Archive for the ‘Radio’ Category

Mickey Rooney reported dead

April 7, 2014

Mickey Rooney reported dead

While it has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, there is something distinctive about being the cultural shorthand (no pun intended…well, maybe a little…so to speak) for jokes.

In Mickey Rooney’s case, his significant and lasting popular impact allowed references to height, multiple marriages, and a “gee, shucks” kind of youthful enthusiasm. That enthusiasm lasted well into his third quarter century.

It’s important to note that these jokes weren’t because of a lack of respect (and I don’t intend my own introduction that way). Rooney was nominated for four Oscars…with the first nomination coming forty years before the last. He was also given an honorary Oscar in 1983.

He won two Golden Globes, and was nominated for five Emmys, winning one.

He appeared on stage (including the hit Sugar Babies with Ann Miller…starting when he was nearly 80).

His Hollywood Walk of Fame star recognizes his work not only in movies, but in radio and TV.

Throughout his career, Rooney had many geek friendly roles, including:

  • Voicing Oswald the Rabbit in the 1920s and 1930s (this came following his success in the Mickey Maguire series of live action shorts…which continued, meaning Rooney was doing two series at the same time)
  • The Lost Jungle
  • Puck in Max Reinhardt’s all-star version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935)
  • Young Tom Edison (as the Wizard of Menlo Park)
  • The Atomic Kid: a 1954 wacky comedy in which Rooney becomes radioactive
  • The Mickey Rooney Show, a TV series with some geeky elements (including an episode with a robot)
  • Francis in the Haunted House, taking over co-starring duties from Donald O’Connor with the talking mule
  • Pinocchio, a 1957 live action TV version, with Rooney in the title role, and featuring Jerry Colonna, Stubby Kaye, and Fran Allison
  • As the Devil in The Private Lives of Adam and Eve (with Mamie Van Doren as Eve
  • In a memorable episode of the original The Twilight Zone, Rooney played on the perception of his  diminutive  stature, as a jockey who wanted to be big
  • It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (it made sense that one of Hollywood’s most popular stars would be part of this celebrity-studded comedy)
  • How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (one of the beach party movies, with Buster Keaton, Annette Funicello, and Harvey Lembeck as Eric Von Zipper)
  • Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (which still shows every holiday season, with Rooney voicing Kris Kringle/Santa Claus)
  • Night Gallery
  • Journey Back to Oz (voicing the Scarecrow)
  • The Year without a Santa Claus
  • Pete’s Dragon, which was perceived at the time as an ambitious mix of animation and live action at Disney
  • Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July (back as Santa Claus)
  • Arabian Adventure (with Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing…and John Ratzenberger)
  • Creole (narrator: later edited into Misunderstood Monsters)
  • The Fox and the Hound (back at Disney, voicing Tod)
  • The Love Boat (“The Christmas Presence”)
  • The Care Bears Movie (as Mr. Cherrywood)
  • Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland
  • Erik the Viking
  • Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (as Joe Petto)
  • The Magic Voice (English narrator of this German cartoon…other voices include Corey Feldman and Dom DeLuise)
  • Kung Fu: The Legend Continues
  • Kleo, the Misfit Unicorn (as Talbut…a regular voice on this late 1990s series)
  • Conan (TV series with the Robert E. Howard character)
  • Stories from My Childhood (The Snow Queen episode)
  • Sinbad: The Battle of the Dark Knights
  • Babe: Pig in the City
  • Phantom of the Megaplex
  • Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure
  • To Kill a Mockumentary
  • The Happy Elf
  • Night at the Museum
  • The Thirsting
  • The Yesterday Pool
  • Wreck the Halls
  • A Miser Brothers’ Christmas
  • The Muppets (the 2011 movie)
  • The Voices from Beyond
  • The Woods
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (not yet released)
  • Fragments from Olympus: The Vision of Nikola Tesla (not yet released)

Good-bye, Mickey Rooney…the world never stood taller than when you brought your attitude to it.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

James, Danny, Ben, and Waldo: the many lives of Walter Mitty

December 12, 2013

James, Danny, Ben, and Waldo: the many lives of Walter Mitty

SPOILER ALERT: I’m going to discuss a bit about different incarnations of Walter Mitty in this post. If you have not read or seen the works and want to have the joy of pure discovery, I would do that before reading this. I won’t get into a lot of detail

Geeks understand imagination.

