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Archive for February, 2012

Title script for Stingray TV show

Title Image

Image of DVD

Image of DVD

As a Valentine’s Day treat, Hil let me buy a DVD.  I chose “Stingray“, and picked it up online for a very reasonable $8 for 24 episodes (supposedly two seasons).  Actually, the show aired its pilot in 1985, ran eight episodes in 1986 and then the last fifteen in 1987.  The pilot is a two-hour episode (run time, with commercials), so the set is advertised as 25 episodes.
The series is about a man named Ray (played by Nick Mancuso), who hires out his services to those in need, in exchange for a favor to be claimed sometime in the future.  The show is supposed to be based in Los Angeles and the first season is shot there.  It looks to me though, as if the second season is shot mostly in Canada.  The creator / producer of the show, Steven J. Cannell, created his own production company and moved it to Canada to create some separation from the major LA studio system which he felt had too much influence on his work.  Cannell is more famous for some of his other series, including “The A-Team“, “Baretta“, “21 Jump Street“, “Hunter” and “The Rockford Files“.  Cannell recently (September 2010)  passed away from cancer.  (You can find his tribute site here.)  Cannell created over 40 TV pilots which became series.
Ray (short for Raymond, not Stingray) is a Vietnam veteran, former CIA operative, martial arts expert and computer/electronics expert.  He is also supposed to be an excellent actor, or more precisely, role player – as he slips in and out of characters needed to assist whomever his current client is for the episode.  Ray finds his clients by advertising in the newspaper offering his 1965 Stingray (one of the “stars” of the show in any age) for barter only, to the right person.  The car is ultra cool.  Still.  As mentioned above, the barter is for your future favor.
Anyway, I really enjoyed the show way back when and watching the whole 24 episodes reminded me why I loved it and (ultimately) why it was cancelled.  I would say about five of the episodes are excellent TV (action and story), five are above average (action or story), five are average (but enjoyable), and the remaining nine are almost painful to watch.  Several of them seem to be actual parodies of the series or so implausible as to be parodies.  There are even instances when you can see the microphone boom dip into camera view.  That’s how bad the show got at some points.  The other thing I found interesting about the show was the credits ran with photos of out-takes.  This was unique in its day and I’m not sure I’ve seen it in many other series either.  It definitely destroys the illusion of reality created by the “hero series”.  On the other hand, it makes the show feel intimate in a way that seems to have been a forerunner of the out-takes and extra features we now expect to find on purchased DVD’s.
Although I really liked Mancuso in this role, he more or less completely fell off of my radar after this series.  The only other thing I remember him in is as the weaselly CIA guy in “Under Seige“.
Finally, the show reeks of 80’s fashion / cool – clothes, hairdos, images of the cities, etc.  It’s on a par with “Miami Vice” on that level, although Miami Vice was MUCH better at using popular music to capture the spirit of the show.  Stingray’s music are pop-rock, but created for the show and not general hits from the airways.
I don’t know if the series is run on Hulu or Netflix, but if it is, it’s definitely worth checking out.  Alternatively, for $8 (plus shipping), you’ll not go far wrong  just buying the series.  In case you’re wondering what brought the show to mind.  There’s a guy down the street who owns a mid-60’s Corvette (but his is fire-engine red).  Pure serendipity…
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No cord or cable can draw so forcibly, or bind so fast, as love can do with only a single thread.
  —  Robert Burton
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You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, when you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you.  This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be.  This is the place of creative incubation.  At first, you may find that nothing happens there.  But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.
  —  Joseph Campbell
[Is anybody else flashing back to “In My Room“, by the Beach Boys?  —  KMAB]
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A lot of leadership is based on the ability to see how all humanity is related, how all parts of society are related, and how things move in the same direction.
  —  Warren Bennis
From his book:  “On Becoming A Leader
