheless. George Reeves played Superman like a post-WWII, idealic American hero. Tough, straight-laced and courageous. You might complain about that, but why? Are you gonna complain about how the conformist ideals represented hurt our culture and how this buys into the white male mythos and crushes an chances for minorities and women? I've heard it before and discussed it in an academic setting before. Yes, this is a product of the 50s, but like all mythology, this version is one that resonates with the era in which it is told, yet adds something to it. This is his story, not yours. Besides, we sure could use more of the same. Superman has taught respect for all people and races and creed- even in this series. The "American way" that many lefties so despise really does mean freedom and independence which are good things for humanity, despite that fact that they think otherwise. The American journey may have been and is rough, but the goal and purpose has been the same. The Declaration and the Constitution have been the bulwarks, the ideals and the goals we created for ourselves. We may not have been perfect in keeping them, and it has taken humans many years to make them apply to all Americans, but it has never been anything but our ultimate destination. I think this Superman evokes much of that, as a Cold War Superman probably would. Besides Supes was the ultimate minority: the only survivor of his whole Kryptonian race. Zod and Supergirl came later.

Look Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman

This documentary was on A&E last week and I thought it was fairly well done, maybe a little too much covered in too little time, but a good show nonetheless. Some interesting stuff about the making of the Superman film series is included that I did not know before. I would have preferred more on the impact on popular culture itself and not just its various manifestations in various cultural mediums. Either way it is worthy of your attention and the DVD release contains 20 more minutes than the A&E presentation.

More Superman this week:

Superman: The Animated Series, Volume Three. I have missed many of these. This volume is the last of the series, so I plan to go back and watch these with my boys. One of my sons is a big Superman fan and really loves the Fleischer shorts. It will be interesting to see how he likes these.

Justice League Season 2: This is a fantastic animated series. I really enjoyed the first 3 seasons and watched it fairly regularly. The scripting was tight, the animation continued in that same style of the Superman animated series in the 90s (which was a bit of a throw back to the great Fleischer shorts in the 30s). Think I'm too old for this? This isn't Superfriends, kiddies, so be prepared for some series butt kicking, infighting and storytelling goodness. Besides when the animation in me dies, the kid in me dies, and that's a sad thing.

Superboy: The Complete First Season. To be honest, I never saw it. Be it is being released today for those of you who are interested. Never cared for the Superboy comics in particular, but I think Smallville is pretty good and doing some interesting and cool stuff with the legend. You can tell the creators and writers of that show know alot about the mythology.

Other DVD releases:

Nate and Hayes

If there is one other thing I am geeky about it's pirates. OK there are many other things I am geeky about, but one of them is definitely pirates. I am sure Christian over at Cinerati can relate. I hope he and many of you have seen this film. Yes, that is Tommy Lee Jones. The Tommy Lee Jones. And yes that is Michael O'Keefe of Caddyshack and Rosanne fame. Part Indiana Jones, part swashbuckler, this is a funny, action packed pirate film. In anticipation of the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, do yourself a favor and check out this underrated gem. You'll thank me later.


Smokey Robinson: Timeless Love.

The are several distinct, really, inimitable voices in music and Smokey Robinson is one of the best. Smokey brings that voice to the standards in Timeless Love. The result? Some of the songs could've been written for him. There are many artists out there who have tackled the great American songbook, but the ones that stand out are the ones who make the songs their own. Smokey's Timeless Love stands out.


Guilty pleasures: Big Brother All-Stars (CBS) I know, I know- but I can't help it. It's sort of the same fascination that people have with watching hamsters in a cage, or a wreck. This year's All-Stars edition promises to be both. On June 21st, host Julie Chen introduces the 20 candidates from past seasons, who the public will be able to vote into the house. Should be interesting. Mrs. Loophole and I have watched this show, like The Amazing Race, since it's first season. While The Amazing Race has my heart, Big Brother is truly a guilty pleasure. Check it out.

TCM (check local listings for times)

The Shelf Picks for TCM

June 21th: The Outlaw (1943)

July 22th: City For Conquest (1940), Double Indemnity (1944), The Lost Weekend (1945)

June 23th: Sunset Boulevard (1950)

June 24th: She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949), The Quiet Man (1952), Black Narcissus (1947), and The African Queen (1951)

June 25th: Buck Privates (1941), My Favorite Blonde (1942), My Favorite Brunette (1947), and My Favorite Spy (1951)

June 26th: Humoresque (1946) , Two Women (1960) , My Man Godfrey (1936)

June 27th: A James Stewart marathon: The Far Country (1955), The Naked Spur (1953), Winchester '73 (1950), Thunder Bay (1953), and Night Passage (1957).

