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Another Birthday another Year

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“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.” William Shakespeare

Well 54 years ago today my mother was recovering from about 20 hours of labor and wondering just what the hell she had gotten herself into. Of course we are celebrating my birthday even though I had nothing to do with it. Not a bad thing if you ask me, since birthdays happens to everybody.

Fifty-four years, wow hard to believe. I’ve lost my hair, my midsection is thicker than it used to be and I can’t see or hear as well as I used to but all that aside I’m not doing too terribly bad for my age. I still woke up this morning on this side of the great eternal dirt nap and didn’t see my name in the obituaries so it’s all good.

Funny thing about birthdays, we don’t get to pick them. I wish my mom had been able to hold out another 5-7 days because then I would have been able to celebrate my birthday on or around Opening Day, which of course should be a national holiday. However, I think that she did enough she had to deal with all of the pain and I don’t remember a thing. Besides she got me here safe and evidently the genetic material that she and my dad donated to the cause is pretty good. My blood pressure and cholesterol levels are better than a lot of people younger than me and I can still run five to six miles in decent time for my age and I can still do a lot of push ups and crunches.

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Birthdays, because they occur every day of the year are always linked to other events, people and anniversaries. The most notable of these for me is the fact that on March 27th 1794 Congress authorized the construction of six frigates, effectively establishing the United States Navy as opposed to the Continental Navy from which we derive our official birthday.

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As far as people I share my birthday with singer Mariah Carey, San Francisco Giants Catcher Buster Posey, Colorado Rockies’ First Baseman Michael Cuddyer, producer and director Quentin Tarantino and Wilhelm Roentgen, the inventor of the X-Ray. I also share a birthday, in fact just a few hours apart with my wife’s best friend Tootsie and her niece Stephanie. When we started dating March 27th was a very busy and expensive day for her.

So what I realize is that when we celebrate our birthday we are actually celebrating someone else’s work and suffering. So thanks mom and dad. Likewise I have learned the value of getting older. The late and great Hall of Fame Manager of the Baltimore Orioles noted “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” I certainly realize that more and more every day.

So anyway, despite dealing with contractors, not getting a lot of sleep and trying to balance out life it has been a happy birthday. I have a wonderful wife, two great dogs and a lot of good friends.

So have a great night and until tomorrow, and if by some chance you are celebrating a birthday too…Happy Birthday!

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve’s Favorite Halloween Horror

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“Without me, Transylvania will be as exciting as Bucharest… on a Monday night.” Count Dracula (George Hamilton) on being banished from his castle by Romanian Communists in Love at First Bite

Yes it is Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve and time for me to share my favorite Halloween horror films with you. Horror movies can be scary, but they can also be funny and even kind of klitschy. I think that is why they have such an enduring fascination to so many people, including me. I love horror, suspense, science fiction and the paranormal. They tend to be less scary than driving to work on the local interstate highways in the Hampton Roads area or going to a Mall or Wal-Mart.

Horror films have always fascinated me, especially the ones that are not simply built around a bunch of slashing and mindless killing and brutality.

Some of the films I like are more dramatic and suspenseful while others are more on the funny side of the horror genre. Not that there is anything wrong with that. There are hundreds of not thousands of horror films out there and many are variations on a theme and many are so bad I will not watch them. That being said there are some that I cannot miss.

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I love the whole vampire and Dracula genre. The Bela Lugosi Dracula was interesting but the klitchshy Hammer Dracula films with Christopher Lee were always my favorites. It was always fun for me to watch how some idiot managed to find a way to spill some blood on Dracula’s ashes and re-animate the Prince of Darkness. Of course the fact that Lee’s Dracula was always going after some really good looking girl made the series predicable and enjoyable.

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The female versions of the Dracula films produced by Hammer Productions were even more enjoyable for a teen age boy. Ingrid Pitt played a great Carmilla Karnstein, a seductive female vampire who preyed on great looking women in The Vampire Lovers.  In the vampire genre Quentin Tarintino’s Dusk ‘Til Dawn was pretty good and Wesley Snipes Blade series was enjoyable too.