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This week I completed the last four books in the John Carter of Mars series written by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  The books are titled: “Swords Of Mars” (#8) (1934©);  “Synthetic Men Of Mars” (#9) (1939©);  “Llana Of Gathol” (#10) (1948©) – originally published in four novelettes in 1941; and, “John Carter Of Mars” (#11) (1964©) – published posthumously.
As mentioned in previous blogs, this was a series recommended to me by an Army roommate, way back in the mid-1970’s, which I’ve just gotten around to reading.  I read the first one back then, but never got around to the rest.  About two years ago, I looked at them and said to myself, “Enough already, just read them…”  I re-read the first and burrowed (pun intended) through the next four.  I then got bored and put the rest aside, until last year when I read number six.  It still didn’t catch my taste, so I again put the rest aside.  Now, with the movie coming out next month, I decided (again) to bite the bullet and complete the series.  I read number seven last week.  Now I’ve completed the rest.
In a way, it’s a strange feeling to carry a series of books around for 30-plus years (over half your lifetime) and then finally to complete reading them.  Kind of a combination of accomplishment and loss at the same time.
Here’s the full list from the series:
1)  “A Princess Of Mars” (1912©);  John Carter wakes up on Mars, meets his future spouse (Dejah Thoris) and a lifelong green Martian friend (Tars Tarkas).
2) “The Gods Of Mars” (1913©);  John Carter discovers the Gods of Mars are legends of evil men.
3) “Warlord Of Mars” (1913©);   John Carter (again) saves Dejah Thoris and ultimately becomes Warlord of Helium (and Mars).
4) “Thuvia, Maid Of Mars” (1963©);  Carthoris (John Carter’s son) must rescue his future spouse; originally published in 1916.
5) “The Chessmen Of Mars” (1922©);  The story of Tara of Helium (John Carter’s daughter) and her spouse (Gahan of Gathol).
6) “The Master Mind Of Mars” (1963©);  A second Earthling (Ulysses Paxton) comes to Mars, becomes Vad Varo and must rescue his future spouse.  Originally published in 1927.
7) “A Fighting Man Of Mars” (1930©);  Tan Hadron of Hastor meets and saves his spouse, a slave girl who is actually a princess.
8) “Swords Of Mars” (1935©);  John Carter must save Dejah Thors (yet again), but at least he’s back to being a main character…
9) “Synthetic Men Of Mars” (1939©);  Vor Daj (one of John Carter’s lieutenants) must save his future spouse.
10) “Llana Of Gathol” (1948©);  first published in 1941 as a serial format as four separate stories; Llana (John Carter’s grand-daugther) meets and must be saved by her future spouse.
11) “John Carter Of Mars” (1964©);  two novelettes consolidated into a single book and published posthumously;  John Carter fights another “super-intelligent” synthetic man who has (in turn) created a giant synthetic man of his own; and, the start of a new series which starts a war with the inhabitants of Jupiter.  The series is never completed due to the death of Edgar Rice Burroughs.  The two works were originally published separately in 1941 and 1943 respectively.
The first three volumes make up one complete story.  They are pretty good to very good.  The middle section, volumes four through seven are so-so.  The last four are pretty good again.  Are any of them “realistic”?  No more than the “StarWars” or “Indiana Jones” movies.  Are they entertaining anyway?  Yeah, they are.  I’m very much looking forward to the movie release on 9 March 2012 of the first book.  They are supposed to make the trilogy if the first movie is a big enough hit.  Here’s to smash hits…!!!
One interesting final note: there was approximately 30 years between the publishing of the first volume and the last one.  It is ironic that it took me a similar length of time to go from one to eleven.
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It’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you make them in good conscience and you’re doing the best you can at that moment.  …I’m not afraid to make a mistake, and I’m not afraid to say afterward, ‘Boy, that was a mistake.  Let’s try something else.’  I think that wins people over.  Now, I don’t make mistakes purposely to win people over, but when I make one, I admit it.  I can also say, ‘You have a better idea than I have.  Let’s do your idea.’  I don’t second-guess people.  If I hire you to do something, I let you do it.
  —  Barbara Corday
American television executive, writer and producer with CBS Television mainly known for co-creating the television series “Cagney & Lacey
As quoted in his book: “On Becoming A Leader” by Warren Bennis
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Are You Really Good?

