Michaelwclark.com

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Agent Carter

I was struck by how good this series was. Especially the first season. Although I enjoyed both. Rumor has it that a third season might somehow appear. But I can’t really see it doing very well. Seems a lot of good US stuff begins with solid character development and interaction, and then degrades into a special FX fiesta. Agent Carter stopped just in time, I think. Unless the writers can recapture the compelling dynamic seen among characters in the first season… and to some degree in the second. Then I guess it could work.


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Sign of the Cross – Sign of the times?

Originally published in 2007 at Earthpages before we migrated to WordPress

The other night Turner Classic Movies ran a wonderful 1930’s production called The Sign of the Cross. Basically it’s about early Christians being hunted down and persecuted in the Roman empire. Toward the end, the film gives a dramatic portrayal of the power of faith as imprisoned Christians face the prospect of being eaten alive by wild beasts at the Colosseum (which really happened), with an especially inspired performance by Elissa Landi.

After the close of the movie, the critics at TCM said absolutely nothing about the power of faith but zeroed in on the importance of a woman’s breasts being partially shown in a milk bath and how a lusty gay scene was mostly edited out some years later once Hollywood prohibitions kicked in. Interesting stuff, but really quite tangential to the main message…


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Vincent Price – Birthday Today


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Star Trek Memories – Thanks Spock!

Vulcan (Star Trek)

Vulcan (Star Trek) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Born in 1962, I was almost too young to really appreciate Star Trek by the time it had run its course from 1966-69. Seven years old, and Star Trek had been cancelled.

My first memories of watching Star Trek are in the basement on Saturdays. It might have been a black and white or maybe a fairly primitive color TV. I can’t remember. What I do remember, though, is that the picture was pretty snowy. So it could have been a Buffalo NY channel. Or possibly a Hamilton ON channel. A snowy picture wasn’t uncommon back in the 60s and early 70s—if a household didn’t have cable, that is.

Even though the picture was fuzzy, I was captivated by Trek‘s faraway ambiance. It was low tech, for sure. But very high on the imagination. And that’s what really counts in storytelling, sci-fi or otherwise.

A few years later, the show came back as daily reruns. My friends and I would watch Trek, almost like an after school congregation. Sometimes we’d watch two episodes a day. The reruns were that popular.

Star Trek – “City on the Edge of Forever” – via Wikipedia

One of my favorite childhood episodes took place on a planet similar to Nazi Germany. Another great episode saw Kirk being accused of witchcraft on a planet similar to Earth’s European Middle Ages. And then there was Trelane, that Renaissance spoilsport who played the harpsichord, mostly concerned with his own pleasure.

There are several other outstanding episodes. Some explore the notion of parallel universes. Others, the merging of fantasy and reality. And others, the pitfalls of gangland violence or hippie idealism. But my all-time favorite, “City on the Edge of Forever,” won a Hugo award.

In this episode, Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy (Bones) travel back in time through a doughnut shaped portal to America’s Dirty Thirties. Kirk falls in love with the beautiful and insightful Edith Keeler. Unfortunately, she dies at the end of the episode. So Kirk must return to the Enterprise, to his own time, and suppress his feelings in order to command the starship.

It was a brilliant episode about time travel. One of the first to blend metaphysics and human emotion.

English: Jolene Blalock in Cairo

Jolene Blalock in Cairo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As for Leonard Nimoy, he was forever clever, funny and played the role of Spock perfectly. Jolene Blalock, who expertly portrayed the Vulcan T’Pol in Enterprise, once said that Nimoy was a hard act to follow.

Spock was groundbreaking because he was, perhaps, the first ET on TV with a full personality. As a self-proclaimed Vulcan, he was also half-human, a being who’d been taught as a boy to bury his emotions. That’s what Vulcans did. But the inner conflict was always lurking, just waiting to rise to the surface.

Despite his apparent rationalism, Spock would fall in love. He’d be reckless. He’d exhibit great valor. And when teased by Bones and Kirk, Spock would coolly rationalize his underlying emotionalism, in true Vulcan style.

Nimoy certainly was the man for the job. He played the innovative, complex character of Spock to a T. So Mr. Nimoy, thanks for the memories. And to you in the next life:

LIVE LONG AND PROSPER!  🙂


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8 Great Things about Tour de France 2014

English: The 'Grand Depart' Le Tour De France ...

The ‘Grand Depart’ Le Tour De France Riders on the first day of racing in the parade down Northumberland Avenue. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eight great things about Le Tour de France.

  1. Announcers – number one has got to be the announcers. In Toronto we hear these UK guys who sound exciting, intelligent and international. Not sure about other countries…
  2. Countryside and Architecture – nice to watch
  3. Camerawork – fantastic on and off-ground
  4. French crowd and their stylish look – Yes, the French do have a knack for style
  5. Glamorous women – kissing the podium riders on the cheek, Euro-style
  6. Riders – sorry about that, many would probably say they should be number 1. Gotta be honest here!
  7. Interesting ads – roadside, cars, stores
  8. Riders’ team outfits

 
Well, that’s it. A pinhead’s guide to Le Tour de France!


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doctor who?

I took this photo a few weeks before getting into doctor who. It’s a lonely old phone booth way out in the county, on the far side of some train tracks near the lake. I’ve been meaning to capture this for over a year. Last time I drove out to the beach, I got it on the way home… (via Tumblr)


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Civilization – The Skin of Our Teeth

Kenneth Clark

Image by sc63 via Flickr

This was a huge BBC documentary when I was a kid in 1969.

Snapshot—the Beatles are close to breaking up; mankind was about to set foot on the moon for the first time; Kubrick’s 2001 seemed almost too good (and strange) to be true; the (now) politically incorrect Get Smart was the TV show of the day; FM radio was still cool, and “high tech” meant… well, let me think… that was so long ago I can hardly remember. A push button phone? Cassette tape recorders? IBM electric typewriters?

Some have accused Kenneth Clark of being racist and ridiculously selective in this series. But we might consider — for the last charge, anyhow — that he states the limits of his study very clearly in the companion book, Civilization, which closely follows the TV script.

As for the other charge. Well, let’s just say that he’s certainly not politically correct, from a 21st century yardstick. But the fact that this series was so incredibly well received (even the Queen of England loved it and consequently made Clark a Baron) seems to indicate that Kenneth Clark was nothing more (or less) than an effective spokesperson for the prevailing Western mindset of the time. He was also a gifted scholar.

If we isolate one or two of his statements here and there, out of the entire series, he might seem like a racist. But after watching the first three segments, I’ve found counter-statements that balance out or contextualize some of his seemingly racist opinions.

Also, KC says many times that we’re all creatures of opinion and never claims to be laying out some grand immutable theory.

I’m not defending his questionable statements. Just saying that, for the most part, he’s a product of early to mid-20th century thinking, not enjoying the wisdom of eternity. And he fully knows those limitations.

So watch this and decide for yourself.