Wild Bill Ketelhut provides the "blog" to this anti-blog
He has a radio program on WXOU out of Oakland University
Wild At Heart
It was an interesting weekend for me so let’s look at what went on of interest to me.
First of all, I must say I admire President Bush’s reflexes at the Baghdad news conference when he had to duck a pair of shoes thrown at him by an Iraqi reporter Muntadar al-Zeidi who yelled at him "This is your farewell kiss, you dog!"”. I thought he was just adept at avoiding important questions and responsibilities. In Iraqi culture, throwing your shoes at someone is a sign of contempt (remember when all those shoes were thrown at the Saddam statue when it was brought down by US Marines in 2003). Can you imagine how fun American news conferences would be if that happened here? I would love to see someone like Dan Rather throw his shoes at somebody during a press conference.
I heard news that two people I admire passed away recently. First, on Dec 4th, Forrest J Ackerman passed away. He was a big fan of science fiction fan and inspired many people both within the field. He wrote for the first sci-fi fanzine, started the tradition of wearing costumes to conventions (now called cosplay), helped found the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, earned a Hugo for “#1 Fan Personality”, wrote the shortest sci-fi story ever, named the character Vampirella and most importantly created the long running magazine “Famous Monsters of Filmland”. His influence touched everyone from Ray Bradbury to Ed Wood and along with amassing a collection of over 300,000 sci-fi items, he also had featured cameos in over 210 films, including The Howling, Return of the Living Dead Part II, The Power, Amazon Women on the Moon, Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold and at Michael Jackson's Thriller video. He also is known by fans to wear one of only three Dracula rings given to him by Bela Lugosi. His influence will be missed in the genre.
The second person was famous 1950’s pin-up queen Bettie Page on Dec 11th. She had a huge cult following with her jet black hair, trademark bangs and infectious smile. Of all the early pin-up models, I can’t think of one that comes close to her beauty or that has influenced as many artists, esp in the rockabilly genre. If you go to my myspace at myspace.com/wildatheart_13, you can look at my top friends and see Bettie Page lookalike Bernie Dexter to see some of the influence. She is best known for her bondage/fetish work with Irving Klaw studios. It was the busting up of this studio which caused Bettie to withdraw from the spotlight and seek seclusion. She found religion and had fully disappeared until just recently when she resurfaced for interviews but she didn’t allow any pictures of her to be taken as not to diminish her fans memories. She is also famous for the burlesque films Striporama and Varietease, the famed Bunny Yeager photo shoots which got her the January 1955 Playmate Of The Month (along with the various postcard you can buy at any beach and the shot with her at two cheetahs) and many famous drawing from artists ranging from Olivia to Jim Silke. I have seen her image on numerous tattoos, cars and guitars. The female comic book heroine in the Rocketeer was based on Bettie Page (portrayed by Jennifer Connelly in the movie) and Gretchen Moll plays her in the 2006 biopic “The Notorious Bettie Page”. I still think she is the most beautiful woman ever and it is sad to think she is no longer around.
On a more inspiring note, biologists have found numerous new species of animals in the Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia including 519 plants, 279 fish, 88 frogs, 88 spiders, 46 lizards, 22 snakes, 15 mammals, four birds, four turtles, two salamanders and a toad. On the list are the world's largest huntsman spider with a leg span of 30 centimeters (11.8 inches), a shocking pink coloured "dragon millipede" which produces cyanide and the Laotian rock rat which was thought to be extinct about 11 million years ago. It is amazing to me how many animal species are out there that haven’t been found due to location or other factors and how many might disappear without ever having been documented.
I had the privilege of seeing a bunch of new films this weekend but here are three I can talk about this week (look forward to the movie “Doubt” which I will discuss in a future column). I will start with a remake of one of my favorite films, “The Day The Earth Stood Still” starring Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly. The original came out in 1951 during the cold war paranoia and focused on the fear and suspicion of that era. The new film puts more focus on issues like environmental destruction of the planet by mankind. In the movie, a sphere lands in Central Park causing worldwide panic. When the alien steps out of the ship accompanied by a large robot, he is shot and taken to a secure facility. He wants to talk to the UN but is prevented from doing so. Astrobiologist Helen Benson (Connelly) is convinced Klaatu (Reeves) wants to help mankind and helps him escape. On the run, Klaatu decides that Earth is doomed and instructs the other globes on the planet to rescue samples of Earth’s animal life off Earth and starts the doomsday sequence of the planet. Helen, along with her son (Jaden Smith as a mostly annoying stepson Helen is looking after since his father died) and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Professor Barnhardt (John Cleese) try to make the case why Earth should be spared. The film ends as Klaatu tries to stop Earth’s destruction which is damn cool as locust-like creatures are destroying everything manmade. While not up to par of the original, I thought this was a decent remake (better than Cruise’s War Of the Worlds) and should excite the action fans (as a Dallas Cowboys fan, I enjoyed seeing the destruction of the Meadowlands). Reeves does a good job playing the emotionless Klaatu and the movie plays enough homage to the original to make it respectful. I wish the kid had a better role as he can get annoying and I would to have liked more time with Kathy Bates character (Secretary of Defense) who seems to have the intuition on what is happening but is held in check by protocol. I would give the movie a B-.
