Sunday, April 6, 2008

Get Your Stinking Paws Off Me

Category: Obituary

(Note: The title of this blog is from the movie Planet of the Apes. Spoken by Charlton Heston's character George Taylor, it was voted the #66 greatest movie quote of all-time by the American Film Institute.)

But now he's incommunicado
Leaving such a hole in a world that believed
That a life with such bravado
Was taking the right way home

-- Jimmy Buffett, "Incommunicado"

When the news of Charlton Heston's passing broke this morning I could not help but flash back nearly 29 years ago, when John Wayne died. We have had great actors and legendary actors and multiple Oscar-winning actors, but there are very few actors to grace the Silver Screen who truly deserve to be labeled "American icons." John Wayne was one; Charlton Heston was definitely another. Much like Wayne, Heston transcended the films he made. How many times have you heard him referred to as Ben-Hur or Moses -- not the role, the actual person?

That is the mark of a great actor -- one who did his job very, very well. And that describes Heston. We cried with him at the conclusion of Planet of the Apes when he realized just where he was and what had happened. We yelled, "Soylent Green is people!" along with him at the conclusion of that film. And, honestly, who isn't going to be a little disappointed if, when they meet Moses, he doesn't look like Chuck Heston?

Heston announced in 2002 that he had the beginning stages of Alzheimer's disease. "I can part the Red Sea," Heston said in his public announcement, "but I can't part with you [the audience], which is why I won't exclude you from this stage in my life."

Perhaps controversial because of his political stance (he was a civil rights champion when it was not "cool" to be so, and he served as the president of the National Rifle Association for years), Heston will nevertheless be missed by people who disagreed with him as much as people who agreed with him in that aspect of his life. That is because Charlton Heston was one outstanding actor.

Heston was 84.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The World-Wide Leader in WHAT?

Category: Review/Sports

ESPN touts itself as "the worldwide leader in sports." That is only because they have no competition. Any network that came along to give them a run for the title would have no problem, if they actually ran sports and did not try to be an ESPN clone.

What is wrong with ESPN? Where to start? It's baseball season. It's NCAA Final Four season. It's NBA season. It's Masters golf season. With all this going on, what is ESPN's lead story? The release of the NFL schedule. There is a coach in the Women's Final Four closing in on one thousand victories (Tennessee's Pat Summitt). That should generate a little news for the women's tourney, instead of worrying about which end of the opening double-header John Madden is going to call five months from now.

Speaking of the women's Final Four, ESPN ran ads all through January and February that "every game" in the women's tournament would be on ESPN. They were only about 50 games short of keeping that promise.

The women's game raises another issue with ESPN. In January, ESPN honored Martin Luther King's birthday; in February they honored Black History month. In March, they ran Black Magic. However, March is Women's History month, not "black history month II." Couldn't ESPN honor Babe Didrikson in March the way they honor Jackie Robinson in February? If not, WHY not? They'd be the first to jump on a university (or a golf course) that practiced discrimination against women (real or imagined). But can they give women in sports any coverage the way they pay homage to other minorities? Apparently not.

In the early 80s, MTV was a marvelous network, showing videos of bands that could never get airplay on FM rock stations (when was the last time you heard Dave Edmunds or Warren Zevon on FM rock?). Now, when I even think of MTV and its no-music, none-of-the-time format, I wonder why Sting ever lamented, "I want my MTV" in the opening of Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing." The same is true of ESPN.
We get to endure lame made-for-ESPN movies (the best of which was The Junction Boys, but that's almost like saying Porky's was the best movie in that series) and a TV series (Tilt) about poker. Meanwhile, only the 500 or 600 people who have Versus can watch hockey because ESPN stopped carrying the sport after the NHL strike/lockout canceled the 2004-05 season.

This is not the same network that once regaled us with Aussie Rules Football. And that is NOT a good thing.