A really good actor has got to be capable of making an enormous fool out of himself.  Otherwise, no original work gets done.
  —  Sydney Pollack
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Escape

Experiences aren’t truly yours until you think about them, analyze them, examine them, question them, reflect on them, and finally understand them.  The point, once again, is to use your experiences rather than being used by them, to be the designer, not the design, so that experiences empower rather than imprison.
  —  Warren Bennis
From his book:  “On Becoming A Leader
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There’s a German word, Gemutlichkeit, that means the experience of eating and drinking and socializing with loved ones.  It isn’t only eating or drinking or socializing — it’s all three.  It must be all three.  When they come together, it has meaning.
  —  Dean Ottati
From his book:  “The Runner And The Path
[This is why the study of foreign languages is so important.  I struggle to think of a single English word which means the combination of multiple (two let alone three) acts creating / making an emotional state.  It’s hard to say whether German or English is a more specific language.  —  KMAB]
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Life seldom unfolds in conveniently sequential fashion.
  —  Dean Ottati
From his book:  “The Runner And The Path
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Discipline teaches faith.  In the midst of bad times, there’s the knowledge, born of experience, that the good times return — and that knowledge helps.  And when they do, we know, too, not to take them for granted.  The cycles turn, and we can never really know where we are within them.  But the piece of us that runs in the hills each day knows on a deep, cellular level that events play out precisely as they should.  The inner runner accepts this.  At a given moment, despite the tumult swirling all around, a small part of us remains at peace.
  —  Dean Ottati
From his book: “The Runner And The Path
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On Saturday, I completed the 7th in the John Carter of Mars (JCoM) series book: “A Fighting Man Of Mars“, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1930©).   I’ve been carrying the series around with me since my early 20’s, and couple of years ago I decided to bite the bullet and read them.  I actually read the first book in the series way back when, but never progressed to any of the others.  I managed to read the fist six and then stalled out.  I believed the series was about John Carter.  Actually, only about half the books are.  The rest are about his son, daughter, grand-daughter and this latest, about an arbitrary low ranking officer in the Helium Army.  (Helium is the city-state on Mars over which John Carter has become Warlord.)
As I thought I’d been recording the books I’ve read on this blog, I went back to see what my other (earlier) blogs said about the series – only to find out there is only the briefest of mentions that I’ve started reading the series and have completed the first five.  I then went back to see if the same was true for any number of other books I’d read and found it was(is).  I’ve therefore decided to go back and begin reviewing other books I’ve read.  I’ll try to come up with a notation of some type to indicate which are current reads and which are prior, but I haven’t come up with anything yet.
Anyway, there is a new John Carter of Mars movie coming out on March 9th which really looks promising, so I’m going to try to complete the series before then.  I believe the movie only covers the first and second book, so I may try to re-read those, too.
For anyone not familiar with Edgar Rice Burroughs, he’s the creator of the “Tarzan of the Apes” series of books which came out in serialized fashion back in the early 1900’s.  Roughly the same time, he was producing the John Carter series (from 1910-ish to 1940-ish).  As the time predates TV and air flight – let alone spaceflight, his novels are very much science fiction.  Beyond that though they are what I would call Sci-Fi/Sword and Romance novels.  I would estimate the target audience for teens to mid-twenties (about the same as now, but you could probably throw in some younger pre-teens) and mostly male.  Women are always “virginal” and men (good-guys) are always swashbuckling and heroic.  The reverse is also true for the “bad-guys” (and gals).  The bad women are always vicious and conniving and the men are always fat, detestable, frequently ugly, and almost always willing to “take” the heroine’s “honor” – usually by force, but sometimes by manipulation.
This book (“A Fighting Man Of Mars”) follows the familiar format: hero falls in love, love interest is kidnapped (becomes endangered), hero sets off on quest to save love interest.  Hero goes through many trials, but finally saves the love interest.  In this case, the twist is the initial love interest is undeserving and inevitably loses the hero to a more worthy love interest.  If you are intending to read this book (and are under 15 years of age) – stop reading here because I’m about to disclose the final plot twist.  The hero believes the new love interest to be a slave and on the last pages of the book, she is discovered to be a long lost (kidnapped AGAIN) princess of Helium.   And they live happily ever after…
As you can deduce from my review, the reason I stopped reading the books is they are not that interesting to me.  They are light, adventure novels with a little too much Victorian-era romance thrown in for my taste.  Will I complete the series?  Yes.  They are not bad; they’re just not that good.  They make a nice change from any heavy reading – kind of like watching a half-hour situation comedy on regular TV after watching a documentary on PBS.
A final thought, if you were trying to get your 8-10 year old son or grandson to enjoy reading, you could do worse than reading these to him…
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Sit as little as possible.  Give no credence to any thought that was not born outdoors, while one moved about freely — in which the muscles are not celebrating a feast too.
  —  Friedrich Nietzsche
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I learned that the accomplishments I treasured most were the ones I had to work hard for, not those that came easily or naturally.
… Discipline can be both a means and an end.
  —  Dean Ottati
From his book:  “The Runner And The Path
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But this book isn’t a how-to for losing weight, running a marathon, or getting faster.  There are plenty of books to help with those endeavors.  This book is about what’s left when weight loss and competition cease to matter, and only the running remains.
  —  Dean Ottati
From his book:  “The Runner And The Path
[Some books help you by getting you to think, not by telling “how-to”.  Some activities are worth continuing, even when you’ve accomplished your immediate goal.  —  KMAB]
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