Happy 120th Birthday, Indiana Jones!

Today marks the birth date of Dr. Henry Walton Jones, Jr., famed archaeologist and obtainer of rare antiquities, renowned professor, traveled adventurer, and all around nice guy.

If ever you need an historical artifact or object of the occult located and liberated from uptight French rivals, scheming Nazis or commie graverobbers, he’s your man.

If you’re starving in some backwater village and worried about some ancient voodoo rocks rather than finding a decent sandwich shop, this is the dude you call.

If you’ve got alien bodies that need studying before they’re whisked away to secret military warehouses, he’s good at that, too.

If you want someone to show you the folly of bringing a sword to a gunfight, he’s got it covered.

Indiana Jones: July 1, 1899 – ???

Smart, tough, resourceful, and ruggedly handsome. There are so few of us.

Were he still alive today, he’d be 120 years old.

On the other hand, he did drink from the Holy Grail, so maybe he is still alive? Hmmmmmmm?

IndianaJones-1992(Indiana Jones, circa 1992)

You just never know about these things.

So, just in case…Happy 120th Birthday, Dr. Jones!

Hey! It’s Captain Picard Day!

What, you didn’t know this? Shame on you. It’s June 16th, which means…..

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That’s right, today we pause to recognize the life and accomplishments of Jean-Luc Picard: captain extraordinaire, explorer, diplomat, tea connoisseur, and 24th century renaissance man.

Oh, and he’s also a role model. Just ask him.


Of course, all he wants is to sit in the sun and read his book. Alone. Afterward? He really hasn’t thought that far ahead.

So, hey! Don’t just have a great Captain Picard Day. Get out there and “Make It So.”

June 6th, 1944.

“Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened, he will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man to man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!

Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”

General Dwight D. Eisenhower

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75 years ago, today.

We remember.

#DDay75

Happy 35th Anniversary, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock!

The death of Spock is like an open wound. It seems that I have left the noblest part of myself back there …on that newborn planet…..”

June 1st, 1984: Spock was dead, but he was about to get better.

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Celebrating 35 years since its release to movie screens far and wide, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, as its title explains, was the third theatrical film featuring Captain (nay, “Admiral”) Kirk and his merry band of senior officers from the U.S.S. Enterprise. Picking up soon after the chaotic and tragic events of the prior movie, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the film opens with the Enterprise, still wounded from its encounter with the maniacal Khan Noonien Singh, on its way back to Earth. Once there, Kirk and his gang learn that all of that business with the Genesis planet and torpedoes which can create entire planets–and destroy them, too–has become something of a political hot potato.

That might well have been the end of it, making for a pretty short movie and all that, except that Spock’s father, Sarek, shows up at Kirk’s apartment and basically tells the admiral that he done gone and dicked up, big time. He shouldn’t have left Spock’s body in a burial tube on Genesis, you see. Also, Kirk and Sarek learn that Spock, prior to his untimely demise, mind-melded with Doctor McCoy and transferred his katra–sort of like a flashdrive backup of his living spirit–from himself to the doctor.

This, of course, explains why McCoy has been acting like three flavors of crazy since the Enterprise‘s return to Earth. Now armed with a mission to retrieve their friend’s body and return it and his katra to Vulcan, Kirk and his posse steal the Enterprise and make for the Genesis planet. And, as they often do in these sorts of movies, things get seriously weird and Kirk’s plan goes right out the window when it’s discovered that Spock is alive. You know…again.

Huh.

Directed by the OG Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy, and working from a script by the great Harve Bennett, Star Trek III is a tight little flick. While not the best the franchise has offered us over the years, it’s definitely not the worst, either. Its modest budget betrays the production in a few spots, particularly in the scenes spent on the “Genesis planet” (in reality a studio soundstage), and the cringe-worthiness of a few wardrobe choices only worsens with the passage of time (lookin’ at you, Chekov).

