Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

105 Years Ago Today....

An artifact from April 24, 1907:

Walter's house is still there in Cincinnati

Miss Nass's place in Providence, however, 
appears to have undergone a few renovations

Monday, April 23, 2012

Linwood Dunn

In a recent post I mentioned that the Vine St. Theater where Joey Bishop used to tape his talk show is now known as the Linwood Dunn Theater. Which raises the obvious question, "Who the hell is Linwood Dunn?"

My first guess was that it was someone with too much money and ego who agreed to hand over a significant part of his ill-gotten gains in exchange for getting his name slapped on a theater.

My second guess was that it was someone with too much money whom the owners of the theater were trying to suck up to in hopes of getting a significant bequest upon that someone's death.

Turns out that this might actually be a case where someone actually deserved to have a theater named after them in recognition of their contributions to the art of film.

To quote Wikipedia:

Linwood G. Dunn, A.S.C. (December 27, 1904, Brooklyn, New York – May 20, 1998, Los Angeles) was a pioneer of visual special effects in motion pictures and inventor of related technology. Dunn worked on many films and TV series including the original King Kong (1933), Citizen Kane (1941), and Star Trek (1966–69)....
Dunn's career began by about 1923 when he worked as a projectionist for the American Motion Picture Picture Corp. Following a relative to Hollywood, he was hired as an assistant by the Pathé company in 1925. Early films and serials he worked on as a cameraman were The Green Archer (1925), Snowed in (1926), Hawk of the Hills (1927), Queen of the Northwoods (1929), Flight (1929, Frank Capra's first sound film), Ringside (1929), The Case of Sergeant Grischa (1930), Danger Lights (1930), an early widescreen film, and Cimarron (1931), an Academy Award-winner for Best Picture....
It was Dunn who photographed the rotating RKO radio tower trademark used at the beginning of all RKO films. In the early 30s, Dunn became part of the effects team responsible for the creation of the original King Kong (1933)....
Dunn continued to work at RKO after Howard Hughes bought the studio. Production on The Outlaw (1943) was halted owing to a controversy over how much of Jane Russell's bosom would be visible. Dunn resolved the situation by rephotographing Russell's close-ups with a tiny scrim inserted between the projector and camera, so as to soften the line of her cleavage. Dunn gained a technical Oscar (along with machinist Cecil Love) in 1944 for his work.
After RKO had ceased to exist as a film production company, Dunn did the optical composites and title sequence for West Side Story (1961) and the elaborate fire-ladder sequence at the end of Stanley Kramer's It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), which required 21 different all-color elements to be composited into final images.
Other later large-format and/or high-profile films Dunn's company did opticals for are My Fair Lady (1964), The Great Race (1965), Hawaii (1966), The Bible: In the Beginning (1966), Darling Lili (1970), and Airport (1970)....
Dunn produced the lightning-electrocution scene at the end of The Thing from Another World (1951) by scratching the lightning, frame-by-frame, on a strip of black film and then compositing the best of that footage with live action footage of the monster burning and shrinking (done by Dunn via pulling back the camera on a track while filming the monster image element against a black background), with those two elements then photographically combined with the unmoving image of the floor and walls that surround the creature in the final composite. During the brief 3-D craze and the more permanent shift to widescreen processes such as CinemaScope, Dunn pioneered the use of optical composites using these developments, inventing and refining new equipment to achieve it.
Dunn worked for Desilu Productions, founded by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, their TV production required the occasional use of optical effects, especially for increasingly elaborate title sequences, and Dunn was one of several optical houses that supplied them.
From 1965, Dunn became one of four optical houses that supplied visual effects for the company's (later Paramount) Star Trek TV series. It was mostly Dunn who photographed the 11-foot large Starship Enterprise model....
Dunn also specialized in optical work for special and large format films, creating the equipment necessary to do the jobs. Dunn did optical composite for several special 70mm films shown at World's Fairs, including the multi-panel tour-de-force film, A Place To Stand made for Expo 67. It was Dunn who did what his associates said was impossible, cleanly blowing up 16mm negative to 70mm prints for George Harrison's Concert For Bangladesh concert film. Dunn's company later became the first facility in Hollywood that could do optical composites in the ultra-large Imax film format....
In the 1990s, while in his 90s, Dunn joined with Japanese engineers in the development of a 3-D television system that used electronic virtual-reality-type glasses that auto-synched to the TV image, to create the most clear and deep 3-D images ever produced. The system was built for hospitals; surgeons in many facilities are now using the system as a key aid in sorting out the nerve-endings during micro-neurosurgery. The system was profiled on an episode of Alan Alda's Scientific American Frontiers TV series. Always keenly interested in technology, Dunn participated in the development of digital projection for theaters.