Well, Shelfers- that be all for this week's edition of the roundup. Don't forget that your comments are always welcome. Got your favorite incarnation of Superman? Did we overlook an album you are looking forward to? Sound off in the comments section. 'Til next time, adieu.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

A mild mannered reporter really a superhero? Clark, come on.

Friday, June 16, 2006

the next step

Hugo Chavez is well on his way now. A while back we discussed how this socialist dictator is taking his steps down the same road so many others have troden before. Now it seems he has leaped several spaces ahead on the old "Dictator Pursuit" board game and has now decided that free speech is a major annoyance and needs to just be done away with, post haste.

"They hide behind a supposed freedom of speech," says Hugo, "I don't care what the oligarchs of the world say. We've shown that we aren't authoritarian or arbitrary.''

We spied on Chavez's to do list. Here is what we found:
"A. Blame everything on the media
B. Tell everyone that it's not my fault, I'm the good guy. Call them names."
So far so good...sounds pretty standard. Oh wait! What's this?
"C. Shut down the television stations that oppose me. Maybe jail them."
Ooohh. Not good H. Eliminate free speech. Not good. Oh wait, there's more...
"D. Pick up dry cleaning and milk."
Now before any of you wanna be lefties and mini-socialist who really have no idea what you want go nuts- remember this is the first step towards eliminating free speech altogether. Sure you could say that he isn't really trying to get rid of free speech, he's just not renewing contracts. Riiggghht. Just not renewing the contracts of those media outlets that disagree with him. Yes, they are first, but others will come. In this country we hope that multiple voices are out there, we reserve the right to respond to them and engage them when necessary to explain and put forth our own point of views. But, Hugo? Not Hugo!

So sez the wannabe Che:
"We can't keep giving concessions to a group of people who use television stations against us. Every day they broadcast messages of hate, of disrespect toward institutions, of doubt among us, rumors, psychological war to divide the nation."

Look, Hugo baby- just chill! Back home we call that CNN.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

A shepherd must tend his flock. And at times... fight off the wolves.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

intermediate roundup

This is one of those weeks where there are some really cool things coming out, that if you scanned the average sale ad or release list, you'd miss it. At the same time there aren't many "big" releases this week, so your wallet could stand the rest. Especially if you went ahead and picked up the John Wayne John Ford Collection last week. (Psst - hey kids- Father's Day. You remember Father's Day? Hint, hint) So take a breather this week and try something different. Consider this an intermediate roundup! You know, kind of like the last minute gift table or the "Gifts under $20" section where you can pick up something nice and not break the budget. Even the Top Shelf pick, which is a must buy, is not going to dip into your ramen noodle money.

Top Shelf Pick of the week:
This is America, Charlie Brown
This eight-episode miniseries premeired on CBS in 1988. It was the first animated prime time "mini-series" that debuted on television and was also seen later on Saterday morning and more recently on Nick. Episodes covered the voyages of the Puritans to the New World, the writing of the Constitution, the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, the Wright Brothers and several inventors, composers and other American Icons. Now some of you are thinking one of either two things: "Sure, this is watered down history. No minorities, no women- just white mans achievements" or "Gee, Mr. Loophole, how much history can a cartoon teach. I mean, it's just a cartoon." Allow me to start with the last possible contention first: It is just cartoon, much in the way the history textbook that your kid likely doesn't have in school is just a book. What you get out of it and the journeys it leads you on is where the true value is found. No book, just as no other medium of information, is truly the entire collection of information, knowledge, and yes- opinion, that you will ever need. If this cartoon is a launching pad for a lifetime interest in history, then your eight year old needs it yesterday. Trust me, they're not going to get it in school anytime soon. Make sure you ask if they understand and if they have questions so you can discuss it with them. That way, this is more than a cartoon. It was designed as a look at people and events in American History that have been significant or important in some way. And it is presented in a very entertaining and non-pointy head academic way. Schoolhouse Rock got me interested in History as a kid. Very short capsules of information lead me to discover so much more. Often a journey on a very long path begins with a very small gate.
Next, in regards to minorities and women and why this isn't post-modernist social history; well, first of all it isn't revisionism. That's a good start. The fact is, it does talk about Americans, and that includes all minorities and includes women's history. Sufferage, slavery, immigration, jazz, heck even Vietnam are discussed in the course of the series in a matter of fact tone. It isn't overly harsh, but then some difficult topics aren't avoided either. The purpose is in discussing the story of America through Charlie Brown and the gang and the result is a wonderfully scripted and superbly animated series that every family should own. And with music created especially for the series by David Benoit, Dave Brubeck, George Winston, the Winans, Lou Rawls, Ed Bogas, and Wynton Marsalis (and with music by the late Vince Guaraldi of course) how can it go wrong.

