Sunday, November 28, 2010

R.I.P. Leslie Nielsen

A very funny man has just passed away.
LOS ANGELES - Leslie Nielsen, who traded in his dramatic persona for inspired bumbling as a hapless doctor in "Airplane!" and the accident-prone detective Frank Drebin in "The Naked Gun" comedies, died on Sunday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 84.

The Canadian-born actor died from complications from pneumonia at a hospital near his home at 5:34 p.m., surrounded by his wife, Barbaree, and friends, his agent John S. Kelly said in a statement.

Nielsen was known most recently as a comic personality, but he had a very serious start as a dramatic actor.
His first film for [MGM] was auspicious — as the space ship commander in the science fiction classic "Forbidden Planet." He found his best dramatic role as the captain of an overturned ocean liner in the 1972 disaster movie, "The Poseidon Adventure."

He became known as a serious actor, although behind the camera he was a prankster. That was an aspect of his personality never exploited, however, until "Airplane!" was released in 1980 and became a huge hit.

I liked Nielsen as both a serious actor and a funny actor, but his best work was on television in the short-lived "Police Squad!" Man, I loved that show. If you aren't familiar with it, it was the show that spawned the Naked Gun series of movies. And if you've never seen it, try to get ahold of a DVD copy and watch the episodes (there are only six). That was a TV series that was definitely underappreciated at the time.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Concert -- Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy Osbourne
May 8, 1986
Frank Erwin Center
Opening act: Metallica

Ozzy's album at the time: The Ultimate Sin.
Metallica's album at the time: Master of Puppets.
Greatness of the show: Way up there!

I had to go to Austin to see this show because at the time Ozzy -- due to a few problems involving a dress, urination, and the Alamo Cenotaph -- was officially banned from performing in San Antonio.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Some things I am thankful for



The U.S. military.


Rock and roll.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Respecting the hell out of your rockers

I've liked the band Queensrÿche for a long time, and I love the fact that they are supporters of the military, but my respect for them has just gone up a few notches.
Armed forces supporters Queensryche were the victims of a bomb attack during their recent visit to war-torn Iraq, however frontman Geoff Tate insists making the trip was the least the band could do.

The prog metal outfit played a series of shows for military personnel. While in northern Iraq they were forced to take cover when a battle exploded around them, and although none of them were killed, they were left injured and shaken by the experience.
(from Collecting Vinyl Records, via Blogonomicon)

Rock on! And stay safe!

Restricting Venezuelan speech

There shouldn't be any doubt that Hugo Chavez is an oppressive tyrant, but in case there is, keep this in mind:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has forbidden the use of his “name, image and figure” on any kind public building, as well as for use in “political, social and community organizations” and any old advertising campaigns.

The law announced today indicates that the image or name of Hugo Chávez can only be used with previous and explicit consent from the head of state and only for “political and social activities, or pro-Chávez propaganda in posters, banners and/or flyers.” [emphases added]

(from Hispanically Speaking News)

Political dissent? Fine, as long as you don't speak the actual name of, you know, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Unless you get permission.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Concert -- Dio

November 14, 1985
Convention Center Arena
Opening act: Rough Cutt

This show was the tour for Ronnie James Dio's Sacred Heart album, but I really went to hear the stuff from the previous two albums, Holy Diver and The Last in Line. Dio turned in a smacking performance, but I was once again left to wondering exactly how headline groups chose their opening acts. Dice? Paper slips in a hat? Ouija board?

I mean, really ---- Rough Cutt?

Oh, oh I see. Then I read this on Rough Cutt's page at the site of all truth and knowing:
Dio’s wife Wendy Dio was the group’s manager, and Dio himself helped write one of the band’s songs.
Well, if it works for them, it works for them. It didn't do much as an opening act, though.

And here's one more tidbit about this concert: This was the first major show to be held in the Convention Center Arena after the city banned smoking in that venue. Talk about an event! One of the hallmarks of a show in the Arena was the hundreds of lighters being lit after the house lights went down, and those lighters weren't sparking up just to make pretty little flames. They were lighting hundreds of cigarettes and hand-rolled cigarettes, if you know what I mean. A rock show in the Arena was nothing without clouds of audience-produced smoke.

So I went to this show curious to see how the officials would handle the ban. And, man, did they ever come down hard on the smokers! I watched each person in uniform, and as soon as a rocker would light up a Camel they would swoop down and pull those poor schmoes out of the crowd. And I think they were throwing them out of the Arena altogether.

But, curiously enough, that new rule seemed to apply just to the cigarette smokers. Because when the lights went down for Dio, I smelled just as much sweet leaf as ever. And I didn't see a single head get the boot.

Friday, November 19, 2010

"Rocket Loaded With Solar Sail and Satellites Blasts Off From Alaska"

This is all kinds of good news.
A rocket carrying seven different satellites, including one that will attempt to deploy a small solar sail into orbit, successfully blasted off from an island in Alaska tonight (Nov. 19).

