Wednesday, November 26, 2014

T Is for Thog

Here's another favorite of mine who doesn't get noticed too much. Thog is one of the tall, full-body Muppet monsters, like Sweetums and Timmy Monster. He first appeared in the 1970 TV special The Great Santa Claus Switch, where he was an evil henchman.

I'm not sure what it is about him that makes me like him so much, but I think it's his sad face and eyes. I just want to give him a cookie and ask him about his day. Because of this aspect of the character, Jerry Nelson generally performed him as friendly and gentle, and he ended up in a lot of numbers where he danced with leading ladies. Even though he is 9 and 1/2 feet tall, he's surprisingly graceful.

In 1971, Thog appeared live on stage in Nancy Sinatra's Vegas stage show. It was actually one of several Muppet acts that Nancy incorporated into her stage show. Gosh, the Muppets really used to have a much larger entertainment presence than they do now.

Thog's next leading lady was Julie Andrews. The Muppets appeared pretty frequently on her 1973-1973 variety series The Julie Andrews Hour, and in one segment Thog and Julie danced and sang "Oh Babe What Would You Say," a song written by producer Norman Smith (which he released as a single under his stage name, Hurricane Smith). Sadly, I can't find a video of this.

(Julie, by the way, was obviously a fan of the Muppets--after The Julie Andrews Hour, she did another four network variety specials where the Muppets appeared, including Julie on Sesame Street, and guest starred on a second season episode of The Muppet Show).

Thog next romanced Mia Farrow on The Muppets Valentine Show, which aired in 1974 and was one of the two pilots for The Muppet Show. Someone has put the entire episode on YouTube. At 10:36, Mia gives Thog his first kiss, and they perform the Cy Coleman-Carolyn Leigh song "Real Live Girl" from the musical Little Me. It's quite sweet.

Thog made regular appearances on The Muppet Show, usually getting a little showcase once or twice a season.

Here he is on the first season, reprising "Oh Babe What Would You Say" with Kaye Ballard:


And here's a very cute second season segment where Bernadette Peters teaches Thog (with Sweetums and Timmy Monster) to dance to the tune of Vincent Youmans' "Take a Little One Step":


In his time on The Muppet Show, Thog also performed with Loretta Swit, Harvey Korman, Alice Cooper and James Coco.

Sadly, after that amazing crowd shot at the end of The Muppet Movie (which featured every Muppet in existence at the time), Thog was never seen again until 2011's The Muppets and this year's Muppets Most Wanted, where he appears in several crowd scenes.

He has yet to have another prominent role, or another leading lady, but maybe one day Thog will get to dance and romance again. It's important to me to see big monsters who are really gentle and worthy of love. I just always like this guy, and he's one of the many, many things that makes the Muppets special to me.

ABC Wednesday

NOOO!!

Last year, my first therapist recommended finding a game to play that didn't make me too frustrated (itself a tall order, as I have real patience problems) that I could use to distract me when my anxiety was too overwhelming and Becca wasn't home. So this year I've been playing Pet Rescue Saga over on Facebook and really enjoying it.

And as of yesterday, I've played every playable level so far. Well over 700 of them.

Sigh.

Back to stupid Candy Crush, I guess.

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014)
I was pretty cool on Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This sequel markedly improves on the original in every way, but particularly in a smart script and strong direction by genre savvy Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) that manages to keep the tension high for its entire running time. I have to mention the special effects, too, because I was particularly unhappy with the effects in Rise. Here, the characters have real weight and interaction, and the apes are able to communicate with their eyes and body language in a way that, while perhaps not photorealistic, are at least part of the same emotional language of the entire film. Everything blends. The special effects generally didn't take me out of the movie or dull my emotional involvement in what is a great genre picture with a humanistic story that is at turns sad, thrilling, and tentative. Shakespearean in that skiffy sort of way, and incredibly enjoyable. ***1/2

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Marvels: Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #7

"The Court-Martial of Sgt. Fury" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & George Roussos
(May 1964)

It's been a great run of war stories for Sgt. Fury, but this is the first one that I didn't feel quite so involved in. Oh, it has a lot of the same fun and humor as the previous six, but I didn't find the story of Fury's court-martial that suspenseful. I think it's probably because the story was told in such a linear fashion that the outcome never really seemed in doubt to me.