Other great picks this week:
Betty Grable Collection
This collection of 4 films features the World War II Pinup girl with the gams, Betty Grable in several pretty decent Fox musicals. The films are also available separately.
My grandfather loves this comedy starring Dom Deluise as an overwieght man trying to overcome his weight problem. Dom finds love, and it is love that begins to really help him, providing him a different form of comfort and security other than food. There are some very funny moments, and while the film will seem a bit dated the sweetness and humor and problems are not.
The Rat Pack Collection
If you don't already own Oceans 11, Robin and the Seven Hoods, or Four for Texas this is a good chance to swoop them up in one buy. Oceans 11 is my favorite of the bunch and I am looking forward to seeing Four for Texas. These aren't Citizen Kane by any stretch of the imagination, but they were never meant to be. They were meant to be fun and entertaining. That suits me to a T.

A Half Century of Hits: Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis somehow falls under the shadow of Elvis when it comes to Rock and Roll- as do many other artists. However, that doesn't mean he really deserves to be there. Lewis was a dynamic performer and could really warble out some great hits. This box set collection covers his career through its many phases.
I'll Be Seeing You: A Sentimental Journey: Regina Carter
I have never really heard too much "violin jazz" until I checked out this album. It is a little strange hearing the violin in the forefront of a swing jazz band, but it works. Regina Carter covers some well worn songs from the American Songbook, but her take on some of the standards are fresh and enjoyable. St. Louis Blues and I'll Be Seeing You are particular standouts.
Suitcase: Keb Mo’
Blues are a wonderous thing- and I think that we are truly in a time when the new Blues artists or artist willing to crossover or bring the Blues into their music is hitting another high. Keb Mo' takes traditional Blues for spin and brings in some other Blues styles into Suitcase. An excellent followup to his Grammy winning album Keep it Simple.
Mercernary: Dr. John
Dr. John, to me, is almost impossible to really pigeonhole. He probably likes it that way. You have heard that distinctive voice and that signature piano. He takes jazz, blues, funk, and good old rock and roll, shoves it in the blender and then adds his personal touch. I love the man's music and when you close your eyes, you can almost feel the beatup hardwood floor under your feet and smell the smokey air.

Television: (check local listings for times)

The Shelf Picks for TCM this week-
June 14th: Road to Singapore (1940) Road to Morocco (1942) Back To Bataan (1945)
June 15th: The Belle Of New York (1952) Raging Bull (1980)
June 16th: Mogambo (1953) Boom Town (1940) China Seas (1935)
June 17th: Pillow Talk (1959) The Thin Man (1934) Love Crazy (1941) Double Wedding (1937) I Love You Again (1940) Libeled Lady (1936)
June 18th: Jason And The Argonauts (1963) Abbott And Costello Meet The Invisible Man (1951) Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy (1955)
June 19th: Marlene Dietrich: Her Own Song (2000) Clara Bow: Discovering the "It" Girl (1999)
June 20th: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) The Big Sleep (1946) Casablanca (1942)

Well, that's all for this week Shelfers. And as always, your comments are welcome. By the way... Happy Flag Day. Don't forget to Pause for the Pledge!

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

I wouldn't give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn't have a little bit of plain, ordinary, everyday kindness and a little looking out for the other fella, too.

Friday, June 09, 2006

just a little bragging..........

