American Sniper: Sergeant York for a New Generation

Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle in American Sniper

While reading the reviews of the Clint Eastwood/Bradley Cooper feature about America’s deadliest sniper, aka American Sniper, it is easy to be reminded of another film about a decorated war hero. One Sergeant Alvin York (played brilliantly by the iconic Gary Cooper [the Clint Eastwood of his day] who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of the reluctant World War I hero) who was one of the most decorated soldiers in his day. It now seems that Chris Kyle is the Sergeant York for a new and more cynical generation.

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Shirley Temple Dead at 85 the Good Ship Lollypop Has Taken Its Last Voyage

Shirley Temple Dead at 85 the Good Ship Lollypop Has Taken Its Last Voyage

Shirley Temple was, perhaps, the biggest star of the Silver Screen throughout the depression years, her death at 85 on February 10 means that the Good Ship Lollypop has taken its last voyage. The young American icon sang and danced her way into the hearts of a financially stricken U.S. and during a time when many were committing suicide because of lost fortunes and millions of American’s were on the bread lines and in soup kitchens Temple made America forget her financial woes for at least an hour and a half.

Toe-besity? Plastic Surgery for Fat Tootsies. What the Fudge??

Family toes
Family toes (Photo credit: dospaz)

Looking out for the weird and outlandish on the net and…What? You don’t do that? Well, I do, okay? And the latest thing I’ve discovered is the new trend in plastic surgery. It appears that American’s have discovered the one part of the body that, up to now, has been safe from the surgeon’s scalpel.

According to Dr. Oliver Zong, a New York based Plastic Surgeon, ‘toe slimming’ operations are on the increase. He admits he was a bit taken aback when people starting asking for plastic surgery on their toes.

“When people first started asking, I said ‘What?’ We were mostly doing toe shortenings in the beginning.” Dr Zong has been performing  toe re-shaping procedures for people who neurotically feel embarrassment over the width of their  toes. This new trend has been called “toe-besity.”

Not all plastic surgeons are willing to perform the procedure or even willing to contemplate it. Some have told horror stories of women who want their little toes surgically removed so they can wear a smaller shoe size.

Did I forget to mention that this new trend has been started by women.

That’s right. Women have now gotten so paranoid about their entire body that they are resorting to plastic surgery to remould themselves into a complete package of perfection. I don’t get this. I really don’t.

I know that culturally the focus has been on people looking ever younger, trimmer, fitter, prettier. The big lie is that we can all reach this pinnacle of perfection with the help of a surgeon’s knife. How stupid can people be?

We know that pictures in magazines are airbrushed within an inch of their 2D life. Advertising, the modelling industry and Hollywood perpetuates the myth of the perfect person. Capped teeth, hair implants, tummy tucks and bottom lifts all help to make folks look more stream-lined and assembly-lined.

But when folks start worrying about their toes? I think we all need to step back a bit and really look at each other with a bit of clarity.

I’ll use Hollywood as a good example. Not the Hollywood of today with it’s new homogeneous stars who are practically interchangeable like so many Lego’s.

I’m talking about the stars of yesteryear. The Gary Cooper‘s, Clark Gable‘s and Errol Flynn‘s. The Katherine Hepburn’s, Bette Davis‘s and Grace Kelly‘s. These stars did not look perfect. It was their imperfections that made them special, that made them shine.

Gable’s ears were too big, Davis had bulgy eyes and Grace Kelly was a little small upstairs. But none of that mattered at all. It was their abilities and persona’s that made them beautiful. Perfection has never been obtainable for the average person or the famous one.

Perfection is, to a degree, like beauty. It is in the eye of the beholder. In the search for perfection the beholder is the person seeking to be perfect. Their narcissistic and inward vision is skewed and terrible. They are willing to put their bodies through pain and possible infection and even death in their ridiculous pursuit.

I am sitting here writing this and wondering whatever will be next. Will tongue surgery be next? Are there people out there that are so neurotic that if they believe their tongues are too fat or ugly will  have them surgically altered?

