Category Archives: mythology

Ray Harryhausen 1920-2013

Possibly one of the greatest special effects artists who ever lied passed away today. Ray Harryhausen was a big part of my childhood, and a big part of my adulthood. He influenced so many people, and in turn, he was influenced by another genius, Willis O’Brien, whose work in stop motion animation made King Kong the classic film, and the classic character he is today. He learned at the master’s side and took that art even higher. Harryhausen was one of the greats.

I can’t even guess how many times I’ve seen Jason and the Argonauts. I seriously think a hundred times would be a conservative guess. There’s nothing by Harryhausen that I didn’t love (and that includes oddities like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and the Puppetoons), but Jason is probably my favorite. I remember as a kid, channel 29 had the rights to it, and I never missed it when they aired it. The film is a beautiful piece of art, from start to finish, and it fueled my early love of the Greek myths.

I love the Sinbad films, 20 Million Miles to Earth, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, and It Came from Beneath the Sea. I watch them relentlessly when they air. Harryhausen’s involvement in Beast led to a semi-rational hatred of the Godzilla films, which he felt both ripped off and cheapened his work. His statements to that effect didn’t lessen my respect and awe for his work, but man oh man, it did hurt this Godzilla fan.

I was never really a fan of Clash of the Titans, as by then, his age, and the amount of time it took to do his Dynamation, made him begin to cut corners and it just didn’t look as good any more, to me at least. But then again, Harryhausen cutting corners was nothing new, as 1955’s It Came from Beneath the Sea featured a five-tentacled octopus.

None of that diminishes Harryhausen’s accomplishments and my love for his films. We have lost one of the living legends of Hollywood, and a master of an animation style that may never be the same again. Ray Harryhausen will be missed.

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Let Coast Be Coast

We’ve talked about my radio habits and obsession here before. Up until I got satellite radio, I still enjoyed exploring the AM dial in the middle of the night. Some time in the late nineties I discovered Art Bell and Coast to Coast AM.

This was more than a year before Art finally came to Philadelphia, syndicated on 1210 AM. I remember an intriguing and heated discussion about UFOs and alien abductions. I also remember that night getting out of my warm bed to log on the computer at around three in the morning to see the artist’s rendering of the aliens, you know, a visual to go with the audio. Yeah, I was hooked, and have been for close to fifteen years.

Mostly I was delighted to find talk radio that was not about politics. I could hear that nonsense anywhere and any time. I like different in my talk radio. It’s probably why I have been attracted to things like Howard Stern, Opie and Anthony, Dr. Ruth, Dr. Drew, radio dramas, audiobooks, and Joe Frank. Coast to Coast AM was definitely different.

I was overjoyed when the program found its Philly home and was a faithful listener almost every night. My insomnia proved helpful in that endeavor. Night after night I listened to a myriad of guests and topics, always in the realm of the paranormal. That was Coast’s forte. If you wanted intelligent (and sometimes not so) discussion about ufology, cryptozoology, mythology, pseudoscience, conspiracy theories or anything involving the odd or surreal, Coast to Coast AM was for you.

There’s a lot that can said about the host Art Bell. Surrounded by rumor and conspiracy himself, he was and is a consummate radio professional. No matter the insanity or unlikeliness of the guest or caller, he was always fair, entertaining, and at the top of his game. There are few talk radio hosts as sharp and composed as Art Bell.

Due to personal issues, Art has had to retire from radio and the show several times – the final time was in the late 2000s. He has been replaced the last time by George Noory. George is quite talented himself, but every time I hear an old Art show, it becomes quite obvious how inferior the replacement is to the original host. He never challenges guests or listeners, is often uninformed, and frequently seems inattentive or not even listening to guests and callers.

Noory also seems to have a problem with open lines. He doesn’t do it that often. Anyone who knows talk radio knows that it’s not about the host, it’s about the callers. Art knew this, and his regular technique was to not screen callers as is usually done – he just put them on the air. Often open lines was the best part of the old Coast to Coast AM. Since George has come in board, there also seems a shift in topic, more toward politics, and current events. I’m not happy with that at all.

The two biggest nights of the year on Coast to Coast AM are New Year’s Eve and Halloween. On New Year’s Eve they take psychic predictions for the upcoming year, and on Halloween, the show becomes ‘Ghost to Ghost’ as callers tell ghost stories. I love Ghost to Ghost. However, it too has gone downhill in recent years. Noury screens the calls, taking away the spontaneity, as well as the need to think on his feet, I suppose.