First and foremost, I want to wish Mrs. Flywheel a happy anniversary. As of today we have been married for 5 years and there's not a divorce in sight. In today's world that can be something to brag about. She's a wonderful woman who forgives my faults and heals my ills. I know you don't read this site very much, but if you're reading it now...I love you. On with the bragging! I will probably hate myself in the morning but I can't help it. I followed a link from Maggie's Farm (a shelf favorite) to a site called where there was a discussion about Michael Berg held through user comments that got a little "warm" for a minute. One individual kept commenting from thier high horse about people being insensitive to a still grieving father and another explained his actions away as depression and a lack of stability brought on from the traumatic events he witnessed. My siter-in-law was only sixteen when she ended her life and I witnessed first hand the grief that it brought to my in-laws and wife at the time and I still see them suffer with it several years later. I can not imagine what the parents of al-zarqawi's victims felt as they watched the execution of thier children. With this in mind, I still find a way to lack all understanding or acceptance for what Mr. Berg is doing now. He seems to have heeded "the Emporor's" advice and gone fully over to the dark side. Because of this Shelfers, I could not stand to read the pitiful drivel any longer and placed a very minor "cyber smackdown" on a couple of commentors. I am not one to gloat, but I will a little this time because what I explained to these individuals brought on two very different responses. One admitted that I was right. The other has yet to even respond directly at the time I submit this post. Other readers on the site just show thier irrational mind sets even more by completely ignoring the logic of myself and the others on the site. Typical responses from the fanatics we see protesting everyday in our country, although I was admittedly impressed by the individual intelligent enough to ponder my statements and admit his aggreement. Check it out if you wish at

I hope you will all forgive this temporary bout of vanity I struggled with in this post. I promise I will do my best to avoid such things in the future.

Please feel free to comment if the need strikes you.

"Every author, however modest, keeps a most outrageous vanity chained like a madman in the padded cell of
his breast." -- Logan Pearsall Smith

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

roundup special edition

(Brief Technical note: While we have not had any problems with our main page loading in the browser, we have still had problems with posting, especially posting images. It is a Blogger problem, as some of you may already know. So please forgive this somewhat modified version- light on images. We hope Blogger will resolve its problems soon. Thanks for your understanding. Now back to the show)
Well Shelfers, I warned you. I told you last week that you’d better rest up for what promised to be a banner week for the roundup- and if you’ll just scan what’s below, you’ll see that I was right. There is so much great stuff that this is a specil edition! So much good stuff, that if there wasn’t such a clear winner for the Top Shelf pick- well, it would have been hard, is all I’m saying. So grab a snack and a root beer and settle in… we’re here for the long haul.

Top Shelf Pick of the Week:
John Wayne - John Ford Film Collection
I’m going to go out on a limb, with half a year under our belts, and declare this DVD release to be at least in the top five of all the DVD Box Set releases this year. Just you wait. At the end of this year, when the Shelf does it’s Top Shelf Picks of the year- this may be one of them. Fans have eagerly waited for the third part of the JW/JF Calvary triology, Fort Apache to be released. Not only is it finally here, but She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is getting a better DVD release in this set as well. Rio Grande (comprising the third installment) is already on a great disc – so completion of this series in a spectacular way is worthy of Top Shelf pick alone. “But Wait!”, as the Commercials say, “there’s more- so much more.”
Do you already own The Searchers on DVD? Give it to your cousin Bob- you’ll want this two disc special edition! Trust me on this. More features than you can imagine, plus an improved transfer and audio quality. Don’t forget the 2 disc special edition of Stagecoach, the movie that really launched Ford and Wayne into the Western Legends category. Also included in that special edition will be the American Masters episode of John Ford/John Wayne: The Filmmaker and the Legend, that was a Shelf pick several weeks ago. Don’t forget The Three Godfathers, one of my favorite older westerns that John Wayne did with Ford. There are also the great World War II films: They Were Expendable, and The Wings of Eagles. And then there is The Long Voyage Home. Now to sum it all up: 8 great films- majority of them new to DVD, some special edition upgrades worthy of the double dip, tons of features including several great feature-length documentaries, plus commentary and radio adaptations. If you only get one thing for Father’s Day… one pick, how about tell Junior to skip the tie and wrap up the Duke. You’ll be glad you did.