We get the joy of picturing ourselves in different circumstances. Some of us go to considerable lengths to recreate the fantasy, notably with cosplay (“costume play”), and LARPing (“Live Action Role Playing”).

However, what we do is quite different from how Walter Mitty was portrayed in the original short story by James Thurber in a 1939 issue of The New Yorker.

One of the key things is that it was “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (emphasis added). Walter Mitty doesn’t share his imagination with others…they don’t know  what he is thinking.

In today’s society, it might be quite different. Walter Mitty might be part of one (or several) online communities (even anonymously), playing out those situations with others.

Is Walter Mitty a geek?

Certainly, he is intelligent, well-informed, socially inept, and with a vision beyond those of the “mundane” folks in his life…I think that would fit a lot of people’s definition. 😉

He has a geek’s knowledge of detail…and he has fun in his mind, even if his real life is…less than thrilling.

The 1947 movie with Danny Kaye considerably changed the message of the character. Now, Mitty becomes involved in a real-life adventure. What he imagined in the past is valuable to him, but it is clearly suggested that being in the real world is a better idea…coming out of your shell.

That’s a very different feel. Walter Mitty in the short story might like to come out of his shell (maybe), but there is no suggestion that will happen, or even endorsement of the idea. In the short story, these ideas are a defense to a humdrum existence…not something that will give him real world power.

To be clear, I’m a big Danny Kaye fan, and like the 1947 movie very much…but it isn’t the same as the story at its heart.

There were radio adaptations (including one with Danny Kaye), and stage productions (it was part of A Thurber Carnival), but geeks may fondly (?) remember the 1975 live action/cartoon combo, The Secret Lives of Waldo Kitty.

I enjoyed this odd 1975 Filmation production. There were live action pet cats and dogs, and one of them, Waldo Kitty, would have pop culture parody daydreams, which were done in animation. Waldo might become “Catzan” (Tarzan), or Captain Herc of the starship Second-Prize (a Star Trek parody), or several others. Like the 1947 movie, these fantasies actually helped Waldo deal with real world challenges.

Reportedly, it was challenged by the Thurber estate, and became a one-season wonder.

Now (releasing on December 25 2013 in the USA), Ben Stiller is doing a new version (starring and directing). While I haven’t seen it yet, it appears to be taking more of the approach of the 1947 movie than the story.

Certainly, it’s reasonable that you would have more character development in a movie than in a short story. I’ll be interested to see how this is…I’ve been hearing some good things about it.

One other thing: there was a TV series called My World and Welcome to It, based on Thurber’s writings, and starring geek-friendly William Windom. It wasn’t specifically Walter Mitty, though, although a fantasy life was certainly a part of this show (which many remember fondly).

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :)  You can also support a non-profit you or another geek (if you are gifting something) would appreciate…one of the ones listed here, perhaps: Weird & geeky groups you can support by shopping at AmazonSmile.

A short history of the Lone Ranger

July 2, 2013

A short history of the Lone Ranger

The Gore Verbinski/Johnny Depp version of The Lone Ranger opens in the USA on July 3rd.

The character has been around for eighty years, and is a solid part of pop culture.

Before I give you a chronology, let me talk a bit about the Lone Ranger. If you know nothing about the character, it’s possible that you might consider some of this as spoilers, but I think that’s unlikely for most people. I have not seen the movie, so this won’t reveal anything specific to that production (which looks like it is going to take a different approach).

The future Lone Ranger was one of the Texas Rangers, along with his brother. The group rode into an ambush set by the Cavendish gang. All of the rangers except for the one who would become The Lone Ranger (in the original series, his first name was not given, but he is generally now thought of as John Reid) were killed.

The future Lone Ranger was rescued by Tonto. Tonto buried the other rangers (including the future Lone Ranger’s brother), and made an extra grave for the future Lone Ranger, in order to fool the Cavendish gang and give the future Lone Ranger a chance to recover.