Fury's on trial for insubordination and assaulting a superior officer, something we saw him do. We don't know why he did it, but come on, seven issues in, you know there's a reason. Stan & Jack drag this out by giving Fury temporary amnesia.

The officer that Fury struck was First Lieutenant Spencer Parker, an old schoolmate of Fury's who was working with a French Underground force. Their mission: to blow up a Nazi ammo depot. But at the last minute, Fury tries to stop Parker. Parker won't listen, so Fury punches him out, and then a Messerschmitt does a strafing run, things explode, and suddenly Fury's waking up in the hospital with his memories fried. He just doesn't remember why he punched Parker.

The prosecution keeps trying to work the angle that because Fury, a non-com, and Parker, an officer, went to school together, there must be some kind of rivalry or jealousy at play. But when questioned, Parker admits that he admires Fury and wishes he could be more like him. He quickly recovers and points out, correctly, that this has nothing to do with Fury's insubordination.

The trial is eventually interrupted by a Luftwaffe air strike, which manages to hit the building where the proceedings are, er, proceeding. According to the laws of cartoon injuries, when the accident that causes the injury is replicated, the effects of the injury are reversed, so Fury instantly gets his memories back. Apparently, he knew that the ammo depot was a fake, a trap set for the French Underground, and Lt. Parker was just too eager to listen. A German prisoner named Otto Shmidt confirms the existence of the trap, and everything goes back to what it was. Status quo restored.

Stray observations:

:: For a second, I thought we were finally going to have the first issue where Gabe Jones is consistently colored correctly. Turns out no. Still appears as an occasional Caucasian. And even when he is African-American, he still looks grey. Can we make this man the right color, please?

:: "Remain in France? Don't those lunkheads at HQ know this place is crawlin' with Nazis??!" "Tell it to the chaplain, Fury!"

:: "You went to school, Sarge??!!" "Who was his teacher--King Kong??"

:: This is the first time we see any of Fury's past before the war. According to Parker, he was from the wrong side of the tracks and got in a lot of fights. He was an orphan and got in a lot of trouble until Lewis Hargrove, a priest currently serving as an Army chaplain, taught him how to box. If this were a movie, Bing Crosby would probably play the chaplain.

:: While the trial is going on, Dum-Dum Dugan is put in command of the Howling Commandos, but his heart's not really in it. (Boy, seven issues, and this is the second time now that Dum-Dum's replaced Fury.) They blow off steam by heading to another barracks and getting in a brawl with Sgt. Bull McGiveney and his men; apparently Bull's been telling the camp that Fury's finally getting what's coming to him, and the Howlers don't take that very well. (Dum-Dum actually busts in through the wall.)

Like I said, it's not a bad issue at all, it's just not suspenseful and it feels a little... routine. We'll see what happens next issue, which brings new regular penciler Dick Ayers aboard, and which promises to introduce a replacement for the late Junior Juniper.

Next Marvels: the Human Torch meets the Iceman.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Muppet Monday

I don't know anything about this or where it came from. It seems to have just popped up randomly online in 2011. I can't even find anything on Muppet Wiki about it. But here's 45 great seconds of enlightenment, Gonzo-style.

Kristen Bell Mondays

I haven't started Christmas posting yet--I'll do that on Friday--but I couldn't wait to share this one. This is the new holiday single from Straight No Chaser, featuring Kristen Bell. It's a cute song for modern Christmas, and any excuse at all to hear Kristen Bell sing...

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Song of the Week: "Eye in the Sky"

Songs for Becca #29. I love five albums by the Alan Parsons Project. (Basically their first five albums, if you skip 1979's Eve.). This is from the final one I really love, 1982's Eye in the Sky. This is just a fabulous song, probably my favorite single of theirs. It's like... easy listening progressive rock. It reminds me a lot of being a kid; the feeling I get from it has that warm "I'm too young for responsibility" glow that so much from the early 80s makes me feel. Like remembering what it was like to truly feel optimistic.