Other can’t miss Box Sets or TV Sets:
John Ford Film Collection:
Now if you couldn’t get enough John Ford this week, here is another great box set from the master director. See what we meant about so much stuff for the roundup? This is certainly the runner-up as far as the Top Shelf pick is concerned. It is very much a look at a multi-faceted director that can surprise you if you just think of him as a director of Westerns. Included in this set is The Lost Patrol, a gripping drama about a group of WW I British soldiers trapped by Arab snipers in the desert. If you are a fan of Merian C. “King Kong” Cooper, you’ll want this film. He was the producer. The third film in the set is The Informer, about an Irish Republican Army low rung soldier selling out his associate. The film won several Oscars including a Best Director for Ford. Mary, Queen of Scots is a different film for Ford, but it was an early one in the career of its star, Katherine Hepburn. The two reportedly fell for each other during the making of this film. There are two westerns here as well: Sergeant Rutledge, which starred Woody Strode in a powerful performance as a black Calvary officer (Buffalo Soldier) accused of rape. Lastly, Cheyanne Autumn is Ford’s last Western, beautifully filmed narrative told from a Native American’s point of view. Don’t sell yourself short, plan on making this set part of your collection.

John Wayne's Batjac Productions Suspense Collection
Yes, none of the films in this collection star John Wayne, but they were produced by his production company. And the previous Batjac films, like McLintock! and Hondo and others have received great DVD treatment. Included in this set are two excellent westerns, Plunder in the Sun with Glen Ford and Track of the Cat starring Robert Mitchum. Also in the set are two mystery, tough guy films: Man in the Vault and Ring of Fear.

Charmed Season 5
Well, we’ve already discussed how much I’ve enjoyed this show, so recommending the DVD sets are a no-brainer. However, I do have a complaint- there are no extras or even commentary from the cast. You would think that they would have at least some commentary as the show was still in production during the making of this set. Unfortunately this is typical of Paramount’s handling of some of their television properties on DVD. Still, get the set for the show- that’s what its there for anyway.

NCIS - The Complete First Season
Longtime Shelfers know of my love for this show. And of course all things Bellasario- JAG, Magnum P.I. and Quantum Leap are some of my all time favorite shows. NCIS is right up there, as well. Mark Harmon leads an outstanding cast in one the highest rated dramas on network television today.

Wild Wild West Season 1
F Troop
Two classic television series that are worthy of your attention.

Fox Film Noir:
I Wake Up Screaming
House of Strangers
This is one the more underrated DVD series that is out there. The fans know and love it and anxiously await each wave of arrivals. If you think you know mysteries and noir, think again. Fox has been steadily releasing these DVD in great packaging and a few features. Some of the more famous films, like Laura have some great extras, but the series itself is worth the Shelf space.

Other great releases this week:
Mommie Dearest (Hollywood Royalty Edition)
Again, as with Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, I never cared for this film. It has been on television multiple times, so how could anyone escape it? But the impact on popular culture that this film had is unquestionable. It popularized a whole new wave of child of Hollywood stars books and films, as well reinvigorated the whole wooden/wire hanger debate. Special 2 disc edition includes a ton of features.

Emperor of the North
I had never heard of this film, despite being a Lee Marvin fan, until I read a write up about it on Retrocrush. And as luck would have it (luck likes to have it many ways), it ran on TBS the very next day. I watched it and was intrigued by how something so hokey and contrived ended up being so great. Features some of the fakest blood you’ll ever see. I also guarantee you’ll never look at train conductors the same way after Ernest Borgnine’s performance.

Also this week some double dips that might worth upgrading to, and a double feature set of some good recent westerns.
Dumbo Big Top Edition
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
All the Pretty Horses / Geronimo: An American Legend Double Feature

When the Astors Owned New York : Blue Bloods and Grand Hotels in a Gilded Age by Justin Kaplan
I know it isn’t very jake nowadays to study the lives of the wealthy, but we do it anyway. I just choose to read about historical figures rather than the celebrity debutant of the moment. The Astors may have well been one of the first familes in America to achieve empire and wealth without title. The Canegies, the Vanderbuilts, the Rockafellers all came after the Astors- a name that has more less been around since the early 1800s. This book in particular tells their story through their building of a hotel empire during the nineteenth and into the twentieth century. Take that Paris Hilton.