The Minotaur 4 rocket launched at 8:24 EST (0124 Nov. 20 GMT) from the Alaska Aerospace Corporation's Kodiak Launch Complex. The rocket's many different payloads will attempt to demonstrate several new space technologies, including novel command and control frameworks and satellite propulsion systems — all while keeping costs down.

"This provides a low-cost, rideshare capability," Mark Boudreaux of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., told reporters last week. Boudreaux is project manager of FASTSAT, one of the satellites that launched today.

Built by the Virginia-based company Orbital Sciences, Corp., the Minotaur 4 rocket is expected to deliver all seven satellites, which carry a total of 16 separate experiments among them, to an orbit about 404 miles (650 kilometers) above Earth. The $170 million mission, STP-S26, is part of the Air Force's Space Test Program.

That's some good science going on, there. And did you even know there was a launch facility in Alaska? Florida and California, sure -- but Alaska? I can't believe I've never heard of it before now.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Concert -- KISS

January 30, 1985
Convention Center Arena
Opening act: Queensrÿche

In my previous post, I said this: I was beginning to think that these headline acts just didn't know how to pick an opening act worth anything.

This concert proved me wrong. The guys in KISS are legends, and they are professionals. And they definitely know how to pick an opening act.

This concert was part of the tour supporting their Animalize album, and the show was fantastic. And Queensrÿche, their star still ascending, wowed the crowd with their polished licks, piercing vocals, and professional mien, demonstrating the goodness yet to come for the band. They were a great opening act for KISS, and no one in their right mind at that concert came away disappointed.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Concert -- Deep Purple

Deep Purple
January 20, 1985
Convention Center Arena
Opening act: Giuffria

This was the tour supporting Deep Purple's highly successfully (and very tasty) Perfect Strangers album. An awesome concert that was filled with smoke, lasers, classic DP, and raucous new music, and the re-formed group really made the arena shake that cold winter night with their rough rock 'n' roll.

So, I wondered afterward, what the hell was this? Giuffria? Really? In no way did their musical style fit the tone of the evening.

I was beginning to get disillusioned with my favorite bands. I was beginning to think that these headline acts just didn't know how to pick an opening act worth anything.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Celebrating 235 years

I know, it's already been said out in the blogosphere, but please allow me to chime in: Happy Birthday, U.S. Marine Corps.

Carry on.

Image credit: Cpl. Daniel H. Woodall
Image found here. Original caption: "
Lance Cpl. Jonathan Jessee, combat engineer, Engineer Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 3, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), scans the area during a foot patrol in Trakh Nawa, Afghanistan, Oct. 27. Jessee, a 20-year-old native of Newcastle, Calif., and approximately 40 other Marines with CLB-3 constructed a bridge in the area after the previous one had been burned down."

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Concert -- Billy Squier

Billy Squier
October 14, 1984
Convention Center Arena
Opening Act: Fastway

Though Billy Squier's star faded quickly after this point, he was still putting on a hell of a good show, and I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

We had seats on the floor, though Section C was toward the back. But it didn't matter. Fastway blew as an opening act (does anyone remember any other song besides "Say What You Will"?), so we were able to walk around just about anywhere on the floor. And when Billy Squier took the stage, we were close. No one was bothering with ticket checks at that point, so we just moved up through the crowd to get as close as we could. Eh, he's not as heavy as many of the other bands I like, but it was the first time I was right next to the stage for a major act, and it was pretty cool.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Concert -- Ratt and Twisted Sister

Ratt, Twisted Sister
July 26, 1984
Convention Center Arena
Opening Act: Mama's Boys

This was a fun show. Ratt was the newest, hottest thing in hair metal in those days, and Twisted Sister was a bunch of made-up dudes that looked horrible and didn't take themselves too seriously at the time. They made for an upbeat and humorous double bill, and the only real downside of the concert was the opening act.

Mama's Boys.

Yeah, I remember hearing about them at the time, but I don't really remember them at all today. Anybody else?

Sticking up out of the rings

Did you know Saturn was beautiful and inspiring? If you didn't, then take a close look at this picture:


Do you want to know what that stuff is? That's Saturn's ring material jutting upward from the plane of the rings themselves. Jutting almost two miles out from the rings, that is.

Alan Boyle explains:
In addition to the self-excited oscillations, Cassini's scientists noticed disturbances in two regions on the B ring's outer edge, including spiky vertical structures that rise as much as 1.6 miles (3.5 kilometers) above the ring plane. One of the perturbed regions, measuring 12,000 miles (20,000 kilometers) in length, can be seen rolling around the edge of the B ring about halfway through this video clip.

The two disturbed areas -- known as Region A and Region B -- are not thought to be caused by the natural oscillations or by a previously known pattern linked to Mimas. Instead, the best explanation is that the regions contain moonlets measuring as much as a half-mile (1 kilometer) wide, or even wider.

Besides the Mars rovers, that Cassini spacecraft has got to be the best return for the investment our space program has produced to date. It sure gives our scientists a lot to look at and discover.