I am appalled at the idea that women have become so superficial. I am also quite sad that so many folks believe the lie of perfection.

English: Plastic Surgeon Vishal Kapoor, MD per...
English: Plastic Surgeon Vishal Kapoor, MD performing liposuction surgery on female patient using the power assisted liposuction technique. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Westerns

When I lived with my parents, in the long ago days before video and DVD players, it was a family tradition to watch any westerns that came on the television. This usually occurred on the weekend, most specifically on a major TV network (NBC I think) on Saturday Night At The Movies.

It was on Saturday nights that I sat with my folks, and later my bother as well, watching The Duke,Gary Cooper, and Robert Mitchum.  In fact, all the old actors who had moved into the genre when they got too old to play romantic leads any more.  We popped lots of popcorn and then rushed in to watch The Sons of Katie Elder, Rio Bravo  or some other John Wayne “Americana” western. Or indeed whatever western happened to be on.  If we didn’t watch westerns on the television, we saw them at the Drive-In.

It was at the Drive-In that I first saw Sergio Leone‘s “Spaghetti Westerns.” Specifically the “Man With No Name trilogy. I was enraptured and captivated by this anti-hero. I was so enthralled by this character that I lost the tendency to emulate The Duke and began to squint a lot and speak softly through gritted teeth. This was at the ripe old age of ten. Oh I never fell out of love with the John Wayne westerns  or old Duke’s characters.  I could still do the swagger and do the “Well, Pilgrim” drawl like a trooper.

I remember staying over  at a cousin’s house and horse riding for hours, wearing the standard western uniform of cowboy boots and hat, riding for about three days straight from sun-up to sun-down. We were both so saddle sore it was hard to sit in a chair let alone walk. But every minute spent in the saddle was a minute spent recreating our favourite scenes from westerns of the day. I believe we were both about twelve.

I remember at the ripe old age of seventeen, playing “Spaghetti Western” with my younger (and only) brother. We would strap on toy guns in the fashion of Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef to do battle as “Blondie” – The Good –  and “Angel Eyes” – The Bad –  oddly neither of us had the urge to portray Tuco (the Ugly); even though Tuco was the more “overblown” and fun character to emulate. I mean really, who doesn’t admire actor Eli Wallach’s  portrayal of “Bandito’s?”

It wasn’t just “film” westerns I was infatuated  with either. I also devoured every book I could read by the authors Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour. Zane Grey was my fathers perennial favourite. I liked old Zane, but, didn’t care for his colloquial dialogue that he insisted on using. All his characters said words like pahdnuh and  mistuh just to name a couple. They were all spelt just like that, it could drive you to distraction after a while. L’Amour’s characters talked in the archaic language of the cowboy without the colloquialism’s.

Unfortunately Hollywood stopped making decent westerns just after the bumper crop year of 1969.  1969 saw great westerns like The Wild Bunch, True Grit, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to name but three out of the many that were released that year. Then “The Dream Machine” started making psychological westerns instead of  traditional or spaghetti westerns. These were a complete waste of celluloid. One such film did not have one gun in it. What kind of western is that?

I knew though, that if I waited long enough that Hollywood would start making  decent westerns again. I was right. My old Man-With-No-Name hero came out with the odd gem now and then.The Outlaw Josey Wales, High Plains Drifter  and Pale Rider (really just a re-working of Drifter, but still good) and then…Unforgiven.

Unforgiven showed that not only did old Clint still have the chops as a “western” actor, but that he was still one hell of a director as well. I still feel that Unforgiven was the “last hoorah” of the genre. I know I still like the cross genre westerns and some of the “modern” westerns (No Country For Old Men being the best thus far) and I even enjoyed the True Grit re-make that came outin 2010. But I do miss the old fashioned westerns as well as the “anti-hero” ones that came out in the late 60’s.

Now  I watch my old favourites via the DVD player and remember how much I loved them the first time I saw them. Watching them makes me feel simultaneously young and old. They also make me feel like strapping on my guns and looking for my brother to see if he remembers our gun battles and also feels young enough to have a go again. I think I might even want to play Tuco.