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I think that the horror film that still gives me the creeps is another vampire film, Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. I saw it the first time while visiting my wife’s cousin who lived in the Netherlands back in 1985. It was on Dutch television in English and subtitled in Dutch.

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Now I admit these are not the best Dracula movies, but they are entertaining. I liked Interview with a Vampire, Dracula (1979) starring Frank Langella, Sir Lawrence Olivier and Donald Pleasance, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) starring Gary Oldham and Winona Ryder were all actually better films.  Other films in the vampire genre that I like included Fright Night and The Lost Boys.

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There were parodies as well, my favorites being Love at First Bite starring George Hamilton, Susan Saint James, Richard Benjamin, Dick Shawn and Arte Johnson, Mel Brooks’ Dracula Dead and Loving it starring Leslie Nielsen and Blackula, a blacksploitation parody starring William Marshall.

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Frankenstein was okay but I love Mel Brooks’ parody Young Frankenstein starring Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Terri Garr and Peter Boyle.

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Then there are the Satanic or Demonic possession and oppression films based on actual events. There is the classic The Exorcist and more recently The Conjuring. Both kept me on the edge of my seat and were scarier at home than they were in the theater. Another film which I like but which might better fit into the Science Fiction or loosely based on real events category is The Mothman Prophecies. 

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Zombie films have never been that interesting to me but the original Night of the Living Dead is a classic that I will watch and I did enjoy the parody Shaun of the Dead starring Simon Pegg.

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In a different class is the cult classic Army of Darkness a sequel to the Evil Dead films.  In this Bruce Campbell plays a hardware store employee who gets transported through time to a medieval castle being attacked by a ghoulish army. It really is a classic full of great one liners and action. I think one of my favorite lines is where Campbell’s character “Ash” answers the leader of the dead army when he is asked who he is: “Well hello Mister Fancypants. Well, I’ve got news for you pal, you ain’t leadin’ but two things, right now: Jack and shit… and Jack left town.”

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When I was in junior high school, high school and college a lot of different horror films came out which became cult classics which spawned sequel after sequel. There was the original Halloween starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I never got into the sequels because none of them were as good as the originals.

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Another film that I found positively frightening was Invasion of the Body Snatchers starring Donald Sutherland. It was a remake of an earlier film but the whole concept of falling asleep and being replaced with a pod person freaked me out.

Like I said at the beginning of the article, there are thousands of horror films out there. I could go on and mention more but to do so would be to repeat variations on similar themes or to stretch the genre to include various murder mysteries with horror or demonic elements such as Silence of the Lambs or films which are more appropriately classed as Science Fiction such as Alien.

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In a totally different category are the Ghostbusters comedies and Scrooged. Both comedies with classic horror twists. I love those movies.

So as Halloween winds down and the trick or treaters go home, while you are snuggled in your bed with your love, turn on the television and find something scary to watch. After all, tomorrow is Friday.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve’s Thoughts on the Academy Awards

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For the first time in years I can actually say that I saw a good number of the films nominated for Oscars. Even more surprising I actually enjoyed the Academy Award presentation show for the first time in I don’t know how long. I think a lot had to do with the fact that I had seen a lot of really good films this year and secondly I enjoyed Seth MacFarlane’s presentation.

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I was reading today that quite a few people didn’t like it. They sneered through their facelifts and Botox filled lips that MacFarlane’s humor was juvenile, crude and all sorts of other. Oh well, I guess that’s where my mind operates, but then I don’t think I have anything in common with the film critics and entertainment commentators that didn’t like it. If I recall correctly they didn’t like Mel Brooks either. Some people don’t know how to laugh, especially at themselves.  Actually though I didn’t think that he deserved to win, that Ted the bear deserved a nomination for best actor. But that’s just me.

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What was really cool that Judy, watching over 200 miles away from me enjoyed it too. I guess that this proves that we were made for one another. I loved Captain Kirk coming to the rescue and the Jaws theme playing every time an award recipient went overtime, the only thing that could have made it better was to have a Great Land Shark eat the first offender.