This year, last night, Noory even cut short the program by taking up the first hour with news, and an interview with a security expert. Seriously? Real Coast to Coast topics are rare enough recently, and now you’re truncating the best show of the year??

It’s no wonder that other radio programs similar to the original Coast to Coast AM, like Ground Zero with Clyde Lewis and A View from Space, are growing in popularity and Coast is falling. Politics and current events can be heard anywhere on the dial, the topics that made Coast great can not. I want my show back.

Please! Let Coast be Coast!

Immortals

Immortals ~ Okay, I’ve admit it. I’ve had this DVD sitting on my coffee table for at least two months. I’m not lazy or careless. It’s just that with Netflix’s streaming service to my iPhone, my Nook, my laptop, and the PS3… well, the snail mail discs sort of get forgotten. Immortals sure did, like I said, for at least two months. So if you’re still doing it by mail on Netflix, and have been waiting for Immortals, yeah, it’s me, I’ve got it. I’m a bad Netflixter. I’ll send it back shortly, I promise.

At this point I don’t even remember much about it. I know it’s mythology based. I know it was released theatrically on 11-11-11, a hard date to forget, and that the date morphed into the title in the previews. I also know it’s got a lot of motion capture in it like 300, Watchmen, and Sucker Punch. Beyond that, I don’t remember much, let alone why I put it on my Netflix queue.

Ten, fifteen, twenty minutes and more into the film, it is dark, and boring. Yeah, I know. They have taken something that I love, mythology, and made it boring. Adding to the difficulty of the task, they have fictionalized it, added state of the art special effects, and made mythology boring. Although, to say they are really sticking to the myths in question would be a kindness. Loosely based is the broad term here. Did I mention how dark the film is? At times it was almost like a radio production.

I was pleased to see John Hurt for the short time he was on screen. He was playing the old guy, you know the Hollywood star of yesterday they always have in these bad myth movies. He at least acts. I am now very worried for the upcoming Man of Steel film, because the cardboard cut out that plays Theseus here in Immortals is cast as Superman. That film could be worse than the last one based on Henry Cavill’s performance here.

I didn’t recognize Mickey Roarke until halfway through the movie. Stephen Dorff equally phones it in. I guess the actors thought that because no one would actually be able to see this movie because it was so dark, they could just phone it in. I didn’t like Immortals, even a little bit. I didn’t hate it, I was just bored. I guess it’s good for a nap.

The Death of the Soap Opera?

“One Life to Live,” after an over forty-year run on ABC-TV, ended last week. That leaves only four traditional daytime soap operas still on the air in 2012. Among the survivors is “General Hospital,” the only one of its ilk that I followed regularly for a time. I discount “Dark Shadows” as I only vaguely remember it when it was on, and mostly watched it in rerun on local Channel 48 and SyFy when it was just starting out.

The award-winning “One Life to Live” was part of the ABC daytime soap opera programming shared universe of Agnes Nixon, of which “General Hospital” is currently the only survivor. “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “The Young and the Restless” on CBS and “Days of our Lives” on NBC are the other three. On a sidenote, I gotta ask – am I the only one who thought “The Doctors” was still the soap opera of the same name? Weird. “OLTL” had some highlights in its run, Emmys aplenty, groundbreaking storylines dealing with rape and drugs, and even some time traveling a la “Dark Shadows,” exciting stuff.

“One Life to Live” also actually had some fun with its last days. Residents of the fictional city of Llanview watched on their sets the final episode of an equally fictional TV soap created by Agnes Nixon, who was interviewed. Angels abounded, played by cast members whose characters who had died. There’s even a cliffhanger, and a broken fourth wall, good stuff. But now it’s over, with some characters moving on to “General Hospital,” and the time slot filled by “The Revolution,” another boring health and lifestyle show.

Anyway it seems the soap opera is dead as a television genre, but is it? It may be well on its way out as a genre unto itself, but let’s face it, everything is soap opera now. I have always said that soap opera is at the core of comic books (any serial fiction really) and that as wrestling is the bastard stepchild of comics, soap opera and comics are the bastard stepchildren of mythology – but that’s another story.

Soap opera as storytelling is everywhere, and I’m not just talking about prime time dramas either. The concept of main story with several subplots underlying that soon become the new main story in an unending cycle is how television works now. There’s no more status quo, where the whole world resets when the credits of a given TV show roll. The characters evolve and change as time goes by.

That’s soap opera, and even if the TV series we normally think of when we think of the term are gone, soap opera still lives, in every other television series.

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