While unspooling their story as Kirk and company race to Genesis to retrieve their friend, Nimoy and Bennett do a nice job lacing the film with nods, callbacks and affectionate hat tips to various bits and bobs from the original Star Trek series. Like Star Trek II and very much unlike Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the script features a healthy dose of humor to balance out the otherwise heavy story, and the onscreen chemistry between the actors is as good as the best of the original series episodes. The movie’s ending leaves Kirk and his crew at something of a crossroads, of course, and fans would have to wait more than two years until lingering questions were answered by the next film in the series, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Mark Lenard’s brief appearance as Sarek is a highlight, with the actor reprising the role he helped create 17 years earlier in the original series episode “Journey to Babel.” It’s the second of six occasions Lenard would return to the role, after providing the voice for his cartoon doppelganger in the animated Star Trek episode “Yesteryear.” Fans know to look for him in Star Trek IV and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country as well as guest turns on the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes “Sarek” and “Unification, Part I.” He also provided an oh-so short voice snippet for a younger version of the character in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

Christopher Lloyd seems an odd choice to play the Klingon captain, Kruge, and there are times when you’re sure he’s channeling Reverend Jim from Taxi but he manages to pull it off, especially in some of the higher-tension scenes. He also gives William Shatner a run for his money in the scenery-chewing department when the two finally face off as the Genesis planet comes apart around them.

Wrapping up everything in a neat little package is another solid score from composer James Horner. For years, it was criticized as being little more than a knock-off of his previous work for Star Trek II. It’s a perception strengthened by the release of a truncated soundtrack which, for reasons surpassing understanding, was limited largely to those pieces which evoked the previous movie. However, I think his efforts were more than redeemed upon the 2010 release of the complete score from Screen Archives Entertainment.

So, with all that, I guess I’ll spin this up and let it run today as I work. Join the search, y’all, and celebrate. Happy Anniversary, Star Trek III.

Do you have your towel?

May 25th: Happy Towel Day! Did you remember yours?

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“A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”

— Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Towel Day: Celebrating the Life and Work of Douglas Adams

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Happy 40th Anniversary, Alien.

SPECIAL ORDER 937:

PRIORITY ONE
INSURE RETURN OF ORGANISM FOR ANALYSIS
ALL OTHER CONSIDERATIONS SECONDARY
CREW EXPENDABLE

Today we set the Wayback Machine for 1979, and the release of a modestly budgeted, almost B-level film sent without much fanfare to movie screens, where it then proceeded to scare the shit out of everybody.

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I was closing in on my 12th birthday when the original Alien was released 40 years ago today. My uncle took me to see it…almost certainly, I’m sure, over the objections of his sister (aka, my mother), and while it did indeed scare the hell out of me, I also remember just thinking how cool this movie looked, sounded, and felt.

Of course, since I was 11 (almost 12!) at the time, I really didn’t understand why any of that shit was the way it was. It required many more viewings over the proceeding years for me to grasp and appreciate just how put-together this flick really is. When you think about it, Alien really isn’t much more than a low-budget monster movie, but damn is this a great film.

Every frame is a thing of beauty. Every syllable of dialogue and even facial expression, delivered by solid, dependable actors in a film which doesn’t really have a lot of talking to begin with, is there for the sole purpose not of showcasing the performer but instead to drive the story forward. Every note of Jerry Goldsmith’s haunting and (at times) rousing musical score is pitch perfect. And yes, the Alien as designed by famed artist H.R. Giger, scares the shit out of you.

Endlessly imitated and flat-out ripped off in the years immediately following its release, Alien set a new benchmark for science fiction and horror films which continues to inspire filmmakers to this day. 40 years, three sequels–including one of the best sequels to any movie ever, James Cameron’s Aliens–two spinoff movies and two kinda-sorta prequels later, the original Alien is still my favorite of the bunch.

Happy 80th Birthday, Lee Majors!

The Six Million Dollar Man himself celebrates his 80th birthday today!

It’s been a bit since I saw him pop up anywhere. He looked great from the photos I saw from the set of Fuller House where he along with Bionic Woman Lindsay Wagner guest-starred last year. They both still look great, and I hope I have half his energy when I’m his age.