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As or the actual movies that I saw and the Oscars awarded, the show was pretty good. Now of the big films nominated I saw Lincoln, Argo, Skyfall, Zero Dark Thirty and Django Unchained. I did not see the Life of Pi because I gave up Pi and its carbs in order to be able to drink beer. That is kind of a yin and yang kind of thing, I like Pi but it’s a trade off. I also didn’t see Les Miserables because frankly watching a depressing story without any gratuitous sex or unnecessary violence put to song does nothing for me. I didn’t see Silver Linings Playbook but since I deal with crazy all the time and have the Mad Cow myself, I figured I pretty much knew the story. I also didn’t see the foreign film about the old foreign people because that has no market in Eastern North Carolina. I am not against foreign films, especially if they deal with U-Boats like Das Boot or Gay French Couples such as La Cage Aux Folles.

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Now of the films that I saw, they were all great, even Ted, which sadly didn’t get a nomination. The scenes of Congress in Lincoln were so realistic that I wondered where Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and Harry Reed were, and if they had a role as advisors to Spielberg. I thought that Daniel Day Lewis deserved the Best Actor Oscar for Lincoln, and why not, his Lincoln did better in theaters than the real Lincoln.

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Likewise I loved Argo, anything that pisses the Ayatollah’s in Iran off get’s my vote for best picture. Skyfall was not only the best Bond in like Diamonds are Forever, but the villain was the creepiest ever, almost as good as Dick Cheney. Oh, damn, he wasn’t in a Bond film, my bad I meant Christopher Walken. 01_silva-4_3_rx512_c680x510

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Zero Dark Thirty was great and though it didn’t win a big award it scores because it tells the story of killing Bin Laden and has been unofficially banned in Pakistan.

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Django Unchained was one of my favorites this year and I thought that the writing and acting was brilliant. I was glad that Christoph Waltz won the Best Supporting Actor, though I still think that Harvey Korman was cheated back in 1974 when he didn’t get a nomination for Blazing Saddles. Waltz is a brilliant actor, one of the best around and the role was amazing. Ang Lee getting the Best Director was a tough choice, Ben Affleck should have been nominated but wasn’t and Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino  could have easily won.

At least the losers were gracious unlike this character.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfD2JFfwxLY

As or the show, again, I thought that Seth MacFarlane did a great job in offending almost everyone equally. But that hasn’t been allowed since Mel Brooks did it back in the 1970s. I saw that MacFarlane was in a no-win situation and in order to win he elected to emulate Captain Kirk with the Kobyashi Maru scenario. He was charged with trying to attract younger viewers to a show that has been the realm of rich ossified geriatrics who wish they had the talent of the people that they were heckling. Sorry, trying to please some people is like trying to please the two old guys in the Muppets, or failing that the commentators and pundits that always look like they are constipated on cable news.

So anyway, enough for tonight.

Peace

 

Padre Steve+

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Craving a Hamburger: Pulp Fiction and a Less than Inglourious Wild Card Weekend

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Vincent: All right, well you can walk into a movie theater in Amsterdam and buy a beer. And I don’t mean just like in no paper cup, I’m talking about a glass of beer. And in Paris, you can buy beer at MacDonald’s. You know what they call a…a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?
Jules: They don’t call it a Quarter Pounder with Cheese?
Vincent: They got the metric system, they wouldn’t know what the fuck a Quarter Pounder is.
Jules: What’d they call it?
Vincent: They call it a Royale with Cheese.
Jules: [repeating] Royale with Cheese. What’d they call a Big Mac?
Vincent: Big Mac’s a Big Mac, but they call it Le Big Mac.
Jules: Le Big Mac. What do they call a Whopper?
Vincent: I dunno, I didn’t go into a Burger King. But you know what they put on french fries in Holland instead of ketchup?
Jules: What?
Vincent: Mayonnaise.