The House That Trane Built: Story of Impulse Records
Piece by Piece by Katie Melua
River in Reverse by Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint

Jazz is the order of the day and there are some different, yet worthy offerings in the mix. The multi-disc set from Impulse records feature not only great cuts from John Coltrane but other greats like Count Basie, Gil Evans, Art Bakely, Coleman Hawkins, Charles Mingus and others. This is jazz at its most wonderful peak from the 50s through the 70s. Check it out. Then give an ear to a modern songstress like Katie Melua. Combining several genres like pop, jazz, and blues Katie has a wonderful style and an enriched voice. Her cut “Blues in the Night” is my new favorite. Also check out Elvis Costello and master New Orleans Jazz Musician, Allen Toussaint in a great collaboration between these two friends in River in Reverse.

(check local listings for times)
Shelf picks for TCM:
June 8th: Check out two of the films from the Batjac Suspense collection being released this week: Track of the Cat (1954) and Plunder in the Sun ( 1953). Later Betsy Drake tries to corner Cary Grant in Every Girl Should Be Married (1949)
June 9th: Judy Garland is the featured player for this day with a bunch of films including For Me and My Girl (1942), Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), Summer Stock (1950), The Harvey Girls (1946), and In the Good Old Summertime (1949).
June 10th: William Holden portrays a POW during WW II and later is a prisoner of a different kind in The Bridge on the River Kwai(1957) and Sunset Boulevard (1950).
June 11th: Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson turn Shakespeare on his ear in Kiss Me Kate (1953). Later, Bob Hoskins and Humphrey Bogart portray two different hard boiled detectives with a very different set of clientele in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) and The Maltese Falcon (1941).
June 12th: It’s the swan song film for Nick and Nora in The Song of the Thin Man (1947).
June 13th: Some great comedies come your way with Dinner at Eight (1933) and The Philadelphia Story (1940). Then change the genre and not the channel for the classic noir that influenced and help launch the classic TV series, Dragnet: He Walked By Night (1948).

That's all for this Special Edition of the roundup! If you would like to add your own commentary track you are free to do so in the comments section! Til next time...

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Well, I guess you can't break out of prison and into society in the same week.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

hell on a beach

not exactly a vacation
It's been an early morning today, Shelfers. I saw Mrs. Loophole off on plane this AM while the chickens were still fast asleep. She is headed to visit her siblings and mother for a week or so. After I got home from the airport, I decided to check the morning TV news, something I do not normally do. And to my (not really) surprise, I could not find in an hours time and at least ten channels- not a single word about D-Day. I guess I kind of expected it, what with WW II out of vogue with most of the newsmedia when it comes to hard won, hard fought success. What was on everyone's lips was the date itself: 6-6-06. Yes, everyone with a microphone was exclaiming how superstitious we are...silly Americans! Yet at the same time- I don't see too many people out buying bread and holy water. Most of the people I have talked to this morning did not realize it, or wouldn't have unless the news reader hadn't mentioned it on their radio station's "Morning Zoo!" All I see is Hollywood trying to talk it up to promote a silly remake and a small town in Michigan trying to take advantage of the one time in a century when they get some media exposure.

What isn't being mentioned as much is what I once read as described as "hell on a beach": D-Day. On this day, are we thinking about the heroes who gave their true last full measure? Have you read anything about it lately? There are numerous books out there, as well as various web sites with good information to tell the tale of that morning of June 6, 1944. Please go and pursue read that material, but for now I want you to think about the following:
Map found on War-birds.comAllies knew they would have to conduct an invasion of France and press on to Berlin from the West in order to defeat the Germans. Normandy became the most likely location for the invasion in 1943, and later that year the plan for Operation Overlord was submitted to Allied leaders and approved. The men (and women who may have not been on the front lines, but served in vital areas nonetheless) trained for almost a year prior to the invasion. Since 75% of the invasion forces would be American, the Allies choose as leader of the operation, General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Eisenhower was a soft spoken man in many ways, never truly given to the political aspect of pushing your military career. He was an organizer, a admirer of the military man, and a natural leader- one who had genuine affection for the men fighting for freedom. Once when visiting with the men before that fateful June day he asked if any of the soldiers were from Kansas. When one soldier raised his hand, Eisenhower replied, "Go get 'em Kansas." He was like that with the men. He was also committed to what needed to happen. Once the course was decided, there was no turning back. And if the invasion was a failure, he also knew that he would take a huge portion of the blame. It wasn't the blame from the press or the political leaders that worried him- he was more concerned with the mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and sweethearts and children back home who not only desperately wanted the boys to come home alive, but also wanted them to succeed. Aided on the British side by General Sir Bernard Law Montgomery, who commanded the ground troops, and Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay who commanded naval operations, these three men became the leadership of an invasion that would have little equal in the annals of history. The last word, to go, would remain with Gen. Eisenhower.