I'd never heard of Dunn before coming across his name while doing a bit of research on that silly little Joey Bishop postcard I shared here. Now I have a deep respect for him.

I also now have a deep curiosity about the long gone Esquire Theater in Toledo and the person that old burlesque house may have been named after. Perhaps the inventor of the rim shot or the bump-and-grind?

The mind reels.

Which is a good thing since that's just about the only exercise it gets anymore....

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Yesterday's Visitors

Well, two of them, anyway.

I wonder if they were looking for the bunny?

What they got was my neighbor's dachshund.

I love dachshunds. Even the snotty ones. But I find myself loving this one a whole lot less every time it comes charging into my yard to chase away the wildlife.

There's no fence between my yard and my neighbor's.

Maybe there should be?

There's no polite way to suggest to my neighbor that there should be, is there?

Maybe I should instead suggest to my neighbor that he pay for the therapy my traumatized duck friends need now?


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Oddest Thing I've Learned This Month

Merv Griffin Died A Closeted Homosexual (Ray Richmond/Reuters-Hollywood Reporter; Aug 17, 2007)....

Griffin, who died of prostate cancer Sunday at 82, stayed in the closet throughout his life. Perhaps he figured it was preferable to remain the object of gossip rather than live openly as "one of them."...

I had more than a passing acquaintance with him, having worked on "The Merv Griffin Show" as a talent coordinator/segment producer in 1985-86 as the show was winding down. Around the office, Merv's being gay was understood but rarely discussed (and certainly never with him). We knew nothing of his relationships because he guarded his privacy fiercely, and we didn't pry.

Merv's secret gay life was widely known throughout showbiz culture, if not the wider America. It gained traction in 1991 when he was targeted in a pair of lawsuits: by "Dance Fever" host Denny Terrio, alleging sexual harassment; and by assistant Brent Plott seeking $200 million in palimony. Both ultimately were dismissed....

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bunny & Co.

No animals were harmed in the making of this video last Friday - but I admit that's only because the cowbird that pooped on my solar light flew away before I could get out there to spank him.

Monday, April 16, 2012


"Neither Newt Gingrich nor Rick Santorum will budge anytime soon: despite pressure to get out of the race, their defiant personalities and distaste for Romney will get their backs up and motivate them to fight on through the convention...." - Time magazine's senior political analyst, Mark Halperin, in his Between The Lines column that appeared in the issue dated April 9, 2012

"Santorum Suspends Campaign, Clearing Romney's Path" - CNN headline, April 10, 2012

Just a reminder (if one is needed) that even expert analysts are better at reporting the news than they are at predicting it.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Another View (Or Two) Of Vintage Hollywood Glamor

Close-up shot of the glamor:

Incidentally, The Joey Bishop Show premiered on April 17, 1967 (exactly 45 years ago on Tuesday) and lasted until the end of 1969 (exactly 45 years before the end of 2014).

Although I can recall hearing about the show at the time as ABC's attempt to compete with NBC's Tonight Show (with Johnny Carson) and CBS's Merv Griffin Show, I have only a fleeting memory of actually watching it. It seems to have been one of those things we clicked past after briefly sampling rather than something we ever actually watched. Given the late hour it was on and my usually early bedtime, I'm not sure now how I ever managed to see it at all - but I did.

Joey Bishop himself seems to have been one of the first celebrities I ever encountered who prompted me to ask, "Exactly why is this person famous?" Little did I know that that question would be one of the ones I'd be asking with increasing frequency as the years went by. (Perhaps only "Where the hell did I just put my pen?!" echoes through my house more often these days.)

The Vine St. Theater is still there, by the way, only it's now known as The Linwood Dunn Theater.


It's owned by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and is home to The Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study.