But mainly I posted this because Becca loves this song and said "You should post 'Eye in the Sky' today."

Sunday Hottie 512

SOPHIE MONK

Friday, November 21, 2014

This Week in Neat-O

What seems like a long time ago, I used to do a weekly feature called the Throwdown, where I snarked on the news. It became harder and harder to do over time; internet snark is never in short supply, and I got tired of participating in that kind of negativity. I didn't like putting it out into the world. So I stopped doing it. I also stopped doing my weekly links post, mostly because I didn't think anyone cared and most of the people whose blogs I followed migrated over to Facebook and the long-form blog more or less died off. As I've become more and more agoraphobic, I've retreated more and more from really talking to people, addressing comments, putting myself in the position to have lame arguments over matters of opinion, etc.

My therapist told me I should use Fridays on my blog to maybe talk about good things going on in the world. One of the things that's made my depression worse the past couple months is all of the bad news in the world. I internalize too much and it makes me feel hopeless, makes life seems pointless. I sort of tried to do it, but my heart wasn't in it. I'm still disconnected from the world and I have to process that a little more.

So, since I don't do anything regular here on Fridays, I'm going to do this for a while and see if I dig it. It's just stuff that I liked this week that I want to post here. Stuff that made me feel good, feel engaged, feel good to be alive. My interests are almost all pop cultural, anyway, and this was always meant to be a more pop culture-oriented blog, so what they hey. Here's the stuff what I found neat-o this week.

:: Sacha Goldberger's gallery of superheroes, Star Wars characters and Disney princesses in Flemish style is pretty great. (I particularly love the Superman.)

:: Yo-Yo Ma playing Ennio Morricone's "Ecstasy of Gold," my favorite piece from his The Good, the Bad and the Ugly score.

:: Dark Seduction, a fashion film for Woman's Secret lingerie. Not for everyone, and honestly a little bit cheesy, but it's Elsa Pataky in under for seven minutes, and that's totally for me. God, I love Elsa Pataky.

:: I don't know if anyone's checked out the new Rocket Raccoon comic by Skottie Young, but it's the kind of fun I love in comics.

This month's issue, "The Storytailer," is one of the most charming comics I've read all year. Marvel's still putting out some enjoyable stuff. Not a ton, but enjoyable stuff.

:: Yes, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is a show for really little children.

But I did finally watch the hour-long pirate episode featuring Dick Van Dyke as Goofy's grandpa, Captain Goofbeard. It was worth it just to hear Dick Van Dyke sing again.

:: Fan theory right now that Ahsoka Tano could be appearing on Star Wars Rebels after all... not much to say about it, just very excited for it to be true.

:: Sesame Street has a series online called Welcome to the Furchester Hotel, which is British but also features Elmo and Cookie Monster. It's cute, and there's a new 11-minute episode each Friday.


Cameron Arrigioni created this "modern" style trailer for The Empire Strikes Back. With all the talk of the Episode VII teaser trailer coming soon, I've been curious what the regular trailer might look like. Will it look like this, or will it continue in the similar style of the older trailers? I always liked the ones that just featured the Star Wars theme and a bunch of seemingly random shots. But this is a pretty darn good trailer.

:: I love what people are doing with Go-Pro cameras and animals. Here, someone attached a Go-Pro to an eagle and launched it over London.

:: Hollywood will not top Bricknerd's Lego Batman vs. Superman video for me no matter how many fanboys cry "But, but, but, planning!"

:: Dat ass, tho.

I know, I know, but I'm an ass man. I'm also an ass, man!

:: And finally, this magical video of a beluga whale enjoying a mariachi band.


Just float away on that music while you head on over to Amazon and maybe purchase Kelly Sedinger's Stardancer, in paperback or for Kindle. JS.