The boys themselves knew that many of them would not make it, that despite their training some of them would not set foot on the beach. And those that made it to the beach, may just be buried on it's shores. The boys of D-Day knew what could happen, yet they also knew that it had to be done. The allies knew that the Germans had heavy guns there, and had had time to build up defenses against both an aerial and naval assault. Therefore, both had to occur. The night of Go get 'em, Kansas!June 5 Allied paratroopers were dropped behind enemy lines to try and weaken those defenses and take out some of those guns. If you have read Band of Brothers or seen the mini-series then you know a little of what I'm describing. Many of the guys didn't make it, some units lost almost all of their men. Those surviving units completed their missions and survived because of their comrades and the men who emerged from the ranks as natural leaders to take the place of the fallen.

Then that fateful day of June 5th (that's right, June 5th) the day that was designated for the invasion, weather caused great concern. The leaders, and ultimately Gen. Eisenhower decided to hold off for a day, in hopes of more favorable weather. June 6th came and while the weather was not perfect, a window of opportunity arose and Gen. Eisenhower gave the order- "Ok, we go." On those words an invasion involving over 150,000 men and 5000 naval craft, numerous aircraft began. Some landing boats were blown out of the water. Thousands died just trying to make it to the beach, and then those cliffs. Many more died trying to take those cliffs and quiet those guns. It was a day of sacrifice for the allies, and the people who gave their all did not die in vain. The invasion succeeded. The allies were able to take Normandy, establish supply points and a naval base of operations. Valuable reinforcements came, landing strips for Allied aircraft were secure. Over the next year the Allies pushed ahead to Germany, with the Russians pushing from the East. The hope and the fears of the free world went with them every step of the way.

These boys...these men who gave their all were previously neighbors. Sons. Brothers Husbands. Students. Teachers. Ball players. Butchers. Milkmen. Farmers. Accountants. Shop clerks. Builders. Trash men. They were, in short, the people we knew. And they were the best of us. They were Americans; raised in a country of freedom, hardened during a time a depression, and conditioned to defeat a terrible foe with terrible means. They knew what had to be done. The people back home knew what had to be done. Everyone knew that it came with a price. These men of D-Day paid that price.
Think about that. They knew the cost, and they paid it. Don't we need to remember that and cherish it? Don't we need to thank them for that? What strikes me today is that everytime I talk to a friend, a soldier who is just home from Iraq and Afghanistan is that fact that they also know what is at stake and that the freedom for our futures and for the future of others exacts a price. As the cliche goes, and is true as most cliches are, freedom is not free. The sooner we remember that... the sooner we remember the true value of it, the better off we will be.
Before the men of D-Day left for their missions, General Eisenhower issued his "Order of the Day" to the "Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!" I think to close out today, I would like to quote that extraordinary "letter" to his men, the men of D-Day:

Day for freedom...and sacrificeYou are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is will trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

On behalf of Wolf and myself I would like to say thank you. Thank you, men and women of D-Day. Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you to those fought and survived and those fought and lay down their lives for me and my family. Thank you to those at home who sacrificed much of their daily comforts to fight the war. And thank you to the families of the fallen- your sacrifice is sacred beyond measure. This American will not forget and will always cherish the courage, devotion to duty, and the freedom for which you fought.
And to our men and women overseas who fight today for our freedoms- Thank you and to quote General Eisenhower, "Go get 'em."

Marriage is a wonderful institution. But who wants to live in an institution?

I treasure my remark to a grandson who asked, "Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?" "No", I answered, "But I served in a company of heroes".

Thursday, June 01, 2006

whither roundup?

I know regular Shelfers have been asking themselves that very question, but never fear- we are here! This has been an unsually week here for us, and we are working on some special posts to come later- so stay tuned. In the meantime, let's get to it.
(Technical note: I have been having some issues with blogger and posting images. This edition of the media roundup will be presented without them, 'cause I am too frustrated to try and figure it out for the third day in a row. Apparently my lovely mug on my signature is the exception. Go figure. We hope you will forgive us, and that things will be back to normal later.)