The Pickford Center site's rather detailed history of the building includes this somewhat interesting information: "The building was originally built in 1947–48 as a radio and television studio facility at a cost of $3 million.... The building was dedicated on August 18, 1948. It is the oldest surviving structure in Hollywood that was originally designed specifically with television in mind.... The building was the original home of Los Angeles Channel 2, which is now KCBS-TV, through the 1950s. In the 1950s, 1313 Vine Street was the home of KHJ-TV and was the studio for Johnny Carson's earliest mid-'50s television appearances before 'The Tonight Show,' including 'Carson's Cellar' and 'The New Johnny Carson Show.' It was the original home, from 1964 through 1971, of California Community Television, which grew into PBS station KCET. It was also ABC's headquarters for the Los Angeles 1984 Olympics and the home of many ABC television shows. Some of the other shows broadcast from 1313 Vine Street over the years were: 'Queen for a Day'... 'Joey Bishop Show,' 'Barney Miller,' 'Dating Game,' and 'Newlywed Game.'"

It's hard for my mind to think of TV shows like these existing in an actual physical space like The Vine St. Theater rather than in some electronic Never Never Land. It's even harder to think of that actual physical space easily being located as a dot on a map from which a straight line might actually be drawn to my present location (or any other, for that matter). It's like finding out that one can draw a straight line from central Ohio to Oz or Narnia or that glimmering world where women in high heels and evening gowns are still happily waxing their kitchen floors.

Here's a shot of what the theater looked like back in the 1950s:

And another from 1969:

And not that anyone has ever asked, but... I've always thought of Bob Eubanks as some not-terribly-bright network executive's made-to-order version of the ultimate TV host - someone who let people forget the dangers of The Open Sea of Life by forever skating on the slick frozen surface of an extremely shallow reservoir of smirk-inducing innuendo. Imagine my surprise when I recently discovered that he used to be one of LA's most popular DJ's in the 1950s and 1960s - and the man responsible for the Hollywood Bowl appearances of the Beatles. In his spare time, he participated in... rodeos.

I've also just learned (from Wikipedia) that Eubanks - a native of Flint, Michigan - is shown in Michael Moore's 1989 move, Roger & Me, telling "an off-color anti-Semitic joke about AIDS."

I've seen that movie but I sure don't remember that joke.

I guess my delicate mind must have repressed the terrible memory.

I hope yours now does the same.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sorry, Kids . . .

This is just one of the joys of life you'll never know because you were born too late:

Sorry, sorry, sorry....

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Are Americans Evil?

Well, more evil than the citizens of other countries?

Are they less moral?

Or at least much more likely to break the law?

I dunno. The folks I encounter seem to be a fairly well-behaved bunch, but maybe they have me fooled. Maybe they're just waiting for the right moment to lift my wallet, break into your home, or click on one of those "I have read the terms and agree to abide by them" buttons without really having read a thing.

I was moved to wonder about all this by a piece I read in the April 2 issue of Time magazine. That piece (written by Fareed Zakaria) was entitled "Incarceration Nation" and reminded me once again that the US throws people into jails and prisons at a rate that's far higher than that of just about any other country.

"Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in history is a fundamental fact of our country today," Fareed quotes Adam Gopnik as saying (apparently in The New Yorker). "Overall, there are now more people under 'correctional supervision' in America - more than 6 million - than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height."

Of course Russia in Stalin's day had fewer people than America does today. And I doubt that few correctional facilities outside the Deep South are anywhere near as bad as Stalin's concentration camps were. Still... If Wikipedia's figures are to be believed, there are 32 states with a population under 6 million. Which means that we now have more people behind bars than live in the entire state of Wisconsin. Or Colorado. Or Nebraska, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Wyoming combined.

According to Fareed, the US has 760 prisoners per 100,000 citizens. Brazil has 242. Mexico has 208. Britain has 153. South Korea has 97. France has 96. Germany has 90. Japan has just 63.

Or to put it another way (as Pat Robertson allegedly has), the US has 5% of the world's population, but 25% of its prisoners.

Fareed goes on to say this: "[T]he money that states spend on prisons has risen at six times the rate of spending on higher education in the past 20 years. In 2011, California spent $9.6 billion on prisons vs. $5.7 billion on the UC system and state colleges. Since 1980, California has built one college campus and 21 prisons. A college student costs the state $8,667 per year; a prisoner costs it $45,006 a year."