I don’t know about you but there are times when I am susceptible to cravings for certain kinds of food or drink.  Sometimes it is the smell, sometimes a visual clue and often it doesn’t matter if I am hungry or thirsty when a craving begins. It so happens that this craving coincided with the NLF first round playoff weekend, commonly referred to as the Wild Card Weekend.

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After returning from a poker game with my buddies from the local bar that I eat at I returned home to dinner with my little dog Molly and the Wild Card games.  Well, compared to past seasons where the Wild Card games were wild and exciting, this weekend was not the best NFL playoff football that I have ever seen. The games were not that exciting. In fact the game between the Packers and Vikings was so boring that I fell asleep watching it. I woke up at the end of the 3rd quarter and seeing the score decided to put a movie on my DVD player.

I decided on the Quentin Tarantino classic Pulp Fiction. This is one of my favorite films and I always find it quite entertaining. In the early part of the movie the characters played by Samuel L Jackson (Jules Winnfield) and John Travolta (Vincent Vega) bust in on some guys who ripped off their boss Marcellus Wallace.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIvUGUzR9N0

During the interaction Jules notices that the men are eating breakfast and this is where the craving part comes in. The young men are having hamburgers. I love hamburgers. In my continuing effort to eat right I don’t have them often but once in a while I want a hamburger. A good hamburger.

Jules: Looks like me and Vincent caught you boys at breakfast, sorry ’bout that. What’cha havin’?

Brett: Hamburgers.

Jules: Hamburgers. The cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast.

[Jules grabs Brett’s burger and take a bite of it.]

Jules: Uuummmm, this is a tasty burger. Vincent, you ever try a Big Kahuna Burger?

Vincent: No.

Jules: Wanna bite, they’re real tasty.

Vincent: I ain’t hungry.

Jules: Well, if you like burgers give ’em a try sometime. Me, I can’t usually get ’em myself because my girlfriend’s a vegetarian which pretty much makes me a vegetarian. But I do love the taste of a good burger. Mmm. You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with cheese in France?

Brett: No.

Jules: Tell ’em, Vincent.

Vincent: Royale with cheese.

Jules: Royale with cheese! You know why they call it that?

Brett: Because of the metric system?

Jules: Check out the big brain on Brett! You’re a smart motherfucker. That’s right. The metric system. What’s in this? [pointing to the cup of drink in front of Brett]

Brett: Sprite.

Jules: Sprite, good. You mind if I have some of your tasty beverage to wash this down?

Brett: Go right ahead.

[takes a long sip of the drink]

Jules: Aaah, that hit the spot. 

When I saw the hamburger on Brett’s plate and Jules taking a bite of it I got a craving. A wanted a hamburger and I wanted one now. However, it was late and the only place to get one at that hour was the McDonalds Drive through about 5 miles away. I resisted the craving, at least for the moment and got through the night without one.

We fast forward to today. Another day of not so great football. So after the first game between the Colts and Ravens I went to my hang out here on the island, Rucker Johns for a burger and a couple of beers while watching the next game between the Redskins and the Seahawks.

The game didn’t hit the spot but the burger and the beer did. Hopefully the games next week will be more exciting and competitive. But come Sunday I just may have another beer or two and another burger over at Rucker Johns. Until then it will be back to my salads coupled with decent physical fitness activity.

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However, the comments in the film about the McDonalds “Royale” brought back memories. It is not just in France that the McDonalds burger known in this country as the Quarter Pounder is known as the Royale. It is also known as that in Germany, where I first encountered it in 1984. Yes it is known as the Royal in Germany because there too, like France they use the Metric system. Despite that the Hamburger Royal is a treat when the delicacies of Europe grow old and one desires something from America. The cool thing is that in Germany you can get a beer with your Hamburger Royal Value Meal. Were we so forward thinking in the country, but as the French say c’est la vie.

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Speaking of Germany tonight I am watching another Quentin Tarantino film Inglourious Basterds. Until tomorrow “Oooh, that’s a bingo!”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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