Also? I fervently maintain that Lee Majors has the manliest running stride in the history of running men. Fight me.

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Geek Fact: When I was a kid, I so wanted a jacket like the one in this pic.

Geek Fact 2: I kinda still do.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Majors!

April 9th, 1959: The Mercury Seven.

Ladies and gentlemen: Today we are introducing to you and to the world these seven men who have been selected to begin training for orbital space flight.

These men, the nation’s Project Mercury astronauts, are here after a long and perhaps unprecedented series of evaluations which told our medical consultants and scientists of their superb adaptability to their coming flight.”

April 9th, 1959 – 60 years ago today: America officially gets into the space race with Project Mercury.

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(L-R: Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom,
Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, Deke Slayton)

They were to be America’s first guides to the stars. The right stuff, indeed.

Happy First Contact Day, Trekkies!

April 5th, 2063: We’re only 44 years from this most excellent of events, yo.

While we wait, we continue to look to the future with hope and excitement. After all, we know that this monumental meeting between humanity and intelligent beings from a world beyond our own will usher in a new era of peace, optimism, prosperity and collaborative spirit as the people of Earth take their first tentative steps into a larger universe.

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So, grab yourself the first Vulcan (or other non-terrestrial biological entity) you meet, wriggle to the left, wriggle to the right, and do the Ooby Dooby with all of your might. Let’s get this party started, all while living long and prospering in forthright, logical fashion, of course.

March 24-25, 1944: “The Great Escape.”

Seventy-five years ago, on the evening of March 24, 1944, the culmination of months of planning and preparation and the efforts of hundreds of men was put into motion as Allied prisoners of war launched the most daring escape attempt of the Second World War. The genesis and implementation of the scheme and its aftermath became the stuff of legend, earning it the quite appropriate moniker of “The Great Escape.”

Stalag Luft III, circa 1943.

Despite boasts by the German Luftwaffe that their prison camp, Stalag Luft III, was “escape proof,” history has shown that Allied soldiers and airmen incarcerated there made dozens of escape attempts over the course of the war. All would pale in comparison to the night of March 24th, however, when more than 200 POWs began the process of sneaking out through a tunnel they’d dug over the course of months (one of three, actually, along with a fourth tunnel connecting different buildings), leading out from their barracks to the forest just beyond the camp’s fences.

The escape plan’s scope was massive: clothing tailored so that prisoners could better blend with the civilian population, forged identity papers, maps, train schedules obtained from unwitting German soldiers, travel rations, and so much more factored into the mix. While making their way home or to friendly military forces was a hope carried by many, the primary goal was to spread across the countryside in a supreme effort to confound, confuse, and harass German military personnel, drawing them away from more pressing duties which in turn might expose vulnerabilities for Allied forces to exploit.

Circumstances dictated only 76 prisoners managed to get out before the effort was discovered in the early hours of March 25th, 1944. Of those, 73 were recaptured, 50 of whom were subsequently executed by the German Gestapo by order of Adolph Hitler himself, in direct violation of the Geneva Convention.

Upon learning of their comrades’ fate, prisoners at Stalag Luft III constructed a memorial to “the Fifty” which still resides at the camp’s former location, which is now a museum.

Those responsible for the murders and who survived the war–like so many other Nazis and sympathizers–were later hunted, and several were ultimately executed or imprisoned. The search for those responsible continued into the 1960s.

The details of the escape and its aftermath are the focus of the 1950 book The Great Escape. Written by Paul Brickhill, an Australian fighter pilot and himself a former POW of Stalag Luft III, the book brought this incredible story to the public’s attention and later served as the basis for the 1963 film of the same name. Despite the need to compress the timeline of events and create “amalgams” of characters in order to tell the story in such a limited block of time, the movie goes to great lengths to accurately depict the details of the escape itself. It’s a fine film and remains one of my all-time favorites, and yet still pales in comparison to the actual story of the “Great Escape,” the men who carried it out, and “the Fifty” who lost their lives as a result. It remains one of the most fascinating tales of the Second World War.