Category Archives: personal musings

The Best Albums Of 1997


1997. The year yours truly graduated high school. The year of the deaths of Princess Diana and Mother Teresa. The year Bill Clinton began his second term as president. A loose cross between the calm and the chaotic.

1997 was pretty great cinematically, an improvement over 1996, the weakest year of the 1990s. Musically though, it was a step-down. If in 1996, there was still a sense of possibility that the “alternative rock revolution” might lead somewhere, 1997 offered definitive proof that the moment had passed and all the possibilities that had leapt forth following the early 90s breakthrough had reached an impasse or petered out totally.

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The Best Albums of 1987


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What if I told you the two biggest hit songs of 1987 were by Gregory Abbot and Billy Vera & the Beaters?

Well they were. The songs in question are “Shake You Down” and “At This Moment,” two tunes I haven’t given a second thought to in the intervening thirty years. If you had asked me to name the top hits of the year without doing any research I never would have thought of these two. Go a little further down the list and you’ll start to find artists you may associate more with the era, like Madonna, Michael Jackson, U2, George Michael, Whitney Houston, and Bon Jovi. If you know me well, you probably know that not many of those folks are likely to make my list of the best albums of the year from thirty years ago. If you don’t know me well, check out last year’s article about the Best Albums of 1986 and the previous year’s highlight of the top long-form recordings of 1985. That should drive the point home. Since I turned 17 in 1987, I not only developed some intense attachment to the popular art forms of the time, but I also learned a bit of distaste for the stuff that I found less appealing. I’m sure most people who take art seriously go through this at some point in time and over the next few years it would develop for me pretty significantly.

Despite this, you should find some of my choices for the best of 1987 to be accessible enough.

Take a deep breath and dive in!
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Daffy Stardust takes on Haunted Mansion theories


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It’s just a few days after Christmas, so obviously the natural thing to do is to compose another post about Disney’s Haunted Mansion. The topics I’m going to cover here were touched on a bit in last year’s tour of the Walt Disney World version of the Mansion, but since I’m still finding these fan theories lingering I thought I’d talk about them in a little more detail than before. I’ll be asking three central questions, with a little bit of crossover. Who is Master Gracey? Is he the Ghost Host? Do you die on the ride? Some fans will give you a “yes” to those last two questions, but I’m not so sure. Let’s take a look, shall we?
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My Movie Debut


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Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers.  I hope you get to spend it with loved ones.  We here at Le Blog have lots to be thankful for starting with readers like you.

This past Saturday, we celebrated Jodie Foster’s birthday.  I took the occasion as an opportunity/excuse to share my Jodie Foster story.  I have been telling it for about 25 years now, so I’m always a bit reluctant to trot it out again for fear that everyone has heard it already.  But a few readers hadn’t, so I went ahead and told it all again.  Then I figured, hey, why not just make a post out of it and share it with everybody.  So here you go.

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My Open Mic Madness


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I like making people laugh.  I’m not especially good at it, but that doesn’t stop me from trying as regular readers know.  Although an introvert by nature, I have always looked for outlets where I could try to get a laugh.  These days, I entertain myself and hopefully a few readers here at Le Blog.  But back in my pre-internet days, I played to a somewhat smaller audience as an amateur stand-up comedian.

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My Adventures in Filmmaking: The Beginning


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Before my recent contributions to LeBlog I’d been on an almost two year hiatus. There was a litany of reasons for this: working 80 hours a week, becoming a high school teacher, moving across the country to Orlando, FL, almost getting shot, getting married, and moving back across the country to Texas. On this site I’ve previously extolled my theatrical endeavors and history, but over the last few years I’ve done something a little different: I’ve gotten into film acting and filmmaking.

Now, don’t get too excited; you’re not going to see me in anything. It has been mostly acting in local shorts and beginning to dip my toes into producing my own. So, what this article is about is mostly to shamelessly promote a few of the projects I’ve been in before (they vary in quality) and share where I’m looking to go with it.

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Building my Movie Poster Puzzle: Gone With the Wind


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In late June I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

Obviously, this is one of the most famous and iconic American films ever made. Even if you’ve never sat down and watched Gone With the Wind from start to finish, you are probably familiar with it and know a little about the story, cast, imagery, or lines. Margaret Mitchell’s novel of the same name was an enormous success when it was released in 1936, becoming a million-seller rather quickly despite being  highly priced for the time at three dollars. There was so much anticipation for the film version, in fact, that when work on the script dragged out the film’s producer David O Selznick was able to milk the delay for additional publicity by announcing a nationwide casting call for the central role of Scarlett O’Hara. Big stars such as Katherine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, and Lana Turner were considered for the part, but eventually it went to the relative unknown British actress Vivien Leigh after she made a trip along with Lawrence Olivier to America and arranged a chance meeting with Selznick. Clark Gable was always the number one choice to play Rhett Butler, but a good deal of bargaining with MGM had to be done to secure his services. Gone with the Wind would go on to break box office records and win eight competitive Academy Awards. That’s all been well-detailed elsewhere, but I want to take a different angle if you’ll follow me past the break.
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Disneyland Bingo with Daffystardust! Video


What’s this, you say? Didn’t you go to Disneyland more than a year ago?