After being helped back to health by Tonto, he becomes the Lone (the last left alive) Ranger. He dons a mask, made from the bullet-ridden vest of his brother.

There is a wild stallion that he later names Silver. It may not be appropriate to say that he tames Silver, but they do become a team.

Traditionally, the Lone Ranger doesn’t shoot to kill his opponents. In fact, he avoids gunplay. That’s why he uses silver bullets…it’s because they are rare, expensive, and difficult to get. That means he will always think twice about using one. Obviously, there is also symbolism here, as seen in naming his horse Silver as well.

The Lone Ranger travels around, helping build the West. Tonto travels with him. It’s important to note that the Lone Ranger generally treats him as an equal, and the audience is expected to do the same. While Tonto does encounter a great deal of prejudice, it’s from other characters (townsfolk, bad guys), and the audience believes the prejudice is wrong.

There are other things associated with the Lone Ranger. “Hi-yo, Silver, away!” starts a ride. When the Lone Ranger leaves an area, after having saved someone, they might say, “Who was that masked man? I wanted to thank him.”  The William Tell Overture, used in the radio show and the TV show, is also closely linked to him.

The Lone Ranger is someone who has sublimated his own identity for the greater good. He believes in the individual and helps others. He tends to side with the less powerful against those who abuse power and who might dictate the way the West develops.

To quote the show, “Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear…

Timeline (click links for information and content, including the original radio shows)

January 31st, 1933: the first Lone Ranger radio show is broadcast (there is some suggestion that it might have played on January 30th as a test, but the 31st was the official debut). It would run for close to 3,000 episodes, and become a national show and sensation

1936: the first Lone Ranger novel is published. Seventeen more in the series will follow through 1956. The Lone Ranger Rides

Late 1930s: a serious silent cartoon version is produced

1938: Parker Brothers released The Lone Ranger boardgame Board Game Geek listing

February 12, 1938: Republic releases the first chapter of a 15 chapter serial, just called The Lone Ranger Watch at YouTube

September, 1938: A Lone Ranger comic strip starts, and will run through 1971. Lone Ranger comic strip

January 7, 1939: The Lone Stranger and Porky, a parody with Porky Pig (and directed by Bob Clampett) is released Watch at YouTube

February 25, 1939: A Republic sequel (again, fifteen chapters) is released: The Lone Ranger Rides Again Watch a restored version at YouTube

1947: As a premium for Kix cereal, kids can get a Lone Ranger Atomic Bomb ring…which reportedly actually contains a radioactive isotope Tracy’s Toys

1948: Dell Comics begins a Lone Ranger comic book, originally reprinting strips, but later including original material. It will run for 145 issues

1948: Cheerios prints special editions of the boxes with 9 different paper card model sets, in honor of the 15th anniversary of the show Board Game Geek listing

September 15, 1949: The Lone Ranger becomes an early hit for TV with Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels. New episodes run through June 6, 1957 The Renegades episode of The Lone Ranger

1951: Dell publishes a Tonto comic book series…it runs 31 issues

1951: Dell adds a Silver comic book series…it runs 34 issues Silver comic book

January-February, 1953: Mad Magazine does a parody: Lone Stranger!

December 1953 – January 1954: Mad Magazine does a parody…sequel: Lone Stranger Rides Again

1956: Parker Brothers releases The New Lone Ranger boardgame Board Game Geek listing

1956: A theatrical release is done with Moore and Silverheels

1956: Lisbeth Wirthing releases The Lone Ranger and the Silver Bullets boardgame. It is reportedly later pulled due to licensing issues Board Game Geek article

1958: Another theatrical release with Moore and Silverheels, The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold

September 1964: Gold Key begins a Lone Ranger comic book series

1965: Bill Cosby’s album I Started Out As a Child features a Lone Ranger routine audio clip on YouTube

1966: A Lone Ranger animated series runs, with Michael Rye as the Ranger. It is reportedly a darker tone than might be expected at the time