Next, we get a different look at the holiday season with the Latino flavored “Nothing Like The Holidays” as three Puerto Rican siblings return to their parents' home for Christmas in Humboldt Park on Chicago's northwest side. This is like a big Hallmark TV movie instead of a feature film. The kids include Jesse (Freddy Rodriguez) who has just returned from Iraq after being wounded in combat and wants to rekindle things with his old flame despite the fact she is seeing someone else, Roxanna (Vanessa Ferlito), a struggling actress and Mauricio (John Leguizamo), a successful attorney with his white wife Sarah (Debra Messing) who would rather raise capital than a child. Things are going OK until at dinner, their mother Anna (Elizabeth Pena) announces she is going to divorce her husband Eduardo (Alfred Molina) and throws the whole holiday into a crash course which causes everyone to rethink their lives but in the end, the family pulls together and reveals the strength of familial bonds. The film is nothing we haven’t seen before but the acting is strong and avoids many potential stereotypes in it’s portrayal of a family going through trying times at the holiday season. The way the family comes together might appeal to many this season of uncertainty though more might wait til it comes out on video. Don’t let the nationality of the characters dictate going to see this holiday treat. I give it a B.
Lastly, The Tale Of Despereaux will open Dec 19th and is based on the children's fantasy book written by Kate DiCamillo. It is about a mouse who is unlike his peers due to the fact that he isn’t afraid of cats and knives and does things like talk to humans and read stories of brave knights. He will also befriend a rat named Chiaroscuro who accidentally falls into the queen's soup tureen during Soup Day (a big event the whole town celebrates), startling her and causing her to have a fatal heart attack. The grief-stricken king outlaws soup and rats causing a disruption in the natural order dragging the town into a dreary existence with cloudy skies and no rain. Despereaux also falls in love with Princess Pea (the queen’s daughter) with whom he tells her stories of a princess like her and a brave knight that will save her. After a failed attempt by Chiaroscuro to apologize to the Princess, he manipulates her servant girl Mig into kidnapping Princess Pea and sealing her in the dungeon so that she will remain in the dark forever. Despereaux must then put forth a plan to rescue the Princess and make Chiaroscuro realize the error of his ways. The story has a happy ending and is very cute which the young kids will enjoy. The animation style works well thought I am not sure it will attract the older crowd that would also go to see “Wall-E” or similar films. I wasn’t excited by some of the overuse of narration or the fact that the majority of the voices are well known actors (I prefer the voice over experts to do the majority of these roles. Only Tracy Ullman has the chops to really pull off different characters). This is a middle of the pack animated movie. Not as great as the wonderful work coming out of Pixar but not as annoying as films like “Happily N’Ever After”. A good film to take kids to for the holidays, I give the film a C.
Don’t forget the Cyndi Lauper charity auction ends tomorrow, Dec 16th, and you still have the opportunity to put down a bid for items like a voice lesson & lunch with Cyndi in NYC (travel & hotel included), 2 VIP Tickets to The View and a meet & greet with Whoopi Goldberg, a pair of boots signed by Patti Labelle from her own closet, 2 VIP Tickets and meet & greet passes to The B-52s concert in 2009, handwritten lyrics to "Angel" by Sarah McLachlan, a signed Miley Cyrus t-shirt, 4 VIP Tickets to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and many other cool items. 100% of the net proceeds will benefit the True Colors Fund, CenterLink and PFLAG was which founded by Cyndi Lauper in 2008 to empower the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and allied community to volunteer and support the organizations working on their behalf at the national, state and local levels.
I also went to the MOCAD this weekend and took in their current exhibitions. Sometimes I wonder what artists are really thinking but the themes can make you think. They are “Broadcast” (this exhibition focuses on artists' explorations of broadcast themes including some interesting work from the 1960’s and 70’s), “Becoming: Photographs from the Wedge Collection” (this examines ways in which personal and cultural identity are created, challenged, or affirmed) and “Business as Usual” (explores the complex intersection of art and commerce over the past decade). The broadcast and business exhibits are interesting though I really enjoyed the photography exhibit most of all. Admission is free and it is a nice way to get some culture in one of the more unique experience in Detroit.
Normally, I will list a bunch of cool concerts for the week but except for Crystal Method at the Boom Boom Room in Windsor on Dec 17, nothing really stands out to me. Good luck to everyone taking their finals this week and see you next Monday.