It wasn't always this way. The year Ronald Reagan was first elected president (1980), the US incarceration rate was just 150 per 100,000.

What has happened since?

The so-called War on Drugs.

According to Fareed, "Drug convictions went from 15 inmates per 100,000 adults in 1980 to 148 in 1996, an almost tenfold increase. More than half of America's federal inmates today are in prison on drug convictions."

About a trillion dollars have allegedly been spent on this war in the last 40 years. Fareed quotes a report written by some famous people (George Shultz and Paul Volcker among them) as calling this war a failure. I can't recall ever reading about anyone declaring it a great success.

Are Americans using and selling drugs at a much higher rate than the citizens of other countries?

Does that make them less moral if they are?

Or merely sicker?

Or something else?

Are other countries more accepting of drug use? Or are their citizens less likely to use drugs? Or are other countries more likely to treat drug addiction as a medical issue than a criminal one?

I dunno.

But I do find it ironic that politicians and others can prattle on and on about how great and exceptional and gOd-blessed we are as a people while saying virtually nothing about our extraordinary high incarceration rate.

If we really are so great, why do so many people feel the need to find solace in drugs?

If we really are so great, why can't we think of anything better to do with drug users and their suppliers than to throw them in jail?

If so many more Americans than non-Americans really do deserve to be behind bars, are Americans really that much more evil than others?

If so many more Americans than non-Americans really don't deserve to be behind bars, are America's leaders and criminal justice system that much worse than those of other countries?

It seems that something is severely out of whack here. I'm not sure exactly what it may be, but whatever it is, it's hard for me to escape the conclusion that it reflects very poorly upon us as a country.

The fact that we're in the middle of a campaign season in which lots of lesser issues have been discussed while this one hasn't even been raised (nor seems likely to be) does little to redeem us in my eyes....

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Things In My Yard: Exhibit F

Just in case you were wondering, birds aren't the only things that make their way into my yard.

Last week a police citation also found its way there.


I've blotted out certain identifying data to protect The Guilty.

As near as I can tell from the unedited version of this citation, that Guilty Party is someone who lives in my neighborhood - or at least did when he was given this citation some 34 months ago.

Has this paper proof of improper driving really been out there blowing around all this time? I doubt it, given its remarkably good condition. Much more likely is that The Guilty Party had it taped to his windshield as a constant reminder to correct his evil ways until a gust of wind from Satan Himself dislodged it. Satan then allowed it to come to rest in my yard because I, for one, need no such reminders, being perfect and all already.

Much harder for me to comprehend is how a 1996 Plymouth came to still be on the road in 2009. And capable of speeding, no less! Maybe Satan's wind was pushing it from behind?

The hardest thing for me to comprehend, though, is this: Guilty Party was pulled over for speeding and couldn't produce a valid operator's license yet he was let off with a mere warning. Wow. Who knew police officers in Ohio could be so lenient?

Maybe that's why Guilty Party hung onto this citation for more than 2 years?

"Yep, Kristi, I once did 96 in a school zone without a license and managed to talk the cop who pulled me over into letting me go without a fine - here's proof!"

Then again, maybe it's an outrageous forgery put together by the cowbirds and doves to distract me while they secretly infiltrate my attic.

Guess I better go see....

(To see some of the other things that have turned up in my yard, go here.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Gang Of Doves

Now where did THESE guys come from?

Did an asteroid kill off all the cowbirds and allow this species to take over?

Is an asteroid destined to kill this species off in turn?

How many coos do you suppose are left in this group?

Honestly, it's a wonder I ever get anything done with all this constant activity going on right outside my back door.

I guess this explains why few if any hospitals allow surgeons to put up birdfeeders anywhere near their operating rooms....

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Conspiracy Of Cowbirds

Where did they come from?

Where are they now?

Where will they be tomorrow?

Were they as impressed with the new green leaves on the burning bush in this photo as I am?

I wish I knew....

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Easter Woodchuck

MUCH more exciting than the Easter Bunny even though he didn't leave me any eggs.

Hope YOUR holiday has included exactly as much furry goodness as you can stand!