Well, apparently I took the death of Barbara Billingsley a lot harder than I thought I would. I would like to apologize to my non-existent readership for the inert state of this blog circa 2011. I aim to change that, and the plan is to get off my duff and share a little retro content with you all every now and again. No time like the present, either – here’s Cheap Trick from 1980:
Sorry for the lack of postings of late, will try to get back in the groove this week. In the meantime, I wanted to take a moment to mark the passing yesterday of one of the all-time great TV moms, Barbara Billingsley. She was most known for her roles as June Cleaver on the classic TV sitcom Leave It To Beaver and as the jive-talking grandma from Airplane! She was 94.
Saturday night we decided to take it easy and enjoy an ’80s movie double-header. First up was 1989′s The ‘Burbs, followed by 1986′s April Fool’s Day.
The ‘Burbs is one of those movies I’ve always sort of taken for granted. It’s the movie equivalent of comfort food. When writing this post, I realized I have owned a copy of this movie for nearly twenty years (!) And that no matter how many times I watch it, it still holds up.
It’s a movie about nosy neighbors. Actually, it’s more than that. For most of its running time, The ‘Burbs is a very on-target satire of suburban paranoia. It’s about how the irrational fear of people who are ‘different’ (in this case, the new neighbors the Klopeks) can drive ordinarily reasonable people to acts of extreme desperation – in this case, breaking and entering, vandalism, and the ultimate in property damage. The creators don’t have the courage to see this through, in the end validating the neighbors’ suspicions about the Klopeks. Which is OK, given that Tom Hanks is the lead and you really don’t want to see Tom Hanks go to jail. He is as relentlessly likable as he usually is.
Given the current political climate, The ‘Burbs would seem like a natural subject for a remake. The casting would be easy: Paul Rudd as Ray Peterson, the central Tom Hanks role; Vince Vaughn as hyper neighbor Art Weingartner, and Michael Richards as Lt. Rumsfield, the uber-patriotic military vet (played in the original by Bruce Dern.) Replacing Corey Feldman as stoner teen Ricky would be tougher. Ricky has always been my favorite character in the movie. He realizes the absurdity of his neighbors’ actions and watches them as if they are characters in a surrealistic sitcom, even inviting friends over to watch the show. Ms. Retronaut and I decided that since there is only one Corey Feldman, that they should re-imagine the role and cast Kristen Stewart (if you’ve seen Adventureland, you know she can pull off the wry stoner with little difficulty.)
The ‘Burbs street is on TV every week as Desperate Housewives’ Wisteria Lane. The Klopeks’ house has a new facade and is now the home of Bree Van de Kamp (Marcia Cross.) The lot was also used in Leave It to Beaver.
After The ‘Burbs, we decided to watch April Fool’s Day, one of that evening’s new purchases from MovieStop and part of a post-birthday orgy of DVD-buying. We had heard some good things about this one, but neither one of us had seen before.
AFD opens with a group of college friends gathering to spend Spring Break together at the island home of their friend Muffy St. John (the always lovely Deborah Foreman.) It’s the weekend leading up to April Fool’s Day, and we find that Muffy has set up plenty of little jokes, which start silly but quickly become disturbing. The kids take these mostly in stride, until:
1. People start disappearing;
2. They realize the phones are dead and there’s no way to get off the island until Monday.
I won’t say any more since the movie is too much fun, and I don’t want to spoil any of it. It’s better written and acted than other films of the genre, and it has the added benefit of actually being scary.
If I had paid attention during the credits, I wouldn’t have been surprised by the film’s quality. Director Fred Walton directed two of my favorite thrillers – When A Stranger Calls and its terrific sequel When A Stranger Calls Back.
I completely spaced on this last week, but I don’t really think anyone’s life was any worse for it. You know how we roll:
I Just Wanna Have Something to Do – The Ramones
Rockin’ the Suburbs – Ben Folds
Problem Child – AC/DC
Live the Life You’re Dreaming Of – Sloan
Devil Inside – INXS
Move On – KISS
Chick Habit – April March
Weird Science – Oingo Boingo
Movin’ On Up – Ja’Net Dubois
Apologize (feat. OneRepublic) – Timbaland
If the title of this post wasn’t clear enough, today is my birthday. Growing up, I liked to check the newspaper on my birthday because they listed what celebrities were also celebrating that day. I was a weird kid. Now the paper only gave three or four names, but these days I can get a much more detailed list using Wikipedia. Below are some of my fellow 10-8ers. Where my party people at?
Robert “Kool” Bell
R.I.P. Johnny Ramone
When I was a kid in the ’80s, the regular guest host for The Tonight Show was Joan Rivers. After she and Johnny had their well-publicized falling out in 1986, Jay Leno got the gig and he is still clinging like grim death to the job. But back in the ’70s, there was no regular stand-in for Johnny. Lots of talented people got a chance to sit behind the desk and banter with Ed, including Woody Allen, Jerry Lewis, Joey Bishop, David Letterman, Bob Newhart, and David Brenner. While surfing YouTube tonight I ran across this clip from 1978 with Steve Martin that I think you might like:
Steve seems remarkable at ease in the role of host. Some highlights:
*Steve plugging the release of A Wild and Crazy Guy (if you don’t own this record, do yourself a favor and go buy it)
*Burt Reynolds imitating Steve and breaking into his famous high-pitched laugh
*Steve’s vest rigged with dynamite, to ensure the audience laughs at his jokes
The complete show looks to be available on YouTube. Goodnight guys.
Today io9 ran a post about Nick Veasey’s x-ray photography. I had seen his work highlighted on other sites in the past, and it is always amazing. I had always assumed that he was using live people for his shots and just using special techniques to polish the images. Not the case, as it turns out:
Veasey needs to bombard his subjects with ionizing radiation for as long as 12 minutes to get crisp shots. So to capture human forms, Veasey works with either skeletons in rubber suits (normally used to train radiologists) or cadavers that have been donated to science. When a corpse becomes available, he has at most eight hours to pose and shoot before rigor mortis sets in. (via Wired)
All this got me thinking about the X-Ray Specs you would see advertised in comic books years ago. I wonder how much money those guys made off of gullible kids who thought they could buy a working (and safe) x-ray device for $1.98?
Probably a lot. I understood back then it was some kind of trick – heck, in the ad itself it mentions that it’s an optical illusion – but I always wondered what people were seeing, what the effect was. Thanks to Google, I had my answer quickly (in 0.65 seconds, to be exact.) It has to do with tricking your eyes into seeing two offset images:
The lenses consist of two layers of cardboard with a small hole about 6 mm (.25 inch) in diameter punched through both layers. The user views objects through the holes. A feather is embedded between the layers of each lens. The vanes of the feathers are so close together that light is diffracted, causing the user to receive two slightly offset images. For instance, one would see two offset images of the pencil. Where the images overlap, a darker image is obtained, supposedly giving the illusion that one is seeing the graphite embedded within the body of the pencil. As may be imagined, the illusion is not particularly sustainable. (via Wikipedia)
Here is an image of what you might expect to see if you looked at your hand wearing the glasses:
Thrilling, huh? Glad I saved my money (and by ‘saved my money’, I mean ‘invested in more G.I. Joes.’) Here’s another interesting factoid: the X-Ray Specs were invented by Harold von Braunhut, who also invented the Amazing Sea Monkeys.