Well, yes you’re right about that, so in a way this video is sorely behind schedule isn’t it? Well, the whole point here is for me to teach myself how to use the iMovie program on my computer so that I can make even more videos in the future to share here at LeBlog. Heck , I’ve got a return trip to Walt Disney World in Florida coming up the first weekend of October and I’m really hoping to shoot a bunch more video on that trip than I ever have before, which would make any resulting composition I’d present here even more dynamic than what I was able to put together to show you today. The above video is just my second attempt, after a seven minute jaunt focusing only on my dog whetted my appetite to give this a try.

If you’re new to the blog and you’re reading this, welcome! Everyone who wishes to can go ahead and grab the Disneyland Bingo card I created just below the break. It is up to date and should be fully possible to accomplish if you attend the California Disney parks anytime soon.
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Building my Movie Posters Puzzle: Frankenstein


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In late June I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

Director James Whale’s 1931 production of Frankenstein continues to be one of the most iconic films in the history of cinema and helped to bring Mary Shelly’s creation to the masses in unexpected and perhaps unfortunate ways.The image of the creature animated by Dr. Frankenstein and portrayed by actor Boris Karloff was as famous as Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny more than forty years after the film’s release when I was growing up in the early 1970s. It might have receded a bit in recent years, but is still quite well known. The Whale film that kicked of the mania has its strengths and weaknesses. Let’s discuss.
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Six Years and Ten Million Hits Later…


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This month marks a couple of important milestones for Le Blog.  I started the site six years ago.  The first article posted May 17, 2010.  Ordinarily, I would let a six-year anniversary pass unremarked on.  But on top of that, the site reached 10 million hits this morning!  In celebration of that landmark, I thought I would look back at the first six years of Le Blog.

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2015 in review


 

2015 has been a difficult year.  Personally, my family and I have spent the bulk of the year trying to sell our house and move into a new school district.  We have faced a number of challenges in pursuit of that goal.  Thankfully, the finish line is in sight.  We close on our current house next week and should be closing on the new house some time in January.  Obviously, that leaves us in limbo for a week or two which is pretty much par for the course in this process.  Looking at the bright side, we will finally complete this long term goal within a span of a few weeks.

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Worst to First: My Star Wars toys


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As classic as the original trilogy of Star Wars movies was, who are we kidding? The lasting love many of us have for George Lucas’ space opera series has at least as much to do with the associated toys we managed to get our hands on. After all, Star Wars and its immediate sequel The Empire Strike Back, were released at a time when home video had not yet become prevalent. Even when Return of the Jedi hit theaters in 1983, mainstream U.S. consumers were still a year or two away from thinking of watching movies at home as something that could be a common occurrence. Without the ability to constantly revisit the movies, we reinforced the existing stories we’d seen on the big screen and invented more stories of our own through the time-honored tradition of play.

George Lucas famously held onto licensing rights when his contract was written up for the making of the first movie, and we all helped to make him a very rich man. In a sense, we are guilty of creating the circumstances under which the reviled prequels happened. But nobody was actually prepared for how popular Star Wars would become. The movie opened as a ‘B’ feature and got kicked out of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood after just two weeks because of a pre-existing contract. Kenner secured the licensing for creating toys, but couldn’t produce them fast enough, leading to kids going to Sears and coming home with a piece of cardboard promising them a set of action figures once the darn things got made. My parents wouldn’t buy us a piece of cardboard, but as soon as the figures were actually in the store they happily let us choose one. I don’t think they quite understood at the time that wouldn’t be close to the end of it.

For several years these were some of my favorite and most coveted toys. I didn’t come close to collecting it all, but I sure feel like I got my share. Join me as I rank my favorites!
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Don’t Ask For a Refund


No Refunds

Back in my misspent youth, I worked as a movie theater manager for several years.  It was a lousy job, but perfect for a movie fan like myself with no real responsibilities.  When I started, I was working for a chain of rundown theaters in central Kentucky.  The company I worked for was looking to pull out of the area.  They had already sold all of their other holdings in the state.  But no one would take the central Kentucky theaters off their hands, so they were stuck with us.  What follows is the story of how I came to run my first movie theater.

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