Top Shelf Pick of the Week
Bette Davis Collection Vol. 2
I am not necessarily the greatest Bette Davis fan. I actually enjoy quite a bit of her early work, and some of her mid career films are incredible- but that depends on the film. Sometimes the director or co-stars don’t seem to quite gel with Bette; but there is no denying that she was one of the greatest actresses to have been on the big screen. When she was over the top, it is a little too much, in my opinion. When she was subtle and strong, she was phenomenal. Her work in films like Now, Voyager, Jezebel, and All About Eve attest to that fact. This collection includes several great films including Jezebel and The Man Who Came to Dinner that are some of my favorites, as well as the great bio- documentary Stardust (which we featured on The Shelf some weeks ago.) Other films in this collection are: Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Marked Woman, and Old Aquaintance. I actually don’t care for Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, but there is no denying the pop culture influence the film continues to have. Have you had dinner yet?

John Wayne: An American Icon
This is a great time to be a John Wayne Fan. Many of his films are already out on DVD, especially his Westerns. (A lot of his early "B" westerns can be also found on inexpensive DVDs). Next week we have what promises to be one of the best box sets to come down the piek in a long time. This week, not so much. But - that doesn’t mean this is a complete collection of clunkers. These are some of Wayne’s lesser known films when he was away from more familiar pastures and directors. However these films aren't exactly the creme of the crop, but they are an interesting look at Wayne in other roles. Just kinda overlook the Geghis Khan role. The films included are The Conqueror, Jet Pilot, Pittsburgh, Seven Sinners, and Shepherd Of The Hills.

Numb3rs: The Complete First Season
We don't often recommend current network television series, but we do like some shows that are out there- and this is one of them. I liked Rob Marrow in Northern Exposure and the film Quiz Show... and David Krumholtz was also good in Ray and The Santa Clause. And Peter MacNicol and Judd Hirsh are TV icons. All of this plus great scripts, good direction and the Scott brothers producing combine for a great FBI show, with a bit of a twist. Check it out.

Also this week some rereleases and special edition upgrades:
The Sacketts
Smokey and the Bandit Special Edition
The Rough Riders
Marilyn Monroe: 80th Anniversary Collection

Ralph Stanley: A Distant Land to Roam: Songs of the Carter Family
I will openly admit that I am not much of a country music fan. Especially modern country music. However, I am interested in regional folk music, mountain music, and some bluegrass. The music evokes haunting history, spiritual highs and lows and depths of the soul. Some music is almost the equivilant of a history book, or ancient lore passed on to a new generation around a fire. Maybe you know about or are a fan of the music of The Carter Family. Perhaps you are a Ralph Stanley or Stanley Brothers fan, or at least you have heard him on the O Brother Where Art Thou Soundtrack. (His accapela rendition of "O Death" is lonesome, evokative, and haunting. ) Either way, this CD is an interesting and delightful trip into the roots of American music. Southern Appalachian music has many ties with blues, jazz, and country music. If you would be willing to travel the journey back in time through those different musical threads, you can see the roots they share. Stanley's new album is a examination of the music of the Carter family - spirituals, prison blues, and plaintive songs about loss are present in this journey through the music of an important contribution to America's musical history.

TCM: (Check Local Listings for times)
June 2: Young and Innocent (1937) Early Hitchcock
June 3: The Four Marx Brothers bring their own particular brand of brilliant chaos to college football in Horse Feathers (1932). My Name Is Nobody (1974) starring Henry Fonda and Terence Hill. Later James Stewart, Jean Arthur, and Claude Rains operate the three ring circus that is Washington DC in Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939).
June 4: The Nutty Professor (1963) Jerry Lewis' classic film. And a different kind of experiment gone ary in the silent version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920).
June 5: Lana Turner conspires with her lover to get rid of her husband in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) Red Skelton, Esther Williams, and Basil Rathbone make a mess of an all-girls boarding school in Bathing Beauty (1944).
June 6: Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray star in the immortal Double Indemnity (1944).

That's all for this edition of the roundup Shelfers. Prepare yourselves for some great stuff next week. Same Shelf time, same Shelf channel.

Marriage is a wonderful institution. But who wants to live in an institution?

Gentlemen, will you all now leave quietly, or must I ask Miss Cutler to pass among you with a baseball bat?


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