Monday, November 27, 2006

It's my 57th birthday today. My friend Craig Dangerfield was right on time with a wacky card too -- forty years of those things! We should all be so fortunate. I was in Calgary and Banff over the long U.S. Thanksgiving weekend. We had snow initially, until we crossed the Continental Divide over Crow's Nest Pass. It was dry, but a frigid haze blocked the sunshine and settled down on us as a light snowfall by the time we got to Calgary. For the rest of our visit the temperature stayed around minus 20 (C). We had a particularly good time shopping around for Bollywood DVDs in Calgary, and watching a new, silly, but entertaining Bollywood action flick Dhoom 2 on the big screen in a real movie theater. We saw Elk, Eagles, Bighorn Sheep, and a big black Wolf in the mountains. There was intermittent snow the whole time with occasional bursts of wind which made it feel miserable outside. Luckily, we were able to duck through various buildings as we looked around during the street party on Banff Avenue and at the World Cup race site near Lake Louise.
The weather warmed up on the way back to Montana, but a big blizzard was raging as we got back to the 'States. As a matter of fact, I'm blogging at home because we are having a "snow day" at the college.

Footbarn's Celebration of Theatre: Theater X-Net

Starring: Ida Rubinstein Belle Epoch Russian/Parisian beauty.
Ida's Places in Paris -- from my first jet-lagged day by the Seine
Read more about Ida in Sisters of Salome by Toni Bentley

Visit: Michael's Montana Web Archive
Theater, Art, Flash Gordon, Funky Music and MORE!
NEW! Spitfires of the Spaceways
Watch Dale Arden rescue Flash Gordon for a change!

Charity Alert: Keep that resolution as Winter settles in! Click on The Hunger Site every day.

In The Community: Curator Monique Westra at Calgary's Glenbow Museum was very helpful to me when I visited there on behalf of the Hockaday. Check out the Hockaday Museum of Art's Website for Art Walk information -- this Friday night. Be sure to bundle up!

Media Watch: I'm one of those people who take Comic Art seriously, and we just lost one of our leading lights -- Jerry Bails Ph.D at the age of 73 due to a bad ticker. I am glad to be able to call him my friend, although we never met face-to-face.
Jerry Bails' Who's Who Of American Comic Books
Fellow fan and scholar Bob Hughes wrote these words: Jerry not only created the hobby of comic collecting, he created the science of it. He and the people he trained went out and patched all this history together. He applied the same techniques he used to teach science in college to comic book history. He took everything apart and put it back together again. And he never kept anything to himself. Unlike those mysterious collectors like Edward Church who left hoards of stuff secreted away, Jerry shared all of his knowledge freely with everybody. And he taught you how to do it yourself! Where others looked at the uncredited decades of comics and shrugged and said it was lost forever, Jerry rolled up his sleeves and reassembled the history of the people who created the comics. While others debated who was stronger the Thing or the Hulk, Jerry was more concerned with who created Batman, Bill Finger or Bob Kane? He took everything to the next level, and by honoring the creators as individuals, not cogs in the corporate machine, Jerry helped make comics an art form. His absence will be impossible to fill, but because he wrote it all down and shared it, his presence will remain forever.
The Grand Comics Database has a tribute to Jerry on their HOME PAGE as I write this.
Partly because of Jerry's labors, TCM shows old chapter serials like Superman vs. Atom Man on Saturday mornings. Last Saturday they also played a film about comic artists afterward! The often-drab Cartoon Alley was special, perhaps because of the holiday weekend. They showed all three of Bugs Bunny's "Tortoise and the Hare" parodies from the 1940's with Mel Blanc's slow-speaking Cecil Turtle. Credit was duly given to directors Tex Avery and Bob Clampett for a change. TCM didn't mention animator Robert McKimson, but Bugs Bunny himself did.

Bollywood Movies: Once we watched a few of these things, we noticed that remakes of "foreign" hits were common. Koi Mil Gaya was a crib of Spielberg's E.T. It had a certain charm of it's own, and a very engaging leading man named Hrithik Roshan. We just saw him again in Calgary as the star of the aformentioned Dhoom 2 -- a Mission Impossible-like romp where he was a lovable rogue, with Ashwari Rai as his lovable rogue-ette.
(Cultural Note -- Kissing used to be taboo for Indian movies. There was a screen kiss in Dhoom 2 between Roshan and Rai, but the mostly East Indian/Pakistani audience showed no extraordinary reaction to the scene at all.)
We later bought Krrish, a sequel to Koi Mil Gaya, where Roshan plays father and son characters. Day-um! That guy has muscles! His look is perfectly appropriate, since this flick is an outright super-hero movie. It holds together very well within it's preposterous context too. They shot quite a bit of it in Singapore -- I wish they would have sprung for more REAL acrobats from the very famous circus scene there.
Speaking of lovable rogues, we also bought the follow-up to the intoxicating Munna Bhai M.D.D.S. It was nowhere near as amazing -- we've already seen Sanjay Duit playing this bold-as-brass hoodlum with a heart of gold, but there was enough going on to justify the time spent watching it. I personally liked "Munna Bhai's" drunken scenes with his accomplice "Circuit" the most. It was also really odd to see Mahatma Gandhi in a Bollywood comedy, even though he was only a hallucination.

Sheena, Queen of the Jungle -- featured as the cover attraction of Jumbo Comics for the first time in 1939. By the middle of 1940, she was the unrivaled star of the whole Fox/Fiction House line of comic books -- later played on TV and in the movies by model/actresses Irish McCalla, Tanya Roberts, and Gena Lee Nolin. The art and stories were done collectively by Jerry Iger's studio. This cover is drawn and inked by Lou Fine. Without the leadership of Jerry Bails most of our knowledge about these obscure cultural threads would be lost and forgotten.

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