1966: Milton Bradley releases The Lone Ranger boardgame, apparently based on the cartoon series Board Game Geek listing

1973: Gabriel Toys released a line based on the Lone Ranger Skooldays article

1978: Warren Company releases The Lone Ranger& Tonto boardgame Board Game Geek listing

1980: The Tarzan/Lone Ranger (later Zorro was added) animated series. William Conrad (Cannon) voiced the Ranger. Ran through 1982

1980: Milton Bradley releases a Lone Ranger board game, The Legend of the Lone Ranger Board Game Geek listing

1981: A big budget version is made…with Christopher Lloyd as Butch Cavendish. A controversy at the time is Clayton Moore, TV’s Lone Ranger, being prohibited from wearing the mask in public appearances (so as not to conflict), and switching to sunglasses

1994: Topps comics does a four-part Joe R. Lansdale miniseries

July, 1991: Konami released a Lone Ranger videogame for the NES

February 26, 2003: A TV movie with Chad Michael Murray as the Lone Ranger IMDb listing

September 6, 2006: Dynamite Entertainment begins another comic book series

2013?: Lego releases a series of figures and sets connected to the new movie Lego

June 6, 2013: Disney releases Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer inspired characters for Disney Infinity L.A. Times article

July 3, 2013:  The Johnny Depp version opens

Lone Ranger collectibles

The Lone Ranger search at Amazon

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

My take on

June 12, 2010

My take on

“Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear…”

Before television brought the series we loved into our homes, there was Old Time Radio (OTR).

Just like people waited for the next episode of Friends or Lost, people tuned into their favorite series.

I think there may be a resurgence of interest in OTR…there is a lot of audio entertainment being consumed on iPods, but also on things like the Kindle.

That’s where I’ve listened recently…I find it’s a great option on plane trip to have a few episodes available.

Since people also have MP3 players in cars, that’s another way to listen to it…could be great to keep the kids quiet.  🙂

Some shows are only fifteen minutes long, which I think is also good.

Oh, when I say kids, though, you need to be a little careful…some of the shows are really quite scary!  You won’t hear “bad language” much, and sexual content is really not an issue.  But pure, creepy suspense?  Yep, that can be there.

There can also be an issue with stereotypes…what was “acceptable” in mainstream popular culture in the 1930s may be jarring now.

So, why this site?

First, the shows are free.  🙂  Quite simply, people didn’t tend to renew the copyrights on radio shows, so a lot of them have fallen into the public domain (which means it is legal for anybody to reproduce them, distribute them…even sell them).

Second, I like the selection.  It may not be every show you ever knew, but it is a lot of the well-known ones (and just as cool to me, lesser known ones as well).

Third, there is the question of navigation and use…easy enough.

The categories are:

  • Comedies
  • Dramas
  • Mysteries
  • Variety
  • Westerns
  • SciFi/Superheroes
  • Music
  • Misc

Here are a few examples of specific shows:

  • Blue Beetle
  • Captain Midnight
  • Danny Kaye Show
  • Ellery Queen
  • Gene Autry
  • Hopalong Cassidy
  • Philip Marlowe
  • Quiz Kids
  • The Whistler
  • X-1

That’s just a sample.  If you know the line, “I am the Whistler, and I know many things…for I walk by night,” you’ll recognize many of these shows.

There are also big name shows from TV, the movies, and comics: Tarzan, Archie Andrews…even Batman (but you’ll probably be disappointed in that last one…the Caped Crusader just bookends the stories…and gives away his secret identity to his kid fans!).

One feature I like is the Complete Broadcast Day, which is like going back in time to listen to it the way it was.

One negative for the site?  No search box…you have to dig around, like flipping through the bins in an old vinyl record store.

When you find a show you like, right-click on it and choose “Save target as…” When you save it, it’ll be in MP3 format, which will play on a lot of devices.  If you do have a Kindle, put it in the Audible folder.  Alternatively, you can just listen on line by clicking on the show link.

Oh, and there aren’t really descriptions of the shows.  🙂

Hmmm…so there are some flaws in this site, certainly, but you can get hours and hours of free entertainment. 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

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